Newsline for Sept. 16, 2014

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:18-19).

1) Peace Day events are planned by Church of the Brethren and other groups
2) Praying and worshiping in the spirit of Pentecost on Peace Day
3) Speakers, worship, and music leadership announced for 2015 Annual Conference
4) Nigerian Christians say ‘We are on the run’: An interview with EYN president Samuel Dali
5) Haiti Medical Project attains 30-month milestone, Lancaster church raises more than $100,000, Brethren World Mission continues support
6) Annual BRF unit of Brethren Volunteer Service begins a year of service
7) Bethany Seminary engages youth in thinking about faith and call
8) Life goes on under a shadow in Iraqi Kurdistan

9) Laminating with a BA: Learning how to make a life in Brethren Volunteer Service

10) Brethren bits: New staff in Northern Plains, Mission Offering, Bethany Sunday, CDS trainings in Hawaii, churches and mosques raise funds and prayer for Nigerian Brethren, Adult Bible School (ABS?) in Southern Ohio, continuing ed on Job, and more

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Quote of the week:

“When a group of people care more about meeting needs than taking credit, more about making peace than making war.”

— Peggy Reiff Miller speaking about the roots of Heifer International in the Church of the Brethren values of peace and service. She was one of the Midwest volunteer committee that organized a Beyond Hunger 70th anniversary celebration for Heifer International at Camp Mack last weekend. More coverage of the celebration is planned for an upcoming issue of Newsline, including an online photo album and video clip of a presentation by Heifer CEO Pierre Ferrari about the future of the organization, deemed by at least one speaker at the event to be the most effective development organization in existence. In the photo shown here: recognition for a group of the “seagoing cowboys” and cowgirls who accompanied Heifer animals to areas of the world in need following World War II and in more recent decades.


1) Peace Day events are planned by Church of the Brethren and other groups

Church of the Brethren congregations and other groups in many different communities are planning worship services, witnesses, prayer vigils, and even theater performances to celebrate the International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sunday, Sept. 21.

Photo courtesy of Lacey Community Church
A peace banner hangs at Lacey Community Church for Peace Day 2014. The church in Lacey, Washs., is reaffirming a commitment to plant seeds, affirm values, dream dreams, and practice peace. Throughout the month of September a reflection series on conflict resolution and nonviolent communication helped put peacemaking into a daily context. Pastor Howard made paper-cut banners for the sanctuary, a visual affirmation of the congregation’s commitment to seeking peace.

Sept. 21 was set aside as a day for Christians to pray for peace by the World Council of Churches, in connection with an International Day of Peace instituted by the United Nations. A Peace Day campaign by On Earth Peace helps connect the Church of the Brethren and others to the annual event, offers resources, and collects an online listing of events and groups that are participating. Find out more at .

Here are just a few of the Peace Day events in the works:

— Gettysburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren is hosting a performance of “Peace, Pies, and Prophets” by Ted Swartz’s theater company Ted and Co., on Sunday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. The show is called “I’d Like to Buy an Enemy” and the evening will be interspersed with a pie auction benefiting Christian Peacemaker Teams and Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. Said an announcement in the Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter, “You will be entertained by a hilarious and poignant satire that explores peace, justice, and the American way–starring Ted Swartz and Tim Ruebke. This thought-provoking show allows us to laugh at ourselves, while engaging us to think about how to work for peace and justice worldwide.” Admission is free, with opportunities for free will offerings. Contact the Gettysburg church at 717-334-5066.

— The Witness Commission of Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is sponsoring a Peace Pole Walk at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Sept. 21. In addition, the congregation is connecting the Peace Day event with an opportunity to give to the EYN Compassion Fund to aid the Nigerian Brethren during a time of violence and suffering. The church newsletter announced that its Fall Quarterly Offering will support Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, with information provided in the Sept. 21 bulletin. The offering was brought by the Witness Commission and supported by the Stewards Commission and the church board.

— Peace Day at Monroeville Church of the Brethren in Western Pennsylvania District will include a special worship focus on peace at 11 a.m. To close the service, the congregation will dedicate a new Peace Pole, and share a potluck.

— Union Center Church of the Brethren near Nappanee, Ind., and other Indiana congregations will take part in an ecumenical and community observance outdoors near the church, beginning at 2 p.m. on Sept. 21. The event will be built around the text Matthew 25:31-40 in honor of the alternative service of the late Carlyle Frederick, a conscientious objector who was part of the Starvation Experiment during World War II. Contact .

— Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren hosts “Unity in the Community” on Saturday, Sept. 20, from 5-8 p.m., an interfaith celebration on the theme, “Sharing Water, Sharing Air, Sharing the Earth in Peace.” The community is invited to share prayers for peace, to share a dish at the fellowship supper following the service, and to contribute non-perishable items for the food pantries at ACTS and Northern Virginia Family Service (SERVE).

— At Bridgewater (Va.) College, Peace Day will be observed at 4 p.m. on Sept. 21, according to an announcement from Shenandoah District. The event on the campus mall will focus on the theme, “Visions and Dreams of Building Peace.” A peace vigil, a program, and prayers, will begin on Dinkel Avenue and conclude at the Peace Pole at the Alexander Mack Library. The Carter Center is the alternate location in case of rain. Find a bulletin insert at .

— At Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, Peace Day will be observed with an environmental walk across campus on Sunday, Sept. 21. The International Peace Day Excursion begins a week of environmental and social justice events at the college. The walk will leave from the college’s Brossman Commons Terrace at 1:45 p.m. led by David Bowne, associate professor of biology. Subsequent events during the week will focus on social justice, the environment, and poverty.

— “Meet us on Independence Mall, Philadelphia, for International Peace Day observance, Saturday, September 20!” said an invitation from Heeding God’s Call. The initiative against gun violence in America’s cities is joining in the Peace Day Philly observance, an “Interfaith Service to End Gun Violence,” at the People’s Plaza, Liberty Bell Center, starting at 3 p.m. The service will mourn the lives lost to gun violence, call for action to make the city safer, and will include a “Memorial to the Lost” t-shirt display. “Stand with us. Sing and pray with us for a swift end to the carnage of gun violence in this city and throughout our nation,” said the invitation. See .

For more information about Peace Day 2014, go to .

2) Praying and worshiping in the spirit of Pentecost on Peace Day

The following Action Alert from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness calls attention to Sunday, Sept. 21, as the 2014 observance of Peace Day:

Peace Day is quickly approaching (Sunday, Sept. 21) and this year we are praying and worshipping in the spirit of Pentecost. Register your congregation at .

The Day of Pentecost showcases the creative nature of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, we see the Spirit coming like tongues of fire as it sweeps through the assembled faithful and blesses them with an ecstatic vision for the future of the church.

“This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2: 16-17).

We live in a time when to dream and be creative is of the utmost importance for the vitality of the church and its mission. The world around us keeps finding new ways to exhibit violence toward all kinds of people, and too often we are playing catch up in trying to figure out how to tangibly manifest God’s peace and healing to those in great need.

It can feel overwhelming when you think of the injustices in Ferguson, the violence in Gaza, the American bombing of Iraq and Syria, our Nigerian sisters still in captivity, and the stories of the Central American migrant children trying to escape violence. But because of the lamentation and hopelessness these events produce, we must carry the light of Christ to the world around us.

Peace Day is the ideal time to share the light of Christ with your community and to discern how to concretely build peace in the world around you. Your local church and wider community need the healing hands of Christ, and while we may act and worship locally, we can also think and act globally.

We encourage you to get creative when planning your Peace Day activities. In the past, groups have had peace fairs, footwashing ceremonies, interfaith prayer gatherings, and have integrated special prayers for peace into their Sunday service, organized 5K runs to raise money for charities, and much more.

What will your church do? What visions and dreams of peace do you have? How does your community need to be healed? How can your church community pray for the world?

Register now to let us know your congregation or community group will participate in Peace Day 2014 at . More information about Peace Day and what other congregations are doing can be found at .

Sept. 21 also is Mission Offering Sunday ( ). The Mission Offering supports ongoing international partnerships with brothers and sisters in Nigeria, Haiti, South Sudan, and many other places around the world. Please consider participating in this special offering as part of your Peace Day services.

— Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C. To receive Action Alerts from the Office of Public Witness go to . For more information about the public witness ministries of the Church of the Brethren, contact Nathan Hosler, director, Office of Public Witness, 337 North Carolina Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003; ; 717-333-1649.

3) Speakers, worship, and music leadership announced for 2015 Annual Conference

Tampa, Fla., is the location for Annual Conference 2015

The preachers and the worship and music leadership for next year’s Church of the Brethren Annual Conference has been announced by the Conference Office. The 2015 Conference will return to a Saturday-through-Wednesday schedule on July 11-15, in Tampa, Fla. Moderator David Steele will lead the Conference on the theme “Abide in My Love…and Bear Fruit” (John 15:9-17). Find his reflection on the theme at .

A full color poster inviting Brethren to attend the 2015 Annual Conference is being mailed to each congregation in the Source packet, for posting on church bulletin boards. The poster includes information about sightseeing opportunities and family friendly activities in the area that Brethren may want to include in a trip to Florida to attend the Conference. To get a copy for everyone in a congregation, e-mail the Conference Office at .

In related news, nominations are open for denominational leadership offices to be elected by the 2015 Conference. Open positions include Annual Conference moderator-elect; Annual Conference Program and Arrangements Committee member; members of the Mission and Ministry Board–Areas 1, 4, and 5; On Earth Peace Board member; Brethren Benefit Trust Board member; Bethany Theological Seminary trustee representing laity and trustee representing clergy; Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee member; and five members of the Review and Evaluation Committee. Find nomination forms and more information at .

Preachers, worship and music leadership for Annual Conference 2015

Preachers bringing the messages for worship at the 2015 Conference are

— David Steele, 2015 Annual Conference moderator, who will preach on Saturday evening, July 11,

— Rodger Nishioka, a popular speaker at this year’s National Youth Conference and an associate professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., who will bring the Sunday morning message on July 12,

— Katie Shaw Thompson, co-pastor at Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, Iowa, and also an NYC speaker, who will preach Monday evening, July 13,

— Don Fitzkee, chair-elect of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board and director of development at COBYS Family Services in Leola, Pa., who will lead Tuesday evening’s service, July 14, and

— Thomas M. Dowdy Jr., pastor of Imperial Heights Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles, Calif., who will preach Wednesday morning, July 15.

On Sunday evening, performances will be given by Ted and Co. and Ken Medema, who both performed at National Youth Conference earlier this year.

The Worship Planning Team includes Christy Waltersdorff of Lombard, Ill., and the Program and Arrangements Committee; Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey of Hagerstown, Md.; Russ Matteson of Modesto, Calif.; and Dave Witkovsky of Huntingdon, Pa.

Coordinating the music is Carol Elmore of Roanoke, Va. The Conference Choir director will be Terry Hershberger of Woodbury, Pa. The Children’s Choir will be directed by Marianne Houff of Penn Laird, Va. Conference musicians will include organist John Shafer of Oakton, Va., and pianist Heather Landram of Richmond, Ind.

Chris Douglas serves as Conference Director. For more information go to .

4) Nigerian Christians say ‘We are on the run’: An interview with EYN president Samuel Dali

By Illia Djadi of World Watch Monitor

What ISIS has done in Iraq, Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria, a Nigerian cleric says.

“The news is really bad. When they attacked our hometown, we decided to vacate the place. In Michika and surrounding areas, soldiers were running away. Some of them were killed or wounded and lot of people were also running for their lives,” Samuel Dali, president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, told World Watch Monitor as he was on the run, a few meters from the Cameroon border.

During the weekend of Sept. 6-7, Boko Haram militants took over Dali’s hometown of Michika, in Adamawa State, on Nigeria’s eastern border. Recent territorial gains made by Boko Haram in the northeast, he said, signal the end of his home and of the church in that part of the country, Africa’s most populous.

In Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, swept across the country’s north in June, forcing hundreds of thousands of people, about a quarter of them Christian, fleeing from their homes. Hundreds have been killed. Whole towns have essentially emptied of Christians and non-Sunni Muslims, and their places of worship have been destroyed or occupied.

The situation in the parts of northeast Nigeria overrun by Boko Haram is similar, Dali said.

“We have lost almost everything,” he said. “Most of our churches have been destroyed and our pastors are scattered all over. Our members have fled and some of them killed. That’s what we have tried to prevent from happening.” The Church of the Brethren is known locally as Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, or EYN Church.

And, as in Iraq, Nigerian Christians are on the run, Dali said.

During the weekend attacks, dozens of cars loaded with people and luggage formed a long queue. Many, he said, were confused, and didn’t know where to go. Some are thinking of crossing the border to Cameroon, while others planned to reach relatives and friends elsewhere in Nigeria.

In recent weeks, thousands have already crossed the border as the insurgents have overrun several major towns, notably Bama, the second-largest city of Borno State with about 270,000 inhabitants and just 45 miles away of Maiduguri, the state capital.

Despite government assurance that Maiduguri is safe, traditional elders–a forum made up of retired civilian and military officials–have told Nigerian news media that Boko Haram has surrounded the capital, where thousands of people have been taking refuge. They called on the government to send reinforcements and also warned that the people in Maiduguri are facing starvation, given that subsistence farming has been disrupted by the continuing violence.

With the black-and-white jihadists’ flag flying over Michika and Bazza, attention now is turned to nearby Mubi, the commercial centre of Adamawa state, which had a population of about 60,000, though now is largely deserted, according to the BBC.

The Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in Adamawa and two other northeastern states, Borno and Yobe, in May 2013, and extended it, for a third time, in May this year. The military has deployed an additional 500 troops to help take back Michika and two other towns, Gulak and Kunchinka.

Dali said it’s too late.

“We have seen the army jets flying over the town, but how can they bomb the insurgents while they’ve hidden in civilian houses?” He said. “So eventually, the three states under emergency may be taken over by these terrorists.”

Boko Haram may be close to achieving its goal of establishing Islamic rule, at least in one part of Nigeria, said Bitrus Pogu, a prominent leader in Chibok, the Borno state village from which more than 200 girls, many of them Christian, were kidnapped from their school in April. Though some have escaped, most remain unaccounted for. Boko Haram’s putative leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said the insurgency’s “war between Muslims and unbelievers” will end when Islamic law rules Nigeria “or, alternatively, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight.”

Pogu said Boko Haram’s offensive is meant, in part, to deny President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, a second term after Nigeria’s 2015 elections.

“Our mainly Christian areas voted massively for Goodluck Jonathan, a fact that enabled the sitting President to succeed at the polls in 2011,” Pogu told World Watch Monitor. “Going towards 2015, Boko Haram, on behalf of some top Northern politicians, wants to decimate and displace our communities so that we would be less of a factor in next year’s elections.”

Pogu said Nigeria’s “deeply divided fighting force” is helping Boko Haram in that effort, and that it has “many atrociously wealthy sponsors on account of the fact that successive governments in Nigeria have always patronized Muslims to our exclusion.”

Widespread but vague suspicions of well-placed Boko Haram patrons broke into wide-open national debate in late August when Stephen Davis, an Australian who in April was authorized to negotiate the release of the Chibok girls, provided names of government officials that he said provide money and supplies to the militants.

Davis claimed that the former Governor of Borno State, Modu Sheriff, and a former Chief of Army staff, retired Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, are among the top sponsors of the Islamist insurgents. Both Sheriff and Iherjirika deny the allegations, which themselves have been swept into Nigerian politics.

“That makes it easier in some ways as they can be arrested,” Davis said, “but of course the onus of proof is high and many are in opposition, so if the president moves against them, he would be accused of trying to rig the elections.”

— This interview with Nigerian Brethren president Samuel Dante Dali and other Nigerian church leaders was published by World Watch Monitor, an organization that reports the story of Christians around the world under pressure for their faith.

5) Haiti Medical Project attains 30-month milestone, Lancaster church raises more than $100,000, Brethren World Mission continues support

Photo by Dr. Emerson Pierre

The Haiti Medical Project attained a 30-month milestone this summer in June, reports Dale Minnich who serves as a volunteer fundraiser for the project. Also this summer, Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren surpassed its fundraising goal of $100,000 to raise an actual amount of $103,700, reported by Lancaster member Otto Schaudel.

The Brethren World Mission group also is offering substantial support, with a goal of providing $100,000 to the project.

“The Haiti Medical Project has grown rapidly,” Minnich reported. “Overall, it has been an amazing 30 months since Haiti Medical Project began in early 2012.”

Developments in 2014 include the doubling of the number of clinics held per year to a projected total of 48, which will serve about 7,000 people, with total expenditures expected in the range of $135,000. In 2013, 24 clinics were held with almost 3,500 patients seen.

The fledgling endowment has over $225,000 in hand. There is a growing focus on preventative care, and benefits seen from the 2013 addition of a small building and purchase of a vehicle.

The Haiti Medical Project emerged out of the experience of a Brethren medical delegation that worked in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010, under the auspices of Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) and Brethren Disaster Ministries. “This initial response–though just a drop in the bucket–launched a series of conversations over the next 18 months to envision a way to make a more significant and on-going response to the great needs that were identified,” Minnich wrote in his report on the 30-month milestone.

In fall 2011, American Brethren including Paul Ullom-Minnich, a physician from Kansas who had been on the medical delegation of 2010, met with Haitian Brethren leaders and physicians willing to lead a mobile clinic team. A plan was developed for 16 clinics in 2012 costing about $30,000 and staffed by a team of Haitian doctors and nurses. At those first clinics, more than 1,500 people were served.

Because of limitations in the Global Mission and Service budget at the time, funding was sought through “over and above giving” from Brethren congregations, groups, and individuals, with an endowment fund initiated to provide long-term financial stability.

“The Brethren have responded generously to this challenge, led by an initial grant of at least $100,000 by Brethren World Mission to be paid over several years,” Minnich reported. As of the end of 2013, a total of $71,320 in support had been given by Brethren World Mission and the group projects that the $100,000 goal will be reached by the end of 2014. “This lead gift was extremely important in getting the project moving and in witnessing to others who also could provide support,” Minnich said.

The project is working with the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service and Haitian Church of the Brethren leaders to create some additional features of the partnership, Minnich reported. These may include an annual consultation in Haiti to review and plan together for social service ministries, and a new Community Development Team to work alongside the Mobile Clinics on community health issues such as water purification.

— Dale Minnich, a volunteer consultant for the Haiti Medical Project, provided the bulk of this report.

6) Annual BRF unit of Brethren Volunteer Service begins a year of service

Photo courtesy of BVS
BRF BVS Unit 306: (from left) orientation leaders Peggy and Walter Heisey, Emily Bollinger, Beverly Godfrey, Zach Nolt, Monika Nolt holding Jaden Nolt, and Elizabeth Myers.

The annual Brethren Revival Fellowship unit of Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) has completed orientation and begun a year of volunteer service. All of the members of the unit are serving at the same project site, the Root Cellar in Lewiston, Maine, where one volunteer also will do work connected with the neighborhood around Horton Street House.

The new volunteers, their home congregations, and hometowns:

Emily Bollinger is a member of Cocalico Church of the Brethren in Denver, Pa., and is from Reinholds, Pa.

Beverly Godfrey is a member of Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren in Spring Grove, Pa., from Seven Valleys, Pa.

Elizabeth Myers is a member of Brunswick (Maine) Church of the Brethren and is from Brunswick.

Zach and Monika Nolt and their son Jaden of White Oak Church of the Brethren in Manheim, Pa., are from Annville, Pa.

Peggy and Walter Heisey served as orientation leaders.

For more about Brethren Volunteer Service go to .

7) Bethany Seminary engages youth in thinking about faith and call

By Jenny Williams

This past summer the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., invited young people to think theological thoughts and ask faith-forming questions. Amid beautiful landscapes, supplemented by worship and recreation, and surrounded by support from peers and mentors, the responses were thoughtful, deep, and encouraging.

For the first time, junior high students gathered for Immerse! on June 17-24 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. Explore Your Call (EYC), Bethany’s annual program for high school juniors and seniors, was held July 15-19 just prior to National Youth Conference at Colorado State University. Leadership in planning and directing both Immerse! and EYC was provided by Russell Haitch, director of the institute and  professor of Christian education, and Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs. Both events are available at no cost to participants through a generous grant from Barnabas Ltd., a family foundation based in Australia that focuses on preparing people for ministry.

During Immerse!, seven junior high youth joined in exploring what it has meant to call oneself a Christian, from the time of the early church to the beginning of the Brethren movement to the 21st century. Together they studied most of the book of Acts, asking questions and discussing ways to enact the proclamation that “Jesus is alive!” in today’s world. Haitch and Houff worked to provide a supportive, encouraging environment for conversations about relating to peers, differences in church traditions, and how to witness to one’s own faith. “The youth were hungry for this experience,” said Houff. “They soaked everything in and left wishing the experience had lasted longer.”

Taking advantage of the central Pennsylvania location, the group came in contact with Brethren history. Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, arranged day trips including a tour of the center led by staff member Edsel Burdge. With pastor Kevin Derr from Philadelphia First Church of the Brethren, they visited Germantown Church of the Brethren and its historic cemetery and took part in Sunday worship. A tour of Amish country included lunch with an Amish family and conversations about the different Amish traditions.

Bethany Clark, a Bethany Seminary master of divinity student, assisted with logistics for the event, led worship, and shared from her experience as youth pastor at Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The youth participants included Hannah Buck, Ally Dupler, Erika Fies, and Maura Longenecker from Atlantic Northeast District; Clara Brown from Southern Ohio District; Emilie Deffenbaugh from Western Pennsylvania District; and Garrett Lowe from Mid-Atlantic District.

“When we think of learning only in terms of mental or emotional development, it limits our sense of what junior high students can do,” said Haitch. “With spiritual education, when the Holy Spirit shows up, a lot of developmental assumptions go out the window. For example, as we studied the book of Acts, these youth not only asked questions but offered observations and insights that I would be happy to hear in a seminary classroom.”

Houff also appreciated the high school youth who participated in EYC, noting that “all were discerning a call in their own lives and were prepared for the EYC experience.” By focusing on the meaning and nature of being called, the theme of EYC dovetailed with the theme of National Youth Conference the following week, “Called by Christ” based on Ephesians 4. “It was good to build on the energy that the youth had for NYC, giving them basic Bible study and theological reflection before they headed into the mountaintop experience of NYC,” said Houff.

In addition to studying Ephesians, EYC youth learned about the history, styles, and planning of worship with Tara Hornbacker, professor of ministry formation, missional church, and evangelism at Bethany, who shared session leadership with Haitch. Time also was spent in worship, recreation, and a day in Rocky Mountain National Park to consider the divine in creation and the importance of caring for creation.

“There has been national research on these youth and theology summer programs over the past 20 years, and we are finding that over half of the participants go on to seminary or full-time ministry. In other words, even a week or two in high school can have a life-transforming impact,” said Haitch.

Chloe Soliday from Middle Pennsylvania District said that EYC was a “pivotal moment” for her. “It was the start of my spiritual journey, and since the conference I have been called to dive right in, applying to be a part of the Middle Pennsylvania District Youth Ministry Team. I am ecstatic to share my love for ministry, even more so now that I was baptized in August and agreed to be a disciple of Jesus and a faithful member of my congregation.” Additional participants were Jeremy Bucher and Jenna Walmer from Atlantic Northeast District and Courtney Hawkins from Virlina District.

Plans are underway for a second Immerse! to be held in 2016. In 2015, Explore Your Call will return to its standard 10-day duration at Bethany Seminary, scheduled for July 24-Aug. 3. Information about the event and registration will be released in the coming months. Contact Bekah Houff at houffre@bethanyseminary or 765-983-1809.

— Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

8) Life goes on under a shadow in Iraqi Kurdistan

By Peggy Faw Gish

This report from Church of the Brethren member Peggy Faw Gish, who is working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraqi Kurdistan, was published on CPTNet on Sept. 15. It was adapted from a piece on Gish’s personal blog:

In the hot afternoon sun, two children dart into the small grocery store near our house and come out smiling with popsicles. A woman responds to my greeting of “Choni bashi?” as she fills up a bag of plums. As the sun starts to drop closer to the horizon, clusters of boys are out on our street playing football (soccer). Even though Kurdish and international forces are fighting the Islamic State (IS) two and a half hours away, life, in Iraqi Kurdistan, goes on.

A shadow, however, looms over the people in the Kurdish region of Iraq. They feel it when they hear that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have taken back towns on the edge of Mosul from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and DAASH) fighters. But they also remember early August, when the Peshmerga had been protecting the city of Shangal (Sinjar) and the surrounding areas, but then withdrew from the area–claiming they had run out of ammunition. The withdrawal allowed IS soldiers to come in and terrorize the Yazidi people.

Even though IS had been collaborating over the past years with some Sunni populations in Iraq, in their opposition to the oppressive actions of the al-Maliki government, it was the IS takeover of Mosul in June that made the world take notice. Yet, it seemed that IS was moving toward Baghdad afterwards and not the northern Kurdish region, so the Kurds drew a deep breath. Then, on Aug. 3, the front got a little closer when IS captured the Mosul Dam and the city of Sinjar. Peshmerga forces responded with attempts to retake some captured towns on the edge of the Kurdish region. But it came as a surprise, when, on Aug. 6, IS seized four strategic towns on a key highway and advanced to positions just minutes from Erbil, the capitol of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

Many airlines canceled flights in and out of the Erbil Airport. International companies and organizations began to evacuate personnel. Memories resurfaced of Saddam’s regime’s genocide against the Kurds in the late 1980s and of other times in their past when their families fled violence by going to Iran or Turkey. Now, on TV, features show photos of Kurdish families fleeing during the uprising against Saddam’s regime in 1991, next to almost identical photos of people fleeing IS today. For them, history seems to repeat itself every few decades.

The Kurds of Suleimani have some comfort knowing that Peshmerga soldiers, along with international troops, are pushing IS forces farther away. And since the closest IS controlled area now is a two hour drive away, people would see IS forces approaching before they reached their doorstep.

This underlying danger, however, is not the only way the threat from the IS has impacted Kurdish society. In addition to the more than 200,000 Syrian refugees currently in the Kurdish region, an estimated 850,000 displaced persons from embroiled areas of Iraq have come into the Kurdish region in the past three months, putting a strain on government revenues and services. For some of the population, latent resentments toward Arabs come to the surface. Housing has become tighter and rents have almost doubled in many residential areas. In Duhok Province alone, more than 600 schools are still being used for housing displaced people. While work has started to build more displacement camps to house them, schools there and in some other areas, will be late in opening this fall.

This January, Baghdad stopped sending the Kurdish Region’s allotted 17 percent of the country’s oil revenues to the KRG, in protest against the Kurds independently exporting oil to Turkey. Because of this, Kurdish government employees and civil servants (including teachers) have had wages delayed, month after month. Increased prices of gasoline and some other commodities have set off a wave of public protests around the region. And now, an increasing number of families worry for their husband or sons who have joined the Peshmerga fighting IS on the front lines.

Yet, in spite of these stresses normal daily life does go on. Here in our neighborhood, school opened this morning, so masses of children were walking along the streets and gathering excitedly in front of the school across the street from our house. Men and women still go to work, ride the buses, walk the streets going to the corner grocery shop or bakery, and go on picnics at beautiful waterfalls in the mountains. Each day they help their neighbors, and love their families. With friends, they still sit around on mats on the floor, enjoying Kurdish traditional foods. They also donate material goods for those fleeing their homes, remembering that not so long ago, their families were among those terrorized and seeking refuge.

— Peggy Faw Gish has served for many years as part of the Christian Peacemaker Team first in Iraq and then in Iraqi Kurdistan. CPT got its start with help from the Historic Peace Churches including the Church of the Brethren. Its mission is building partnerships to transform violence and oppression, with a vision of a “world of communities that together embrace the diversity of the human family and live justly and peaceably with all creation.” Go to for more.


9) Laminating with a BA: Learning how to make a life in Brethren Volunteer Service

By Sarah Seibert

Photo courtesy of Sarah Seibert

It was Thursday morning, four days into my first week at Highland Park Elementary School, and I was sitting on the floor in the office cutting out still more newly laminated classroom decorations for the teachers. The principal turned to me and said, “After you’re done with that, I have a terribly mundane and tedious job for you.”

I glanced down at my current project, uncertain he understood the monotony I was already facing. However, he must have known because he followed up his first comment with, “Not that what you’re doing now is exactly putting your college degree to work.”

His comment is worth considering. Am I using my college degree right now? Not just while laminating but more generally at this BVS project.

I am Chief Laminator at Highland Park. I’m also on Walker duty (opening the door in the morning for students who walked to school and releasing them to their parents after dismissal) and help in Second Grade with crowd control, assignment clarifications and bathroom escorts. I theoretically coordinate the Pack-A-Snack program too but the churches and school guidance counselor know much more about it than I do. Not directly part of my job but relevant to it is my attendance at many church meetings, Bible studies, and functions throughout the week.

I graduated with a bachelor of arts in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Biblical Languages from Gordon College. Not much obvious overlap. So am I using my degree? Not if you define using as taking what I’ve learned in my classes over the past four years and building on it by further study or passing it on by teaching it to others. I don’t speak up much at the Bible studies. I haven’t read my Hebrew Bible lately, opened a commentary, or even followed a biblical studies blogger. I haven’t been able to apply what I know of Greek tenses or the geography of Israel to my work in or out of the classroom thus far, and don’t anticipate opportunities to do so in the near future.

However, as I prepared to enter college someone told me, “College is not about learning how to make a living but how to make a life.” I have been educated at a Christian Liberal Arts residential college and not everything I have learned at that place shows up on my transcript. At college, I honed my critical thinking skills, my reading and writing abilities, and my communication skills. I practiced being disciplined and diligent. I planned and organized events and review sessions.

I also had my horizons expanded and began to care about sustainability, the marginalized of society, and building bridges across racial lines. My definition of success as the prevailing culture sees it was challenged and refined. Through all of this, I wrestled with what God calls the church, and calls me as an individual, to do in response to these things.

In that light, this volunteer position at an urban school sponsored by a church that wants to be involved in its community seems to be the natural outgrowth of my college training.

Perhaps rather than me putting my degree to work, my degree has put me to work in this place for the next season of my life.

— Sarah Seibert is serving in Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) at Highland Park Elementary School in Roanoke, Va., a position sponsored by Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke.

10) Brethren bits

— Brian Gumm is beginning a new role in Northern Plains District, where he will serve as minister of communications and leadership development. The former communications intern for the district, Jess Hoffert, gave “three years of faithful service” to the district, said the district newsletter announcement. Lois Grove also has concluded her work in leadership development for the district, the announcement said. Gumm was ordained to the ministry in March and is a 2012 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s Seminary and Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. He and his family live in Toledo, Iowa, where he also works as an online education design specialist for Eastern Mennonite University.

– This Sunday, Sept. 21, is the suggested date for the Church of the Brethren Mission Offering Emphasis. A reminder from the Global Mission and Service office notes that the offering is a day for congregations to focus offerings on supporting international mission partners “and encourage generous giving to the work of the Brethren in the world–be it theological training in Haiti and Spain, agricultural development in North Korea, or caring for the needs of the displaced amidst the horrible violence in Nigeria.” Worship resources relating to the offering theme, developed by stewardship staff, are available at .

— Bethany Theological Seminary is inviting congregations to join in celebrating Bethany Sunday. Worship materials for congregational participation are available at . One opportunity to observe Bethany Sunday is by joining Living Stream Church of the Brethren, the first online Brethren congregation, which will broadcast Bethany Sunday worship with leadership from seminary president Jeff Carter and current students on Sunday, Sept. 21, starting at 5 p.m. (Pacific time, 8 p.m. eastern). Visit for information about logging in to the service.

Photo courtesy of CDS
The Children’s Disaster Services training group in Honolulu

— Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) held a volunteer and project manager trainings last weekend in Honolulu. “We were able to get an all new Rapid Response task force/steering committee set up, with representation from each island, as well as a plan for moving forward,” wrote CDS associate director Kathy Fry Miller, in a Facebook post about the trainings held in Hawaii. “Mahalo and thank you to all the new and returning volunteers,” she added, “to Maria Lutz and Angela Woolliams (American Red Cross) for all the wonderful arrangements, Candy Iha (American Red Cross volunteer) for putting together eight Kits of Comfort which will be housed on each island, our training host Darrell McCain (Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention and VOAD), Judy Braune (CDS volunteer and co-trainer), as well as partners Michael Kern (FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison) and Marsha Tamura (Citizen Corps Volunteer Coordinator, State of Hawaii Civil Defense Division). What a great experience!” For more about Children’s Disaster Services, which is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Disaster Ministries, go to .

— September is National Preparedness Month, and a free one-hour webinar is offered by Church World Service (CWS) on Tuesday, Sept. 23, from 2-3 p.m. (Eastern time) to help equip a congregation or organization with practical ways to prepare for disaster and get ready to help a community recover. An announcement says, “Don’t miss this special opportunity to learn from the co-editors of the valuable new how-to guide, ‘Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations.’” For more information and registration, go to .

— Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren has donated $17,000 to the EYN Compassion Fund, responding to the needs of Nigerian Brethren affected by insurgent violence. The congregation has announced its commitment to raise a total of $50,000 for the fund, according to the Global Mission and Service office. The Lititz Church is just one of the congregations across the Church of the Brethren that have held fundraisers and donation drives to aid the Nigerian church and its people, following an Annual Conference resolution stating support of the American church for the Nigerian Brethren.

Photo courtesy of Linda Williams
Children at an Islamic Center help raise funds for victims of violence in Nigeria

— Members of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif., have a new partner in the Islamic Center of San Diego, which has joined in efforts to offer support and comfort to those suffering from violence in Nigeria. Linda Williams of First Church in San Diego reports that the Islamic Center has been raising funds to support the Nigerian Brethren and other victims of the violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram insurgent group, through the sale of Eucalyptus Stoneware ceramic baskets, handmade in America. Lallia Allali is coordinating the fundraising effort, with $500 raised to date and efforts ongoing. The intent is to reach out to the Christian victims of Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, said Williams. Allali is a graduate student at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and leads a Muslim Girl Scout Troop which meets at the mosque, where her husband is imam. Members and children at the mosque also have written notes of compassion to be sent to the Nigerian Brethren, Williams reports. An Oct. 15 interfaith event is being planned in San Diego under the banner, “Standing Together in Peace,” which Williams notes will be an opportunity “to celebrate our Muslim sisters’ and brothers’ generosity during the Interfaith Sharing portion of that event.”

— Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind., is hosting a Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) volunteer training workshop this weekend, Sept. 19-20. CDS is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren and part of Brethren Disaster Ministries, and provides care for families and children affected by disasters in cooperation with the American Red Cross and FEMA. The volunteer workshop will train prospective volunteers, who may then apply for certification to serve with CDS. The workshop takes place 5 p.m. Friday through 7:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information contact Susan Finney at 260-901-0063 or go to .

— Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren in conjunction with the neighborhood Hines School has assembled more than 510 “Snack Pacs” for children in kindergarten through fourth grade. “As the new school year gets underway hundreds of students face the weekend and holidays without enough to eat,” noted the Illinois and Wisconsin District newsletter article about the effort. The snacks are distributed at the school on Friday afternoons. Last school year the church assembled 2,214 “Snack Pacs” with 8,856 nutritious snacks to feed 550-plus gradeschool children. The school allows the inclusion of a written note in the packs telling the students “Each snack pack is assembled with love and care for you,” as well as the church name and invitations to church events like Bible school, picnics, and movies. The program is made possible with a grant from the “Missions and Motor” fund of the district.

— Four Church of the Brethren districts are holding their annual district conferences this weekend, Sept. 19-20. The Northern Indiana District will meet at Goshen City (Ind.) Church of the Brethren. The Missouri and Arkansas District Conference will be held at Windermere Conference Center in Roach, Mo. Southern Pennsylvania District holds its conference at Codorus Church of the Brethren in Dallastown, Pa. West Marva District will be meeting at Moorefield (W.Va.) Church of the Brethren.

— Northern Plains District is offering two ways to continue “the district responses to the horror in Nigeria,” according to the district newsletter. A Prayer Event for Nigeria will be held on Monday, Sept. 22 at Panora Church of the Brethren in Iowa, at 2 p.m. “Those who are unable to come to Panora on September 22 are encouraged to post their prayers for Nigeria on the Northern Plains District Facebook page ,” said the announcement. “You may also email your prayers to pastors Barbara Wise Lewczak ( ) or Dave Kerkove ( ) and they will post them on the Northern Plains District Facebook page.” Also, Fairview Church of the Brethren is extending the denominational week of prayer and fasting for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) by praying and fasting on the 17th of each month. “You are invited to join them,” said the district announcement.

— Southern Ohio District is holding an Adult Bible School on Sept. 29-Oct. 3, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Salem Church of the Brethren. “Do you remember attending Vacation Bible School as a child?” said an announcement. “The games, the music, the crafts, the food, the fellowship? …Games! Music! Classes! (cooking, bells, painting, etc)! and much more! Lunch is included. Bring a friend or two.” Contact the Salem Church office at 937-836-6145 .

— The Brethren Disaster Relief Auction at the Lebanon (Pa.) Valley Expo Center is scheduled for Sept. 26-27. Events and activities include a Main Hall Auction, sales of arts and crafts and coins, a Farmers Market, a Heifer Auction, a Pole Barn Auction, sales of quilts, Share a Meal, theme baskets, and Amish-made pretzels and donuts among the baked goods and other food that will be available. Children’s activities will include balloon twisting, barrel train rides, pony rides, a children’s store, and a children’s auction. New and free for children this year is the Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary which will present a show on Friday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. in the tent, said an announcement.

— “Thank you for your continued support,” said the Middle Pennsylvania District newsletter, reporting that approximately $10,000 was raised for the district ministries and Camp Blue Diamond by the Brethren Open Golf Tournament on Aug. 12 at Iron Masters Golf Course near Roaring Spring, Pa. “Despite some rain showers, 94 golfers enjoyed 18 holes of golf followed by a meal at Albright Church of the Brethren Fellowship Hall served and donated by Ann’s TDR Catering.”

— “The Book of Job and Brethren Tradition” is a continuing education event on Nov. 5 at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College co-sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the college Department of Religious Studies. Scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Susquehanna Room. Cost is $60 (includes breakfast, lunch and 0.6 CEU) Registration deadline: October 22, 2014. For more details or to register go to .

— Shenandoah District’s Pastoral Support Team is hosting a Pastor’s Appreciation Dinner on Oct. 2 at Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The event includes hors d’oeuvres and a full-course candlelight dinner with a dessert table, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries for the Church of the Brethren is the featured presenter. Free child care is provided. “Congregations, are you looking for another way to show your gratitude to your pastor during Pastor Appreciation Month in October? You can encourage her or him to attend the Pastor’s Appreciation Dinner…. Maybe even pick up the tab for both pastor and spouse!” said an announcement in the district newsletter.

— “Can you help at outdoor school?” asks Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministry center in Shenandoah District. “Here at Brethren Woods we are excited that outdoor school is starting again! This year we are again in need of volunteers. We would love for you to consider helping us out a few dates this fall,” said the invitation in the district newsletter. Brethren Woods is welcoming nine elementary school groups on 12 dates in mid-September through October, in the scheduled published so far. Pieter Tramper is the outdoor school coordinator. Contact him at or 540-269-2741.

— In more news from Brethren Woods, its newest facility, Pine Grove, will be dedicated on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 2:30 p.m. A time of worship will be led by Shenandoah District executive minister John Jantzi followed by fellowship and refreshments. RSVP by Sept. 23 to the camp office at 540-269-2741 or .

— A five-star rating has been attained by Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village, a Church of the Brethren retirement community near Boonsboro, Md. This is the “best possible” rating from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, notes a release from the community. “Our dedicated staff worked diligently to regain our 5-star rating,” said president and CEO Keith Bryan in the release. “This reveals the type of associates we have serving our residents and demonstrates their insistence on providing quality care.” Each nursing home in the nation receives an overall rating of from one to five stars, with five indicating the facility is considered “much above average” in quality of its services, according to the release. “The overall rating is based on a combination of three others for each home: health inspection findings, data on nurse-staffing hours and quality measures.  In these categories, Fahrney-Keedy received 3, 4, and 5 stars, respectively.” Find out more about the rating system at .

— Bridgewater (Va.) College is hosting a presentation by Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis who was one of the 20 children shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. She will speak on Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 p.m., in Cole Hall. She has written a book, “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness,” telling the story of her son’s life and the hardships she has faced since losing him when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot the 20 children and six adult staff members of the school.
She also has founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation that collaborates with professional educators to bring lasting meaning to Jesse’s death through the development of school-based educational programs. The presentation at Bridgewater is sponsored by the Harry W. and Ina Mason Shank Peace Studies Endowment, and is free and open to the public.

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College is offering a Diversity Film Series beginning Sept. 22. All films are free and are shown at 7 p.m. in Gibble Auditorium. Following each film is a discussion led by a member of the faculty. The first film, “Promised Land,” is directed by Gus Van Sant and stars Matt Damon and Hal Holbrook, the story of hydraulic fracturing and two corporate salespeople who visit a rural town in an attempt to buy drilling rights from residents. It will be shown Monday, Sept. 22, as part of the college’s Social Justice Week. “Pink Ribbons Inc.” is shown on Monday, Oct. 20, as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Week, based on the 2006 book “Pink Ribbons Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy” by Samantha King. The final film for the fall semester is “Black Robe,” shown on Monday, Nov. 17, as part of National Native American Heritage Month. It is adapted from a novel of the same name by Irish Canadian author Brian Moore, telling the story of the first contacts between the Huron Indians of Quebec and the Jesuit missionaries from France.

— In October, “Brethren Voices” community television program from Portland’s Peace Church of the Brethren features National Youth Conference 2014. Three youth who attended NYC–Addison, Saylor, and Alayana Neher–are interviewed and joined by their mother Marci Neher, who served as a chaperone. The program also features excerpts from the “National Youth Conference 2014 Wrap-up Video” produced by David Sollenberger. In November, “Brethren Voices” will feature the Meat Canning Project of Southern Pennsylvania and Atlantic Northeast Districts, which canned 24,000 cans of chicken in April for distribution to community food banks as well as a project in Honduras. “Brethren Voices” is viewed in approximately 25 community access stations around the country, reports producer Ed Groff. Contact to ask how it can be broadcast in your community. Many of the programs also may be viewed online at .

— The Heeding God’s Call initiative against gun violence in America’s cities is creating videos about its work, and making them available on YouTube. Heeding God’s Call got its start at a meeting of the Historic Peace Churches, including the Church of the Brethren, in Philadelphia some years ago, and since then has grown to include a number of chapters in various cities. Watch their first video at . As part of this effort, the organizers are asking for video clips of witnesses held at murder sites, from supporters. “Our diligent and committed videographer is hard at work creating a short video all about our work combating gun violence,” said an announcement “He has put together almost all of the footage he needs, but he needs your help! If you have footage you have taken at one of our Murder Site Witnesses, and would be willing to send it to him, it would be a huge help in his efforts to complete the video.” Contact or 215-601-1138.

—  The National Council of Churches (NCC) is among 14 religious groups calling on the Federal Communication Commission to assure free and open access to the Internet. “Net neutrality” is essential for NCC member communions and partners to “freely convey their faith messages to their parishioners and the public,” said a release from the NCC. “For us, this is as much an evangelical issue as a justice issue,” said Jim Winkler, NCC president and general secretary. “The Internet must be equally available to all religious groups and advocates of justice to proclaim their faith, promote their programs, and teach their messages.” Smaller Internet service providers have become concerned that web giants including Comcast and Verizon have the means of curtailing access. The message from religious groups to the FCC said, “Communication is an essential element of religious freedom and freedom of conscience: we fear the day might come when people of faith and conscience, and the institutions representing them, would have no recourse if we were prevented from sharing a forceful message or a call to activism using the Internet.” The United Church of Christ Office of Communication Inc. spearheaded the effort.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Illia Djadi of World Watch Monitor, Chris Douglas, Peggy Faw Gish, Ed Groff, Matt Guynn, Bryan Hanger, Elizabeth Harvey, Mary Kay Heatwole, Philip Jenks, Michael Leiter, Dan McFadden, Dale Minnich, Monica Rice, Glen Sargent, Sarah Seibert, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next issue of Newsline is scheduled for Sept. 23.

Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.

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