Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Walking Workcamp

A national youth “walking workcamp” that walked some 100 miles to Peoria to attend Annual Conference raised funds for the Global Food Crisis Fund and the General Board’s Emergency Disaster Fund. The group received sponsorships of over $4,000.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

2005 Ecumenical Citations

The 2005 Ecumenical Citations were given by the Committee on Interchurch Relations at Annual Conference. Colleen Hamilton of Hope Church of the Brethren in Freeport, Mich., and Marisa de Oliveira of Campo Limpo Preaching Point in Campo Limpo, Brazil, received the citations. The two were among four youth and young adults recognized for peacemaking efforts, including Matt Boyer of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, and Anna Christine Simons of Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in South Bend, Ind. Hamilton received the citation for her efforts for the environment and global concerns including helping to begin a recycling program at her high school, bringing focus to the use and waste of styrofoam in the school cafeteria, working and worshiping ecumenically with another congregation in the area, and participating in a high school arts troupe "HEARTS: Helping Educate Abstinence, Responsible Teens." De Oliveira received the citation for her deep sense of justice and her call to share God's love with others through her work for hunger and women's and children's issues. She volunteers at a soup kitchen, has begun a children's church and after-school tutoring program, and has developed and runs children's and women's programs in a poor and dangerous neighborhood of her city.

Source: 7/20/2005 Newsline

Friday, July 15, 2005

Pole project brings scout honor


For 18-year-old Bruce Persons, deciding on an Eagle Scout project was easy.

During his freshman year of high school, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, he noticed that the flagpole at his school was old, bent and did not prominently display the flag. He knew immediately that he wanted to install a new one.

The hard part of the project? Talking on the phone.

Persons, deaf since contracting bacterial meningitis when he was 10 months old, relied on e-mails and a computer relay operator throughout the two-year project, which included getting permission from the principal, researching costs, raising about $2,000 from friends, family, school staff and local businesses, organizing the actual installation and compiling a detailed report.

The result is a 30-foot flagpole at the entrance to the Maryland School for the Deaf's Frederick campus, surrounded by black-eyed susans and a flagstone path and lit 24 hours a day. The project earned him praise and thanks from the school as well as the honor of becoming the 40th Eagle Scout and first deaf Eagle Scout in the newly formed Appalachian Trail district in Frederick County.

Persons, a Smithsburg resident who graduated from Maryland School for the Deaf last month, said he hopes the new flagpole will remind students to be proud to live in America.

"Being an American is valuable for me, being deaf, because in America deaf people have rights that in another country they wouldn't have," Persons said, his mother and sister translating his signs.

"I feel that no matter where the country goes, we should support our troops, our president, our congressmen and senators, even though we may not always agree with them," he said. "It's better to stay united."

Last week, Persons started a summer class in English composition at Hagerstown Community College, his first experience with education outside of the deaf community, with the help of an interpreter and a note taker.

So far, he said, the experience has gone well, so he is considering going to HCC full time in the fall. He also might attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where he was accepted and offered a scholarship.

After earning his bachelor's degree, probably in business, he said he might go on to seminary to become a pastor for the deaf community.

"Growing up, I went to church but I never really got involved because of communication problems," Persons said. It wasn't until after he switched to Frederick Church of the Brethren, which has a deaf fellowship, that he began to consider what it really meant to call himself a Christian.

He learned from the church's deaf pastor that statistically, only 2 percent of deaf people know Jesus, and thought of the verses from Matthew 28 in which Jesus says to the Disciples, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on Earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

"I thought, OK, this is what I'm supposed to do," he said.

Persons is a member of a youth group called Deaf Teen Quest and has traveled to Kentucky and Tennessee for summer mission projects. He also helps with computer technical support for his church's deaf service.

Persons was named MSD's "Most Outstanding High School Student" in both 2004 and 2005, excelling academically, artistically and athletically.

As a member of MSD's Academic Bowl team, he helped win a national championship this spring. He acted in three school plays and won the Best Actor Award for two of them.

He has played basketball, wrestled and helped establish the school's baseball team, of which he was named MVP for three consecutive years.

In his spare time, he said, he likes to do "lots of things that normal teenagers do," including using the computer, reading, golfing with his dad, biking and fly fishing.

His advice for other Scouts interested in achieving the Eagle rank is simple: "Don't give up."

Source: Hagerstown Herald-Mail ONLINE

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Youths give up a week of summer to help those hit hard by flood
By Kathleen Ganster

Corey Harris likes to sleep in during summer vacation, but the 13-year-old was up early Monday, hanging drywall in a Millvale home.

Harris is among 150 young people who descended on the region this week to help flood victims.

While the flood of September 2004 may be a distant memory for many people, hundreds are still trying to repair the damage left behind. That is where Harris and his fellow teens come in. They are here on a mission project to work on flood-damaged homes in Millvale, Etna, Sharpsburg, Carnegie and Tarentum. Next week, a second team of 150 to 180 youths will come to help some more.

The young men and women are part of a project under the auspices of Pennsylvania Christian Endeavor, or PACE, a youth ministry that offers summer mission camps.

Western Pennsylvania was chosen as a mission site after an evaluation process by the ministry staff, said the Rev. Sam Yeager, director of the ministry.

"We review places in Pennsylvania that need assistance that are impoverished or have been struck by a natural disaster. We look at a couple of options, then choose from there," he said. The ministry then mails information to churches all over the state and sections of neighboring states to recruit youth to serve on the mission trip.

The youth are from churches throughout Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and New York.

"People ask us if the youth get paid, but they actually pay their own way," Yeager said. "They also provide their own transportation."

He estimates the cost to participate in the program at $265 per person plus transportation. Yeager, who lives near the ministry's headquarters in Gilbertsville, Montgomery County, is supervising this mission.

The youth of Colemanville United Methodist Church in Conestoga, Lancaster County, raised the money through fund-raisers such as car washes, said Lois Geyer, an adult leader. Her church brought 10 youth members and five adult leaders. They tore up carpeting, scrubbed walls and disinfected a deserted building on Grant Street in Millvale, then boarded it up to prevent it from becoming a health hazard.

"It is so nice to see everyone get happy and excited over what we do," said Geyer's daughter, Olivia, 16, who came on the mission along with her sister, Margaret. "It just feels good."

Harris and his co-workers are also from the Colemanville church. Kevin Keeport, one of the adult leaders, is a carpenter and led five boys as they installed drywall throughout a house around the corner from the other group. Keeport took a week of vacation to lead the youth from his church. "Why not? These people need us," he said.

This was Harris' first mission trip, but some of the older church members had worked with the ministry last year in West Virginia. "I helped drywall my basement at home," Harris said. "So this is fun. Some of it is kind of hard, but it is OK."

The youth and some adults stayed at Mount Alvernia in Millvale, a convent and school run by the Sisters of St. Francis. "The sisters have been very kind to us. They donated the housing," Yeager said.

Material for the repairs comes from a variety of sources, including the churches involved with the project as well as local organizations and churches, the families themselves, federal funds and donations, according to Yeager. "Part of the money the kids raise goes for material," he said.

Locally, North Hills Community Outreach and its satellite in Millvale have been involved in the project as well as the Millvale Assistance Team, Etna Team for Neighborhood Assistance, Carnegie Long-Term Recovery Team, Hosanna Industries and Adventist Community Services.

Outreach staff worked with the ministry staff to assess the skills of the youth to match them to the repair tasks.

"Many of these [flood victims] helped themselves and worked with other volunteers, but they have gone as far as they can in their repairs and still need help," said Don Breitbarth, a flood relief caseworker for North Hills Community Outreach. "We had the youth do a skill assessment -- some of them have been doing this for a couple of years. Then we match them up to the work that needs done."

Another group of youths worked at the home of Rosemary Haberman in Etna. "I had to move out for four months while my son and son-in-law made my house livable again," she said. Although she is back in her house, the youngsters did yard work and seeded her back yard, which was destroyed in the flood.

Sisters Morgan and Chynna McComsey were part of the Etna work team. Chynna, 14, worked on Haberman's yard, while Morgan, 16, helped haul old appliances out of another home. Members of Florin Church of the Brethren in Lancaster, the girls gave up work for a week to help.

"We are doing something good here," Morgan McComsey said. "We have the whole summer. This is only one week, and we can do a lot of good in a week."

(Kathleen Ganster is a freelance writer.)

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bible school students build faith on Habitat project


On a steamy Tuesday evening, students from Beaver Creek (Md.) Church of the Brethren's vacation Bible school lined up to receive paint rollers and brushes.

Three bedrooms in the partially finished house waited for a fresh coat of the cream-colored paint.

The house at 246 Vickie Drive is a Habitat for Humanity project. With help from the church group, it was one step closer to completion.

Dennis Minnick, one of the adult supervisors of the group of seven high school-aged children, said they would probably be back tonight to do some more painting.

"They get along together," he said of the teenagers.

In a back room, Nathaniel Minnick, a student at Smithsburg High School, was painting the top edge of a wall, careful not to get paint on the ceiling. With a flourish from their paint rollers, the other members of the group were rapidly applying the first coat of paint.

Dennis Minnick said the theme of the Bible school is "Construction Zone." He said helping with the Habitat for Humanity project was a way for the youths to put what they learned into action, literally.

"Building faith in God. Building character to be like Jesus," said Keith Griffith Jr., a recent graduate of South Hagerstown High School, about the theme of the camp. He was carefully applying paint along a window frame with a small brush.

Tom Ferguson, another supervisor for the project, said some members of the church, including some of the participants in the Bible school, are going to Pensacola, Fla., in coming weeks to help repair damage caused by Hurricane Dennis.

As a member of the disaster response team for the church, Ferguson has helped repair damage from storms in Mississippi and Virginia.

The Habitat house the church youth group is working on is one of two being built in the county, said Sherry Brown Cooper, the director of Washington County Habitat for Humanity.

She said volunteers and donations have increased in recent years, but so has the price of land. Finding an affordable piece of land to build on is one the biggest challenges the nonprofit group faces.

"There's demand for affordable housing ... personally, I think it's the greatest need in Washington County," Cooper said.

Source: Hagerstown Herald-Mail ONLINE

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Young Adult Conference explores the art of provocation.

More than 130 young adults explored the art of provocation at this year's Church of the Brethren Young Adult Conference. The gathering May 27-29 at Camp Woodland Altars near Peebles, Ohio, had as its theme, "Provoking Love and Good Deeds," based on Hebrews 10:24.

Worship formed the heart of the conference, with three speakers and a service of drama and multimedia examining aspects of the theme. Young adult Jim Stokes-Buckles of Putney, Vt., in the opening service noted Jesus Christ as a model of provocation. "He provoked people by loving those he wasn't supposed to love," Stokes-Buckles said. He challenged young adults to take the lead "at this critical junction of history."

Cliff Kindy, a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, emphasized the need for people to stand up to "empires" that sacrifice the rest of the world for their purposes. "The Church of the Brethren has a different vision of the world that doesn't depend on diminishing or destroying other people," Kindy said. "It's a noble vision."

Jeff McAvoy and Carrie Fry-Miller performed a drama, interspersed with video clips, and Margo Miller-Royer closed the weekend with a series of reflections on relationships. That final service included a time of feetwashing.

Shawn Kirchner and Joseph Helfrich served as music leaders for the weekend; General Board staff members Becky Ullom and Walt Wiltschek were worship coordinators. The annual event is planned by the General Board's Youth and Young Adult Ministries office and its Young Adult Steering Committee.

Other features of the conference included "padare" workshops on a variety of topics, sharing time in small groups, a campfire, open mike coffeehouses, and an upbeat "joyful noise" singing session. An auction raised more than $200 for the General Board's Global Food Crisis Fund.

Source: 7/07/2005 Newsline
Volunteers raise funds for Brethren hunger response.

A youth "walking workcamp" that walked some 100 miles to Peoria to attend Annual Conference also raised funds for the Global Food Crisis Fund and the General Board's Emergency Disaster Fund. The group received sponsorships of over $4,000.

Source: 7/07/2005 Newsline