Throughout 2017, as we celebrate the United Brethren denomination’s 250th anniversary, we are looking at events from our history.
Around 2 a.m., on March 31, 1982, our mission house in Freetown came under attack. Bob Eberly, the Sierra Leone business manager, was awakened by voices outside the house, which was located on a hill overlooking the city. Looking out a window, he saw a group of men just outside his daughter Brenda’s bedroom. Not long before, thieves had broken into the Wesleyan mission house just down the road. Now it was happening to them.
The Eberly family had gone to Sierra Leone in 1979. They were from the Otterbein UB church in Greencastle, Pa.
As the thieves began pelting the house with rocks, Bob gathered his wife and two children in the master bedroom at the other end of the house. The telephone line had been cut, so they couldn’t contact the police. Returning to the living room, he saw that the curtains in Brenda’s room were on fire. Rocks continued hitting the house, and the thieves yelled threats like, “Your money or your life.”
They tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire, running back and forth in the dark. But finally, Bob just closed the door and let it burn. Fortunately, it never spread beyond Brenda’s room.
Bob tossed them his wallet. They said it wasn’t enough, and began trying to break through the main entrance. Bob opened the safe to get more money. But suddenly the thieves just went away.
Turns out their watchman, Amadu–whom Bob feared might be dead–had run to a neighboring house and called the police. About 3:30 a.m., the police pulled up in an old Landrover, and ten heavily-armed men disembarked. The siege was over.