Brethren bits for Sept. 19, 2020

Remembrance: Dallas Oswalt, 92, a former Church of the Brethren mission worker in Nigeria, passed away on Aug. 14. He was living in Charlotte, N.C. His early church work included volunteering at age 17 as a seagoing cowboy for the Brethren Service Committee, sailing to Italy with the fourth transatlantic livestock delivery. He married Jean Eidemiller in 1950 and they lived and worked together in the US, where they launched their careers, followed by 11 years in Nigeria and 18 years in India. Their daughter Karen Sue was born in Nigeria in 1954 and their son Kris Sydney was born in Indiana, USA, in 1957. The Oswalts served in Nigeria with the Church of the Brethren mission from 1953 to 1956 and 1960 to 1969. Positions he held there included teacher and vice principal at Waka Teacher Training College; principal of the Secondary Boarding School in Waka; assistant field secretary for the mission; coordinator of the Christian Rural Fellowship of West Africa; acting superintendent of schools for one year; and chair of the Mission Rural Development Committee for farmer assistance and guidance. After leaving Nigeria, he returned to Purdue University to conduct post-graduate research, earning a doctorate in agronomy. He and his wife set out again overseas, and he served as a researcher and educator at an international crop research institute in India. He committed his professional career to implementing the scientific findings of his doctoral research on the nutritional value of sorghum, the most important grain for feeding billions of people surviving on subsistence farming in the semi-arid tropics. The family has developed a website tribute to his life at www.dallasoswalt.info .

Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) has updated its Church Workers Assistance Plan (CWAP) program to assist employees of Church of the Brethren congregations, districts, or camps who experience adverse financial impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. The update now extends effective dates from Aug. 1, 2020, through Nov. 30, 2020. The fund is available to active employees of a church, district, or camp, who have been employed for at least five years. Applicants with less than five years of tenure will require review as an exception. Applicants are asked to complete a streamlined application form and provide a narrative description of the nature and amount of their need. Each application requires the affirmation of the appropriate district executive. BBT staff will review each application for need and determine if it falls within the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant underwriting guidelines. If an applicant does not qualify under the streamlined emergency guidelines, they may be referred to BBT’s standard CWAP application process. Those who have already received financial assistance through BBT’s COVID-19 Emergency Grant and need additional assistance may reapply for the second round of funding. Direct inquiries to Debbie Butcher at 847-622-3391 or pension@cobbt.org .

Shipments of relief goods are continuing to be made from the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program based at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Recent shipments include 12,000 quilts sent to Chile and Zambia in a shipment that also included school, baby, and fabric kits. Each filled one 40-foot container. On behalf of Church World Service and International Orthodox Christian Charities, the program shipped 13,000 school kits to Romania. In response to Hurricane Laura, Church World Service sent three shipments totaling 2,000 cleanup buckets and other kits to Texas and Louisiana.

The Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) continue to be the only partners in Nigeria for the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL), according to an update from Jeff Boshart of the Church of the Brethren Global Food Initiative (GFI). The SIL’s recent “Activities and Impact Report” is the source of the information. The SIL is based at the University of Illinois and funded by a grant from USAID. Boshart said he looks forward to a “likely change in 2021 as we hope to hold an SIL multicrop thresher workshop in the second half of the year at the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Nigeria. Lord willing, that will include other NGOs who are working in northeast Nigeria.” SIL has been awarded a new USAID grant for a “next step” or “scale up” initiative called i2i, Innovation to Impact, Boshart said. “SIL will be the lead of this effort that will create a platform for assisting entrepreneurs across Africa who wish to take an idea and turn it into a business with continental or even global reach.”

Midland (Mich.) Church of the Brethren and the Midland Quiltmakers have been busy during the pandemic, according to a recent letter to the editor from Judy Harris, published by Our Midland online. Among recipients of the quilts that have been made in recent months are several mission workers affiliated with various Christian organizations and denominations, which received between 12 and 150 quilts each. Up next for the group is a donation of 100 baby quilts to Samaritan’s Purse “as a thank you from the grateful people of Midland for sending teams of workers to help anyone whose house was flooded and needed help cleaning up.” The letter said the quiltmakers were 450 quilts short of a goal to make 30,000. See the full letter at www.ourmidland.com/opinion/letters/article/Pandemic-can-t-hold-back-Midland-Quiltmakers-15540828.php .

Illinois and Wisconsin District is planning a book study Zoom series on the topic, “Conversations on Race–Engaging and Transforming the Beloved Community” with facilitators Dennis Webb, pastor of the Naperville congregation, and Christy Waltersdorff, pastor of the York Center congregation. The book to be studied is White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Race by Robin DiAngelo. The series takes place on six Thursday evenings from 7-8:30 p.m. (Central time) on Nov. 12, Dec. 3 and 17, Jan. 7 and 21, and Feb. 4. Said a description: “A white woman named Christy Waltersdorff. A black man named Dennis Webb. Dennis was born and grew up in a country where almost everyone was black and familiar. Christy grew up in a country where white people were the dominant culture, and familiar to her. God would have it that the Church of the Brethren has brought us together. We met first as pastoral colleagues and chose to become friends. We have chosen to make our racial and cultural differences become a blessing, instead of an anemic, made-up, foundationless racial separation. We bring this as a part of our offering to you as the facilitators of this conversation. We confess that we don’t know it all. We would like to learn from you and with you concerning this issue of race. Why? When the barrier of racial separation is overcome, its reality leads us closer to God’s vision of the beloved community. We see each other ‘face to face’–as God intended.” To sign up for the book study contact the district office at andreag.iwdcob@gmail.com .

Juniata College, a Church of the Brethren-related school in Huntingdon, Pa., has gained good rankings in this year’s listings of colleges and universities across the US. “We are celebrating being ranked 84th in the US News & World Report’s best liberal arts colleges in the nation, 73rd of 218 in the Washington Monthly’s annual poll of liberal arts colleges, and, once again, being named among the Princeton Review’s best colleges in the US,” said an announcement from Juniata president James A. Troha. “I want to thank our Board of Trustees, our outstanding faculty, and all of our dedicated staff and administration for their continued commitment in making Juniata one of our nation’s best colleges.”

McPherson (Kan.) College is reporting record enrollment for the fifth year in a row bolstered by a new student cohort of 300 and an increase in overall retention, said a release from the school. This semester, total headcount for the college is 864, including 790 fulltime degree-seeking students, 25 graduate students, as well as part-time students. “McPherson College continues to make great progress despite the challenges of this year,” president Michael Schneider said. “Our Student Debt Project and Bulldog Adventures programs encourage students to return to McPherson College, and new academic programs like Health Sciences are attracting new students.” The Student Debt Project combines financial literacy, mentoring, and matching funds supporting students on a path to zero student debt. Bulldog Adventures provides opportunities for students to get out and explore Kansas through activities like hiking, float trips, a fishing derby, and lawn games. The college introduced a new academic program this fall that offers majors in health science and healthcare management with student field experience with community partners to gain real-world training in a variety of health care professions.

Marking the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, Bread for the World is sharing Finding Hope, Ending Hunger on Both Sides of the Border: A Bilingual Latino Devotional. Bread for the World is a partner organization with which the Church of the Brethren has engaged in work for food security. “This devotional celebrates the hope, faith, and resilience of Latino communities, while also lamenting the evil of inequitable policies that, to this day, continue to oppress our people leading to hunger and poverty in the United States and south of the U.S.-Mexico border–even further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said an announcement. “This bilingual Latino devotional invites you to reflect biblically on the interconnectedness of hunger, malnutrition, and climate change, issues that negatively impact Latino communities in the United States and drive migration abroad. Rooted in Christ, we can actively work against poverty by advocating for public policies that foster racial equity, shared prosperity, and opportunity for all.” Download the devotional at www.paperturn-view.com/us/bread-for-the-world/finding-hope-ending-hunger-on-both-sides-of-the-border-a-bilingual-latino-devotional?pid=MTE112594&v=1.1 .

Lois Clark, a Church of the Brethren member, has received attention from the South Bend Tribune as a unique role model as a longtime activist. An article by Tribune correspondent Kathy Borlik published Sept. 6 reported that Clark “recently celebrated her 98th birthday [on Aug. 18] by receiving dozens of cards from area friends who wrote original poems in her honor.” She is described as having “a sparkle in her eyes when she talks about getting involved in causes such as the United Religious Community, League of Women Voters, Head Start, and the Parent Teacher Association. She never moved anything to the backburner. She has devoted her life to reducing violence, hostility, and prejudice. Sounds like someone we need now.” In the article, Clark attributed her activism to her Church of the Brethren pastor father and to her grandfathers who founded Church of the Brethren congregations. “You asked what keeps me going. My beliefs and my need to promote peace, justice and democracy,” she said. “Life has been very good to me.” Find the full article at www.southbendtribune.com/news/community/activism-has-made-98-year-old-lois-clark-a-role-model-for-many/article_576b4628-ed7c-11ea-ae84-17b7957e29ba.html .

A portion of the Hymn Society’s article about Nancy Faus-Mullen, written by Eileen M. Johnson.

Nancy Faus-Mullen of Richmond, Ind., who is Brightbill Professor Emerita of Ministry Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary, has been named a Fellow of the Hymn Society of North America. She received this highest honor from the society at the 2020 Hymn Society Conference this summer. Jeffrey Clouser, director of Music Ministries at Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, provided Newsline with a copy of the Hymn Society article about Faus-Mullen, written by Eileen M. Johnson. The article noted that the award was conferred for her work as a hymnal editor, an educator, a researcher in the area of Brethren hymnody, and for continuously promoting the voice of the congregation through song. Faus-Mullen was a key figure in the creation of Hymnal: A Worship Book as a joint publication of the Church of the Brethren and the Mennonite denominations, chairing the hymnal project from 1986 to 1992. She then chaired the committee that created the follow-up Hymnal Supplement. Her personal history includes some firsts, according to the article: When she started at Bethany Seminary in 1976 as campus pastor she was the first woman to serve on the faculty in several decades, and she also was the first ordained woman to serve on the faculty. After 1977 she became Instructor in Church Music and in the 1980s revitalized the seminary’s music program, directing the seminary choir for chapel services and tours. Previous to her service at Bethany, she taught at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. She joined the Hymn Society when she was a seminary student in the 1950s, and ended up as a life member and served as president from 2000 to 2002. She was an early advocate for inclusive language, the article said, and also embodied Brethren values of peace and justice in her work. The article quoted from her foreword to her hymn collection Singing for Peace: “God’s peace and peace among nations come not simply from the absence of war but as we live and work and walk together in love and compassion. As we yearn for peace, pray for peace, and work for peace, may we do so Singing for Peace!”

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