Newsline for May 13, 2014

“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

NEWS
1) Children’s Disaster Services begins new collaboration with Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
2) Church of the Brethren chief executives join CWS at gathering to strengthen ties for work together

NIGERIA UPDATES
3) Nigerian Brethren continue to suffer attacks, Global Mission and Service sends relief funds
4) Report on CCEPI visit to Chibok on May 6
5) A round up of responses to Nigeria’s crisis
6) #BringBackOurGirls: Righteous, compassionate justice

UPCOMING EVENTS
7) NYC Prayer Day scheduled for June 22

RESOURCES
8) ‘Shine Together’ guide for leaders and teachers helps introduce new curriculum

9) Brethren bits: Job openings at BBT, Manchester to make concert DVD available, Lost and Found Church, Virlina’s World Hunger Walk, Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center celebrates new Brunk Revivals Exhibit, and much more


Quote of the week:
“When we were there, we had many friends who were Muslims. It didn’t make any difference.”
— Lois Neher quoted in an interview about the work that she and her husband Gerald did in Chibok, Nigeria, beginning in 1954 as former Church of the Brethren mission workers. The interview by Michael Daly was published today by The Daily Beast. The interview notes that at the time, “People of every faith lived in harmony” in Chibok. Read the interview at www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/13/we-built-a-school-in-boko-haram-s-heartland.html .


1) Children’s Disaster Services begins new collaboration with Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Disciples Home Missions (DHM), Week of Compassion, and the National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), are collaborating with the Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) to create a new position and initiative that will help meet the needs of children affected by disaster.

A new memorandum of understanding outlines this partnership, providing the framework for a three-year focus on expanding CDS in the Gulf Coast region. Funding provided by the Disciples Home Mission, the National Benevolent Association, and Week of Compassion will develop a new role of a Gulf Coast coordinator. This individual will support the developing and training of a larger network of volunteers in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana. By engaging the strength and networks of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ congregations and their significant children’s ministries, the organizers see great potential to better meet the needs of children in this disaster-prone area.

Collaboration enlarges volunteer pool

The partnership includes the training of interested church members and others in the region as CDS volunteers, and for leadership roles supporting volunteer coordination and volunteer training. A primary goal is to train 250 potential volunteers in the next 3 years. After completing a certification process including a criminal record check, these volunteers will provide direct care to children in shelters and service centers after a disaster. The volunteers will be organized into rapid response teams to be the first caregivers responding after a disaster in their region. These volunteers also will be called to serve larger disasters outside of the region.

“The Church of the Brethren is excited for this expanding partnership between the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ and Children’s Disaster Services,” said Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren. “For several years our two churches have been in conversations on how to work together as peacemakers. I can think of no better way than for our volunteers to join their gifts and talents in providing a caring service ministry for children affected by disaster. It is a ministry that seeks to reconcile the lives of some of the most vulnerable victims after disaster.”

“For years, Disciples of Christ members have been volunteering with CDS,” commented Roy Winter, associate executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service. “At this critical time in the history of CDS, this partnership helps grow the program beyond the capacity of one denomination. Together we can expand this ministry in critical disaster-prone areas to better meet the needs of children and families impacted by disasters.”

“Children have unique needs following disaster,” explained CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller. “They feel the chaos and stress of the disaster and need opportunities to express their feelings and their experiences through play. Our dedicated leaders and volunteers are well trained to provide the nurturing adult presence and open-ended play experiences that support the healing process for children. This partnership will allow us to expand our program in areas of high need.”

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) leaders comment

“As Disciples, we are a movement for wholeness, God’s wholeness,” said general minister and president for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Sharon Watkins. “We respond in times of human need and disaster, for we recognize our connectedness to one another. This partnership is truly part of our call to be a faithful witness.”

Brandon Gilvin, associate director of Week of Compassion, said, “As part of our ministry as the Disaster, Development, and Refugee Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Week of Compassion looks for partners in our denominational and ecumenical families to respond to critical needs in the wake of disasters. The partnership between Disciples Volunteering, DHM’s Children and Family Ministries, the National Benevolent Association (NBA), and Children’s Disaster Services will provide a new avenue for volunteers to show the love of Christ to children impacted by tornados, floods, and other devastating events.”

“Disciples Volunteering is thrilled to share in this endeavor, partnering with ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Church of the Brethren in response to the needs of children, who are among the most vulnerable following disaster,” reflected Josh Baird, director of Disciples Volunteering at Disciples Home Missions (DHM). “Together, we look forward to expanding and enhancing the critical work of Children’s Disaster Services while equipping Disciples to offer their gifts in service to their neighbors.”

Disciples Home Missions’ Olivia Updegrove also reflected on her excitement about the emerging partnership: “The love for children and the need to care for our children at all times and in all situations flows from us as compassionate, faithful people. The Family and Children’s ministry team stands in an ecumenical relationship of both Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ. This relationship opens doors for more people and congregations to be prepared to respond when disaster strikes, and Gods love is not found in a name or title, but in a response to heal the soul.”

The collective endeavor of Disciples ministries and the Church of the Brethren supports the work of creating communities of compassion and care, a primary commitment of the ministries of the National Benevolent Association. Mark D. Anderson, president and CEO, said, “This new collaborative partnership creates some significant connections among Disciples congregations and also Disciples-related health and social service agencies, especially those serving families and children. The partnership provides more opportunities for faithful Disciples to be trained and equipped to respond in times of crisis as well as to resource agencies who provide care to children each day. We are eager to nurture these increased opportunities for compassionate care.”

Regional coordinator to be sought

The regional coordinator role is key for the success of the initiative. This part-time paid position  will network with potential partners, engage congregations, and help facilitate new volunteer workshops, and must live in a Gulf Coast state. Details will be released soon about this new position. For more information about the regional coordinator position, or if you or your congregation would like to know more about Children’s Disaster Services or be trained in rapid response volunteer leadership, contact CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller at 410-635-8734 or kfry-miller@brethren.org .

About Children’s Disaster Services: Since 1980, CDS has been meeting the needs of children by setting up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. Specially trained volunteers arrive with a “Kit of Comfort” with carefully selected toys that promote imaginative play and support the healing process. To learn more, visit www.childrensdisasterservices.org .

About Disciples Home Missions: Disciples Home Missions is committed to equipping disciples for Christ and connecting people to the life-changing love of God. Disciples Home Missions is the enabling and coordinating division of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the US and Canada in the areas of congregational program and mission in North America. To learn more, visit www.discipleshomemissions.org .

About the National Benevolent Association: Serving as the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the NBA partners with local congregations, regional and general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers. The NBA incubates new and emerging Disciples-related health and social service ministries, initiates ministry programs designed to establish and grow partnerships around health and social service ministries, and connects direct care providers, emerging social service ministries, local congregations, and mission partners so that all may learn, collaborate, and grow stronger together. To learn more, visit www.ncares.org .

About Week of Compassion: Week of Compassion is the relief, refugee, and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, seeking to equip and empower disciples to alleviate the suffering of others through disaster response, humanitarian aid, sustainable development, and the promotion of mission opportunities. To learn more, visit www.weekofcompassion.org .

— This release was provided with help from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

2) Church of the Brethren chief executives join CWS at gathering to strengthen ties for work together

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A box of Church World Service (CWS) relief goods bears the words “From: New Windsor, Md., USA”

“CWS is about our members, partners, and a myriad of colleagues working together, as institutions and as coalitions, but even more, as people. That is the vision of our faith and our values.”

With those words, Church World Service president and CEO John McCullough, described the relationship between CWS and its member communions as representatives from the various mainline Protestant communions gathered in Chicago to discuss their work together at the humanitarian agency’s first annual members meeting on April 29-30.

Notable among the attendees was the chief executive of the Church of the Brethren, one of the founding member denominations of CWS. Attending with general secretary Stan Noffsinger were Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer and associate executive director Roy Winter, who also is past chair of the CWS Planning Committee.

Representatives from 16 member communions braved bad weather or participated remotely via the Web in discussions and presentations about the agency’s work. A consistent theme: Through CWS, denominations come together to do in partnership what none could do alone.

Throughout the gathering participants also focused on the history and importance of the agency’s ecumenical, interfaith CROP Hunger Walks. The walks help support CWS work, especially grassroots, hunger-fighting development efforts around the world, and hunger-fighting programs in US communities where walks are held.

“We do the CROP Hunger Walk because we are people of faith,” said Ruth Farrell of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “It is part of who we are as Presbyterians and as Christians. Presbyterians want to be in relationship. They want to be in mission. We walk to fight hunger together with our partners in CWS.”

In a remote video address, Erol Kekic, who directs the CWS immigration and refugee program, emphasized the importance of CWS’ ecumenical ties with member communions to the agency’s extensive work resettling refugees. “Refugee resettlement is at its best when it has the support of the local church. When refugees arrive in the US they are beginning a new life and the local church can make all the difference,” Kekic said. Local congregations working with CWS assist refugees in adjusting to life in their new communities in a number of ways, from accompanying them to meetings to helping them find employment or enroll children in school.

The involvement of the local church–in all its forms–as part of the CWS family was lifted up by voices in Chicago and from around the globe.

In summing up the gathering, former CWS board chair Bishop Johncy Itty of the Episcopal Church said, “This is a wonderful reminder of how important we are as a faith community working together as CWS. I am appreciative of the opportunity to hear the story of the people who have sacrificed to get us here and to listen and hear what is happening with our member communions.”

— This release was provided by Church World Service media contacts Lesley Crosson and Matt Hackworth. For more about Church World Service, go to www.cwsglobal.org .

NIGERIA UPDATES

3) Nigerian Brethren continue to suffer attacks, Global Mission and Service sends relief funds

The members of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN) continue to suffer attacks from the extremist group Boko Haram. EYN president Samuel Dante Dali reported by e-mail yesterday that another attack has destroyed homes, and family members of a church evangelist have been kidnapped.

Two grants have been given through the Global Mission and Service office of the Church of the Brethren in order to help support immediate relief efforts with survivors and refugees, reports Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service.

“Very sad to inform that the Boko Haram has attacked Dlamankara near Waga in Gwoza Local Government area last night and destroyed many Christian houses mostly belonging to EYN members,” Dali’s e-mail said. “They have also kidnapped a wife of one our evangelists together with her little child. The few army who were there could not control them and so the army had to  run into the bush for their life and left the insurgents to destroy the village.

“Please, continue to pray for EYN and the pastor.”

A grant of $5,000 from the Global Mission and Service budget for Nigeria mission work is being sent to Nigeria to support the immediate relief efforts of CCEPI, the Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives. CCEPI is led by Rebecca Dali, wife of EYN president Samuel Dali. She founded the nonprofit in order to provide care for women and children affected by the violence in northeastern Nigeria, orphans, and refugees who have been fleeing to Cameroon and those displaced within Nigeria.

A grant of $10,000 is going to support a water project in a village where refugees are being housed, close to the EYN headquarters and Kulp Bible College. The village has shared the water supply of the Bible college, Wittmeyer said, but access to more water is needed for the number of people displaced by violence who are now living there. Through the Millennium Development Goals, EYN was able to drill a second well for the area, but has not had the ability to get the water out and to the people, Wittmeyer reported. The grant will help the village access the water from the second well. The money for the grant is coming from giving designated for water projects, given through Global Mission and Service, Wittmeyer said.

To help contribute to the relief work of EYN, gifts are being received to the EYN Compassion Fund at https://secure2.convio.net/cob/site/Donation2?3620.donation=form1&df_id=3620 .

4) Report on CCEPI visit to Chibok on May 6

The following reports on a visit to Chibok, the town in Nigeria from which the schoolgirls were kidnapped, made by Rebecca Dali and the staff of CCEPI. The Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives was begun by Dali, wife of President Samuel Dante Dali of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria or EYN). CCEPI has the mission of providing care for women and children affected by the violence in Nigeria, in particular orphans, and refugees who are fleeing to neighboring Cameroon or displaced within Nigeria.

The report is presented as received, with no editing, in pdf format at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/may-6-report.pdf .

REPORT ON CCEPI VISIT TO CHIBOK ON 6TH MAY, 2014

INTRODUCTON

Centre for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI) who has been improving the wellbeing of orphans, vulnerable children, widows, displaced people, refugees etc. in many states and the neighboring country (Cameroun).

On the 6th May, 2014 CCEPI was able to show her concern by visiting Chibok people whose girls were abducted by BokkoHarram.

CCEPI carried along with some relief materials (cloths, soap, buckets and cups) for those whose houses/properties were burnt in the incident.

CCEPI’S MEETING AT EYN NO. 1WITH THE WOMEN WHO’S GIRLS WERE ABDUCTED

At about 10:00 am, CCEPI team arrived Chibok and met women leader of Chibok. The women were organized in the EYN No. 1 Church Chibok. The women appeared in women fellowship uniform with black tie showing their grievances.

The women leader introduced the CCEPI team and two other women from EYN Headquarters. The CCEPI Executive Director gave them word of encouragement from the Holy Bible, with tears in eyes for she could not withstand their presence.

The other two women also gave words of encouragement and finally the former EYN president greeted them, hence a closing prayer.

Pictures were taken with the women and those whose house/properties were burnt were given some cloths, soap, and cups/bucket. Data were collected, the list of abducted girls.

CCEPI VISIT TO EYN NO. 2

Again women were organized at EYN No. 2. The CCEPI team after leaving EYN No1 at about 1:00Pm came down to EYN No 2, where all the women appeared in black attire. The CCEPI Executive Director introduced CCEPI team and said out the purpose of visit, that was to show concern of what happened.

CCEPI Executive Director asked some of the women how the incident happen, a woman said in tear that ‘such has never happened it was terrible, we can’t sleep not to talk of dreaming about these girls’ she could not continue.

A man was interviewed and he said that ‘Government is not doing anything about it’ so he urged Federal Government to bring their girls because they are the leaders of tomorrow.

List of the abducted girls was taken.

CCEPI VISIT TO GSS CHIBOK

One of the people interviewed, is a staff of the school, directed CCEPI team to the school, show CCEPI destructions caused by these terrorists along with a girl who escaped.

CCEPI Executive Director asked him how he was able to escape. He said ‘well I was in my quarters and my children when we heard a gun shut; my children were very scared so I ran away with them over the fence and we escaped to the bush. When I come back in the morning, I saw my car/house burnt and all my neighbors’ quarters were set ablaze.

The girl was asked how it happened as CCEPI team and other people were going round the school. The girl said, ‘they came in mass over 50, distributed themselves into groups, some were setting the school ablaze. The ones that met us in the hostel told us not to run, they appeared in military uniform. They said all of us should enter car (many cars, big) in order to rescue us. We entered; they were taking us toward Sambisa forest. I and my friend decided to dump down the car and God so kind, we hide in grass those coming from behind did not see us. That is how we escaped. Some came two day after, but many are still there with them.’

CCEPI DISTRIBUTED MATERIALS TO MILLITARY MEN

Toward evening as CCEPI was coming back home, she discover that barrack was set ablaze. Said by the Mobile Police met with CCEPI team.

CCEPI now gave them buckets, cups, cloths and soap. According to them, they are also victims, they are not properly armed as those people so all their cloths were burnt.

Finally CCEPI Executive Director encouraged them.

5) A round up of responses to Nigeria’s crisis

Painting by Brian Meyer
This painting by artist Brian Meyer of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif., came out of his concern for the kidnapped girls. He explains that painting this was a way for him to pray on their behalf.

— Resources that may help church members and congregations consider how to respond to the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, Nigeria, are posted at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/chibok-resources.html . Links take readers to Annual Conference statements on modern-day slavery and child exploitation as well as peacemaking and nonviolence and humanitarian intervention, relevant United Nations statements on the rights of the child and protection of women and children in armed conflict, the World Council of Churches’ call to just peace, and advocacy resources on modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

— “We Built a School in Boko Haram’s Heartland” is the title of an interview with Gerald and Lois Neher, former Church of the Brethren mission workers in Chibok, Nigeria, now living in Kansas. The interview by Michael Daly was published today by The Daily Beast. “The very opposite of terrorists arrived in Chibok more than a half-century before the world came to know this remote Nigerian village as the place where maniacal members of Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 girls and burned down their school. While the terrorist group struck in recent days intending only evil, Gerald and Lois Neher of Kansas came to Chibok in 1954 with the purpose of doing as much good as they were able. They helped make it possible for girls to attend school there in the first place,” read the in depth interview, in part. It reviews the Neher’s work in Chibok beginning in 1954, and the Church of the Brethren early mission involvement there. Read it at www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/13/we-built-a-school-in-boko-haram-s-heartland.html .

— Gerald Neher has published a book about Chibok and its people, “Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria.” The large paperback tome is an extensive record of what Gerald and his wife, Lois, learned about the Chibok during their time as Church of the Brethren mission workers in the 1950s and 1960s. The author “listened to the elders speak about their land, their lineage, their ethos, their farming, religious beliefs, kinship, and much more,” says a description of the book. “He wrote the book so that the Chibok people would have a record of their past and their present as devastating changes have overtaken them.” Copies are available to purchase from Gerald Neher by calling 620-504-6078.

— WSBT Channel 22 Mishawaka has covered the prayer effort at Nappanee (Ind.) Church of the Brethren on behalf of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram. “Church members say they hope the United States will help resolve this peacefully without military action,” the report said. Pastor Byrl Shaver was interviewed as well as Carol Waggy, who spent five years in Nigeria, and spent time in the area where these girls were kidnapped. “To have that personal connection made it even more heartbreaking,” she said. Find the WSBT coverage at www.wsbt.com/news/local/local-churches-pray-for-nigerian-girls/25942368 .

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Several staff gather in the Nigeria prayer room at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.

— A prayer room for Nigeria has been established at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., so that denominational staff may join together in the prayer which Nigerian Brethren have requested. In the room as aids to prayer are copies of the Daily Prayer Guide written by Annual Conference moderator Nancy S. Heishman, Bibles, hymnals, prayer cards with the girls’ names, a prayer journal for participants to write down thoughts and prayers. Associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury created the special prayer space.

— Church of the Brethren districts also have called their congregations to prayer for Nigeria. In Western Pennsylvania District, district executive Ronald Beachley sent an e-mail to congregations encouraging them to plan prayer vigils on May 11, Mother’s Day, or another suitable day, and announced that he would fast that day as another encouragement to prayer for the kidnapped schoolgirls. The e-mail closed with “Be joyful in hope; patient in affliction; faithful in prayer.”

— Among the many congregations that have been praying for Nigeria, a number have posted Facebook notes or photos from special events during this past week. Marla Bieber Abe of Carlisle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren posted, “Dear EYN, I want you to know that the Church of the Brethren in Carlisle prayed for the missing girls, their families, and churches this morning in worship. I am sure we were not the only church! God can do wonders!”  At San Diego (Calif.) First Church of the Brethren, Sunday saw the lighting of a candle in support and prayer for the 200-plus young women who were kidnapped–along with a baby dedication and celebration of Mother’s Day. The San Diego Church plans a Prayer Circle for Nigeria on Saturday, May 17, at 6:30 p.m., that will include music, readings, prayers, litanies, and opportunity to share in meditation.

— “Local prayer vigil held for girls kidnapped in Nigeria” was the title of a piece from Fox News Channel 28 in South Bend, Ind., on May 7, when Church of the Brethren members gathered at the Goshen City Church for a prayer vigil. “We have long and strong ties with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria and it really does feel like this has hit our family,” Madalyn Metzger told the news team. See the video report at www.fox28.com/story/25459278/2014/05/07/local-prayer-vigil-held-for-girls-kidnapped-in-nigeria .

Photo courtesy of Skippack Church

— Janet Mitchell, a member of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., organized a prayer vigil that was reported in an article in the Fort Wayne “Journal Gazette” on May 10. Members of area churches gathered at the Allen County Courthouse Green on Saturday morning to pray for the kidnapped girls. The event was for people of all faiths, and was joined by members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the local chapter of the NAACP. “‘Do not be afraid; Our love is stronger than your fear,’ the men and women sang, as the youngest attendee, Maya Koczan-Flory, 3, drew two hearts on the sidewalk for two of the girls who have died,” said the news report. Find it at www.journalgazette.net/article/20140510/LOCAL/140519970 .

— The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church has posted a prayer for the missing Nigeria schoolgirls, titled “Give us courage to end hate and free the oppressed.” Find the prayer online at http://umc-gbcs.org/faith-in-action/a-prayer-for-the-missing-nigerian-schoolgirls .

— The United Church of Christ has distributed an action alert titled, “JPANet: Act to end violence against women and children in Nigeria and throughout the world!” The alert read, in part: “Our faith compels us to reach for more holistic and sustained solutions for this and the other incidents like it, which take place with alarming frequency, often without the world’s notice. The grave reality remains that this kidnapping is part of a larger global crisis in which gender-based violence continues to occur in every country around the world on a daily basis.
We cannot stand by while women and girls are used as tools of war and continue to experience violence!” It called for support for a bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) which has been reintroduced in the Senate and would make ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic and foreign assistance priority.

Photo courtesy of Stevens Hill Community Church
Stevens Hill Community Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa., included concern for the kidnapped girls in the congregation’s Mothers Day worship on may 11. “Praying for all the mothers and families in the EYN Church in Nigeria,” said Ann Bach, who sent in this photo.

— Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger was interviewed May 8 by Elena Ferrarin of the “Daily Herald,” a newspaper covering the western suburbs of Chicago, Ill. Noffsinger spoke about the connection with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and the call for Brethren across the US and Puerto Rico to engage in prayer and fasting. “We mailed letters to our congregations with the names of the girls. Each girl’s name was sent to six congregations so they could focus their prayer,” Noffsinger said. “We have been in constant communication with the church leadership in Nigeria.” Read the interview at www.dailyherald.com/article/20140507/news/140508593 .

— A sermon by Tripp Hudgins, published in the Sojourners God’s Politics Blog on May 5, quotes from general secretary Stan Noffsinger’s comments from a National Council of Churches release about the girls’ kidnapping. The sermon titled, “In the Breaking #bringbackourgirls,” reflects on the initial lack of media coverage of the kidnapping, and his feeling of being “simply heartbroken and astonished” on finally hearing the news, in light of the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as their eyes were opened to Jesus’ presence. “I had always thought that the burning hearts was a good thing. And it is. But it’s good in the way that it tells the truth, the way that the scales are lifted from our eyes and we see the world for what it truly is and not the fantasy I would make of it. It is in the breaking that we hear the truth. It is in the breaking that we come to understand.” Hudgins goes on to quote Noffsinger, “We are grateful for the prayers of millions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews around the world. We pray God’s unconditional love will touch the consciences of the men who did this.” Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. Find his sermon at http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/05/05/sermon-breaking-bringbackourgirls .

— The world’s largest Muslim organization has denounced the kidnapping of the schoolgirls as “a gross misinterpretation of Islam,” according to media reports. The statement was made by a research institute and human rights committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, based in Saudi Arabia. “This crime and other crimes carried out by such extremist organizations negate all human principles and moral values and stand in contradiction to the clear teachings of the blessed Qur’an and the rightful examples set by the Prophet (Mohammad),” the OIC’s International Islamic Fiqh Academy said. “The secretariat of the academy, shocked by this ugly act, strongly demands the immediate release of these innocent girls without causing any harm to any of them.”

6) #BringBackOurGirls: Righteous, compassionate justice

By Brian R. Gumm

The Scripture from Ephesians guiding Thursday’s prayers for the abducted girls in Nigeria focused on the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the name above all names, the name to which ultimately every knee on earth and in heaven will bow, and every tongue will confess as “Lord.”

I’m alluding there to another Scripture, this from Philippians 2:1-11, which talks about the kenotic/self-emptying nature of Jesus’ lordship. It is not a lordship enforced by the power of the sword, but rather it’s a power born of suffering and absorbing the world’s violence. It is a path that Jesus calls his disciples to walk, individually and collectively in his body, the church. We are to be a crucifom/cross-shaped people.

Today (Friday’s) daily prayer focuses on God’s justice, which in this situation we actively and desperately desire. In the face of such horror, even people far separated from it such as myself want to see these innocent girls redeemed and the men responsible brought to face justice. But both our burning desire for justice and concrete expressions of justice must themselves be brought under the Lordship of Christ. We must think carefully about what God’s righteous, compassionate justice might look like even in horrific situations such as this.

Yesterday I saw a provocative post written by a Nigerian-American woman, Jumoke Balogun: “Dear Americans, Your Hashtags Won’t #BringBackOurGirls. You Might Actually Be Making Things Worse.” I discovered it immediately after posting yesterday’s refection. I’m American and I used the hashtag in my post title (and did again with this one). Uh oh. I certainly don’t want to make things worse, so I read the post with great interest. Here’s a resonant passage:

“It heartens me that you’ve taken up the mantle of spreading “awareness” about the 200+ girls who were abducted from their school in Chibok; it heartens me that you’ve heard the cries of mothers and fathers who go yet another day without their child. It’s nice that you care…. Here’s the thing though, when you pressure Western powers, particularly the American government to get involved in African affairs and when you champion military intervention, you become part of a much larger problem. You become a complicit participant in a military expansionist agenda on the continent of Africa. This is not good.”

When I see Christians in the US (including some fellow Brethren) immediately jumping to petitioning the US government to step in and “help” in this situation, I get nervous for all the reasons that Balogun cites (and she references numerous data about US involvement across Africa, which I’ve also been tracking). The very recent misadventures of US military involvement in various African states has led to some pretty horrific unintended consequences, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone on the planet right now because they’re of the same nature as US involvement in any number of countries around the globe in the past few decades.

Paul Schrag, in an editorial for the “Mennonite World Review,” cites how Christians in Nigeria, including the EYN, are struggling to resists the demon of violent retaliation even in the face of protracted violence in their country.

As the leader of a historic peace church, (Samuel Dante) Dali says he must protect himself from being overtaken by hatred. He views the militants as victims of demonic possession. “A true Muslim would never kill anybody,” he says. His greatest fear is that he and his people will succumb to a spirit of enmity and allow the demon to possess them as well…. Whether persecuted or comfortable, Christians everywhere must battle the evil spirit of hatred–and its companions, prejudice, and suspicion. Dali can see clearly the demon that stalks him. He knows whom he might hate, and he would recognize the emotion if he allowed it to overtake his soul.

For Christians who don’t have the supposed privilege of stable host societies and powerful forces that maintain a relatively luxurious way of life (i.e. most of the Christians in the world), isn’t it ironic that it’s the church under persecution who is struggling mightily to embody the way of peace Jesus calls all Christians to?

The prayer guide for today also has this very important passage from a Church of the Brethren Annual Conference statement on nonviolence in the way of Jesus. I’ll quote the entire passage:

“God’s revelation in Jesus Christ provides a very different sort of answer to the perennial questions intended to justify violence on behalf of victims. Yes, disciples are to care deeply about victims and act on their behalf. But what they do should be in accord with the teachings and spirit of Jesus. Moving against the life of another human being is never in harmony with what God has revealed in Jesus… Even when terrible inhumanities are being threatened or perpetrated, disciples refuse to become agents or advocates of violence. They cry out with victims. They intercede and pray against the powers of destruction. They may be called into actual accompaniment of victims, sharing their jeopardy, working at mediation, and joining with them in nonviolent resistance to those who victimize them. They seek the Spirit’s guidance into creative initiatives that can show the judging love of God to those who move against others…. God’s intent proclaimed in the Gospel is that all human beings, individually and corporately, give themselves to Jesus Christ and his way. Disciples should strive to make that intent manifest in their lives and witness. They must not, therefore, give their support and blessing to governmental policies and actions that are in stark opposition to the way of Jesus. They seek to propose and promote policies and actions by government that do have some congruence with his way.”

The “some” in the last sentence is incredibly, incredibly important. Yes, we Christians live on planet earth and must engage with the powers of this fallen age. Sometimes large, powerful governments can enact policies and actions that have some congruence with Jesus’ way. But there are other powers also at work in those seats of government, and not every spirit is of God, so I would argue any such congruence is very tenuous and rare.

May God grant vision, imagination, and power to those who can take concrete steps toward the rescue of these girls and bringing righteous, compassionate justice to the perpetrators of such evil. And may God stay the hand of those who would be too quick to assume and seek a farcical justice that would only give birth to further injustice and more, horrendous unintended consequences. And as the prayer guide suggests: “Pray that the girls will put their trust in God and not feel forgotten.”

Kyrie eleison. Lord, hear our prayers for justice. Spirit, guide our prayers for justice. Amen.

— This piece is used with permission from Brian R. Gumm, recently ordained to ministry in the Church of the Brethren, who blogs from Toledo, Iowa, and does educational technology work for Eastern Mennonite University. Find his blog at http://restorativetheology.blogspot.com .

UPCOMING EVENTS

7) NYC Prayer Day scheduled for June 22

By Tim Heishman

A day of prayer for this summer’s National Youth Conference (NYC) has been scheduled for Sunday, June 22. Congregations across the country are invited to set aside a special time in their Sunday morning worship services on June 22 to pray for all who will participate in the conference; youth, advisors, and staff. NYC Prayer Day is intended to invite the entire denomination to participate in the experience of NYC and support those who attend.

The National Youth Conference office has prepared special worship resources for congregations and individuals to use. Resources include a prayer of consecration, a commissioning reading, a Call to Worship, song suggestions, and a prayer calendar and guide for those who wish to continue in prayer for NYC over the next few months. Included in the prayer guide is a list of creative ideas for how to support those who will be attending NYC. All resources are available at http://www.brethren.org/yya/nyc/prepare.html

National Youth Conference is scheduled for July 19-24 on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. For more information about NYC, please visit www.brethren.org, or contact the NYC office by calling 847-429-4323 or emailing cobyouth@brethren.org.

— Tim Heishman is one of the three coordinators for National Youth Conference 2014, along with Katie Cummings and Sarah Neher.

RESOURCES

8) ‘Shine Together’ guide for leaders and teachers helps introduce new curriculum

“Shine Together: The Essential Guide for Leaders and Teachers” is now ready for immediate shipping from Brethren Press. “Shine Together” introduces teachers and leaders to ways to transform Sunday school into a time of nurturing faith and experiencing God’s love. The book not only explains the nuts and bolts of a Shine session but also faith formation, the inclusion of children who learn differently, spiritual practices with children, and more. Shine is the new curriculum from Brethren Press and MennoMedia.

Two kinds of Shine starter kits are also available for immediate shipping. These contain the actual products used for the Fall 2014 quarter and some items for even more quarters.

Shine Starter Kit:
Only $175 ($225 value). This special price is available through Aug. 1.
Included are
— Student pieces, teacher’s guides, and poster/resource packs for Early Childhood, Primary, Middler, and Junior Youth
— One Early Childhood Music CD (used for three years)
— One annual Shine songbook and CD (Primary, Middler, Junior Youth)
— One copy of “Shine On: A Story Bible” (Primary, Middler)
— Comes with Shine messenger bag, while quantities last.

Multiage Starter Kit:
Only $75 ($95 value).
Included are
— One Primary and one Middler student piece
— One Multiage teacher’s guide and one poster pack
— One annual Shine songbook and CD
— One copy of “Shine On: A Story Bible”
— Comes with Shine messenger bag, while quantities last.

To discover more about Shine: Living in God’s Light, go to www.ShineCurriculum.com . To purchase Shine curriculum, starter kits, and the new “Shine Together: The Essential Guide for Leaders and Teachers” call Brethren Press at 800-441-3712.

9) Brethren bits

Photo courtesy of CWS
Seen on Facebook this week: “Church of the Brethren volunteers made 504 CWS Emergency Clean-Up Buckets in 54 minutes with CWS-Ohio Region. WOW. And little Uriah put the last bucket on the truck. Way to go buddy!”

— Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) has announced two open positions: director of Communications and assistant director of Financial Operations.
The director of Communications is a full-time, salaried position based in Elgin, Ill. The director envisions how to interpret and educate members of BBT. This is achieved by providing oversight for communications, marketing, promotional and operational initiatives, and client relations that undergird BBT’s ministries. The director oversees the department that produces newsletters, fliers, mailings, advertisements, a family of websites, promotional and operational materials, videos, and other resources; serves as chief writer and editor for the organization; supervises the production manager and client relations manager; is a member of BBT’s management team; is responsible for establishing the organization’s editorial policies and guidelines; travels to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, board meetings, and other events. BBT seeks candidates with an undergraduate degree in communications, English, business, or related fields. Candidates should have a minimum of five years of professional experience in editorial, marketing, promotions, administration, and personnel supervision; need to be articulate writers and public presenters; have interest and aptitude in learning or understanding complex investment concepts; need to be proficient in desk-top publishing and media technology. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included.

The assistant director of Financial Operations is a full-time salaried position based in Elgin, Ill. The primary function is to review and coordinate the reporting of all accounting and financial transactions related to the operations of the Programs and Administration of BBT. Scope of duties includes producing monthly financial statements, managing payroll, monitoring and managing cash flow, preparing account analyses, providing backup for other positions in the Finance Department. The assistant director of Financial Operations will attend local BBT Board meetings and other events, as assigned. The ideal candidate will possess a high level of technical proficiency, intense attention to detail, impeccable integrity, a collegial and engaging demeanor, and a strong faith commitment. BBT seeks candidates with an undergraduate degree in accounting, CPA preferred. Requirements include strong verbal and written communications skills, proficiency in Microsoft Office, strong working knowledge of fund accounting, demonstrated track record in developing first-in-class support of operating activities across product lines within a complex enterprise. Experience with Microsoft Great Plains is desired. Current and active membership in the Church of the Brethren is preferred; current and active membership in a faith community is required. Salary and benefits are competitive with Church Benefits Association agencies of comparable size and scope of services. A full benefits package is included.

To apply, send a letter of interest, résumé, three professional references, and salary-range expectation to Donna March at 1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, or dmarch@cobbt.org . For questions or clarification about these positions, call 847-622-3371. For more information about Brethren Benefit Trust visit www.brethrenbenefittrust.org .

— Manchester Church of the Brethren is making available a DVD of the concert the congregation hosted on April 26, “Goodbye Still Night.” The DVD will be available after June 1. The concert brought together Andy and Terry Murray with their daughters Kim and Kris, Shawn Kirchner, and Mutual Kumquat (Chris Good, Seth Hendricks, Dru Gray, and Jacob Jolliff). To purchase a DVD produced by David Sollenberger and Rainer Borgmann, send $25 to: Manchester Church of the Brethren, P.O. Box 349, North Manchester, IN 46962. Make checks payable to Manchester CoB. Upon receipt of payment the church will mail the DVD. Be sure to include name and address where the DVD should be shipped.

— Lost and Found Church, a new church plant in Big Rapids, Mich., reported on its progress in the Michigan District newsletter this month. “As the L+F Church moves toward the Fall 2014 season, we are working on preparing to launch out into our community even more than we have at this point,” the report said. The group is asking for prayer as it forms a Leadership Team, moves to Sunday morning worship from Saturday afternoon gatherings, and finds a new location for weekly worship gatherings and other events. “We rejoice for the great things God has been doing in and through the Lost and Found Church over the past year,” the report said. “This includes, among other things, the growth we have seen in our college campus ministry at Ferris State University, Standing in the Gap. We have had multiple Michigan District Church of the Brethren youth, along many other Ferris students, connect with this campus ministry over the past year.”

— On April 27, more than 50 walkers gathered at Antioch, Va., for the World Hunger Walk, reports Virlina District. “They raised over $6,000 from generous donors and sponsors as they traversed the beautiful scenery of Franklin County,” said the district newsletter. The auction steering committee expressed appreciation to the walkers, support workers, and donors.  Upcoming events include a golf tournament at the Mariner’s Landing course on May 17, and on June 7, the 25th annual World Hunger Auction Bike Ride kicking off at 8 a.m. from the Antioch Church of the Brethren parking lot. In addition to the traditional 5, 10, 25, and 50 mile routes for bicyclists, motorcyclists are invited to participate in a special journey through the mountains, returning to the church for food and fellowship. Registration for all riders is $25, and they are encouraged to solicit donations in support of the event. For more information and registration go to www.worldhungerauction.org under the Events section.

— The Virlina District Evangelism Committee will hold a Renewal, Revitalization, and Outreach event at Roanoke (Va.) Central Church of the Brethren on Saturday, May 31, starting at 9 a.m. There will be presentation from three groups. E3 Ministry Group (Engage, Excite, Expand) will be led by John Neff. Springs of Living Water will be led by David Young. Vital Ministry Journey will be Stan Dueck of the denomination’s Congregational Life Ministries staff.

— Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries is continuing its “Sow and Grow” program in which participants pick up an envelope at the Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries auction that holds $10 and invest (grow) it over the coming year, returning the proceeds to the next year’s auction. “The program started in 1998,” reports the district newsletter. “In the 16 years since then, $5,910 in seed money has grown to $97,350 to support Brethren Disaster Ministries. The goal for 2015 is $11,000.”

— The Shenandoah District’s Pastoral Support Committee has scheduled a weekend Brethren Heritage Tour, planned in conjunction with former district executive Jim Miller, for Oct. 17-19. The tour includes stops of significance to Brethren history in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Pastors can earn continuing education units, but the tour is open to all interested. Find an invitation and schedule at http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1110837621104-283/2014OctBrethrenHeritageTour.pdf .

— Congregational visit exchanges in Western Plains District began on May 4 for a total of 22 congregations (including two from neighboring districts) under the district’s KonX-ion emphasis. “The project is intended to build relationships across congregational lines and to help congregations appreciate their unique perspective and values,” said the district newsletter. Visits are to be completed by the end of June.

— Western Plains District Conference will be held July 25-27 in McPherson, Kan., on the theme “Pursuing Peace.” Terri Torres will serve as moderator. Pre-Conference Service Projects will take the place of the usual pre-conference workshop this year, the district announced. Participants will join in serving the surrounding community in several service project opportunities on Friday afternoon. The weekend also includes the Cedars’ annual ice cream social Friday night, a Saturday afternoon reception hosted by Brethren Mutual Aid and Prairie View, a Women’s Breakfast on Saturday morning, and a Mission and Service Dinner on Saturday evening. Guest preachers are Ken Frantz of the Haxtun (Colo.) congregation, and Bill Scheurer, executive director of On Earth Peace.

— Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester, Ind., will celebrate its 125-year anniversary with a Summer Festival on June 5-7. The festival will include a Children’s Carnival, festival food, and music by the Fort Wayne Chamber Brass, the Bulldogs, and Triumphant Quartet. Visit timbercrest.org for more details.

— Camp Bethel near Fincastle, Va., is celebrating having been chosen again as “Best of Botetourt” for 2014 by the readers of the “Botetourt View” (Roanoke Times). Also, the Kevin Jones Performing Arts Camps repeated as the “2014 Best Camp For Kids.”  See the camp’s ad at www.campbethelvirginia.org/2014BestofBotetourt.pdf .

— A spiritual disciplines resource for approaching Annual Conference is provided by Springs of Living Water, an initiative in church renewal. Titled “Living as Courageous Disciples, Shining Like Stars in the World,” the resource is the next spiritual disciplines folder offered by Springs, said a release. The folder begins with Pentecost, and focuses on the New Testament letter to the Philippians, following on the Annual Conference moderator’s call to read and memorize the book this year in preparation for the Conference. The disciplines folders are designed for the entire congregation to use, but can be used by individuals as well. Vince Cable, pastor of Uniontown Church of the Brethren, has written Bible study questions for use by individuals or groups. Find the folder and Bible study questions at www.churchrenewalservant.org or contact davidyoung@churchrenewalservant.org . David and Joan Young noted in the release, “We join all Brethren in the emphasis on prayer and fasting.”

— Elizabethtown (Pa.) College commencement speaker is Mark Samels, executive producer of PBS’ “American Experience” from WGBH/Boston, the most-watched and longest-running television history series notes a release from the college. The commencement ceremony will be Saturday, May 17, at 11 a.m. at the Dell. For the college’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies commencement ceremony, the speaker will be Edward Martin, president and CEO of Blue Clay Ventures, who works with Richard Saul Wurman, founder of TED Talks, on the 555 Conference that brings together five global experts, five predictions of future patterns, and five cities across the world. The ceremony on May 17 at 4 p.m. at Leffler Chapel also will mark a school milestone: the first graduates of Elizabethtown’s MBA program. Learn more at www.etowndegrees.com .

— The Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center in Harrisonburg, Va., will hold a celebration and service of dedication for the Brunk Revivals Exhibit on Saturday, May 24, 1-4 p.m. The celebration will include a time for browsing the exhibit and memorabilia on display, a time of reminiscing and singing from the revival songbook, and a service of dedication featuring Myron S. Augsburger as guest speaker. A release explains that “Brothers George II and Lawrence Brunk held their first tent evangelistic meeting in 1951 in Lancaster, Pa. Thus began a series of campaigns as far north as Ontario and as far west as Oregon where in 1953 Lawrence left the organization which was renamed Brunk Revivals, Inc. with a board of directors. George II continued holding the tent meetings for another 27 years across 10 states and 5 Canadian provinces from Ontario to British Columbia. The Brunk Revivals Exhibit is housed in one of the original trucks that were used to haul tents and equipment to the various campaign sites.” The Brunk family created the exhibit and donated it to the center’s permanent collection where it can be viewed during open hours Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. There is no admission charge to the May 24 dedication event. A packet containing a revival songbook, a booklet featuring memories and articles on the history of the Brunk Revivals, and evangelism among Mennonites and Brethren in America, and other memorabilia will be available for purchase. For more information, visit www.vbmhc.org or call 540-438-1275.

— The World Council of Churches (WCC) has published a release urging that the peace agreement negotiated between South Sudan’s president and former vice president come into immediate effect. “The peace agreement was signed by Kiir and Machar on Saturday, 10 May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” the release said. “Yet the situation remains volatile until the truce actually takes effect on the ground. Church leaders who were present at the signing of the peace agreement in Addis Ababa include Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Juba, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, former general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), ecumenical special envoy for South Sudan and Sudan and representative of the All Africa Conference of Churches.” With the agreement having been signed, the real work starts now, said Kobia, who urged that when both parties in the conflict have agreed upon common principals, they now must commit themselves to implement the peace agreement fully. “We believe that they meant what they said,” Kobia said. The participation of church leaders in the Addis Ababa negotiations comes after the recent visit to Juba of an ecumenical delegation which urged leaders on both sides to use the negotiations as an opportunity to agree to dialogue and implement an immediate ceasefire.

Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jim Chinworth, Lesley Crosson, Joan L. Daggett, Rebecca Dali, Kendra Flory, Brian R. Gumm, Matt Hackworth, Elizabeth Harvey, Tim Heishman, Donna March, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, David and Joan Young, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is planned for Tuesday, May 20.


Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears at the end of every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences go to www.brethren.org/newsline .