Newsline for May 20, 2014

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
“There was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9b).

1) Planting conference looks toward an intercultural church
2) Bethany Seminary celebrates commencement
3) Nominations sought for Open Roof Awards
4) Committee studying ecumenism seeks responses to survey

5) Attack by Boko Haram kills Nigerian Brethren, EYN president requests continued prayer
6) EYN church leaders meet with 58 Chibok schoolgirls’ parents
7) Brethren and ecumenical partners continue support for Nigeria and the abducted girls

8) Ten Bible studies available to help youth prepare for NYC 2014

9) One man’s journey to all 44 churches in Southern Pennsylvania District

10) Brethren bits: Remembering mission doctor Marvin Blough, assistant coordinators named for 2015 workcamps, workcamp commissioning resources, DC church seeks food ministries coordinator, promising new legislation in the DR, orientation dates for Brethren Academy, more.

Quote of the week:

“Special prayers were offered for peace in the country, for the release of the abducted, for comfort to the parents, for provision to the displaced, condolence to those who lost their relatives, for the government to be just, and for the insurgents to change their mind.”

— Description of prayers offered in Chibok, Nigeria, when leaders of EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) met with 58 parents of abducted schoolgirls. The EYN leaders also distributed relief funds to the families and donations to five affected church districts. Top EYN leaders took part in the meeting including president Samuel Dante Dali, general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo, and Amos Duwala, chairman of the EYN Relief Committee. Read the report from EYN communications staff Zakariya Musa, below.

1) Planting conference looks toward an intercultural church

A painting by Dave Weiss illustrates the theme of the church planting conference.

Church of the Brethren planters and those interested in church planting gathered for the 2014 conference, “Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully–Toward an Intercultural Future.” The conference is offered every two years, sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries and the New Church Development Advisory Committee.

Held May 15-17 in Richmond, Ind., with hosting from Bethany Theological Seminary, the gathering used Rev. 7:9 as a focus for conversation about developing church plants and revitalizing existing congregations to reflect the intercultural nature of the vision of Revelation.

Find a photo album from the conference at . The Twitter conversation from the event is found via the hashtag #cobplant .

Speakers point to the multicultural environment

The two keynote speakers, Efrem Smith and Alejandro (Alex) Mandes, spoke from their own experience as church planters. Smith is president and CEO of World Impact, an urban missions organization committed to the empowerment of the urban poor through the facilitation of church planting movements and leadership development, and previously was superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Mandes is director of Hispanic Ministries for the Evangelical Free Church of America, and has planted three churches.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Efrem Smith speaks at the 2014 church planting conference.

Smith called for work to prepare the church for the kingdom of God. Referencing images from parables told by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, he recalled the story of bridesmaids waiting for the groom to come to the wedding, who must keep their oil lamps full and burning. He compared church planters to bridesmaids whose job is to prepare the bride–that is the church–for the coming of the kingdom of God. “We must have a kingdom passion and a kingdom urgency,” he said.

Church planting also can be compared to the slaves in another parables, whose master gave them money to care for and invest in his absence, Smith said. God is investing in us as “kingdom capital,” he told the gathering. Every time someone is saved, or helped, by the church, that “kingdom capital” is growing. Church plants need to be expanding the work of the kingdom of God, which is marked by compassion and justice, he emphasized.

“This is what will really lead to healthy church planting,” Smith said, “when the whole gospel is embraced…. When it’s about helping the hurting, blessing the broken, liberating the enslaved.”

Later, in an evening message, Smith explicitly called churches and new church plants to be about the work of “developing missional ministries of compassion.”

Mandes expressed a similar sense of urgency. Speaking out of the context of Hispanic America, and the immigrant population in the United States, he shared his concern that the church has a “spiritual blindness” to the new people populating the country.

“I have learned to love the differences in the body of Christ,” Mandes said, as he urged new church planters and pastors of existing congregations to look around them for the opportunities offered by the changing dynamics of the nation. “We have to really get this, because otherwise it will be our undoing.”

Retelling John’s story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, he pointed to her ability to bring her whole community to meet Jesus, and the disciples’ inability to see her gifts, much less to see her as a person. He compared her to the immigrants from many different parts of the world who are living in the United States. They deserve regard as individuals, and the church is called to welcome them and their gifts. “Why didn’t the disciples see?” he asked. “Why aren’t we seeing? Why aren’t our churches seeing? Why don’t we see the Samaritans around us?”

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Alejandro (Alex) Mandes shares a sense of urgency about the need for the church “to be able to see like Jesus sees” and to see the treasure, creativity, and power that God is bringing through people from many different backgrounds.

“There’s something very special that God is doing today” in the United States, Mandes said, referring to the many different people who are being brought together in this country. “But our denominations are missing it…. Are we also falling into the trap of not seeing it?” America has a history of trying to get rid of people who are inconvenient, he noted, but “I think there is a treasure in that new group.”

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A prayer circle at one of the church planting conferences that are sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries.

The bedrock of the biblical foundation, he reminded the conference, is “to be able to see like Jesus sees” and to see the treasure, creativity, and power that God is bringing to our shores. “We can be one church of 31 flavors.”


Worship, Bible study, workshops round out a packed schedule

Worship services, a Bible study of Revelation, and a plethora of in-depth workshops and short “Mustard Seed” presentations by a number of different presenters rounded out the packed schedule. Also a highlight was a service of blessing for church planters and prospective planters.

A Bible study presentation on the book of Revelation, as background for the intercultural ministries theme scripture text Rev. 7:9, was given by Dan Ulrich, Bethany Seminary’s Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies. His review of the book laid bare much of the symbolism of the Lamb and the Tree of Life that closes the Bible on a note of hope for all nations and peoples.

Annual Conference moderator Nancy Sollenberger Heishman gave the message for the opening worship. A panel of three spoke for the closing worship: Congregational Life Ministries executive Jonathan Shively, former Annual Conference moderator and Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren pastor Belita Mitchell, and Joel Pena, pastor of Alpha and Omega Church of the Brethren in Lancaster, Pa.

Communion was part of the opening worship, and the sharing of prayers was part of closing worship. At the end of the last worship service of the conference, participants each wrote down a prayer request on a card. The cards were then handed out to other participants to take home and pray over in coming days.

For more about the church planting movement in the Church of the Brethren, and the work of the New Church Development Advisory Committee, go to . The movement has made a commitment to cultivate networks and infrastructure to support 250 new church starts by 2019.

2) Bethany Seminary celebrates commencement

By Jenny Williams

On Saturday, May 10, Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., honored its newest graduates at the 2014 commencement ceremony. The eight members of the class received master of divinity degrees in Nicarry Chapel, surrounded by uplifting music, the blessing of faculty and staff, and the support of family and friends.

The following received master of divinity degrees:
Claire Flowers-Waggener of Albany, Ind.
Daniel Lee Fullen of Tipp City, Ohio
James Richard Grossnickle-Batterton of Iowa City, Iowa
Audrey N. Hollenberg-Duffey of Richmond, Ind.
Timothy L. Hollenberg-Duffey of Richmond, Ind.
Todd Peterson of Loveland, Ohio
Ronda K. Scammahorn of Arcanum, Ohio
Anita Hooley Yoder of Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Guest speaker Chris Bowman, pastor of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., addressed the audience with “God Ordained a Worm,” words of wisdom based on the fourth chapter of Jonah. Against the backdrop of the prophet Jonah’s story, Bowman posed a question about being called: “Toward what end is the one who formed you now repurposing you?” Jonah’s prophetic path is full of twists as he resists his call, then despairs when the city of Ninevah responds to his message of repentance.

“When God relents and does not destroy that evil city of Nineveh, the real work begins. The city is not burning, but the preacher is. Jonah is burning with wrath because of God’s compassion…. And right about here we begin to realize that maybe God did not send Jonah to Nineveh to save Nineveh. God ordained Jonah to save Jonah. I begin to wonder if our callings might also be invitations to God’s life-changing saving grace in our own lives.” Bowman also noted that just as “each of the things ordained, appointed, or called in this story was called toward their nature–not against it,” so are we.

A Bethany graduate, Bowman also holds a doctorate from San Francisco Seminary. He has previously pastored congregations in Pennsylvania and Illinois and has served the denomination as chair of the former General Board and as Annual Conference moderator. The church also selected him to deliver the message for the 2004 Christmas Eve service broadcast on CBS and to give the sermon for the denomination’s 300th anniversary celebration in 2008. Bowman’s chapter, “Prophetic Rhetoric and Preaching,” appears in “The Witness of the Hebrew Bible for a New Testament Church,” and he is collaborating with his father, Robert Bowman, on the upcoming People of the Covenant Bible study book, “Kings and Their Prophets.”

Bethany president Jeff Carter offered words of appreciation for the work of the seminary and its students, noting accomplishments by the faculty: writings published, professional papers presented to national and international audiences, lectures given, and the naming of two faculty to endowed chairs. Carter also highlighted current efforts in student recruitment and housing, classroom technology for greater distance participation, and the successful Reimagining Ministries campaign. “In all things we return to the vision of our founders, that Bethany Theological Seminary is about spiritual empowerment, sound scholarship, and ministerial training rooted in practical experience, for the glory of God and our neighbor’s good.”

An afternoon worship service in Nicarry Chapel, open to the public, was planned and led by the graduates. The chosen hymns and scripture centered on the theme of receiving new, God-given names. Referencing stories of biblical figures such as Jacob and Peter, five of the class members offered reflections on the meaning of names, blessings, and life transitions. Faculty led a traditional ritual of sending, this year by symbolically washing the hands of the graduates in preparation for their ministry to others.

Several members of the class are currently pastoring or have been called to pastor a congregation. Other potential paths include pastoral ministry, campus ministry, and further study. Webcasts of the ceremony and the worship service can be viewed at .

— Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary. Photos courtesy of Chagares Photography.

3) Nominations sought for Open Roof Awards

The deadline is drawing near for nominations for the 2014 Open Roof Awards, presented annually to a congregation or district in the Church of the Brethren that has made great strides in becoming accessible to people with disabilities and offering opportunities for them to serve.

The scripture theme for the Open Roof Awards comes from Mark 2:3-4: “Then some people came, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him.”

“Do you know of a Church of the Brethren congregation or district that has done something extraordinary to serve–or be served by–those with disabilities?” asks the call for nominations from Donna Kline, director of Deacon Ministries. “Tell us about it, even if it’s your own!”

The Open Roof Award is sponsored by Congregational Life Ministries. Visit for the form to nominate this year’s recipient. The printed deadline is June 1; nominations will be accepted through June 9. For more information or questions contact Donna Kline, Director of Deacon Ministries, or 800-323-8039 ext. 306.

4) Committee studying ecumenism seeks responses to survey

By Nancy Miner

The Annual Conference study committee on a Vision of Ecumenism for the 21st Century is conducting a survey of the delegates of Annual Conference 2013, Young Adult Conference participants, those involved in district ministry, and Mission and Ministry Board members as it prepares to write a Church of the Brethren vision paper on ecumenism.

The long-standing Committee on Interchurch Relations (CIR) was discontinued by Annual Conference action in 2012, and the Mission and Ministry Board and denominational Leadership Team were directed to appoint a study committee to write the vision paper. The committee, made up of Tim Speicher (chair), Liz Bidgood Enders, Wanda Haynes, Jennifer Hosler, David Shumate, Larry Ulrich, and general secretary Stan Noffsinger, began its work in June 2013.

Larry Ulrich served on the committee until the time of his death in Dec. 2013. “Larry brought to our committee a lifetime of participation in not only the ecumenical movement of the Church of the Brethren, but also the interfaith engagement of the church in the city of Chicago,” said general secretary Stan Noffsinger. “He had developed an acute expertise in the importance of interfaith communication and relationships, which the committee will sorely miss.”

The online survey, distributed via e-mail on May 15, invites survey participants to consider the topic of Christian and interfaith relationships from an individual perspective, from a congregation’s perspective, and from the perspective of the church at large. Insight garnered from the survey will inform the committee’s work in writing the paper, which it plans to present at the 2015 Annual Conference.

In addition to the survey, two insight sessions will be held during this year’s Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, to provide the opportunity for open conversation about the blessings and challenges of ecumenical connections. Members of the study committee will lead the sessions, which will take place at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 4, and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 5.

See for the committee’s report to the 2014 Annual Conference.

— Nancy Miner is office manager for the Office of the General Secretary of the Church of the Brethren.


5) Attack by Boko Haram kills Nigerian Brethren, EYN president requests continued prayer

Photo by Nathan and Jennifer Hosler
Samuel Dali (at right), president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), with his wife Rebecca S. Dali.

Samuel Dali, president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN), sent news today by e-mail of a new attack by Boko Haram in which several EYN members were killed. Boko Haram is an extremist sect in northern Nigeria violently seeking a “pure” Islamic state, and is responsible for last month’s abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria.

In breaking news from Nigeria, twin bombings in the business district of Jos, a city in central Nigeria, have killed at least 118 people and wounded at least 45. If carried out by Boko Haram, this bombing would rank among the deadliest of its five-year insurrection. Find a BBC article at .

Attack on Shawa village kills five Brethren

Dali shared news from Shawa village that “the village was attacked by Boko Haram last night and nine people were killed. Five of the nine people are members of EYN. Also, 49 houses belonging to our members have been burnt down and our local church has been burnt down completely.

“Please, continue to pray for EYN and Nigeria,” he wrote in his e-mail to Church of the Brethren denominational staff in the US.

Today also happens to be Dr. Dali’s birthday, he added with an ironic note.

Rebecca Dali, wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, also sent an e-mail yesterday asking for continued prayers and support. Her nonprofit organization CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives) has focused on work with women and children affected by the violence, orphans, and refugees who have been fleeing to neighboring countries and those displaced within Nigeria.

“We need your prayers,” she wrote, “now there is virtually no security in Borno State, especially outside Maiduguri. Many have fled to Cameroon. In refugee camps in Cameroon and [for] some who are displaced there was no food, medical, or other kinds of help. The government, even when warned, does not stop the violence. People are suffering.”

Samuel Dali was interviewed by the BBC World Service on May 14, when he spoke with Newsday’s Lawrence Pollard. He talked about the feelings of the parents of the missing Chibok schoolgirls, and the fact that those families have received no help from the Nigerian government, and about suspicions that Boko Haram may have infiltrated the Nigerian army and other government bodies. Listen to the audio interview at .

To give to the EYN Compassion Fund, which provides aid to Nigerian Brethren affected by the violence, go to .

6) EYN church leaders meet with 58 Chibok schoolgirls’ parents

By Zakariya Musa

Photo courtesy of Zakariya Musa
EYN president Samuel Dante Dali addresses a group of parents of the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok, Nigeria. The meeting took place at EYN Church No. 2 in Chibo, on Thursday, May 8.

The president of EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren Nigeria) Samuel D. Dali, met with parents of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted on April 14. EYN, a world known peace church, operates largely in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States in Nigeria, where a state of emergency has been in place for over a year.

Chibok, a Christian dominated area, and the only of the 27 Local Governments in Borno State that pays CRK teachers salary, is a place where the Church of the Brethren Mission station was opened by Ira S. Petre in 1931.

The 58 parents who met the denominational leader are just some of the parents of the 234 missing schoolgirls. Evangelist Matthew Owojaiya of the Old Time Revival Hour Church in Kaduna has published a list of 180 girls abducted from the Secondary School in Chibok, showing 165 to be Christian girls and 15 to be Muslim girls.

“I abducted your girls,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubbakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse. “There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.

As we got to the church in Chibok, an EYN district official who welcomed the president’s team seated the parent, those whose houses were burnt, as well as the pastors present in three separate rows. “We are just here to cry with you,” said EYN general secretary Jinatu Wamdeo, who introduce the entourage to the gathering.

EYN’s president speaks with the parents

“God knows where they (the girls) are, so we hope that one day they will be freed,” said EYN president Samuel Dali. “The entire world is crying with us on this pain. This might be a reason to end this situation. We have hope because God is with them.

“Be sure that evil doers will not see a good end. This is not our will but God’s own judgment. Let’s continue persevering in our patience, and stand firm on our faith in God. You know that we have no government, because if you cry [out] they will beat you back, so only God will save us in this country,” Dali continued.

“Today when we send out workers as a church, it’s like we are sending them to the grave. Sometime I ask myself why I came in this time, but God knows. May God help you and strengthen your faith.”

One of the parents thanked the leaders of the church on their behalf. He said they are sure that we have no government because none of the Senators, House of Representatives, or chairmen came to greet the parents like this, despite their security. You are here with no single security personnel behind you but God is with you [he told the church leaders]. He also called on church members to keep obeying their pastors, of whom he said: “They are standing by us since these occurrences.”

Parents remember the day of the abduction

[Talking about the day of the abduction] the parents said that there were signals that the girls should be sent home [from the school] but some staff took it as speculation and [decided] the girls should stay at their hostel. According to one parent who doesn’t want his name mentioned, on their arrival the sect seized a loaded truck at a market place and offloaded it before driving to the secondary school, where they asked the girls many questions before parading them to the truck, saying that they wanted to protect them from a Boko Haram attack.

One of the girls, aged 15, who escaped from the kidnappers, said, “We stopped at one place to eat but I refused to eat. They told us that we’ll proceed to Sambisa the following morning. They told us that they are taking us there to teach us Qur’an. We are three who escaped at [that] time.”

Within the week, reports from Gwoza areas in Borno State said the attackers took action at their will, killed a church secretary and a village head at Zamga, a village head at Jubrilli, a pastor’s son at Arboko, and a church member at Ashigashiya, where they went house-to-house fetching properties of those who ran away for safety. An EYN pastor abducted three weeks ago is still missing while another three youths from the area were killed. The [Boko Haram] group claimed responsibility for attacks on many public buildings, churches, mosques, Muslims and non-Muslims, leaders and followers.

In many areas people no longer sleep in their houses. “We sleep in bush,” they said.

To the government [the parents said]: “They say they are trying to save the 234 girls but we don’t know what is going on. We are confused.”

The federal government has opened up to receive international help to rescue the nearly 300 Chibok and Warabe girls.

Alhaji Kabiru Turaki, chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North, in July 2013 defended the ceasefire agreement signed with Boko Haram, saying the federal government interacted with authentic members of the Islamic militia.

The sect said it lost confidence in the government, and therefore abandoned the dialogue, which some people see as the right channel to end the war. The sect also demands the release of its detained members.

EYN leaders bring relief funds

Photo courtesy of Zakariya Musa
EYN president Samuel Dali presents donations to officials of the five affected District Church Councils (Chibok, Balgi, Mbalala, Kautikari, and Askira).

The EYN president presented some tokens of money to the 58 parents to assist them to return to their homes, and handed over the sum of N30,000.00 to the five District Church Council (DCC) officials for the affected members at the various districts. The five DCCs–Chibok, Mbalala, Balgi, Kautikari, and Askira–also suffered from the insurgents’ activities since 2009.

The former secretary of the EYN Ministers Council and chairman of the EYN Relief Committee, Amos Duwala, encouraged that “if there is a beginning there must be also an end to every situation.”

Special prayers were offered for peace in the country, for the release of the abducted, for comfort to the parents, for provision to the displaced, condolence to those who lost their relatives, for the government to be just, and for the insurgents to change their mind.

— Zakariya Musa is secretary of “Sabon Haske,” a publication of EYN.

7) Brethren and ecumenical partners continue support for Nigeria and the abducted girls

A round up of news tidbits from this past week, demonstrating a variety of ways in which Brethren congregations and districts have been offering prayer and support for Nigerian Brethren and the abducted schoolgirls. Also below: statements of support from ecumenical partners, as well as media interviews and stories with links to find them online:

Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren

— Short video interviews with Carl and Roxane Hill, who returned from Nigeria last Wednesday, are available at . The Hills have completed their term of service as Church of the Brethren mission workers and teachers at Kulp Bible College, a school of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They flew back to the US in time for the church planting conference in Richmond, Ind., last week where Brethren videographer David Sollenberger taped their responses to five quick questions about their work and the current situation in Nigeria. The Hills are interested in becoming church planters in the United States, as their next mission venture. In the series of short video clips they answer these questions: How is the EYN Compassion fund helping? What is EYN’s response to the violence? Does it seem like EYN is being targeted? What is inspiring about EYN’s response to the violence? What did EYN leadership do to assure the safety of Carl and Roxane? Newsline will feature an interview with the Hills in next week’s issue.

— “Brethren rally to support kidnapped Nigerian girls” is the title of a “Mennonite World Review” interview with Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger on May 19. The interview by Tim Huber gives an overview of how Brethren in the US have responded to the abduction of the schoolgirls from Chibok, and how the American Brethren are supporting the Nigerian Brethren during this time of crisis. Noffsinger speaks about the faith of the Nigerian church, what Brethren can do through prayer,  and the giving to relief efforts for refugees fleeing the violence in Nigeria. find the interview at .

— Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren designated its entire Sunday morning offering on Mother’s Day, May 11, to the EYN Compassion Fund. Senior pastor Galen Hackman reported in an e-mail to denominational staff that the offering totaled over $18,000, with more expected to be received over the following week. The congregation also collected notes of encouragement to send to EYN.

— Gerald and Lois Neher who served in Chibok, Nigeria, with the Church of the Brethren Mission in the 1950s, were interviewed by their local newspaper, the McPherson (Kan.) Sentinel. The couple, who are in their 80s, also have been interviewed by the BBC and the Daily  Beast. The interview by Sentinel staff writer Carla Barber was posted May. 13, and includes a large photo of the couple. “The Nehers not only are familiar with the Chibok; they wrote the book on them,” the interview notes. “We probably knew these girls’ grandparents and great-grandparents,” Gerald told the reporter. The Nehers became mission workers in Nigeria after attending McPherson College, and after Gerald earned a master’s degree in extension services from Cornell University. The newspaper reports that they spent four years working in Chibok, and a total of 14 years in Nigeria, from 1954-68. Read the full interview at .

— “Local church to hold prayer service for kidnapped Nigerian girls” was the title of a video segment from Fox Channel 10 news in Phoenix, Ariz., posted May 11. FOX 10’s Jill Monier reported on a Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren service for the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped on April 14 by Boko Haram. The Circle of Peace Church is located in Peoria, Ariz. View the video news segment at .

— “Bring Back Our Girls: A Night of Compassion and Action” is planned for May 27, 7-8:30 p.m., in Littleton, Colo., sponsored by Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren and friends. The event is a Nigeria fundraiser, and will include a video update, food, and a silent auction. All money raised will go to the EYN Compassion Fund to help victims of Boko Haram violence, said an announcement from the church. For more information or to donate money or items for the auction, contact Sarah Leatherman Young at 720-530-7299 or Gail Erisman Valeta at 720-290-7044.

— Southern Ohio District has shared a prayer request from Nigeria originally received by Larry Heisey of the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookeville, Ohio. The prayer request was sent by one of the Nigerian Brethren group who attended the Brethren World Assembly last year at the Brethren Heritage Center. She wrote, in part: “Dear Brother Larry, thank you very much for your concern for us. It’s really a thing of joy when we hear encouraging words from brethren. It’s really a thing of joy to know that brethren all over the world are with us at this trying time. My brother, we really need your prayers. We know that the Lord knows why this thing is happening, but we the human beings cannot…. Many of our people are getting discouraged but the word of God is waxing strong. The mystery of the kidnap of the Chibok school girls remain perplexing to us. Chibok is about 30 kilometers from my home village, we all feel the pains because relations are there and friends also. Many of our villages have been rampaged, churches burnt, homes destroyed and people fled their villages. Many of the brethren are in refugee camps…. Continue in prayer with us until the insurgents stop terrorizing children of God.”

— In more news from Southern Ohio District, the Lower Miami congregation is inviting the district to a prayer vigil for Nigeria on May 21, at 7 p.m. “You are all welcome to come to this service or to join in prayer at this hour wherever you may be,” the district e-mail announced.

— Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren held a Wednesday evening candle lighting service in its Peace/Memory Garden last week, after a meal and Bible study, to gather to pray for the Nigerian girl assigned to their congregation for prayer.

— Week of Compassion–the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada–has given $2,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund. The gift is designated for use by the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN) to support the families of the girls abducted from the school in Chibok. Week of Compassion also posted a statement on its website on May 15 titled, “‘Our Girls’ and Our Churches: Putting Compassion into Action; Partnering to #Bringbackourgirls.” The statement said, in part, “Many of the 200 girls were members of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), an independent Nigerian denomination with roots in the Church of the Brethren, a longtime ecumenical partner of Week of Compassion and fellow member of Church World Service. As part of our commitment to respond to human need all over the world and to work ecumenically, Week of Compassion has responded through the EYN Compassion Fund…. Our ecumenical commitment makes a real difference all over the world. Your generosity-no matter the season-makes an impact in even the most dire of situations.” Read the full statement at .

— A “Do Justice” blog of the Christian Reformed Church’s Center for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice has posted a reflection on “The Boko Haram Kidnappings’ CRC Connection,” written by Ron Geerlings, Christian Reformed World Missions’ West Africa Regional Director since 1987, and Peter Vander Meulen, World Renew’s Regional Director for West Africa 1988-95. The post notes the authors’ personal connections with the northeast of Nigeria, and the connections with EYN and the Church of the Brethren. “As the facts came in, the connections strengthened,” the post notes, in part. “The girls–who are mostly Christian–are largely from families who are members of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa Nigeria (EYN), a Nigerian denomination that grew out of Church of the Brethren mission work. EYN is a thriving, growing church known for its peaceful, simple, and productive approach to life. The Christian Reformed Church has partnered and invested in this church and in this remote spot in Nigeria. We supported effective, Nigerian-led programs in Agriculture and HIV-AIDS.” The authors go on to provide an analysis of the situation of Nigeria that may be helpful to Brethren readers in the US. “We noted that this particular incident is not really a strange anomaly,” they write, in part. “It is rather the result of a host of negative factors that, taken together, have for years dragged down the people of a country that is among the wealthiest and best educated in Africa…. Nigeria had its share of development, political, and justice issues before Boko Haram came on the scene. And given their complexity, these issues will remain after the threat of Boko Haram has been eliminated.” Read the full reflection at .

— A post on the Mennonite Church USA Facebook page has requested prayer for the girls abducted from Chibok and their families, as part of “our global Anabaptist family.” The post, which has been widely shared, read: “Please pray for the 230 Nigerian girls who disappeared on April 14. ‘Most of the affected families are part of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria,’ a part of our global Anabaptist family.” The Mennonite Church USA also shared one of the Church of the Brethren news articles about Nigeria.


8) Ten Bible studies available to help youth prepare for NYC 2014

By Tim Heishman

The National Youth Conference (NYC) Office has released 10 Bible studies for youth groups to use as they prepare to attend the July 19-24 conference. Several of the Bible studies were written by NYC speakers, using the scripture text they will preach on during the week of NYC.

The Bible studies are intended to help youth and advisors familiarize themselves with the NYC theme and scriptures before the conference, and to help them prepare spiritually for the experience. Most of the Bible studies follow a typical format of a brief reflection followed by questions for individual or group discussion. The Bible studies are available at .

In addition to Bible studies, the NYC Office has complied several pages of information and resources intended to help youth groups prepare for NYC physically, emotionally, and spiritually. An additional way for the entire congregation to be involved in the preparation for NYC is by participating in NYC Prayer Day on Sunday, June 22. For Prayer Day resources and all other preparation materials, visit .

— Tim Heishman is one of the three coordinators for National Youth Conference 2014, along with Katie Cummings and Sarah Neher.


9) One man’s journey to all 44 churches in Southern Pennsylvania District

By Scott Nedrow

While sitting at our District Conference in 2011, I turned to my pastor and whispered that I suddenly felt a need to visit all 44 congregations in our district. His look of question probably matched my confused feeling, for even as the words left my mouth I had no idea why I had the need to do this. I wasn’t sure I had the time, or the energy, to carry it through. Up to this point, I had only visited a few other congregations outside of Mechanicsburg, which I have been part of since birth. All I knew for sure was that I was being nudged for some unknown reason to take this venture.

Photo by Scott Nedrow

Over the next few weeks and months, that nudging became a forceful push. With God’s grace, blessings, and guidance, and the encouragement and support from my pastor and many others, I made my first visit to Huntsdale in November 2011 and concluded this journey with my 44th visit to Farmer’s Grove in June 2013. During this almost two-year journey I traveled a few thousand miles, ate dozens of Sheetz hotdogs for Sunday lunch, took more than 2,200 pictures, and spoke with hundreds of brothers and sisters from around the district.

With each and every visit, blessings arrived in ways that I could not have begun to imagine when the idea (I believe calling) was first laid upon me. With no goal or agenda from start to finish, I allowed God to take control. I always like to be in control so to just let go was something entirely new for me, but it didn’t take long to realize that He knew exactly what He was doing. Oh how wonderful it felt to sit back and allow His blessings and bounty to unfold. In doing so, the journey for me has been nothing short of riveting and revealing–and I would do it all over again.

The highlights and blessings are too numerous to list, but I want to share a few examples of what I encountered and learned along the way.

I was amazed at how widespread the congregations are as far as distance. For example, Hanover to Sugar Valley is approximately 135 miles apart, or roughly three hours driving time.

I soon realized how rural many of the locations are, some even having my GPS scratch its electronic head.

Although we are in the same district and we all have Brethren ties and values, I learned quickly that we are also very diverse. Some worship with traditional services while others have praise services or a combination of both. Our members dress in plain and contemporary clothing. Many congregations humbly pray on their knees, while others just humbly bow their heads. We sing to the accompaniment of drums and guitars, organs and uprights, and a capella. There are US flags in the front of some of our sanctuaries, while many others do not have flags.

Photo by Scott Nedrow

I found that we are a very welcoming people. We welcome visitors and each other as members in a variety of different ways, but always with similar Christian attitudes and intentions. There were some congregations; however, that seemed to go the extra mile with their sincerity and their comforting way of making me feel right at home from the moment I arrived. A few congregations have figured out how to ensure that no visitor is lost in the Sunday rush, and that visitors are acknowledged and given the opportunity to learn more about the congregation if they so desire.

While some congregations do not choose to use a lot of signs, I did become aware of how important signs can be. I saw whimsical eye-catching outdoor signs that “Welcome Everyone,” and I saw bright and cheery indoor signs that directed newcomers easily to their destinations. On the other side, however, there were outdoor signs in need of repair or hidden by bushes and hard for motorists to see. I did not set out on these visits giving signs any thought, but as time went by, God seemed to make this an important focus.

Many congregations use overheads and electronics in their services, while others do not. While the debate continues over the value of using overheads, I personally enjoyed all of our Brethren services. I did have a closed mind on this issue, but now I understand the value and rational from both positions. I respect and appreciate the opinions of all.

With so many of our congregations struggling with attendance, it was refreshing to see several congregations growing, with many new families and young families with children becoming part of the church. Also, it was uplifting to see one congregation have more than 80 percent of worshipers attend Sunday school!

I feel I have a better appreciation of our variance in understanding of what it means to be a part of the church. I am hoping this knowledge will benefit me as I have been called to serve on the District Board and on the Church Development and Revitalization Commission.

As an open invitation, if you or your congregation would like to know more about what I have learned on the journey, please contact me at 717-796-6035 or . It has been quite a journey for me as a lay person, and I would love to share my experience with those interested in hearing more.

— Scott Nedrow is a member of Mechanicsburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. This reflection was published in March in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter.

10) Brethren bits

Photo courtesy of the Brethren Church in Ankleshwar
Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer is currently in India to visit with the Church of the Brethren there and the Church of North India. He is shown here at the Brethren Church in Ankleshwar. He also has attended the annual meeting of the India Brethren.

— Remembrance: Marvin Earl Blough, 86, a former Church of the Brethren mission worker in Nigeria, passed away on March 7. He was born July 27, 1927, near Windom, Kan., to Ona and Earl Blough. The failure of a wheat crop led to the family’s relocation to Idaho in 1929. Blough grew up in Nampa, Idaho, and attended McPherson (Kan.) College where he graduated in 1948. On June 5, 1948, he married Dorris Murdock. Blough attended medical school at Kansas University and on his graduation from medical school, moved to Nigeria where he ran a hospital in the village of Garkida, which at the time was the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren Mission. His obituary notes that he was the only physician for the 78-bed hospital, working without modern plumbing or electricity. After three years he and his family returned to Wichita, Kan., where he completed a year of residency in internal medicine. After he worked for some time in Nampa, specializing in internal medicine, he returned to Nigeria in 1960 for another four years of service in Garkida. “When they left Garkida in 1964, Marvin and his family were honored in a village ceremony attended by hundreds of people from the surrounding area,” said his obituary in the “Idaho Press Tribune.” Upon returning to the US, Blough worked in Wichita, Kan., and in Nampa, where he joined the Salzer Medical Group in 1966. The group formed the first hospice in Idaho in 1978, where Blough became the medical director. He retired from the Salzer Medical Clinic after 37 years. In 1982, he and Dorris divorced. He later married Mary Glover Lambert. In 1990, he and Mary made the first of nine trips to Puerto Rico to serve in the Church of the Brethren-founded hospital in Castañer. He is survived by his wife Mary; children Susan (Larry Standley), Kim, Lee (Linda), and Lynn (Amy Swingen); step-children John (Marsha) Lambert, Mary Kay (Anne) Lambert, and David Lambert; grandchildren and step-grandchildren. A service of celebration of his life was held at the Nampa Civic Center on March 30. Memorial contributions are received to Doctors Without Borders. Find the full obituary as published by the “Idaho Press Tribune” at .

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp office has announced the assistant coordinators for the 2015 season: Hannah Shultz and Theresa Ford. Ford has spent the last year serving in Brethren Volunteer Service in Waco, Texas, and comes originally from Atlantic Northeast District. Shultz is graduating from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., this month with a degree in Religious Studies and is originally from the Baltimore, Md., area. They will begin their work in planning the 2015 workcamp season in August.

— Washington (D.C.) City Church of the Brethren is seeking applicants for a food ministries coordinator position to direct the Brethren Nutrition Program, a lunch program for those homeless and in need on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Some experience with social work, social justice ministries, or working with marginalized people is required. The position begins July 1 and is a full-time 40-hour stipend position with benefits and housing at Brethren House, a community house on Capitol Hill. View the full position description at . To apply, send a cover letter and resume to .

— The Church of the Brethren Workcamp Ministry is offering commissioning resources to those congregations that have youth or young adults attending workcamps this summer. Congregations are encouraged to recognize and affirm these youth, young adults, and advisors as they prepare to leave for their workcamp through a commissioning service. Each congregation should receive a copy of the resources in the mail, but they are also available on the Workcamp Ministry web page at .

— The president of the Dominican Republic has initiated legislation that would allow people of Haitian descent born in the DR to receive the rights afforded to citizens of the country through documentation or an offer of permanent residency. Last year the high court in the DR ruled that children born in the DR to undocumented immigrants are not automatically entitled to citizenship. The new legislation has passed the lower house of parliament but still needs to clear the Senate. If adopted, it will favorably affect Dominican Brethren who are of Haitian background. Pastor Onelys Rivas reported to Global Food Crisis manager Jeff Boshart that he and Jay Wittmeyer, executive of the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service, last week met to discuss the bill with the head of CWS partner Servicio Social de Iglesias Dominicanas. The “regularization” for Dominicans of Haitian descent will not be free of charge, however, Rivas reported. Speaking for the Junta or leadership of the Church of the Brethren in the DR, Rivas is hoping to help Haitian Dominican Brethren understand the process and become registered under the new law. He plans to soon meet with the leaders of the Haitian Dominican Brethren churches to make a plan of action. Once the bill is adopted it will take some time to learn the proper procedures for registering, and will require a major mobilization of resources for the Dominican government as many thousands of people will be affected. Boshart recommends this Reuters report on the bill as offering helpful analysis:;_ylt=AwrBEiGpCHpTrSYAPhXQtDMD .

— The 2014 Orientation for students taking part in the programs of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will be held July 31-Aug. 3 on the campus of Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond Ind. The registration deadline is June 16. The orientation is for students interested in the Training in Ministry (TRIM) or the Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) programs. To enter either program, students must have the support of their district. After a student is fully registered for the 2014 Orientation with paperwork completed and registration fee received, he or she will receive individual consultations with the coordinator of TRIM and EFSM or the executive director of the Brethren Academy to begin their ministry training program before attending orientation. For additional information, contact Carrie Eikler (TRIM) at or Julie Hostetter (EFSM)at .

Photo courtesy of Going to the Garden
Bees are raised at Capstone Community Gardens and Orchard in New Orleans, with help from a Going to the Garden grant.

— “This is what the Church of the Brethren Going to the Garden grant and the Southern Plains and Roanoke Church of the Brethren assistance helps us do! Such a blessing!” writes David Young from New Orleans, La., where the Capstone community garden has benefited from church support. The garden is one of several receiving $1,000 grants through the Going to the Garden project of the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) and the denomination’s Office of Public Witness. An interview about the Capstone garden, titled, “Volunteer grows food for the hungry on formerly blighted Ninth Ward lots,” was published by “The Times-Picayune” on May 13 at .

— Harrisonburg (Va.) First Church of the Brethren holds its annual Community Fun Fair on Saturday, May 24, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. at the church at 315 S. Dogwood Dr. “The day includes a yard sale, pancake breakfast, demonstrations by the Harrisonburg Fire Department, kids’ fingerprinting by the Rockingham Country Sheriff’s Department, pork barbecue lunch, great food, inflatable rides, kids’ games, and much more,” reports the Shenandoah District newsletter.

— Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Brethren and Hagerstown Choral Arts are offering a concert on Sunday, May 31, at 7 p.m. titled “I Hear America Singing.” The event, described by a flyer as “an evening of a range of American style music…not to be confused with a patriotic concert, but rather a mixture of energizing and soothing American songs,” will also receive a free-will offering for the choral arts group as well as the church that hosts their rehearsals. The group is in its 21st season of bringing choral music to the community.

— Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts a concert by “The Westminster Ringers” on Friday, June 6, at 7 p.m. The Maryland handbell ensemble includes 16 ringers playing one of the largest collections of handbell instruments in the mid-Atlantic region, directed by Larry Henning. The public is invited. A love offering will be received.

— Shenandoah District has issued an update on outcomes from its recent disaster auction. “Beautiful Weather! Wonderful Results!” the update began. The event supports Brethren Disaster Ministries. “Blessed with gorgeous weather, the 2014 Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction successfully celebrated its 22nd year this weekend.” Among outcomes: 1,023 people enjoyed an oyster/ham/chicken dinner; 280 diners had an omelet breakfast and 152 chose pancakes for breakfast; a plate lunch was served to 198 people; preliminary accounting showed gross receipts of $199,635. “The livestock auction alone brought in $20,445.50,” the report said. Figures are preliminary because “some expenses are yet to be paid, and some income is yet to be received.”

— Illinois and Wisconsin District is calling for volunteers to help serve in the city of Gifford, Ill., which is rebuilding in the aftermath of last year’s tornado that hit the central part of the state. “Gifford is a small town about 15 miles northeast of Champaign,” reports the district disaster coordinator Rick Koch. “Beginning the second week of June they are going to have three homes with foundations poured and they are in need of persons who are skilled in framing up a home. In the weeks ahead there will be a call for plumbers, electricians and others with various construction skills. You are needed whether you can stay one day or one week.” Housing is at a local church on cots, or volunteers can seek housing at a hotel in the nearby city of Rantoul. Lunches will be provided. “Please contact me soon, if you having framing experience and if you are available beginning June 9 or thereabouts,” Koch requests. Contact him at or 815-499-3012.

— South Central Indiana District is asking every congregation in the district to bring one Church World Service (CWS) clean-up bucket to District Conference this year. The conference will be held at Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren in Decatur, Ind., on Sept. 13. “We hope every congregation will agree to sharing one bucket of cleanup supplies with someone experiencing the aftermath of a disaster,” said the district newsletter. “Soon you will be receiving an empty five-gallon bucket with a lid (provided by the committee) for your congregation to fill.” The district also is requesting each congregation to bring two pies to be auctioned off during the district conference, with proceeds supporting the Education Ministry Fund and the District Budget, and the district board is encouraging each church to “take the Vital Ministry Journey between now and District Conference.” The Vital Ministry Journey is an initiative of the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries offering a process that empowers congregations to recapture a dynamic vision and mission. Find out more at .

— West Marva District Student Ministries is offering a “Revive 412 Conference” based on 1 Timothy 4:12. The evening of worship and more takes place June 6 at Danville Church of the Brethren, starting at 6 p.m. All eighth grade, high school, and college students are invited. The event includes worship, the Grains of Sand Praise Band, door prizes, pizza and wings, and more. Contact 301-785-6271 or .

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College’s inaugural class of master’s degree students graduated on Saturday, May 17, from the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at the Edward R. Murphy Center. Twenty-three graduates received master of business administration (MBA) degrees, said a release from the college. Along with them were 16 bachelor of arts graduates, two bachelor of professional studies graduates, 121 bachelor of science graduates, and 43 who earned associate degrees.

— The Brethren Mission Fund newsletter is reporting on developments at the New Covenant School in Haiti, where an intergenerational work camp was held from March 12-19 led by Doug and Holly Miller from the Upper Conewago Church of the Brethren in Southern Pennsylvania District. The fund is a ministry of the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF). The newsletter reports: “Some time ago the New Covenant School in Haiti had an opportunity to purchase some adjoining land for $30,000, on which they wanted to build a church and an orphanage. In 2013 the BMF committee was made aware that enough funds were in place for the school to finally purchase the land. The transaction was finalized just before the intergenerational work camp arrived in Haiti in March.” In addition, the fund and the workcamp contributed to construction of a church house at the school in St. Louis du Nord.

— Chandler Comer, a high school senior and member of Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Va., celebrated the world premiere of his work “Dawn of a Nation” when it was performed by the Westfield High School Wind Symphony. The piece of music in four movements represents the early history of the US starting with Jamestown: I. Colonization, II. Confrontation, III. Starvation, IV. Dawn of a Nation. The performance may be viewed at .

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Galen Hackman, Elizabeth Harvey, Hannah Heinzekehr, Tim Heishman, Donna Kline, Rick Koch, Fran Massie, Nancy Miner, Zakariya Musa, Scott Nedrow, Stan Noffsinger, Emily Tyler, Jenny Williams, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for Tuesday, May 27.

Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears at the end of every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to .

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