Newsline Special for March 3, 2006

“Alabare al Senor con todo el corazon….”

Salmo 111:1

“Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart….”

Psalm 111:1


1) Island Brethren continue the work of Jesus.
2) Delegation sees the situation in Palestine and Israel first-hand.
3) Nigeria workcampers experience microcosm of Kingdom of God.
4) Honduran medical clinic is served by a Brethren-led workcamp.


5) Annual Conference registration opens online.
6) General Board to receive properties report at March meeting.
7) Church planting conference to ask `What comes first?’

For more Church of the Brethren news, go to, click on “News” to find a news feature, more “Brethren bits,” links to Brethren in the news, and links to the General Board’s photo albums and the Newsline archive. The page is updated as close to daily as possible.

1) Island Brethren continue the work of Jesus.
By Becky Ullom

In tents, in homes, in the halls of government, and in the places forgotten by those who govern, from the mountain tops, and in the low valleys: these are just a few of the places where God is working in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico, an island slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island, is home to seven Church of the Brethren congregations as part of Atlantic Southeast District.

For a week in February, a group of pastors from Northern Indiana District visited all seven congregations as part of a trip coordinated by Congregational Life Team staff members Duane Grady and Carol Yeazell. The trip was designed to strengthen connections between churches in the two districts and to deepen knowledge of the ministries taking place in Puerto Rico.

  • Cristo Nuestra Paz, Yahuecas: This fellowship is growing and expanding. One of their hopes is to buy additional land for a parking lot. Not only is the current lot too small, it is treacherous after rain.
  • Iglesia de Los Hermanos, Castaner: Pastored by General Board member Jaime Diaz, this church hopes to baptize five new members this spring. Discipleship cells are flourishing.
  • Iglesia de Los Hermanos, Rio Prieto: This mountain-top church is building a new sanctuary to accommodate 150 people. Pastor Miguel Torres broadcasts a weekly prayer service via radio, and in past years, the congregation has hosted a regional rodeo as an evangelism tool.
  • Iglesia de Los Hermanos, Vega Baja: This urban church incorporates electric guitars, a keyboard, a small chorus, and even pantomiming into its ministries. Offering significant support to the pastor and to the congregation is their 23-year-old moderator.
  • La Casa del Amigo, Arecibo: Teeming with energy and life, this congregation meets under a tent. They hope to construct a building in order to protect members from extreme heat and rain. As an evangelism event last Christmas, the youth and young adults of this congregation performed a play about the birth of the Church of the Brethren in Puerto Rico.
  • Pueblo de Dios, Manati: This congregation hopes to open an after-school mentoring program as a witness to God’s immense love and concern.
  • Segunda Iglesia Cristo Misionera, Caimito: This fellowship is deeply rooted in helping its home community. Each day, lunch is served free of charge to those in need of a meal. Additionally, people can access a doctor, dentist, psychologist, and other services through the Community Center run by the congregation.

–Becky Ullom is director of Identity and Relations for the Church of the Brethren General Board.

2) Delegation sees the situation in Palestine and Israel first-hand.
By Bob Gross

In January, On Earth Peace and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) sponsored a delegation to Palestine and Israel. Sixteen people took the opportunity to see the situation and learn from Israelis and Palestinians first-hand. Three-fourths of the delegates were members of the Church of the Brethren. The group was led by Bob Gross, co-executive director of On Earth Peace, who kept a journal during the trip. This article is based on excerpts from his journal.

“Jan. 4: Soon I’ll be leaving for the airport. I should arrive in Tel Aviv on Thursday. I’ll go directly to Hebron to join up with the CPT team there. There is one CPT team in Hebron and one in At-tuwani, a village south of Hebron. I’ll spend the weekend with the CPT teams, and then go to Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem to make final arrangements for the delegation.

“Jan. 6: After two days of traveling, I arrived at At-tuwani to find a very sad sight: during the night, settlers from the nearby Israeli settlement of Maon had hacked all the branches off a grove of more than 100 olive trees. The trees should survive, but won’t bear again for about five years. Amazing how stoic the Palestinian farmers are. `God is good,’ they say.

“Jan. 13: The delegation arrived safely today…. We are settled at a hostel in the Old City of Jerusalem. We’ll begin tomorrow with a tour to see the effects of the occupation and the separation wall in the area in and around Jerusalem.

“Jan. 17: This delegation is working together with grace, resilience, and good sense. We just returned from two days in Bethlehem. We met with organizations working with children in peacemaking, with refugees, with land and water rights under the Israeli occupation, and with nonviolent direct action organizing and training. We were the overnight guests of a family in the huge refugee camp near Bethlehem. We enjoyed their hospitality and heard a few of their stories. These are inspiring people. Living under a crushing occupation, trying to find a way to live and raise their children, trying to build a society with so many obstacles placed in their way, yet somehow they seem to maintain hope and purpose.

“Bethlehem, with its neighboring towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, for centuries were predominately Christian. Now, under occupation and with `The Wall’ beginning to wrap around them, these towns are losing their Christian population. In Palestine, Christians tend to be a little better off educationally and economically, and to have international connections, so it is easier for them to leave the country. More Christians are leaving the Holy Land. The Bethlehem district is now less than 40 percent Christian, and Palestine as a whole is about 2 percent.

“Jan. 20: Now we are based in the CPT office and apartment in Hebron. We spent one day in At-tuwani, learning about life in a 500-year-old village of 150 people, constantly harrassed and occasionally attacked by extremist settlers from the settlement built next to the village in 1982. Four members of our delegation are spending additional time there. They will help the farmers plow their fields near the settlement by providing an international presence as they work.

“Yesterday we saw the work of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, which has restored and repaired hundreds of homes and shops in the old city to keep this besieged and heavily occupied part of the city from being abandoned, and offering incentives to homeowners, renters, and shopkeepers to stay. In addition to learning from speakers and organizations, we also learned a great deal by visiting families in the area, eating with them, and hearing their stories. We are also experiencing travel in occupied Palestine: transferring from one bus or taxi to another, walking over roadblocks, showing our passports to heavily armed soldiers at checkpoints.

“Jan. 24: While in Jerusalem we have met with a number of Israeli groups, including rabbis, persons who have lost family members to the violence here, and Israeli conscientious objectors. Many people say that without an end to the occupation, Israel can never expect to have peace and security. The delegation departed for home today, concluding its time together with a closing meeting and a final Middle Eastern meal together.

“Jan. 30: The recent elections for members of the Palestinian national assembly resulted in a surprise victory for the Hamas party. Even Hamas did not expect it. This should help them move more into the mainstream of Palestinian political life, building on their long experience as a religious, social-service organization working at the grassroots.

“It’s interesting that the Hamas we hear about in the news back home is not like the real organization here. While there is a splinter group that has carried out violent attacks, the primary organization is concerned with education, housing, and the basic needs of the people. The fact that there have been no attacks from Hamas in over a year seems to be evidence of a turn toward constructive political engagement.

“I will be leaving tomorrow. It has been good to work here, but I am glad to be going home.”

–Bob Gross is co-executive director of On Earth Peace, an Annual Conference-reportable agency of the Church of the Brethren with ministries in peacemaking and reconciliation.

3) Nigeria workcampers experience microcosm of Kingdom of God.
By Janis Pyle

“The sense of oneness in Christ was our lasting impression of the 2006 Nigeria Workcamp,” said coordinator David Whitten, pastor of Moscow Church of the Brethren in Mount Solon, Va. This was the 20th year for the annual workcamp sponsored by the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

“Our group was made up of Swiss, German, American, and Nigerian workcampers,” Whitten said. “For whatever personal reasons we might have had for going, the results were the same. We worked, worshiped, and fellowshiped together, and in the name of Jesus, bonded together. It was a microcosm of what the kingdom of God on earth is all about.”

The US participants in the workcamp Jan. 16-Feb. 12 were Kyle and Kathleen Brinkmeier of Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren, Pearl City, Ill.; Rebecca Keister of Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren, Mifflinburg, Pa.; and Whitten and Wesley Grove of the Moscow church. The other US participant was Joseph Wampler of Santa Cruz, Calif., whose parents had been Church of the Brethren missionaries in China.

This year’s workcamp built block walls for a duplex staff quarters for the Comprehensive Secondary School. The school is located at the headquarters of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) near Mubi. The group also finished plastering and painting two other single-family staff quarters that were built in previous years.

“We tried to create a wide variety of experiences for the workcampers beyond the physical labors,” Whitten said. “We visited the beginnings of the Brethren mission in Garkida and worshiped in the largest Church of the Brethren congregation in the world in Maiduguri. We shopped in local village markets and the large shopping district in Jos. We also spent two nights in Yankari National Park where we were able to see elephants and other African wildlife.”

“In all of this, the highlight for me was to be with a joyful and spirit-filled people whose lives are filled with difficulty, but whose positive and hopeful attitude is inspiring,” Whitten said.

Whitten was moved by the contrast between Nigerian and American worship services. “One service we attended had their harvest festival Sunday,” he said. “The Nigerians take literally the phrase ‘tithes and offerings.’ Offerings are the weekly monetary gifts. The tithe is, however, 10 percent of one’s harvest. On this Sunday, the women lined up with huge bowls balanced on their heads filled with peanuts, corn, guinea corn, and cow peas. As the drums kept rhythm to the song sung in the Hausa language, the women danced down the aisles, singing and laughing their way to the altar. It was certainly a stark contrast to our rather droll and solemn time of offering.”

On a personal level, Whitten felt a true homecoming. The workcamp trip was his fourth stay in Nigeria. His longest was as mission staff for the Rural Development Program 1991-94. “To reconnect with dear friends and to grieve with others who have shared their losses with me in the past 10 years was truly a time of spiritual joy and sorrow,” he said. One of Whitten’s Nigerian friends traveled two hours, spending close to a day’s wages on public transportation, to meet him again. “It was humbling,” Whitten said.

Wesley Grove, another workcamp participant, was moved by the faith of the Nigerian people. “They seem to rely on God more than we do,” he said. “We rely on our bank accounts and our medical insurance and take our material blessings for granted. It is a challenge for us as North Americans to depend on God more.”

“We journeyed to minister, and were ministered to,” said Kathleen Brinkmeier, pastor at Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren. “I saw Jesus in the words and deeds of Nigeria’s beautiful people. Jesus labored with us on the project. Jesus slaved over open fires to cook our food. Jesus laughed and ate `kuli kuli’ (peanut cakes) with us and wept in sorrow when the time came for parting. My prayer is that Nigeria saw Jesus in us.”

–Janis Pyle is coordinator of Mission Connections for the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

4) Honduran medical clinic is served by a Brethren-led workcamp.
By Ralph Miner

The damaged roof of a medical clinic in San Juan Bautista, Honduras, was repaired by a Brethren-led workcamp Jan. 11-21. Bill Hare, a member of Polo (Ill.) Church of the Brethren and the manager of Camp Emmaus, leads a workcamp group to Honduras every year.

This year the group partnered with the Christian Solidarity Program of Honduras (CSP), which selected the medical clinic in San Juan Bautista for project work. The clinic also serves neighboring villages, providing medical care for around 14,000 people. One of the important programs of the clinic provides vaccinations and immunizations for children.

The roof at the clinic was leaking every rainy season, and was beyond patching. The workcamp group removed the old roof and rotten timber, and replaced it with fiberglass roofing.

Joyce Person, pastor of Polo Church of the Brethren, was a co-leader of the workcamp group and provided spiritual leadership. Additional leadership came from Marcia Quick of Dixon, Ill., who was the group nurse.

John Fyfe and Charlie Smith represented Faith United Presbyterian Church in Tinley Park, Ill. After last year’s workcamp in Honduras, the congregation decided to partner with Polo Church of the Brethren in sponsoring 10 acres as part of a growing project through the Foods Resource Bank, which allows urban and rural churches to work together in hunger ministry.

Other participants included Denise Check, Lucy Kokal, Buranapong Linwong, Sue McKelvie, Ralph Miner, Richard Person, Ed Olson, Ralph Royer, and Don Snavely.

An exciting development was that two Hondurans from last year’s project, which was involved in building a school in a remote coffee-producing village, joined the group for the week, continuing relationships that are so valuable to such mission trips. Besides coordinating the Honduran workcampers, Linwong is involved in a stove ministry. The traditional Honduran indoor stoves do not have chimneys and burn a lot of wood, which results in deforestation and respiratory health issues. An energy-efficient stove with a chimney uses one third of the wood of a traditional stove, and can be provided for low cost because it can be made out of pottery produced locally.

After Sunday morning worship the workcamp group visited the neighboring village of Los Ranchos. Community leaders were delighted to share the results of a water project that had finally been completed after three years. The project stores 12,000 gallons of water and serves 300 people. A workcamp led by Church of the Brethren member David Radcliff had done the foundation work for the water project.

At the end of the week, school children put on a program of traditional dance for the workcampers, wearing traditional costumes to celebrate the successful completion of the roof.

Hare is already planning on returning next year to Honduras.

–Ralph Miner is a member of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.

5) Annual Conference registration opens online.

Registration for non-delegates attending Annual Conference 2006 in Des Moines, Iowa, July 1-5 is now open at, click on “Registration.” Delegates are asked to register through their congregations.

At the registration site, participants also may download an information packet, purchase a program booklet, order meal tickets, register family members, and sign up for age-group activities. Housing registration will be available online beginning March 10.

The Conference information packet including registration and housing reservation forms also is available on a CD that is being mailed to all Church of the Brethren congregations in the April Source packet.

The 2006 Annual Conference will open at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines on Saturday, July 1, at 5 p.m., and will close Wednesday, July 5, at 12 noon. On-site registration and exhibits will be in Hy-Vee Hall. Worship and business sessions will take place in Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

Registration cost for the entire conference for a non-delegate is $75, $25 for children and youth ages 12-21, children under age 12 are free. A weekend registration (Saturday and Sunday) for a non-delegate costs $40, or $15 for ages 12-21. The daily non-delegate fee is $25 ($15 for Sunday), $8 for ages 12-21. Additional fees are charged for age-group activities. Discounted registration is offered to Brethren Volunteer Service workers.

Pre-Conference events include the Ministers’ Association meeting Friday, June 30, from 2-9 p.m. and Saturday, July 1, from 9 a.m.-12 noon. Additional pre-Conference meetings will include the Standing Committee of Annual Conference and the Church of the Brethren General Board, as well as other groups.

The theme for the 220th recorded Annual Conference is “Together: Exercise Daily in God,” from 1 Timothy 4:6-8. Ronald D. Beachley, district executive minister for Western Pennsylvania District, will serve as moderator; Belita D. Mitchell, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa., as moderator-elect.

For more information go to or call the Annual Conference office at 800-323-8039 ext. 296.

6) General Board to receive properties report at March meeting.

The Church of the Brethren General Board will receive the report of the Stewardship of Properties Committee at meetings March 9-13 at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The committee was formed by the board to study use of the General Board’s properties in New Windsor and Elgin, Ill.

The properties report will be presented to the board on Saturday, March 11, with discussion continuing on Sunday, March 12.

Also on the agenda for the meeting are a proposal for expanding workcamps offered by the board, a grant request for a Historic Peace Church meeting in Asia, a proposal for continuing Mission Alive gatherings, updates on a variety of board projects, and financial reports, among other business.

A press release about the Stewardship of Properties discussion will be sent to Newsline subscribers and will be posted online at (click on “News”) shortly after the item of business has been completed. A report of the full board meeting will appear in the next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline.

7) Church planting conference to ask ‘What comes first?’

“In church planting, what comes first?” asks an announcement of a church planting conference sponsored by the New Church Development Committee of the Church of the Brethren General Board, offered through a cooperative effort with the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership. “Which priorities take precedence? What skills are required? Just like the childhood game scissors, paper, rock, the answer is contextual and dynamic. Answers are never easy, and the calling to plant takes substantial courage, great persistence, and effective teamwork.”

From May 20-23, church leaders will gather at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., on the theme, “Scissors, Paper, Rock.” The conference will “develop tools, explore textures, and share testimonies” in church planting.

Guidance for the conference will come from Michael Cox, an American Baptist pastor and experienced church planter; Kathy Royer, a spiritual director; David Shumate, district executive minister for Virlina District, and a church planting catalyst; Chris Bunch, founding pastor of The Jar in Muncie, Ind.; and General Board staff and Bethany faculty. The event will include worship, workshops, keynote addresses, and small group conversations. It begins Saturday at 2 p.m. and concludes Tuesday at 12 noon.

“You are invited to join us!” said the announcement. Registration forms were included in the February Source packet mailed to all Church of the Brethren congregations. Registration also is available at For more information contact or 765-983-1807.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on every other Wednesday with other editions as needed. Jonathan Shively and Rose Ingold contributed to this report. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, write or call 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline is available and archived at, click on “News.” For more news and features, subscribe to Messenger magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


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