Newsline Special Report for August 4, 2006

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed….” — Romans 12:2a


1) Christian leaders call for cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel.


2) Youth bear witness to a faith in Christ that moves mountains.
3) Wow! Together we can end hunger.
4) Youth take up love offering at NYC.
5) NYC nuggets.

For the daily web pages reporting from National Youth Conference 2006, go to 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.

1) Christian leaders call for cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel.

The violence in the Middle East is escalating into heartbreaking futility, said the National Council of Churches (NCC) in just one of the statements made by Christian leaders worldwide decrying the war between Israel and forces of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren General Board, has signed on to two statements about the war: a July 20 letter from Churches for Middle East Peace calling for President Bush to do everything possible to calm the crisis and restore hope for a diplomatic solution; and a call for an interreligious season of prayer from the NCC and Religions for Peace-USA.

Churches for Middle East Peace expressed specific concern for the situation of Palestinians in Gaza and alarm for possible regional dimension of the war. It asked the US to intervene at the highest levels with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Religions for Peace-USA is cooperating with the NCC to encourage “A Season of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East.” NCC leaders called on individuals and congregations of all faiths and nations “to unite their hearts and souls in prayer, calling upon the Creator in whose image all human beings are made to write this message of peace on the hearts of all who want war.”

This interreligious effort requests congregations to pray for peace in the Middle East this weekend and into the future, and to join with other people of faith and local communities in activities that witness for peace. For resources appropriate to the current crisis from a variety of religious traditions go to (to find the Christian prayer resources click on “Christian” in the left-hand column of the web page).

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is offering prayer for “the people of Israel who have fallen victims to the missiles that continue to be fired indiscriminately into their towns and villages” and for “all the people of Lebanon, Muslims and Christians alike,” in a statement issued yesterday.

The WCC appealed to the international community to “do whatever is possible” for a cease-fire. General secretary Samuel Kobia asked for a stop to the bombings, the negotiation of a cease-fire, and a comprehensive peace settlement between Hezbollah and Israel, calling especially on the leaders of the US, Israel, and the United Kingdom. He called on the Israeli government also to “give guarantees that humanitarian organizations will be allowed unhindered access to those in need of assistance.”

Kobia said the war is “of ominous dimension and of far-reaching consequences” and said it is “shocking and disgraceful” to witness the spectacle of world leaders saying “in a most callous manner that fighting will continue ’til strategic military objectives are met.” Kobia added that “blind faith in military violence to resolve disputes and disagreements is totally unwarranted, illegal, and immoral.”

The NCC also called on Israel and Hezbollah to immediately cease hostilities. “All sides in this conflagration are showing appalling indifference to the deaths and injuries of hundreds of innocents on both sides of the border and in Gaza,” said Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for Interfaith Relations. “The stated goals of each belligerent to eliminate the other is solidifying a hatred that will last for generations.” NCC leaders said neither side can shell its way to security.

Church World Service (CWS), the humanitarian arm of the NCC, has sent an initial aid shipment of 5,000 Gift of the Heart Health Kits, 500 water containers, and a large supply of blankets to support work by International Orthodox Christian Charities, said CWS emergency response program director Donna Derr. CWS also issued a fundraising appeal for $1 million and voiced increasing concern over a growing humanitarian crisis in Lebanon.

As of the beginning of this week, CWS also planned a shipment of food and non-food items to the Middle East Council of Churches, which is delivering food, non-food relief items, water and sanitation, and psychosocial attention through its Interchurch Network for Development in Lebanon in conjunction with the Action by Churches Together (ACT). ACT has issued its own appeal for $4.6 million, according to Presbyterian Churches USA news service.

CWS added that it is alarmed at the lack of safe passage needed to deliver humanitarian aid. “The UN has been asking for opening of humanitarian corridors but so far those corridors haven’t materialized and transport routes and communication in the damaged Lebanese regions are severely hindered,” said Derr. “It’s an increasingly critical situation, with bridges destroyed, so many roads impassable, airports and power supplies bombed and inoperable.”

The Lebanese government and the UN estimate that more than 500,000 people are displaced from their homes, needing shelter, food, safe drinking water, sanitation, and medical assistance, CWS said. At least 140,000 have fled to Syria and other neighboring countries for refuge. Particular concern was given for the disproportionate number of children affected, CWS said. The agency also is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has sent a 12-member delegation to Israel and Palestine, which arrived in Jerusalem July 27. CPT is a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker), with support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations. The delegation planned to speak with representatives of Israeli and Palestinian peace and human rights organizations in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to travel to Hebron in the West Bank where CPT’s longterm team is based and where Israeli settler and soldier violence against Palestinians and internationals has escalated. The delegation is scheduled to be in Israel and Palestine through Aug. 8.


2) Youth bear witness to a faith in Christ that moves mountains.

National Youth Conference (NYC), July 22-27, 2006, challenged the youth of the Church of the Brethren to “come and see” with a conference theme inspired by John 1:35-39. The 3,606 youth and advisors who answered the call witnessed a faith in Christ that can move mountains.

Set at the base of the Rocky Mountains on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., NYC offered a experience of the awesomeness of God’s creation, and a challenge to “move” the mountainous problems of our world such as hunger, poverty, child welfare, and violence.

Worship played a central role, with morning and evening worship celebrations held in Moby Arena. Questions of the day guided worship services led by a host of dynamic speakers–and by the NYC band that rocked the arena with the theme song, “Come and See” by Seth Hendricks.

Among preachers who inspired and challenged the youth were Craig Kielburger, founder of (Kids Can) Free the Children, who urged youth not to wait to get to work for God. “Every day we receive our calling,” he said.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners community in Washington, D.C., and an evangelical leader on social issues, gave the youth an important task: “You’ve got to clear up the confusion about what it means to be a Christian.” Following Jesus means getting in the middle of the world’s suffering, “because that’s where (Jesus) stands inviting us in,” he said.

Ken Medema, who has been a popular performer at previous youth conferences, sang a song in response to Wallis’ message. The congregation was invited to join in the chorus: “We are the people we’ve been waiting for. The world is waiting so come through the door. There’s lots of room here on the dancing floor. There’s no delaying anymore.”

The Mennonite comedy duo Ted and Lee were received with laughter and applause as they acted out gospel stories about the disciples’ relationship with Jesus.

Youth speakers Jamie Frye from Kansas, Allen Bowers from Virginia, and Chrissy Sollenberger from Pennsylvania, each gave his or her own different perspective on what following Jesus really means.

Jeff Carter, pastor of Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren, answered the NYC theme with his statement, “It is the Christ that we have come to see.”

In a service created by General Board staff, several Brethren youth and adults spoke of the importance of being part of the church, and told stories of their work for Christ in the world.

Beth Gunzel, Brethren mission worker in the Dominican Republic and consultant for a microloan community development program of the Church of the Brethren, led a service focused on the situation of the poor in the DR. She said that Christians have a responsibility to others. “We are guided by the Holy Spirit to turn wrongs into rights, to be used for a divine purpose,” she said.

Andrew Murray, professor of peace studies at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and a popular Brethren folksinger, answered the question of the day, “Who are you becoming?” At age 64, he told the conference that most of what he has become he never anticipated. “I believe Jesus said, ‘Come and see,’ because whose you become will determine who you become.”

Preaching on 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Bethany Seminary professor Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm said, “God’s got you covered…. But beware of the protective coverings you make for yourself” including “veils” of hardness of heart and mind, she added. “If you want to loosen the hold of hardness…then do what God does, do what this conference has asked you to do. Ask questions.” Wilhelm asserted, “With every question we ask, we join Jesus in tugging at the veils and revealing God.”

Worship on Wednesday evening ended with anointing for freedom through Christ. Afterwards, in moments of deep emotion, groups of youth sat in tight circles on the floor, or stood in large groups, swaying to the music with their arms around each other.

“I am ready to change the world!” responded Deborah from Washington State the next morning. She was one of several youth who gave testimonies at the final worship service. At NYC, “thousands of strangers have truly become the body of Christ,” said Caitlin from Arizona.

New Community Project director David Radcliff preached for closing worship. “You’ve got the world in your hands,” he said in a sermon that sent youth home with new hope and energy to follow Jesus. Brethren youth are up to the challenges of the 21st century, he said. “Jesus will give you power to change this world,” Radcliff said. “I want to tell you Jesus believes in you, enough to put his mission and his world in your hands.”

In addition to worship, NYC offered small groups, concerts, recreation, service projects, workshops, devotions, and late-evening activities. Tournaments of Jungle Ball volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee continued late Wednesday because of interruptions by afternoon thunderstorms earlier in the week. Concerts were given by Superchick, Ken Medema, Andy and Terry Murray, The Guys, and the Bittersweet Gospel Band. Other late-evening activities included worship service led by groups from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, a talk-back session with Jim Wallis, a reception honoring scholarship recipients and international guests, a swing dance, a performance of “Godspell” by an arts camp from Camp Harmony, and an Open Mic talent show.

NYC coordinators Cindy Laprade, Beth Rhodes, and Emily Tyler worked with Chris Douglas, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the General Board, and the National Youth Cabinet to prepare for the conference over the past two years. Cabinet members are Becky Ball-Miller, Leigh-Anne Enders, Nick Kauffman, Zac Morgan, Shawn Flory Replogle, Erin Smith, and Rachael Stevens. Numerous other volunteers made NYC possible including youth workers, worship coordinators and musicians, workshop and special event leaders, and youth advisors from congregations and districts.

For more stories and photos from National Youth Conference 2006, go to


3) Wow! Together we can end hunger.

Hunger is a big word, seemingly larger than all our efforts to combat it. But the funds raised in various ways by NYC participants to turn hunger around is huge–exceeding even the wildest expectations of the coordinators. NYC 2006 has demonstrated in a very real way that youth are intentional about the church’s work to end hunger and poverty.

Responding to the theme, “Come and See,” more than 1,100 people took part in a REGNUH 5K Walk/Run to “turn hunger around.” Sponsorships of participants, coupled with a special offering, has now raised a total of $90,904.63.

The total adds $3,825.67 received since NYC ended, to the previous total of $87,078.96 announced on the last day of the conference. It includes $29,410.08 in REGNUH sponsorships and $61,494.55 received in the offering and through tithes of NYC registration fees from more than 30 congregations. The funds will be distributed through the Global Food Crisis Fund of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

“WOW!” said Howard Royer, manager of the Global Food Crisis Fund. “What signals NYC has sent to the church and the world! The first is to offer what Brethren and the Bible have championed–that God calls us to be with the poor and the hungry. The second is that no longer are the most vulnerable to be the most expendable; together we can put an end to extreme hunger.”

Daniel Neidlinger of Indiana was the first runner to cross the REHNUH finish line, with a time of 19 minutes, 28 seconds. Dustin Adams of Maryland came in second.

Neidlinger’s whole youth group of nine, including advisors, either ran or walked. “They all wanted me to run to win it!” said Neidlinger, who does cross country and track in high school. His church helped the youth raise several hundred dollars for the Global Food Crisis Fund, and was still collecting a special offering in worship the morning of the REGNUH walk/run.

One of the top individual fundraisers for REGNUH is Dianne Hollinger, a youth advisor from York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren, who raised $4,422. She originally challenged her congregation to help her raise $2,000, saying she would run 10 percent of the course for every 10 percent of the money raised. The congregation raised more than twice that amount, so she ran the whole five kilometers. When Hollinger collapsed at the finish line, friends from her congregation were there to help her back to her feet.

Heather Simmons of Ohio walked the course. She said it was the experience that mattered–especially at one of the learning stations along the route when she carried buckets with 20 pounds of water to simulate what women in many countries do every day. She said, “I can’t imagine how they do it all the time.”


4) Youth take up love offering at NYC.

Participants at NYC took up a love offering for a youth whose home was severely damaged by fire while he was at the conference. Jeff from Northern Indiana District received word July 25 that the house he and his mother lived in was damaged by a fire in an area of the house that included his room. The remaining part of the house suffered extensive smoke damage. The fire also claimed the life of the family’s pet cats.

NYC counselors and spiritual directors collectively called for a love offering during an evening service. The response was so great that many people asked for an additional day to give more funds, reported district youth coordinator Keith Carter. The offering allows the family to replace necessities such as beds, clothing, and other household items in an expedient manner, he said.

“I would just like to thank everyone for responding the way in which they did,” Jeff said. “I am thankful to all of you for your generosity. You all have helped me see God this week.”

“I was deeply touched when I saw the outpouring of love and support by conference participants,” Carter said. “What a great way for NYC participants to respond in an immediate tangible way to everything learned at NYC. The generosity and response has a great impact not only on Jeff and his family, but for the local congregation and district. Thank you to all for contributing to this love offering and most of all for being the church.”

Stacey Carter, youth director at Jeff’s church, said, “God took a tragedy and turned it into a miracle! We are thankful for the abundant outpouring of love and support for Jeff and his mother. Thank you all for being Jesus to someone else.”


5) NYC nuggets.
  • In other NYC offerings, 2,522 pounds of food was given to the Food Bank for Larimer County, Colo.; $18,532.37 was received for the NYC Scholarship Fund; 1,357 Gift of the Heart School Kits were donated along with $7,123.53 to help pay for shipping the kits to children in need through Church World Service.
  • Service projects and mountain hikes were favorite NYC activities. Some 2,700 people went on hikes in the mountains above Fort Collins. More than 2,000 pre-registered to work at 45-plus service projects around the Fort Collins and Loveland areas. Projects included clean up of highways and parks, work at a shelter and thrift stores–including two run by Habitat for Humanity, a Hearts and Horses Therapy center, Fort Collins’ Lincoln Center for the performing arts, nursing homes, the university’s campus ministry, and many others.
  • Inspired by REGNUH, a group of youth decided the next day to hold “REGNUH Part II.” Spokesperson Alex from Pennsylvania said, “The service last night kind of touched me, and I had to do something.” His friends reported that all day long he had been saying, “I’m on a God high!” The 13 youth and 2 advisors created their own walk of about 1 hour, or approximately 2 miles. Along the way, they asked people to join in or to give a donation. In another REGNUH-inspired effort, three youth from Pennsylvania–nose flute players Brad and David, their “manager” Seth, and a garden gnome mascot–created a band called “The Nose Knows” to raise money for hunger. They put the money into the offering for the Global Food Crisis Fund. The nose flute repertoire included “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and the theme song to “The Adams Family.” “We’re working on ‘Amazing Grace,’” they reported.
  • Another REGNUH walk/run will be held at National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) on Sept. 7 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. NOAC is sponsored by the Association of Brethren Caregivers. Participants are being asked to accept the invitation to walk or run a two-mile circuit around the lake to support the Global Food Crisis Fund. First- and second-place awards will be given by the Brethren Foundation, which also is giving a “REGNUH…turning hunger around” cap to each walker and runner. The foundation is a ministry of Brethren Benefit Trust.


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