Newsline Extra for June 25, 2008

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

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord…” (Psalm 134:1a).

1) Northern Plains District is part of relief effort for Iowa floods.
2) Grant will help Northern Plains District disaster work.
3) Children’s Disaster Services cares for children in Cedar Falls.
4) Church World Service aids nearly 1 million people in Myanmar.
5) Disaster response bits: Correction, Indiana flood response, grants, more.

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1) Northern Plains District is part of relief effort for Iowa floods.

Over the past weekend, the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Plains District issued an e-mail report on its congregations and members affected by flooding in Iowa, and how the district is contributing to the relief effort. The report dated June 21 noted that as flood waters recede in many areas damage is being assessed, and flooding continues south of Iowa along the Mississippi.

The Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund is giving a grant of $5,000 to Northern Plains District in support of its efforts to assist in cleanup following the flooding (see story below).

Following are excerpts from the district report:

“Cedar Rapids was especially hit by the Cedar River that broke flood records. Tammy Buseman, pastor of Cedar Rapids Baptist and Church of the Brethren, shares that her congregation has been directing people to be involved in locally coordinated relief efforts. In addition, the church is working to provide direct support to members of the church severely impacted by the flood. Several have lost homes and businesses.

“Sandy Marsau, board chair of South Waterloo Church of the Brethren, shares that her congregation has provided financial assistance to several families connected with the church who were uprooted by the flooded Cedar River. One family who feared the total loss of their home was relieved to find that flood waters had stopped at the ground floor level.

“The flooded Shell Rock River impacted many in the town of Greene where our Greene Church of the Brethren/Methodist Church is located. Loran McRoberts, moderator of the Greene Church, lost everything in the basement which was filled with 5-6 feet of water/sewage. The same thing happened in the church parsonage and in the Methodist Church facility. Ashok Patat, pastor of the Greene Church, shares that one family in the church completely lost their home.

“Gary Gahm is our Northern Plains District disaster coordinator and the district contact person for requests for assistance and offers of help…. Inform him of those persons in your church who are interested in volunteering with clean-up and rebuilding efforts. Especially important are the names of persons from your church who will be coordinating volunteers. Contact Gary Gahm at or 712-328-0894 or 712-314-1326.

“Gahm has been working at state-level coordination efforts. A website has been set up for receiving funds, requests for assistance, and offers of volunteer help and he has now been trained to use that site as a coordination tool. He also has been working with Zach Wolgemuth and Jane Yount of Brethren Disaster Ministries to receive a grant for district disaster response efforts and to begin planning for the longterm volunteer and recovery effort.

“On June 13, Tim Button-Harrison, interim district executive, along with Gary Gahm and Zach Wolgemuth, participated in a conference call of Iowa church leaders and disaster coordinators to share information and discuss ways to cooperate in providing immediate and longterm relief. Out of the discussion, the Episcopal Diocese offered to set up a central website for Iowa church leaders to share and coordinate information. A follow-up conference call of Iowa church leaders is scheduled for June 24.

“Grants are now available from the District Disaster Fund for congregations to assist families in need, for general flood relief work of congregations, and for expense reimbursements of volunteers serving on behalf of the district and our churches. There is an urgent need of financial contributions to the District Disaster Fund. Funds will be used to provide grants, through congregations, to individuals in need, to support local and district relief efforts, and to reimburse expenses of volunteers working on behalf of the district and its churches. Send checks to Disaster Fund, Northern Plains District–Church of the Brethren, P.O. Box 493, Ankeny, IA 50021.

“A message we need to share is DO NOT SEND CLOTHES. There may be special clothing needs that arise, but until the word comes out about such a need, clothes are not needed.”

The district report went on to highlight the great need for Emergency Clean-up Buckets. Go to for information about contents and how to assemble Emergency Clean-up Bucket kits. Gary Gahm is working with Church World Service to determine a distribution site for buckets in Iowa. The Northern Plains District Conference also will hold a buckets collection on July 25-26 at Hammond Avenue Church in Waterloo.

Gahm reported that Root River Church of the Brethren just raised $700 for clean-up buckets during Vacation Bible School. With those funds they have assembled 15 kits and will assemble five more. The Hands of Christ group in Rochester is working with Root River by purchasing items for the kits.

2) Grant will help Northern Plains District disaster work.

It was raining again this week in Iowa as Gary Gahm, Northern Plains District disaster coordinator, was preparing a grant request for $5,000 through the Emergency Disaster Fund. The fund is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Through the Brethren Disaster Ministries program, the fund makes small grants available to assist the disaster relief efforts of local churches or an effort of a whole district.

Gahm explained, “With all the flooding and tornadoes in Iowa there is a lot of clean up to do now and longterm. The goal will be to help as many people as we are able.”

The funds will be used to feed and lodge volunteers, purchase some tools as needed, and other items that may be needed to do the job correctly and safely. The funds also may be used to support local rebuilding efforts or local agencies managing longterm recovery.

Gahm reported that at this time there are 70 counties in Iowa with a presidential disaster declaration, and there are many Brethren families and friends who need assistance in the damaged area. The grant money will be directed through the district office and be paid out by the district treasurer through congregations.

The Emergency Disaster Fund also has given a grant of $5,000 to support the work of Children’s Disaster Services in Iowa and Indiana. As of today, June 25, Children’s Disaster Services has seen 230 children in Iowa and about 200 in Indiana. The fund has given an additional $5,000 to the work of Church World Service in parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

3) Children’s Disaster Services cares for children in Cedar Falls.

A visit to the American Red Cross service center in Cedar Falls, Iowa, is the first stop on the road to recovery for many affected by flooding in the region. For those with children, the process can be more difficult. That’s why the volunteers with the Church of the Brethren’s Children’s Disaster Services are a welcome sight for these parents.

Eighty-five-year-old Jacquelyn Snyder, or Grandma Jackie as she’s known to the kids, is one of these volunteers. She comforts the children by playing games, reading stories, and just spending time with them.

“It’s so rewarding to know that you can give people a little relief even if it’s only for a few hours,” said Snyder, who has been with the program for over 10 years. “I went through the flood of 1993 so I can relate to what they are going through.”

Volunteers like Snyder have been offering child care assistance to parents and children during local and national disasters since Children’s Disaster Services was founded in 1980.

At a time in her life when many people would be slowing down, the Iowa resident says she has a lot more help to give. “As long as I can get around, I’ll keep volunteering.”

–Douglas P. Lent is public relations and marketing associate for the American Red Cross Central Maryland Chapter in Baltimore.

4) Church World Service aids nearly 1 million people in Myanmar.

Church World Service (CWS) has reported that as of June 23, it has provided temporary shelter and fresh water supplies sufficient for nearly one million Myanmar (Burma) cyclone survivors. The Church of the Brethren has given a total of $100,000 to the CWS relief work in Myanmar through grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund and the Global Food Crisis Fund.

Cyclone Nargis cut a huge swath of destruction about 100 miles wide across 200 miles of the populous Irrawaddy Delta, killing an estimated more than 100,000 people and thousands of livestock, and destroying homes, crops, and property. Estimates say over two million people were affected.

As of June 19, the CWS team based in Bangkok, Thailand, reported that its local partner in Myanmar had reached a total of 572 villages in the disaster-affected region, had provided supplies sufficient to serve more than 980,000 beneficiaries, and had delivered 3,944 “water baskets.” The CWS philosophy is to work through local organizations, which helps people at grassroots levels build greater self-sufficiency and resiliency.

The water baskets, which capture rainwater, alone deliver the potential for 986,000 people to have clean drinking water. Each of the portable, lightweight plastic water container holds the equivalent of a day’s clean drinking water for 250 people.

CWS said its local partner has also provided temporary shelter plastic tarpaulins for 41,374 households–more than 25 percent of the total number of households (160,000) the United Nations has estimated to have received emergency tarpaulins so far.

CWS said its fellow INGO members of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) alliance have also provided food and other non-food supplies to survivors in the target communities served by the local partner as well.

Church World Service is now shifting to farm recovery and rehabilitation in the devastated Irrawaddy delta area, with a focus on immediate agricultural assistance to ensure next season’s crops and to build future food security.

“As with our recovery work following the 2004 tsunami, our model of ‘disaster relief’ is really about building disaster risk reduction components into any of our emergency recovery and rehabilitation programs,” said Donna Derr, director of the CWS Emergency Response Program. “We’re turning our attention in Myanmar to that kind of holistic recovery now.”

Farmers in the area have until the end of July to recover their fields and paddies and get rice seed in the ground for next season’s crops. Concentrating on some 11 townships in the delta already being assisted, CWS and its local partner plan to provide farmers with rice seed stock, field preparation tools, and equipment to compensate for the significant numbers of work animals– buffalo and oxen normally used for tilling–that were lost in the cyclone. Additionally, CWS intends to provide capitol for hiring laborers from among those families who don’t own farmland and need income.

Go to and for more information about the Emergency Disaster Fund and the Global Food Crisis Fund, and how to contribute.

5) Disaster response bits: Correction, Indiana flood response, grants, more.

  • Correction: The correct numbers for the Volunteer Reception Center in Franklin, Ind., are 317-738-8801, 317-738-8807, or 317-738-8006. Brethren Disaster Ministries is encouraging those interested in volunteering with the clean up work in Indiana following storms and flooding to contact the center in Franklin.
  • Pastor Charles Berdel of Christ our Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis, will represent Brethren Disaster Ministries at a meeting being convened by the United Way in Franklin, Ind., tomorrow morning. The meeting is to establish a Long-Term Recovery Committee to coordinate resources and organize longterm recovery efforts for the flood survivors of Johnson County, Ind. Brethren Disaster Ministries anticipates establishing a rebuilding project in Indiana in the future, once needs have been identified and communities are ready for assistance.
  • The Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program has begun shipping relief supplies to Iowa following the flooding. Material Resources staff work out of warehouses at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Director Loretta Wolf shared this note in a staff newsletter today: “Often Material Resource staff doesn’t see or hear from those who receive the items we work with. This week we received a letter from Iowa, where we shipped supplies: ‘The layettes, health kits, and school supplies will be used and appreciated by so many of our people. We really do not know how to adequately thank you. All we ask is that you accept our sincere gratitude. Your sensitivity, concern, and support will always be appreciated.’ It is good to hear how much we as part of the Church of the Brethren impact others’ lives.”
  • “Courage to Care,” a Children’s Disaster Services Level 1 Volunteer Workshop, will be held Aug. 22-23 at First Church of the Brethren in Roaring Spring, Pa. Children’s Disaster Services is a Church of the Brethren ministry. The 27-hour workshop trains volunteers to care for children following disasters, to set up special child care centers in disaster locations, and to provide crisis intervention for young children while parents apply for assistance and put their lives back together. The training prepares volunteers to participate in Children’s Disaster Services teams such as those currently at work in areas of Iowa affected by flooding. The registration fee covers the curriculum, meals, and lodging. Registration costs $45, or $55 if received less than three weeks before the workshop. Participants must be 18 years of age or older, in good physical and mental health, and must work well under stress and adverse conditions. Go to for program and registration information. Contact Faye Eichelberger, onsite coordinator for the workshop, at 814-239-2867. Contact the Children’s Disaster Services Office at or 800-451-4407 #5.

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. Judy Bezon, Jon Kobel, Roy Winter, Loretta Wolf, Jane Yount contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for July 2. 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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