Gary Brooks reported on February 11, “Diane and I just returned from a visit to three UB churches in Costa Rica. Our group was led by Joe Leighton, youth minister of the UB church in Lancaster, Ohio. One of those who preached in Costa Rica was the senior pastor, Bill C. Pitts. We were all impressed by the dynamic worship services and the commitment of the brethren at the Fe Abundante UB Church who are working hard to construct a permanent place of worship.”

Mt. Pleasant UB church. The new addition is on the far left.

Mount Pleasant UB recently completed the first phase of a major building project. The congregation broke ground in May 2003, and the dedication service was held on January 25. Pastor Chris Little writes, “Today the people of Mt. Pleasant remain committed to Building, Belonging and Becoming the Family of God. We are encouraged by the growing enthusiasm and excitement within our church family and our community, and we are eager to see what God will do in us and through us in the future.”

Jennifer Blandin’s maternal grandmother passed away on Tuesday, February 10. Pastor Ron Ramsey, Pastor of Main Street UB in Walbridge, Ohio, writes, “She was 92 and was a faithful believer since she was 10 years old.” Jennifer came back to the States for the funeral, which was held February 14.

Luanne Brooks, a UB missionary serving with OMS in Haiti, returned to the States on Saturday, February 21. On February 19, she had sent this email to her supporters.

“This is a very difficult letter for me to write, but here goes. I am coming back to the United States and I have no idea for how long. The situation here in Haiti is completely unstable. Our compound is now down to five missionaries. Please pray for Haiti. So many wonderful people here that are trapped and cannot ‘go home,’ because they are home.

“If you are supporting me financially, I ask that you do not stop. If there comes a time that I believe that I will not return to Haiti and that the Lord has released me, I will let you know immediately. As of this moment, I want to return and do the work the Lord has given to me to do. If you would like me to come and speak to a group, church or missions conference, please contact me right away. I would be glad to come and share.

“I am returning to Florida and will be staying with my parents for the time being. Today I was able to take my cat in for a health certificate so that I can bring him back into the States. I will be returning home on Saturday afternoon.”

Hillsdale UB (Hillsdale, Mich.) bought out three showings at the local theatre of “The Passion of the Christ.” Pastor Lester Smith sent a note on February 19 saying, “Because we bought all 200 seats (600 tickets in all), they gave us a good discount. It was a 2,500 investment and we’ve gained back more than half already after we presented it as an application to my sermon last week. One man has offered to pay for 100 tickets to be given away to youth in our community.” The first showing will be Thursday, February 26, at 7:10 pm. They are promoting it as “Youth Night.” The other showings are on Saturday, February 28, and Monday, March 1.

On February 23, Smith reported, “Today, we sold out the rest of our tickets for all three showings. We are now going to ask for a fourth showing for next week. One of our members has promised to buy half of the tickets so we can give them out to the needy and outreach prospects. We are asking those who buy our tickets to only do so if they will also treat an unsaved or unchurched person to go with them.”

Hillsdale had David Meece for a concert in during the worship service on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, which was January 18. They put out all of their chairs for the first time, and attendance topped 650. During the past few years, Hillsdale converted their gym into what is now the largest worship facility in the county, with 680 seats.

Our couple in India (we can’t give their names online) report that a Pastors Conference was held February 16-19. Three guest speakers gave excellent teaching and encouraging messages to the pastors involved in church planting areas.

Thirty-five delegates attended this conference. All of them gave very encouraging feedback on the conference and said that they have been helped and uplifted.

Five of the tribal pastors were given Telugu study Bibles; that is all they could get, since the Bible is out of print. The first New Telugu Bible Commentary was to be released at the end of February. It will cost approximately $12 for each volume. The hope is to get a copy for each of the pastors.

Dr. Jeffrey Webb, a history professor at Huntington College, is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Christianity, which will be released in March. The book looks at the differences among Christian denominations today.

“I discovered through the process of writing that I could not do this without going back through the history of the church and identifying reasons for the different conflicts and schisms that produced the denominational divisions, Webb recalled. “Yet, I also tried to emphasize the points of agreement and unity among Christians.

Several Huntington College communication students received awards in the 2004 Intercollegiate National Religious Broadcasting (INRB) media competition at the National Religious Broadcasting Convention in Charlotte, N.C., February 13-17.

Each year students under the direction of Dr. Lance Clark, assistant professor of communication, enter various projects in the INRB media competition. This year, Huntington students won four first-place awards in nine categories.

Jaymie Shafer, a junior broadcast communication major from Canton, Ohio, placed first in the Al Sanders Essay Contest, and received a $1000 grant. Her essay, Cinematic Theology, compared the different approaches to Christianity in film. She focused on the movies Bruce Almighty and The Lord of the Rings.

Paco Michelson, a senior Bible and religion major from Huntington, Ind., and Jonathan Bordeaux, a senior broadcast communication major from Roanoke, Ind., placed first in the Television Field Production category with their production, Hannahs Cross. The short film dealt with religious persecution in foreign countries.

Michelson also won first place in the Radio Drama category with The Hiding Place, a production that served as an adaptation from the life story of Corrie Ten Boone.

Luanne Brooks is a United Brethren missionary serving with OMS International in Haiti. She sent this report on February 11.

Every time you blink the situation here in Haiti changes.

First of all I want you to know that I am safe and have not once felt I was in any danger. For the past several weeks, I have been staying with Pastor Richard Oliam in his home in a suburb of Port au Prince. We had heard of many demonstrations in and around the city, but they were always avoidable as this is a large city.

This past weekend I chose to visit some friends at the OMS Guesthouse, since Pastor Richard was going to be out of town. While I was at the guest house (Villa ORMISO), problems began to escalate all over Haiti. On Sunday and Monday, Pastor Richard was unable to return home due to road blocks, so I stayed at the Villa for two more days.

Yesterday we received word that the rebel forces had taken over the town of Limbe (where I support a small UB church) and that the government had blocked off Cap Haitian. Our compound is outside of Cap on the road to Limbe. Our missionaries are all safe–a large wall surrounds the compound–but there are lots of problems all around them. Yesterday I asked to return to Cap, but was told to remain in Port for the time being.

At the pastors house, I was rather isolated. He is on the other side of town from the Villa; I had very little communication there, and no internet available. We were concerned that if I needed to get to the Villa should problems arise, it might not be possible. So for the time being, I am at the Villa. I continue to study my kreole. I am not able to attend classes but have been talking to my teacher daily and receiving assignments.

My favorite hamburger joint in Cap Haitian is no longer there. It was burned down, along with a local radio station, two banks, and a church.

Gary Dilley, Director of Global Ministries, talked by phone to Luanne Brooks this afternoon (February 11). Because of the great degree of civil unrest in Haiti, Luanne Brooks is currently stuck in Port au Prince, where she has been doing language study. She is unable to get back to Cap Hatien, where she lives at the OMS compound. Please pray for her safety and for God’s peace. Luanne is in contact with OMS about what her next step will be, whether it means returning in some way to Cap Hatien or even returning to the States. She is staying at the OMS guesthouse in the capital. Luanne is a United Brethren missionary serving with OMS International.

Meanwhile, a United Brethren group from Canada has returned safely from Haiti, flying back to Canada on February 10. Bishop Brian Magnus of Canada called Gary Dilley on the morning of February 11 to report on the group’s journey. They went to Haiti on January 30 to do work in construction, medical, children’s, and medical ministries. The civil unrest escalated during their time in the country, though for most of the time they were isolated from it in an area south of Port Au Prince and were not fully aware of the political turmoil in other parts of the country.

On their return journey to the airport, they faced several delays, ran into roadblocks and barricades, and encountered a truck filled with armed men who expressed doubt about their ability to reach the airport. They spent some time at a Salvation Army compound, waiting for any sign of traffic coming out of Port Au Prince. Finally, when they saw buses coming from the city, they immediately left and were able to make their way to the airport.

Gary Dilley received an email this morning which said, I’m sure you will be hearing many accounts of how God blessed the team and caused plans to be altered for their protection. Joan Sider [from the Toronto UB church] said she was unaware of the extent of the political uprisings in Haiti during the past week until she arrived in Miami and read the newspapers.

The US Embassy in Haiti is closed until March, and for a couple months there has been a stern travel advisory out from the US State Department regarding Haiti.