Newsline Special for January 19, 2010


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Newsline Special
Jan. 19, 2010 

“The Lord is my shepherd…” (Psalm 23:1a).

1) Brethren delegation from US arrives in Haiti today; Haitian Brethren church leader is reported missing.
2) Dominican Brethren respond to the earthquake in Haiti.

3) Violence breaks out again in Jos, Nigeria; Brethren reportedly not affected.


1) Brethren delegation from US arrives in Haiti today; Haitian Brethren church leader is reported missing.

A Church of the Brethren delegation of mission and disaster relief leaders from the US is to arrive in Haiti today to do assessment and begin the church’s response to the massive earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince area last Tuesday.

The delegation includes Ludovic St. Fleur, coordinator of the Church of the Brethren mission in Haiti and pastor of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Haitian Church of the Brethren) in Miami, Fla.; Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries; Jeff Boshart, coordinator of the church’s current hurricane rebuilding project in Haiti; and Klebert Exceus, Haiti consultant for the hurricane rebuilding project.

Also today, a key Haitian Brethren church leader has been reported missing: Pastor Ives who leads one of the three Brethren congregations in Port-au-Prince and is moderator of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Church of the Brethren in Haiti).

News also has been received that some members of Pastor Ives’ congregation have lost their lives, and that the church building of at least one Brethren congregation in Port-au-Prince has collapsed.

News from Haitian Brethren:

The news from the Haitian Brethren in Port-au-Prince was received from Pastor Sauyeux, pastor of a Brethren congregation in Descubierta, the Dominican Republic. He passed the news along to Irvin Heishman, DR mission coordinator for the Church of the Brethren, and Tom Crago, a Church of the Brethren member currently in the DR.

Pastor Sauyeux “went into Haiti to check on the Church of the Brethren churches there,” wrote Heishman and Crago in an e-mail. “His report is that Pastor Ives is missing. The church in Del Matre collapsed and some church members have died. The other two pastors (in the Port-au-Prince area) are known to be okay. Members are living in the street and it rained today. There is disorder, with looting.”

Pastor Ives was described today as the “spiritual leader” of the Haitian Brethren by Jay Wittmeyer, executive of Global Mission Partnerships for the Church of the Brethren. He expressed deep concern for Ives’ wellbeing and that of his congregation.

Many of the Church of the Brethren members from the Port-au-Prince area have been able to relocate in northern Haiti with family, added a report from Roy Winter at Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Other news has been received from Haitian Brethren through family members in the United States who are living in the Miami and Orlando areas of Florida, and in New York. From some informal reports, it appears that numerous members of Haitian Brethren congregations in the US may have lost family members in the earthquake, and that many have not yet heard from family living in Haiti.

US Brethren delegation arrives in Haiti today:

An e-mail received yesterday from Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, reports that the Brethren delegation successfully obtained a flight to Port-au-Prince with Missionary Flights International (MFI). The flight was to leave for Haiti today.

“The fact we got through to MFI is rather amazing,” Winter wrote. “Normally they only fly missionaries or workgroups directly connected to MFI’s mission partners. Maybe because of some special intervention, they responded to a call and e-mail from Jeff, while ignoring hundreds of others.”

When the group arrived at the Orlando (Fla.) airport to have their supplies weighed for the flight, Winter wrote, “It was still chaos. The passenger list is hand written on a legal pad, but we saw ‘Boshart – 4′ confirming our seats. We also saw some of the old DC-3, a vintage 1940s plane, that will be our ride to Port-au-Prince tomorrow.

“The chaos came from the multiple efforts going on at MFI,” Winter explained. “They are collecting donations for Haiti, have gone from two flights a week to two flights a day. All while supporting their other mission points and other parts of Haiti.”

Dick Snook, president of MFI, personally put the Brethren group’s bags on a pallet to be ready for the flight the next day, “so we left feeling like we are as ready as possible,” Winter commented.

One of the group’s first plans on arrival in Port-au-Prince is to try to organize a meeting with Haitian Brethren church leaders.

Brethren Service Center begins shipping relief supplies to Haiti:

The Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., is beginning shipments of relief materials to Haiti. The Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources staff at the center, led by director Loretta Wolf, are working to coordinate shipments being made ready for Haiti on behalf of IMA World Health, Church World Service (CWS), and Lutheran World Relief.

“Church World Service has arranged for one air shipment and one ocean shipment,” Wolf reported in an e-mail today. “The air shipment contains 14,743 pounds of blankets, baby kits, hygiene kits, flashlights, and toothpaste. It will be picked up today. The ocean shipment is one 40-foot container with blankets, baby kits, and hygiene kits. The container will leave New Windsor tomorrow. Initial plans are for the container to enter through the Dominican Republic. We are currently receiving medicines and packing medicine boxes for IMA.”

Emergency Disaster Fund gives grant for Haiti refugee effort in New York:

Brethren Disaster Ministries has requested a grant from the Emergency Disaster Fund of $5,000 for the Haitian First Church of New York, which is a Church of the Brethren congregation, and the New York Disaster Interfaith Services. The grant will fund the establishment of a family assistance center to assist Haitians relocating to the US following the earthquake.

The center will offer refugees a variety of services including help from the American Red Cross, chaplains, mental health services, resettlement support in the form of housing vouchers, casework services, and an Internet café to assist with communication.

United Methodist leaders die in Haiti:

Disaster News Network has reported that United Methodists are mourning the deaths of Sam W. Dixon Jr., the head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and Clint Rabb, head of the organization’s office of mission volunteers, who died last week in Haiti as a result of injuries received when the hotel in they were meeting collapsed.

Dixon and several other mission and relief specialists had been dropped off at the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince just minutes before the earthquake hit. It was the same hotel from which three staff of IMA World Health were rescued safely last Friday.

“Sam Dixon was a tireless servant of the church of Jesus Christ on behalf of all of us,” said Bishop Joel N. Martinez, interim top executive of The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. “His death is an incalculable loss to Global Ministries, UMCOR, and our worldwide ministry of relief to God’s most vulnerable children.”


2) Dominican Brethren respond to the earthquake in Haiti.

The Mendoza church in the Dominican Republic gathered together on this first Sunday following the earthquake in Haiti to grieve and comfort one another in the face of the terrible losses. Thge church is part of the Church of the Brethren in the DR.

Many wept as the congregation sang in Haitian Creole, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll.” One woman fell to the floor in a convulsion of wailing and sorrow. The gathering felt like a mass funeral service given that most of the 400-plus members were grieving personal losses and also the collective story of so many deaths of loved ones in Port-au-Prince.

Many have still not heard news of their loved ones and are terribly worried.  Others know of injuries and destruction of family property.

“We will not fear, though the earth give way…and the mountains quake” (Psalm 46:2-3). This was Pastor Ernst Merisier’s text as he comforted his grieving congregation. “God is our stability (refuge and strength) in an unstable world,” he said. In this world, everything is unstable and unworthy of trust. “Nevertheless,” he said, “we can put our faith in the salvation offered through Jesus Christ because He is ‘rock-solid.'” A special offering to help victims of the earthquake was collected by the members of the congregation.

Other Brethren churches in the Dominican Republic are responding as well with offerings and collections of food. National Dominican leaders have begun setting goals for a coordinated relief effort using funds granted by Brethren Disaster Services.

— Irvin Heishman is co-coordinator of the Church of the Brethren’s mission in the Dominican Republic.


3) Violence breaks out again in Nigeria; Brethren reportedly not affected.

Violence again has broken out in the city of Jos, Nigeria, where there are churches and members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and where Hillcrest School is located, an ecumenical mission school that was originally founded by the Church of the Brethren.

However, according to a report from EYN leader Markus Gamache, no Brethren have been involved in the violence which began on Sunday morning, Jan. 17, and has been continuing through this morning.

The violence is reported to be based on political grievances of indigenous groups in the area, but is breaking out in the form of interreligious violence between Muslims and Christians. It follows similar outbreaks that occurred in this central Nigerian city in the past, including the most recent outbreak in late 2008 in which hundreds of people died.

The following has been received from Gamache, who lives and works in Jos:

“This time around in Jos northern area again,” began his first report dated Jan. 17. He said that the violence broke out initially in a neighborhood of northern Jos called Dutse Uku, about 10 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Since Sunday morning, people have been leaving the city in fear, he said. “As of the time I am reporting this report there is no trace of EYN members being involved in any way.”

The church first affected was St. Michael Catholic Church, Gamache said, explaining that EYN received word that the incident began with a dispute over use of a playground by Muslim youth during the church’s worship service. “St. Michael has a good playground for both Christian/Muslim youths. We learnt from the church members that the Muslim youth came to the playground to play while the worship service was going on, and the church leaders advised them not to play until when the worship service is over,” he wrote.

“The destruction and casualty started right there at the church and in return of this, other close-by communities like Congo Rusa and Nasarawa Gwom started to protect their areas, and in this protection there is destruction of lives and property.”

Gamache explained that the current dispute seems to have less to do with local politics than the violence of 2008. “The reason at this time seems different. Jos north is made up of different wards or communities in the city. Dutse Uku is a community originally occupied by the indigenes of Jos called Jarawa (Fizare) but as the city developed the place swelled up with different tribes from Hausa, Yoruba, and other people from the north east of the country. (The) 2008 crisis lost people, separated from their brothers and sisters; this means Christian and Muslims no longer stay in same community or share work as it use to be in the past.”

Gamache is one of the Brethren church leaders who have been working on conflict resolution efforts with Muslim counterparts. His report added, “I have spoken to my Moslem friend Sheikh Isma’ila who is on the committee of the recent NGO that we are about to register called Integrated Service for Women/Youth Development with the aim of bringing friendship and the lost trust among the two faiths on the Plateau, and it is the aim of this organization to organize interfaith free-interest micro finance to create marketing friendship between the two faiths. Sheikh is a principal in one of the Islamic secondary schools that we just visited with group of missionaries from the United States Church of the Brethren,” he reported.

“As from yesterday many house belonging to both Christians and Muslims including cars and shops were burnt to ashes. Nobody is allowed to visit the affected area at the moment…and as such I can not give a true level of destruction on ground. Based on the local news and telephone calls I made, there are about 35 people (who) lost their lives, dozens of people injured, and many were arrested.”

In his second report, which was received today, Jan. 19, Gamache added: “This morning turns out to be something different as we wake up with 24 hours curfew from the government as a protection for the fight not to get worse or to go into different places…. Nothing is moving in Jos at all, the whole street is empty as it as been declared no movement in the city of Jos. People are complaining of water and food since they cannot come out to buy. Let us continue to pray for Jos and other places in the world.”

The Associated Press reported that violence broke out between Christians and Muslims again this morning in Jos, and that the rioting that started on Sunday has burned homes and killed at least 27 people. The report added that security forces had brought the fighting to a halt later in the day today, and that the Plateau State government had called for additional military units.

The AP report describes the city as “situated in Nigeria’s ‘middle belt,’ where dozens of ethnic groups mingle in a band of fertile and hotly contested land separating the Muslim north from the predominantly Christian south.”

Sister Marie (at left above) is one of the Haitian Brethren leaders in Port-au-Prince, shown here with her brother during a time of theological training held by the church in Haiti last year. She and her church, the Croix-de-Bouquets congregation, have been reported to be okay following last week’s earthquake. Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

These members of three Church of the Brethren congregations in western Pennsylvania are among the Brethren across the country who are doing something toward the relief effort. Three congregations worked together to collect materials and cash for vitally needed hygiene kits to be sent to Haiti via the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Marilyn Lerch, pastor of Bedford (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, invited youth and youth advisors from the Everett and Snake Spring Valley congregations to join her congregation’s youth group. Materials and cash donations were collected at the Bedford WalMart. Shoppers were given a list of supplies that could be used to make Hygiene kits and School kits.
Photo by Frank Ramirez

The Church of the Brethren denomination is offering a number of ways to help support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti: The Emergency Disaster Fund is now receiving online donations at . Or mail a donation by check made out to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. A special web page “Prayers for Haiti” has been created for church members, congregations, and others concerned about the people of Haiti to express their prayers, go to . The web page  will continue to offer updates on the Church of the Brethren response to the earthquake, as they are available.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren,  or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues as needed. Walt Wiltschek and Jay Wittmeyer  contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Jan. 27. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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