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Volume 2, No. 1

A Publication of the Office of Planned Giving
of the Church of the Brethren General Board

In This Issue . . .
  • El Salvador: Cost of Peace
  • Workcamps in Mexico
  • BVS in Appalachia
  • A personal note
  • Planned Giving

El Salvador: Cost of Peace

"I Want Their Struggle to be Part of My Struggle!"
Molly Graver, BVS world ministries volunteer

    Molly Graver, a Brethren Volunteer Service worker and part of the Church of the Brethren peace effort in El Salvador, stared hard into Gloria's face. A single tear crowned the woman's cheek as she described all that she'd endured. First war, and following the unstable peace in her country, domestic violence that had almost cost her an eye and the lives of her children.

    Years before, Gloria's family village had been destroyed by Salvadoran bombing during the bloody, twelve-year civil war. Gloria and her three children had witnessed massacres and were intimately familiar with the loss of loved ones to violence. And, at the end of their road, had loomed a husband and father who beat his children mercilessly when he'd finished with his wife.

    But Gloria had overcome her terror and come for protection to the Committee for the Defense of Women, which Molly Graver helps lead through BVS. The Committee managed to hide Gloria and her children and petitioned the local judiciary for court- sanctioned protection. Through Molly and the Committee's actions, the Salvadoran courts enforced a decree against the children's father, legally protecting Gloria and her children.

    Molly states, I celebrate Gloria's story and her efforts to end violence and its aftermath in her life. Gloria's commitment to justice, like ours, shows that even in the face of war, trauma and personal violation, survivors, with the support of others like us, can defy the past and move forward to a hopeful future.

    The Church of the Brethren efforts abroad are, of course, about more than just righting wrongs and overcoming injustice. We are also dedicated to bringing faith and peace to our troubled world. To do this, we believe strongly in bettering individuals like Gloria personally, as well as working to change whole communities, regions, states and even countries.

    Your response to Brethren ministries abroad has been overwhelming, and we encourage you to continue to pray and support Church of the Brethren efforts around the world. Together we have entered the lives of families and whole peoples, accompanying refugees in resettlement, assisting relief attempts, sharing our faith and providing a visible international presence in devastated communities. And never has this work we are accomplishing together been more necessary than it is today. Thank you for joining with us in supporting Church of the Brethren ministries around the world.

Workcamps in Mexico

"Putting Aside Our Comfort," Teenagers at a Workcamp

    At last, as night began to fall over Lucio Blanco, Mexico, Church of the Brethren youth watched as the final ripple of cement filled the form of a roof they were helping pour. The relentless sun had pounded down on the workcamp crew as they strained and sweated all day to prepare the site. Finally, the blistering sun crawled beyond a row of low hills outside the village, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

    It was dramatic, working together, seeing the building and others like it taking shape, seeing the teamwork. Every day for a week, the team had dragged themselves up at dawn, ignoring sore backs and arms and sunburns that came with the job. For the moment, they'd all put aside familiar comforts, and kept up with the Mexican professional crews despite the difficulty and the temperature.

    These teenage volunteers your gifts helped send to northern Mexico showed a tremendous commitment to our shared ideals of service, faithfulness and commitment. Most of the team managed to communicate in halting Spanish with the villagers and other workers without resorting to comfortable English. For the length of the workcamp, locals and volunteers were all a part of a single community, working side by side for mutual benefit.

    Kurt Ritchie, director of the workcamp in Reynosa, Rio Bravo and Lucio Blanco, remembers, at the end of one grueling day, as we finished a particularly big job, the Mexican supervisor on the project stopped us and said he wanted to say something.

    Looking us over, he raised his hands and said, I want you to know that I myself, and the rest of us here in the villages, will carry you in our hearts for the work you have done. And, don't worry, each of you will fit!

    Workcamps are, of course, about work, about labor and value. But, more than that, they are about inspiration, about caring; about being brothers and sisters with men, women and children who need our help and our love. And, just as their young strength gives lasting benefit to the communities they serve, your support and commitment to these young men and women touches and teaches them for years to come.

Sidebar: Budget Appeal

For All You Do . . .

    Thanks to faithful Brethren like you and your response to our recent Church of the Brethren General Budget appeal, our denominational financial shortfall has been greatly lessened, and many of our obligations have been met.

    As a result, though we are still carefully and prayerfully trimming and streamlining many areas of ministry, our efforts in service projects, workcamps, relief programs and denominational outreach projects to underdeveloped and war-ravaged regions (such as One Great Hour of Sharing) have been continued!

    Everything you've done and continue to do as a faithful supporter of the work of the Church of the Brethren General Board will enable us to accomplish more in 1997 than we were able to do in 1996. Because of you, our vital work in the world continues! Praise God for his continued blessing.

When the World Sees a Shepherd, God Sees a King!

Brethren Volunteer Service

    BVS volunteer Tim Nelson looked out over the rough Kentucky countryside near the little Flat Creek Church of the Brethren. He and a handful of other volunteers had come to this economically hurting community with a mixed bag of expectations and big questions.

    How were BVS volunteers like himself, most from privileged homes in urban communities, going to integrate into this poor community? How were volunteers going to make a lasting difference to these people? How did these families feel about outsiders coming in to help them with their church and their personal lives?

    Tim and his BVS team quickly recognized a genuine problem that outsiders, even trained BVS volunteers, often have. All too often, Tim says, people coming into these mountains to help have done everything for these people instead of becoming partners with them. The result is underdeveloped potential and an expectation by local people that volunteers will take on all the leadership. We become the only way things get done, and often we aren't even shown what the real needs are. Then, of course, what happens when we leave?

    But after we came to know these people, we began to see kids and adults with all kinds of talents and potential academic, athletic, musical and so on. And we also humbly came to realize God has blessed all his people with spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12) that we could use together. The community had so much to offer, so much potential! And the BVS team began seriously working side by side with the local faithful, cooperating as a fellowship of brothers and sisters, building something lasting together.

    That's when we reached our potential, Tim notes. Remember how David was anointed as king? Seven of David's brothers passed by Samuel without his choosing one of them. Then David, who was tending sheep, was summoned. No one would have thought of him, but where the world saw a shepherd, God saw a king!

    As faithful members of the Church of the Brethren, we must also work to realize the potential each of us has for God's service, whether as BVS volunteers committed to a difficult project or ordinary individuals in everyday life.

    Only when all of us are working together, supporting one another continually, will we move forward as a people of active hope. When we allow God to use us all, the results are both lasting and amazing!

A Personal Note . . . About Personal Notes!

Dear Friend,

    I'm sure you've noticed, particularly with The Open Door now arriving regularly at your doorstep, that suddenly you've become a regular pen pal of the Church of the Brethren General Board! Many Brethren have been both surprised and pleased by the sudden, regular correspondence from a denominational headquarters that has often remained inconspicuous. Some of you have even begun regularly writing us back, and we couldn't be more pleased!

    As you read what we write in anticipation of what we're accomplishing together as Brethren, please remember how much you are a part of everything done by the General Board. All our programs are possible only because you make them possible, through your gifts and prayers. All the letters, updates and, now, The Open Door newsletters you receive are our way of involving you directly in what we are accomplishing together as a people of active hope.

    We want so much to make you directly aware of the ministries and programs we share with you; we want to directly affirm your place in the work of the General Board, particularly in your assistance above and beyond your congregational giving. We very much want you to feel directly involved in all that we do on your behalf. It couldn't happen without your support, none of it!

    Nothing would make us happier than your beginning to respond to us regularly, turning our new monologue into a true and happy dialogue. Please, let us know your thoughts! Because we depend on you as a denomination, as a church, continuing, as we are, the work of Jesus....

Peacefully ~ Simply ~ Together


Dale Minnich
Executive, General Services Commission

Please continue to pray for and support your Church of the Brethren ministries sponsored by the General Board, including BVS, workcamps, Summer Service Volunteers, One Great Hour of Sharing programs, worldwide outreach, and many others. Remember, everything we do as a church in Jesus' name, we do together.

Sidebar: Planned Giving

Beyond the Joy of Helping Others . . .

    . . . you can receive personal financial benefits through charitable giving to the Church of the Brethren General Board. For example, by making a gift of appreciated property (including stocks, bonds and real estate) to the church, you have the potential to enjoy significant capital gains tax savings and secure lifetime income. We have prepared a brochure, Planning Strategies: Which One is Best For You? to assist you. Contact us to insure your receiving the maximum benefits allowed.

    The Open Door is published by the Church of the Brethren, a non-profit religious and educational organization recognized by the Federal and State governments.

© 1997 Church of the Brethren General Board
Office of Planned Giving
1451 Dundee Avenue
Elgin, Illinois 60120
Telephone (800) 336-4413