Newsline for April 11, 2020

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“But as for you, be brave and don’t lose heart” (2 Chronicles 15:7a).

NEWS

1) Southern Ohio/Kentucky District hosted Mission and Ministry Board meeting in mid-March
2) Material Resources sends shipments of face shields and masks
3) Disaster grants go to continuing hurricane response and COVID-19 response
4) GFI grants go to agriculture projects in Nigeria, Rwanda, Guatemala, Spain, Burundi

PERSONNEL

5) Ed Woolf promoted to treasurer, Pat Marsh to assistant treasurer for the Church of the Brethren
6) Bethany Seminary announces personnel changes in communications

UPCOMING EVENTS

7) Webinar offers insights for ‘Leading in a Time of Crisis’
8) Rwanda workcamp is postponed to May 2021

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

9) Brazil: ‘Our ministry is not limited by our church boundaries’
10) Nigeria: A very trying moment for the church of God
11) Rwanda: Gratitude for the help
12) Democratic Republic of Congo: ‘We started already to distribute relief to the people’
13) Spain: ‘Our seven churches are safe’
14) Venezuela: Prayer requests for peace

REFLECTION

15) Moderator’s spring letter to the church is a reflection on upheaval

16) Brethren bits: Brethren Village reports COVID-19 cases and deaths, Juniata professor develops new way to test for COVID-19, “New Yorker” piece on hospice care in China features Church of the Brethren worker, National Youth Sunday Idea Swap, Good News Youth Devotional, new online form to submit information for “Messenger” Turning Points, more


Quote of the week:

“Only by coming together will the world be able to face down the Covid-19 pandemic and its shattering consequences…. We simply cannot return to where we were before Covid-19 struck, with societies unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis. The pandemic has reminded us, in the starkest way possible, of the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services. It has underscored and exacerbated inequalities, above all gender inequity, laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of invisible and unpaid care labour. It has highlighted ongoing human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women…. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The recovery must lead to a different economy.”

— António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, in statement published April 2 titled “Recovery from the coronavirus crisis must lead to a better world.”

1) Southern Ohio/Kentucky District hosted Mission and Ministry Board meeting in mid-March

Oakland Church of the Brethren hosts the Spring 2020 meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board. Photo by Nancy Miner

The spring meeting of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board was held March 13-16 at Oakland Church of the Brethren in Bradford, Ohio. Southern Ohio/Kentucky District hosted the board meeting, arranging the venue, meals, and other hospitality. Leading the meeting were chair Patrick Starkey with chair-elect Carl Fike and general secretary David Steele.

The meeting originally was to take place at the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio, but it was moved to the Oakland church after the retirement community–which houses a nursing home as well as independent living and assisted living for seniors–decided it was no longer able to welcome visitors into its facilities.

On March 12, a day before the meeting started, Ohio governor Mike DeWine declared a state ban on mass gatherings of 100 or more people in order to mitigate spread of the virus. Months in advance, board members and/or staff had been invited to preach for Sunday morning worship at 11 of the Church of the Brethren congregations in the area. Most of those congregations canceled in-person worship that Sunday, but three of the preachers were able to bring their messages as planned.

The board also was to attend a district-sponsored performance by Ted Swartz and Ken Medema, but the event was canceled. The board’s visit to Bethany Theological Seminary, just over the state border in Richmond, Ind., went ahead.

Agenda and actions

The meeting agenda was marked by numerous reports, among them financial outcomes for 2019; “ministry sharing” reports from the Office of Ministry, Discipleship Ministries, and Global Mission and Service; reports from various board committees; and a report on the compelling vision to be brought to the 2020 Annual Conference.

Annual Conference secretary James Beckwith led a board development training on “Mission and Ministry Board within Church of the Brethren Structure.”

The following actions were taken:

— John Mueller was welcomed as a new board member filling the uncompleted term of Marcus Harden, who has resigned from the board.

— After receiving an extensive report on the Nigeria Crisis Response, approval was given for a grant of $300,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to cover the remaining 2020 program expenses and to carry the response through March 2021.

— Two recommendations from the Strategic Design Team were approved, first to engage the services of a consultant to coach the work toward a new strategic plan, and second to name an expanded committee to bring a strategic plan for board approval. Named to the Strategic Plan Formation Team were Carl Fike, board chair-elect who will serve as convenor; board members Lauren Seganos Cohen, Paul Schrock, and Colin Scott; Russ Matteson, district executive from Pacific Southwest District; Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, who has led the compelling vision process; and Josh Brockway as staff in Discipleship Ministries.

— A short-term committee was formed to bring a recommendation to the board for how to use the Brethren Service Center Quasi-endowment. The committee includes three board members–Roger Schrock as convenor, Paul Liepelt, and Diane Mason–and a staff member to be named by the general secretary.

— Denise Kettering-Lane was appointed to a four-year term on the Brethren Historical Committee beginning July 1. She is assistant professor of Brethren Studies at Bethany Seminary.

For more about the Mission and Ministry Board, go to www.brethren.org/mmb .

2) Material Resources sends shipments of face shields and masks

Cartons of face shields shipped to Italy by Material Resources for use in the struggle against COVID-19. The contents are wrapped in black plastic to protect against pilfering. Photo courtesy of Material Resources

The Material Resources program of the Church of the Brethren has been making shipments of face shields and masks to Italy and other areas needing COVID-19 supplies. Working out of warehouse facilities at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., Material Resources staff inventory, pack, and ship disaster relief goods, medical supplies, and other materials on behalf of a number of partner organizations. 

A shipment to B’nai Brith in Italy included 20 pallets of face shields containing 540 cartons. The contents were covered in black to reduce the risk of pilfering.

Two additional shipments were designated for Italy on behalf of Brother’s Brother Foundation. Two health organizations will be receiving them in Italy.

On behalf of Brother’s Brother Foundation, the program shipped 2 pallets of masks to a facility in Boston, Mass.

Brother’s Brother Foundation also provided 21 cartons of exam gloves and 2 cases of tie face masks to the local community of New Windsor, via mayor Neal Roop.

Find out more about Material Resources at www.brethren.org/brethrenservicecenter/materialresources .

3) Disaster grants go to continuing hurricane response and COVID-19 response

In recent weeks the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) has disbursed several grants, directed by the Brethren Disaster Ministries staff. The largest are helping to continue hurricane recovery work in Puerto Rico ($150,000), the Carolinas ($40,500), and the Bahamas ($25,000). Grants for COVID-19 response are going to Honduras (two grants for $20,000 and $4,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo ($15,000), and South Sudan ($4,000).

For more information about the EDF and to donate to this relief work go to www.brethren.org/edf .

Puerto Rico hurricane response

Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers work to repair a roof in Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of Bill Gay

An allocation of $150,000 continues funding for the Puerto Rico hurricane long-term recovery program organized and managed by Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren. The effort responds to the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. This comprehensive relief and long-term recovery program focuses on the communities around the seven Church of the Brethren congregations in Puerto Rico.

This allocation is made in addition to four previous EDF grants, for a total of $600,000. It will support the project for another 3 to 4 months.

In addition, a grant of $5,000 has been given for the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren to respond to emergency unmet needs as a result of the January earthquakes.

Brethren Disaster Ministries hurricane rebuilding project in the Carolinas

A grant of $40,500 finances the remaining work at the Brethren Disaster Ministris rebuilding site in the Carolinas, supporting recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and Hurricane Florence in September 2018.

Hurricane Matthew rebuilding took place in Marion County, S.C., from September 2017 through May 2018, and then in Lumberton, N.C., starting in April 2018. After Hurricane Florence hit both states, re-affecting many who had just recovered from Hurricane Matthew, the project was reduced to a single site, with monthly and long-term leadership committed to serve in 2020. In February 2020, BDM made the decision to extend the Memorandum of Understanding with the housing location from April to August 2020 based on work, leadership, and weekly volunteer availability.

COVID-19 has affected volunteerism and the ability to travel beginning in March and the site is on suspension pending changes in social distancing and stay-at-home orders. BDM remains in close communication with partners and will monitor CDC and federal and local government guidance to determine when it is safe to send volunteers. EDF funding is being planned in case it is possible.

Along with prior EDF grants for this project a total of $216,300 has been allocated.

Church World Service relief in the Bahamas

An allocation of $25,000 supports the Church World Service (CWS) response to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. The hurricane made landfall last September. CWS, working with the ACT Alliance, has developed a long-term recovery program focused on supporting the most vulnerable migrant population, because other organizations are focused on Bahamian residents. The goal is to assist local organizations and congregations to build their long-term recovery capacity and work with civil society and humanitarian organizations to address immediate needs in ways that contribute to durable solutions. The response also includes advocacy for the human rights of the migrant population. A previous grant of $10,000 was given to the project in September 2019.

COVID-19 response in Honduras

A grant of $20,000 has been given for Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG) support for community pharmacies in central and western Honduras. PAG, which is directed by a Church of the Brethren member, is being proactive in preparing for the anticipated spread of COVID-19 in the area. Community pharmacies will become the first line of defense in preparing communities to combat the virus by implementing simple hygiene procedures and helping the population to be healthier and more resistant to the virus. They are working to restock before movement within the country is further restricted. PAG has been in contact with pharmaceutical supply houses and has obtained the necessary government documentation to travel and move the supplies by truck from one part of the country to another. Grant funds will assist with the purchase of medicines, medical and cleaning supplies, canned goods, and other necessary items.

In addition, a grant of $4,000 supports distribution of food baskets to vulnerable families in the Flor del Campo area of Tegucigalpa by Iglesia Cristiana Viviendo en Amor y Fe (VAF), an independent church with connections to the Church of the Brethren. The province of Francisco Morazán, where the capital city of Tegucigalpa is located, currently has the most cases in the country. The government has taken strict action to close borders, schools, markets, and businesses, and has instituted regulations to control the movement of people. These actions have had an especially detrimental effect on the most vulnerable populations who, even in the best of times, suffer from high poverty levels and income inequality. VAF has identified families with which it works who have not received any assistance from the government or relief organizations and will provide 25 of the poorest families with a monthly emergency basket of basic food products for four months.

COVID-19 response by IMA World Health in Democratic Republic of Congo

An allocation of $15,000 supports IMA World Health in establishing a free-standing COVID-19 isolation and treatment center in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In anticipation of increased numbers of people requiring medical care, the DRC Ministry of Health has designated the non-profit HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma as a COVID-19 isolation and care facility. IMA World Health is supporting HEAL Africa’s efforts and requested funding to assist in the transformation of a former hotel property into an isolation and care unit capable of receiving and holding 25 to 30 patients at a time. The hospital is close to the DRC Church of the Brethren congregations, including one in Goma. HEAL and IMA are uniquely positioned to respond quickly and effectively, leveraging both organizations’ experiences with responding to the Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo.

COVID-19 response in South Sudan

A grant of $4,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund to provide seed funds for a COVID-19 response in South Sudan, to be carried out by Church of the Brethren mission staff. South Sudan has closed its borders to travelers, closed markets, and is restricting travel, creating hardships for many people and limiting access to food for the most at-risk and vulnerable people. After years of civil war, families are returning from refugee camps to rebuild their lives, but with few or no resources, and government aid to starving people is limited. The Church of the Brethren mission, based in Torit, is supporting agricultural development and education, teaching peace and reconciliation, and will soon be building churches in communities being evangelized. Funds and resources are needed for staff to respond to the COVID-19 restrictions. This grant will allow mission staff to respond to arising needs.

4) GFI grants go to agriculture projects in Nigeria, Rwanda, Guatemala, Spain, Burundi

Mari Calep, Agriculture Department volunteer, waters trees in the EYN orchard. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

The Global Food Initiative of the Church of the Brethren has made several grants in recent weeks. Among them are grants to a soybean value chain project and an orchard irrigation well of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Other grants are going to a pig project in Rwanda, a corn project in Guatemala, garden projects in Spain, and a conservation seminar in Burundi.

For more about the Global Food initiative and to donate to this work, go to www.brethren.org/gfi .

Nigeria soybean project

An allocation of $12,500 supports the Soybean Value Chain project of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The project is in its third year. Agriculture staff in EYN’s Integrated Community Based Development Program have made plans for the continuation of the project in 2020 including quality seed multiplication; support of 15 volunteer extension agents; training on soybean processing for women; advocacy for soybean production; processing and marketing within EYN and beyond; and a 10 percent administration fee for EYN’s general operating costs.

Nigeria orchard irrigation well

A grant of $6,800 supports the drilling and installation of an irrigation well for a demonstration and teaching orchard at EYN headquarters in Kwarhi, Nigeria. The orchard, operated by the agriculture staff, was established in 2018 and is currently irrigated with water from the same well providing water to all residences and office buildings. Several large, new buildings have been built, which will increase the demand for water at EYN headquarters. As the fruit trees grow, drip irrigation will be used not only for the trees but also to grow vegetables between the trees until they are mature and fruit-bearing.

Rwanda pig project

A grant of $10,000 is given to the Church of the Brethren in Rwanda to expand an existing pig project. This is the second year of financial support for this project, and begins the “passing the gift” phase of the project. Animals from a central farm established in the first year will be given to families belonging to the Twa community. The plan is to distribute 180 pigs to 90 families over the next three years.

Guatemala corn project

A grant of $5,000 is going to a corn growing project in the villages of Estrella del Norte and Tochosh, Guatemala. The project was developed in response to the concerns of a member of West Charleston (Ohio) Church of the Brethren who is from this area of Guatemala where poverty and malnutrition have created a vicious chronic cycle, perpetuated for generations. High levels of chronic malnutrition, acute malnutrition, and anemia have become the norm. The program will work with 60 families, 31 from the community of Tochosh and 29 from Estrella del Norte, with the purpose of renting land where they can grow corn. Participant selection will be based on needs, giving priority to families with high levels of malnutrition and without access to other land.

Garden projects in Spain

A garden project of the Gijon congregation of Iglesia Evangelica de los Hermanos (the Church of the Brethren in Spain) in Asturias, is receiving a grant of $4,400. This is the fifth year this garden project is receiving a GFI grant.

A garden project of the Lanzarote congregation in Spain, located in the Canary Islands, is receiving a grant of $3,520. This is the fifth year for this garden project to receive a GFI grant.

Burundi conservation seminar

A grant of $539 is covering costs of a one-day training seminar on conservation agriculture techniques in Burundi. The seminar is a special event for 20 key participants in an ongoing five-year farmer training school project run by Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS).

For more about the Global Food initiative and to donate to this work of the Church of the Brethren, go to www.brethren.org/gfi .

PERSONNEL

5) Ed Woolf promoted to treasurer, Pat Marsh to assistant treasurer for the Church of the Brethren

Ed Woolf has been named treasurer and director of Finance for the Church of the Brethren. Pat Marsh has been named assistant treasurer and manager of Accounting. These announcements represent promotions for both staff people, who work out of the General Offices of the Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.

Woolf has worked for the denomination for more than 20 years, having begun in 1998 as a gift management/centralized resources assistant. He became assistant treasurer and manager of Gift Operations in 2015. Since August 2019, he has served as interim treasurer. As treasurer and director of Finance, Woolf will oversee the financial operations at both the General Offices and the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
 
Marsh has worked for the denomination for about 25 years. She began serving as accountant for the Church of the Brethren in 1995. She will continue to do so in her new position, in addition to providing support to the Treasurer.

6) Bethany Seminary announces personnel changes in communications

A release from Bethany Seminary

Jenny Williams, director of communications at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., has resigned her position as of March 27. She had been a member of the Institutional Advancement Department since coming to Bethany in August 2008.

Jonathan Graham has been named director of marketing and communications at Bethany, beginning April 1. He brings a wide range of experience in integrated marketing, creating print and digital content, and creative direction, including 15 years in higher education.

Jenny Williams

With a background in advancement services, Williams was hired as advancement office coordinator and coordinator of church relations. As part of her primary role in maintaining constituent records, she managed gift receipting, reporting, and communication with donors and churches. She also resumed database management during periods of staffing changes in later years.
 
In July 2011, Williams was promoted to director of communications with responsibility for oversight of Bethany’s brand and media presence, including chairing the Communications Committee. During her tenure, she served as editor of “Wonder & Word” magazine, managed advertising campaigns, provided news coverage, and produced and edited print and digital publicity. Additional responsibilities included coordinating the building of two websites, the seminary’s rebranding process in 2018, and Bethany’s yearly presence at Annual Conference. She also served as director of alumni relations 2011-2015.

Jonathan Graham

Most recently, Graham was associate vice president for marketing and communications at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. He previously worked for the University of Oregon as director of publications and held positions in marketing and communications for two professional theaters in the Washington, D.C., area. As a writer and editor, he has earned several awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
 
Having earned an MFA in theater arts from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Graham also has a background as a playwright and teacher. He is the author of 30 produced plays, and several of his works have been published and won contests. He has taught courses in creative writing and theater at Earlham College and Southern Illinois University.

UPCOMING EVENTS

7) Webinar offers insights for ‘Leading in a Time of Crisis’

A webinar to help offer insights for “Leading in a Time of Crisis” offered by the Church of the Brethren Discipleship Ministries will be held twice: on Wednesday, April 15, at 3 p.m. (Eastern time), and on Wednesday, April 21, at 8 p.m. (Eastern time).

Said an announcement: “In times like these, it is crucial that leaders remain calm under pressure, make the right decisions, and then effectively implement those decisions. What can leaders do when uncertainty lies at the heart of the COVID-19 crisis? The webinar will identify how people can feel overwhelmed, help people gain resilience, and the importance of making virtual social connections viable.”

This is a free, one-hour webinar. Ministers may receive 0.1 continuing education credit. Register in advance for the April 15 time slot at
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_yMUzFZuBSvuN4NIylKWorg and for the April 21 time slot at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9lBoYVjCRoiDTIR3_960Cw . After registering, a confirmation email containing information about how to link to the webinar will be sent.

8) Rwanda workcamp is postponed to May 2021

By Hannah Shultz

The Workcamp Ministry of the Church of the Brethren has made the decision to postpone the Rwanda workcamp until May 2021. This decision was made based on current coronavirus trends, recommendations from the CDC, and travel advisories from the State Department that suggest that international travel will not be safe in the coming weeks. Rwanda has taken extreme precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the country by greatly limiting air and land travel and implementing nation-wide stay-at-home orders.

Health and safety are our top priorities at workcamps, and we feel that this is the best decision for everyone involved. We plan to offer Rwanda as the international workcamp location for the summer of 2021 and look forward to serving alongside the Rwanda Brethren at that time.

Workcamp registration closed on April 1 and we are cancelling the We Are Able and Miami workcamps due to low registration numbers. We often have a few workcamps to cancel in April due to low registration, these cancellations are not related to COVID-19.

We continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Rwanda, for those around the globe who are ill from COVID-19, and for everyone who is working tirelessly to provide care during this time.

— Hannah Shultz is coordinator of short-term service for Brethren Volunteer Service and heads up the Workcamp Ministry.

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

9) Brazil: ‘Our ministry is not limited by our church boundaries’

“During these days of isolation and meditation, to get news from beloved people is inspiring,” said Marcos Inhauser. He and his wife, Suely, are leaders in Igreja da Irmandade-Brasil (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil). “As you know, we are in the mood as you in the United States. Social isolation, following the statistics about people that are infected, the number of daily deaths, taking care of necessary procedures, etc.

“In Brazil, churches are not allowed to have worship services. Some of them are having some virtual worship service that is bringing to Internet what they usually do: a group of people playing and singing and preaching.

“The characteristics of the Irmandade in Brazil does not allow us to do it. We have stressed the communitarian interpretation of the Bible, where all the participants are supposed to bring their interpretations. It fits with the idea of the priesthood of all believers. All the gifts of the church have the opportunity to build the whole body. It is not just the duty of the pastor, but it is the ministry of all people. It is not a matter of having someone preaching, but all people contributing, Thus, for us to do what others are doing does not fit. We are quite a different church!

“What we have done for two times until now is to have a Zoom session. People are invited to share their joys and concerns, and we do pray for each of them. In the second one, we had the time of sharing and also a teaching on being peacemakers. It was a kind of lesson or sermon, and I feel that people were not comfortable with this. We are looking for the way to be in the way we are used to be.

“Among the church members, we do have a quite stable situation. The majority have their own houses, typical job, and until now, regular salaries. It is good, but we know that jobs have been cutting down drastically…. I have many people that I do know lost their job or are at the point of losing it.

“Because of this, we are in coordination with the Mennonite Church to ask church families to adopt a needy family, providing them what they need, in the frame they can afford…. It was a personal commitment to love our neighbors.

“Suely and I decided to have more time pastoring in the social media. We do have countless people, both in WhatsApp and Facebook. We are asked to post videos with messages, and Suely, yesterday wrote to the people: ‘I prefer to pastor individually…. Shepherding is listening to them without judgment, it is crying together, it is also smiling with them, it is praying with them, it is strengthening them when their knees are shaky, it is helping them to feel loved and care for them. I am tired of seeing and hearing Christians fighting for political parties, defending, or attacking each other. There are many sick people who need to be accompanied and helped to act with the values of the Kingdom of God. I am striving not to fall into the commonplace. Count on me if you need to, but don’t expect sermons, I prefer prayers.’

“God bless you and all of us.”

Marcos Inhauser also reported that he continues to write a regular newspaper column, which he has done for almost 20 years, published each Wednesday and posted on Facebook and on a blog. His column has more than 10,000 readers, and he has learned that pastors are using the ideas in his columns for their sermons and classes at Sunday school.

Prayer requests from the church in Brazil:

Authorities are saying that the next two weeks in Brazil will be the worst. The Brazilian Brethren are praying and waiting for this time of turbulence.

The Inhausers seek prayer for Suely’s family therapy business using social media (Skype and WhatsApp), offering free services for some people who cannot afford to pay as a way to develop the ministry.

10) Nigeria: A very trying moment for the church of God

A handwashing station in Nigeria

“Thank you very much for your love and concerns about EYN,” wrote Joel Stephen Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). “Thank you for your prayers for us. We also pray for you always.

“Our Churches in Lagos and Abuja have been totally shut down. Members are encouraged to pray at home with their family members. Few churches are listening to their pastor’s sermon online…not all members are educated and have access to the Internet. In the northeast, life is still like normal. Some people don’t even believe that COVID-19 is real. But we are restraining people from handshaking. Weddings and funerals are still on going in the north. We are witnessing lots of death recently but not of coronavirus. Our weather is so harsh now.

“I have asked all pastors who are not yet in total shutdown zones to observe holy communion on Maundy Thursday without feetwashing, to avoid body contact.”

From Zakariya Musa, EYN communications staff:

“In Nigeria, the federal government has asked people, especially in the most hit states, to stay at home to reduce the spread of the infection. On April 5, the sample I gathered indicated that many places could not conduct church services, while those in rural areas with a far distance from major cities held their normal Sunday worship, while some gathered for brief worship services.

“The situation of total lockdown across Nigeria varies from one state to another based on their exposure or vulnerability to the infection. Some states are under total lockdown since two weeks ago, like Lagos. In the urban areas, the shutdown is stricter than in the rural areas. Staying at home also brings another hardship on masses, especially those who cannot afford two square meals a day even in normal times.

“Some churches are going online, however we cannot imagine that in many of our congregations in rural areas and up in the mountains. Even few in the urban areas have less access to online worship.

“Rev. Adamu Bello, who is the District Church Secretary (DCC) in Lagos, said, ‘No Sunday service,’ and they are staying indoors. In Jos, the capital of Plateau State, according to the pastor of EYN LCC Jos, they had about 10 to 20 who attended church service as movement is restricted. Some churches were able to conduct church services in some parts of Adamawa State with more emphasis on social distancing and handwashing and sanitizing. We had a church service at EYN LCC Mararaba which started at 7 a.m. and had a wedding solemnized all within two hours. Some activities were cut down and there was not as much singing as usual, with about six groups presenting songs during the worship service. In Kaduna, in north central Nigeria, they have remained indoors for about two weeks but were allowed for hours to come out to buy some food items, not going to church.

“As we continue praying for God’s intervention, the leadership of EYN is following some degree of measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by calling on pastors and leaders to encourage members to practice simple hygiene. President Billi has also ordered some of Headquarters staff to stay at home while a few come for some time. The EYN Headquarters was able to share a few hand sanitizers across departments, close communities, and security personnel.

“During the week, the EYN officials were able to officiate the burial service of the former EYN Board of Trustees chairman, the late Rev. Usman Lima, at Garkida, and a onetime chairman of the RCC Michika, Rev. Yohanna Tizhe, at Watu in Michika, both in Adamawa State.

“Another concern in Nigeria is the condition of the hospitals. Many communities, especially in northeast Nigeria, are either at recovery stage or in refugee camps because of Boko Haram activities. May God help us.”

A COVID-19 poster in Nigeria features EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache

From Markus Gamache, staff liaison for EYN:

“We as a Church of God continue to pray for one body all over the world and follow the rules put in place by the government. City church churches like Abuja are having online service every Sunday, water, and soap for handwashing all over EYN. Most churches are working with health professionals within each congregation and also working with the government to follow due process of shutdown time.

“The EYN headquarters are running skeletal services, the EYN president and a few key officers come within the working hours and check before going home. Working online from home is not yet well incorporated into our system.

“We did not receive any news of a case of an EYN member being infected or a death from coronavirus, as of today. This does not mean that we are not concerned about the people, both Muslims and Christians.

“Yes, it is indeed a very trying moment for the church of God. For EYN it is the most devastating situation. We are yet to recover from Boko Haram. If we are talking of time for prayers, this is the time that we need Jesus’ presence most to lift this pain, pandemic, terrorism, injustice, corruption, and much more.

“I would like to thank the leadership of the Church of the Brethren and all the brothers and sisters across the world for being in the gap always.”

Prayer requests from Nigeria:

Let’s continue praying for our good God to intervene in this trying moment, and pray for ourselves to act in God’s way for us to receive from his mercy.

For President Billi and his team and all EYN members who need help, wisdom, encouragement, and healing.

Various churches across EYN are doing their best to create awareness in their communities, both rural and urban. We need education and proper awareness at this time.

EYN is facing more and more of a financial crisis.

The most important prayer is for the faithful to hold to their faith and believe to the end. The devil is working strongly to create confusion in the church of God by taking advantage of the fast-changing world.

11) Rwanda: Gratitude for the help

Food distribution at the Gisenyi congregation of Rwanda Church of the Brethren

Etienne Nsanzimana, a leader of the Rwanda Church of the Brethren, reported the church’s gratitude for an $8,000 grant from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund, (reported on March 28, see www.brethren.org/news/2020/edf-grants-respond-to-pandemic-in-africa ).

“We have been distributing one month of food to 250 families composing over 1,500 people in four local churches of the Church of the Brethren (Gisenyi, Mudende, Gasiza, and Humure),” he wrote. “The church members and those in the community have expressed their gratitude for the help that you have provided to them in this hard time. May God bless you so much.

“The COVID -19 pandemic has come in an unexpected way, leaving nations with fear, confusion, and uncertainty. In Rwanda as of last night, there are 102 confirmed cases and over 2,000 people quarantined after getting into contact with those with the virus. Therefore, the government has taken very cautious measures to help combat the spread of the virus. People are to stay home except cases of getting food and medicine, medical help, or bank services. The measures taken include closing all country borders, all airports, churches, small groups, public transport of any form including buses, taxis, and motorcycles, all schools. Businesses are closed except for banks, medical facilities, food markets, gas stations, and essential commodities. There is no road transport from district to district except a few authorized food deliveries and medical emergencies.

“With the poverty, there are families who live from hand to mouth by working to get food for that day. They are already highly affected by this crisis. They are in need of food supplies and hygiene items to help people wash their hands and stay clean.

“This help was very meaningful to both church members and other needy people in the community who have been supported.”

12) Democratic Republic of Congo: ‘We started already to distribute relief to the people’

Ron Lubungo, a leader in the Church of the Brethren in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reported on the use of an Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) grant from the Church of the Brethren for COVID-19 relief. A grant of $12,000 to the Brethren in the DRC was given to provide emergency food to 550 households from five congregations and the communities around them. 

“We have the funds, we started already to distribute the relief to the people,” Lubungo wrote.

“Our government has decided to close all borders, schools, religious services, on the national level and in our province South Kivu. The city of Bukavu, Uvira and Fizi, is isolated from other cities in the province of South Kivu. The provincial government made this decision on April 1, at the end of the council of ministers, held under the leadership of the governor. This is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the province.

“Residents of Bukavu are also banned from moving into the interior of the province. All ports, airports, and airfields, even the roads are closed as of April 2 for the transportation of people, exception made for freight and cargo. The closure of all roads leading to the territories is except for vehicles transporting food and other basic necessities. There is a ban on sailing on the lake for the transport of people.

“More than 100 people are victims of COVID-19, 8 have already died. Coronavirus causes fear among the Congolese.”

13) Spain: ‘Our seven churches are safe’

Santos Terrero of Iglesia de los Hermanos “Una Luz en las Naciones” (the Church of the Brethren in Spain) wrote from Gijón on April 3 to report on their situation. At the time, Spain had the second-highest number of deaths related to coronavirus and more than 10,000 people had died, second only to Italy among European countries in terms of fatalities caused by the virus.

On April 3, he wrote, “Authorities believe the virus is now peaking and say they expect to see a drop in figures in the days ahead.

“Spain’s streets have turned eerily empty since the government declared the state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown for two weeks–aiming to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Additionally, all educative centers, non-essential shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, stadiums, cinemas, and museums have been closed since March 14 but supermarkets, pharmacies, newsstands, and hairdressers are among the businesses that are allowed to remain open.

“Police drive around the city using megaphones to warn residents to stay indoors for their security.

“Those disobeying the conditions of the state of alert could face fines starting from 6,000 Euros or imprisonment should they ‘resist or seriously disobey the authorities or officers when they are carrying out their functions.’

“Despite how bad all this may sound, our seven churches are safe. We have followed the government’s measures and we do not have a single case of coronavirus among our members. The Church of the Brethren in Spain has been closed since March 14. We are not holding religious services to respect the government measures, but we keep in touch preaching the gospel four days a week and praying seven days a week through social networks, especially Facebook and Whatsapp. Within our means, we are supplying any economic need that our brethren may have.”

Prayer requests from Spain:

For a pastoral house. 
For the church.
For spiritual strength in this time of lockdown.
For our elders. May God strengthen their immune systems.
For cities affected by the coronavirus, especially Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Madrid.
For the global economy and the church membership economy.
For comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
For patients, not only of coronavirus but of any ailment.
For our ministries.
For the unity of the family.
For protection for those who have to go out to work.
For the people of God. For revival and spiritual activation.
To reach the peak of pandemic this week. 

14) Venezuela: Prayer requests for peace

“Receive from me and from the Church of the Brethren in Venezuela’s National Board, a fraternal hug and a word of blessing in the name of our Lord,” wrote Robert Anzoátegui, president of Iglesia de los Hermanos Venezuela. “In the current moments we need to recognize that God is the one who can bring on-time help, and therefore we communicate with you some of the ours most relevant prayer requests.”

Prayer requests from Venezuela:

Peace for our Venezuela, and sensitivity toward God`s word in everyone.

Peace by taking away from our territory all external and internal warfare.

Peace in our hearts as we pray for a genuine encounter of each and every Venezuelan with Jesus Christ, recognizing that he is our Lord.

Peace to keep us still, remaining joyful in the faith that this circumstance is passing. For those who love God, all things will also be for good (Romans 8:28).

For the church of Jesus Christ, so that in every corner of our country and the world we bear witness that he is living inside us, through service to our neighbor.

For the churches that are being founded in the urban, rural, and indigenous areas.

For the National Evangelistic Project La RED.

For our National Ministerial Training Program.

For the National Supply Project. (Provision of food to each Brethren family.)

For our sowing project we pray for an agricultural grant, so that we can start it. Because of the paralysis of the country and lack of gasoline supply, it is paralyzed.

For the health of ministers and lay people who are currently sick in our local churches.

REFLECTION

15) Moderator’s spring letter to the church is a reflection on upheaval

2020 Annual Conference Logo

Paul Mundey, moderator of the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, is writing a quarterly letter to the church under the heading “Trail Thoughts: Trekking Toward God’s Adventurous Future.” This spring quarter, his letter addresses the topic of “Upheaval.”

The letter begins, “COVID-19. Unprecedented. Maddening. Extraordinary. Surreal. But also: upheaval. It’s as if everything has suddenly been disrupted, causing the “train of life” to careen, ready to derail.

“If it’s any consolation, this is not the first pandemic to threaten the trajectory of life. There was the 1918 influenza outbreak, the 2015-2016 Zika occurrence in Central/South America, the 2002-2003 SARS incident, and the 2014-2015 Ebola eruption in West Africa. In each instance, there were deadly results; but in time, healing returned.”

Read the full reflection and find discussion starters/questions and resources to dig deeper at www.brethren.org/ac/2020/moderator .

16) Brethren bits

Brethren Village, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in Manheim Township in Lancaster County, Pa., reported the deaths of three residents due to COVID-19 as of April 10. As of that date, it reported 11 positive COVID-19 cases: 6 team members (staff), and 5 residents in skilled nursing memory support.

     “Our deepest sympathies are with the families,” said the Brethren Village in a statement posted on a webpage of coronavirus updates.

     The community reported its first two cases of COVID-19 on April 1–a resident of skilled nursing memory support and a non-caregiving staff member in an administrative role.

     On April 4 it reported that two more residents in the same unit of skilled nursing memory support tested positive, and one of those two passed away.

     On April 6 the community reported two more positive tests–an additional staff member in an administrative role and a CNA in skilled nursing memory support.

     On April 8 the community reported the deaths of two residents in skilled nursing memory support who had COVID-19 tests pending. It also reported that two more residents in skilled nursing memory support and two more CNAs in skilled nursing tested positive.

     In its posted statements, Brethren Village said it has been taking “all necessary precautions…to ensure the well-being of our team members and other residents. We have notified public health officials as required and are following procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. We are taking every step as recommended by authorities.” Find the Brethren Village COVID-19 updates at www.bv.org/coronavirus-update .

Juniata College’s Dr. Gina Lamendella, professor of biology at the church-related school in Huntingdon, Pa., has developed a new way to test for COVID-19 in collaboration with the Central Pennsylvania Clinic in Belleville, Pa. Lamendella also is co-owner of Contamination Source Identification (CSI). The new test has been developed “in order to serve one of our most vulnerable communities, the Amish and Mennonite,” said a release from the college. “Dr. Lamendella reports that ‘our test directly detects the viral genome of Covid-19,’ which is important because RNA viruses can change quickly; this particular method reveals the entire viral genome and how it is changing,” the release said. “Drive-through testing sites that accommodate the community’s horse and buggies have been established, and the CSI lab is able to process several hundred tests per day.” The release added, “Juniata has long cultivated the problem solving skills that are a hallmark of a liberal arts education, and this global pandemic has revealed Juniatians’ dexterity and innovation. Not only do Juniatians step up to solve the hard problems, they look to address those in need and those who might be overlooked.” CSI is housed in the Juniata Sill Business Incubator and its team led by Gary Shope, a 1972 graduate of the college, also includes Juniata professor Dr. Kim Roth and 10 alumni and a current student. The development has been reported by CNN at www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/us/amish-coronavirus-drive-through-testing-horse-and-buggies-trnd/index.html .

— A “New Yorker” piece on the new role hospice care is playing in China features the ground-breaking work being done by Ruoxia Li to establish a hospice unit at You’ai Hospital in Pingding, Shanxi Province, China. Li and her husband, Eric Miller, recently signed a service agreement with the Church of the Brethren regarding their continuing work in China. This is an insightful, compassionate, and clear-eyed look at hospice in the Chinese culture. Go to www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/06/chinas-struggles-with-hospice-care .

— The Church of the Brethren Office of Ministry invites pastors to apply to participate in its Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program. Open to any Church of the Brethren pastor serving in a congregational role that is less than full-time, the program offers support, resources, and companionship for the 77 percent of the denomination’s clergy who serve as multivocational pastors. Pastors who join the program will receive one-one-one encouragement and consultation with a regionally based “circuit rider” who will schedule an in-person visit to encourage and help identify specific challenges and places where some extra support could be helpful. The circuit rider will work to connect pastors with colleagues, educational resources, and experts who can offer guidance, companionship, and encouragement. This grant-funded program is free of charge to Church of the Brethren multivocational pastors. Find more information and the online application form at www.brethren.org/part-time-pastor . Contact Dana Cassell, program manager, with questions at dcassell@brethren.org .

— In news from the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry:

     A National Youth Sunday Idea Swap has been announced for Tuesday, April 14, as a Zoom teleconference call. The idea resulted from a Facebook poll for youth advisors posted by Becky Ullom Naugle, director of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry, asking if it would be helpful to gather online for a conversation with other youth advisors to discuss ideas about how to do National Youth Sunday this year. Sign up for the Zoom meeting at http://ow.ly/hipP50zahQq?fbclid=IwAR2vynLll4-Top0h9TWg8aFntmrUKyUDfbtaBGW5ItLIbIj-GiDc6u0NDGk .

     Starting Monday, April 13, there will be a  Good News Youth Devotional published on the Church of the Brethren blog. This daily online devotional, including an extension activity, will be written with a youth audience in mind. Scripture texts are from the Book of Common Prayer. Content will come from a wide variety of Church of the Brethren voices. Gabe Dodd, pastor for youth and young families at Montezuma Church of the Brethren in Virginia, initiated the project in cooperation with the Youth and Young Adult office. Find the Church of the Brethren blog at https://blog.brethren.org .

— The staff of “Messenger,” the Church of the Brethren magazine, have provided a new online form to submit information for the “Turning Points” pages. This form is posted and ready to use at www.brethren.org/turningpoints .

— The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is offering a sign-up for those interested in receiving updates and action alerts. “Utilize your voice, and practice democracy by taking action by holding our policy makers accountable to ensuring that the infinite worth of every individual in our country is respected and protected,” said an invitation. Sign up for newsletters and action alerts at www.brethren.org/intouch .

— Bethany Seminary is offering a “Ministering to Ministers” Zoom meeting from 12 noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern time) on Wednesdays. “Given the rapidly changing guidelines and restrictions being used to control the spread of COVID-19, many ministers have found themselves needing to quickly change the way they do ministry,” said an announcement. “For that reason, Dan Poole, Janet Ober Lambert, and Karen Duhai, as the Pastoral Care Team at Bethany, are hosting a Zoom meeting…. This is a place for pastors and ministering persons to chat about how they are doing, how their ministry is evolving under current social restrictions, and to share prayer and ideas. Starting at 11 a.m., the meeting will be open so that Enten Eller may answer questions about live streaming for worship. Go to https://bethanyseminary.zoom.us/my/pooleda .
 
— “Read Alouds: Children’s Books on Peace, Justice, and Courage” are offered by On Earth Peace for “this time of physical distancing and homeschooling,” said an announcement. “On Earth Peace is featuring some of our favorite children’s books on peace, justice, and courage.  The books are read aloud every Monday and Wednesday on our Facebook page. If you’d like to contribute a video reading one of your favorite children’s books about peace, justice, and courage, please contact Priscilla Weddle at children@onearthpeace.org .” This week, a bonus video features Marie Benner-Rhoades of the On Earth Peace staff reading the Easter story from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “Children of God Storybook Bible and God’s Dream.” Watch it and other “Read Alouds” at www.facebook.com/onearthpeace .

— “Nurturing the Spirit of the Child without Squelching the Spirit” is the final course of the year from the Ventures in Christian Discipleship program at McPherson (Kan.) College. The class will be held online Saturday, May 16, at 9 a.m. to 12 noon (Central time), taught by Rhonda Pittman Gingrich. “Jesus said, “Let the children come.” In doing so, he invited children to enter into relationship with him and to participate in the practices of the community that gathered around him, thereby shaping their identity in new ways as beloved children of God. As we seek to nurture the spiritual lives of our children, we can do no less,” said an announcement. The course will explore the cultural context that shapes the lives of children today (including nature deficit disorder); the innate spiritual capacity of children; spiritual styles and how they are embodied in children; and a variety of specific spiritual practices that can be used with children to help them notice and name God’s presence and activity in their lives and in the world around them, deepening their relationship with God. The unique role of nature in nurturing the spiritual lives of children will be explored. All classes are donation-based and continuing education credit is available for $10 per course. To learn more about Ventures and to register for courses, visit www.mcpherson.edu/ventures .

— Living Stream Church of the Brethren is gaining interest as one Anabaptist church who has been doing “Internet church” long before the pandemic. Reports an article in the “Mennonite World Review”: “As churches respond to the spread of coronavirus by shifting temporarily to online worship, one Anabaptist congregation has been exclusively in that position for years. Living Stream Church of the Brethren is an online-only church, and these days its pastors are fielding questions from leaders of other congregations. Unlike traditional worship services streamed or broadcast from a physical sanctuary, a Living Stream worship service is entirely online, with all participants logging in, wherever they may be.” the profile piece on Living Stream notes that the congregation’s first online worship service was held on the first Sunday of Advent in 2012 by founding pastor Audrey DeCoursey of Portland, Ore., working with Enten Eller, now pastor of Ambler (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. At the time of the online church’s start, he was a staff member for electronic education at Bethany Seminary and was part of a group seeking to meet the needs of small congregations west of the Mississippi. Read more at http://mennoworld.org/2020/04/06/news/online-only-congregation-draws-growing-interest .

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, one of the Church of the Brethren-related schools, is offering an interactive and informative speaker series regarding topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Wednesday throughout April, Etown faculty and staff will present on issues surrounding this global issue. For information on each session and instructions on how to participate, go to www.etown.edu/covid/speaker_series.aspx .

— Also from E-town, Jeff Bach and David Kenley offered a webcast that included discussion of the history of the Church of the Brethren in China. The lecture was recorded and can be viewed at www.etown.edu/covid/speaker_series.aspx . The lecture given via Zoom featured Kenley as a faculty member teaching Chinese history at the college talking with Bach, who has researched the Church of the Brethren mission in China in the early 20th century, talking about the misrepresentation of the coronavirus as a Chinese virus. The story is told of the Brethren medical missionaries in China who helped to stop the pneumonic plague epidemic in 1917-1918, a “page from Brethren history to talk about the importance of collaboration and cooperation to fight disease, and also about the Brethren emphasis on service because of their faith.”

— Residents at Timbercrest, a Church of the Brethren-related retirement community in N. Manchester, Ind., were delighted by a surprise serenade on April 3. Reported Fox Channel 55 in Fort Wayne, the serenade was “from their music therapist who they haven’t seen in a while since a no-visitor policy was instituted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily Paar, a music therapist of Visiting Nurse, joined the care team’s chaplain coordinators to play guitar and ultimately sing to the senior residents at Timbercrest.” Paar told the station, “I just wanted to bring a sense of joy and a little sense of normalcy during this time.” See www.wfft.com/content/news/Timbercrest-Senior-Living-Community-receives-surprise-serenade–569372401.html .

— Southern Ohio/Kentucky District Disaster Ministries is sharing a requests for volunteers to sew masks for the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio. “Medical masks are in short supply at the Brethren Retirement Community, as they are everywhere,” said an announcement from the district. “Sewers are invited to help meet this need. BRC has provided a pattern.” Contact Barb Brower for the pattern and additional information at barbbrower51@yahoo.com .

— “The world feels sideways these days. What are we followers of Jesus supposed to be doing?” asked an invitation to an episode of the Dunker Punks Podcast. “How do we continue living the radical Dunker Punk life, now? Good news: we’ve already got all the tools we need to be faithful.” Listen at bit.ly/DPP_Episode96 and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher for more great Dunker content.

— The Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center in Virginia will be posting an Easter Sunrise service with footage from the sunrise over the Shenandoah Valley, as well as a meditation by Church of the Brethren minister Paul Roth titled “From Fear to Joy.” The service will be available 8:30 a.m. (Eastern time) on Sunday morning. The link will be posted at  www.brethrenmennoniteheritage.org .

— Africa is “last in queue for life-saving ventilators amid global shortage” reported AllAfrica.com (https://allafrica.com/stories/202003290006.html ). On April 2 the “Washington Post” quoted Mathsidiso Moeti, Africa director of the World Health Organization (WHO): “There is a severe shortage of ventilators across the African continent to deal with the expected explosion of coronavirus cases and no easy way to get more,” the article said. Africa so far has not seen severe outbreaks of COVID-19, but “cases are slowly growing, and local health systems in most cases are much weaker than elsewhere in the world. Dense living conditions in many cities also make social distancing a challenge.” Moeti said in a briefing that “there is an enormous gap in the numbers of ventilators needed in African countries for this covid outbreak.” The article continued: “The wealthy countries of Europe and North America have struggled to produce enough of these machines to meet the demand, so there is little on the international market for Africa to buy, Moeti added. South Africa, which has the most advanced health system in Africa and about 1,300 coronavirus cases, is believed to have about 6,000 ventilators, while Ethiopia, with a population of 100 million, has only a few hundred. The Central African Republic, which has been torn by war since 2013, has an estimated three.”


Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Robert Anzoátegui, Jeff Bach, Joel Billi, Shamek Cardona, Jacob Crouse, Stan Dueck, Markus Gamache, Dennis Garrison, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, Marcos Inhauser, Susu Lassa, Suzanne Lay, Ron Lubungo, Nancy Miner, Paul Mundey, Zakariya Musa, Etienne Nsanzimana, Matt Rittle, Hannah Shultz, Santos Terrero, Glenna Thompson, Jenny Williams, Roy Winter, Loretta Wolf, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to cobnews@brethren.org . All submissions are subject to editing. Find the Newsline archive at www.brethren.org/news . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren emails, or make changes to your subscription, at www.brethren.org/intouch .