QWI News & Views Newsletter No. 3
February 1, 1999

In this issue:

Churches Continue to Burn- Five over the Christmas Holidays in Georgia
Just in case you weren't reading the Atlanta Constitution or talking with Betsey Miller from the Burned Churches Office of the National Council of Churches recently you probably don't know that five more churches burned.

Being so recent, these burnings are not reflected in the numbers reported in the next column.

Five churches burned with the same modus operandi. They all involved forced entry and a firebomb thrown into the pulpit area. Most tragically, a firefighter was killed in fighting one of these fires.

In attempting to understand why people commit such acts of violence, I am led to a Pendle Hill pamphlet, No Royal Road to Reconcilation by Gene Hoffman.

In it the author makes the point that "Unless the violated are healed, there are likely to be repeat cycles of violence." If there are economic causes of injustice, then a church rebuilding workcamp can work for the victims of violence while at the same time working for wider reconciliation in the society.

If it is true that "at the heart of every act of violence is an unhealed wound," then the words of Herb Walters can guide us: "Our job as peacemakers is not to take sides. It is to seek the truth. It is to humanize rather than dehumanize the [arsonists].

We rebuild the burned house of God but work for a loving human family.

National Church Arson Task Force makes Second Report to the President
In October 1998, the Departments of Justice and Treasury published the long-awaited report to the President on church burnings.The report covered the time period from January 1, 1995 to September 8, 1999. In this time period the Task Force reported:

  • 670 cases of "proven" arson.
  • Another 105 cases of "undetermined" or suspicious fires.
  • 315 cases of accidental burnings.

This report says that over a church a day burned or was bombed. Were you aware of this? Quaker publications such as Friends Journal and Quaker Life were the first national publications to report these disturbing statistics as the national media seems as unconcerned about the report as they have been about the burnings themselves.

The report also says that 112 churches have been rebuilt or are rebuilding and cites the Quaker and Mennonite leadership in this effort. Still, this report specifies many more churches that will need assistance and the money to help rebuild has run dry from individual, corporate and philanthropic sources. Without a renewed awareness of this crisis, most of the churches burned will not see the light of rebuilding. Please help spread awareness of this report and its sobering implications. The report is available online at http://www.atf.treas.gov/pub/arson98.htm.

Workcamp Announcement: Church Rebuilding in Maryland
The Board of Directors of QWI and the Community Baptist Church in District Heights, MD are pleased to announce an invitation to volunteers to help rebuild this church destroyed by fire just before last Christmas.

See Community Baptist Church in Cedar Heights Maryland.

1988 Year Totals of Financial Giving
Our workcamp year had a dramatic turnaround due to many Friends' concern over the continuation of church burnings. QWI raised our $60,000 budget and an additional $17,691.97 due to our 305 generous donors. Thank you one and all!

  • Individual/ church donors $59,479.75
  • Foundations 14,100.00
  • Family Church Banks 351.92
  • Release for ministry funds 1,275.00
  • Workcamp fees 13,485.00
  • Total income $88,691.67
  • Reimbursements for volunteer no-shows(inability to get visas} $11,000.00
  • Adjusted total income $77,691.67
  • Annual Budget $60,000.00
  • Income surplus/deficit $17,691.67

Two Love Stories Come Out of the First Community Baptist Workcamp
December 4th was the first workday for a special workcamp of eight Tanzanian young folk who came this direction to do service here, helping Americans rebuild burned churches. They were joined by David Miller, a Friend from Plymouth Meeting in Pennsylvania who also worked with us in Boligee, Alabama.

As we removed burned pews, piano, pulpit and so forth, two of the volunteers, Mustafa and Fadhili brought me, out of the cinders, a large framed picture of Christ and his disciples at the last supper."This seems to be too important to put in the dumpster," they declared. I thanked them for bringing it to me, noting that they had used the Swahili word, "imana," to describe it which carries a sense of supreme importance.

The upper part of the frame was scorched but the painting appeared untouched except for an occasional smudge of smoke.

Rev. Carl Keels the pastor affirmed in a call that evening that it was additionally important because it was a gift from a beloved friend of the church.

"Well," I told him, "then the church has been blessed with a second gift as the two young men who found it, recognized its importance and brought it to me were two of our Moslem volunteers in this workcamp." Whenever a person from one of our spiritual families recognizes something of lasting spiritual value important to those of another family, God smiles.

The second story comes from the end of the workcamp....

Today, when the 7th construction dumpster was delivered from Brandywine Enterprises, I got into a conversation with the truck driver, Lindsey Washington, who had asked questions about the burned church. Inevitably I got around to giving a short vignette of our ministry and then introducing him to its reality through the Tanzanian volunteers, already busy filling this new dumpster. Lindsey Washington, was amazed at their coming this distance at their own expense to work on this burned church. "It's a blessing!," he exclaimed,

He insisted on dismounting from the tall cab and shaking each one of their hands. As he climbed back up, he said, once again, "What a blessing!'

I then thanked him for the blessing his company had given to this church of free trash removal services. Stunned, he looked at me, "My company did that?" I confirmed that this was the 7th dumpster they had provided free of charge.

His face broke into a beautiful smile as he told me he was not only going to go and tell the CEO how much he appreciated what the company was doing for this church but that he wanted to donate his time for this run to help his company assist this church.

That's a good story in itself but it does not end there. When Lindsey thanked the Executive Vice President, Brent Dilts, he sent his Operations Manager, William Radford to check this story out. Later that afternoon, they both appeared on the site and offered to send one of their heavy machines to "help the volunteers" knock down the block walls and load the dumpster thereby helping them complete this large task on time. They also offered to supply free gravel when the church is ready to rebuild.

These are just two of the love stories out of many that have come out of the remarkable witness of the thousands of volunteers who have helped to rebuild six churchesas interfaith volunteers in Quaker workcamps.

David Miller, our Friend in Residence and leader of the above workcamp, came to us two years ago, to serve as a volunteer in Boligee Alibama, riding his bicycle. When he returned home, he sent us the following leter which we have put permanently in our book of reflections, a book written by the volunteers themselves as a part of their experiences. David wrote,

Dear Friends,

After miles of riding and several days of rest the blessings of the time I spent in Alabama with you all has not faded. I came to the workcamp hoping to serve the Faith Community whose outward structure and identity was so violently taken from them. Experienced Work Campers know that the physical work is only the background music for the real service of fellowship. I knew this intellectually but was surprised by the numbers of the community and Work Campers at the level of the spirit. There is a satisfaction in the physical work that was completed, however the opportunities of the spirit are the memories that remain so vivid in my mind. Shared times of prayer and discussions about the foundations of a Christian Faith seemed to spring from the ground that are worked on.

It would be wrong to forget the friction that was felt as the diverse Faith communities come together over the past week. To forget would be to minimize the effort that members of these communities put into being faithful to the message of love in their tradition. There was a corporate rising above our differences and seeking out the "Universal Church." In several cases that I am aware of, people heard the place from which the words came from and were enriched in their own understanding of God's love. The use of meeting for worship by the Catholic University students and by our Jewish volunteers on Thursday night at the Mt. Zion burn site was a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit for all that participated, even though they had only this week been introduced to this silent manner of worship.

As I rode out of the flat farm land into the rolling hills of the coal mines northeast of Tuscaloosa I revisited the many special moments of sharing which occured during the past week. Hills flowed under my wheels effortlessly as they played back to me. I thought of the smile on Roberts face as he placed the last brick on the front of Mt. Zion, or the tears of a new friend as we shared a prayer at the burn site. I will forever remember the glow in the young girls face as she stood at the front of the church gazing up into the face of the woman with the angelic voice. You could read her thoughts, " I will one day sing like that." The love that I recieved from the people throughout my journey stands in sharp contrast to the searing violence of the fire that left a cemetary which will never again hear the choir's music drift out the church doors and over the resting place of those who had come before. I pray that the love which has gathered in Greene County this year strengthen those who will continue to be God's instrument of love there. Those who are returning to their homes are changed, connections were made between generations and between religious traditions. Some felt the spirit for the first time as a personal interaction, others where renewed in their faith that God is working in and through us at all times. Our home Meetings and churches will be effected.

I pray that you continue to tbe faithful to your calling. Stopping frequently to rest in God's hands, to renew your energy and check the direction of your path. May the example of Christ in Jesus be always with you.

Yours in Love,

David Miller Plymouth Monthy Meeting

Plymouth Meeting, PA

We have all been enriched by these workcamps, especially by the hard work and spiritual insights of volunteers such as David Miller.

Among many other gifts making the Community Baptist workcamp possible we were blessed by the loan of their van from the Philadelphia Weekend Workcamps and a grant from the Thomas and Mary Shoemaker Fund of Philadelphia.

First Full Year: A Roller coaster Ride
Quaker Workcamps International has worked hard to help the Full Gospel Powerhouse Church of God in Christ get ready to rebuild in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Staff and volunteers helped prepare the site and the volunteer housing, cooking and bathing facilities. The church faced many setbacks and is presently involved in a suit with the fire insurance company. Many Friends from South Central Yearly Meeting helped QWI staff gather and install equipment and materials. A good relationship was developed with church members, staff and volunteers. Until the church has settled the suit and found enough funding to continue, our rebuilding efforts are on hold. The church is eager to overcome their roadblocks and to start rebuilding.

Meanwhile, the Community Baptist Church in District Heights, Maryland has asked QWI to help them rebuild after a fire early last December that destroyed their church. A special workcamp was held this December to assist in the demolition and site clean up in preparation for a new project this spring.

The church and QWI are hoping for a rebuilding project to start in June and running through the summer or church completion. It is not too early to start to make individual or group reservations. See the workcamp announcement above.

Quaker Workcamps International
1225 Geranium St., NW
Washington, DC 20012
(202) 722-1461 Office
(202) 723-5376 Fax
Director: Harold Confer
website maintained by: Larry Clarkberg

last updated 3/21/98