walk humbly with your God Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream What does it mean to hunger and thirst for justice? Sometimes it means getting on a bus. That’s what a group of Brethren did just before Annual Conference. Their two-day trip planned by Discipleship Ministries was called Dikaios and Discipleship. The Greek word Dikaios, which appears more than 300 times in the New Testament, means both “justice” and “righteousness.” We can translate it either way. Just a few days ago a Dikaios group traveled to the nearby town of Cherokee, North Carolina for a scripture-inspired journey to learn more about the lives of Native Americans. In 2018 the first Dikaios group traveled throughout Cincinnati to learn about the city’s history with slavery and the Underground Railroad. They also learned about the race-based inequalities of Cincinnati today. One participant described how the group stood on the banks of the powerful Ohio River and shone flashlights over the water. Together they prayed to become lights in the darkness, part of an outpouring of the Spirit of justice, and righteousness, and discipleship. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they will be filled. The Dikaios experience led the Church of the Brethren into another educational opportunity, a first-ever Native American challenge. Brethren spent the month of November reading, discussing, and learning about indigenous issues. The Native American challenge was a joint effort of Intercultural Ministries and the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. The Office of Peacebuilding and Policy also worked toward justice on behalf of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Staff arranged for EYN church leaders to meet with governmental and religious leaders in Washington. Our church has deep roots in Nigeria so it’s natural for us to take the lead on this issue by convening the Nigeria working group for the Washington Interfaith community. Doing justice also means following the lead of others, joining the Haitian Church of the Brethren in Miami as church members witnessed for fair treatment of immigrants. Many members of that congregation escaped poverty and hardship in Haiti and they are anxious about the current situation for immigrants in the U.S. Doing justice is what happens at Christian Citizenship Seminar, where youth learned about creative solutions to violent conflicts around the world, and doing justice is a Mission and Ministry Board statement on gun violence that calls the church to reclaim its saltiness. Give justice to the weak and the orphan. Maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. 75 years ago the Church of the Brethren sent Dan West to Spain, where he headed up the church’s relief program. As he distributed powdered milk to starving children, he was disturbed by the choices he was forced to make. The rules were that the scarce milk could not be given to babies who had stopped gaining weight. These decisions haunted him. He thought of his own healthy children living on a farm back in the United States. Why couldn’t cows from Indiana help the children in Spain? Dan West’s big idea quickly became a big organization called Heifer Project. Now we know it as Heifer International. While cattle were sent all over the world, the first Heifer Project cow was sent to Puerto Rico. That led the Church of the Brethren to become involved there in medical and agricultural work and to establish a hospital and congregations. Today the Brethren in Puerto Rico are working with Brethren Disaster Ministries to rebuild homes and lives that were ravaged by two back-to-back hurricanes in 2017. In October, the Church of the Brethren is marking the 75th anniversary of Heifer at a celebration in Castañer, Puerto Rico. A cow, not a cup. Dan West’s story demonstrates the heart of the Brethren. That impulse to love kindness and make a difference in practical ways underlies so many of the churches ministries, beginning with youth serving a week in workcamps and young adults serving a year through Brethren Volunteer Service. Brethren Disaster Ministries is rebuilding lives in places as far apart as the Carolinas and Nigeria. Children’s Disaster Services cared for children displaced by the Camp Fire in California, a fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and the Paradise Church of the Brethren. At the same time that we’re celebrating the growth of Heifer International We can see another way that seeds from one place have borne fruit in another. When the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland was sold, some of the proceeds were invested in a special fund. Income from that investment has been made available to congregations applying for Brethren Faith in Action grants. Those grants go for outreach projects that serve the community, strengthen the congregation, and expand the reign of God. If we look carefully then we can see the seeds of New Windsor taking root in congregations across the country. Also taking root is a new program to support multi-vocational pastors– which describes the pastors of 3/4 of our congregations. The program is called Part-time Pastor, Full-time Church. It’s funded by the Lilly Endowment Thriving in Ministry initiative, which has given the Church of the Brethren almost $995,000. Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Finally, all of you have unity of spirit sympathy,
love for one another, a tender heart
and a humble mind. In Rwanda the fledgling Brethren movement there has hosted a Pennsylvania family Josiah and Christine Ludwick and their two children. The family’s assignment, which they just completed in June, was simply to walk alongside the Rwandan Brethren. They were to be mutually encouraged as they offered the gospel of peace in a country that knows too much violence. That spirit of learning from each other and walking humbly was present at Mission Alive 2018, a conference for mission-minded church members from across the United States and around the world. These folks discussed what it means to be Brethren and whether a global Church of the Brethren is a good idea. That conversation was preparation for Annual Conference, which a few months later approved a major paper setting out a vision for a global church. Later this year a small group of people representing each of the countries where there’s a Church of the Brethren will gather to talk about what this new vision could become. Young people from several of these countries were able to get visas to attend National Youth Conference in Colorado, giving NYC an international dimension that brought welcoming cheers from the stateside youth. The conference was filled with two worship services a day, small group time, workshops, service projects, recreation, and hiking in the Rockies. Whatever their home district or country the youth were “Bound Together” and “Clothed in Christ.” In a creative new idea from the district of Southern Ohio and Kentucky, the district was literally bound together with Messenger, the magazine of the Church of the Brethren. Twice a year the district is producing a full-color newsletter that is bound into an issue of Messenger and then mailed to all their households. Their newsletter is called “Together,” and the district is demonstrating what that word means. Where else can we celebrate togetherness?
On the Global Food Initiative visit to Ecuador, there were still signs of the Church of the Brethren to be found even though the Brethren had merged long ago into another church. The identity was still there in two organizations with the word “brethren.” The global food initiative is now partnering with Fundación Brethren y Unida on projects for youth and women in Llano Grande, elders in the community remembered U.S. mission workers by name. Educated at a Brethren school, they carry in their DNA the Brethren values of service, peacemaking, and concern for the most vulnerable members of society. Those values are visible also in Haiti, where the Haiti Medical Project is making strides toward a goal of providing water projects to all the communities where the Church of the Brethren has congregations or preaching points. What does the Lord require? to do justice
to love kindness to walk humbly with your God