1) Interfaith community calls for halt to drone attacks
2) Reports from EYN staff, BDM volunteer focus on recent attack on Maiduguri, Nigeria
3) Summer Bible School helps sponsor cornea transplant for student in Vietnam
4) Merger celebrates ‘One in Christ’
5) Brethren bits: Remembering Wendell Bohrer, Swatara seeks food service manager, dates for TRIM and EFSM orientation, York First and Bermudian in Brethren Souper Bowl competition, Medema concert will be “A Night to Remember,” Emmaus to celebrate 50 years with the Hares, and more.
Quote of the week:
“I call on every single believer in Niger to forgive and forget, to love Muslims with all their heart, to keep up the faith, to love Christ like never before.”
— Christian pastor Sani Nomao from Niger, speaking in a BBC radio broadcast about the attacks that resulted in the destruction of more than 70 churches and the killing of a number of people, as Muslims responded with anger to the “Je suis Charlie” campaign in support of the French magazine “Charlie Hebdo.” Nomao’s remarks also were quoted in a World Council of Churches release condemning the attacks on churches and Christians in Niger, and expressing gratitude for Niger president Mahamadou Issoufou’s condemnation of the anti-Christian violence. The WCC noted that Niger is a “predominantly Muslim country but one with a reputation of relative tolerance towards its Christian minority” but that “over the past few years there has been a growing campaign of radicalization.” Find the WCC statement at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/interreligious-dialogue-and-cooperation/interreligious-trust-and-respect/statement-on-niger-attacks .
1) Interfaith community calls for halt to drone attacks
By Bryan Hanger
More than 150 people of faith came to Princeton, N.J., this past weekend to learn from legal, ethical, and theological experts about drones and discern together a unified religious response to the horrors of drone warfare. This Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare drew participants from all over the country and from many religious backgrounds including Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Sikh.
The conference grew out of work by the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare in Washington, D.C., which is co-chaired by Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, and the ability of the Coalition for Peace Action to receive a grant to help fund the conference. The Office of Public Witness also served on the planning committee for the conference.
Speakers included well known Christian theologians George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary and Susan Thistlethwaite of Chicago Theological Seminary, professors David Cortright and Mary Ellen O’Connell from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame, former US Congressman Rush Holt, and many others from Muslim, Jewish, human rights, international development, and constitutional law organizations.
Speakers talked about the many worrying aspects of drone warfare including: the basic facts about drones, the legal questions surrounding drone warfare, the strategic consequences of using drones, the moral and theological reasons people of faith care about drone warfare, what can be done to stop it, and how to positively build peace in communities that previously have been targeted.
Maryann Cusimano Love, a professor of international relations at Catholic University of America, urged on conference participants, saying, “The religious community has a track record of success on engaging on important moral issues–from landmines to debt relief, HIV funding to torture. Policy makers often underestimate religious actors, but we ought not to underestimate ourselves.”
In addition to the many informative and inspiring speakers, this conference provided the opportunity for sharing and organizing that had not previously happened at a national level. There has been much regional and local organizing, particularly at drone bases around the country, but this was the first time that religious leaders and other activists came together to consider how a national movement against drone warfare could be organized. This meant hashing out common ground between those subscribing to just war, just peace, and pacifist perspectives, while also providing space for those who might not fit so neatly into those categories.
The end result was a strong statement calling for an immediate halt to all drone strikes, acknowledgment of past strikes, accounting of victims, disclosure of legal justification for conducting such strikes, and greater overall transparency of the United States’ past actions and current processes. (The full statement from the conference soon will be made available online.)
Also in the document was a call for repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that has been cited as part of the legal justification for drone strikes, a call upon Congress to conduct a comprehensive independent study of the impact of lethal drones on targeted communities and drone operators, and a call upon leaders to take the nation off the path of unending war by instead turning toward the task of building peace by funding alternative measures.
What comes next will be up to the participants of the conference and the religious communities they go home to. During the final session, discussion turned to how participants will engage their religious communities and how organizations that already have made statements (the 2013 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference resolution is at www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2013resolutionagainstdronewarfare.html ) can collaborate and increase their advocacy. There was talk of creating a national organization to focus on drones specifically. A similar conference in 2006 about torture led to the creation of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Mennonite Central Committee US Peace Education coordinator Titus Peachey closed out the conference reflecting on Luke 9:51 55. The disciples asked Jesus if he would like for them to command fire to come down from the heavens and consume the village of the Samaritans. Jesus rebuked them saying, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” Peachey challenged the conference participants to reflect on what spirit we are of and how we are to resist the fire our own country shoots down upon others from the heavens using drones.
Regardless of the shape or form of this movement’s next steps, it is safe to say that the voice of the interfaith community of the United States will be speaking up loudly about the devastating effects of drone warfare.
— Bryan Hanger is advocacy assistant in the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness. Those who are working on the issue of drone warfare or who are interested in joining in the effort are requested to contact Nate Hosler, Director of the Office of Public Witness, at firstname.lastname@example.org . Go to www.brethren.org/advocacy/actionalerts.html to sign up for Action Alerts from the Office of Public Witness.
2) Reports from EYN staff, BDM volunteer focus on recent attack on Maiduguri, Nigeria
Muslims and Christians are fleeing Maiduguri, a large city in northeastern Nigeria, looking for safer places after Boko Haram insurgents attacked the area over the weekend and the Nigerian army responded, reports EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache.
In a separate report Cliff Kindy, a short-term volunteer in Nigeria with Brethren Disaster Ministries, writes about efforts of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to serve the thousands who have fled into Maiduguri to escape continuing violent attacks of Boko Haram insurgents on other communities in northeast Nigeria.
Following are excerpts from Gamache’s report:
Mongonu army barracks and Mongonu town [near Maiduguri] have been taken over by Boko Haram. The attack on the main city of Maiduguri was repulsed and a 24-hour curfew was imposed to avoid any Boko Haram influx. [This means] more and more pressure on camps [of displaced people], food supplies, rented houses, need for transportation, medical help for more injured people, and more need to give awareness to the two faiths to understand their situation.
The fight to defeat Boko Haram in the northeast is not giving civil society the hope that was expected. There have been more killings in the towns of Michika, Askira Uba, Madagali, Gwoza, and the rest. Three women were slaughtered three days ago in Wagga village. There was more burning of houses and farm produce in Garta, in Michika area, and more killing also in Kubi, in Michika area–but all these people are still holding to their traditional villages. There are daily warnings for people to run after several raids by Boko Haram, but many think their traditional land must not be taken by terrorists.
Our brothers and sisters that are escaping from the hands of Boko Haram are not spared by the security personnel, those that were trapped in Cameroon and are coming back into Nigeria face the same danger of killing and harassment. Camps of displaced people are increasing in population, more and more people are becoming helpless. [We are receiving] telephone calls that are becoming echoes of problems, wariness, and fear, hearing the cries of people with no wisdom to offer in solving their problems.
From Maiduguri, Yobe, the Cameroon border, and Adamawa State telephone calls are coming in: “Dying!!!!! Any help?” [There are] tears of joy when you see someone who has been away for some months knocking at your door for help, or calling on phone saying, “Please send some help for me and my family, we are alive.” [There is] not much to give since the needs are plenty, but together we shall live and fight our present situation.
We thank God people have been called to take care of the interfaith camp. When we started the camp as a pilot project for 10 families we did not know that the conditions would increase overwhelmingly to this level.
My worry is that the Muslims and Christians are not able to understand the danger of breaking apart, the danger of pointing fingers in a time like this. Boko Haram has no respect for both religions in Nigeria, but the greatest danger is the expansion of the fight into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
A few hands are helping, and much money is coming in from dear hearts, but always it looks and sounds like a drop in the ocean. I have almost abandoned my official work for humanitarian work, the interfaith peace community, and relocation project for some months now. I have been trying to reduce the number of people in my house but I have no time to consider that because those in the bush have more trouble than those in my house. The inconvenience to my wife, children, and family is nothing to talk about compared with those who are displaced with nowhere to settle, roaming from one place to another with virtually no food, no shoes, no clothes, no proper water to drink, and no hope to survive.
I pray that God will touch the hearts of Nigerians to look into our situation with a different lens. Militancy is all over the world, and wherever it is, caution is needed to protect innocent lives.
Peace and blessings always.
Following is Kindy’s report:
Maiduguri is the capitol city of Borno State. It is home to about 2 million residents. It has the distinction of being known as the birthplace of Boko Haram. It is also home to many churches that belong to EYN. The largest Maiduguri congregation attracts up to 5,000 people for Sunday worship. Over the last few weeks the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, has attacked numerous villages and towns in the far northeast section of Borno State, including Baga and most recently Maiduguri itself.
There had been a local EYN congregation in Baga at the time of the destruction of the city that made international news recently. There were many other EYN congregations and preaching points in the area stretching from Baga down to Maiduguri. Those congregations have been in harm’s way as the Boko Haram has raided and burned many of these small communities. Refugees fleeing the violence have escaped into Chad, Niger, and Cameroon for safety. Many have also fled into the fortified city of Maiduguri.
EYN has a well coordinated response to the crisis within the city. There are three Christian IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps within the city limits and six Muslim IDP camps. Most of the Christians, however, are staying with families and friends, with as many as 50 to 70 people in some of the homes. Though not all the displaced are registered, yesterday (Saturday) there was a total of 45,858 Christian IDPs registered in the city and there are probably close to a similar number of Muslims in the 6 camps. That number has increased nearly threefold from before Christmas and is growing rapidly each day. Federal and state governments have been providing assistance to the IDP camps and the organization of the Christian community has seemed to cover those IDPs staying with families who are missed by the government distributions.
Security within the city is very tight. Persons going to markets or churches are closely screened. Metal detecting wands scan each person at churches before entry. If there is any question people are patted down. No packages are allowed inside the church. A Bible is the only thing attendees are allowed to carry with them. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can pass through security unimpeded. That Spirit seems to be present in abundance as churches are growing under the pressure.
Updates are coming in. Today (Sunday) Maiduguri was being attacked by Boko Haram from three directions. In the east they were 30 kilometers away; in the north, 130 kilometers away; and in the west, 10 kilometers away. People inside Maiduguri said it sounded like shooting was coming from all directions. An EYN pastor in Jos has three children in school in Maiduguri and they were the ones that called with the first reports. The city ordered all people to stay indoors so that the military would know who was attacking. The markets were closed. Latest reports are that the military repelled the attacks against Maiduguri but that a city to the north, with Nigerian military barracks, did fall to the attackers. Clearly Boko Haram wants everyone to think they are everywhere and able to attack successfully wherever they choose.
— Markus Gamache is staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and is one of the Nigerian church staff working on the cooperative Nigeria Crisis Response effort of EYN, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Church of the Brethren. Cliff Kindy is a short-term volunteer serving in Nigeria with Brethren Disaster Ministries. For more see www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis and the Nigeria blog at https://www.brethren.org/blog/category/nigeria .
3) Summer Bible School helps sponsor cornea transplant for student in Vietnam
By Grace Mishler, assisted by Nguyen Tram
Nam is one of the amazing blind students at Thien An Blind School. He is easy going and optimistic. He was awarded as an excellent student in the first semester of this school year. Every day, he goes to school together with other students and he is a group leader.
Nam was referred to me by the headmaster of Thien An Blind School to have an eye examination with Dr. Pham, a well known, Vietnamese American ophthalmologist. Both of his eyes are often swollen and in pain. His diagnosis is corneal dystrophy. Dr. Pham concurred with the course of treatment and asked that we take Nam to Dr. Thang, a cornea specialist at Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital.
On Dec. 29, 2014, Nam met with Dr. Thang and he began the paperwork for Nam’s cornea transplantation. Dr. Thang asked me and Nam’s caregiver to take him to the Eye Hospital for a physical examination and blood test. Nam’s evaluation was approved that he is a good candidate for a cornea transplant and the prognosis is positive.
Nam has passed all of the tests required for the transplant. Dr. Thang expects to receive a cornea implant from the US in three months. Nam was told the transplantation will occur in three months. The total cost is $1,700 for one eye. This includes surgery, cornea implant, and five days in the hospital to prevent possible infection.
Mount Wilson Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania, where Joan and Erv Huston are members, surprised me recently by raising some funds. Vietnam is dear to the Hustons’ hearts. They re-visited Vietnam for their 40th anniversary serving in Vietnam with Brethren Volunteer Service before 1975. Joan and Erv recently mobilized their Summer Bible School to support the Vietnam Student Eye Care Project. To personalize needs of blind, they had the children meet a blind woman who uses a cane. Students became enthusiastic and raised $1,713.25 for the project.
This was a great joy because they raised three times more than expected, and they heard for the first time the real life story of a blind person who uses a cane, living right in their own community.
How the Mount Wilson Bible school funds are being used: seven more children with eye pain went to the American Eye Center–one child had been affected by Agent Orange; in consultation with Mount Wilson’s pastor and Joan Huston, the church wants $1,000 to go for Nam’s cornea transplant.
Just last night, I also met Peter, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife Vi at a mutual friend’s birthday party in Ho Chi Minh City. They live in Montana but come regularly to Vietnam. He is a retired airline pilot and also has been affected by Agent Orange. He wanted to know more about my work here, and I shared the story of how a Summer Bible School in Pennsylvania helped to raise funds for Nam to receive one cornea transplant, but we are short $700 dollars. He pulled out a $100 bill and said, “Nope Grace, now you only need $600.” At first, I did not understand what he was conveying–he realized I am blind, so he placed his $100 dollar bill on my palm, saying, “Grace, your compassionate heart compelled me to give.”
A brief life story about Nam’s frustration in coping with blindness:
— At age 10, he became blind. This was an embarrassment for him.
— He could not keep up with his peers and school work.
— Finally, at age 12, Nam dropped out of Dak Lak Public School.
— He stayed home and isolated himself from the world.
— His parents searched for help and discovered Thien An Blind School in Ho Chi Minh City.
— He now lives full time at this school and is in the 8th grade as a 21-year-old.
— Nam is adapting to his new environment. You may read more about the school where Nam lives at www.brethren.org/news/2012/feature-from-vietnam.html .
— We discovered that Nam has been on a waiting list for three years for the cornea transplant at Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital.
— Grace Mishler is a program volunteer working in Vietnam through the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. She is on the faculty of National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities as a Social Work Project Developer. Her assistant, translator, and interpreter Nguyen Tram assisted with taking photos and writing this report. For more about the disabilities ministry in Vietnam see www.brethren.org/partners/vietnam .
4) Merger celebrates ‘One in Christ’
By Kimberly Marselas of LNP News
After meeting separately within Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren for nearly 12 years, Maranatha Fellowship was officially assimilated into the congregation on Sunday, Jan. 18. Members of the multicultural group reaffirmed their faith during a 10:15 a.m. program that brought together several different worship services to celebrate being “One in Christ.”
Maranatha’s largely Spanish speaking members began meeting as a home based prayer group in 2002. The following year, they started holding more formal Sunday services at the Church of the Brethren and have since grown to 31 active members.
“It has been our dream to reach out to people of every race, every ethnicity, every language,” says Alix Sable, a West Hempfield Township resident and Reading High School teacher who will now become an associate pastor at the Church of the Brethren. “It was our dream for all of us to be together.”
The move comes as the Church of the Brethren’s denominational governing body encourages its local churches to embrace more minorities and non English speakers. In 2007, a query before the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference resolved that the church should aim to be multi ethnic, based on Revelation 7:9’s reference to a “great multitude…from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne.”
“There is a clearer call now,” says senior pastor Jeffrey Rill. “We should focus on our unity, not on our differences.”
Rill said the church’s policy of inclusion actually dates to 1835, when attendees at an annual meeting were instructed to “make no difference on account of color.” Lancaster Church of the Brethren has recognized the county’s growing multicultural influence by joining with Maranatha and providing space for a Sudanese Dinka worship.
Many church members are excited at the prospect of new energy–and higher membership numbers–that could come with more bilingual members.
“Maranatha brings a sense of enthusiasm about their faith, more of a heartfelt, verbalized faith,” says Allen Hansell, who chaired the church board when a vote was taken to offer membership. “Being part of an exciting congregation adds to the beauty of life.”
After the assimilation, Sable will serve on the church board and help make financial and mission related decisions. Maranatha has had an active giving program over the years, with its own treasury, events, and mission trips to provide evangelism and community building in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Sable and his wife, Arelis, launched Maranatha when their son was serving in Iraq to connect with other soldiers’ families. Their willingness to reach across cultural divides also attracted Monroe Good. An ordained minister who helped establish Alpha and Omega Church of the Brethren, Good had spent 20 years as a missionary in Nigeria.
Chiropractor Calvin Wenger was treating a Maranatha member when he suggested the group consider meeting at Lancaster Church of the Brethren, where he served as moderator and remains pastor of caregiving.
Good says past interactions have been well received but sporadic. Joining the two groups will allow members to recognize each other’s values, struggles, and contributions.
“We are doing this by intention,” says Good. “We want to reach out to everybody more than ever.”
Hansell and Rill acknowledge some churchgoers expressed skepticism about the assimilation, fearing services would be lengthened by multi language readings or costs inflated by translation of weekly materials. The church will continue to hold five separate worship services each Sunday morning, including a 10:15 service in Spanish.
Sable, however, says most Maranatha members are bilingual, with many of them having done door to door evangelical outreach in Lancaster County. The church also offered 13 week courses in Spanish and English last fall to help usher in change.
Rill said previous joint programs, such as a December send off for church missionaries, have been well received. In some ways, the church’s youth have led the way. Maranatha did not have its own children’s program, so young Bible study participants attended class with their Brethren peers.
Now, all members will have more opportunities to “deeply know people of different cultural backgrounds” and examine any “racism and racial stereotypes…despite our good intentions”–two dictates of that 2007 Annual Conference.
— Kimberly Marselas is an LNP News correspondent. Newsline received permission to reprint this article from Lancaster Online, the website of LNP News. This article appears courtesy of Kimberly Marselas, LNP, Lancaster, Pa.
5) Brethren bits
Atlantic Northeast District sponsored two informational sessions on the crisis in Nigeria in January at Hempfield Church of the Brethren (shown in prayer, above) and Indian Creek Church of the Brethren (below). Musa Mambula, a spiritual leader of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) was a co presenter at each event, sharing from his personal experiences. A presentation on the US church’s response to the crisis was a central focus of the meetings. Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries presented at Hempfield on Jan. 4 and Mission and Ministry Board chair elect Don Fitzkee delivered Winter’s presentation at Indian Creek on Jan. 11. Both events included a time of prayer and an offering for the Nigeria Crisis Fund. About 90 people attended at Hempfield and gave $4,266. Some 50 people donated $972 at Indian Creek.
— Remembrance: C. Wendell Bohrer, who served on the former General Board of the Church of the Brethren in the late 1970s and early 1980s, died on Jan. 15 in Sebring, Fla., following a brief illness. A life long servant of the church, he was ordained to the ministry in 1961 and pastored congregations in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida, retiring in 2007. He most recently served as associate pastor of Sebring Church of the Brethren, and was an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren for 55 years. He will be remembered in Johnstown, Pa., for having pastored Walnut Grove Church of the Brethren and having led disaster relief work in the aftermath of the Johnstown flood of 1977. Bohrer and the congregation were lauded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for their work to aid the community following the flood, and for serving as a center for thousands of Church of the Brethren volunteers that came in from outside the community to help out. “The Reverend Bohrer’s church on the hill fed 400 people a day over a time span reminiscent of God’s first deluge–40 days and 40 nights. It was open around the clock. Anyone in trouble was welcome. Anyone in need was helped,” said an article by B. Cory Kilvert, Jr., published by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in October 1978. Bohrer also led numerous tours to Brethren heritage sites in Europe and other trips as well, and was active at Annual Conference, National Older Adult Conference, and Brethren Benefit Trust events. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ruth Joan (Dawson) Bohrer; their four children, Bradley Bohrer (wife Bonnie Rager Bohrer), Deborah Wright (husband Andrew Wright), Matthew Bohrer (wife Noel Dulabaum Bohrer), and Joseph Bohrer (wife Tammy Rowland Bohrer); grandchildren; and great grandchildren. A celebration of life service was held on Sunday, Jan. 25, at Sebring Church of the Brethren. Memorial gifts are received to Heifer International or the Nigeria Crisis Fund through Sebring Church of the Brethren.
— Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa., seeks a new food service manager to begin on or around March 15. This is a full time, year round, salaried position based on an average of 40 hours per week with many hours during the summer season, less hours in the fall and spring, and more limited hours in the winter. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Camp Swatara is primarily a summer camp for children and youth. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, it is primarily a retreat facility with frequent weekend use and occasional midweek groups, including school groups. The food service manager is responsible to plan, coordinate, and carry out camp food service for all scheduled groups, activities, and events through the year. Candidates should have training, education, and/or experience in food service management, culinary arts, quantity food service, and staff supervision. Benefits include a salary based on experience and within the context of a nonprofit environment, employee insurance, a pension plan, and professional growth funds. Applications are due by Feb. 13. For more information and application materials, visit www.campswatara.org or call 717 933 8510.
— A recent post to the Nigeria blog reports on the first trauma healing workshop led by Toma Ragnjiya, director of the Peace Program of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer Cliff Kindy reports on the training held at Vinikilang No. 1 Church. “Providing opportunities to heal from the trauma implicit in the tragedy that has overwhelmed EYN is a focus of the Crisis Management Team,” he reports. “Thirty four mostly displaced pastors were there for this three day workshop. Themes of the training ranged from stress, trauma, anger, and grief to trust and healing from trauma, with ample time for sharing personal experiences with each other.” Read more at https://www.brethren.org/blog/category/nigeria .
— The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will hold its annual TRIM (Training in Ministry) and EFSM (Education for Shared Ministry) orientation July 30 Aug. 2, at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, Ind. For additional information, contact email@example.com or 800-287-8822 ext. 1820. “Please give thoughtful and prayerful consideration to those who might be called to enter these ministry training programs,” said an invitation.
— Two Pennsylvania congregations–York First Church of the Brethren and Bermudian Church of the Brethren–are engaged in a longstanding Brethren Souper Bowl competition. According to York First’s newsletter, “This is a friendly competition for the good of our food pantry.” However, the scoring is quite complicated. Here’s how the newsletter explained it: “For scoring purposes 1 Point is the standard 10 3/4 oz. Campbell’s Soup can. Some generics/store brands are 10 1/2 oz. and of course there are lots of odd size cans so it takes a little math work on the non standard cans (add up all the ounces and divide by 10.75). Ramen noodles score at 3 individual servings = 1 Point. For dollar contributions each dollar = 2 points. You may give the soup to whatever food pantries/ministries you choose.” The coveted trophy is “an old granite enamelware soup pot.” Each year a bronze plaque goes on the pot with the score and the winning church gets the honor of keeping the kettle for the next year.
— Make this Valentine’s Day “A Night to Remember” by attending a concert by pianist and songwriter Ken Medema on Saturday, Feb. 14, 7-9 p.m., at Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren. Across the years, Medema–who has been blind from birth–has shared his passion for learning and discovery through storytelling and music with an ever growing circle of followers around the world. He has performed for more than 40 years in many different venues including the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference and National Youth Conference. The evening includes desserts served from 7-7:30 and the concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10 per person for tickets that can be purchased online or at the door, while supplies last. Childcare will be available by reservation with tickets purchased by Feb. 4. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.fcob.net .
— “God’s blessing was on the Convocando a Las Iglesia de Las Montanas (Call to the Churches of the Mountains),” said a report from David Yeazell, a pastor at Iglesia Jesucristo El Camino (His Way Church of the Brethren) in Mills River, N.C., which co-hosted the event. He reported that 300 people representing at least 11 local Hispanic churches from Asheville, Hendersonville, Mills River, and Brevard, N.C., attended an event of worship and teaching on Jan. 23. The evening on the theme Clamor de Naciones (Cry of the Nations), “culminated in an extended time of intercession for the nations and for our region,” he wrote. “Two additional churches from Lincolnton and Marion joined us on Saturday for a day of training and impartation. It was an amazing time of God bringing local churches and pastors together, starting new relationships; and prayerfully the start of more collaboration among the Hispanic churches of western North Carolina.”
— Camp Emmaus in Mount Morris, Ill., is celebrating gifts that have paid off the expense of a major swimming pool renovation, and is planning a celebration of 50 years of leadership by Bill and Betty Hare. “On behalf of the Camp Board, I would like to extend a thank you for your contributions which have made it possible to completely pay off the expense of the pool renovation,” said a thank you to supporters from Mike Schnierla. “The pool renovation, which was completed three years ago, cost in excess of $250,000. Your gifts and the monies from the recent tree sale have allowed us to retire this debt. THANK YOU!” The e-mail note passed along by the Illinois and Wisconsin District office, also announced preparations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bill and Betty Hare as camp managers. A 50th Anniversary Celebration that will include a Celebration-Appreciation Dinner is planned for June 13. Later in the year a Fall Festival is planned as a community event with a variety of activities for families to attend together.
— Southern Pennsylvania District is challenging its congregations to “collectively raise $250,000 during the next nine months,” said an announcement. “We are all aware of the devastation to the Nigerian Church of the Brethren. The loss of life, property and livelihood is incalculable. The needs are incredible.” The challenge is in response to Brethren Disaster Ministries estimates of total costs of the Nigeria Crisis Response program over the next several years.
— “Curious about how visitors experience worship in your congregation?” said an announcement of a new program in Shenandoah District. “First impressions are often lasting impressions and determine whether or not someone will visit your church again.” The district’s Church Development and Evangelism Team has developed a Mystery Guest Program that helps a congregation see what the church looks like through a visitors’ eyes. The program assigns an individual to attend a worship service and provide feedback on the experience. For more information contact the district office at 540-234-8555.
— The Kit Depot will returns to Shenandoah District in April, the district newsletter announced. The disaster ministries utility building at the Shenandoah District Office in Weyers Cave, Va., will again function as a collection point for Church World Service kits this spring. Donations of kits will be received from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, April 7-May 14. “There is plenty of time to mobilize your congregation to make school kits, hygiene kits and baby care kits and to fill emergency cleanup buckets. We should have mountains of kits and buckets ready for the truck by mid May!” the newsletter said. For kit instructions go to
www.cwsglobal.org/get-involved/kits . The Kit Depot will have forms to send shipping fees of $2 per kit, or $3 per bucket, directly to Church World Service.
— A “Know Your Title IX” Carnival at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College will educate students on sexual assault. “Educating students on the issues surrounding sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking could be dry stuff, but Elizabethtown College is taking a look at these serious issues and drawing attention to their importance in a fun, interactive way,” said a release. The student wellness advocacy group has developed interactive booths and games to inform students during the carnival to take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 28, in the BSC Concourse. Students who attend and visit at least four booths are eligible for a free T-shirt. Booths will offer information about confidential resources on campus, stalking, sexual assault statistics, consent, and an opportunity to sign the “It’s On Us” pledge (www.itsonus.org) in addition to face painting, a duck pond, and “a kissing booth–stressing that ‘A KISS does not equal CONSENT,’” the release said. More information about Elizabethtown College is at www.etown.edu .
— Thousands of people are planning to embark on a pilgrimage of climate justice–either on foot or on bicycles–in many parts of the world, mostly in Europe and Africa, mobilized by member communions of the World Council of Churches. A WCC release reported that “these faithful pilgrims, rooted in their religious beliefs, want to express solidarity with those affected by climate change–urging world leaders to produce a legally binding and universal agreement on the climate at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.” Some of the pilgrims will end their journey in Paris, during the time of the COP 21 to be held from Nov. 30-Dec. 11. “Paris is a milestone in our pilgrimage of climate justice,” said Guillermo Kerber, WCC program executive for Care for Creation and Climate Justice, in the release. “Yet Paris is not a destination. As people of faith, expected to offer a moral compass to climate dialogue, we need to strategize for 2016 and beyond.” The concept of a “pilgrimage of justice and peace” is a vision promoted by the WCC’s 10th Assembly, and climate justice is a significant component of this vision the release explained.
— Ron and Philip Good were among members of Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren interviewed by LNP News about the crisis in Nigeria and what the congregation is doing in response. The Good brothers are sons of former longterm mission workers Monroe and Ada Good and lived in Nigeria as children. Also interviewed was Nancy Hivner of the Witness Commission/Nigerian Communication Team. In November the Elizabethtown congregation pledged to raise $50,000, and has since exceeded that goal with donations of $55,481 “and has decided to send an additional $50,000 from its outreach and ministry fund,” the report said, in addition to $47,844 representing surplus from various church funds, for a total of $153,325. See http://lancasteronline.com/features/faith_values/peace-church-caught-in-boko-haram-war-zone/article_7933ee74-a276-11e4-a012-4baa72551b8b.html .
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Linetta Ballew, Jenn Dorsch, Carolyn Fitzkee, Markus Gamache, Bryan Hanger, Elizabeth Harvey, Cliff Kindy, Kimberly Marselas, Fran Massie, Mike Schnierla, David Yeazell, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Feb. 3. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.