A last round of grants for the year 2023 were given from three funds of the Church of the Brethren: the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF–support this ministry with donations at https://churchofthebrethren.givingfuel.com/bdm); the Global Food Initiative (GFI–support this ministry with donations at https://churchofthebrethren.givingfuel.com/gfi); and the Brethren Faith in Action Fund (BFIA–see www.brethren.org/faith-in-action).
EDF grants went to earthquake response in Syria, aid to displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rebuilding following tornados in Kentucky, recovery following a tropical storm in Mexico, and aid to vulnerable children in Rwanda.
GFI grants went to support Church of the Brethren attendees at an agriculture conference in South Sudan, and to help Capstone 118 in New Orleans. La., deal with salt water intrusion.
BFIA grants went to congregations participating in a “Brethren Building Beloved Community” project related to Kingian Nonviolence, the Jesus Lounge Ministry in Florida, the GraceWay congregation in Maryland, and Camp Pine Lake in Iowa.
Emergency Disaster Fund
A grant of $50,000 supported the work of the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development’s Turkey-Syria Earthquake Response. This was an additional grant to support the second phase of the MERATH earthquake response program in Syria. On Feb. 6, 2023, multiple powerful earthquakes struck southeastern Turkey and northeastern Syria, destroying thousands of buildings, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in the two countries, affecting the lives of 15.7 million people, and causing more than 59,000 deaths. The ongoing civil war in Syria has greatly complicated the relief and recovery efforts. In response to the earthquakes, the relief arm of the society, Middle East Revive and Thrive (MERATH), has worked closely with Christian churches in Aleppo, Lattakia, Tartous, and Hama. Long-term relationships and humanitarian aid through these churches and the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches has allowed MERATH to respond. At the request of the Syrian Churches, MERATH has expanded the second phase of their response through April 2025. The Syrian churches have identified 5,122 highly vulnerable households to receive food and hygiene kit distributions, winterization support, and psychosocial support over 24 months through local church partners.
A grant of $42,000 was given to Eglise des Freres au Congo (Church of the Brethren in the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC) for the congregation in Goma to purchase and distribute soap, food, cooking/eating supplies, tarps, and mattresses for 320 vulnerable families who are newly displaced by the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC. Throughout much of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the province of North Kivu in particular, there has been a long history of being torn apart by repeated violence and wars. In the eastern part of the country, the most recent conflict erupted in May 2022. The violence has spread to other areas. The United Nations estimates that about 585,000 displaced people are living in more than 100 spontaneous sites and collective centers in the greater Goma area, many in temporary shelters. While fighting decreased earlier in 2023 amidst attempts to form a peace agreement, clashes have again increased. The Goma church has a history of responding to needs in the community resulting from conflict and disasters, including a 2021 volcano eruption. Five previous EDF grants for this crisis have provided $113,500 for emergency food and household supply distributions to displaced families in the Goma area over the last year and, most recently, to distribute school kits.
A grant of $30,000 have been given to tornado recovery work in Marshall County, Ky., being carried out by the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in collaboration with the Marshall County Long Term Recovery Group. On Dec. 10-11, 2021, a devastating outbreak of 61 confirmed tornados swept through 8 states with Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri being the most impacted. The resulting destruction leveled whole towns, but also caused much damage along the 250-mile paths of the storms. In Marshall County, Ky., more than 700 structures were damaged, and 1,043 FEMA registrations were submitted to request services. A previous EDF grant of $15,000 was sent to Church World Service (CWS) to send blankets, hygiene kits, school kits, and emergency clean up buckets. Other EDF grants have supported the rebuilding work by Brethren Disaster Ministries in Hopkins County, Ky., in the town of Dawson Springs where Brethren Disaster Ministries expects to continue work through July 2024. In Marshall County, IOCC conducted rebuilding activities from January through October 2023, working with their partner, Inspiritus, and with funding from the American Red Cross. With the conclusion of the Red Cross grant period, Inspiritus finished their work and does not plan to return to further support the recovery. Despite the end of the funding and the reduced partner presence, there are still reportedly 50 families in need of rebuilding and repair work to their homes in the county.
A grant of $6,300 has been given to provide building material to four families as part of Tropical Storm Hilary recovery in Tijuana, Mexico. Hurricane Hilary was downgraded to a tropical storm when it made landfall on Aug. 20, 2023, on the Mexico Baja Peninsula, about 200 miles south of Tijuana. The storm traveled along the coast, passing directly over Tijuana six hours later. It brought torrential rains, which led to widespread flooding, landslides, and two fatalities. The storm caused significant damage to many homes. Some of the damaged homes are located around a community center supported by Bittersweet Ministries and Gilbert Romero, a Church of the Brethren minister from southern California. The center, managed by Maria Gudalupe Lomeli Gradillo, provides housing and meals for people in need. The grant is funding the purchase and transport of building materials to the home sites. Volunteers and others in the community will provide the labor to repair the homes.
A grant of 5,300 has been given to enable the Rwanda Church of the Brethren to feed and provide soap for 112 vulnerable children for a period of 26 weeks. A combination of situations in the Gisenyi area is seriously affecting the ability of poor families, particularly the marginalized and vulnerable Batwa community, to provide for their needs. These factors include decreased agricultural production due to heavy rains and erosion; reduced work for day laborers; the current conflict in DRC; and the cost and availability of commodities, especially food. Many of these families cross the border into the DRC to work as day laborers. The border, once closed because of the conflict, is now open but the hours of operation are limited, making travel back and forth difficult. Many Rwandan families have fostered or adopted children due to government policies of limiting orphanages, adding to the strain. The inflation rate of 13.9 percent (as of September) is lower than earlier in the year, but still a significant burden for struggling families. Members of the church initially provided meals for some hungry children on their own. A $5,000 grant in 2022 funded a program that fed an average of 110 children for more than 26 weeks. A second grant of $5,300 in April 2023 continued the program with similar impact and numbers of children served.
Global Food Initiative
A grant of $2,429.50 supports the ECHO Conference to be held in Juba, South Sudan, in February 2024, by providing funds for three people to attend this symposium on best practices in agricultural development. The symposium will be jointly sponsored by ECHO and Tearfund. Those attending the symposium are Athanasus Ungang (Church of the Brethren Global Mission staff serving in Sudan Sudan), Bwambale Sedrack (of the Church of the Brethren in Uganda), and Chris Elliott (a Global Mission and GFI volunteer from the United States). Grant funds will cover airfare, ground transportation, visa, registration, lodging, meals, and other expenses.
A grant of $1,976.92 supports Capstone 118, an urban agriculture initiative in New Orleans. La., to deal with salt water intrusion. Salt water is affecting municipal water supplies, and Capstone operates several aquaculture units and has small ruminants in this urban setting in the lower 9th Ward of the city. Due to drought in the Mississippi River basin, river levels have dropped and salt water is beginning to encroach farther north. “This will be a crisis for the entire city,” said the grant announcement. “Capstone is looking to the GFI for funds to get through what the city is predicting will be a three-month period. Without fresh water, the fish and plants in the aquaculture system are at risk.” Funds will go toward the construction of a small reverse osmosis system and the installation of a shallow hand well. Clean drinking water will also be made available to Capstone’s neighbors.
Brethren Faith in Action Fund
A grant of $5,000 was given to “Brethren Building Beloved Community,” a ministry project of a group of congregations in Indiana and Ohio. These congregations have joined together to complete Kingian Nonviolence training and then implement the training related to critical concerns identified by the participants. The participating Churches of the Brethren are Eel River, Lafayette, Manchester, Marion, North View, Pipe Creek, Lincolnshire, and Happy Corner. Also participating is a non-Church of the Brethren congregation, Iesu Syncretic.
A grant of $5,000 has gone to Jesus Lounge Ministry, a Church of the Brethren congregation and a virtual church in Florida. The grant will help purchase a wood storage shed to store and display donated goods provided to the community. Jesus Lounge Ministry has a unique witness to the people in Palm Beach County with its “Love Your Neighbors” outreach ministry.
A grant of $5,000 has been given to GraceWay International Community Church, a Church of the Brethren congregation in the greater Baltimore area of Maryland. This is the second BFIA grant given, and will help the church purchase digital and main stage mixers to enhance its coffeehouse outreach ministry, which is an important entry point for people to engage with the congregation.
A grant of $2,500 has gone to Camp Pine Lake, a Church of the Brethren camp and outdoor ministry center in Iowa, to fund a community meal outreach program. A previous one-time BFIA grant of $5,000 was awarded to the camp for this ministry in 2022. Camp Pine Lake’s kitchen is closed from November to May. In 2022, the camp started a monthly Community Meal. The camp seeks to continue the ministry by providing a monthly meal from November 2023 to May 2024.