Throughout 2017, as we celebrate the United Brethren denomination’s 250th anniversary, we are looking at events throughout our history.
About 2 am on March 7, 1992, armed thieves broke into the United Brethren mission house in Freetown, Sierra Leone. They took $4000 in currency and $4000 in personal items—and left behind some badly-shaken UB missionaries.
Eight missionaries were present at the time:
- Stan and Sherry McCammon, along with children Rachel (9) and John (6), were in their first term as missionaries. Stan was the UB Business Manager.
- Sara Banter, 22, a nurse from Dillman UB church (Warren, Ind.), had arrived just two days before to begin her first term as a nurse at Mattru Hospital.
- Tom and Kim Datema, along with their young son, Ben. The Datemas had come to Freetown on business with the government and to pick up Sara. They were involved with development work in Sierra Leone.
Two Sierra Leonean watchmen were on duty when the thieves broke through the gate in the wall surrounding the mission house. Both watchmen were beaten; one suffered a broken wrist. One of them screamed, alerting Stan that something was wrong. He gathered everyone upstairs in their bedroom. They had heard a gun cock, and were all scared.
It took 15 minutes for the thieves to gain entry to the house. They came directly to the bedroom and kicked open the door. Five men entered and demanded rings, watches, bracelets, and other items. The missionaries complied. Kim, probably because she was pregnant, couldn’t remove her rings. They let it go, but later returned and held a gun on Ben, threatening to hurt the infant unless she removed her rings. With Tom’s help, she did.
The thieves took Stan to the office to get money. Stan opened the safe and gave them dollars, along with five bundles of leones from a desk drawer. They seemed satisfied. They also picked up tape players, a camera, a calculator, and other items, and then returned with Stan to the bedroom.
One of the men shined his flashlight at Sara and told her to come with him.
“No,” Stan said in a firm voice. The man left Sara alone.
A few minutes later they took Stan back to the office. They were mad that he hadn’t shown them the big safe, and threatened to kill him. Stan opened the big safe, and they helped themselves to the money inside. They tied him up and fire bullets into the ceiling.
Finally, the bandits took the mission van and fled. It was found later that morning in good condition.
The Missions board offered to bring back to the States any of the missionaries involved in the break-in. The McCammons cut their term short a couple months and returned to the States in late April 1992. The Datemas and Sara Banter left May 2, after the US State Department ordered all Americans to evacuate the country after a military coup.