Rev. Paul and Carie Burrus

Rev. Paul Burrus, pastor since 2013 of Corunna UB church (Corunna, Ind.), passed away on Sunday, November 5, 2017. He was 59 years old. Paul was diagnosed the week before with a fast-acting acute leukemia, and was immediately sent to hospice.

Visitation: 2-7 pm Friday, November 10.
Funeral: 2 pm Saturday, November 11. Visitation one hour beforehand.
Visitation and funeral location: Feller & Clark Funeral Home, 1860 South Center Street, Auburn, IN 46706.

Paul and his wife, Carie, have two grown children and six grandchildren. Cards can be sent to Carie at this address:

Carie Burrus
312 Willard Dr.
Auburn IN 46706

Dr. Sylvester and Dorothy Pratt with their first child, Melody.

In 1946, the Missions board decided to open a full-fledged hospital in Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone. It would replace the medical dispensary which had operated in Gbangbaia since 1914. A hospital, of course, would require a doctor. They figured that would be Dr. Leslie Huntley, who had served eight years at Gbangbaia in the 1930s. But that didn’t happen. Instead, for about ten years, the Mattru Hospital was run by a team of dedicated nurses.

Construction on the hospital began in 1949, and nurse Oneta Sewell opened a dispensary at Mattru that year. Throughout the 1950s, the mission tried to recruit a doctor, but in vain. Nevertheless, the work at Mattru Hospital expanded under the leadership of nurses, who also started a nursing school to train Sierra Leoneans.

In 1957, field superintendent Marion Burkett learned about Dr. Alvin French, who worked with another denomination but was being sent home early after just one year on the field. He invited French to complete his term at Mattru Hospital. and French agreed.

In May 1957, Alvin and Barbara French and their two children settled in Mattru. The news spread rapidly: the mission hospital had a doctor! Turns out French was more than a doctor—he was also a preacher, having pastored a church for two years while in medical school. The Methodist pastor’s son began leading the morning devotions for hospital staff, and presented the Gospel to patients through an interpreter.

Dr. French and his family served just two years–two very good years. And that was enough. In 1959, Dr. Sylvester Pratt was ready to take over.

Pratt, a Sierra Leonean, had worked as a nurse during the 1940s at government hospitals in Bonthe, Bo, and Freetown. Wanting to become a medical doctor, he left for the States and, in 1957, graduated from the Indiana University medical school. He interned in Dayton, Ohio, went to England to take a course in tropical medicine, and finally returned to his homeland.

In November 1959, Dr. Pratt went to Freetown for a weekend, supposedly on business. Supposedly. He returned with a new bride—Dorothy, who was then head nurse of a government hospital in Freetown. They were married on November 4 in Dorothy’s church, a Methodist church, with UB missionaries Russ and Nellie Birdsall present. Sylvester and Dorothy served together at Mattru for 14 years, and along the way had four children.

When Pratt arrived, Mattru Hospital was a 15-bed cement block facility without electricity or plumbing. In the years ahead, he expanded it to 34 beds. An 18-bed pediatric unit was added in 1966, a maternity ward in 1970, plus x-ray and laboratory facilities. Whereas Dr. French had done only a few minor surgeries, Pratt set up an operating room and the hospital was soon swamped with patients in need of surgery, many of whom had to be turned away.

Skilled Sierra Leoneans joined the medical team, along with a continuing string of nurses and other medical practitioners from North America. Mission director George Fleming wrote of Dr. Pratt, “He did not tolerate anything inferior, whether it were drugs, techniques, or just lack of facilities. He had a captivating personality, and that caused people to want to do the job and do it right, though it might be quite difficult. He was stern with the patients, but could joke with them and make them laugh.”

Sick babies often arrived with charms around the neck, waist, wrists, and ankles. Before Pratt would treat them, he insisted that the charms be removed. Fleming wrote, “There was one thing he wanted them to get straight—that God was the doctor at the hospital, and he [Pratt] was only God’s instrument.”

Sylvester Pratt returned to the States in 1973 and became senior medical officer for General Motors. He died of cardiac arrest on May 4, 1989, while attending a medical conference in Boston. At the time of his death, his oldest child, Melody, was a physician in Philadelphia, and two more children were enrolled in medical school. Dorothy Pratt passed away in 2008.

Bishop Daniel Shuck

Daniel Shuck, bishop 1861-1869, died on November 2, 1900. He was 73 years old. During his lengthy service as a United Brethren minister, he served in several states, and deserves considerable credit for rescuing our ministries in California and Sierra Leone.

“He has never made any particular form of church work a specialty,” wrote biographer Henry Adams Thompson. Over the years, in addition to pastoring churches, he helped advance UB ministeres in publishing, higher education, and missions. He became a member of the denominational Missions board when it started in 1853, and was among those who encouraged us to begin work in West Africa.

Shuck’s father, a Kentucky native, was a modest farmer with a firm faith, a man who diligently studied the Bible. He moved his family just across the Ohio River into Corydon County, Indiana. Daniel was born there on January 16, 1827, the fifth of 14 children, seven of them step-siblings (Daniel’s mother, who had been converted by a United Brethren evangelist, died when he was very young). He grew up in a Christian home, in a religious community, with regular visits from several clergy uncles. This kept him on the straight and narrow path, with the early conviction that he would become a minister. He placed his conversion at age 14, when (like Martin Boehm) he was working in a field.

Young Daniel was licensed as a United Brethren minister in 1844, at age 17. His first assignment required a journey of 200 miles to cover the 28 appointments, which he visited every four weeks. In 1845, he planned to enter the State University of Indiana, and even purchased textbooks. However, the bishop and other ministers talked him out of it (back then, Christian folks looked down on college education, thinking it sapped the zeal from young ministers). So he accepted a circuit of churches, on which he would be the junior minister. However, when the senior minister learned of his desire to attend college, he released him to pursue that dream. Thus, Daniel Shuck ended up attending college for one year, focusing on courses which would help as a minister of the Gospel.

While in college, ministers from another denomination tried to lure him away with promises of a good church and financial security. He told them, “If you think a horse and buggy, fine clothes, and a good living are enough to buy me, you’ve misjudged me. I’m not on the market.”

Daniel and Harret Shuck were married in 1847. They never had their own children, but they took in many other children in what was described as “a kind of orphan’s home.” Harriet often traveled with her husband, a true partner in ministry. He led devotions every morning in their home, and she led devotions at night. Early in their marriage, they resolved to not go into debt for living expenses, and to not keep a tab with local merchants.

After ten years of pastoring circuits in Indiana and Kentucky, the Shuck ventured West. In 1858 he became a missionary to Missouri. UBs, with their anti-slavery stance, were not welcomed–and, in fact, sometimes found themselves in danger–in Missouri, and were eventually forced to abandon their work in the southern part of the state. But Shuck was accustomed to such opposition, having pastored a circuit in southern Kentucky. Next came assignments on the west coast–in Washington, Oregon, and California.

The 1861 General Conference elected him as bishop of the Pacific District. He was a mere 34 years old. The Civil War had just started; a dozen of his fellow Indiana ministers had volunteered for the Union army, and he felt he should remain in the East, in case he was drafted. However, when he learned that the work in California was on the verge of falling apart after the tragic death of their leader, Israel Sloane, Shuck and his wife boarded a steamer in New York, crossed to the Pacific through Panama, and arrived in San Francisco 35 days later, in March 1864. From March through August, he criss-crossed central California, preaching and rallying the demoralized UBs. When they held their annual meeting in October, people who had predicted the end of UB work in California now felt hopeful about the future.

The Shucks also visited Oregon. On the way back to California, they encountered two robbers who shoved a cocked revolver into the bishop’s face and demanded all of his money. He was tied up while Harriet was searched. All of their money and some of their possessions were seized, but they were unharmed.

Shuck was re-elected bishop in 1865. During that second term, he organized Walla Walla Conference in Washington. In Oregon, Philomath College was founded in 1865, and when the Oregon churches held their campmeeting in 1868, over 2500 people attended the Sunday service.

The tombstone for Daniel and Harriet Shuck. (Click to enlarge)

The 1869 General Conference seriously considered ending our involvement in Sierra Leone. But Shuck gave a compelling speech on the conference floor, urging us to stay…and it turned the tide. We stayed.

When the 1885 General Conference established a commission to change the UB Constitution and Confession of Faith, Shuck saw it as a great blunder which could divide the denomination. But when Bishop Milton Wright led our group away, Shuck was not among them.

Daniel and Harriet spent their latter years, from at least 1889 on, in California, serving various charges in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1897, they celebrated their 50th anniversary. He passed away in 1900, and Harriet followed in 1907. They were buried in Woodbridge, Calif.

 

 

Bishop Todd Fetters

Paul Burrus, senior pastor at Corunna UB Church (Corunna, Ind.) since 2013, has been diagnosed with a fast-acting acute leukemia and has been placed in hospice care. He and his wife, Carie, have two grown children and six grandchildren. We are asking for prayer for God’s miraculous touch and a peace for the family and Corunna UB Church in keeping with Isaiah 41:13 which reads “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Michael Mudge

The second annual “U.B. Connected” event this weekend at Rhodes Grove Camp (Chambersburg, Pa.) will begin with a Missions Conference from 3-5 pm on Sunday, November 5.

All sessions of “U.B. Connected” are free and open to the public, with fees charged only for meals and lodging, but registration is required and may be made by telephoning Rhodes Grove Camp at 717-375-4162.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Executive Director of UB Global, the missions agency of the United Brethren in Christ, will bring updates from the international conferences and missions districts. Featured speaker will be Rev. John Pessima, United Brethren Bishop of Sierra Leone, West Africa. Sierra Leone is the only Muslim-majority nation with freedom of religion. Bishop Pessima will share updates and needs of evangelistic efforts there.

Sierra Leone is also the nation with the worst peace-time infant mortality rate; and, of its twelve provinces, Bonthe District has the worst infant mortality rate, and the only hospital operating in the mainland area of Bonthe District is the United Brethren hospital at Mattru Jong.

Bishop Pessima will bring updates on the development of a bottled water processing operation on the hospital compound and the addition of a solar-electric system now at the end of construction there.

A feature of the Sunday afternoon Missions Conference will be announcement of offerings and pledges from area UB churches in a cooperative effort to raise funds to complete the construction of a new UB Primary School in Pujehun, Sierra Leone.

Following the Missions Conference will be a supper at 5:00 and a brief business meeting at 6:00 of the United Brethren Association for Church Development6. Evening Worship will begin a 6:30 with the praise team from Prince Street United Brethren Church (Shippensburg, Pa.) leading worship. US Bishop Todd Fetters will preach, and the Unity Service will conclude with Holy Communion, with music on the harp provided by Dr. Sherry Goertz, board member of Rhodes Grove camp and member of Blue Rock UB Church (Waynesboro, Pa.). After the Sunday evening worship, a fellowship reception will be sponsored by the Sider Insurance Agency.

“U.B. Connected” will continue Monday morning with worship being led by Pastor Derek Thrush of Devonshire UB church (Harrisburg, Pa.). The session will feature preaching by Rev. Dr. Ray Seilhamer, former bishop and present pastor of Mount Pleasant UB Church (Chambersburg, Pa.). He will be followed with exhorting by Rev. Joseph Abu, a native of Mattru Jong, Bonthe District, Sierra Leone; Rev. Abu resides in Claymont, Delaware and pastors Mount Zion United African Church (UB) in Philadelphia.

“U.B. Connected” is planned to bring all United Brethren people together at their traditional gathering place — Rhodes Grove Camp at Kauffman’s Station in Antrim Township.

The United Brethren in Christ celebrated the 250th Anniversary of their beginnings in 1767 with a National Conference in July at Lancaster, Pa., where their founders first met in Isaac Long’s barn during a “Great Meeting” of the pan-German revival.

Rhodes Grove Camp celebrated the 100th Anniversary this year of the purchase of the land by the UB Pennsylvania Conference in 1917 with the conclusion in June of a capital campaign that raised almost $400,000, more than any previous fundraising campaign. The camp also marked its 75th Anniversary of summer youth camps with an enrollment of 531 campers in ten camps over five weeks, their highest enrollment since 2004.

This year also marked a new ministry with a satelite camp being held with Devonshire UB church in Harrisburg. The 50th Session of Family Camp was also marked over Memorial Day Weekend with a record attendance of 331 registrants and well over 400 for the Sunday evening session.

George and Daisy Fleming

After 93 years, having lived a very full life, Dr. George Fleming passed away on October 29, 1983.

Fleming served as a missionary in Sierra Leone for 20 years, 1912-1932, followed by 25 years as the denomination’s director of missions.

Daisy Fleming passed away in 1976. Former missionaries Russ and Nellie Birdsall invited George to come live in their basement apartment in Huntington, Ind., and he gladly accepted their offer. That’s where he spent his last seven years.

In 1979, at age 89, Fleming took a six-week trip to Sierra Leone. Jerry Datema, who was then Field Secretary in Sierra Leone, recalled, “It was unbelievable to the Mende people that this man, who first arrived in Bonthe 67 year before, was actually coming to visit again. Wherever he went during his visit to Sierra Leone, hundreds and even thousands came to once again see their beloved ‘Pa Fleming.’”

During the last few years of his life, Dr. Fleming became deeply burdened to pray for the pastors of Michigan Conference. He had a list of 24 pastors in the conference. He prayed for them every day, and wrote 6-8 letters a day. Among those pastors was Lester Smith, then at the Maple Hill church in Grandville, Mich. Smith wrote:

“Despite having a congregation of over 100, there had been no conversions there in two years. So I submitted some ‘prospects’ to Dr. Fleming. When he wrote me several weeks later, he said he was looking forward to having the Pruitts enter God’s Kingdom. They were the only names he mentioned from the list I had given him. Sure enough, Ron and Deb were the first conversions we experienced. Dr. Fleming seemed to know when God was going to act on a specific request.”

Russ Birdsall told of going downstairs in the evening to talk to Dr. Fleming. “He’d be sitting there with a Bible on his lap and with a stack of letters from the Michigan pastors. He was going through his prayer time; he did that every night. He’d invite me in and he’d always talk. But then, after I left, I’m sure he continued with his prayer time. He really took that ministry seriously.”

George Fleming ranks among the United Brethren giants of the 1900s, and is remembered as a man who truly walked with God.

The persons who attended the UB History course in Ontario. Bishop Brian Magnus and instructor Bob Bruce are sitting in front, third and fourth respectively from the left.

The United Brethren Church in Canada sponsored the UB History course on October 23-24 at Stanley Park UB church in Kitchener, Ontario. Bishop Brian Magnus and Bob Bruce, pastor of spiritual care at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.), taught the course. Ten new pastors and ministerial candidates took the course, along with three laypersons who audited the course to learn more about their inspiring heritage.

The 1945 General Conference voted to open mission fields in two places during the next four years, in the Caribbean and/or Latin America. We then had mission work in just two places–in Sierra Leone (dating which back to the mid-1800s), and China (begun in the 1920s). There was no United Brethren presence south of the United States.

General Conference didn’t name any specific places–just a resolve to do it, somewhere. But two places were already being considered–the Bahamas and Honduras. We had a contact in the Bahamas, a man with an independent mission work. And the year before, we had been contacted by Rev. James Elliott, who was overseeing several English-speaking churches in northern Honduras and was looking for another organization to assume supervision. George Fleming, our Missions director, had already been corresponding with Elliott.

In August of 1945, as atomic bombs fell on Japan and World War II came to a close, Fleming traveled to Honduras to look over the situation. He was impressed by what he saw. About 100 people attended somewhat of a congregational meeting, during which Fleming told of the UB church and entertained questions. The people were excited about the possibility of an American denomination coming to their aid.

Fleming stayed for ten days, August 15-25, visiting the various stations of Elliott’s work.

The La Ceiba church had about 150 members, all English speakers. The property, which he described as “pretty large for these parts,” was 30 years old and in need of repair. In better shape was the two-story, 52-by-30 foot mission house, which had been built ten years before. The lower level served as the mission school, and Elliott’s family lived in the upper level.

The Puerto Cortes congregation was trying to rebuild its church, which had been flattened by a hurricane in August of 1944. Their one-story mission house now doubled as both a church and a school.

The congregation in the port city of Tela rented a building for their day school and Sunday school, but were in the process of buying property on which to eventually build. This newer work had acquired a good following. However, with no regular pastor, services were held only when Elliott or someone else could make it.

Other places beckoned for ministry. At the inland town of Progresso, a man had started a day school and was trying to organize a Sunday school; he had asked Elliott for help. A lady in Puerto Castilla needed help sustaining a day school and Sunday school. In both cases, Elliott lacked both the money and the people to come to their aid.

Elliott estimated that carrying on the work and expanding it would require $5000–$6000 a year.

“Here is an open door,” Fleming wrote in the denominational Missionary Monthly magazine. “As a committee of one, I have seen enough to convince me that in the face of the Great Commission, and the ‘fields white unto harvest,’ we dare not, as a church, ‘pass by on the other side.’”

After returning to the States, Fleming took a glowing report to the eight men on the United Brethren Parent Board of Missions (at the time, the Women’s Missionary Association was an entirely separate missionary-sending organization). They voted unanimously, 8-0, to launch into Honduras.

The date was October 26, 1945. The United Brethren church had established a foothold in Latin America.

Zebedee Warner

On October 22, 1853, a 20-year-old Virginian named Zebedee Warner was granted a United Brethren preaching license. A man of strong intellect, Warner had considered careers in medicine and law before recognizing that God had an even higher calling for him–the ministry.

In 1858, Warner was part of organizing the Parkersburg Conference in what is now West Virginia (it became a state in 1861). From the start, Warner was considered the leader of Parkersburg Conference.

It was considered perhaps the most rugged territory in the denomination, with rugged mountains, thick forests, and bridgeless streams. One time, after Warner rode toward his log cabin after what was described as “an unusually long absense,” his three children came running to meet him. A kick from Warner’s horse struck the youngest daughter on the head, killing her instantly.

Warner was considered a great speaker who invested himself in recruiting and training young ministers. He was an eloquent and formidable debater, but according to biographer William Weekley, “In the treatment of his opponents, he always manifested a Christian spirit. In this he was an exception.”

Warner also despised alcohol; in 1882, he canvassed the entire state and organized temperance forces in every county.

Warner was a General Conference delegates from 1861-1885, and was influential in moderating the stand against secret societies (which helped lead toward the division of 1889). Warner was also a trustee of Otterbein University, and in 1878 was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree.

In 1887, Warner accepted a pastorate in Nebraska. He died there a year later.

Dr. George Fleming

Dr. George Fleming was the Mission director when Jamaica Conference was founded in 1944. In 1947, the work expanded beyond Kingston to the city of Mandeville, 60 miles away. In 1951, a new church was dedicated outside of Mandeville in the ara known as Battersea. It was christened Fleming Memorial Church.

The church was torn down in 1979 to make room for a new road, but the government promised to build a new church–and they did. The new Fleming Memorial Church was dedicated on October 18, 1981, by Jerry Datema during his first visit to the island as bishop.

Datema wrote, “When I returned and told Fleming how beautiful it was, I knew he wouldn’t be content until he had seen his beloved church.”

In 1982, Dr. Fleming made a three-week trip to Jamaica, during which he visited a dozen churches, including the church named in his honor. Though 93 years old, he was in good health and preached 13 times.

Dr. Fleming passed away a year later. We’ll talk about his life in ten days.