Newsline for Nov. 20, 2021

“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18).

1) Nigeria Crisis Response will continue into 2022

2) Brethren Benefit Trust announces online insurance portal and online application for church workers’ assistance, holds fall board meetings

3) Nigerian army confirms killing of brigadier general and soldiers in Askira Uba encounter

4) Jesus Lounge Ministry starts in Atlantic Southeast District

5) Trunk or Treat brings Jesus into the neighborhood in Osceola

6) Crest Manor collects Christmas gifts

7) Brethren bits: Thanking God for you! Giving Tuesday, Doug Phillips is retiring after 39 years at Brethren Woods, job opening at Camp Swatara, Dec. 1 deadline for Annual Conference nominations, Program and Arrangements Committee, National Youth Conference sample registration, Global Mission fundraisers, Brethren Disaster Ministries seeks volunteers, more

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1) Nigeria Crisis Response will continue into 2022

By Roy Winter

The Nigeria Crisis Response budget for 2022 has been set at $183,000 after careful deliberation. Five years ago, we expected the Nigerian government would restore order in northeast Nigeria and families could return to their homes while the response supported their recovery. This led to planning to end the crisis response in 2021, but these plans had to be revised due to ongoing violence.

The reality of the situation is highlighted in a September update from Yuguda Mdurvwa, director of Disaster Relief Management for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), who shared, “We are grateful to God almighty for his grace and protection. For the first time in [years, for the last] two weeks we did not receive any attack on our communities in Southern Borno and Northern Adamawa [States], but the ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) and Boko Haram are still causing havoc.” While grateful for this small improvement in the security situation, I am incredibly sad to hear it has been years since they went two weeks without an attack on a community where there is a Church of the Brethren.

These ongoing attacks, other types of violence, and kidnappings continue to challenge the country, especially Christians in the northeast. The result is that 1.9 million people in Nigeria are still internally displaced, meaning they cannot return home. The COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse, with 10.6 million people in need of “urgent assistance,” a 34 percent increase according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In the midst of this crisis and violence, EYN continues to grow, plant new churches, and partner with Brethren Disaster Ministries in providing crisis relief. The current relief program includes supporting farmers with seeds and fertilizer, food distributions in critical areas, repairing homes, medical care, and education scholarships for orphans.

In each part of this ministry, there are signs of hope and change. A guardian of an orphan in Watu said, “We never know there are spirited people who can assist orphans like this. We don’t know if there are people who can do more than what you are doing in the lives our children…. May God continue to guide you.”

The response program is saving lives and helping give children a better future. Please continue to pray for our Nigerian Brethren and support the Nigeria Crisis Fund.

Large disaster grant continues Nigeria Crisis Response through 2022

A grant of $210,000 from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) will continue the Nigeria Crisis Response through 2022. Prior EDF grants for the Nigeria Crisis Response total $5,100,000, given from September 2014 through March 2020.

The Nigeria Crisis Response has provided funding to five response partners in Nigeria, with the majority of support going to EYN.

Among other work, the grant will help fund the work of EYN’s Disaster Relief Management (formerly the Disaster Relief Ministry team). Program priorities are recovery activities that will help families become more self-supporting. Focus areas for 2022 include repairing homes; peacebuilding and trauma recovery; agriculture; livelihood; education; food, medical, and home supplies; staff engagement; and covering the cost of special projects that may arise.

Find out more about the Nigeria Crisis Response and give to support this work at

Roy Winter is executive director of Service Ministries for the Church of the Brethren.

2) Brethren Benefit Trust announces online insurance portal and online application for church workers’ assistance, holds fall board meetings

A release from BBT

Brethren Benefit Trust announces the opening of the Brethren Insurance Service’s online insurance portal for Open Enrollment 2022 as of Nov. 15. Also now online are Church Workers’ Assistance Plan applications. And the Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Board is holding its fall meetings Nov. 17-20, via Zoom. Read more below.

Open enrollment

Brethren Insurance Service’s online insurance portal is live at The new online portal offered by Brethren Insurance Services went live on Monday, Nov. 15, the same day Open Enrollment for 2022 started. Insurance clients can now sign up to continue using their current insurance offerings, increase their coverage, or enroll in new insurance products all from the convenience of their laptop, tablet, or phone. Open Enrollment will continue through Nov. 30.

BBT has partnered with Milliman, a highly respected independent risk management, benefits, and technology firm founded in 1947, in order to bring this online feature to its customers and provide ongoing insurance administration services.

“We are so pleased to offer this new option to our members, and have been keeping a close eye on things since the portal opened on Monday,” Lynnae Rodeffer, director of Employee Benefits, reported. “This online process, which is also supported by a call center staffed by Milliman’s knowledgeable employees, makes it much easier for our members to sign up or change insurance, and manage their beneficiaries, especially during Open Enrollment.”

Church Workers’ Assistance Plan

Church Workers’ Assistance Plan applications are online. In addition to the new insurance portal on the BBT website, online applications for grants from the Church Workers’ Assistance Plan are now available at this link:

This benevolent grant program is intended to provide financial assistance to current and former clergy and lay employees of Church of the Brethren congregations, districts, or camps, who meet minimum tenure requirements, have worked at least half-time (1,000 hours/year), and have no other means of financial assistance.

BBT Board fall meeting

The BBT Board is holding its November meetings virtually. The Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Board is holding its fall meetings Nov. 17-20, via Zoom. The group is expected to approve its budget for 2022, and is working with Nevin Dulabaum, president, to implement five strategic directions.

“The BBT Board and staff are working closely together to guide BBT as it faces the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic, and to proactively adapt to the changing business environment of the future,” said Dulabaum.

During its meetings the board is expected to hear a comprehensive study on the Brethren Pension Plan, which shows that it is in strong financial standing. The board also is expected to approve housing allowance designations so that pastors receiving a retirement benefit from the Brethren Pension Plan can consider their entire payment to be housing allowance. The board is also expected to approve the continued service of two investment managers, receive professional growth training on what it means to be a strong fiduciary, and greet the four members who joined the board this year: Donna March, Jan Fahs, Sara Davis, and Kathryn Whitacre.

Find out more about the Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust at

3) Nigerian army confirms killing of brigadier general and soldiers in Askira Uba encounter

By Zakariya Musa, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)

An attack on Askira Uba left soldiers and many terrorists killed, shops and cars burnt, a few civilians sustaining stray bullet injuries in the encounter that seemed to be a revenge mission by Islamic State West Africa Province (IWAP) for a recent attack on the terrorists’ camp in Sambisa by the Joint Task Force. Many of the terrorists were neutralized after their attempt to wage an attack on a village call Bungulwa, village locals said.

Director of Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, confirming the killings:

“In the fierce encounter which is still raging as at the time of filing this report, troops supported by the Air Component of OPHK have destroyed five A-Jet combat trucks, two A-29 artillery weapons, two Dragon combat vehicles and nine Gun Trucks. Sadly, a gallant senior officer, Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu, and three soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice in a very rare display of gallantry as they provided reinforcement in a counteroffensive against the terrorists, and successfully defended the location. The Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya deeply commiserates with the families and relations of the fallen heroes.”

“We were able to hold church service but a Catholic church whose location is close to the scene of the attacks could not hold Sunday worship,” said church officials, where EYN has two District Church Councils (DCC) that were recently established.

Two of the killed soldiers attended EYN in Askira.

Pastors in the area said they are back in their houses after the attack, but movements are restricted as of the time of reporting.

Some parts of Askira Uba share porous boundaries with Sambisa forest, which is the hideout of terrorists.

Due to the closure of the Maiduguri-Damboa Road, which is about 150 km., equivalent to 2 hours’ drive, it is now taking more than 5 to 10 hours for motorists. The only optional roads are Maiduguri to Bama to Gwoza to Michika Uba, or Maiduguri to Damaturu to Biu to Gombi to Hong to Mubi Road, which is over 500 km. drive from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

Tarfa community in Kwajaffa in Hawul Local Government area was attacked on Sunday. Six houses were selectively burnt while the villagers fled to the bush. They call for more prayers as the ISWAP intensify attacks on many villages in a time when farmers are harvesting their crops.

— Zakariya Musa is head of Media for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria. Find a Reuters report on the battle that took place on Nov. 13 at


4) Jesus Lounge Ministry starts in Atlantic Southeast District

Founa Augustin Badet has announced as staff of Atlantic Southeast District the start of a new Jesus Lounge Ministry. She wrote on Facebook: “We are giving praises to God and happy to announce that Jesus Lounge Ministry (JLM) @jesusloungeministry is now a project with the Atlantic Southeast District of the Church of the Brethren and is/will [be] the first Livestream ministry in our region (God Willing)! #themulticoloredwisdomofGod”

5) Trunk or Treat brings Jesus into the neighborhood in Osceola

By Jeff Tuholski

Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship in Osceola, Ind., has demonstrated “Jesus in the Neighborhood” for the last several years with our Trunk or Treat event in the church parking lot, greeting around 50 children who then went into the Fellowship Hall for games, prizes, and snacks.

This year we joined many others in our community for a much larger Trunk or Treat event at the Cruz Family Funeral Home on Lincolnway in Osceola. We were excited to join in with other local businesses, treating the children to a fun afternoon with prizes and candy. With our 6, there were more than 30 trunks treating and ministering to more than 200 kids for three hours!

We brought “Jesus in the Neighborhood” into town, still putting a Christian perspective on this spooky holiday!

— Jeff Tuholski is board chair for the Shepherds Heart Fellowship.

6) Crest Manor collects Christmas gifts

Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind., annually holds a toy/clothing/stocking stuffer drive for Broadway Christian Parish, who distributes these Christmas gifts to needy folks in the community on their Jubilee Day. Each family (who must pre-register) receives age-appropriate gifts for their children. In addition, the Women’s Fellowship at Crest Manor has supplied 115 Christmas stockings.

7) Brethren bits

Executive director Doug Phillips is retiring on Dec. 31 after 39 years at the helm of Brethren Woods, reported Brenda Sanford Diehl, director of communications for Shenandoah District. “A lot has happened during his 39-year tenure and Doug has a wagonload of great memories from his time in ministry,” the report said. “God has worked through Doug and a multitude of donors, volunteers and staff members to renew and revitalize the facility and programs at Brethren Woods. From just two buildings, a full-time director and a part-time staff member, it has now grown to 30 structures and six full-time staff members. Since 1983, the facility has hosted 146,000 people. Doug is grateful God has used him ‘in spite of all his flaws’ and he gives God the credit for all the successes. He still enjoys watching what God is doing at Brethren Woods and looks forward to what God will do next. Doug is originally from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and came to the Shenandoah Valley to attend Eastern Mennonite College (now EMU) after a four-year stint in the workforce and an initial year in college after high school. He began his college experience in the social work curriculum but noticed how much fun his friends were having taking classes in rappelling, kayaking and other outdoor adventure sports. After these experiences, he became drawn to the camping and youth ministries program, as well, and completed both courses of study. As Doug and Cindy began to explore job opportunities after college, they wanted to move back to Pennsylvania, but nothing available there seemed right. He had always sensed a calling to work with people but had nothing specific in mind. Both he and Cindy felt inclined to pursue a different kind of ministry but were not sure what that was until the fall of October 1982 when they heard about Brethren Woods. They were interviewed and he was hired as director and Cindy came on board in a part-time programming capacity. Their journey with Brethren Woods officially began in January 1983, and over the years, his role has changed as growth in facilities, staff and programs required increasing administrative oversight…. Yet, he never wanted to lose connection with people. Recently, he assigned himself as the pourer of the milk at breakfast each day so that he could stay in touch with campers…. The District Leadership Team has appointed assistant director Linetta Ballew as the acting director at Brethren Woods until the formal search process gets underway next year. It is with a mountain of gratitude for a life of service to Brethren Woods that the Shenandoah District wished ‘Pappo’ great success in his new full-time role.” A citation written by Larry Glick, drawn from the reflections of past campers, staff, and friends, is at

Camp Swatara in Bethel, Pa., seeks a food service manager to fill a 12-month, salaried position based on experience. The position averages 50 hours per week, with peak hours during the late spring and summer season, 40 hours through the fall and winter, and increased time off availability in the winter into early spring. From May through the end of July, Camp Swatara serves school groups as well as operating a residential summer camp program that serves regular meals through an approximately six-week period to campers, volunteers, and staff. The camp also operate a Family Campground from April through October with the opportunity to build a specialty menu and food service options on Friday nights and Saturdays. Benefits include a salary based on experience, family health and individual life and disability insurance, and a pension plan. The camp is looking to staff the position by Jan. 3, 2022. Go to

The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has signed a joint letter to senators supporting passage of the Gaza Reporting Amendment. The letter supported an amendment to the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring a report on the humanitarian impact of severe restrictions on movement, access, and goods in and out of Gaza, an area of Israel and Palestine. The Nov. 15 letter said, in part: “This important provision would require the Comptroller General of the United States, in consultation with the President, the Secretary of State, the United Nations, and other key stakeholders, to submit a report to Congress assessing the restrictions on Gaza…. After roughly 14 years, the severe restrictions on Gaza have left nearly 2 million people with severely limited access to clean water, electricity, and food; prevents critical supplies from reaching Gaza which is necessary for maintaining and rebuilding water treatment and sanitation infrastructure; roughly 97 percent of Gaza’s tap water is contaminated, depriving civilians of regular access to drinkable water. The restrictions have also left Gaza’s electrical grid in ruins, forcing many Palestinians to live without electricity for nearly half the day. More than 80 percent of Gaza’s population relies on humanitarian aid. New solutions are needed to end Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, decrease tensions and help end the endless cycles of violence that have endangered the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.” Find the full letter and a list of signers at

Global Mission is sharing an invitation to help fund Church of the Brethren mission work while doing Christmas shopping and supporting fair trade items through Equal Exchange. Enter the code BRETHREN21 during check out. Go to
“In the tiny central African country of Rwanda, there are four Church of the Brethren congregations,” reports Chris Elliott, a volunteer for the Church of the Brethren Global Mission. “The Gisenyi church has been holding two services on Sunday morning and is in need of a larger worship space. Among their other needs are offices for the emerging denomination, as well as classroom space for Sunday school and a proposed preschool. Trusting God for the necessary funds, they have begun construction. During a recent fundraising service, the equivalent of over $6,000 was raised! Much more will be needed for completion, but this will go a long way toward getting it under roof.” The Global Mission office is receiving donations for the construction project. These may be made online at or by mail to Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Donors should write Gisenyi on the check or in the comments box online.

The Global Women’s Project offers its annual Advent Calendar “to nurture gratitude rather than greed within the midst of Advent,” said an announcement. “Too easily, we slip into the busyness of the season full of shopping lists, baking cookies, hosting parties, and feeling that sense of more. Jesus calls us to do the opposite, to slow down, simplify, and reflect.” The calendar includes scripture, prayer prompts, activities, and suggested contributions, along with a color-by-day Christmas image. Contact

The Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Peace Center has announced that three sessions of the Mediation Skills Training Institute will be in person in 2022. Registration is open for all five sessions scheduled for next year: March 14-18 (online), May 9-13 (online), June 13-17 (in person in Fort Mill, S.C.), Aug. 1-5 (in person in the Chicago area), and Nov. 14-18 (in person, location TBD). “Once we have finalized arrangements with the host churches, we will post the sites at,” said the announcement.

The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has retweeted the following from their COO, Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune: “The #KyleRittenhouseVerdict is an example of America’s idolatry of white supremacy& gun violence. No one should be able to murder people for exercising their rights.Our work to end these evils cannot waver.We have to fight to end hatred& systemic racism even as we pray for mercy.”

Giving Tuesday is Nov. 30, and the Church of the Brethren Mission Advancement is giving thanks for all who support the church in so many ways. Find out more about the denominational ministries and how to give at
Dec. 1 is the deadline for nominations for positions on the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference ballot in 2022. “You can help shape the future of the church! Each member of the Church of the Brethren is invited to recommend possible nominees,” said announcements on Facebook for the various open positions on the ballot. For more information and to make a nomination go to
The Program and Arrangements Committee of Annual Conference has held meetings this week at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., preparing for the denomination’s 2022 annual meeting. From left, with and without masks: moderator David Sollenberger, moderator-elect Tim McElwee, Beth Jarrett, Carol Elmore, Conference secretary James Beckwith, Nathan Hollenberg, and Conference director Rhonda Pittman Gingrich.
National Youth Conference 2022 sample registration forms are now available at
Brethren Disaster Ministries is seeking volunteers for the last week’s shift of the year at the current rebuilding project site in North Carolina. Contact or

Newsline is the email news service of the Church of the Brethren. Inclusion in Newsline does not necessarily convey endorsement by the Church of the Brethren. All submissions are subject to editing. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contributors to this issue include Erika Clary, Tim Courtright, Jean Bednar, Brenda Sanford Diehl, Pamela B. Eiten, Chris Elliott, Jan Fischer Bachman, Eric Miller, Zakariya Musa, Debbie Noffsinger, Becky Ullom Naugle, Jeff Tuholski, Roy Winter, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Please send news tips and submissions to . Find the Newsline archive at . Sign up for Newsline and other Church of the Brethren email newsletters and make subscription changes at . Unsubscribe by using the link at the top of any Newsline email.

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