Brethren bits for Feb. 28, 2020

Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) director Emily Tyler has expressed shock and heartbreak over recent news about Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche network of more than 154 communities in 38 countries where people with intellectual disabilities and those without intellectual disabilities live together in community. In a statement from L’Arche International, an inquiry that began in 2019 “received credible and consistent testimonies from six adult women without disabilities, covering the period from 1970 to 2005. The women each report that Jean Vanier initiated sexual relations with them, usually in the context of spiritual accompaniment.” BVS has had a long relationship with L’Arche communities, most recently in Ireland and Northern Ireland, sending volunteers to accompany L’Arche core members. Said Tyler, “As far as we are aware no BVS volunteers were directly affected by Vanier in this way. We are impressed by and respect the thorough investigation that L’Arche International initiated and support their recognition of ‘the courage and suffering of these women, and of those who may remain silent.’ This news in no way negates the meaningful and passionate work that BVSers and other L’Arche volunteers and staff do to create safe spaces for all its members, with and without disabilities. We look forward to continued partnerships with L’Arche communities around the world.”

— Prayer requests for the humanitarian relief effort in Maiduguri, Nigeria, and for the locust invasion of South Sudan have been shared by Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service:
     Yuguda Mdurvwa, who serves as disaster relief staff for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), has sent a call for prayer about relief supplies being stopped going into the city of Maiduguri, and being burned by Boko Haram. “As the insecurity situation is worsening in Nigeria, I humbly call for a prayer for God to take control of the situation,” Mdurvwa wrote. “As of the last two weeks, 30 people and 17 trucks full of grain were burnt down…just some kilometers to Maiduguri, when travelers were prevented to enter Maiduguri at the check point. On Tuesday this week, Korogilum and Tsaha in Chibok LGA [Local Government Area] were attacked, four boys, three girls, one woman, and a child were taken away, while schools and houses were burnt down. The Boko Haram are advancing and gaining ground in the Northeast and Northwest of the country. All roads leading to Maiduguri are dangerous, it takes courage and the grace of God for you to travel by road. In all these happenings we still have hope in God and are strong to continue with the humanitarian work taking security consciousness very seriously.”
     Roger Schrock, who has spent many years in South Sudan working for the Church of the Brethren, has shared about the locust threat moving into the country. “The place which was identified where the locusts have entered–Magwi–is just 40 to 50 miles southwest of Torit [where the Church of the Brethren work is centered]. The prediction is that they will be moving westward but who knows for sure. But no matter which direction they move, it will have a negative effect on the food security of South Sudan. One of the scary things is that Magwi is one of the sources of a breadbasket for Juba–so this could pose a huge threat to the food supply of the capital.”

— Camp Ithiel seeks a program director to oversee the planning and implementation of a vigorous summer camp ministry as part of the overall mission and ministry of Camp Ithiel. The camp is located near Gotha, Fla. This is a year-round, half-time salaried position based on an average of 20 hours per week, with many hours during the summer season and fewer hours in the fall, winter, and spring. A major focus is the summer camp program that begins with staff training and then runs for approximately six weeks in June through July as a co-ed residential program for children and youth in grades 1-12. A variety of programs are offered including a weekend camp for younger children, traditional week-long camps, a travel camp, and day camp (one week at camp, one week off site). The program director oversees the planning and implementation of all of these program opportunities, including recruiting and hiring additional staff and volunteer support, coordinating publicity and promotion, and ensuring that all supplies, equipment, transportation, food service, aquatics, and other needs are provided. Benefits include a salary based on experience and within the context of the nonprofit environment, onsite housing (optional), and professional growth funds. Qualifications include being a committed Christian with a willingness to accept the values of the Church of the Brethren; a spirit of cooperation and commitment to a team relationship with other camp staff; a personable style and skills in relating to staff, guests, and campers; strong computer and technology skills including word processing, database management skills, email, web-based research, and smart-phone usage; training and/or experience in camp leadership, small group camping, and outdoor living skills; training and/or experience in supervision; genuine interest in people of all ages and desire to help them form faith and grow in discipleship; detail-orientation with strong organizational skills to coordinate and manage programs, people, processes, and paperwork; excellent verbal and written communication skills; training and/or experience in staff training and supervision; a safety-conscious attitude and ability to abide by and enforce camp rules and policies. Candidates must be at least 21 years of age. Contact Mike Neff, director, for more information about how to apply and to request a complete outline of responsibilities at 407-592-4995 or . The deadline to apply is April 10.

— A joint statement on the US Department of Defense new landmine policy has been signed by the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy as one of the member organizations of the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines. “We, the undersigned organizations, strongly condemn the Trump Administration’s decision to lift existing United States prohibitions against the use of landmines,” the statement said, in part. “We urge the White House and Department of Defense to reconsider and take steps to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. We urge Congress to take immediate measures to block the deployment of landmines and prohibit the development, production, or other acquisition of new antipersonnel landmines. Landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons that maim and kill long after conflicts end. Over the past twenty years, the world has rejected antipersonnel landmines through the Mine Ban Treaty–to which 164 countries are states parties, including every other member of NATO. While still not a signatory, the U.S. has functionally adhered to several provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty–except those that would prohibit the U.S. from ordering the use of landmines on the Korean peninsula. This new landmine policy starkly sets the U.S. apart from its allies and has drawn international condemnation, including from the European Union. The United States has not used antipersonnel landmines since 1991, excluding the use of a single munition in 2002; it has not exported them since 1992 and has not produced them since 1997. In the last five years, only the government forces of Syria, Myanmar, and North Korea, as well as non-state actors in conflict areas, have used landmines. Of the more than 50 countries that once produced landmines, 41 have ceased production. Under this new landmine policy, the U.S. will rejoin a small handful of mine-producing countries. This is not company the U.S. should keep.”

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— A Lenten resource focused on the DACA experience is recommended by the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. The resource is provided through the Interfaith Immigration network and is available for free download from the group’s website. “During this season of Lent as we walk with Jesus along his path towards the cross, we invite you into a deeper partnership with Jesus against injustices in our society,” said an announcement. “We invite you to also learn about the #HomeIsHere campaign led by DACA leaders, and to connect, support, and stand together with the more than 700,000 DACAmented neighbors who are awaiting the Supreme Court decision regarding DACA before the end of June. Each devotion will share the words of DACA recipients about how their lives, communities, and congregations will be impacted if DACA protections are removed. Reflections will guide us through scriptures and themes to strengthen our readiness to face an uncertain future with courage, together!” Find the resource online at .

— On Earth Peace is inviting participation in a month-long program focused on discrimination and injustice in K-12 public education, as part of its racial justice organizing. Among leaders is Chyna Dawson, a tutor/mentor with the Black Child Development Institute in Greensboro, N.C., according to a release. “My work has not only shown me the tremendous effect that an achievement gap has on a student and their family, but the community as well. A good education is important, and our futures depend on the quality of our youth’s education today,” Dawson wrote. The program is intended to give participants a chance to learn about their own school districts, alongside other people from around the country. Participants will receive weekly structured engagement questions under the themes “Identity, Problem, Solutions, and Action.” Questions are intended to raise individual awareness of the educational experience provided by a school district to children and teens. “We will work to combat the nationwide education gap by first identifying possible issues within our own communities, then collaborating with each other to discuss possible reverse strategies,” said the announcement. The program runs March 1-April 1 with online Zoom meetings each Wednesday at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). Go to .

— Shenandoah and Virlina Districts have scheduled a “Calling the Called” event for April 17-18 at Brethren Woods, a camp and outdoor ministry center near Keezletown, Va. The event is an opportunity to identify people “who are gifted for potential set-apart and lay ministry. Congregations and pastors are encouraged to call people to ministry as the Holy Spirit leads,” said an announcement. “This experience is intended to be a time of exploration, and it is designed to encourage and assist those individuals who may be experiencing the call of God on their lives for ministry.” For a brochure and a registration form go to .

— Volunteers rebuilding homes that were destroyed by tornadoes that hit Ohio some months ago are getting attention from the Dayton Daily News. Among the volunteers are Church of the Brethren members working with a Southern Ohio and Kentucky project and Brethren Disaster Ministries. “The Repair and Rebuild Task Force’s goal is to have 40 to 50 tornado-damaged properties identified and ready for volunteers to tackle in March and April,” the paper reported. “About 25 homes are already on the list. The task force includes members from local governments, nonprofits and faith-based disaster recovery groups.” Find the article at .

— A Simple Living Weekend is offered by the camping and retreat ministries of Southern Ohio and Kentucky District, planned for March 27-28 at Cricket Holler near Dayton, Ohio. Cost is $25 or $15 for Saturday only. “Everyone is invited to join in this unique time of remembering, sharing, and learning more about simplifying our lives in this busy, complicated world,” said an announcement. “There will be activities, classes, and discussions for all ages.” Sessions on Saturday will address a variety of topics including “Waste Free Living” led by Katie Heishman, “Screen Free Living” led by Tim Heishman, “Bread Baking” led by Karen Dillon, “Global Warming Issues” led by Mark Lancaster, “Making Reusable Lunch Bags” led by Susan Fitze and Susan Wible, “Solar Cooking and Dehydrating” led by Dan Royer-Miller, “Turning Junk Mail into Paper Treasurers” led by Alison Rusk. Other presenters and organizations will provide information on urban gardening, recycling, and simplifying our lives. For a brochure go to .
— A group of Bridgewater (Va.) College students and staff “will put on tool belts and pick up hammers as they spend spring break volunteering as construction workers with Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Spring Break 2020,” said a release from the college. “Desiring an alternative way to spend their spring break–in lieu of the traditional beach scene–19 students opted for working with Habitat for Humanity in Mobile, Ala.” The group will be accompanied by college chaplain Robbie Miller, and will be traveling to Alabama from March 1-7. The Bridgewater College Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity was established in 1995 and is one of nearly 700 campus chapters worldwide. It is affiliated with Central Valley Habitat for Humanity in Bridgewater, and helps provide shelter to the residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Va. This is the 23nd year that Bridgewater students have used spring break to work on various Habitat projects.

— The March program of “Brethren Voices” is titled “The World Friendship Center: Hiroshima: 75 Years Later.” This television show is produced by Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren and provided as a resource for community access cable television and small groups such as Sunday school classes and Bible studies. “It’s been nearly 75 years since that first use of an atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan, on August 7, 1945 (Japanese time),” said an announcement. “Hundreds of thousands of people died because of the initial blast and radiation-related illnesses directly after the bombing. Deaths due to radiation even extended to years later…. It was on August 7, 1965, 20 years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, that Barbara Reynolds founded the World Friendship Center, dedicated to providing a place where people from many nations could meet and share their experiences. It’s a place where people can come together and reflect on peace and a world without nuclear weapons.” This program is based on a visit to the World Friendship Center by Brent Carlson, host of “Brethren Voices,” and his conversation with the Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) workers who are currently directing the activities of the center, Roger and Kathy Edmark from Lynwood, Wash. The music of Mike Stern, a Church of the Brethren member from Seattle, Wash., is featured. In October 2020, the World Friendship Center will host a concert by Stern (see ). Also featured is a performance of “One World” sung by Mike and Eriko Kirsch, in Japanese, to the sights of the Peace Park in Hiroshima. Go to .

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— The World Council of Churches (WCC) is seeking young songwriters to enter a song-writing competition for its 11th Assembly. The Worship Planning Committee together with the WCC Youth Engagement program are presenting a creative opportunity to young people between the ages of 18 and 35 who attend a WCC member church–which includes the Church of the Brethren. “The Youth Song Writing Competition at the 11th Assembly in 2021 is an intentional effort of the WCC to engage young people in every aspect of what we do in the life and works of the whole fellowship,” said Joy Eva Bohol, WCC program executive for Youth Engagement. Contestants are expected to compose their songs around the assembly theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” The top eight songs selected from each region will be included in assembly worship resources. Songs can be written in any language but must be accompanied with an English translation. Every submission will be reviewed by a dedicated committee. The top three entries may be invited to lead and perform their songs in a musical event during the assembly. Download the entry form at . Download the Guidelines and Mechanics form at . Download the competition flyer at . Submission deadline is June 30.

— In more news from the World Council of Churches, the WCC Central Committee is postponing its upcoming meetings, according to a release, “in light of concerns about and implications of the current international spread of COVID 19, the coronavirus.” The upcoming full WCC central committee meeting, currently slated for March 18-24, along with the executive committee meeting that was to precede it, are postponed to June and August. “The decision is a prudential one, taking into account all relevant information and assessing the total risks for the participants, the WCC as an organization, the integrity of a meeting of the governing bodies under these circumstances, and for the health of all involved,” said WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom.

— A McPherson (Kan.) College alumna, Pam Tucker, is featured in a groundbreaking story published by “USA Today” titled “1619: Searching for Answers: Pam’s family enslaved black people. Wanda believes her ancestor was one of them. They met, and are confronting a painful history.” Written by Rick Hampson as a special to “USA Today,” the story was published in mid-December. Tucker’s mother, Norma Tucker, was a long-time faculty member at McPherson. “USA Today” reports they were aware of their ancestors as slave-holders, but hadn’t known the whole history. The newspaper story unpacks the relationship between Wanda Tucker, descended from “the first identified African child born on the mainland of English America–the first African American,” and Pam Tucker’s family. The two women agreed to meet. “The white woman, 60, wants to help heal the wounds of the past; the black woman, 62, wants to learn more about the past. The white woman is contrite over past wrongs; the black woman, although she tries to suppress it, is angry over past wrongs. In a country that often seems bent on denying, altering or simply forgetting its racial past, these two women have decided to confront it–sincerely and, as it will turn out, painfully.” The story is at .

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