On August 7, 1964, Pauline O’Sullivan began a three-year term serving as a missionary in Sierra Leone. She was probably the first missionary to come from one of our mission fields–in her case, Jamaica. Her uncle, Rev. James O’Sullivan, a Jamaican, founded the UB mission work in Jamaica.

Pauline graduated from Huntington College in 1962, and became the first United Brethren missionary assigned to the teaching staff at the Kabala Rupp school for missionary children. The Missionary Church founded the school in 1956, but the United Brethren church and several other mission organizations became joint sponsors.

The first UB students were Ron Baker and David and Steve Burkett, all of whom became students in 1956. During Pauline O’Sullivan’s tenure, UB students included Doug and Darlene Cox, Annette and Joyce Baker, Sharon Birdsall, and others.

Rev. Vernon Macy, 91, passed away August 3, 2017, in Hastings, Mich. He was a former UB missionary in Honduras and a pastor in Michigan.

Visitation time: 5-8 pm Thursday, August 10, 2017.
Funeral: 12:30 pm Friday, August 11, 2017. Visitation one hour beforehand.
Visitation and funeral location: Hastings Baptist Church, 309 E. Woodlawn Ave., Hastings, MI 49058.

Vernon Macy became a Christian at a youth camp. He met his first wife, Veryl, while attending Taylor University in Upland, Ind. They were married in 1948 and adopted two children. While in college he sensed God calling him to mission work, specifically to Spanish-speaking people, so he took two years of college Spanish and waited for God to open a door.

He went on to earn a degree in elementary education from Michigan State University, while also pastoring local UB churches, including Lake Odessa and Woodbury. Then God opened a door to Honduras. They arrived in La Ceiba, Honduras, in August 1955, and served there until 1959, mostly in the city of Tela–pastoring the church there, and doing evangelism in surrounding villages. They then returned to Michigan and continued pastoring churches.

Veryl Macy died of cancer in 1985. In 1986, Vernon married Evaline Koutz, the widow of a minister, and they were married for 19 years; she passed away in 2015.

In 1988, Stan and Vicki Snider were UB missionaries living in Mattru, Sierra Leone. On July 6, they rejoiced as Vicki gave birth to a baby girl, Cathryn. But during the week of August 1, Vicki fell ill with fever. The hospital staff kept a very close watch on her. Then, on August 6, Vicki suddenly slipped into a coma.

The next day, a Sunday, Vicki was transported to Freetown, and on Monday a chartered Lear Jet air ambulance flew her to the Netherlands, where she was admitted to the respected Harbour Hospital and Institute for Tropical Medicine in Rotterdam. Just eleven weeks before, UB missionary Patti Stone had died there. Now, the same medical staff who treated Patti now cared for Vicki.

The initial diagnosis was Fulminant Hepatitis A, the same illness that killed Patti. Vicki’s liver was not functioning properly, and doctors feared she wouldn’t survive.

Meanwhile, Christians across the US and Canada prayed for Vicki. Within a few days, reports came of slight improvement. By Tuesday, August 16, Vicki had been moved out of the Intensive Care Unit to her own private room. It was mostly uphill from there. Stan, Vicki, and newborn Cathryn spent five weeks in Rotterdam. On September 11, 1988, they flew back to their home in Toronto.

Stan returned to Sierra Leone in November 1988 to assist with some mechanical problems and stayed for six weeks. The entire family returned to Sierra Leone on March 21, 1989.

Bishop Jerry Datema reported that during the 1989-1993 quadrennium, UB people gave $150,00 to help pay the medical and emergency evacuation costs for Patti Stone and Vicki Snider.

Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

On August 4, 1942, Clarence Carlson boarded an Egyptian cargo ship in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to begin the journey back to the United States. War was on, and German submarines roamed the Atlantic Ocean. Two years before, when he sailed for Africa, the US was not in the war; it was still dangerous, but Americans were not targets. Now they were.

Carlson had already spent nearly 12 years in Sierra Leone. He and his wife, Erma, and two children left in 1938; Erma and both children were sick, but especially Erma–it would take her several months to recover. Back in the States, they were well aware of the need for leadership in Sierra Leone. They prayed about it for severa months, and finally decided there was only one thing to do. Clarence would return to Sierra Leone by himself.

Carlson wrote in the Missionary Monthly publication, “It is not easy to look forward to the separation of our family, but on the other hand, we could not be happy with this burden on our hearts. We shall both be happy in the knowledge that we are obeying what we believe to be the will of God for us.”

Dr. Leslie and Carolyn Huntley, who were stationed at Gbangbaia, later said of Carlson, “He was so gentle and genuine in his love and concern for all….He loved people, especially his wife and family, but he was a true Christian leader for our African workers.”

After two years, it was time to leave. The only other passenger on that Egyptian cargo ship was a correspondent with the International News Service. They slept in their clothes, with the cabin doors open and life preservers handy. They had an escort for the first two days, but then the ship was on its own. Upon reaching Trinidad in the West Indies, they joined a convoy for the rest of the journey to New York City, arriving on September 12.

Two of Floy Mulkey's missionary photos.

Two of Floy Mulkey’s missionary photos.

On August 3, 1970, Floy Mulkey finished her fifth and final term as a missionary in Sierra Leone. A Huntington College graduate, Floy spent 19 years, 1951-1970, teaching in our high schools and serving in the Sierra Leone national office.

Floy entered missionary service the same year as Bethel Mote, who served in Sierra Leone 1951-1973 (one more term than Floy). They traveled together a number of times, prompting Missions Director George Fleming to describe them as “twins.”

Floy Mulkey passed away January 21, 1996, in her hometown of Philomath, Oregon.

Phyllis Meadows, the widow of former bishop Clyde W. Meadows, passed away early in the morning of July 31, 2017. She was 96 years old.

A memorial service will be held on September 9 (the same day Dr. Meadows died in 1999 at age 98) in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Details will be posted when they become available.

Clyde and Phyllis were married in 1980. Dr. Meadows’ first wife, Mabel, passed away in 1979.

Clockwise from upper left: Archie Cameron. Archie and Maisy Cameron (on the ends) with their daughters and Hondurans. Archie with members of the Bethel Band, which he founded and led. Archie preaching in 1997. Archie playing the accordion--one of many instruments he played--to accompany some Honduran girls. Archie and Maisy.

Clockwise from upper left: Archie Cameron. Archie and Maisy Cameron (on the ends) with their daughters and Hondurans. Archie with members of the Bethel Band, which he founded and led. Archie preaching in 1997. Archie playing the accordion–one of many instruments he played–to accompany some Honduran girls. Archie and Maisy.

On July 31, 1952, a ship docked in La Ceiba, Honduras, with five Canadians aboard: Archie and Maisy Cameron and their three daughters. Immigration and customs red tape forced them to spend their first night in Honduras aboard the ship. They could only stand on the deck and catch a limited glimpse of this city which would become their home for more years than any of them imagined.

Archie’s father was born in Scotland, but immigrated to Canada. A return visit to Scotland proved ill-timed: World War I broke out, and the family was stranded in Glasgow for the duration. It was there, in 1917, that Archie was born. After the war, they returned to Toronto.

Archie grew up, was married, and became a Christian in a Presbyterian church in Toronto. He became Baptist for a while, and then began working with a classmate at Toronto Bible College who was pastoring a United Brethren church in Toronto. After graduating, Archie was assigned to three UB churches on the Niagara circuit–Sherkston, Stevensville, and Garrison Road–but all the while felt God calling him to missionary service in Africa.

Archie and Maisy interviewed with the UB Mission board, and were redirected to Honduras. Archie realized God had called him to the world, not specifically to Africa. So Honduras it would be…as it turned out, for the rest of his life.

We had become involved in Honduras in 1944, assuming oversight of five churches along the north coast. These English-speaking congregations consisted primarily of immigrants from Caribbean islands. We had sent missionaries to teach in the mission school. Don and Leora Ackerman and Betty Brown met the Camerons at the dock on August 1.

In 1953, the English churches got upset about our stand on secret societies and parted company. But by then, Archie had begun working among the majority Spanish population. They now commanded Archie’s full attention. He soon founded the Bethel UB church in Honduras, and it became the launching pad for much of the UB work which exists today in Honduras.

Archie, along with family members and laypersons from Bethel, conducted evangelistic meetings in villages throughout northern Honduras. People were won to Christ, and churches arose in those villages. Often, Archie and his group were the first evangelical witness in those villages.

Honduras Conference was officially organized in 1956, and Archie remained its leader until 1986, when he retired. Today, Honduras Conference has 110 churches and church plants and over 5000 members. The work which started in Honduras has now spread to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Archie and Maisy Cameron continued living in Honduras. Maisy passed away in 2003, and Archie died two years later at age 87. Physically, Archie Cameron was a small man. But the impact of his life makes Archie Cameron one of the United Brethren giants of the 20th Century.

Seated (l-r): Benulda Saenz (Honduras), Jana (undisclosed), Karis Vong (Macau), Moses Somah (Liberia), Winston Smith (Jamaica), Adama Thorlie (Germany), Miriam (undisclosed). Standing (l-r): Gonzola Alas (Honduras), Moises Saenz (Honduras), Matthew Robertshaw (Canada), Justin Marva (Sierra Leone), Kin Keung Yiu (Hong Kong), Carol Chan (Hong Kong), Isaac Nugent (Jamaica), Alimamy Sesay (Germany), Brian Magnus (Canada), Jeff Bleijerveld (US), Todd Fetters (US), John Pessima (Sierra Leone), Juan Pavon (Nicaragua).

Seated (l-r): Benulda Saenz (Honduras), Jana (undisclosed), Karis Vong (Macau), Moses Somah (Liberia), Winston Smith (Jamaica), Adama Thorlie (Germany), Miriam (undisclosed). Standing (l-r): Gonzola Alas (Honduras), Moises Saenz (Honduras), Matthew Robertshaw (Canada), Justin Marva (Sierra Leone), Kin Keung Yiu (Hong Kong), Carol Chan (Hong Kong), Isaac Nugent (Jamaica), Alimamy Sesay (Germany), Brian Magnus (Canada), Jeff Bleijerveld (US), Todd Fetters (US), John Pessima (Sierra Leone), Juan Pavon (Nicaragua).

Karis Vong and Jennifer Blandin report on behalf of Macau.

Karis Vong and Jennifer Blandin report on behalf of Macau.

The 52nd General Conference, our international governing body, met July 16-17 at King Street Church in Chambersburg, Pa. Their last meeting was in May 2013 in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The 1925 General Conference was also held in Kitchener.

Each of the ten national conferences could send two delegates. There were also representatives from several mission districts. Families from United Brethren churches in the Chambersburg/Greencastle area hosted the international delegates overnight. These persons attended:

National Conference Delegates

  • Sierra Leone: John Pessima (bishop) and Justin Marva.
  • Canada: Brian Magnus (bishop) and Matthew Robertshaw, the missions commission chair.
  • Nicaragua: Juan Pavon, general superintendent.
  • Honduras: Gonzalo Alas (bishop), and Moises Saenz (his wife, Benulda Saenz, who is also a minister in Honduras Conference, came as interpreter).
  • Hong Kong: Kin Keung Yiu (superintendent) and Carol Chan, missions director.
  • Jamaica: Isaac Nugent (bishop) and former bishop Winston Smith.
  • United States: Todd Fetters (bishop) and Jeff Bleijerveld, director of UB Global.

Three national conferences were not represented: Mexico, the Philippines, and Guatemala.

Mission Districts

  • Germany: Alimamy Sesay (pastor) and Adama Thorlie.
  • Liberia: Moses Somah (resident bishop).
  • Macau: Karis Vong, pastor of Living Water church in Macau.
  • Representatives from two undisclosed countries.

These mission districts were not represented: Haiti, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Thailand.

General Conference is scheduled to meet every three years. The last meeting was in 2013. A meeting was planned for 2016 in Jamaica, but it had to be postponed. They decided to wait until 2017, and tack General Conference onto the end of the US National Conference. That way, the General Conference delegates could participate in the 250th anniversary of the denomination.

The 2001 General Conference adopted a truly international structure. Before that, with no separate meeting of the US National Conference, the US business and international business were mixed together. Starting in 2005, the General Conference has been a mostly relational meeting, during which United Brethren international leaders share the victories and challenges they face and their outreach and missionary endeavors. Each of the national leaders are prayed over by all of the other UB leaders.

The General Conference also serves as the international “membership committee” to oversee all of the national conferences and mission districts. National conferences report any changes to their national documents, structure, and stands on social and moral issues. This important role helps keep all of our conferences on track. Mission districts are also shepherded through the process of becoming national conferences.

Carol Chan (left) and Superintendent Kin Keung Yiu of Hong Kong Conference.

Carol Chan (left) and Superintendent Kin Keung Yiu of Hong Kong Conference.

Adama Thorlie (left) and Alimamy Sesay of the German mission district. This is the first General Conference at which Germany has been represented.

Adama Thorlie (left) and Alimamy Sesay of the German mission district. This is the first General Conference at which Germany has been represented.

Germany and Liberia

For the first time, General Conference had representatives from Germany and Liberia. Both are mission districts of Sierra Leone Conference.

In 1997, an independent church started in Berlin, Germany. The church targeted the many African immigrants in Berlin, especially persons who had fled the fighting in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Peter Sorie Mansaray, a Sierra Leonean, became the first pastor in 2003. In 2006, the congregation felt led to affiliate with Sierra Leone Conference. The church’s website now says the church is “directly answerable to the Bishop of the Sierra Leone Conference.”

The delegates to General Conference were the current pastor, Alimamy Sesay, and Adama Thorlie, a lay woman who has been part of the church since it started; she is a social worker in Berlin, and has lived half of her life in Sierra Leone and half in Germany.

Around 2011, Sierra Leone Conference began a relationship with a group of nine churches in Liberia. These churches trace back to 1981, when they split from another group and adopted the name “Church of the United Brethren in Christ International.”

Conference and mission district leaders reported on their work. Clockwise from upper left: John Pessima, bishop of Sierra Leone Conference; Gonzalo Alas, bishop of Honduras Conference; Alimamy Sesay, pastor of the UB church in Berlin, Germany; and Isaac Nugent, bishop of Jamaica Conference.

Conference and mission district leaders reported on their work. Clockwise from upper left: John Pessima, bishop of Sierra Leone Conference; Gonzalo Alas, bishop of Honduras Conference; Alimamy Sesay, pastor of the UB church in Berlin, Germany; and Isaac Nugent, bishop of Jamaica Conference.

After each report, Brian Magnus stood with the delegate as prayer was offered for that country. Left: with Bishop Todd Fetters of the United States. Right: with Moses Somah of Liberia.

After each report, Brian Magnus stood with the delegate as prayer was offered for that country. Left: with Bishop Todd Fetters of the United States. Right: with Moses Somah of Liberia.

The Meeting Itself

The General Conference meeting began at 2 pm on Sunday, July 16, and concluded around 6 pm on Monday. Brian Magnus, Bishop of the United Brethren Church in Canada, led the meeting. Most of the time consisted of reports from the various national groups.

They went alphabetically through the national conferences, starting with Canada. Each conference took about 20 minutes to discuss their ministries, challenges, prayer needs, and other matters. After Bishop John Pessima gave his report for Sierra Leone Conference, they started hearing reports from the mission districts and advisory guests–nine reports, from China to Thailand.

After each report, the delegates stood while somebody led in prayer for that country.

On Monday afternoon, Mike Dittman, director of National Ministries for the US National Conference, led a session during which the representatives broke into groups of three or four persons to pray for each other. In several of the groups, United Brethren from three different continents joined hands as they prayed for each other.

Removal of the Philippines National Conference

In 2005, we accepted two new national conferences: Mexico, and the Philippines. Both consisted of a group of churches which wanted to affiliate with us. They became the eighth and ninth national conferences. In 2010, Guatemala was added as the tenth.

Very quickly, concerns arose about the Philippines. They were not following through on commitments made regarding governing documents and elections. They have not sent representatives to any General Conference since 2005, and for many years now, have not responded to any communications.

Brian Magnus and Jeff Bleijerveld went to the Philippines in late 2011 for about a week. They did pastoral training, taught about UB history and doctrine, and talked to leadership about developing proper documents and a constitution. In 2012, we engaged the services of Steve Read of Action Ministries International; he grew up in the Philippines and has served all of his ministry years there. He met with Philippine leaders once or twice, but they did not  follow through.

Letters were sent prior to the 2013 General Conference, but without response. The 2013 General Conference voted to suspend the membership of the Philippines. Letters and emails were subsequently sent, with warnings that if we didn’t hear from them, they would be removed as a national conference. Again, no response.

“We’ve heard nothing from them, at all, for many years,” said Brian Magnus, chairman of the International Executive Committee.

The only item of business before the 2017 General Conference involved a recommendation to remove the Philippines from membership in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ International. Brian Magnus explained the situation: “They have not had any elections, ever, as far as we know. They don’t have proper documents in place. They are legally registered with their country, but as far as a proper constitution and structural documents, we’ve never seen them.”

The churches of the Philippines have a website and a Facebook page. But in 2015, they removed all reference to the United Brethren church. Said Bishop Isaac Nugent of Jamaica, “It seems that they have already taken action to disassociate themselves from us.”

Magnus agreed. “We would be formalizing what they’ve already decided to do.”

Bishop John Pessima of Sierra Leone made the motion to remove the Philippines from membership in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ International. It passed unanimously.

So now we have nine national conferences. However, several mission districts–El Salvador (5 churches), Liberia (9 churches) and Haiti (19 churches)–are looking at organizing as national conferences in the near future.

The delegates split into groups for a time of prayer on Monday afternoon. In most of the groups, three different continents were represented.

The delegates split into groups for a time of prayer on Monday afternoon. In most of the groups, three different continents were represented.

International Executive Committee Meeting

The General Conference has an executive committee, which is made up of the highest leader (usually bishop or general superintendent) of each national conference. They elect a chairperson and secretary, and decide on General Conference dates and locations. They also conduct any business between General Conferences.

The chairman of the International Executive Committee chairs the next General Conference. Bishop Brian Magnus of Canada was elected as the chairperson of the IEC at it’s very first meeting in 2002, and was re-elected to a fifth term on July 17 when the IEC met after the close of the 52nd General Conference.

Bishop Isaac Nugent of Jamaica offered to host the next General Conference in the winter/spring of 2020.

L-r: Matthew Robertshaw (Canada), Juan Pavon (Nicaragua), and Gonzalo Alas, Benulda Saenz, and Moises Saenz (Honduras).

L-r: Matthew Robertshaw (Canada), Juan Pavon (Nicaragua), and Gonzalo Alas, Benulda Saens, and Moises Saens (Honduras).

Jeff and Joan Sherlock and children (left) with the Luke and Audrey Fetters (middle) and Phil and Darlene Burkett families.

Jeff and Joan Sherlock and children (left) with the Luke and Audrey Fetters (middle) and Phil and Darlene Burkett families.

On July 28, 1990, the Sherlock family left for Macau. They thought it would be for four years.

Jeff and Joan Sherlock met at Camp Scioto, the Central Conference camp near Junction City, Ohio. Joan traveled that summer with a Huntington College singing group which ministered at Camp Scioto. Jeff, like just about everyone in his family, worked at the camp. A long-distance courtship began, and Jeff and Joan were married in July l979.

They set up home in southern Ohio, became active in the Avlon UB church in Bremen, and brought three children into the world. For 12 years, Jeff worked for a large printing company, progressing from job estimating to quality control to sales. While working fulltime, he earned a Business degree and a masters in Business Administration from Ohio University.

In 1989, as he approached the end of the MBA program, Jeff began praying about doing something more significant with his life. He said, “I was doing my job very successfully and would have become quite well off. But no matter how efficiently I made catalog inserts, there was no eternal significance. In the long term, I had nothing to gain except money.”

Then along came the Missions Impact newsletter, with an ad seeking a new missionary couple for Macau—specifically, someone with business skills. It ran for several months, and each month Jeff would think, Hmmm, they haven’t found anyone yet.

In March 1990, the Sherlocks went to Huntington, Ind., for an interview with the UB mission staff. The Board of Missions would meet March 23 to make any official appointment. But Jeff also interviewed for a teaching position at Huntington College, something he had long desired. The interview went very well. And yet, it didn’t seem right to him. Macau beckoned.

As they left the college, Jeff asked his wife, “How do you feel about this?”

He thought he knew Joan’s answer. It was a choice between living close to Joan’s family, or going to the other side of the world. A choice between the familiar and the unknown. He knew her desires, and he knew her fears. But Joan surprised him.

“I just don’t think Huntington is where we’re supposed to be right now,” she said.

And so, they sold everything and left behind their life in southern Ohio, and began ministering alongside the Fetters and Burkett families and their Chinese coworkers. Half of Jeff’s job description involved teaching in the English Language Program, and half involved finance—business manager of the mission, and treasurer of Living Water Church and the ELP.

Even before arriving in Macau, Jeff felt his financial duties should be turned over to a national. This was especially important since China would take control of Macau in 1999, and nobody knew if missionaries would still be welcome. So Jeff resolved, during his four years in Macau, to train at least one local person to handle the finances.

As it turned out, three of the first eleven members of Living Water Church were experienced in bookkeeping and finance, and the ELP’s newly-hired administrative assistant had worked ten years as assistant manager of a trading company. Jeff quickly realized finances could be turned over much sooner.

The Macau missionaries had been asking the Board of Missions for more teachers so that the pastors, Luke Fetters and Phil Burkett, could do more actual pastoring. Huntington’s response: great idea, but no money.

Jeff raised the idea of replacing his family of five with several single missionaries. As a result, by February 1993, three single missionaries were in Macau, enabling the ministry to expand in some new directions. That story was told on July 23.

The Sherlocks left Macau in December 1992, shortly after the Fetters family returned from furlough. In the words of Luke Fetters, they “accomplished more in two-and-a-half years than anyone could have expected.”

ELT-2017-2019-1000px

The Executive Leadership Team for 2017-2019 has been finalized. In addition to the bishop, there are 12 members–six ministers and six laypersons (three persons from each of the four regions).

The US National Conference elected four members to four-year terms, 2017-2021. They join four persons elected in 2015 to four years terms (ending in 2019). In addition, this week the new ELT approved four persons nominated by Bishop Todd Fetters to serve two-year terms; they are the same four persons appointed to these positions in 2015.

There are only two changes from the 2015-2017 team, both involving laypersons. Tyler Bates, from Bethel UB church (Elmore, Ohio), and Matt McConnell, from Banner of Christ UB church (Byron Center, Mich.), were elected during the July 13 business session. Ministers Gary Dilley and Dennis Sites were re-elected.

The Executive Leadership Team meets twice a year, typically April and October. They also use the internet to process quite a bit of business between meetings. You can view the 2017-2019 ELT here, and can read the Discipline chapter about the ELT.