Newsline Extra for June 13, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008”

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2a).


1) Brethren Disaster Ministries responds to storms, flooding in Midwest and Plains.
2) Disaster grant goes to Myanmar cyclone response.
3) Church of the Brethren congregation takes part in Indiana relief effort.

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1) Brethren Disaster Ministries responds to storms, flooding in Midwest and Plains.

A rash of severe storms and subsequent flooding has disrupted normal life for thousands of families in parts of the Midwest and Great Plains. For weeks, hardly a day has passed without hearing news of yet another tornado or flood. States on either side of the Mississippi have been hit repeatedly. Already 110 people have been killed by tornadoes, almost twice the 10-year average.

Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services staff are monitoring situations in parts of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. This includes participating in conference calls with other response organizations to share information and to offer our services.

As is typical during the initial response phase of a major disaster, Children’s Disaster Services staff have been in touch with American Red Cross personnel in the hardest hit areas, offering to set up child care projects in shelters or assistance centers. Teams of trained child care volunteers will watch children at the centers or shelters while parents clean up and gather the resources necessary to take care of their basic needs and start recovering from the disaster.

Currently Children’s Disaster Services has two project managers in the field, a team of four child care volunteers at work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and 18 more volunteers who are ready to respond.

In Iowa, Children’s Disaster Services is responding in the Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids areas. Lorna Grow of Dallas Center, Iowa, is coordinating that response. Children’s Disaster Services also has been invited to set up child care in a combined shelter/service center in Cedar Rapids. Grow has reported that the evacuation of Des Moines may mean there is a need for child care volunteers to work in a shelter there as well.

In Indiana, Ken Kline from Lima, Ohio, will serve as project manager and is assessing the child care needs in the five American Red Cross service centers that are currently open.

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have made contact with the denomination’s district offices to find out whether any Brethren have been affected by the storms and flooding, and to offer support and advice. District disaster coordinators have been continuously gathering data, sharing needs, and making our services known to the disaster-impacted communities.

In Iowa this morning, Northern Plains District’s interim executive minister Tim Button-Harrison took part in a conference call with ecumenical leaders and disaster responders including staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries. He also has been checking in with Church of the Brethren congregations along the flooding Cedar River: First Baptist/Brethren Church in Cedar Rapids, Greene Church of the Brethren which is a yoked parish with a Methodist church, Hammond Avenue Brethren Church in Waterloo, and South Waterloo Church of the Brethren.

Button-Harrison reported that some members of First Baptist/Brethren Church have probably lost homes and businesses, and there are a number of families at South Waterloo Church of the Brethren whose homes have been flooded. One of the South Waterloo families has been unable to get to their house because of flooding and is living in a motel, while other families have flooded basements. The South Waterloo Church is giving funds to church families who do not have a place to stay, to help them through this difficult time, he said.

All of the Church of the Brethren buildings are okay, Button-Harrison said. The South Waterloo Church has some flooding in its basement, he added, and the Methodist church affiliated with Greene Church of the Brethren also has a flooded basement. A flooded basement “is a pretty common thing right now!” he said. “The question is how much. If you’ve got four-to-five feet (of water) you may have lost everything.”

Button-Harrison also called attention to the similarities with floods in 1993. “In 1993 they talked about it being a once in a 500 year flood,” he said. “It’s like we’re getting a 500-year flood every 15 years.”

Meanwhile, two grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund totaling $11,000 have been issued in response to an appeal from Church World Service (CWS). These grants are supporting the work of CWS to supply material aid, deploy staff for trainings, and financially support Long-Term Recovery Groups working in the affected areas.

An appeal for Emergency Clean-Up Buckets for distribution in the Indiana flood area has been issued by CWS. Donors should not ship the buckets to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., for this response. Instead, CWS has established a local collection point in Indiana: Penn Products Warehouse, 6075 Lakeside Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46278; 317-388-8580 ext. 298. Drop-off is between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information contact the office of CWS at Elkhart, Ind., at 574-264-3102. Go to for information about what to include in the kits.

–Jane Yount, who serves as coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries; Judy Bezon, director of Children’s Disaster Services; and Zachary Wolgemuth, associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, contributed to this report.

2) Disaster grant goes to Myanmar cyclone response.

A grant from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund will send $30,000 to support Church World Service (CWS) relief work in Myanmar, following the destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis.

The grant is an an additional allocation for CWS-sponsored work in Myanmar. Brethren Disaster Ministries staff report that although much response to the cyclone continues to be delayed, the longstanding work of CWS in Asia and its partnership with several local organizations has allowed for a more immediate response that few other organizations have achieved.

The funds from the Church of the Brethren will help provide food rations, safe water supplies, and temporary shelters. A more detailed and comprehensive longterm response is expected in the future.

In a June 6 report from CWS, the organization emphasized that volunteers from local faith partners in Myanmar are visiting villages affected by the cyclone, distributing much-needed relief items to survivors. They are providing clean water through purification tablets and well cleaning, food, shelter, health care including medical teams of doctors and nurses, clothing, blankets, and psychosocial support.

“In all the places where the churches are providing assistance, the food is fresh–they are cooking and providing fresh food every day,” explained a pastor in Myanmar, quoted in a CWS release. The pastor coordinates the relief effort among churches throughout the cyclone-affected areas. Speaking from 28 years of affiliation with CWS, the pastor says, “Churches (in Myanmar) provide support in a non-discriminatory way–this is the witness of the church.”

Churches are doing this in various ways, one being transforming church buildings into temporary family shelters–21 in total, CWS reports. Church communities are also addressing the emotional pain caused by the cyclone by organizing teams of 20-30 students to provide psychosocial support for people living in displacement camps. “The first response of the people is just to survive,” the pastor noted. “They are fearful.”

The volunteers connected with CWS are reporting that all the school buildings in the area are destroyed, making it nearly impossible for children to return to school as planned this month. “While relief work is still going on, we have to already think of rehabilitation,” one worker said, adding that there were around 50 days left before the monsoon planting season ends. Rice has to be planted before then, otherwise there will be a serious food shortage within six months.

Go to for more information about the Church World Service response in Myanmar.

CWS also is encouraging people of faith to help get the word out to the media that its relief assistance is reaching people in Myanmar, through local partners. Church World Service has been working through partnerships in Myanmar since 1959. CWS has provided the following the sample letter to the editor:

Dear editor,
As the death tolls continue to climb from the cyclone that hit Myanmar (Burma) on May 3 aid agencies need additional support for emergency and recovery assistance to survivors. Working in Myanmar (Burma) has been difficult for many aid agencies but those tied to churches have an edge. Through Church World Service my church, the Church of the Brethren, has been able to get assistance to people on the ground in Myanmar (Burma) despite heavy restrictions on international agencies. That’s because most faith-based aid agencies operate by supporting local partners, citizens of the nation in need. The local partners supported by the Church of the Brethren and CWS pre-positioned supplies in advance of Cyclone Nargis and were able to deliver shelter, food, and water soon after the storm. A widespread, international effort will be needed if the people of Myanmar (Burma) are to recover from this disaster. While it is taking time for all agencies to respond, groups based in Myanmar (Burma) are trying to attend to massive needs. It’s important that we, as a community, continue to support relief work in Myanmar (Burma) through our local churches.

(PHONE # for news editor’s verification only)

3) Church of the Brethren congregation takes part in Indiana relief effort.

Christ Our Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Greenwood, Ind., has been keeping attuned to all of the relief efforts in Johnson County and the state of Indiana, following storms and flooding. Because of their efforts with the Johnson County courthouse and military veterans, through the denomination’s Welcome Home Project, the congregation was called upon to help with the relief efforts ministering to victims of the flood of June 7 and beyond.

The church has teamed up with Johnson County Emergency Management, United Way, and the American Red Cross to be an information center, and with FEMA as a processing point for people to sign in for damage assessment and for FEMA assistance to help with recovery.

Christ Our Shepherd Church also is going to team up with a designated Johnson County person to provide staffing to run a free department store for furniture, washers and dryers, and other appliances. The church’s food pantry will continue to be open 24/7 as they become aware of emergency needs. The church also may be open to housing and providing kitchen facilities for cooking or special needs of volunteers on the way to help flood victims.

Volunteers in Indiana are being urged to be patient and wait for the flood waters to recede and for safe conditions before responding in affected areas.

–Jane Yount serves as coordinator of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

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. Jon Kobel contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for June 18. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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