Newsline Extra for October 1, 2007

October 1, 2007

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).

1) Sudan assessment team finds warm welcome for the Brethren.
2) Multinational team trains leaders of emerging Haitian church.
3) Staff await implementation phase of health program in DR.

4) Former Brethren Volunteer Service worker reflects on returning to Peru.

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1) Sudan assessment team finds warm welcome for the Brethren.

A three-member assessment team traveled to Sudan from July 8-Aug. 5 to listen to Sudanese voices and to prepare for a decision about where the Church of the Brethren will begin work. The team included Enten Eller, director of distributed education and electronic communication at Bethany Theological Seminary, and Phil and Louise Rieman, co-pastors of Northview Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis, who were interviewed for this report following the trip.

“Our assessment team was blessed with good travel and wonderful experiences,” said Brad Bohrer, director of the Sudan mission initiative. “The welcome they experienced in all of their travels was very warm and inviting, with many areas filled with those who remember the work of the Church of the Brethren in the past.” Bohrer said the visit found a “strong invitation to come and share the work of rebuilding.” The infrastructure of southern Sudan has been decimated by decades of war, which concluded a few years ago with a peace agreement between south and north.

Through a review of the assessment team’s findings, the Sudan initiative has settled on the area of Torit as the initial location for a Church of the Brethren mission. The town of Torit is in southeastern Sudan, near the borders of Kenya and Uganda. The target date to begin placing mission workers is Feb. 2008.

Of the choice of Torit as an initial focus for Brethren efforts, “it is reflective of much of southern Sudan, an area of great need and great potential,” Bohrer said. “Our purpose in the Sudan Initiative is clear and exciting: we are sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ…working to heal and rebuild communities by addressing collaboratively with those we serve the physical, spiritual, and relational needs we encounter.”

The team visited with a variety of Christian bodies in southern Sudan, including the Sudan Council of Churches–a newly merged organization that includes the former New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC) in the southern part of the country, and the original Sudan Council of Churches that represented Christians in the north. The Church of the Brethren has been a longtime partner in the work of both church councils, and also provided staff for primary health care, refugee health work, emergency response, and theological training to the Sudan Council of Churches since 1980.

Church leaders who met with or helped host the assessment team included Sudan Council of Churches general secretary Peter Tibi, Roman Catholic Bishop Paride Taban, Episcopal Bishop Nathaniel Garang, Episcopal Bishop Hilary of Malakal, and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Malakal, as well as various pastors’ groups. They also visited the Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron, which was founded by Bishop Taban. The village does peacemaking work to reduce inter-tribal violence, and might be a model and place of orientation for Brethren mission workers. Political leaders who met with the team included the state governor in Torit.

In several areas, the team found that people know the Brethren through former mission staff Roger and Carolyn Schrock. “They have given the Church of the Brethren a good name,” Phil Rieman said.

The Sudanese are “very excited about the Church of the Brethren coming,” said Louise Rieman, who stressed that the assessment team tried consistently to talk seriously about the prospect of church planting by the Brethren. They received repeated assurances that “there is room for everyone to share the good news,” she said.

The Sudanese people are welcoming help from the outside world, said Phil Rieman, adding that the assessment team found that numerous NGO and nonprofit groups are already at work in southern Sudan. “People don’t want a colonial type situation, but are welcoming partners, which thankfully is the Church of the Brethren position,” he said.

A note of caution about the Sudan initiative’s goal of planting churches came from Rev. Tibi, because the Sudan Council of Churches has valued Brethren support for existing churches. “He’d like the Church of the Brethren to wait to start congregations until after the referendum,” reported Louise Rieman.

The referendum is an upcoming decision by southern Sudan about whether to remain with the north as a unified country, or to secede. It is scheduled for 2011. “All indications are likely that the south will secede,” said Phil Rieman. Many Sudanese fear another outbreak of violence before or during the referendum, and fear the northern government will not allow it to take place, he said, adding that “it is clear that the referendum will be a wrenching experience.”

The tragic effects of decades of civil war and violence were plain to see, the team found. They saw a need for trauma healing and reconciliation work, a lack of development, the destruction of infrastructure including health facilities and schools, a lack of health care, poor nutrition, and little education and experience in democratic processes. The Sudanese “are so far behind the countries around them, they are working so hard to get back on their feet,” said Louise Rieman.

Opportunities for Brethren work abound, such as a tremendous need for health care, veterinary care for the cattle on which many southern Sudanese rely for their livelihood, promotion of vegetable gardening and fresh foods as part of the diet, along with economic opportunities that growing and selling fresh produce might offer, a need for psychological care for a population affected by war, and a need for peacemaking work. “Even though there’s relative peace, there’s need for the peacemaking gifts the Church of the Brethren can bring,” said Phil Rieman.

“Of course the Gospel is central” to the Sudan initiative, Louise Rieman emphasized, “to live it as well as to preach it and speak it.”

Despite the hardships, there is a sense of hope in Sudan, “hope that God will work things out,” in Phil Rieman’s words. “God is alive and well and active there. God is very present in the lives of the people,” Louise Rieman said.

The Riemans hope that the Brethren presence in Sudan may be one of the factors to help avert instability before the referendum. They also hope US Brethren may learn from the Sudanese, as a people of strong faith. The Sudanese “are our family, they are our sisters and brothers, and they have suffered beyond our comprehension,” said Louise Rieman. “My hope and vision is that more people in the Church of the Brethren will long for this opportunity to live with the Sudanese. To learn from them, to share the Good News with them, to learn their good news, and to have the joy of living and learning together.”

An incident that occurred as the assessment team prepared to leave Sudan underlined the risky nature of this new mission, and the faith it will require from mission workers. The trip took place in rainy season, when landing strips are not always accessible to the small aircraft that fly in and out of the south. So the assessment team waited at a small landing strip, not knowing when or if a plane would arrive.

However, a pilot “flew in on faith,” as the Riemans put it, and the team was able to continue the journey.

For more from the Sudan trip, go to the blog at

2) Multinational team trains leaders of emerging Haitian church.

A team from the Dominican Republic and the US joined to provide training for the emerging Church of the Brethren in Haiti, on Aug. 11-18 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Participants included 61 pastoral and lay leaders who had registered for the training.

Organizers characterized the large number of people who turned out for the event as a good surprise, and reported that even though the extensive daily classtime required major adjustments in their work schedules, 42 of the group completed the entire course.

The week-long immersion in Brethren ordinances and practices as well as training for church growth was led by Ludovic St. Fleur, pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, Fla. St. Fleur coordinates the Church of the Brethren mission in Haiti for the Global Mission Partnerships of the General Board.

Teachers also included Yves Jean, pastor of Eglise des Freres en Haiti (Church of the Brethren in Haiti); Anastasia Buena and Isaias Tena, a clergy couple who co-pastor San Luis Church of the Brethren in the DR; and Merle Crouse of St. Cloud, Fla., a retired pastor and former staff member of the Church of the Brethren General Board, and a former mission worker. The sessions were translated into Haitian Creole.

“We were delighted that leaders from the Dominican Republic, who have desired to relate to the emerging church in Haiti, and from the US were able to join together for this time of learning and fellowship. Reports indicated that this combination of leadership was greatly appreciated by the participants,” said Merv Keeney, executive director for Global Mission Partnerships.

–Janis Pyle is coordinator of mission connections for the Global Mission Partnerships of the General Board.

3) Staff await implementation phase of health program in DR.

After four months of exploration from January through April this year, Dr. Norm and Carol Waggy of Goshen, Ind., are experiencing a delay in the implementation of a preventative health care ministry in the Dominican Republic.

During a special assignment with the Global Mission Partnerships of the Church of the Brethren General Board, the Waggys visited 21 of the congregations of Iglesia de los Hermanos (Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic), spread over three regions. The couple gathered ideas from church members for a new ministry through the Dominican church communities, working with a newly-appointed Health Committee of regional representatives. By the end of the process, the committee had identified several priorities and formulated a proposal.

“The health ministry proposal has generated much energy and excitement in the Dominican church,” said Merv Keeney, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships. “While the initial hope was that the church could make an immediate decision, for a number of reasons the church will need more time to work out the details. Mission coordinators Irv and Nancy Heishman will be working with the Dominican leadership to discuss the proposal.”

Meanwhile, Norm Waggy has returned to private medical practice. Carol Waggy, an ordained minister with experience in mediation and conflict resolution, has accepted the assignment of interim administrative coordinator at Goshen (Ind.) City Church of the Brethren. In past mission service, the couple served for five years with the Rural Health Program of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), a community-based health program.

4) Former Brethren Volunteer Service worker reflects on returning to Peru.

In June of 1970, I was seconded to Church World Service by Brethren Volunteer Service. CWS sponsored me as a member of a disaster team sent to Peru after the earthquake of 1970. In August this year I visited the one village in which I spent about a year and a half from June 1971 until December 1972.

I was to spend two years with CWS on the disaster team responding to the earthquake in Ancash, Peru, which occurred on May 31, 1970. I ended up extending my time due to obligations to the earthquake victims. Upon arriving in Peru I was sent to Aija, Ancash. Aija is a large village at about 10,000 feet in the Black Mountain Range. I worked there and in one of its subvillages, Succha, for about a year, and was then sent to Raypa, a small village about 70 kilometers from the coast.

The village of Raypa had been located at the base of some large mountains and when the earthquake hit, massive boulders wiped out the village. When I got to Raypa, the village’s 90 families were living in lean-to shacks in their chacras (small agricultural lands on the slopes of the Andes). When asked by CWS of the needs in Raypa, I contacted two people: Ruben Paitan, an agricultural engineer, and Nora Passini, an all-around administrator with talents in developing an array of programs. I had met these two people in Aija during my first year in Peru. Within weeks Ruben and Nora joined me and we started projects cleaning water canals, teaching agricultural improvements, making guinea pig farms, and many more. On a regular basis we had about 40 projects underway at any given time.

And here begins the story I must tell. In Sept. 1972, the Raypa village leaders came to me and said they wanted to build a school. My response was that I thought it impossible in the last three months that we had in Raypa. The project was scheduled to end in December. The villagers pleaded and promised that they would work like never before. With that the villagers, with help from CWS volunteers, identified a hill that was protected from falling boulders and huaicos (mudslides that crawl and then rush down hillsides wiping out everything in their path) that would be an appropriate place for a school. The hill, known as Inchan, was covered by a corn field. After identifying an adequate site for a school, the site was donated by the owners. The villagers then asked for a water pump to get water to the top of the hill and CWS provided them with that.

I then left the village telling them that by the time of my return we needed about 8,000 adobes. Over the next two weeks I spent my time getting plans for an anti-seismic school building from the Peruvian Ministry of Education that was just producing the plans but had never built a school. I then returned to Raypa. I went directly to Inchan and I did not find 8,000 adobes as the villagers had promised. I found 12,000, and men working on more.

With that enthusiasm evident, we started to work. By hand, 80 men working daily cleared four level platforms for the buildings. We then went to the coast and brought back the roofing system, a space frame held up by steel posts and roofed with eternit calaminas. The Peruvian Ministry of Education sent 12 of their engineers to watch the villagers put up the roofs. An error in the plans made it impossible to construct the roofs, but Ruben and I identified the error, and re-ordered the struts to allow construction. Several days later we raised the roofs.

The 80-plus men then went about building the walls, windows, and doors of the school building. We worked from day break until night, and then under the lights of our pickup truck, we continued to work until the batteries were low.

By Dec. 23, the villagers had their four school buildings built and we inaugurated the buildings with speeches and a grand pachamanca in which the entire meal of meat, yucca, potatoes, and beans is cooked in an underground oven of hot rocks. The CWS program ended the next day, and Ruben, Nora, and I all left to our next assignments.

Thirty four years later, Ruben and I along with my daughter and son, returned to Raypa. We drove up to Inchan and what we found held us spellbound. There was the school, and around it was a village with lights, running water, houses, stores, a church, a health clinic, some municipal buildings, and a beautiful plaza. It was a complete town alive and growing. Some 100 families live in the town and it is protected from the elements.

What really hit us hard was that the school had a large sign on it. The sign read: “Barner Myer School.” They had it spelled wrong, but they had named the school after me. In the early ’70s we had had no time to write down any of the events that led up to the school, so they had made up a history.

Thanks to CWS and the efforts of the villagers, the town of Raypa is alive and thriving. It started with a school in a corn patch, but it is now the center of the valley with 22 teachers in the school, which has been expanded, and the services that make it the best village in the valley.

–Barney Myer (Harold L. Myer) of Kenmore, Wash., worked with Church World Service in Peru as a Brethren Volunteer Service worker. For more about Church World Service visit For more about Brethren Volunteer Service visit

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Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Merv Keeney and Janis Pyle contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for Oct. 10. Other special issues may be sent as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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