Phil Whipple, US Bishop, talks to Jamaican delegates Isaac Nugent and Winston Smith at the San Pedro Sula, Honduras, airport

Phil Whipple, US Bishop, talks to Jamaican delegates Isaac Nugent and Winston Smith at the San Pedro Sula, Honduras, airport

Our party of 9–4 Americans, 2 Jamaicans, 3 Sierra Leoneans–arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, around 2:30 Saturday afternoon. We all got through immigration just fine…except for Theresa Musa. She was the last person in line on our flight, and they held her for a long, long time. There were questions about the visa, which she had gone to heroic efforts to acquire, with a quick trip Friday to New York City to meet in person with a Honduran consulate official.

It seemed like every employee in the airport got involved in discussing the validity of the visa granted the day before in New York City. They were cordial. It’s just that nobody seemed to want to accept responsibility for approving her entry. So they got lots of people into it, spreading the potential blame around. And ultimately, they let her pass

Maira Raudales (left) and Donna Hollopeter

Maira Raudales (left) and Donna Hollopeter

Maira Raudales, along with her son and daughter and a driver, were waiting for us when we finally emerged into the terminal. Oliam Richard, our superintendent in Haiti, was also there. Maira and Company had brought an air-conditioned passenger bus, very nice. We loaded our bags in the back.

Canadians Paul Plato (left) and Brian Magnus finally arrive in San Pedro sula after a flight delay in Miami.

Canadians Paul Plato (left) and Brian Magnus arrive in San Pedro sula after a flight delay in Miami.

Then it was just a matter of waiting for the two Canadians, Brian Magnus and Paul Plato. They got delayed in Miami, but showed up near 5 pm. Donna Hollopeter bought everyone the Number 1 Single meal at the airport Wendy’s while we waited.

The trip east to La Ceiba took three hours, with a bathroom stop at a quick-stop mart. It rained much of the way.

We arrived in La Ceiba around 9 pm, and went straight to the Grand Paris Hotel. Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries, showed up just a few minutes after we did, and helped us get checked in. Along with our room key-cards, we were also handed a remote to the TV. That’s different.

Jeff Bleijerveld (right) at Pizza hut talking to three bishop: Brian Magnus (Canada), Phil Whipple (USA) and Billy Simbo (Sierra Leone).

Jeff Bleijerveld (right) at Pizza hut talking to three bishop: Brian Magnus (Canada), Phil Whipple (USA) and Billy Simbo (Sierra Leone).

After depositing our bags in our rooms, we walked (in the rain) next door to the Pizza Hut for a late supper. (En route to the hotel, we passed Burger King, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, Quiznos, Applebees, and another Pizza Hut.)

Jeff Dice was there, eating and watching the Cowboys-Eagles football game. He had come up from Costa Rica, where he and his wife are in Spanish language school.

Before leaving Pizza Hut, Jeff Bleijerveld bought everyone a bottle of water, which we’ll need to brush our teeth in the morning. He also warned, “La Ceiba is a nice-looking town, but don’t go out for a walk by yourself, day or night.”

Karis Vong, from Macau, had arrived earlier in the day. She used a Portuguese visa (Macau was a Portuguese colony until 1999), which posed no travel problems. But the other Hong Kong delegate, Ajiax Wo, was stopped in New York City. He’ll need to meet with the Honduran consulate (the same office Theresa Musa went to) first thing Monday morning, get a visa, and then head to Honduras. So he’ll miss some (if not all) of General Conference. Ajiax was scheduled to preach Monday night, but Billy Simbo, scheduled for Tuesday, offered to switch nights with Ajiax.

Nine of us are now sitting at gate D51 in Miami, waiting to board our flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Seven of us left Fort Wayne, Ind., at 6:30 this morning–Phil Whipple, Donna Hollopeter, Jason Hollopeter, Theresa Musa, Billy Simbo, Alan Simbo, and me.

In Miami, the two Jamaican delegates were waiting for us–Winston Smith and Isaac Nugent.

But we received word that Ajiax Wo, superintendent of Hong Kong Conference, is stuck in New York needing a visa to Honduras. Since this is the weekend, he’ll need to wait until the Honduran consultate reopens on Monday, which means he’ll miss the open service and first day of General Conference (assuming he’s able to obtain a visa).

So that’s something to pray about.

Donna Hollopeter spent a good share of Thursday trying to obtain travel visas for Theresa Musa (from Sierra Leone) and Aaron Lim (Philippines) for the General Conference meeting in Honduras January 10-14.

Very disappointing news today: the US Consulate in Manila, Philippines, denied a transit visa for Aaron Lim, son of Superintendent Prudencio Lim. He had his visa for Honduras, and just needed a visa to pass through an American airport on his way to Honduras.

Global Ministries made heroic attempts to procure this visa. They met all of the requirements, jumping through every hoop, plus all the hoops that kept being added. Yesterday, a letter from a US Congressman was sitting on the desk of the consulate officer in Manila when Aaron came for his interview. The officer’s reason for denying the visa: the letter didn’t include the cost of the hotel in Honduras. Huh?

The denial applied only to Aaron. His father, Prudencio Lim, had all the necessary documentation, having traveled before (he came to the US in 2005 for General Conference). Nevertheless, neither of them will attend General Conference, which is a big disappointment to them and to the General Conference.

Meanwhile, the Honduran consulate in New York City said Theresa Musa’s information was in order. The officer said he would grant the visa…if Theresa was sitting there in his office. He needed to see her personally. Unfortunately, Theresa was in Huntington, Ind., in Donna’s office.

So Thursday night, Theresa flew to New York City and stayed with friends there. This morning, she will meet with the Honduran consulate officer who promised that if he could see her in person, he would grant the visa. Then she’ll fly back to Indiana in the evening. The flight to Honduras begins at 6:30 Saturday morning.

Let’s hope and pray that Theresa returns to Indiana with a visa in hand.

UPDATE (10:55 am, Friday): Theresa got her stamped visa! Praise the Lord for that!

Alan Simbo, Theresa Musa, and Billy Simbo

L-r: Alan Simbo, Theresa Musa, and Billy Simbo. They arrived in Huntington today to begin the journey to Honduras for General Conference. On Saturday morning, they’ll travel with the United States contingent. Billy is Bishop of Sierra Leone Conference, Theresa is the other delegate, and Alan, Billy’s son, is tagging along as an observer.

Donna Hollopeter is working on getting a visa to Honduras for Theresa. Likewise for Prudencio Lim and son Aaron, from the Philippines. Phone calls are being made to Congressmen and government agencies. A little prayer couldn’t hurt.

Honduras Conference started Wednesday, January 6, in La Ceiba, Honduras. This will be the first conference presided over by Rev. Juanita Chavez, who was elected superintendent of Honduras Conference in January 2009.

The conference will conclude on Sunday morning at the Bethel UB church in La Ceiba. Then, a service on Sunday night will kick-off the international General Conference.

Each national conferences can send two voting delegates–the highest leader in the conference, plus one other person. Here is our list, albeit incomplete, of delegates.

Rev. Brian Magnus, bishop of the United Brethren Church in Canada
Paul Plato, layperson and Missions Team Leader

Guatemala (applying as a new national conference)
Rev. Francisco Najera Ventura, superintendent
Rev. Rolando Valenzuela, pastor

Rev. Juanita Chavez, superintendent
One other delegate

Hong Kong
Rev. Ajiax Wo, superintendent
Karis Wong, pastor of Living Water church in Macau

Rev. Winston Smith, bishop
Rev. Isaac Nugent, pastor

Rev. Denis Casco, bishop
One other delegate

Rev. Juan Pavon Pavon, superintendent
Rev. Henry Osorio, pastor

Rev. Prudencio Lim, superintendent
Mr. Aaron Lim, layperson (son of Prudencio Lim)

Sierra Leone
Rev. Billy K. Simbo, bishop
Mrs. Theresa Musa, layperson

United States
Rev. Phil Whipple, bishop
Rev. Jeff Bleijerveld, Global Ministries director

Several invited guests (without vote) will also attend.

  • Donna Hollopeter, Associate Director of Global Ministries
  • Steve Dennie, Communications Director
  • Jeff Dice, Global Ministries staff (currently in Costa Rica doing language training)
  • Jason Hollopeter, Donna’s husband
  • Rev. Oliam Richard, superintendent of Haiti (our Canadian churches, who have primary oversight of Haiti, are working to get Rev. Oliam Richard to the meeting)
  • Rev. Erik Gonzalo Roas Ramirez, superintendent of Costa Rica, a mission district of Nicaragua Conference.
  • Mr. Carlos Quesada, a layperson in Costa Rica.

Brian Magnus, as chairman of the International Executive Committee, will preside over the General Conference meetings.

Phyllis Cherry, wife of retired UB minister, Herb Cherry, passed away on Tuesday, January 5, 2010. Her funeral arrangements are as follows:

Visitation: Friday, January 8, 5-8 pm

Location: Chas. J. Burden & Son Funeral Home, 1806 E Michigan Ave, Jackson, MI 49202-3646 (517) 784-3104

Funeral: Saturday, January 9, 11 am. Visitation 10-11 am

Location: Eden UB Church, 1938 Eden Road, Mason, MI 48854 (517) 676-1376

Herb Cherry’s address is: 3913 Sage Court, Bloomington, IN 47401

Roger and Marilyn Reeck, UB endorsed missionaries in Honduras (serving with Wycliffe), sent this update at the end of December.

While in Costa Rica, Roger fell while mounting a bicycle and completely ruptured a tendon in his knee. He underwent major surgery, and was able to travel back to Honduras five days later. His cast will be removed the first week of January, and then he’ll undergo physical therapy. His first trip is to South America in February. He hopes to be walking by then.

All four daughters came home for Christmas.

  • Christi and her husband, Rigo, live an hour away in Honduras. Rigo works with two different groups which provide clean water to communities and organizations; Chrysti works at two pre-natal clinics, helps at a feeding center, and is involved in Bible Studies. They have three children: Anthony (almost 7), Amanda (5), and Adrian (3).
  • Teresa lives in San Antonio and is vice principal of a Christian school.
  • Amanda, living in Houston, took a year out of medical school to do research. She’ll return to medical school this summer for her final year.
  • Elisa is a science teacher at a Christian school in San Antonio, Texas. She completed her Master’s degree this year.

Phyllis Cherry passed away around noon today (Tuesday, January 5, 2010) in Bloomington, Ind. Her death resulted from complications involving cancer. She was the wife of Herb Cherry, a retired United Brethren minister.  They had been living in Bloomington.

We’ll post funeral arrangements when they are set. We’re told that the funeral will be held at Eden UB church in Mason, Mich.

Please keep Herb and their two children, Colette and Nathan, in your prayers. Herb Cherry is the brother of two other retired United Brethren ministers, Harold and Howard Cherry, and the uncle of Kevin Cherry, pastor of Heart O the Lakes UB (Brooklyn, Mich.).

Blueprints for a UB church in Mexico

Denis Casco, center, looks over blueprints for the Zacapu church in Mexico.

In all the years I’ve visited mission fields and seen new churches being built, I had never seen a set of engineered blueprints for a church building–that is, until I visited Mexico in early December 2009.

Rev. Denis Casco, Bishop of the Mexico National Conference, and I visited with the Zacapu Church in the state of Michocan. There we were shown the site where the congregation is building a church that will seat 300.

The congregation currently meets in warehouse area in the local municipal market, but they purchased a piece of property for $17,000 and have been paying as they go to construct the building.

Many of our 44 churches in Mexico have set their sights high and have been using their own funds to build churches that are proportional to the vision God has given them.

Troy Hendricks, UB endorsed missionary in Spain, gave this update on Facebook about his wife Julie and the broken knee she suffered in mid-December: “Just back from Julie’s follow-up appointment with the surgeon, and he removed the stitches and strips that were holding the incision. He said the knee looks good. Now comes the really tough part of physical therapy. He told Julie to begin today and only wear the brace when she leaves the house. Long painful road ahead, but HE has brought us thus far and will carry us onward!”