Carlson and Naomi Becker, UB missionaries in Macau, sent the following as part of their January update letter.
The week before Christmas, we felt impressed to reach out to a young woman, a new Christian during the past year, who was struggling on her own away from her parent’s home and support. A church in the US had sent us a cash gift for Christmas, and we were enabled to take her to the grocery store and buy her some food to help stock her pantry. Naomi had been giving her tips about how to save money on food. We were humbled as we took her through the store and she first picked out two items as gifts to her father and mother for Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, this girl invited her father to go to an Evangelical Outreach Program with her, and because of the change he had seen in her, he went. They gave an altar call and the father went foreword to accept Christ. We were so thrilled that we practically walked on air after hearing the news. We were blessed to be a minute part of it and to see the joy in the young girl’s face.

(more…)

Pat Jones, Director of Healthy Church Ministries
Here are some questions for you to ask yourself and your leadership with tenacious honesty. Time is short and we must stop kidding ourselves about the effectiveness of our ministries. The reason some churches function at a high level of effectiveness in reaching the lost and fulfilling their purpose is that they ask tough questions over and over again. So, are you willing to ask these three and deal with the implications of the answers?

1. Who are you? (Your understanding of why God has you and your church here)
2. What do you do? (How do you accomplish that understanding?)
3. What does it matter? (If you didn’t do what you are doing, what would the result be?)

Brad Powell, pastor of Northridge Church in Plymouth, MI, a very effective and exciting ministry, stated that he believes that the church is the hope of the world but he fears that for a majority of our churches in America they could close down today and the level of hope in their town would not change at all. In other words, they have forgotten or failed to be hope providers to those who are lost and headed for a Christless eternity in their communities.
So, be willing to ask the questions. But you must be willing to pay any price to travel to the correct, heart of God responses. Failure in this endeavor is not an option for those who want to be useful in the Lord’s work today.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
I have identified five stragetic initiatives for my term, and I would like your feedback on them, either through the comments or using the Contact link on the right:

1. Implement and encourage an atmosphere where multiplication of leaders and churches will be considered as normal.
2. Encourage Spiritual Formation and Renewal within the churches of the United Brethren in Christ
3. Actively equip churches and pastors for effective ministries.
4. Develop a plan to identify and retain those who are being called into fulltime Christian service.
5. Discover, evaluate, and articulate the perceived brand image of the Church of the United Brethren In Christ.

These five initiatives will comprise the areas that I consider priority issues and in which I will spend the majority of my time.
These were adopted October 4, 2005, by the Executive Leadership Team after some discussion. Now I would like to open the discussion of these five initiatives to a wider audience across the church.
How do you think these ought to be fleshed out? Or maybe you take issue that these are the areas that need priority attention in our denomination.
Talk to me, church!

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
I was in Michigan this past weekend attending their Mid-Year Conference. They announced a cooperative effort between Sunfield UB and a neighboring Weslyan Church to plant a new church in Portland, Mich. The church planting pastor, Ed Love, was introduced to the conference. In this plant, both churches will suppy resources and people to begin a successful church in Portland.
Will it be a United Brethren or a Weslyan Church after it is planted? Who knows! Most likely it will be Weslyan. But this is the type of Kingdom-view thinking that we must begin to develop. The Kingdom is bigger and greater than the UB and cooperative efforts with other like-minded churches is essential for seeing the Kingdom advanced. Partnering with other groups/churches/denominations that also are interested in advancing the KIngdom is essential.
Kudos to Sunfield, Pastor Mark Ralph, and the Michigan Conference for leading the way in this for our denomination. Let us all pray for this new work, that God would use it to bring many to a saving knowledge of His Son! “…thy Kingdom come…” Amen!

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
Paul HirschySeveral people have asked me how Paul Hirschy is doing. I am happy to report that Paul is doing fine and in fact has a new position with Huntington University. Effective February 1, 2006, Paul was appointed as a development officer at Huntington University. Paul will travel in the tri-state area meeting with alumni and friends to share the Huntington University story.
I met with Paul just this noon for lunch and we discussed his new position as well as his health. He is excited about this new opportunity to use his many skills with the University. Health-wise, he is doing well. As many of you know, Paul has battled cancer for a number of years, including throughout his 2001-2005 term as bishop.
For further details, see the article on the UB news page. Congratulations Paul!

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
When was the last time you personally saw an old honest to goodness scalawag sinner come to faith in Christ as a result of your church’s ministry? I ask that question in nearly every church I visit. I get some strange looks! Like, “What is he talking about?”
In Romans 1:16, Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” If you do not see the gospel message pull pagan sinners to Christ, you can lose your confidence in the power of the gospel to do that. You become timid about sharing the gospel, because you fear, “What if God doesn’t or can’t do it this time?”
Could it be that we United Brethren have become closet universalists? That somewhere in the depths of our being, we think it doesn’t really matter if someone accepts Christ, because we’ve lost touch with the idea that there is an eternity of separation from God?
I know what it is like to see someone under conviction so badly that they simply fall to their knees like a sack of potatoes. Brothers and sisters, it is something to behold when God changes a person by the power of the gospel. At Main Street I saw this happen to drug adicts, alcoholics, Hindus, new agers…when Jesus just got hold of individuals and changed their lives. Trinity UB in Fostoria, Ohio, told me recently of a man who was addicted to cocaine and who was instantly and dramatically transformed by God’s Power…and he is now standing firm in Christ!
Do you not only believe that God can do that, but have the confidence that He can do that? When was the last time you saw a scalawag sinner changed into a dynamic follower of Jesus? Are you seeing this happen as a result of your ministry? (If you’ve seen this happen recently, I’d love to hear the story.)
Have you lost your confidence in the power of the gospel? Just thought I’d ask!

Jana Hoobler has been in the States on furlough from Macau since August 2005. She tells about finishing her Master’s degree this December, her parents’ 50th anniversary, and things she has noticed different about the United States since her last furlough. She is now preparing to return to Macau.

(more…)

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
We talk a lot about it, but do we do it? Really, do we really even believe it? Yeah, I’m talking about prayer and fasting. I wonder what could happen if a number of our churches would seriously consider seeking God for a Spiritual Renewal and Harvest by setting aside time for prayer & fasting between now and, say, Easter.
Would you join me in this discipline just one day a week? I’m not a legalist! You can fast one meal or three, you can fast something other than a meal, like TV or ??? You can choose the day and time. But would you join me in this discipline just until Easter? Let’s agree together for a great Spiritual Harvest by Easter.
It has already begun for Trinity UB in Fostoria, Ohio. During 2005, they have seen 46 seekers at their altar and in homes. Not bad for a church of under 100. They won’t be under 100 for long!
By the way, at the office the staff are reading Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest daily devotional each day and then we pray for you. That book has been around for a long time, but it is powerful! If you need a good devotional for 2006, you can’t go wrong with this one. Could be a good resource to prayer and fasting…What do you think?

Lester Smith, pastor of the Hillsdale UB church (Hillsdale, Mich)., reports, “We have hired a modern-day Aquila and Priscilla team: Phill (yes, he spells it with two l’s) and Michele (hers is one l) Vigil. Both are preacher’s kids and have degrees with experience in various forms of ministry. They applied for our one fulltime position in youth and worship as a couple.
“Although our church has hired husband and wife teams before, such as Scott and Tanya Hardaway, as well a my wife (executive secretary) and I, it has never been for the same position. The Vigils will work in the area of both youth and music. In their last church in California, one had the title of Youth and Music Minister and the other was Music and Youth Minister.”