Newsline for March 26, 2008

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

“Peace be with you” (John 20:19b).


1) Bethany Seminary Inaugural Forum to offer live webcasts.
2) Annual Conference Council discusses budget deficit, merger.
3) New orientation increases accessibility for Bethany Connections.
4) Grants go to Darfur and Mozambique, clean-up buckets needed.
5) Brethren bits: Corrections, remembrances, personnel, jobs, more.


6) Keeney resigns as executive director of Global Mission Partnerships.
7) Wagner begins as director of the New Windsor Conference Center.
8) Campanella takes on new role at Brethren Service Center.
9) McCabe retires as chief executive officer of The Cedars.


10) Lighten UP, Brethren! Reflecting on a workcamp to Honduras.

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1) Bethany Seminary Inaugural Forum to offer live webcasts.

The Church of the Brethren Webcast Series will present live video webcasts from Bethany Theological Seminary’s Inaugural Forum, “Hearing Scriptures of Peace,” on March 30-31.

Presentations to be webcast include a plenary with Dr. Scott Appleby on “The Incarnation of Reconciliation: Interpreting Scripture Through the Person of Jesus,” March 30 at 1:30-2:30 p.m. (eastern time); presentations by Bethany students, March 30, 4:15-5:15 p.m.; evening worship on March 30, 7:30-9 p.m., with Bethany president Ruthann Knechel Johansen speaking on “Asking for Wonder”; a plenary with Rabbi Rachel Gartner on “Vechol Netivoteha Shalom: All the Paths of Torah are Peace,” March 31, 8:30-9:30 a.m.; and a plenary with Dr. Rashied Omar on “Islam Beyond Tolerance: The Qur’anic Concept of Ta’ruf/Embrace,” March 31, 1:15-2:15 p.m.

To view the webcasts go to For questions contact or 800-287-8822 ext. 1831.

2) Annual Conference Council discusses budget deficit, merger.

In a meeting on March 10-11 at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., the Annual Conference Council received an update on funding for the Annual Conference. The group also addressed issues related to the merger of the Association of Brethren Caregivers and the General Board, among other business.

The Annual Conference Fund ended 2007 with a deficit of $46,376, a figure $45,000 better than was projected when the year began. The deficit represents losses Annual Conference has experienced over the past five Conferences. The deficit for the year 2007 alone was $15,501, some $45,000 better than budgeted. Income for the 2007 Conference–including registrations, district contributions, etc.–exceeded budget expectations by $57,000, but facility expenses in Cleveland were $24,000 more than budgeted. The unexpected costs were due primarily to excessive labor charges at the Cleveland Convention Center.

The Annual Conference Council, which has fiscal responsibility for Conference among its functions, anticipates that the 2008 Annual Conference in Richmond, Va., will help resolve the financial problem. Already, registrations and lodging reservations are showing encouraging increases. If the Conference hotels are filled, costs of the convention facilities will be minimal.

In other business the council:

  • Put finishing touches on its report to the Standing Committee of district delegates about a revision of the process for dealing with “special response queries.” The council was asked by Annual Conference to revise the existing 1988 paper in response to a recommendation from the Denominational Name Committee in 2004. If approved, Standing Committee will send the paper to the 2009 Conference for approval.
  • Reviewed proposed bylaws for the new denominational structure merging the General Board and the Association of Brethren Caregivers, and decided that the entire document should be considered polity. The group noted that extensive changes will be required to the Manual of Organization and Polity, which has just recently been revised and reissued. It was reported there have been more orders than expected for paper copies of the recently revised manual.
  • Compiled a list of agenda items for the April meeting of the Inter-Agency Forum, an annual meeting of executives and board chairs of the Annual Conference agencies, Annual Conference officers, and a representative of the Council of District Executives.
  • Accepted an invitation from the General Board’s general secretary to have a joint meeting of the council and the proposed new denominational Leadership Team in August, to follow up on 2008 Annual Conference decisions and facilitate transition of responsibilities from the council to the Leadership Team.

–Fred Swartz is the secretary of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference.

3) New orientation increases accessibility for Bethany Connections.

A new orientation structure has been approved for Connections, Bethany Theological Seminary’s distance education program for the master of divinity degree. The move will greatly reduce the initial time commitment at the campus in Richmond, Ind., for students pursuing graduate studies from a distance. An intensive weekend retreat, followed by Bethany’s two-day orientation, will replace the two-week August class that previously served as entry into the program.

The new weekend retreat will serve as the first class session of the hybrid weekend intensive course “Exegeting the Call and Culture of Ministry.” This year, the retreat will take place Aug. 22-24, followed by new student orientation on Aug. 25-26. The second weekend session of the course will be held Dec. 5-6.

The change also eliminates the previously required two-week August intensive, opening up an additional elective class option in the academic programs of those participating in Connections. “This is an exciting opportunity for new students,” said Enten Eller, director of Distributed Education. “Not only does the shift from requiring two full weeks down to a retreat weekend and orientation make participation significantly easier, it sends the clear signal that Bethany is serious about reaching out to distance students. Additionally, this step will help unite our student body, as now both distance and local students will share in the same orientation.”

Connections students complete the master of divinity degree without relocating to Bethany’s Richmond campus through a mix of online courses, hybrid online and weekend courses, or on-campus intensives that meet for either several weekends or a two-week block. Currently 25 students from eight states are enrolled in Connections.

The application deadline for Bethany’s fall 2008-09 semester is July 31. Visit for more information about Bethany and the Connections program, or contact Enten Eller at or 800-287-8822 ext. 1831, or interim director of Admissions Elizabeth Keller at or 800-287-8822 ext. 1832.

–Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

4) Grants go to Darfur and Mozambique, clean-up buckets needed.

The Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) of the Church of the Brethren has issued large grants to humanitarian work in Darfur, Sudan, and to Mozambique following flooding. In other disaster related news, Brethren Disaster Ministries has issued an urgent call for donations of clean-up buckets following flooding in the Midwest.

An allocation of $50,000 has been given from the EDF to support a Church World Service (CWS) appeal for Darfur, for broad aid and relief efforts in the form of medical care, nutrition, shelters, schools, and water supplies. A grant of $40,000 supports a CWS response in Mozambique, where flooding displaced tens of thousands of people, and will help provide clean water, sanitation, shelter materials, seeds, and agricultural tools. The EDF also has given $4,000 to assist displaced people in Afghanistan through CWS.

The appeal for Emergency Clean-Up Buckets was made on behalf of CWS. The buckets are needed for those affected by flooding across the central US. Flooding in Arkansas prompted a request from the Arkansas Presbytery for 96 CWS Emergency Clean-up Buckets, which the Church of the Brethren has fulfilled at a value of $4,320. Information about how to assemble and donate buckets is at

5) Brethren bits: Corrections, remembrances, personnel, jobs, more.

  • Corrections: The Newsline of March 12 omitted “Messenger” magazine from the financial report of the Church of the Brethren General Board for 2007. “Messenger” is a self-funded budget, and ended the year with a net income of $20,080 and gross sales of just over $255,000, in pre-audit figures. The financial report also should have noted that the total expended from the Emergency Disaster Fund includes support for the program of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services as well as grants, and the total expended from the Global Food Crisis Fund includes support for the Global Food Crisis program. The total offering received from board members and staff toward a new capital campaign was $2,284.
  • Harold Z. Bomberger, 89, died on March 17 at Lebanon Valley Brethren Home in Palmyra, Pa. He was an ordained Church of the Brethren minister and moderator of Annual Conference in 1971. He was a member of the Church of the Brethren General Board for a five-year term beginning in 1966. He also served in key denominational positions as executive minister of Atlantic Northeast District from 1971-83, and during the 1950s as executive secretary of the church’s Eastern Region. At one time he worked as an editorial associate for the “Gospel Messenger” magazine (now the “Messenger”). His volunteer work for the church included two terms on the Standing Committee of Annual Conference, service on the Committee on Interchurch Relations, presidency of the Kansas Council of Churches, membership on the Pennsylvania Council of Church’s Governing Board, charter membership of the Pennsylvania Conference on Interchurch Cooperation, service as president of the Alumni Association of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, membership in the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the Biblical Archeological Society, and service on the executive committee of Lebanon County (Pa.) Christian Ministries. In 1980, he was honored for his leadership as a member of the board of Mennonite Mental Health Services, and in 1993 was named “Peacemaker of the Year” by the Brethren Peace Fellowship of Atlantic Northeast District. Bethany Theological Seminary awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1965. In 1967, he was an exchange preacher to the British isles, which included an invitation to attend Queen Elizabeth’s garden party at Buckingham Palace, and a later audience with Pope Paul V. Born in Lebanon County, Pa., he was the son of Howard B. and Venona Zug Bomberger. He was a graduate of Lebanon High School, Elizabethtown College, Bethany Seminary, and Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa. He began in ministry in 1939 at Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. He also served pastorates in Allentown, Pa.; Westminster, Md.; and McPherson, Kan., and in retirement served as interim pastor to seven Pennsylvania congregations. Prior to his ministerial career, he worked in farming and radio and television engineering. Surviving is Betty, his wife of 64 years, their children Timothy, Lane, and Venona, and their families, including nine grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. A celebration of his life was held at Annville Church of the Brethren on March 24. Memorial contributions may be made to the Fund for Humanities, care of Annville Church of the Brethren, 495 E. Maple St., Annville, PA 17003.
  • May H. Patalano, 52, secretary for Northern Ohio District, passed away at home on March 6. “She was at peace and we know she is now in the Lord’s house,” said a request for prayer from the district. Patalano was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of the pancreas on Jan. 20, and had been at home under hospice care. She served as secretary to the district executive since 1995. From 1993-95, she and her husband, Robert, were volunteer church and community workers in Big Creek, Ky., through Brethren Volunteer Service. She taught Bible at Westmoreland Christian High School in Greensburg, Pa., from 1992-93, and was previously a customer service manager for C-K Composites in Mt. Pleasant, Pa. She was born Oct. 23, 1955, in Seymour, Ind., to Durward and Idabelle Hays, and moved to Ashland, Ohio, in 1961 when her father became pastor of Ashland Dickey Church of the Brethren. She was a graduate of Ashland High School; Taylor University in Upland, Ind.; Greensburg (Pa.) Business School; and St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. She married Robert Patalano in 1986. She was a member of the Ashland Dickey Church where she was a deacon and Sunday school teacher, active in music ministry, and a youth advisor from 1979-2005. She is survived by her husband and two stepchildren Andrea and Rob, who with his wife, Kay, are expecting the Patalanos’ first grandchild in May. A “Going Home” celebration was held at the Ashland Dickey Church on March 10. Memorials may be made to Hospice of North Central Ohio, 1050 Dauch Dr., Ashland, OH 44805; or to Ashland Dickey Church of the Brethren Memorial Fund, 1509 Twp. Road 655, Ashland, OH 44805. Condolences may be sent to
  • Jane Bankert has announced her retirement as secretary for the Material Resources program of the Church of the Brethren General Board as of April 30, after 33 years of work at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. She first began her work with Material Resources in 1973. With a short break for 22 months in 1976-78, she has continued working for the program up to the present time. She has witnessed the growth and change of the Material Resources department over the years, as she has helped facilitate shipments of relief materials around the world, and fulfilled wishes of the ecumenical programs that are the Material Resources clients. Her retirement plans include spending time boating with her husband, gardening, and playing golf.
  • Eric Miller has submitted his resignation as customer service/inventory specialist for Brethren Press, located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., in order to accept a position with Tyndale House Publishers. His resignation is effective March 31, his last day in the office is March 26. He began with Brethren Press in September 6, 2005, and over his two and a half years of customer service work brought a high level of dedication and professionalism to the position.
  • Kathy Maxwell begins April 1 as assistant to the director of Office Operations at the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill. She will work in the administrative office of BBT. She is a resident of Elgin, and previously was a longterm employee of the Neighborhood Housing Services of Elgin.
  • Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) seeks a manager of publications to fill a fulltime salaried position based in Elgin, Ill. Responsibilities include oversight of BBT publications such as newsletters, press releases, website, and special projects; serving as a senior writer and copy editor; reporting on news and information related to BBT ministry areas of pension, insurance, Foundation, and credit union; some writing covering the wellness component of BBT’s mission, including financial wellness and wellness of body/spirit; reporting of socially responsible investing initiatives through management of $450 million in pension and Foundation monies; working with a production coordinator and contracted designers; assisting with marketing and promotional efforts; representing the department/agency at meetings and events; travel to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, BBT Board meetings, and other denominational events as assigned. BBT seeks a candidate with an undergraduate degree in communications, English, business, or a related field; and experience and expertise in writing, copyediting, and/or project management. Knowledge in personal investments is helpful, and an active member of the Church of the Brethren is preferred. Active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included. The application deadline is April 25. Send a letter of interest, resume, three references (one supervisor, one colleague, one friend), and salary-range expectation to Donna March, 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin IL 60120; or For questions about the position, call 847-622-3371. For more information about BBT visit
  • The Palms Estates, a Church of the Brethren 55-and-over independent living retirement community in central Florida, seeks executive staff. The community includes 71 homes and 40 RV sites. “This is an excellent employment opportunity for an experienced husband and wife team,” said an announcement of the position opening. Responsibilities include leadership and management of the total operation of the Palms Estates. Candidates should possess strong organizational, administrative, accounting, verbal and written communication, and interpersonal skills acquired through training and experience. Knowledge of budgets, financial statements, and computer technology related to all office functions also is required. Qualified applicants need the ability to manage multiple tasks involving residents’ needs and concerns, maintain harmonious relations with related organizations, insure compliance with governmental regulations, and manage a small citrus grove and maintenance staff. Onsite residence and office are provided in addition to salary and other benefits. Send a resume and three references by April 15 to The Palms Estates, P.O. Box 364, Lorida FL, 33857, Attn: Verna Forney; or via e-mail to For more information about the community go to
  • The funding and stewardship office of the Church of the Brethren General Board is calling attention to the upcoming economic stimulus package for taxpayers. “The check is in the mail,” says a note from the funding office. “Your government says spend it, but your church says share it! Anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given. Thanks be to God!” For more information go to
  • Brethren Disaster Ministries staff will be at a national domestic disaster ministry forum titled “Economics and Justice in Disasters,” on March 29-April 1 in Nashville, Tenn. The conference will address how issues such as global warming, predatory lending, recovery privatization, battered local economies, and changing immigration laws worsen the effects of disasters and add to post-disaster burdens for the poor. The forum is presented by Church World Service (CWS). Church of the Brethren staff member Zachary Wolgemuth is on the planning committee. Participants are expected to include leaders from national faith groups and denominations with disaster ministries, as well as representatives of FEMA, the American Red Cross, and VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters). A registration form and information may be downloaded from
  • Brethren Volunteer Service worker Dana Cassell, serving in the Ministry Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board, plans to participate in a conference titled, “Breakthrough: The Women, Faith, and Development Summit to End Global Poverty” at the Washington National Cathedral on April 13-14. The event kicks off the Women, Faith, and Development Alliance, a partnership of faith, development, and women’s organizations with the purpose of including support for women and girls in the poverty agendas of organizations and global leaders. Cassell became involved through the National Council of Churches. Organizers expect presidential candidates to attend the summit, which will be co-chaired by a group of world leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. For more information or to register to attend, go to
  • The Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform a new dance, “De Suenos,” as part of a performance at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., on April 3 at 7:30 p.m. The dances “Cloven Kingdom” and “Antique Valentine” also will be performed in the event at Rosenberger Auditorium. The Paul Taylor Dance Company tour in Pennsylvania is part of “American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius,” an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts with support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (see “De Suenos,” which means “of dreams,” is set to the music of Mexican composers and performed to the music of the Kronos Quartet. General admission is $20, or $12 for seniors over age 65 and children 18 and under. For tickets and information call 814-641-3608.
  • The Steering Committee of the Womaen’s Caucus of the Church of the Brethren is inviting attendance at an event on April 12 at 6-8 p.m. at Bethany Theological Seminary, “to hear about our current projects, to share your own experiences and insights, and to break bread with other local feminist men and women.” The event will take place in the Student Lounge of the seminary in Richmond, Ind., and will include a meal. The main course will be provided, with vegetarian options, and participants are invited to bring a salad or dessert. E-mail questions and RSVP to The Steering Committee includes Carla Kilgore, Jan Eller, Anna Lisa Gross, Sharon Nearhoof May, Deb Peterson, Peg Yoder, Jill Kline, and Audrey deCoursey.
  • The April edition of “Brethren Voices,” a community cable television program offered by Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, Ore., features Brethren Volunteer Service. The show will celebrate BVS’s 60 years of service and the opportunities for over 6,000 volunteers to serve in the US and 30 countries around the world. The 30-minute show includes a video made by David Sollenberger. Individual copies are available for a contribution of $8 to Portland Peace Church of the Brethren, 12727 SE Market St., Portland, OR 97233. Contact producer Ed Groff at or 360-256-8550.
  • Special programs tomorrow, March 27, at the United Nations in New York commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21) and the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (March 25). Doris Abdullah represents the Church of the Brethren on the organizing group, the NGO Human Rights Subcommittee for the Elimination of Racism. A briefing on “Lest We Forget: Breaking the Silence on the Transatlantic Slave Trade” and a premiere of the documentary “The Slave Route: A Global Vision” will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium (the event may be webcast at An afternoon program, “Eliminate Racism: Prevent Mass Atrocities,” will be held from 1:30-4:15 p.m. at The Church Center (1st Ave. and 44th St.) and is open to the public. A panel will include architect Rodney Leon, designer of the African Burial Ground National Monument; Yvette Rugasaguhunga, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide; Mark Weitzman of the Simon Weisenthal Center; and others.

6) Keeney resigns as executive director of Global Mission Partnerships.

Mervin B. Keeney has resigned as executive director of Global Mission Partnerships for the Church of the Brethren General Board, as of March 14. He has held the position since 1997, with responsibility for overseeing the denomination’s international mission programs, Brethren Volunteer Service, and the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.

During his tenure, the denomination has launched missions in Brazil and Haiti, and for the past few years General Board staff have been working on a new mission in Sudan. Keeney has served as a main contact with leaders of Brethren churches in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, India, and Nigeria, and fledgling congregations in Haiti.

He has traveled extensively and participated in key international delegations, including the visit of Annual Conference moderator Belita Mitchell to Nigeria in 2007 as the first African-American woman to head the US church; a trip to North Korea in 2003 as part of a delegation from the National Council of Churches (NCC) and Church World Service (CWS); and visits to India in 2000 and 2004 with Church of the Brethren leaders aiming to rebuild relationships after 30 years of separation between the Church of North India and India Brethren. In 1979 he met with Yasser Arafat as part of an NCC delegation to the Middle East. Most recently he was at the Historic Peace Churches international gathering in Indonesia. In the winter of 1998-99, he spent a sabbatical in Nigeria with his family, and was present for celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

Keeney has been a staff representative to the NCC and member of the CWS executive committee, a member of the General Board’s Mission and Ministries Planning Council, and on the board’s leadership team. He first began work for the board in 1978 as coordinator for BVS recruitment and interpretation, and then as a recruiter for mission staff through 1985. He held an assignment in Sudan 1985-87 as a medical administrator and consultant for the Sudan Council of Churches. From 1991-97 he worked for the General Board as Africa and Middle East representative.

He holds a graduate degree in public administration with a focus on international programs from the American University in Washington, D.C. He also has worked as a management analyst in the US General Accounting Office, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines.

General secretary Stan Noffsinger is assuming leadership and responsibility for the Global Mission Partnerships program during an interim time.

7) Wagner begins as director of the New Windsor Conference Center.

Shelly Wagner has begun work as director of the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center, as of March 24. This is a new salaried position with the Church of the Brethren General Board, located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor.

Wagner comes to the position with 12 years of experience in domestic and international marketing in the for-profit arena, and brings skills in strategic planning, niche marketing, branding, and customer service. She previously worked for I.M.I, a commercial tires and accessory parts company.

She has been a member of Welty Church of the Brethren in Smithsburg, Md., since she was 14 years old, where she has served on the Music and Worship Commission and a pastoral search committee, has helped with Bible School, and sings in the choir. She lives in and will be commuting from Waynesboro, Pa.

8) Campanella takes on new role at Brethren Service Center.

With new leadership for the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center, Kathleen Campanella is moving to a new role as director of Partner and Public Relations for the Brethren Service Center. Campanella has worked for the last several years as a part time director for the New Windsor Conference Center, and has led the conference center through a time of extensive staff turnover and change while still carrying responsibilities for public information.

Her new salaried staff role will expand her public information work to include developing new partnerships and new program initiatives at the Brethren Service Center. She will transition back into a primary role of interpreting the Brethren Service Center to ecumenical and other partner organizations, the Church of the Brethren, and the general public.

She also will have expanded responsibilities for developing interpretative exhibits for the Brethren Service Center campus, leading tours, developing new partnerships that enhance the mission of the center, providing coordination of communication with current center partners, developing workshops and presentations, and supporting news services for the Church of the Brethren.

9) McCabe retires as chief executive officer of The Cedars.

The Cedars chief executive officer Sharon E. (Shari) McCabe has announced her retirement, effective May 1, after nearly 30 years in the healthcare field. The Cedars is a Church of the Brethren retirement community in McPherson, Kan., that also is associated with the Free Methodist Church.

McCabe has served as CEO of The Cedars since 2003. According to a report in the “McPherson Sentinel” newspaper, during her five years there she guided the organization through construction of four Cedar Houses and a Wellness Center (for an interview with McCabe about the major changes in retirement communities in recent decades, go to

Previously McCabe was CEO of Kansas Masonic Home in Wichita, and from 1997-2000 she was administrator for the Cedars Health Care Center. She is a graduate of Barton Community College and Kansas State University, and earned a mini-MBA certificate from Wichita State University.

The board of the Association of Brethren Caregivers has voted to honor McCabe with a caregiving award, which will be presented at the ABC recognition dinner at the 2008 Annual Conference.

10) Lighten UP, Brethren! Reflecting on a workcamp to Honduras.

The following reflection was written by Mary Lou Garrison for “Lighten UP, Brethren!” a list serv offering support for wellness and healthy living. Garrison directs the Wellness Ministry of the Church of the Brethren. She reflects on a workcamp held in Los Ranchos, Honduras, where earlier this year two groups of 20 people worked for 10 days each led by Bill Hare, manager of Camp Emmaus in Mt. Morris, Ill. This was the fourth time a group from the US has worked in the village. The first workcamp there was led by former Brethren Witness director David Radcliff. The sponsoring agency Christian Solidarity Program is based in Honduras. Building projects have included building a clinic, latrines, and this year 14 cement-block houses.

“Having just returned from a work mission trip to Honduras, I have a renewed appreciation for the variations in the concept of community. We were quite a mixture: a core group from the Midwest, young people from northern Honduras, masons from nearby villages in southern Honduras, a gentleman originally from Thailand (and a former Chicago resident now living in northern Honduras), all blended with the local villagers to focus on one goal–building houses.

“We were told early in our time that everyone would likely find their ‘niche,’ that particular job that they did best. No one assigned tasks nor did we find that people said, ‘I can only carry rocks, nothing else.’ If people really thought they had a niche, I doubt that many of us could have identified what they were. Rather, if something needed to be done most anyone would jump in and do it.

“It might not have been the most efficient way to approach the project, but it did lead to an appreciation of each other as we tried out walking in another’s shoes. The variety of skill sets, personalities, varying abilities in speaking Spanish, and personal needs all faded into the background–for the most part! There was a strong sense that we were actively being the hands and feet of Christ in that setting, and that combined we were accomplishing something good.

“How easy it is to forget that we are stronger when mixed together and focused on a mission! We can be a hearty people in our communities, our churches, our places of employment, and in our families–with a little more ‘we’ and a little less ‘I need.’”

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. Doris Abdullah, John Ballinger, Dana Cassell, Miller Davis, Enten Eller, Linda Fry, Jon Kobel, Karin Krog, Jeff Lennard, Donna March, Joan McGrath, Ken Neher, Kathy Reid, John Wall, Roy Winter, 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 April 9. 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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