SacredMarriagebooks_200.jpgLet me recommend two excellent resources for your premarital and marriage counseling.

  • Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas (Zondervan).
  • Sacred Sex, by Tim Alan Gardner (Water Brook Press).

In my humble opinion, these are without a doubt the best books I have read on these subjects.They are very biblical in their approach. I used them as reference material whenever I preached a marriage series, but I also used them with the couples that came to me for their pre-marital counseling.

If you’ve been looking for good resources on these topics, you might want to take a look at these two books.

I am asked quite frequently about the books I am reading. There are two, one of which I read some time ago. These books have gripped my heart.

  • The American Church In Crisis, by David T. Olson and Forward by Craig Groeschel.
  • The Multiplying Church, by Bob Roberts Jr. The forward is by Alan Hirsch and Ed Stezer.

Have any of you read either one of these? If so what did you think?

It’s raining…sort of. Here at the national office, we’re being bombarded with stuff. Stuff we requested, and set deadlines for. So that’s a good thing.

XLR8 Registrations. So far, 45 people have registered for the US National Conference in June. We’re just getting started with that. Of those, 15 signed up for the golf outing, and 18 signed up for the UB Historical Society banquet on Friday night (sounds like it’s going to have a real good turnout).

Church reports. The dealine for receiving the annual church reports is March 15. As of yesterday, we had received 57 reports. (Reminder: Bishop Ramsey has warned that if you don’t send your report to him by March 15, your church will be denied representation at the business meeting of the US National Conference.)

Pastor’s reports. Lots of reports from pastors, both assigned and unassigned, are coming in. Again, the deadline is March 15. So far, we have received 145 reports from ministers.

Church covenants. Earlier in the year, your church received a copy of the National Church Covenant, which all UB churches must sign every two years. The deadline for them is March 1. So far, we’ve received 50 signed covenants (about one-fourth of the total).

Referendum results. Churches are sending in the results of the referenda, which were voted on during February in UB churches.


In the States, UB churches send 3.5% of their income to the national office as a “partnership fee,” to help support the various ministries we do jointly. In Sierra Leone, they have a pledge drive.

They presented the conference budget and what they hoped to accomplish during the coming year. Then individual districts, churches, and members stood to announce their financial pledge for the coming year.

It was a fun time, with some playful taunting, egging each other on. “Our district is committing to half a million leones. What about you?” And it would be up to the next district to do as well or better. Likewise for churches. A number of people plunked down cash on the spot, some sizable chunks of money.

It was quite a lengthy exercise, probably three hours. I was encouraged by what I saw. They were putting their money behind Billy Simbo’s leadership.


Jeff Bleijerveld (left) and Billy Simbo during a meeting of the Sierra Leone Conference.

After visiting at the Mattru Hospital, Billy Simbo and I returned to Freetown for the annual conference at the Lumley United Brethren church. The conference stretched over a period of four days–a lot longer than any conferences here in the United States, but a meaningful time.

I gave a keynote address on the first day, and then representatives from various denominations and organizations spoke, each taking 20 minutes to extol the virtues of the United Brethren denomination, of Billy Simbo, of the work being done, etc. But on Day Two, they got down to business.


Billy Simbo (right) spearheaded proposals to make major changes in their bylaws, structure, and other areas. The delegates asked a lot of questions, and there was much discussion, with disagreements here and there. But when it came time to vote, it was always unanimous. That really impressed me.

I wanted to understand what was actually happening. Were people on board with these changes? Just going along?

During breaks, people would ask me, “How do you like the conference?”

“Well, this is my first one,” I would say. “How do you think it’s going?”

And then they would tell me, “This is the best conference we’ve had for as long as I can remember.” They would remark about the great sense of unity, the clear leadership, the desire to work together, and the shared passion to accomplish the vision set before them. It was very good to hear.

I could tell Billy Simbo had a lot of concerns going in, because of the major changes being proposed. But I think he came away feeling very good. He’s now working with a leadership structure designed after the governance model. He works with superintendents chosen not by geography, but according to giftedness. Whenever you center leadership around giftedness and objectives and what you want to accomplish, you’re better off.


My visit to Sierra Leone in December was my first trip to Africa (if I don’t count a short visit to Morocco when we lived in Spain). I started the day in Germany, and ended the day late at night in Mattru, far up-country. Here are my memories and impressions of that first day.

The Freetown airport lies on an island. After the plane landed, a tractor pulled up to the plane with a wagon to collect our luggage.Inside the terminal, I encountered a sea of people (which I’ve seen in other countries). Everybody wants to carry your bag. Some guys offered to fly us to the city via helicopter, but I’d heard too many stories about these helicopters. Instead, Billy Simbo and I headed to the car ferry (itself a 20-minute drive). We were jammed in like sardines, standing up the whole way. I didn’t see any lifejackets, and there were no safety drills. We did go to the First Class room, which included some air conditioning and guys selling pirated CDs and DVDs (including some nice Christian CDs).

Freetown featured crowded streets, a lot of commercial businesses, and much hustle and bustle. We found ourselves on Kissy Road stuck in parked traffic for a couple hours. You can do your shopping on Kissy Road while you’re stopped, because vendors come by with fresh eggs, bluejeans–anything you want. They carry everything on their heads. I saw one guy carrying a Honda generator on his head. That was the most impressive thing I saw in Sierra Leone.

Amidst the crowds, I carried my suitcase on my head, too. If you try pulling it behind you, you’ll never make it through the crowds. Plus, it’s more secure on your head. Of course, don’t keep anything valuable in your pockets, or you’ll never see it again.

Billy Simbo and I headed into the interior, taking dusty red dirt roads. It was a 250-km trip to Mattru. We arrived around midnight. With no air conditioning in the van, we kept the windows open the whole way. In the dark, we couldn’t see anything, except for an occasional big farm truck.

When we reached Mattru and opened the car doors, the vehicle light came on. Only then did we realize we were completely covered with red dust. Mattru has no electricity, and the guest house had no generator. We used palm oil lamps, and bathed from a bucket of water. It was a little interesting getting cleaned up for bed, but I was comfortable.

Huntington University‘s current spring semester enrollment is the largest in its history, with a total student body of 1,114. That compares to 1,080 in 2008. They include:

  • 893 traditional undergraduate students.
  • 125 EXCEL Adult Degree Programs students.
  • 96 graduate students.

The Huntington University Board of Trustees approved a 4.9 percent increase for fulltime traditional undergraduate tuition and fees in 2009-2010.

“In light of the current economy, Huntington has worked diligently to moderate tuition and fees increases for 2009-2010 to make college more affordable for students and their families,” said Tom Ayers, vice president for business and finance. “We believe this effort, combined with Huntington’s continued commitment to providing scholarships and grants to students, will enable more students to pursue their college goals at HU.”

For the 2008-2009 academic year, the cost for a Huntington University education is $20,300 in tuition and fees, $4,843 less than the national average. According to College Board’s 2008-2009 Annual Survey of Colleges, four-year private institutions charge an average of $25,143 in tuition and fees, a 5.9 percent increase of $1,483 over 2007-2008.

In the fall of 2008, Huntington University was recognized by three institution-ranking organizations. U.S.News & World Report ranked Huntington No. 5 among the 2009 “Best Values in Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Midwest and No. 7 among the Midwest’s “Best Baccalaureate Colleges.” Huntington ranked in the same positions in both categories on the 2008 lists.

Approximately 90 percent of Huntington University students receive financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, loans or work-study assistance.

Huntington was also pleased to be included in a new U.S.News category called “Economic Diversity.” Essentially, it features schools that have students on campus from a variety of economic profiles who are, in the words of U.S.News, not colleges just for “rich kids.” At Huntington, 40 percent of the student come from households with total incomes of less that $50,000 per year.

In addition to institution-ranking organizations, Huntington University also receives high marks from its students. Each year, the university participates in the Student Satisfaction Inventory – a national survey of college students.

“According to survey data, Huntington students believe the tuition they pay is a better investment than students who participated in the Student Satisfaction Inventory at other public and private schools,” says Jeff Berggren, vice president for enrollment management and marketing.

firstlady.jpgThe Patriotic Vanguard, a Sierra Leone news portal, tells about the nation’s First Lady, Sia Koroma (right), and her interest in upgrading the Mattru Hospital.

“Mrs. Koroma said while there is a medical infrastructure in Mattru Jong, the need to address issues related to the lack of essential equipment, drugs, and trained personnel cannot be overemphasized. [She described her initiative] towards upgrading health care delivery for women and children across the country.

“She made a special commitment to the Mattru Jong Hospital, indicating she would ensure it was upgraded to a modern hospital with the view to enhance its capacity and hence meet the medical needs of the people.”

Roger Vezeau, College Park UB Church (Huntington, Ind.)

Roger Vezeau is Director of Student Ministries at College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.) and a member of the denominational Youth Ministry Team.

Today’s youth want community–meaningful, authentic relationships with peers and adults who are not judgmental. They are motivated first by what draws their attention, but they stay when challenged to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Youth are drawn to a community that cares about people and the concerns of the world. They long for a place/community that makes them laugh, brings joy to their lives, and challenges them to think and respond. They want to find the meaning of life and their role in it.

Adults may think that youth are not interested in spiritual things, but nothing could be further from the truth. Teens have a very high interest in God and their spiritual life. They need the freedom to question, doubt, and explore spiritual truth without the judgment from others. On the other hand, they are turned off by judgmental people who care more about protecting what they believe rather than showing people the love of Jesus.

Today’s teens may challenge orthodoxy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t embrace it. They just need to wrestle for their own answers and not be expected to blindly receive their elders’ views. Let’s trust the work of the Holy Spirit to guide as they question.

In my experience, the best way to help youth grow spiritually is through a healthy family surrounding the youth. On the other side is the youth who comes from a broken family or deep hurt, looks for answers, and finds that the world does not deliver the answers it promises.

If they have an authentic, caring, mature adult in their life, they will be more apt to talk about these things. That is how you connect with today’s youth–through authentic, non-judgmental relationships from caring adults. Show them that they matter and that you value them.

I’ve been slow to post about the book “Prayer Coach” that we began a month or so ago.  Well, I have been wondering if any of you have used the prayer patterns, i.e. praying through the armor, or the fruit of the Spirit, or even you body. It certainly provides a new, fresh approach to prayer.

I like that it’s so teachable. You could teach a new believer to pray like that. And after all, that is one of purpose of the book–that we leaders begin coaching prayer. Anyone have any neat stories about trying it?

In reading the book, God has given me many flashbacks to events in my life that center on prayer. I think he just wants me to remember the power of prayer.

As I was reading recently, I remembered a time when I called for a special period of prayer at 10 PM on Saturday night to begin the first of September. The purpose: to pray for revival in our church. As you can well imagine, not many showed up. Actually, most of the time just one man showed up to join me in praying.

Harold I would would gather at the altar. Sometimes we would go through the sanctuary, stopping at each pew praying for those who would be sitting there the next morning. Sometimes we went to every classroom and prayed for the teachers and students who would be in those rooms the next day.

EJ and I lived about 3-4 miles from the church, and some Saturday nights I groaned when it was time to leave. But I went because I knew Harold would be there.

Harold lived just about half a block from the church. The man could pray. We prayed together at the altar until summer.  When Harold passed away some time later, I began to reflect on his life, his friendship, and his love for the Lord. Looking back over church stats, I realized that the church had one of its greatest growth spurts during the time we were praying at the altar at 10 PM on Saturday night.

Well, don’t know why I told all that, but I do believe that God is interested in his children coming to him with their needs, burdens, and praises.