Newsline Extra for September 25, 2008

September 25, 2008

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

“All their neighbors aided them…” (Ezra 1:6a).

1) Disaster grants aid the Caribbean, Children’s Disaster Service continues work in Texas.

2) Faith Expedition to study indigenous coffee region of Mexico.
3) On Earth Peace offers Israel/Palestine delegation trip.
4) Sudan Initiative director to meet with RECONCILE leaders.

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1) Disaster grants aid the Caribbean, Children’s Disaster Service continues work in Texas.

In a continuing response to the recent hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and the US Gulf coast, the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund has issued several grants to support relief work, and 26 volunteers from the denomination’s Children’s Disaster Services agency are caring for children in shelters in Texas this week.

The Emergency Disaster Fund has given a grant of $5,000 for Brethren work in Haiti, which has been hit by four tropical storms and hurricanes in the last two months. In the recent Hurricane Ike, more than 300 people died in Haiti, many thousands of homes were destroyed, and millions of Haitians are now in dire need of food. Reports from the Church of the Brethren Haiti Advisory Committee indicate that at least 35 Haitian Brethren have lost their homes.

The grant will support a collaborative effort between Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, and will include travel for an assessment team, a Haiti response coordinator, and the assessment and development of a Brethren response in Haiti. Future grants are anticipated once a plan is developed.

A separate grant of $10,000 supports the work of Church World Service (CWS) in the Caribbean, including a rapid response effort that is already underway, well as the shipping of material aid from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. The Material Resources program’s most recent shipments in response to Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike have included a truckload of blankets, baby kits, and hygiene kits shipped to Haiti, and a truckload of school kits and hygiene kits shipped to Baton Rouge, La.

Another allocation of $9,000 from the fund has gone to aid displaced people following the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation, to support the aid efforts of CWS partners the Russian Orthodox Church and Tbilisi Youth House Foundation.

Children’s Disaster Services this week has 26 volunteers in the Houston area, serving children displaced by Hurricane Ike. These teams are to be replaced with new teams of childcare volunteers over the weekend, reported Judy Bezon, director of Children’s Disaster Services. The current teams have worked in four shelters, one of which is a “mega center” where two childcare centers are open. Bezon reported that as other shelters close, and as evacuees learn their homes are uninhabitable, they will go to the mega shelter–which “will be going for quite a while,” she said.

“CDS volunteers certainly are generous with their time,” Bezon added, in a note expressing admiration for volunteers who spend long demanding hours each day caring for children in stressful circumstances. “I have 13 ready to travel to Houston over the weekend, and more who can go just a bit later. All of this after utilizing 29 volunteers for Hurricane Gustav! Altogether there are 28 more people who are willing to put everything aside to go help children who have been impacted by a storm.”

2) Faith Expedition to study indigenous coffee region of Mexico.

A Faith Expedition to Mexico has been announced by the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, to visit an indigenous coffee cooperative and learn first-hand about organic coffee farming and the hardships faced by small-scale farmers. This Faith Expedition is in partnership with Equal Exchange, and Witness for Peace. The trip will take place Jan. 24-Feb. 3, 2009.

The group will stay in the homes of coffee farmers in the area of Chiapas, and will learn about the economic, political, and historical context of Mexico and the state of Chiapas. Topics will include the 1994 uprising in Chiapas, low-intensity conflict, and human rights abuses against indigenous people.

Participants will learn how to “connect the dots” between global economic forces and local social hardships, for example, how the global price of coffee affects the livelihoods of poor farming communities around the world. Other features of the trip will include a visit to an indigenous women’s artisan cooperative, and the opportunity to learn about the role that faith and Liberation Theology has played in the lives of people in rural Chiapas.

For more information about cost and how to apply, contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office at 337 North Carolina Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003; or 800-785-3246. The deadline for applications is Nov. 1, when an application form with nonrefundable deposit of $150 is required.

3) On Earth Peace offers Israel/Palestine delegation trip.

A trip to Israel/Palestine on the theme, “Plant Peace,” is being offered by On Earth Peace on Jan. 6-19, 2009. The experience will be led by Rick Polhamus, a former fulltime volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron.

The delegation will meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace and human rights workers, will join the CPT teams in Hebron and the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani in a limited amount of accompaniment and documentation, and will join in a public witness. “This is an opportunity to get an on-the-ground perspective on the conflict in the Middle East, how it impacts communities, and how some communities are making a stand for peace,” said the announcement.

Participants will be expected to prepare for the trip by becoming familiar with current conditions in the Middle East, and upon return communicate about the experience with local congregations, groups, and the media. The $2,100 cost includes international airfare, in-country travel, simple accommodations, two meals per day, honoraria, and delegation fees.

For more information, contact On Earth Peace at 410-635-8704, or Rick Polhamus at or 937-313-4458.

4) Sudan Initiative director to meet with RECONCILE leaders.

Mission staff of the Church of the Brethren are planning a meeting with RECONCILE, a peace and reconciliation organization in southern Sudan, to continue building relationships as together we consider places of partnership. Brad Bohrer, director of the Sudan Initiative, will travel to southern Sudan from Sept. 29-Oct. 11, during which time he will meet with RECONCILE leaders and also provide leadership for two events sponsored by the organization.

“The Sudan Initiative recently has gone through a clarifying time,” Bohrer said. “With staff changes came a period of stepping back from the direction we were going, a time of reevaluation and discernment. The vision and call continues for us to go to Sudan, but we are going with a clearer, deeper call from Sudanese leaders to partner with them in the rebuilding of the country after the civil war.”

RECONCILE was formed in 2003 out of the work of the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC), Bohrer reported. The Church of the Brethren has been involved with the NSCC since its inception, and has in the past provided staff as well as financial and other support. Merlyn Kettering, a Church of the Brethren member who served for a time as a church consultant for economic and social development in Sudan, wrote most of the organizing documents for the creation of RECONCILE and also trained its early leadership.

RECONCILE is currently involved in workshops for church and community leaders to foster peace on a local level, as well as training for reconciliation, participation in local and national government through elections, and empowering the population to be in healthy communities, Bohrer reported.

“My trip will be to deepen our partnership with RECONCILE and define some long- and short-term positions that we will try to fill to strengthen their program and create sustained presence in Sudan,” Bohrer said. During his trip, Bohrer also will provide a leadership training event for the RECONCILE staff, and give a workshop for church and community leaders on the importance of participating in elections.

“I’m excited that we can walk along with RECONCILE in this way,” Bohrer said. He added that conversations are in progress with other Sudanese organizations and churches to explore further partnering relationships that the Church of the Brethren can establish.

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Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Judy Bezon, Phil Jones, Jon Kobel, Gimbiya Kettering, Roy Winter contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Oct. 8. 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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