Jerry and Eleanore Datema and two oldest sons.

Jerry and Eleanore Datema and two oldest sons.

On July 16, 1957, Jerry and Eleanore Datema began their first term as missionaries in Sierra Leone.

Jerry Datema was born December 15, 1924, in Dutton, Mich., near Grand Rapids. He was the fifth of eight children in a close family. He became a Christian at the Dutton UB church in 1947.

At age 20, in 1950, Datema felt the Lord pointing him toward missionary service. No family member, and nobody from his home church, had ever been a missionary. But as he read Scripture and pondered the future, missions always rose to the surface. He wrote in the September 1993 issue of Missions Impact, “After struggling unsuccessfully to convince the Lord He was making a horrible mistake, I surrendered to His will.”

In September 1951, Datema left the family farm and enrolled in Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago. There, he met a Minnesotan named Eleanore. They were married in 1954 and would raise four sons. They set up house in Dutton, where Jerry pastored his home church for three years…but always with his eyes set on missions.

On the same day in June 1957, Jerry Datema was both ordained and commissioned as a missionary. He wrote, “The greatest thrill of my life was that day in 1957 when I knew I was doing the perfect will of God in serving Him on foreign soil. Nothing in my life has ever been as fulfilling.”

A few weeks later, he and Eleanore and two sons arrived in Sierra Leone—he to work at Bumpe Bible Institute, Eleanore, a nurse, to run a medical dispensary. After two terms in Sierra Leone, they served 1964-1968 in Jamaica. Then it was back to Sierra Leone until 1971, when the Datemas began five years pastoring the Maple Hill UB church (now Homefront) in Grandville, Mich. Then, in 1976, it was back to Sierra Leone—this time as Field Secretary, the highest position on the field.

About six weeks before the 1981 General Conference, Datema was contacted by Bishop C. Ray Miller about letting his name appear on the ballot for bishop. He agreed, and a few days after General Conference, was notified of his election.

“We weren’t excited about leaving Sierra Leone,” he said in an interview published in the United Brethren magazine. “Missionary work was extremely fulfilling. I could bury myself in the work in one country, Sierra Leone, and understand it very well. When I became bishop, that suddenly changed. There were a few years when I felt frustrated, because I didn’t understand the cultures of all of these different countries….But that changed over time. And as I became involved with the overseas fields, I became excited about each one.”

Much happened during Datema’s twelve years as Overseas Bishop. Sierra Leone was nationalized many years earlier than expected. We pioneered new work in Macau, and expanded our ministries in India and other countries. We began supporting missionaries with a number of other organizations—in Japan, New Guinea, Greece, the Philippines, Austria, Kenya, Columbia, Russia, and elsewhere. The faith-promise emphasis helped the missions budget pass the $1 million mark for the first time. He dealt with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and helped prepare the Hong Kong church for the 1997 transition to Mainland China. And as he left office, he could only watch as his beloved Sierra Leone descended into war.

We’ll resume Jerry Datema’s story on September 15.

Josiah K. Alwood

Josiah K. Alwood

Josiah K. Alwood was born July 15, 1828, in Cadiz, Ohio. He went on to become a United Brethren minister, and was the father of Olin Alwood, who was a bishop 1905-1921.

In 1879, Alwood wrote the hymn “The Unclouded Day.” Olin Alwood wrote about it in the March 12, 1924, issue of the denominational publication, The Christian Conservator.

At the time, the Alwood family lived in Morenci, Mich. J. K. Alwood had spent the day in an extended discussion with a Seventh Day Adventist minister in the village of Spring Hill, Ohio. Their debate lasted late into the night (Alwood felt he won), and it was around midnight when he climbed atop his horse for the eight-mile ride back to Morenci.

As he entered Morenci, Alwood saw what his son described simply as “a rainbow by moonlight.” J. K.’s description was more elaborate, the scene seared into his memory. “I saw a rainbow which was caused by the rays of the moon streaming against a shower of rain falling from a dark, dense cloud a short distance beyond the northwestern limits of our sleeping Morenci. The moon was low in the cloudless southeastern sky. It was a new sight to me; and you can scarcely imagine the feeling of solemn joy which came over me as I gazed upon the lovely segment of the bow of promise smiling on our quiet town.”

As that description showed, Alwood had a strong poetic streak. The next morning, he awoke with the start of a song in his head. He spent the next two days composing the four verses. Olin, who was just a child then, wrote:

“The extent of his ability as a musician was to drum a tune by ear with one finger on the very modest Estey organ the home afforded. This he proceeded to do to provide an air for his song. Soon we heard him singing some new strange strains and words as new. A new song had been made.”

Some time later, an old acquaintance named J. F. Kinsey, who was a vocal music teacher, asked J. K. Alwood if he had any music to suggest. Josiah sang his song, and Kinsey asked for permission to arrange the hymn for publication.

Olin Alwood said they never received any money for the song, and there was even an attempt to discredit his father’s authorship. “But I well remember seeing him write the words and then drum out the tune on the organ. We at home were the first who ever heard it sung.”

Bishop Milton Wright wrote of Josiah Alwood upon his death in 1909, “Always stood for the right as he saw it. Always interesting in his preaching, but as often quite peculiar, for he was like no one else.”

O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
O they tell me of a home far away;
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

On July 14, 1991, Paul Baker held his last service as pastor of the denomination’s largest church, King Street UB in Chambersburg, Pa. In so doing, he concluded 30 years as the church’s pastor, and 36 years of pastoral ministry in the UB church—a career during which he gave leadership at nearly all levels of the denomination and in many aspects of the broader Christian community.

Paul Baker had gravitas—an imposing figure, a commanding presence, a deep, authoritative voice. He exercised strong leadership in Pennsylvania Conference and in many other capacities.

The youngest of five children, Paul Baker grew up on a farm in the Chambersburg area. He became a Christian at age 13 during services at Mt. Pleasant UB in Chambersburg, and received his call to the ministry there at age 18. He graduated from Huntington College in 1955 and returned to Chambersburg to become associate pastor of King Street, serving in that position for two years under Clyde W. Meadows. At the same time, he entered Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa., from which he graduated in 1963 with a Master of Divinity.

In 1957, Baker left King Street to become pastor of Otterbein UB in Greencastle, Pa. He remained there until 1961, when General Conference elected Dr. Meadows as bishop. So Meadows, who spent 33 years at King Street, was followed by a man who would stay 30 years.

Baker’s work extended far beyond the church. He had served as a conference superintendent beginning in 1967 and as senior superintendent since 1977. He had been a member of the denominational General Board continuously since 1967, and on its executive committee starting in 1981.

Baker joined the Huntington College Board of Trustees in 1970, and in 1979 received the “Distinguished Alumni Citation.” The college awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1980.

Baker served on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals for ten years. And there were many other leadership roles—with Rhodes Grove Camp, the Salvation Army, Piney Mountain Home, the local ministerial association, YMCA, Kiwanis, and other groups.

Pat Jones was assigned as senior pastor of King Street effective August 1, 1991. Jones had just completed three years as pastor of Devonshire Memorial Church in Harrisburg, Pa. That same month, Dr. Baker assumed a new role with a local funeral home.

On January 14, 2001, King Street dedicated a 24,100 square-foot addition. It was primarily a gymnasium, which could seat over 500 people in the weekly contemporary worship service. They named it the Baker Center.

Bishop Todd Fetters leading the Business session of the US National Conference.

Bishop Todd Fetters leading the Business session of the US National Conference.

A standing ovation as Todd Fetters is elected bishop of the US National Conference during the July 13 business meeting.

A standing ovation as Todd Fetters is elected bishop of the US National Conference during the July 13 business meeting.

Todd H. Fetters was elected to a four-year term, 2017-2021, as Bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA. He was elected by unanimous ballot during the Business session of the US National Conference, meeting Thursday morning, July 13, in Lancaster, Pa.

Bishop Fetters’ ministerial career began in 1988 with seven years at Lake View UB church in Camden, Mich., followed by 18 years as senior pastor of Devonshire UB church in Harrisburg, Pa. He came to the National Office in 2013 as Director of National Ministries.

Four persons were elected to the Executive Leadership Team for 2017-2021.

  • Ty Bates, a layperson from Bethel UB church (Elmore, Ohio).
  • Matt McConnell, a layperson from Banner of Christ (Byron Center, Mich.).
  • Gary Dilley, pastor of College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.).
  • Dennis Sites, pastor of Jerusalem Chapel (Churchville, Va.).

They join four persons elected in 2015 to four-year terms. These eight persons will then appoint four more persons to two-year terms.

The business session began at 8:45 am. There were a couple presentations, plus reports from Interim Bishop Todd Fetters and the various directors (UB Global, Higher Education, Communications, National Ministries, Finance, and Ministerial Licensing). Then came elections.

The delegates then tackled six proposals from the Human Sexuality Task Force, which began its work in early 2016. All six of their proposals passed, with only one or two amendments. They can be viewed here. They included:

  • New statements on Singleness, Sex and Gender Distinctions, and the Local Church and Human Sexuality.
  • Revisions to our existing statements on Marriage, Illicit Sexual Relations, and Pornography.

The meeting adjourned at 11:45.

Emmett and Shirley Cox and children.

Emmett and Shirley Cox and children.

Emmett D. Cox, 89, passed away July 10, 2015, just a few days before the US National Conference began.

Emmett Cox grew up in the Garnett UB church in Garnett, Kansas, and was converted in 1943. Shirley was the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Glenn Betterly, who were serving the North Bruce UB church in Port Elgin, Ontario, when Shirley headed off to Huntington College. Emmett and Shirley met at HC and were married on August 14, 1948. They both graduated from Huntington College in 1951. Shirley had a degree in Education. Emmett went on to graduate from the HC seminary.

Emmett and Shirley were missionaries in Sierra Leone over a 20-year period beginning in 1957. During those years Emmett served as a high school principal, business manager, general superintendent, primary school secretary, and field secretary. Shirley also kept busy with various roles over the years, including matron of the Minnie Mull girls’ home and teacher at Centennial Secondary School.

In 1969, Emmett received a Masters in Missions from the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. That year, General Conference elected him to oversee our worldwide mission work as the denomination’s General Secretary of Missions. That ended in 1973, when General Conference decided to give that responsibility to Bishop Duane Reahm, the first person to hold the role which would become known as the “overseas bishop.”

Emmett and Shirley then pastored churches for the next 30 years.

  • 1976-1984: Victory UB church (Burbank, Calif.).
  • 1984-1985: First UB church (Lake Havasu City, Ariz.).
  • 1985-1992: Willshire UB church (Willshire, Ohio).
  • 1992-2003: Six Mile Church, a non-UB congregation in Bluffton, Ind.

In retirement, Emmett and Shirley also served short-term as volunteers in Myanmar. They had four children: son Douglas, daughters Diane and Darlene, and foster son Billy Simbo, from Sierra Leone.

Bishop William Brown

Bishop William Brown

Michael Brown immigrated from Alsace, located in eastern France on the German border, and settled in the Tulpehocken Valley near Lebanon, Pa. He was considered one of the early converts of the revival movement started by Martin Boehm and William Otterbein.

As he lay dying, Michael, surrounded by family, “exhorted till the place became as the very gate of heaven.” When he finally died, the patriarch’s hand was resting upon the head of a seven-year-old grandson named William.

“From that hour,” wrote biographer Henry Adams Thompson, “the child’s heart was drawn towards God and heaven.”

William Brown, born July 9, 1796, was raised in a Christian home. He said his own conversion occurred at age 16 during a barn meeting in Carlisle, Pa. He recalled, “I was happy day and night for months. Often, after all had retired at night, I would walk out, look up into the starry heavens, and think of Jesus and heaven until, before I was aware of it, I would be running with outstretched arms, praying to Jesus to give me wings to fly home to glory.”

Brown became a licensed United Brethren minister in 1816. For the next eight years, he frequently traveled with Bishop Christian Newcomer, who often referred to Brown in his journal. Upon reaching an appointment, typically Newcomer would preach, and then Brown would preach (Brown was apparently no warm-up act). Brown was known to preach in both German and English.

In 1819, Brown began two years on the Virginia Circuit, which consisted of 30 appointments. It took him four weeks, and 300 miles of travel on horseback, to cover them all.

Brown was a member of the 1821 General Conference which took our first stand against alcohol. He played a key role. One minister offered a resolution saying, “No preacher shall be allowed to carry on a distillery.” Brown proposed replacing “preacher” with “member,” convinced that what was good for preachers was good for everyone. After much debate, the conference settled on, “Neither preacher nor lay member shall be allowed to carry on a distillery.”

In 1833, Brown was among the six Pennsylvania Conference delegates to General Conference, which met south of Columbus, Ohio. The number of bishops was increased from two to three. Brown and Samuel Heistand were elected as rookie bishops, joining Henry Kumler, Sr., who had been serving alone for three years following the death of Christian Newcomer.

William Brown served just four years as bishop. In 1838, he moved to Benton County, Indiana, located on the Illinois border near Lafayette. His father had apparently moved there some years before. Brown covered several circuits, was presiding elder for that area, and according to Thompson, “was preaching more or less all the time.”

Bishop William Brown died May 11, 1868, at age 71, from congestion of the liver. He viewed funeral sermons as improper, and didn’t want one at his own funeral. So there was none.

Jacob Howe at his desk in the missions office in Huntington, Ind.

Jacob Howe at his desk in the missions office in Huntington, Ind.

Jacob Howe on board a ship en route to Sierra Leone in 1914.

Jacob Howe on board a ship en route to Sierra Leone in 1914

Jacob Howe passed away on July 9, 1941. He was secretary of missions for 31 years, 1905-1936. That’s a longer stretch than any other missions director in our history. Sure, Daniel Flickinger went 28 years starting in 1857, and then came back in 1897 for another eight years, for a total of 36 years. But 31 unbroken years is a record. Howe was followed by George Fleming–a person he recruited as a missionary–who served 25 years as secretary of missions.

Very little is recorded in our history books about Howe. He was a minister from Canada…but that’s about it. He was elected at the 1905 General Conference held at Gaines UB church in Caledonia, Mich. That year saw a massive change in leadership, partly a result of a years-long controversy involving our publishing house. Milton Wright, Halleck Floyd, and Horace Barnaby, all of whom had served as bishops since 1889, all left office. We got a new publishing agent, a new denominational editor, a new president of Huntington College. And with the departure of Daniel Flickinger, General Conference elected Jacob Howe to lead our missions program.

Although we don’t know much about Jacob Howe, we can clearly see what he accomplished as secretary of missions.

He advanced the work in Sierra Leone, and kept it going through World War I and the Depression.

He recruited some outstanding missionaries–George and Daisy Fleming, Clarence and Erma Carlson, Lloyd and Eula Eby, Dr. Leslie Huntley, Abbie Swales, Martha Anna Bard. Clarence Carlson and Lloyd Eby would each serve eight years as bishop.

He launched the Sierra Leone field into medical work.

Although our work in China was spearheaded by the Women’s Missionary Association, Howe no doubt was involved.

Jacob Howe may be a forgotten giant.

Top row, l-r: Michael Burtnett, Jeff Dice, David Grove, Jason Haupert, Stuart Johns. Bottom row, l-r: Matthew Kennedy, Gener Lascase, Brent Liechty, John Shadle.

Top row, l-r: Michael Burtnett, Jeff Dice, David Grove, Jason Haupert, Stuart Johns. Bottom row, l-r: Matthew Kennedy, Gener Lascase, Brent Liechty, John Shadle.

The closing service of National Conference, on July 15, will feature the ordination of nine persons. This is very exciting.

Michael Burtnett
Associate pastor of Youth and Outreach
Franklin UB church
New Albany, Ohio

Jeffrey Alan Dice
Associate pastor
Brown Corners UB church
Caro, Mich.

David Grove
Senior pastor
Ebenezer UB church
Greencastle, Pa.

Jason S. Haupert
Eagle Quest UB church
Columbia City, Ind.

Stuart Wade Johns
Senior pastor
Idaville UB church
Gardners, Pa.

Matthew D. Kennedy
Senior pastor
Dillman UB church
Warren, Ind.

Gener Lascase
Haitian congregation pastor
Salem UB church
Chambersburg, Pa.

Brent C. Liechty
Senior pastor
Mongul UB church
Shippensburg, Pa.

John W. Shadle
Pastor of Middle School Ministries
King Street UB church
Chambersburg, Pa.

A number of persons from our international fields will attend the US National Conference next week. This is their 250th anniversary, too. Delegates from Guatemala and Costa Rica, and one delegate from Nicaragua, were unable to get visas to the United States. However, all of these persons will attend.

National Conference Delegates

Sierra Leone: John Pessima (bishop) and Jolly Lavalie.
Canada: Brian Magnus (bishop) and Matt Robertshaw.
Nicaragua: Juan Pavon, general superintendent.
Honduras: Gonzalo Alas (bishop), and Moises and Benulda Saens.
Hong Kong: Kin Keung Yiu (superintendent) and Carol Chan.
Jamaica: Isaac Nugent (bishop) and Winston Smith.
United States: Todd Fetters and Jeff Bleijerveld.

Mission Districts

Germany: Alimamy Sesay and Adama Thorlie.
Haiti: Oliam Richard.
Liberia: Moses Somah.
India: Miriam Prabhakar.
China: Jana Hoobler.
Macau: Karis Vong.

The US National Conference concludes on Saturday, July 15. The international delegates, along with several persons from the United States, will then go to Chambersburg, Pa., for the General Conference meeting. King Street UB church will host the General Conference meeting on Sunday and Monday. The last General Conference was held in 2013 in Ontario.

Alan and Marilyn Wright with daughters Carol and Joanne.

Alan and Marilyn Wright with daughters Carol and Joanne.

Alan Wright and Marilyn Saufley, missionaries in Sierra Leone, were married July 6, 1963. Jerry Datema, then a missionary in Sierra Leone, performed the wedding.

Alan was born in London, England, and graduated from Exeter University. He felt called to serve as a teacher in Sierra Leone. He would become a physics teacher at Centennial Secondary School in Mattru.

Marilyn, the daughter of former Sierra Leone missionaries Charles and Ruth Saufley (1928-1932), Marilyn became a nurse. She wrote, “Having been reared by faithful Christian parents, I cannot recall the time when I did not believe in the Lord. I considered mission work a way to come closer to the Lord. Perhaps this fact, and an early impression that I should serve as a nurse in the country where my parents served, led me to my present position.”

Marilyn served at Mattru Hospital 1960-1963. After their marriage, she and Alan served together at Mattru for two terms, from 1964-1971. They both became members of Salem UB church in Chambersburg, Pa.

Alan passed away September 18, 2013. At the time of Alan’s death, he and Marilyn were living in Abbotsford, British Columbia.