Makeover_300.jpgDuring February, members of United Brethren churches in the US selected laypersons to represent them as delegates to the 2007 US National Conference, which meets May 31 – June 3. Reports about the persons elected are now coming to Bishop Ron Ramsey’s office. And people are getting in their reservations.

Thus far, 160 people representing just over 40 UB churches have registered for the US National Conference. With 80% of our churches yet to register, we could have quite a crowd at the National Conference meeting.

For information, and to register, go to You can also track the churches which have registered delegates, as well as those that have returned the National Conference Covenant.

One of the leaders of Honduras Conference, Pastor Benulda Saenz, is currently in the United States, and she would be interested in sharing with or speaking at Pennsylvania area churches between March 19 and April 2. If you would like to know more, please contact Gary Dilley at Global Ministries.

Gary Dilley, Director of Global Ministries, write, “We have set a target date of April 26th for Billy Simbo to leave for Sierra Leone and begin his leadership role with that conference. Billy will likely leave first. His wife, Mamei, will finish dealing with some medical issues, and then will join her husband.

“We are at a critical time in Sierra Leone’s history, and believe, by faith, that God will raise up sufficient financial partners for their departure at that time. Please pray for God’s favor upon them. If you’d like to partner with the Simbo’s, please contact Global Ministries.

Huntington University has pledged $250,000 to the Huntington YMCA to help build swimming pool facilities in the new YMCA building, which will break ground this spring next to Parkview Huntington Hospital. When the new YMCA opens in 2008, HU will close its own pool.

HU spends about $60,000 a year on its own pool (supplies, chemicals, utilities, routine labor, lifeguards, etc.). Plus, the pool needs over at least $217,000 in short-term repairs and upgrades. So over an eight-year period, HU will spend over $800,000 on its pool during the next ten years.

The YMCA will give university students and employees free recreational access to its swimming pool facilities, allow aquatics classes to use the facilities free, and provide recreational use by participants in summer conferences held at the university for the next ten years.

The pool will be called “Forester Pool,” named after HU’s mascot.

HU’s pledge will enable the YMCA to expand the pool from 6-8 lanes and to increase the size of the warm-water recreational and therapy pool.


Christina Warner (second from the left) and her class at the Wadi Qilt on the way to Jericho and before reaching St. George’s Monastary.

On the Eastern side of the Mount of Olives, past the separation wall, Huntington University student Christina Warner sits across the table from a Muslim family, who share stories about their lives after the start of the second uprising.

“The family has lost close family members, either because they were killed or jailed, since the beginning of the intifada,” said Warner, a senior Bible and religion major from Bloomington, Ind. “They were incredibly welcoming, and I was honored to be able to sit and listen to their stories.”

This family is one of millions of people who have suffered great loss because of the intifada. Since the separation wall has been erected, the people are cut off from the basic resources of the land and economy that would help them to survive and support their families.

There are many organizations that help the community. The local Mennonite Central Committee office in Palestine supports 15 organizations that help the Palestinian people while they are under Israeli occupation. Warner has joined in on the daily meetings, which has given her the chance to see firsthand what they do as well as help provide her with a better understanding of the current political and social situation.

“These organizations provide basic education, conflict resolution, jobs, agricultural resources and water,” Warner said. “They also support a couple of Israeli organizations which educate the Israeli public about the living conditions of Palestinian refugees, comparing the current quality of life with the quality of life before the occupation and displacement of the Palestinian people.”

Warner is involved in a study abroad program at Jerusalem University College on Mount Zion, next to the Old City. The Jerusalem University College is a small American Christian college that specializes in biblical archaeology, history of the Bible and the Middle Eastern cultures, religions and modern politics.

Each of Warner’s classes involves participating in one field study. The field studies are basically field trips throughout Israel. The students must pay close attention to what they see and learn so that they do well on their tests.

“So far I’ve been on field studies throughout biblical Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho and Central Benjamin Plateau, an area that the Israelites crossed to get into Canaan,” said Warner.

Although, like most college students, Warner goes to classes and does homework. In her free time she roams around Jerusalem. She goes to a local lecture, works in the garden, spends time with MCC or goes to the New City, West Jerusalem, which is mostly Israeli homes and businesses, with other students.

Most of the city isn’t much different from the cities in the United States, but each section has different social customs. East and West Jerusalem have very diverse cultures.

“The dynamics between men and women are much different,” said Warner. “The conservative atmosphere and most of the Orthodox faiths here tend to view women as less than men, but it’s not taking too long to learn how to hold my own while being respectful.”

In West Jerusalem the primary language is Hebrew, but in East Jerusalem the primary language is Arabic. Although, most of the people speak English, the professors are fluent in the languages, but Warner plans to learn a bit of both Hebrew and Arabic while she is in Israel.

Tim and Sue Walberg
Tim and Sue Walberg

United Brethren churches can now claim two members in the US Congress. Mark Souder, from Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., was first elected in 1994 and was re-elected to his sixth term this past November. Joining him is first-time Republican Congressman Tim Walberg, who is from Element Church (formerly Trenton Hills UB church) in Adrian, Mich.

Tim Walberg grew up in Chicago, and went on to attend Western Illinois University, Moody Bible Institute, Taylor University, Fort Wayne Bible College (now Taylor University-Fort Wayne), and Wheaton College Graduate School. He spent nearly ten years as a pastor (non-UB churches) before winning a seat in the Michigan State House of Representatives, where he served 1983-1999. He then worked five years as a division manager with Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

In August 2006, Walberg defeated moderate Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz in the primary, winning 53% of the vote (in 2004, he placed third in the Republican Primary). He then went on to win the general election with 51% of the vote.

“Politics is just another format that can be used as a place of intentional ministry,” Walberg said in an interview with World magazine. “Everything comes at me through the filter of my faith. It has to be that way if this is more than a religion.”

Walberg and his wife, Sue, have been married for 32 years and have three adult children (see the family).

I wrote yesterday about what we are expecting about National Conference and also why we should consider attending. I got another thought this morning that connects with what we have been teaching in the churches. It has to do with the life cycle of a church or denomination.

Most of our churches are on the downward side of their life cycle. When on that side of the cycle, concerns about structure (who is in charge, who is the pastor, who is making decisions, etc.) are in the driver’s seat. And when structure is driving the car, a focus on programs is sitting in the front passenger’s seat. Not only is that where most of our churches are (over 80% plateaued or declining), it is where we have been as a denomination. In this situation, vision and relationships are relegated to the back seat.

We work with churches to help them see how they can get to a point of starting a new life cycle. And when you are on the up-swing of a new life cycle, vision takes the driver’s seat and is supported in the front passenger’s seat by relationships. Structure and ministries are in the car, but in the supportive roles of the back seat. The emphasis and focus are on vision and relationships.

This National Conference is going to give its major energies to establishing a clear, agreed-upon vision of where we need to head as a group and also give time to renew, refresh, and establish strong relationships with each other.

That is why we need all leaders to come. We must be driven by clear vision and caring relationships.

I hope to see you there.

During the morning service at the church I attended today, a baptismal service was part of the day’s worship. It reminded me that I hadn’t seen a baptism since I left Mainstreet in August 2005. A congregation ought to be seeing people baptized on a fairly regular basis. There is nothing more wonderful than to hear the testimonies of those being baptized. It renews our confidence in the power of the Gospel to change lives. I didn’t know any of the individuals being baptized this morning, but I must admit I had moist eyes as I witnessed them make a public profession of their new faith. I especially appreciated the fact that it was incorporated into the morning worship service. A very moving time.

I have believed for a long time that we United Brethren ought to promote believer baptism a whole lot more than we do. It is great to see someone converted and come to faith. Often that is done in a small group, in a Sunday school class, or in a home or office where there are not a lot of people to witness it. But it is in the act of baptism that the individual is able to make such a testimony public. Now, I don’t subscribe to baptismal regeneration, but I think it is far more important than many of us make it in our churches. The number of baptisms reported ought to be closer to the number of those who have been converted. Baptism is an important step in the discipleship process.

It was a wonderful morning!

I have been asked as we travel around why anyone should come to National Conference on May 31. What can we expect? What business will happen? Is it worth it?

Let me give you my answer. First, let me address what this isn’t. This isn’t a vacation with a purpose like Knoxville in 1988, where over 900 UBs came together. That’s not what we are expecting. While all who are interested in the future of the church may come, our expectation is that key leaders who are eligible as delegates from each church will come. That would mean a group of around 400 people, or around six times our previous number of delegates at National Conference.

Second, this isn’t going to be a meeting with a lot of Discipline revision business. Our goal is to do what is necessary for us to process the referendums voted on by the churches, choose Executive Leadership Team members, and handle any other business associated with those items. The normal reports will also be given. But that is about all the “normal” business we will do.

So why come? Come, because we need to reconnect in community around our common commitment to the Gospel. We will hear stories of how the Lord is doing something fresh in new churches, old churches, small churches, large churches, city churches, and country churches. We will celebrate new Christians and older saints with a renewed vision of ministry.

Come, because we will spend time hearing from Brad Powell about transitioning a very traditional church to one that is significantly impacting its world today. We will hear why speaking to the culture is a common need for healthy churches, new churches, and missionaries. We will be challenged as leaders as to our responsibility in sharing God’s heart to reach lost people. We will also renew our belief that the God who worked in the church in Acts is the same today, and the church of Acts 2 reflects how the church should function today.