Today we’ll take a look at two United Brethren ministers you’ve never heard of. Both were born on September 23—one in 1814, the other in 1822. Both extended UB work into new areas, and left behind many converts and churches.

Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee was born in Canada on September 23, 1814. He moved to Ohio in 1835 and taught school until becoming a United Brethren minister in 1848. He was then 34 years old, married with four children. His circuit was large and required that he be gone for weeks at a time.

One day as Lee prepared to leave on a two-week journey, his wife told him there was no food in the house. But she told him, “It is your duty to preach. God will provide.” So he embarked on his journey. Later that day, a woman came to their home with a sack of flour and a basket filled with potatoes, meat, sugar, tea, and other items. It wasn’t the last time God would provide when their own resources were exhausted.

After one year, Sandusky Conference appointed Lee to start a new mission in Michigan, where no United Brethren work existed. The family moved to Michigan at the end of 1848, and Lee set about organizing churches and exploring the territory in search of pockets of people. He encountered a lot of opposition—an attempt to kill him with a crude bomb, arsenic poured into the family well, his barn set on fire. His infant son died the first year, his beloved daughter Emma the second year. His horse died during one extended trip, and he found himself among strangers with no means to buy another horse (but one was provided). But the work continued, and revival meetings saw many sinners come to know the Lord.

After 16 years of ministry in Michigan, Stephen Lee’s health broke down. In 1865, the family moved to Westerville, Ohio, and later to Elmwood, Ill., where he passed away on January 11, 1874.

Walton Clayton Smith

Walton Clayton Smith was born in Virginia, but his family moved to western Indiana, near the Illinois border, when he was 12. He became a United Brethren minister, and is credited with playing an important role in extending the church in western Indiana and southern Illinois.

Sometimes his circuit of churches was so large, that it took 300 miles to complete one round. One year, he traveled over 4000 miles on horseback, preached over 300 sermons, and received 125 persons into the church. He was tenacious in keeping his appointments. One person remarked that Smith “has waded more mud and breasted more storms, hunting for money and sinners, than any other man in the denomination.” He represented his conference at General Conference eight times between 1857 and 1897.

William M. Weekley wrote, “Mr. Smith’s chief characteristics were utter and absolute consecration of himself to his work, and intense perseverance and honesty of purpose in that work.…He was not considered a great preacher, but he was regarded as a great man with a great personal influence. His eloquence was the eloquence of character rather than speech…The memory that is left to us is of a man whose character was as noble as his faith was unfailing and his labors tireless.”

The Administration Building, now Becker Hall, as it looked in 1897.

On September 22, 1897, Central College dedicated the Administration Building. Classes began the next day. That building is now called Becker Hall, and the school is now Huntington University.

After the denomination divided in 1889, our group emerged with just two of the denomination’s many colleges: Philomath College in Oregon, and Hartsville College south of Indianapolis, Ind. Both were struggling, and the UB bishops wanted a college which was directly under denominational control.

In 1896, a group called the Huntington Land Association–a group of developers in Huntington, Ind., one of whom was a United Brethren minister–approached the denomination with a good deal. They wanted to develop an area north of Huntington, just outside of the city limits.

There would be 262 lots in what was called the College Park Addition. They would sell sell for an average of $225. Here’s the deal: if the church would sell 102 of the lots, the Huntington Land Association would donate land for a college and spend at least $35,000 to erect a building (the future Administration Building). We would basically be getting a new college for free.

A contract was signed on March 11, 1896. By the end of March, the Huntington Land Association had sold all 160 of its lots; it took the church a year to sell its 102 lots. People who bought lots were encouraged to build by the summer of 1897, so that when classes started in September, there would be housing for faculty, staff, and students. Since there would be no dormitories, at least not right away, students would live in private homes.

Construction on the Administration Building started in the spring of 1896, and was completed in June 1897.

On June 15, 1896, the Hartsville board of trustees voted to suspend operations for a year, and got on board with Central College. Hartsville College closed in July 1897, as their trustees got on board with Central College and turned over all of Hartsville’s books, records, student grades, etc. They suggested that Central employ Hartsville’s professors and let Hartsville seniors complete their degrees at Central College. (Fire destroyed the Hartsville building on January 30, 1898, so there was no going back.)

The Administration Building was dedicated on September 22, 1897, a Wednesday. The entire third floor consisted of Davis Hall, named in memory of former bishop Lewis Davis. About 1200 people jammed into the yet-seat-less auditorium for the service, thereby affirming the building’s structural integrity. More people crowded the lower floors as well. Bishop Milton Wright gave the dedication prayer. They took an offering, which provided $1000 to buy seating for the auditorium. Seize the day.

Classes started the next morning. About half of the 85 students that first year came from the Huntington area; a few were former Hartsville students. Interestingly, about half of the students were enrolled in music courses. Enrollment crept up to 102 by the fall of 1900. The way it worked out, we began the century going past the century mark, and began the next millennium going past the 1000 mark. Symmetry. During the first 20 years, enrollment averaged 100, swinging from a low of 72 to a high of 143.

There were seven faculty, two of them from Hartsville; the school averaged ten staff for the first 20 years. For the first five years, the college president was Dr. Charles Kiracofe, an ordained UB minister and 1871 graduate of Otterbein University. Beginning in 1879, at age 34, he served ten years as president of Hartsville College. In 1888, he ran for governor on the Prohibition ticket, and lost. Kiracofe left the Central College presidency in 1902, spent the next three years editing e Christian Conservator newspaper, and then became a Presbyterian pastor.

Nobody graduated the first year, but there were three graduates in 1899. That means the first annual commencement actually occurred after the school’s second year. Extrapolating, the 100th anniversary saw only the 99th Commencement. Somewhere along the way, the college snuck in an extra year to sync past and present. The 2017 Commencement was heralded as the 119th annual commencement, which implies there was a graduation in 1898 at the end of the first school year. Alas, this is just picking a harmless historical nit.

Daily chapel services were held in the chapel which occupied the west end of the first floor (where, for many of us, the business offices were located). Davis Hall was initially used only for large gatherings, like commencement and plays. College Park Church, which started two months after the college opened, held services in Davis Hall. Don’t even ask if it was handicap accessible.

With the introduction of men’s basketball in 1909, Davis Hall was partitioned to include a gym. But concerns about the constant pounding got the gym condemned. Eventually, that area became two classrooms, and an abbreviated Davis Hall hosted plays and other events.

Initially, the Administration Building lacked indoor restrooms (there were outdoor facilities by the ravine). A steam-heat system was installed in 1903, following strong complaints from students and parents about the cold. More improvements were made through the years…and continue to be made. Now there’s an elevator.

L-r: Bishop Todd Fetters, Dalton Jenkins, Brian Nofzinger, Marty Pennington, Brooks Fetters, Kristi McConnell, Dr. Sherilyn Emberton.

The Higher Education Leadership Team is responsible for policies which effect the work of higher education in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA, particularly regarding the work of Huntington University. There are six members. Bishop Todd Fetters is a member. The only new member of the 2017-2019 team is Marty Pennington, pastor of Mainstreet Church in Walbridge, Ohio.

Continuing members include Dalton Jenkins, Brian Nofzinger, Kristi McConnell, and Brooks Fetters. HU president Dr. Sherilyn Emberton, as Director of Higher Education, is an advisory member.

Here is the online listing.

PMLT Members. Top row (l-r): Bishop Todd Fetters, Jim Bolich, Greg Helman, Stuart Johns, Lee Rhiodes. Row 2: Mike Brown, Terry Smith, Bob Bruce, Craig Burkholder, Randy Carpenter.

The Pastoral Ministry Leadership Team handles of range of responsibilities regarding the licensing, education, and stationing of ministers. The members for 2017-2019 have been appointed by the Executive Leadership Team.

There are 12 members. Jim Bolich, the new Director of Ministerial Licensing, is the chairperson. Bishop Fetters is also a member.

They are joined by two ordained ministers from each region.

  • East region: Greg Helman and Stuart Johns.
  • Central region: Mike Brown and Terry Smith.
  • West region: Bob Bruce and Craig Burkholder.
  • North region: Lee Rhodes and Randy Carpenter.

The only new additions are the two East District representatives, Greg Helman and Stuart Johns.

Huntington University’s fall enrollment is the largest in its 120-year history: 1,321 students. It also marks four consecutive years of enrollment growth, and an increase of 21 students over the 2016 total.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • 913 traditional undergraduate students at Huntington’s main campus in Huntington, Ind.
  • 87 undergraduate students at its Peoria, Arizona, location.
  • 79 adult students enrolled in professional programs.
  • 242 graduate students.

Looking a little deeper: the student body includes 131 ethnic minorities from the United States (12% of the total students), and 47 international students from 24 different countries.

With the launch of the Haupert Institute for Agricultural Studies in 2015, there are now 39 declared agriculture majors. In addition, 100 students are currently studying toward the Doctorate of Occupational Therapy.

“What a joy to see so many students and their families seeing the value of a Huntington University degree!” said Dr. Sherilyn Emberton, president of Huntington University. “This past year demonstrated a piqued interest in academic programs at Huntington, as evidenced by a 20 percent increase in campus visits. We look forward to continuing this trajectory and telling the Forester story.”

About half of the peanut butter jars collected by Franklin UB Church.

Franklin UB Church (New Albany, Ohio) just completed an interesting outreach. Associate Pastor Mike Burtnett explains:

“For the past six months, people brought 300 jars of peanut butter to the church. These jars were donated today [September 18] to Lifeline Christian Mission, which will use the peanut butter to feed hungry people in Haiti and in other places too (they told me that some jars might be sent to Texas to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey). Lifeline’s partner churches use food distribution as a means to share the Gospel and to disciple local believers.”

Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin

On September 19, 1963, Bishop Clyde W. Meadows (right) made the first of what would become six trips into East Berlin. He went in his role as president of the World’s Christian Endeavor Union. He was accompanied by Arno Pagel, a Christian Endeavor leader from Frankfurt, and a young seminary student from Hamburg.

About 500 Christian Endeavor societies functioned in East Germany. Because of the communist hostility toward Christianity and toward Americans, the trip was shrouded in secrecy and need-to-know precautions.

Around one corner, a car was waiting. The three visitors squeezed into the small car, along with a man and his daughter and a husky young man who shadowed Meadows for the rest of the day. The car drove about 20 miles outside of East Berlin to a group of buildings, which turned out to be an institution for mentally handicapped children. They were ushered into one building, where about 30 Christian Endeavor people, ages 25-35, were waiting. Some had traveled up to 300 miles to hear Meadows speak.

They asked him to preach. Meadows said, “I want to speak from Philippians 2:5-¬11, to urge you to take courage and assure you that your oppressors will someday have to bow the knee to Jesus Christ.” Nobody in the room had a Bible, but hands shot up throughout the crowd.

Hands shot up all over the room. Arno pointed to one fel¬low, who stood and recited the entire second chapter of Philippians. Meadows then preached a message which, with interpreting, lasted 30 minutes. They then asked questions about the message. Before long, two hours had passed. Then he was asked to preach another message…and then a third message, with discussion in between each one. They shared a simple meal, and didn’t leave until 7:30 that night.

Back in East Berlin, the car stopped in front of a darkened building, and they went inside. The husky young man took his arm as they walked through a dark entryway and down a pitch-black corridor, up some steps, down another corridor, and into a room where 40 young people waited to see the president of the World’s Christian Endeavor Union.

He preached to them. Then they moved on to another dark building, where he found himself preaching to a group of people in a basement. By then it was 11 p.m.

“Dr. Meadows, can you stand one more?” he was asked.

He responded, “I’m so excited, you could cut off my arm and I wouldn’t notice. Let’s go!”

This turned out to be the largest gathering of all. Nearly 100 people, some of whom he remembered from the first meeting. Meadows was told that they wanted to sing for him. He considered that strange, since it was supposed to be a secret meeting, but figured they knew what they were doing.

The director stood up in front, got everyone’s attention, and then raised his arms and brought the people up just like a choir. Then they “sang” all four stanzas of “All Hail the Power of Je¬sus’ Name.” Every mouth was going—but without a sound.

Meadows wrote in his autobiography, “I was almost overcome. These people wanted to sing the praises of the Lord, but had to mouth the words lest they betray themselves.”

After the song, he preached for the sixth time that day. Nobody in any of the meet¬ings had a Bible, yet someone always stood to recite whatever chapter he chose.

Around midnight, they crossed back into West Berlin. Meadows then asked about the husky young man who had closely shadowed him throughout the day. Arno said, “That young man pledged the other Christians behind the Iron Curtain that he would make sure you were taken care of and that if anything went wrong, he would try to get you out of the country—even at the cost of his own life. He pledged his life for yours.”

During subsequent trips, conditions were relaxed. During the final trips, the Christians he visited sang aloud, and during his final trip in 1979, he carried a Bible and his visa granted him permission to preach. In 1990, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Christian Endeavor societies of East and West Germany merged.

Christian Newcomer

On September 18, 1797, Christian Newcomer bought a 12-year-old slave girl named Patience. The bill of sale is kept in a courthouse in Hagerstown, Md. It says Newcomer and his heirs could own the girl until she reached age 30, at which point she would be declared free. They would also own any children she bore until they reached age 25 (for girls) or age 30 (for boys).

This happened three years before the denomination actually organized in 1800, and 16 years before Newcomer became a bishop. What was this about? Why did one of our founding fathers, a future bishop, buy a slave girl?

Newcomer kept a meticulous journal, but never mentioned Patience or owning a slave. But on August 1, 1806, he mentions riding into Hagerstown to get medicine for a servant girl who lived with them, but who died later that day around midnight. Was that Patience? If so, she would have been 21 years old.

Most likely, Newcomer bought Patience in order to free her, and since she was just 12, she lived with them. People did this quite often in those days. John Pfrimmer, another prominent UB preacher from those years, bought two slaves and freed them.

Bishop Newcomer’s opposition to slavery was well-known. He presided at the 1821 General Conference which condemned slavery and forbid UB members to own slaves. In his journal, he recorded preaching several times in black churches.

Hurricane Fifi struck and devastated northern Honduras on September 18, 1974. Hurricanes usually broke up in the mountains to the east of La Ceiba. But Fifi settled 18 miles off the coast and lashed the mainland with torrential rain and 130-mile-per-hour winds. Over 600,000 people were left homeless, and in La Ceiba alone, 125 people were killed. Many UB churches, including Bethel church in La Ceiba, opened themselves to refugees.

Most hurricane damage comes from flooding. On each side of La Ceiba was a river. Normally, those rivers carried water falling on the mountains into the Caribbean Sea. But Fifi’s winds pushed inland, causing the rivers to back up. Everything flooded.

Missionary Gary Brooks (right) recalled seeing the carnage the next morning. “Whole barrios in La Ceiba were just gone, swept out to sea. Gone.” One place along the beach, populated by little shacks, was totally wiped away. Cars lay upside down against buildings. Gary found the body of a woman who had fled her home, and died in her overturned car just 50 yards from the church. One man lashed himself to a tree and refused to come down. The storm uprooted the tree and carried it 500 yards away, where the man’s body was recovered, still tethered to the tree.

Living at the mission house next to the Bethel church, the Brooks family got by comparatively well. But, said Gary, “We were this little island, a high spot surrounded by water. Three blocks away, people were dying, flooded out. And ten blocks the other way, ten or twelve kids were killed when the river came through the school in which they took shelter. Water all around us, but nothing touched us except the wind.”

Eight feet of water flooded the Bible Institute. Six inches of mud covered everything. Classes were cancelled for the rest of the year, as students shoveled mud and cleaned. Gary’s efforts to contact outlying villages proved futile. But in the days and week ahead, reports trickled in of damage to churches, homes, and fields (and therefore livelihoods).

The Missions department sent $1000 right away and dispatched Harold Wust to Honduras. The UBs worked with other relief groups to help the homeless. It was a hectic time, the needs overwhelming.

Two United Brethren ministers in two countries passed away within a day of each other, both from cancer. There was a strong bond between them. They had been partners in ministry 40 years before.

Harold Wust (right) passed away on September 17, 2009. Harold’s father immigrated from Germany to Alberta, Canada, around 1930, and Harold was born there. However, the family returned to Leipzig, Germany, in 1939. In 1940, at age 10, Harold became part of the Hitler Youth, though at that age the Nazi ideology meant little to him.

After the war Harold, a Canadian citizen, returned to Canada on his own. He ended up in Fort Erie, Ontario, where he met Ray Zimmerman, pastor of the Garrison Road United Brethren church. Under the preaching of evangelist Paul Graham, Harold gave his heart to Christ.

Harold went on to become an ordained United Brethren pastor. Then, in 1966, he and wife Dee went to Honduras as UB missionaries. They served one term, 1966-1970. Then Harold accepted a position as Associate Director of Missions, which he held for about 20 years.

The Wusts served in Honduras when the Soccer War broke out between Honduras and El Salvador in July 1969. All Salvadoranians living in Honduras were rounded up and imprisoned. That included several United Brethren pastors in the La Ceiba area.

Guillermo Martinez (right) was one of them. Harold and Guillermo often traveled together to villages and churches throughout northern Honduras. Guillermo pastored the large Ebenezer UB church in La Ceiba, but always loved traveling with Harold to visit the country churches.

After the war broke out, Harold walked with Guillermo to the city’s soccer stadium, where Salvadoranians were being kept in very poor conditions. Guillermo became a leader among the prisoners, and began holding services. During two months of captivity, over 125 men became Christians.

Meanwhile, Harold and Hondurans at the Bethel church (located across the street from the soccer stadium) brought food and other aid to the prisoners.

After the war, the Salvadoranians couldn’t stay in the country. Most returned to El Salvador. But Guillermo Martinez, with his Honduran wife, couldn’t go there. Instead, God opened a door for them to move to Nicaragua, where the UBs had begun work.

Guillermo and Linda Martinez moved to Masaya, Nicaragua, in March 1970 to start a church. During the first ten months, 60 people found Christ. He later became superintendent of Nicaragua Conference, leading them through the turbulent years of the Sandinista revolution and toward the thriving national conference they are today.

Guillermo Martinez passed away September 18, 2009, from stomach cancer. Just 36 hours earlier, Harold Wust had died.

Harold had been diagnosed with cancer in January 1999. A surgery removed parts of seven organs. But doctors said his liver was filled with inoperable cancer, and he had 6-12 months to live. But three months later at a cancer center in Texas he was told that there was no sign of cancer in his liver. He had been miraculously healed and given another ten years on this earth.

Now, both Harold and Guillermo have been reunited in heaven.