Newsline for February 20, 2016

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).


1) Brethren leaders attend 25th Asamblea in Dominican Republic
2) Congregations are sought for Heifer fundraising
3) Churches invited to take part in Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters


4) Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors visit unstable areas of northeast Nigeria
5) Seeds and farming supplies are next step for Nigeria Crisis Response
6) Reflections on a distribution of relief good by CCEPI in Nigeria
7) Lamps represent gifts shared between Brethren on two continents
8) Simple hand-sewn dolls and stuffed toys needed for Nigeria
9) ‘We can recreate a new and better tomorrow’: An address by the EYN president

10) Brethren bits

Quote of the week:

“Carry the Light (John 1:1-5)
…in your heart — Claim it
…in your church — Focus it
…in your community — Spread it
…in your world — Be it”

— From the theme statement for the 2016 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren. Registration for the Conference opened online this week, at . The 2016 annual meeting of the denomination takes place June 29-July 3 in Greensboro, N.C., at the Koury Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel. Delegates from congregations across the denomination, as well as church members, family, and friends are welcomed to attend the Conference, which includes daily worship services, concerts, children’s and youth activities, workshops, and more.

Photo by Jay Wittmeyer
A woman in a camp for displaced Dominicans of Haitian descent. The camp is located on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

1) Brethren leaders attend 25th Asamblea in Dominican Republic

By Jay Wittmeyer

A delegation of the Mission Advisory Committee enjoyed a formal visit with Iglesia de los Hermandos Dominicano (Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic), visiting churches, touring outreach ministries, speaking with church members, and attending the 25th annual gathering, “Asamblea,” of the Dominican Brethren held Feb. 12-14.

The delegation included interim general secretary Dale Minnich, along with committee members Becky Rhodes and Roger Shrock, accompanied by denominational staff members Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, and Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global food Crisis Fund. From Puerto Rico, district executive Jose Callejo Otero and Cathy Otero also participated in the visit, as did Altenor Jean and Telfort Romy from Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). The visit gave opportunity to fellowship together, deepen relationships, and understand the challenges facing the Dominican Brethren.

Minnich and Wittmeyer arrived early to participate in a ministry outreach to refugee camps in Haiti, on the border with the DR. The Dominican Brethren, working collaboratively with other church bodies and NGOs, organized a medical clinic, distributed tarpaulins to cover cardboard tents, and took the names of families whose children were born in the Dominican Republic but traveled to Haiti over Christmas and were not allowed to return. Such families, the DR Brethren believe, have the greatest prospects of procuring legal status in the DR and escaping the camps.

The Dominican Brethren have already secured legal documentation for more than 500 stateless Haitians living in the DR, and have developed a good understanding of the country’s immigration process.

The delegation was able to visit more than 15 churches, including a relatively new congregation in the mountains outside of San Juan and churches in the Haitian batey community. The group also visited an outreach in Santo Domingo to drug users. The group learned about the DR Brethren efforts to promote theological education and provide for leadership training, and saw the results of several workcamp visits, most recently from Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren in Mifflinburg, Pa.

The delegation was particularly interested in learning more of the Dominicans’ efforts to establish the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela.

Find out more about the Church of the Brethren mission in the Dominican Republic at .

— Jay Wittmeyer is executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren.

2) Congregations are sought for Heifer fundraising

Image courtesy of Heifer International

A release from Global Mission and Service and Ted & Co.

Recently the Church of the Brethren, Heifer International, and Ted & Co, a professional touring theater company, formed a partnership around a project to highlight and support the work of Heifer International. At the heart of this partnership is an event called “12 Baskets and a Goat,” a live theater show that includes an auction to raise funds for Heifer.

“12 Baskets and a Goat” premiered in Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in November 2015, raising $15,000 for Heifer. This project invites people and congregations to participate in restoring worth, dignity, and economic security to sisters and brothers who live in poverty, and at the same time reminds those of us in the Church of the Brethren of our identity as people who serve in the name of Jesus Christ.

There are several ways congregations can participate in this project:

— Host a show: Bring Ted & Co to your community. The cost of the event is $3,800 plus travel. We are helping to establish an underwriting fund to assist congregations with $1,000-$2,000 per show who otherwise could not afford to host.

— Make a donation to the underwriting fund: The Church of the Brethren has designated $10,000 to this effort toward the partnership’s goal of raising $40,000. If 500 Church of the Brethren congregations across the US donated just $50 each, we could raise $25,000 together to give any church who needs it the chance to host a show.

Visit the Ted & Co. website to learn more about hosting a show, at .

For any direct questions about booking a show, contact Valerie Serrels at Ted & Co at or 540-560-3973.

To make donations to the “12 Baskets” fund, please get in touch with Jay Wittmeyer at the Global Mission and Service Office at .

3) Churches invited to take part in Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters

By Katie Furrow

“Through prayer, study, and concrete action, let us resolve to act so that those who know extreme poverty and hunger might enter more fully into the abundance of God’s love.” — From the 2006 Annual Conference resolution, “A Call to Reduce Global Poverty and Hunger.”

As part of our call to work toward ending global hunger and poverty, the Office of Public Witness invites congregations to participate in Bread for the World’s 2016 Offering of Letters. This year’s theme, “Survive and Thrive,” focuses on the impact of malnutrition on women and children.

While rates of successful childbirth have increased exponentially since 1990, studies from the British medical journal “The Lancet” have found that “high rates of malnutrition underlie more than 45 percent of all deaths in children younger than 5 years and are a significant factor in maternal mortality.”

Changes must be made to improve nutrition and health among women and children. Currently, Congress has the opportunity to pass the Global Food Security Act which will “ensure continued US investments in agriculture,” and is capable of reforming food aid, which will allow for stronger humanitarian assistance in developing countries. By writing Congress, it is possible to share a collective faith voice on the importance of making sure that brothers and sisters around the world are given the best possible opportunities to thrive.

More information on the issues, how to hold a letter writing event in a congregation, and links to e-mail members of Congress, can be found on Bread for the World’s website at .

— Katie Furrow is the food, hunger, and gardening associate for the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness and the Global Food Crisis Fund.


Photo by Roxane Hill
A box of Bibles is shared with an EYN church in the northeast of Nigeria. At left is Nigeria Crisis Response co-director Carl Hill, at center is Yuguda Mdurvwa, who heads up the EYN Disaster Team. The Bibles were donated for distribution to Nigerian Brethren who have lost their own in the violence of the Boko Haram insurgency.

4) Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors visit unstable areas of northeast Nigeria

By Carl and Roxane Hill

On our recent trip to Nigeria to meet with and encourage the Disaster Team of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), we took the opportunity to travel into unstable and potentially dangerous areas of the northeast.

In previous years, when we taught at EYN’s Kulp Bible College in Kwarhi, our movements were restricted and we did not venture off the main road between the cities of Mubi and Michika. Our plan for this excursion was to go where few, if any, Americans had been since the violent Boko Haram Islamist insurgency became really serious in October 2014, many people had been run out of their communities in the northeast, and the violence claimed many lives.

Despite the uncertainty of the situation we were ready to give it our best. We joined a group that included David Sollenberger, a Church of the Brethren videographer; EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache; Yuguda Mdurvwa, who heads up the EYN Disaster Team; and two others. We set off early in the morning, heading north along the main road that connects Yola in the south to Maiduguri in the north. We had no intention of going all the way to Maiduguri because just north of Michika was unsafe and declared a “no-go zone” by the Nigerian military. Even Markus Gamache said it was his first foray north of Kwarhi and the EYN Headquarters since the insurgency had claimed the territory for a time, before the Nigerian military drove Boko Haram back. But we did want to go as far as we could into the interior of the northeast.

As we drove north the harmattan was very heavy. Harmattan is dust that blows in from the Sahara Desert to the north, limits visibility, and casts an eerie veil over everything. At some points the mountains in the distance disappeared because of this blanket of dust.

A map of a section of northeast Nigeria showing the communities visited by Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill, with a group that also included David Sollenberger, a Church of the Brethren videographer; EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache; Yuguda Mdurvwa, who heads up the EYN Disaster Team; and two others.


Our first stop was the EYN #1 Church in Michika. As we drove into the walled-off compound we noticed immediately that there was nothing left but rubble from the large church that once stood there. Inside the compound, however, all sorts of activities were taking place. School was in session with more than 100 children attending classes under the trees. The women’s ministry was gathered, discussing important things regarding the church service of the day before. Men also were present, most either guarding the area or picking up trash and debris.

There to greet us was one of the women who traveled to the United States last summer as part of the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir. Salamatu Billy, the pastor’s wife, welcomed us, a little surprised that we would travel so far north to come and see her. She gave us a brief tour of the compound and showed us where the congregation was meeting for services. Like many of the churches we were to see that day, Michika #1 Church had built a temporary worship center, covered with a tin roof, with enough plastic chairs to seat 800 to 1,000 worshipers. We noticed overflow seating had been set up, and we estimated that 70 percent of the former congregation was back and attending the weekly services.

This shocked us. After spending most of our time in the cities of Abuja and Jos during our most recent visits in Nigeria, we were most familiar with areas relatively untouched by Boko Haram violence, and thought that the northeast must be like a ghost town. As we traveled to various locales that day it became obvious that the people of the northeast are resilient and are not waiting on others to help them pick up the pieces. Many people have returned to their homes and communities and are trying to carry on where they left off many months ago.

Photo courtesy of Carl and Roxane Hill
One of the EYN church buildings that have been destroyed by Boko Haram.


After delivering our first gift of Bibles to EYN #1 Michika, we headed off to a community that we were told had been destroyed by Boko Haram last September. This community was like a suburb of Michika, located a little farther north of the downtown area. The community we were looking for was called Barkin Dlaka.

As we drove along the potholed road we did not notice the widespread damage we were expecting. We drove through Barkin Dlaka to the next little village, called Dlaka. When we arrived, we stopped close to a group of men who were gathered there. They were friendly enough and were puzzled by our appearance in their quiet community.

We began asking them about what had happened in their community the day Boko Haram raided their homes. The men walked us into the village to show us the house of one family who had been burnt out during the raid. In front of the house were the remains of an automobile that had been burned. The house itself had no roof and the interior was obviously in shambles. But next to the burned out house was a new temporary dwelling. The family had established a new home, although it was significantly smaller. The man who owned the house was not there. He was a teacher and was back at his teaching assignment.

The men began to tell us what happened. When Boko Haram came into the village–shooting, burning, and pillaging–the residents fled to the nearby mountain. They told us that the mountain served as their home for almost six months. They lived in caves and survived on just a few pieces of corn, and water that collected in the rocks. Some of the men ventured back into the village to collect food-stuffs during the night. Boko Haram patrols had to be avoided for these men to collect the little food they could scrounge, and then flee back to the mountain.

It seemed to us that this ordeal was very scary, but looking at these men a few months later it seemed as though they had recovered remarkably well.

Before we left Dlaka we found the EYN pastor. We had more Bibles and wanted to share them with this heroic community. As it turned out, this pastor had attended Kulp Bible College back in the early ’90s, and one of his lecturers was Galen Hackman. The Bibles we were delivering were purchased from monies donated by Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren in honor of Galen Hackman’s retirement from that church. What an amazing coincidence–or is it the hand of God touching all that we are involved in?

As we headed south to continue our journey, we did notice one change: there is less traffic and no motorcycles. Motorcycles have been banned in most towns in northern Nigeria. The reason is that Boko Haram raiders many times ride into towns on motorcycles. We also noticed many people in the downtown districts of Michika, Watu, and Buzza, but Markus Gamache told us that the businessmen and politicians have not returned to these areas yet. A few banks have reopened, and this is a sign that things are safer and returning to normal (if, in fact, that ever happens).

Photo courtesy of Carl and Roxane Hill
David Sollenberger filming during the trip to communities in northeast Nigeria.


Our next stop was Lassa. In order to get there, we had to backtrack through Uba. Lassa was one of the original Church of the Brethren mission stations when the church had many missionaries working in Nigeria.

We wanted to travel to Lassa because one of our NGOs partners had opened a school there, and extensive damage to properties in the area had been reported. Many children in the surrounding area had not been in school for over a year. When we got to Lassa we found it was market day and no classes were being held because of the danger of many unknown people being in town to attend the market.

Roxane’s father, Ralph Royer, had spent considerable time in Lassa, both growing up there as the son of missionary parents, and serving in the mission himself as an adult. We saw the old mission houses and what remains of the former mission hospital where Roxane’s sister was born.

We viewed the EYN church in Lassa, whose pastor Luka Fabia was a colleague of ours from Kulp Bible College. Like the other churches we had seen, this church was destroyed when Boko Haram came through Lassa. The pastor told us the church burned for three days. Also like the other churches, the congregation has erected a temporary worship space complete with stage, microphones, speakers, and musical instruments like drums, guitars, and keyboard. Again, we were amazed at the resiliency of the people and their determination to honor God in everything they do. We also delivered Bibles to the Lassa church.

As we drove to the school housed in the old police barracks, only to discover that no classes were being held, we met a group of men and women who serve as guards for the town. These people are styled “the vigilantes.” In America the term vigilante is associated with people who want to take the law into their own hands. In Nigeria, the law (police and military) have deserted the community, and this group stepped in to try and maintain order and protect from further invasion by Boko Haram. They were all interested in showing us their guns–some looked so old that it would be a wonder if they fired at all. They were dressed in some type of uniform, although some of the uniforms were hard to make out. Knowing that their work could be very dangerous and that they seemed willing to lay their lives on the line, we prayed for this group. Rev. Yuguda and I prayed a dual prayer and asked God to protect these people and their town.

After the prayer the principal of the school arrived and gave us a tour, explaining how many children they were attempting to educate at this “learning center.”


The last stop on our trip into the northeast was Uba. While we were at Kulp Bible College a few years ago, we had the opportunity to preach at five different churches in Uba. At Uba EYN #1 Church we not only preached multiple times but Carl was given the honor of baptizing more than 20 young people, and on the same day dedicated more than 20 babies.

At Uba EYN #1, pastor Abdu Dzarma was still there. To say he was glad to see us again may be an understatement. Unfortunately, this church was like the rest–burned and reduced to rubble. Like the others, there was a temporary worship center set up and Pastor Dzarma reported they had more than 1,000 worshipers on Sunday. We gave him Bibles and wished him God’s blessings.

Then we visited Joshua Ishaya’s house to greet his parents. Joshua had been traveling with us the whole day and he wanted us to stop to say hello to his mother and father since we were in his hometown.


We returned to Kulp Bible College in Kwarhi, where we had spent the previous night. Our last event for the day was to take part in a distribution of supplies for the students. Students and staff were familiar with us because we had taught there not too many months ago. It was great to renew relationships, and speeches were made all around. Before dark set in, we had time to distribute some small supplies to the needy students who had made such an impression on us.

Missing from the roll call at Kulp Bible College were two students who lost their lives at the hands of Boko Haram. Ishaya Salhona and Yahi, a student from Chibok, were remembered with a time of silence–at the end of the day, a sobering reminder of the crisis that is still too much a part of northeast Nigeria.

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more information go to .

Photo by Nate Hosler
A guinea corn farm in Nigeria — former mission worker Jenn Hosler cranes her neck to see the top of these tall stalks of grain, in a picture taken in 2010.

5) Seeds and farming supplies are next step for Nigeria Crisis Response

By Carl and Roxane Hill

As the church’s Nigeria Crisis Response is in its second year, we are constantly seeking ways to help the church in Nigeria become more stable and help people recover from the violence and security issues they have had to endure over the last few years. As expected, there is no simple solution. But on our most recent visit to Nigeria one thing became apparent–the people of Nigeria are resilient and will only require a little assistance in certain areas to begin helping themselves.

The Nigerians of the northeast are traditionally an agrarian people. Many make their living from farming or they subsidize their incomes or their diets by tending small farms or gardens.

Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, once considered Nigeria’s poet laureate, wrote a book titled, “Things Fall Apart.” The book was about the rhythms of life associated with the agricultural life in Nigeria and how things changed when white missionaries came bearing the gospel message. But what we learned from this book was the importance of the planting and harvest times to life in Nigeria. The planting comes as the annual rains begin in May and June. Then, after a productive growing season, the harvest takes place in the fall, providing food and incomes for the coming year.

Over the last few years, the violence and destruction carried out by Boko Haram have adversely affected farming as well as communities and church life. Now, since the return of Nigeria’s military to the area, tensions have lessened and people are returning to their traditional homes and villages. Among the biggest needs we see for the coming year are seeds, herbicides, and fertilizer so that planting can begin again on a large scale. Our plan is to help provide the means for the people to get back to the land and return to the one thing that has sustained them in the past–farming.

Through the Nigeria Crisis Fund, we are planning to provide money to purchase seeds, herbicides, and fertilizer that will assist Nigerians in helping themselves. If we can do this, then come harvest time this fall, we can reduce the amount of funds required to provide food distributions, and may be able to close out that phase of our response.

This new effort will not be a cure for everything in Nigeria. But it could be a huge step in restoring normal life in the northeast.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who has given to the Nigeria Crisis Response. As of December 2015, the total raised was $4,141,474. These donations have done so much already–visit the Nigeria Crisis webpages at to see what we have accomplished together.

There is still a huge need for 2016. In addition to our new focus on providing seeds, herbicides, and fertilizer for Nigerian farmers to plant this spring, our efforts will move to rebuilding of destroyed homes and sustainability projects as displaced people continue to return to the northeast. Resources also will focus on education for the thousands of out-of-school children. And we will continue to support the EYN denomination as it faces a huge reduction in financial resources.

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more information and to give to the effort go to .

Photo by Karen Hodges
A photo taken by Karen Hodges during her Nigeria trip: children praying

6) Reflections on a distribution of relief good by CCEPI in Nigeria

By Karen Hodges

Karen Hodges was one of the “Take 10/Tell 10″ group from Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who made a trip to Nigeria in January, accompanied by Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill. Here is her reflection after participating in a food distribution:

Our Take 10/Tell 10 group had the privilege of helping Rebecca Dali and CCEPI (Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives) at a food and supplies distribution in Jos on Jan. 5. The previous Sunday, several local churches handed out 500 tickets to IDPs (internally displaced persons) needing supplies. On the day of the distribution, many more than 500 IDPs came, but only those with a ticket could partake in the limited amount of supplies provided by the Church of the Brethren, and some by the Nigerian government.

As women and children gathered and waited patiently in long lines for their names to be called and for the distribution to begin, each of us was assigned a place in the distribution line to hand out items such as buckets, Vaseline, soap, mats, blankets, children’s clothing, formula for infants, plastic plates and cups, and corn. Dr. Dali asked me to take photographs, which I gladly did.

I took photos of a group of women sitting on a nearby rock. One told me they did not have tickets and did not expect to receive anything, but they still came, just in case. Instead of smiles, that photograph shows women with tired, red eyes who, like the other women, left their homes due to attacks by the Boko Haram. Perhaps their homes and churches were burned, or perhaps they witnessed the murder of loved ones. Whatever their story, it was clear that they were being forced to take responsibility for their families.

I took photos of members of our group looking into the eyes of the Nigerian women, lovingly handing them supplies, and saying “God bless you.” In turn, our Nigerian sisters curtsied and said, “Thank you, God bless you.”

I took photos of women standing in the long line, and was especially impressed by their calm patience (something we seldom see in the US), and also at their appearance. Most were clothed in bright and beautiful dresses with matching head scarves.

I took a picture of a beautiful little girl who clung to the woman she was with, seemingly afraid to let go.

I took pictures of women carrying all of the supplies they received, including the bag of corn on their head, and often a child on their back. Their physical strength impressed me so much that at the end of the distribution, I gathered all of the supplies that one woman received, just to see how heavy it was. Carrying all that weight, I could barely walk two steps.

I took many photos of Dr. Dali, whom I learned to greatly admire. I was impressed and moved by her confidence, compassion, and love.

During the distribution, a TV crew from “Nigerian Television Authority News” showed up to record a short story. The reporter said: “Humanity can survive only when we show love one to another. The unity, peace, and progress of this great country can be achieved when Nigerians see each other as brothers and sisters, irrespective of religious, ethnic, regional, or even cultural divides. Breaking these divides, the CCEPI together with their partners in the United States (Take 10/Tell 10), come together today to help reduce the plight of these 500 widows and orphans.”

7) Lamps represent gifts shared between Brethren on two continents

Photo courtesy of Dale Ziegler
Lamps for Nigeria, being made by Dale Ziegler as a fundraiser for the Nigeria Crisis Response.

By Dale Ziegler

Dale Ziegler was one of the “Take 10/Tell 10″ group from Elizabethtown (Pa.) Church of the Brethren who made a trip to Nigeria in January, accompanied by Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill. Here he tells the story of the “Lamps for Nigeria” project:

Our group was told that we would encounter times when it would be appropriate to have a gift to share with our Nigerian hosts. After much thought it occurred to me that I had been given some wood that came from Nigeria. It seemed logical to use this wood to make gifts.

J. Henry Long was a member of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren and for about 18 years, during the 1950s and 1960s, he was associate executive director and then executive director of the Foreign Mission Commission of the Church of the Brethren. During that time he made two trips to Nigeria, and while there spent time learning to improve his wood-turning skills on the lathe. He was tutored by Clarence Heckman. Sometime about 1965, after returning to the United States, Henry received a shipment of wood from Nigeria, sent to him by Clarence. It was Nigerian rosewood, also called bubinga.

As a woodworker, I have been inspired by Henry and have learned many tips about turning. After Henry died in October 2013, his wife, Millie, asked me and two other woodworkers to help clean out his stock. I received some of the Nigerian rosewood.

Another woodworker, Russell Eisenbise, also a member of the Elizabethtown Church and an Elizabethtown College professor, died last year. I was asked to help clean out his shop. There I found the glass lamps.

It seemed fitting to combine these two items and create oil lamps to share with our Nigerian hosts. Along with a lamp, each also received a doily made by Karen Hodges and a star made by Julie Heisey. I thought that it might be important and appreciated to write a short article for them, telling how the wood had come to the United States, and now is being returned to Nigeria in a new form.

‘You are the light of the world’

As I was making the lamps, I kept thinking about Matthew 5:14 where Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” So, I started the article with Matthew 5:14-16. I had heard that even after being displaced by the Boko Haram, the Brethren in Nigeria expressed forgiveness, not retaliation.

At the time I didn’t know how fitting those verses would be. We spent the first several days in and around Abuja visiting camps where internally displaced persons (IDPs) were living. The most amazing recurring theme that we saw and heard is that individuals and groups are finding ways to improve their situation. They are not waiting for the government or someone else to step in and save them. They truly are the light of the world.

We traveled to Jos, where the annex headquarters for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) is located. I was surprised to see the motto for EYN written on the sign, Matthew 5:14. To me this was more than coincidence. I can’t say that I really have felt like I’ve been spoken to by God before, but maybe I wasn’t listening closely.

The lamps were well received and the recipients were intrigued to hear the story of the wood. Inscribed on the bottom of each lamp are the words “One Body In Christ”–a heartfelt indication of our common faith. I made 10 lamps to take along, one for each of our group members to present. There were many worthy people and organizations, making it extremely difficult to decide who to share lamps with. We could have easily given 20 of them.

Lamp sales raise funds for Nigeria crisis

Now, I will be making 20 numbered lamps to be sold. Each will be designed and inscribed on the bottom just like the ones we took to Nigeria. Since I have used up the wood from Henry Long, I will be using bubinga, which is native to Nigeria, but purchased in the United States. I am donating all the materials, so that all money received from sales will go directly to the Nigeria Crisis Fund. The price will be $500 per lamp.

To purchase a lamp, make checks payable to Church of the Brethren, note “Nigeria Crisis-Lamp” in the memo line, and mail to: Church of the Brethren, Attn: Roxane Hill, 1451 Dundee Ave, Elgin, IL 60120. For more information contact Carl and Roxane Hill at .

Photo courtesy of CDS
A pattern for simple hand-made dolls and stuffed toys for use in Nigeria by Children’s Disaster Services.

8) Simple hand-sewn dolls and stuffed toys needed for Nigeria

By Kathleen Fry-Miller

Later this spring representatives of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) will be traveling to Nigeria to work on trauma healing with children, working with women theologians of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

The two CDS representatives are Kathy Fry-Miller, associate director, and John Kinsel, CDS trainer. We also will work directly with women and children who have been affected by the violence of Boko Haram. As part of the curriculum being developed for this work, we will be taking art and play materials to Nigeria to distribute to those who will be conducting trauma healing training workshops.

CDS invites anyone who likes to sew to help make 100 hand-sewn soft dolls and stuffed animals (new only, not used) to use as examples of the kinds of comfort items that could be made locally in the future.

Shown with this article is a simple pattern that can be used to make the requested toys. The shape just fits onto an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper. Dolls should be dark-skinned with bright dresses. Stuffed animals should have a simple face or no face.

Contact Kristen Hoffman, CDS program assistant, at if you would like to make one or several of these toys. Items must be shipped in time to arrive by April 1 at the Brethren Service Center, Attn: Children’s Disaster Services, 601 Main St., P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776.

— Kathleen Fry-Miller is associate director of Children’s Disaster Services. Find out more about the ministry of CDS at .

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Dali
Ambassador David N. Saperstein (third from left), the US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, has been visiting Nigeria in recent days. He is shown here with a group that includes leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria): Markus Gamache, EYN staff liaison (second from left); Samuel Dante Dali, EYN president (third from right); and Rebecca Dali, wife of the EYN president and head of the nonprofit humanitarian organization CCEPPI (right). Ambassador Saperstein also visited the Gurku camp where Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram violence, from both Christian and Muslim faiths, are intentionally creating an interfaith community. Gamache, of Jauro Interfaith Shades Foundation Gurku, has been a key leader in the effort to build the Gurku community–which also has received funding through the Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria Crisis Response.

9) ‘We can recreate a new and better tomorrow’: An address by the EYN president

The following is the text of an address by Samuel Dante Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), to the EYN Ministers’ Council. The council met at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi on Feb. 17-20. Newsline was sent this address by the EYN communications staff, in order to share it with the wider Church of the Brethren:

My dear brothers and colleagues in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are all welcome to this year’s annual conference. As usual, we must begin by thanking God for His generous grace which has been sustaining us throughout the year to this period. We must thank our mission partners, other Christian organizations, and civil societies whom God has been using as instruments to bless us.

I do not need to repeat the sad experiences we have been going through but, in view of the grumblings and parochial views of some individuals, it is imperative that I remind you of the fatal injury inflected by the [Boko Haram] insurgents on the physical, spiritual, and moral life of EYN. Although many of you have practically experienced the impact of this injury, yet there are some who seems to behave as if nothing has happened to EYN. Also, there are some who seem to have forgotten the history of sources of economic power of EYN. Perhaps the trauma we have suffered is still lingering in our minds.

In view of the horrible experiences we have gone through, you will all agree with me that it is only by the grace of God that EYN as a denomination is still surviving and miraculously progressing. If we can reflect back on our economic history and the sources of our income for running the church programs, you will discover that EYN [denominational program] has been totally depending on 25 percent from the goodwill offerings from members, which often do not come in as expected. Now that 70 percent of this source of income has been destroyed and displaced, no one will ever believe that EYN in this darkest period of her history can do anything significant in terms of sustaining her operations and still make meaningful development or progress.

Yet, God so loved EYN that He has been so gracious to send some of his children from other countries to be with us and to help us move beyond our problems and traditional boundaries to a better future. As a result of God’s grace, EYN through the period of the insurgency has significantly done a lot beyond expectation. For instance, we have bought several pieces of land worth N51, 309,000 [Nigerian Naira]. Also, we have spent N93,202,456.69 on constructing new buildings, we have bought a wire house worth N30,000,000, and N101,338,075 has been spent on food distribution, making a total of N270,849,531.69 as the money spent by the disaster ministry during this period of the crisis.

EYN today has the following as her new assets:

— Wire house with seven bedroom flats in Jos
— Twelve bedroom stair house for staff quarters in Jos
— Four bedroom Unity house for the use of our mission partners

We also have the following plots of land that are yet to be developed:

— 4 plots of land within TEKAN Land near Abuja
— 10 plots of land donated by the Ogumbiyi family
— 13 hectares of land in Jalingo under construction for a care center
— 7 hectares of land in Jimeta where we are building a retreat center
— 72 2-bedroom flats constructed at Masaka, where some of our displaced members are living today
— 13 hectares of land in Jos for future development.
— 6 staff houses and student quarters constructed at Chinka for the use of our model secondary school
— A well fashioned Annex office in Jos

In addition:

— A microfinance banking operation will soon start in Jemita
— A Brethren University Committee and investments have been inaugurated, the start of work to find ways that we can establish our Brethren University
— A Women Ministry impressive plan for establishment of a school and Skill Acquisition Center for widows and orphans

The EYN headquarters has deposited, N23 million as part of her share in the Microfinance Banking. This brings to a total of N660, 720,069.72 as money spent by EYN throughout the period of the insurgency.

You also need to know that since the insurgents’ attack, we never stopped producing our diary and devotional materials, which are important for spiritual growth of our members. Our major conferences have been held freely without the normal registration fees. You can also remember that the office of the Ministers’ Council has been assisting the displaced pastors no matter how insignificant it appears to some of you. The pastoral officer has provided free resource materials to you and has assisted some of you during times of sickness, which was never a practice of the EYN headquarters.

Since the insurgency, the office of the Ministers’ Council has spent a total N21,611,000 on matters related to the insurgency that affected the pastoral ministry. You also need to know that none of our normal services has been halted because, wherever we are, we have been operating.

Now we are in the process of rebuilding and recovering some of our damaged assets as planned. As you can see, we have started working on the administrative block and repair on the old offices [in Kwarhi] and staff houses are in progress.

In view of all this, I can safely ask, what else do we need from God that He has not done for us during this period of crisis? Yes, we have not forgotten the fact that we have lost some of our friends, parents, husbands, wives, children, uncles, relatives, and countless properties. We have acknowledged these as part of our fatal injuries and we cannot recover any of them. They have gone forever and we cannot reverse the history but, we can recreate a new and better tomorrow.

We cannot afford to continue spending so much time and energy on being frustrated, grumbling and abusing, or blaming one another for what has happened. Instead, those of us who are still alive must make use of the time and the opportunity which God has graciously given to us. We need to recognize the grace of God and thank Him for taking us so far. The Lord is about to do something new in EYN and he has started. Hence, let us look forward to the new thing that the Lord is doing in EYN.

My dear brethren, remember that whatever position we hold, and wherever we work, we are all temporary workers. We are who we are today because of the grace of God and it may be you tomorrow. Understand that we are all instruments in the hands of God, which He can use at anytime, anywhere, and whenever He wishes. Since we have all experienced the grace of God, His loving care, we should have confidence in Him leading us to a better future. What God requires of us is trust and obedience, and not sentimental grumbling.

Thus, as leaders of the church at various level of the denomination, I would like to advise those who are interested in the progress of EYN to watch for the following tasks and challenges ahead and face them confidently and boldly without tribal sentiment and parochial worldview:

1. Do not condemn a crocodile until you cross the river.
2. Do not spend time and effort thinking about the past glory.
3. Do not join the bandwagon without thinking about the implications. Know that we will all come to give account to God on how we used the opportunity He has given to each one of us.
4. Support whatever it takes to ensure the establishment and maintenance of our Microfinance Banking as it will relieve EYN from dependency.
5. Support the Brethren University and Investment Committee to enable them to achieve the purpose for which they have been formed, so that EYN can realize her dream of owning a university.
6. Support and appreciate the office of the Ministers’ Council as it tries to develop the pastoral ministry to function better.
7. Support and ensure that our Care Centers under construction are completed.
8. Ensure that our dream to construct a retreat center in Jemita is realized.
9. Support the dream of the Women’s Ministry to establish a School and Skill Acquisition Center for our widows and orphans.
10. Do not stand as a road block to the work of God and cause others to sin.

Above all, love one another and work together in unity as co-workers in the vineyards of our Father, the head of the church. Thank you for listening and may God guides our steps as we move into a better future. Amen.

10) Brethren bits

Ed Groff, producer of “Brethren Voices” the community access television show provided through Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren, reports that two new stations are showing Brethren Voices. “Arlington Church of the Brethren is placing ‘Brethren Voices’ on their community television station in Arlington, Va., and the Brethren Heritage Center is placing Brethren Voices on the Dayton, Ohio, station with a TV audience taking in much of southern Ohio,” he reports. Over the years, various “Brethren Voices” programs have been broadcast in nearly 50 stations around the country, most of them downloaded from in non-Brethren related communities, according to Groff. The latest edition of “Brethren Voices” focuses on the ministry of the Brethren Heritage Center in the Miami Valley of western Ohio. For a copy or for more information contact Ed Groff at .

— In personnel announcements from Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs, will resign her position April 29; and Tara Shepherd of Bent Mountain, Va., will begin as a regional advancement officer on March 14.
Having accepted a call to ministry, Bekah Houff will resign her position as of April 29, and will be working in a half-time capacity as of March 1. She began her employment at Bethany in June 2012, having earned her maser of divinity degree from the seminary that year. She has worked primarily with programs of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, including EYC, Immerse!, and young adult events, and has coordinated the reinstated Bethany Peace Essay Contest for the past three years.
Tara Shepherd will fill a new position focused on strengthening Bethany’s relationships with donors and congregations in the eastern United States. Shepherd, who earned a master of divinity degree from Bethany in 2015, is a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren, and currently serves on the Virlina District Executive Committee as chair of the Commission on Nurture. She most recently has worked for Wells Fargo Bank, coordinating and supporting activities of strategy leaders and credit consultants.

— Resource Partners is seeking a chief executive officer to begin this spring. Resource Partners is a provider of alternative insurance and risk management programs to Peace Church organizations across the country. Based in Lancaster, Pa., Resource Partners serves nonprofit health and human services, mission, and other service agencies within the faith communities of Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker denominations. Resource Partners is governed by a strong, involved board of directors who represent Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker member/client organizations and associations. Essential duties of the CEO include implementing vision and strategy; anticipating future needs of constituents, envisioning creative responses to customers’ needs, and engaging staff in developing plans and new products to improve services and competitiveness; setting and taking direction (from the board) and establishing expectations and measurement for accountable, results-driven business achievements; communicating a vision of organizational success that helps stakeholders understand their role in achieving strategic goals of the organization; encouraging agility, innovation, and implementation of new ideas. The CEO leads and manages a team of highly effective, cohesive employees; values and preserves a team environment; maintains a work environment that encourages open communication and collaboration with employees; creates a climate of trust among employees, communicating openly and directly on issues of concern. In addition, the CEO ensures operational effectiveness, recommending an annual budget for board approval, allocating capital and funding, and managing resources within budget guidelines, according to current laws and regulations, among other responsibilities. Requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required: an energetic, forward-thinking, and creative individual with high ethical standards and an appropriate professional image; a strategic visionary with sound technical skills, analytical ability, good judgment, and strong operational focus; an individual experienced in the contracting process, negotiation, and leading and managing change; an intelligent and articulate individual who can relate to people at all levels within the organization; a decisive individual who possesses a “big picture” perspective and is well versed in systems and focused on technological advances; an individual capable of blending visionary, forward-thinking energy and activity with personal program management responsibilities; an individual who demonstrates genuine regard for the organization, its mission, services, and culture. Desired education and experience include a bachelor’s degree or equivalent; minimum 10 years executive management experience; ability to read, analyze, and interpret complex documents; ability to respond effectively to sensitive inquiries or complaints; ability to apply principles of logical thinking to a wide range of problems; ability to deal with variety of abstract and concrete variables; ability to understand dynamics of the marketplace. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. For more information go to .

— Choice Books is seeking a chief executive officer. Choice Books, LLC, is a faith-based organization that distributes over five million inspirational books annually to retailers in the secular marketplace. The organization’s current CEO is retiring in 2016 after 22 years of service. The successful candidate will have a passion for Christian ministry, strong servant-leadership skills, and solid business and management experience. Skills and qualifications include a business degree or the equivalent; willingness to lead in a complex, competitive, and rapidly changing environment; understanding of accounting systems, computer systems, and financial management systems; ability to work with a board of directors and to engage a broad and diverse group of distributor organizations; strong communication skills. Experience in retail/wholesale operations is preferred. The position is located in Harrisonburg, Va., and will begin in June or July. Express interest by sending a resume with a cover letter to .

— Feb. 24 is the last day to register for the 2016 Clergy Tax Seminar to be held on Feb. 29. Students, pastors, and other church leaders are invited to attend either in person at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., or online. Participants will learn how to file clergy taxes correctly and legally, learn how to comply with regulations while maximizing tax deductions, and earn .3 continuing education credit. The sessions will cover tax law for clergy, changes for 2015 (the most current tax year to file), and detailed assistance to correctly file the various forms and schedules that pertain to clergy. The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership recommends the seminar for all pastors and other church leaders who wish to understand clergy taxes, including treasurers, steward commission chairs, and church board chairs. The seminar begins Monday, Feb. 29, at 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Eastern time) with a morning session that offers .3 continuing education credit for live attendance, in person or online. After a lunch break it continues from 2-4 p.m. (Eastern). Cost is $30. Current students at Bethany, TRIM/EFSM/SeBAH, and Earlham School of Religion may attend at no cost, although registration is required. For those attending online, registration is required to provide web access to the seminar, and instructions and handouts that will be sent a few days prior to the event. Registrations are not complete until payment is received. Sponsors of this event are the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, the Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Leadership is provided by Deb Oskin, a Church of the Brethren minister who has been doing clergy tax returns since 1989, and spent 12 years with H&R Block (2000-2011) where she achieved certification as a master tax adviser and as a certified advanced instructor. Go to .

— A full list of 2015 allocations from the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) is now posted online at . The 20 grants total $208,553.96.

— An Action Alert from the Office of Public Witness encourages support for a “3rd Thursdays for Israel/Palestine” campaign. The campaign is sponsored by an interfaith partnership, and calls on US political leaders to address the consequences of Israeli settlement expansion. A briefing on the effects of settlement expansion on the village of Wadi Foquin will be held on Feb. 23, 12 noon-2 p.m., at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The panelists will include Ahmad Sokar, mayor of Wadi Foquin; Kifah Manasra, of Al Estiklal University; Shukri Radaydeh, director of the Bethlehem Local Governorate; and Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society. The event is sponsored by Churches for Middle East Peace, among other groups. For more information go to .

— Antelope Park Church of the Brethren in Lincoln, Neb., is hosting a discussion co-sponsored by the Lincoln Chapter of Nebraskans for Peace, and the Nebraska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. “Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si: On the Care of Our Common Home,” will take place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22. “Pope Francis’ encyclical concerning climate change both teaches about climate change and invites just action,” said an announcement. “As the encyclical says, ‘We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.’” The sponsoring organizations are asking what this encyclical’s position means for action in Nebraska and the region. The panelists who will lead the discussion are Lucas Sabalka, who has degrees in mathematics, computer science, history, physics, and psychology, and after working in research mathematics for a few years has returned to Lincoln to work in industry; Marilyn McNabb, who has worked for NFP, the Unicameral, the Nebraska Energy Office, and the Ombudsman’s office and has finished nine years on Lincoln Electric System’s board where she has participated in policy discussions related to climate change; and Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch, the Energy and Climate Policy Program Associate of the Center for Rural Affairs. Find an announcement of the event in the “Lincoln Journal Star” at .

— Whitestone Church of the Brethren in Tonasket, Wash., took part in the Souper Bowl of Caring on Feb. 7, and received donations totaling $644 for the Tonasket Food Bank. Whitestone is just one of the Church of the Brethren congregations that collect donations for hunger relief on Super Bowl Sunday. The Souper Bowl for Caring is a multi-denominational annual effort, often spearheaded by youth groups collecting donations from their congregations. For more information go to .

— Eaton (Ohio) Church of the Brethren is holding a Sewing Bee for Church World Service on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 9 a.m. “Sewers need to bring their sewing machine for sewing school bags for CWS kits.,” said an announcement. “If you want to sew, but don’t have a portable machine, we do have two sewing machines that can be used.” Call Barb Brower at 937-336-2442 to reserve a machine. Lunch will be served.

— The Ventures program at McPherson (Kan.) College is offering a Saturday morning seminar on March 5, led by Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary. The seminar will focus on trends in worship, under the title “Cymbals and Silence: The Changing Sounds of Worship and Prayer.” An announcement explained: “During the past 30 years, North Americans have witnessed some of the most surprising, powerful, and worrisome trends in worship since the time of the Protestant Reformation. What are these changes? What are we trying to ‘do’ in worship today and why? What are some of the ways that you and your congregation can invite new and faithful practices into your worship services.” The seminar will be held from 9 a.m.-12 noon (central time), and participants may attend the webinar online. There is no charge to attend, but .3 continuing education credit is available for a $10 fee. Register online and find out more about the event at .

— “Preaching in the Reign of God” is the topic of an Illinois and Wisconsin District continuing education workshop for ministers presented by Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary. The event is held at Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, Ill., on April 4-5. Dinner will begin at 5 p.m. Monday evening, April 4, with the workshop beginning at 7 p.m. The workshop will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, April 5, and end by 4 p.m. Participants will receive .8 continuing education credit. Cost is $75 and includes one night’s lodging at the retreat center, dinner on Monday, breakfast and lunch on Tuesday, and the fee for continuing education units. The district’s Ministerial Leadership Development Team is sponsoring the event. Registration is due by March 18. Contact the Illinois/Wisconsin District Office, 269 E. Chestnut St., Canton, IL  61520; 309-649-6008; .

— The Mid-Atlantic District Disaster Auction Benefit Dinner is co-hosted by Union Bridge Church of the Brethren and Bush Creek Church of the Brethren, at the Bush Creek Church in Monrovia, Md. The dinner is planned for March 12 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and benefit disaster ministries. For tickets contact Jeff McKee at 410-848-2720 or or John Laudermilch at 443-974-0228 or .

— A delegation of leaders from two Church of the Brethren districts–Southern Pennsylvania and Southeastern–plans to visit the Great Lakes region of Africa, from Feb. 22-March 6. The area includes nations long troubled by internal conflict and European colonization, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. There are congregations identifying themselves as Church of the Brethren scattered in the region, and the purpose of the trip is to hold teaching seminars with pastors and other leaders of these congregations, with the goal of facilitating their inclusion with the larger Church of the Brethren. The delegation will travel to the DR Congo and Rwanda. The group includes Southern Pennsylvania District moderator Chris Elliott and moderator-elect Marla Abe, and Southeastern District moderator Gary Benesh. An announcement said the group hopes the visit will help in the process of officially recognizing these new Brethren at the 2017 Annual Conference. The Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service is helping to facilitate the trip, and it is funded through donations from the two districts, Brethren World Mission, the Brethren Mission Fund, congregations, and individuals.

— Michigan District is taking up a District-Wide Love Offering for use by Flint Church of the Brethren, which is involved in community ministry during the water crisis in the city. The special offering was called for by the district’s Leadership Team, which is encouraging congregations to take up the offering at worship services on or before Feb. 28. “Thank you for sharing this and partnering with the followers of Christ in the Michigan District to show this tangible act of love to our Flint family in the faith,” said an announcement from district executive minister Nate Polzin.

— The 2016 Meat Canning Project, a partnership of Southern Pennsylvania District and Mid-Atlantic District, is scheduled for March 28-31, April 4-5, and April 6 for labeling only. Chicken is canned to distribute to needy individuals and families. This is the 39th year for the project. The canning takes place at Christian Aid Ministries in Ephrata, Pa. The Southern Pennsylvania District newsletter includes a flier with more information about the daily schedule, dress requirements for volunteers, and more. Find it on pages 12-13 of the newsletter posted online at .

— Camp Harmony is hosting a “Messiah in the Passover” Banquet on April 17, at 5 p.m. “Paul Cruz from Chosen People Ministries will be presenting this wonderful evening that opens up the Old Testament and gives Christians new insight into communion,” said an annoucement. More information will be available soon. The camp is located near Hooversville, Pa.

— Camp Blue Diamond is sponsoring a Youth Symposium on the theme, “Called to Radical Discipleship,” on Saturday, March 19, from 9 a.m., to Sunday, March 20, ending at 4 p.m. The event is for senior high youth in grades 9 through 12. Cost is $45, or $40 for those who register by March 1. “The Church of the Brethren was born out a desire to live a life of radical discipleship to Jesus Christ,” said an announcement. “What does it mean to be a radical disciple today? Are you ready to grow in your spiritual journey by giving careful attention to and a deeper commitment to following Christ today? Throughout this retreat we will explore ways to better understand some of the unique challenges and exciting possibilities that come from becoming ‘Dunker Punks’ in our communities and our churches.” Leadership includes Bekah Houff, coordinator of Outreach Programs at Bethany Theological Seminary; David Witkovsky, chaplain at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa.; and special guest Emmett Eldred, founder of . The camp is located near Petersburg, Pa. Find a registration form at’s/Youth%20Symposium%202016%20Registration.pdf .

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College hosted the kick-off of Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s new “It’s On Us PA” campaign to increase education around consent with the hope of eradicating sexual assault on college campuses. The campaign is an extension of the 2014 White House initiative that challenged colleges to protect students from sexual assault, said a report in “The Etownian” campus newspaper. The governor’s press conference was held in the Susquehanna Room on the Elizabethtown College campus on Jan. 29.

— The McPherson (Kan.) College Flory Public Policy Lecture on March 10 at 7-9 p.m. will be given by Andrew Loomis on the topic, “Economizing US Foreign Policy: Strategies and Tactics in International Conflict Prevention.” The lecture will be hosted at McPherson Church of the Brethren. Loomis, who grew up in the Church of the Brethren in central Pennsylvania, is a senior officer in the US State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. A release about the event noted this his work includes helping provide advice and support in local peace processes, developing strategy for the department to prevent violent conflicts, and working on policies that relate to conflict and unstable political environments. Previously, he worked as senior adviser to the Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, where his primary work was to develop and lead a strategy to help the State Department recognize and act upon areas where the risk of mass atrocities are high.

— Robyn Puffenbarger, an associate professor of biology at Bridgewater (Va.) College, has been named the first Visiting Consortium Scholar at George Mason University’s Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. The SMSC was established to provide proactive and innovative approaches to today’s ever-evolving threats to biodiversity, said a release. Bridgewater College is a member of the SMSC and has sent nine students through the SMSC semester program. Puffenbarger, who earned her Ph.D. in molecular genetics and immunology from the Medical College of Virginia, teaches genetics, biochemistry, immunology, ornithology and non-majors biology. “As a molecular biologist, I have wanted to do more with ecological issues,” said Puffenbarger. “This past fall, my genetics students identified fish in local streams by a molecular genetic technique of DNA barcoding. This spring, with the Smithsonian researchers and their class, I am going to learn eDNA techniques. This is a way to pull and identify DNA from the environment–the ‘e’ part of eDNA.” Puffenbarger, who is also a certified master gardener, said she wants to learn the technique and set up a collaboration with Smithsonian colleagues using eDNA sampling in the Shenandoah Valley.

Photo courtesy of Brian Daniels
Byron Miller preaches at Timbercrest Chapel


— Byron Miller celebrated his 102nd birthday by preaching at the Timbercrest Chapel, at the Timbercrest retirement community in North Manchester, Ind. “It’s time to stand up for Jesus,” Miller said, quoted by Brian Daniels in a Facebook post about the unique occasion. “It’s time to flex our spiritual muscle; too many of us are content to live our spiritual lives in a rocking chair.” Miller is a resident of the community’s Neighborhood Homes and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Katie Furrow, Lois Grove, Kendra Harbeck, Mary Kay Heatwole, Carl and Roxane Hill, Karen Hodges, Nathan Hosler, Beth Kelly, Fran Massie, E. Dale Mast, Ralph McFadden, Zakariya Musa, Nate Polzin, Walt Wiltschek, Jay Wittmeyer, Dale Ziegler, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. 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. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for Feb. 26.

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