Posts by Communications

District News & Announcements – January 2017

District News & Announcements

January 2017

 “District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by January 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Interim Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 52

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION LII: ON KEEPING CHRISTMAS

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: How will keep you Christmas alive in the coming year?

This holiday season has already held memories of good times with co-workers, clients, family and friends. My fervent wish is to keep this spirit of peace and goodwill alive in the New Year, especially the upcoming one that holds so much local, national and global turmoil. As I ponder how I will keep Christmas alive, a poem by Howard Thurman comes to mind. He reminds us that after the “song of the angels is stilled…the work of Christmas begins.” He urges us “to find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry…and to make music in the heart.” His message invites me to keep advocating for the hunger and homelessness causes in my community. Perhaps, instead of throwing up my hands and speaking of hopelessness, I can identify my circles of influence and vow to always speak positively about those with whom I disagree and to keep on “doing good” in my own neighborhood. How will you keep the holiday spirit alive?

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about your plan to “Keep Christmas.”

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session LII.    
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

Message from the Moderator: January 2017

District Theme 2017-Clean copyEnter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 11:4-5 NIV).

On our first Sunday in Nigeria we attended a thanksgiving celebration. This was not your typical American turkey and gravy kind of thanksgiving held once a year on the fourth Thursday of November. A Nigeria church thanksgiving celebration is when a family or individual wants to give explicit thanks to God for a particular reason. It can range from a return to health after a serious illness, the gift of a child after an extended barrenness, the passing of an old, old person, and a family returning thanks for their parents’ dedicated lives to the church, family, and community. The last example was what took place last Sunday. Judith’s family, with the pastor’s permission, invited the congregation and friends of the family to come to a designated church service to give thanks to God for the many blessings given to Judith’s parents, Demi and Icho Ravo. Along with the normal offering, a special offering was given the church on behalf of the Demi family. Video 1 shows the family offering time and Video 2 shows the normal offering. Family and close friends were dressed in matching cloth; the men in white and green, the women in yellow and green. Following the two and a half hour service we returned to the Demi compound for food and festivities along with the excruciating “photo-op.”
The celebration was touching. The way the Spirit filled the church with praise and thanksgiving was wonderful. Honestly, I have never felt the same kind of joy and spiritual energy back home as I have here in Nigeria. I was truly blessed to be a part of this celebration. And when I compare what they have with what I have, when I consider the hardships of life in Nigeria, raising a family of eight on the very modest pastor’s income compared to my life back in the States, when I experience their joy, praise, and thanksgiving and compare it to my own, I begin to understand, if only a bit, the Beatitudes of Jesus. Jesus often used the introductory phrase “The kingdom of God is like . . .” and then followed it with a lesson. Let me finish by also saying, “The kingdom of God is like a Nigerian thanksgiving celebration whose people entered His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Amen.
Video 1:
Dave Whitten, District Conference Moderator, 2017

District News & Announcements – Advent 2016

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District Advent Calendar 2016

Church Events:
Ankeny
Correction:
Panora’s address was incorrectly listed.
The Address for Panora Church of the Brethren is:
2964 200th Rd, Panora, IA

District News & Announcements – December 2016

december-2016-banner

District News & Announcements

December 2016

 “District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by December 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Interim Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Leadership Development Musings: December 2016

Barbara and I, over the next few months, are going to further explore with you the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership she listed last month. Our first practice is Model the Way. Exodus 3:1-12a says to us: 3 “One day Moses was taking care of Jethro’s flock. (Jethro was the priest of Midian and also Moses’ father-in-law.) When Moses led the flock to the west side of the desert, he came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire coming out of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. 3 So he said, “I will go closer to this strange thing. How can a bush continue burning without burning up?”4 When the Lord saw Moses was coming to look at the bush, God called to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 Then God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The Lord said, “I have seen the troubles my people have suffered in Egypt, and I have heard their cries when the Egyptian slave masters hurt them. I am concerned about their pain, 8 and I have come down to save them from the Egyptians. I will bring them out of that land and lead them to a good land with lots of room—a fertile land. It is the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 9 I have heard the cries of the people of Israel, and I have seen the way the Egyptians have made life hard for them. 10 So now I am sending you to the king of Egypt. Go! Bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt!” 11 But Moses said to God, “I am not a great man! How can I go to the king and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 God said, “I will be with you.”  In 1981 in the United States, 11, 005 people between the ages of16 and 21 died in car accidents. Under normal circumstances, that statistic wouldn’t have meant much to Robert Anastas, a hockey coach at Wayland Public High School in Wayland Massachusetts. But 2 of those 11, 005 young people had been on his hockey team. They were killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Robert was stunned. It doesn’t have to be this way, he thought. Robert knew nothing would change if no one did anything to combat the problem. So he started Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) and has dedicated his life to combating the drunk driving problem. The organization works to alert students the dangers of drinking and driving. Under Robert’s leadership, SADD has grown to a national organization with 4 million members and chapters in all 50 states and Canada. Robert has also received dozens of awards for battling this serious problem. Robert saw a problem and became a leader in the fight to overcome it. In the same way, Moses learned about the Israelites’ persecution in Egypt and followed God’s call to lead them to freedom.

Questions to ponder:

  1. What similarities are there between Robert’s call and Moses’ call to leadership? What differences do you see?
  2. How can you Model the Way in your congregation? Your home? Your community?
  3. How can you encourage others to Model the Way in their congregation? Their community?

Blessings on the journey,
Barbara Wise-Lewczak & Laura Leighton-Harris
Your Co-Ministers of Leadership Development

Holiness in our Midst: Session 51

Holiness in our MidstSESSION LI: ON WISE PERSONS

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Who are three wise persons who have touched your life? What gifts have they brought to you?

In the Christmas Story, I’ve always been intrigued by the three wise men who came from the East, bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh, to worship the baby Jesus. (Matthew 2:1-12). They remain intriguing characters, eliciting many questions: Where did they come from? How did they know Jesus was worthy of worship? How did they find their way to the manger? What made them wise?

Their story prompts the above questions about naming three wise persons enlivening my world and the gifts they have carried to me. I would answer differently in other eras of my life, but these persons come to mind now after a year of national political chaos:

1. Garrison Keillor, the recently-retired radio broadcaster and creator of the variety show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” brought me the gift of laughter on Saturday nights for more than 30 years. His delightful “Lake Wobegon” characters showcase both his understanding of small-town blue-collar workers and his elegant mind. His humorous take on the most tragic of events has made life more bearable for me. His modeling of the value and power of a well-told story influenced me to create platforms for persons to share their personal stories.

2. Gwen Ifill, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, showed the world uncommon wisdom in her role as moderator of the PBS program, “Washington Week in Review.” Hearing her speak at Iowa State University inspired me to listen to other political voices. I valued her ability to moderate difficult conversations and national debates without taking sides. I missed her news commentary during this difficult election season, when she was off the air. Unfortunately, she died Nov. 14.

3. My great uncle, the late Dr. Ralph Wise of Springfield, IL had a special way of imparting his wisdom to me without lecturing. Just out of high school, I told him that I wanted to be a doctor like him. We were in the car with his six kids when we had this conversation. Instead of telling me I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor, he simply asked me a series of questions: “Did you try to mend butterfly wings when you were a little girl? Did you bandage the knees of your playmates when they fell? Did you run toward the boy who fell off the monkey bars on the jungle gym?” I had to say ‘no’ to his questions. He said that he was born to be a doctor, but that I was born to be a writer, perhaps a journalist. He reminded me that everywhere I went, I recorded my actions and carried a camera with me. That day, he detoured to the nearest drug store and bought me a whole packet of pencils (with erasers, he said) and a pad of paper. Looking back, his actions that day set me on the path of doing what I am good at rather than what others think I should do. And that gift of discernment has made all the difference.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:
1. Read the above reflection.
2. Write about the wise persons in your life. What gifts have they carried to you?

FOR GROUP STUDY:
1. Read aloud Session LI.
2. Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

Message from the Moderator: December 2016

District Theme 2017-Clean copyYes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance . . . (Philippians 1:18b-19 ESV).

In just a little less than four weeks Judith, Zherina, and I will begin a ten week sabbatical. We are so humbly grateful for the opportunity the South Waterloo congregation has given us! We are blessed! We will spend nine of those weeks in Nigeria. The remaining week will be spent in London and Prague, Czech Republic. Matthew, my oldest son, his wife and two boys live in Prague. My younger son, Samuel also lives there. We have rented a house from the Mennonite Central Committee in the city of Jos. Judith is from a village outside of Jos called Miango. Much time will be spent with Judith’s parents, her five sisters, two brothers and all of their families. The first Sunday will be a Thanksgiving celebration in Judith’s home church giving praise to God for His care and blessings for Judith’s parents; a celebration organized and led by family. A cow will be killed, a number of chickens, kettles of rice for all who come. The immediate family will be dressed in similar outfits. Judith wanted to buy special shoes for me for the occasion. I kindly refused. I’ll have my cowboy boots under my “baban riga!”

I have been in discussion with the EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) Church for possible projects that I might do while there. I have been invited to preach in a church in Yola, the capital of Adamawa. I hope to find some work to do associated with the rebuilding of the EYN church and her people. Many friends and associates have been deeply affected by the violence perpetrated on them by Boko Haram. I hope to combine some special projects along with some “down time.” Some people might find it odd that we would consider such an insecure place to spend a sabbatical. But we have family, friends, and colleagues who have suffered tremendously these past years. Why wouldn’t we want to be with them?

And so from December 11 to February 20 your moderator and his family will be gone. We have a tremendous DC Planning Committee working together on our upcoming 2016 District Conference which will be held, by God’s grace, at South Waterloo. During this time away Judith, Zherina, and I need your prayers. Please prayer for us. Pray for safety in our travels. Pray for our safety in Nigeria. Pray for Judith’s homecoming. Pray for Zherina who will be out of school (Kindergarten) for those weeks and the attempt by her father to do a little homeschooling. And pray for a meaningful, purposeful, and rest-filled sabbatical for me. Pray for South Waterloo as they, too, experience a sabbatical away from me! We hope to stay in touch with photos and small video clips of our experience. May God bless you and keep you ‘til we meet again!

Dave Whitten, District Conference Moderator, 2017

District News & Announcements – November 2016

november-banner

District News & Announcements

November 2016

 “District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by November 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Interim Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Get a printable version of the newsletter here.

Holiness in Our Midst: Session 50

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION L: HOME PLACES

STORY CIRCLE PROMPT: Where is your “home place?” Is it the house you grew up in? Can you still visit it? What makes it meaningful?

Early last month, October 2016, I would have said that my “home place,” of course, was the house I grew up in. It could be found east of Nevada, IA, by turning north off Lincoln Highway onto Story County Road S27. First you looked for the third farmstead on the east side of the road. Tucked next to a big white home was my place, a small two-story frame house with a brown faux brick exterior and a stone foundation. I always thought of it as a cottage.

I reference past tense because I came across it on Oct. 18 in the middle of a controlled burn. On a random mid-day drive through the countryside, I was stunned to see smoke rising from my childhood home. The next day, I drove by again; the smoldering ruins and what was left of the foundation were being bulldozed and buried. The following day, fresh dirt covered the area. I could see the milk house through the trees. My landmark, my touchstone to my early years, was simply gone. It held memories of birthdays, Christmases, my first day of school, happy hours roaming the barns and fields. To see it was to be instantly connected to my past.

Lately, “my” house had been used for storage, the owners had said the last time I stopped by to walk the farm. I should have read the signs that its life span was limited. The reality is that I’m left pondering new questions about the whereabouts of my “home place?” Is it the farmstead that still surrounds the empty spot? Is it the farm where my grandparents had lived? Where is “home” when the house I grew up in is gone? It seems my new answers will take some time…

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write about the place that you refer to as your “Home Place.” Is it still standing? What are your most vivid memories of life there? Do you still visit it, or does it only exist in your imagination? Is your “home place” a multitude of locations?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

  1.   Read aloud Session L.   

      2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.