Bishop Denis Casco (front) prays over a victim of violence in Mexico.

Denis Casco, Bishop, Mexico Conference

Violence, crime, poverty, and immorality, are striking the cities of Mexico without compassion. The dangers we confront go beyond what you see in Chicago gangster movies and those of robbery, death, and corruption in the old American West.

Missionaries and pastors today in Mexico live with pain, frustration, and great insecurity, and they must pay protection money to drug cartels and kidnappers.

Our leaders at churches in Ciudad Juarez (across the border from El Paso, Texas) and Michoacán (the central-west region) are in great danger of death, kidnapping, and extreme poverty.

Recently, I was in Ciudad Juarez to see our churches. During that Saturday night, 24 people were assassinated about 400 meters from the United Brethren church where Rev. Carlos Chaves is the senior pastor.

In that shooting one of our members was assassinated. The next week, the niece of Pastor Chaves was abused sexually and killed.

The main entrances to our churches are being watched. Church members are only letting members and well-known people into the church, because they fear that somebody could be assassinated inside.

Ciudad Juarez is the most dangerous city in the world, a city without law. We have an number of United Brethren churches here. Some are closing because our people are terrified.

The people only go out for an emergency. The children do not attend school regularly. It is like a ghost city. The US Department of State warns American citizens not to visit Ciudad Juarez, unless they have something very important to do there.

In the last three years, more than 27,000 people in Mexico have died. Some deaths were related to organized crime, and others were innocent victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. These are the challenges we face as we work for the Kingdom of God in Mexico.

It is estimated that 50,000 children in Mexico have lost their parents during the past three yeas, having been assassinating by organized crime. The number of orphaned children will increase, as will the amount of youth deliquency, robbery, and drug addiction.

Please pray for us.

Baptism candidates in Kutno, Poland.

Michal and his family.

Donna and Arek Delik
Global Ministries endorsed staff in Kutno, Poland

We were surprised to see Michal in our first Sunday service after our 6-month furlough in Hong Kong. We were even more surprised when he told us that he was now a believer.

Michal was my student for 3 years and attended our English camp with his brother for the last 5 years. He was a quiet guy and didn’t seem to be interested in the gospel.

The baptism of Michal

During the 2009 English camp he became acquainted with the couple who led the American team. The wife encouraged him to join the exchange program of the high school where she worked. She even offered a place for him to stay while he was in America.

Michal said, “This year in America was the turning point for me, because I encountered God there.”

Since June, Michal has been coming regularly, and joined our youth group and teenager English Bible study. We have seen a strong desire of God in him and are encouraged by the transformation in his life.

November 27 was Arek’s 45th birthday. What a special way to celebrate it with the baptism of Michal. We were very glad to see Michal’s family there, even his father, who claimed to be an atheist. Michal’s greatest wish is that his whole family will get to know this Jesus who has changed his life.

When we started our English teaching ministry in 2000, our main target was teenagers. Though this ministry opened many new doors, at certain stages we did question its value, as we hadn’t seen much long-lasting fruit.

Michal is the first fruit from the English camp ministry. We pray that this first fruit is just a taste of lies ahead.

Sierra Leone conference is going well. We convened yesterday and began greetings from representatives from the Wesleyan, Assemblies of God, Baptist, United Methodist, and other denominations and organizations, including the Evangelical Association of Sierra Leone.

The theme this year is “Sowing Seeds for a Bountiful Harvest,” using Matthew 13:23. Visitors from afar include Rev. Joe Abu, pastor of Mt. Zion United African Church in Philadelphia, Rev. Peter Mansaray of the UB church in Berlin, and Rev. Dr. John Jusu of the African International University in Nairobi.

This is a historic conference in which the Sierra Leone conference is becoming fully nationalized after 155 years as a missions conference. Rev John Pessima was elected yesterday as the new bishop and will assume his duties in January.

Conference continues until December 12, when we will hold an all-conference worship service at the Moriba Town Bo United Brethren Church, which is pastored by Rev. Emmanuel Farma.

Presently, the conference has 73 churches and 15 preaching points. It also has 54 schools with a total enrollment of just over 10,000 students and 376 teachers. There is one theological college and one hospital.

Rev. Pessima currently serves the Kissy United Brethren Church in Freetown, where an induction service will be held in early January. The bishop, his wife Nancy, and four children will be moving to Bo where the denominational offices are located.

The opening of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization

I was among the 4000 people who attended Cape Town 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, held in October in South Africa. It opened on Sunday, October 17, and closed a week later. This was my first trip to South Africa.

I’ve attended many missions gatherings. But I’ve never attended a missions conference where, as you walk through the convention center, the vast majority of people are not North American. Usually it’s predominantly a bunch of North Americans getting together to talk about missions, with a few internationals who are part of the discussions. But this time, 90 percent were from beyond North America. That was fascinating.

We all wore name tags, with our name and country. But a lot of people had a blue dot on their nametag, with only their first name and no country. The blue dot meant, “Don’t take a photo of this person.” These persons came from security-sensitive countries, and didn’t want their photo splashed on websites, because it could be harmful to them. There were a lot of blue dots.

We couldn’t avoid noticing the absence of 200 house church Chinese pastors. The Lausanne Congress had invited 200 Chinese people, but the Chinese government didn’t let them go. In fact, the government confiscated their passports and even put some under house arrest so that they couldn’t leave for the conference.

The Lausanne organizers explained some of this the first night of the conference, and we had a chance to pray for the “empty chairs.” All of the delegates were divided into groups of six persons; we had an empty chair at our table, which meant it was intended for someone from a house church in China.

That was disappointing. They could have benefits from the encouragement and insight of others from around the world.

In the end, the Lausanne Congress offered an apology to the Chinese government for not consulting with them first before offering the invitation to their people. The Chinese government basically said, “If you wanted to invite 200 of our people, you should have checked with our government first.” They said that’s the reason they weren’t allowed to go.

Iraqi Christian refugees holding a service in Turkey.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

While visiting recently in Turkey, we had the opportunity to meet, on two occasions, with Iraqi Christians who are now refugees. These Iraqis have fled their homeland since the fall of Saddam Hussein, an event which many believed would bring hope to Iraq. But wars bring unintended consequences. The resulting lack of control unleashed religious violence against the Christian community, including the recent bombing of St. George’s Cathedral in the heart of Baghdad.

Strangely enough, the Assyrian Orthodox, who make up the largest number of Christians in Iraq, were provided a certain degree of freedom and protection under Saddam. In fact, Saddam’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, is a Chaldean Christian. Under Saddam, Christians had rights. Saddam saw them as having a historic right to be present in the country.

But no more. Now that the dictator is no longer defending them, it has become very dangerous to be a Christian in Iraq. Today these Christians are fleeing their homeland in search of asylum in neighboring Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. However, asylum is temporary, and many are working to gain refugee status in Europe and North America.

We’re pleased to report that Steve Henry, pastor of Victory Heights UB Church in Franklin, Pa., did not have a heart attack as reported on December 6. Rather, the problems he experienced resulted from a leaking valve from a valve replacement surgery he had years ago. Steve will undergo another valve replacement surgery on Thursday, December 9.

Phil Whipple, bishop

Lansing UB had been using reserve funds to meet the pastor’s salary and operational costs, and Pastor Scott Hergert realized they would run out of money by the end of 2010. He laid out the options he saw: go to a part-time pastor arrangement, close the church, or close with restart in the process.

I met with the board and talked about what a restart might look like. A few weeks later, they voted to move in that direction. I led a local conference in September during which they voted to close the existing church and give their assets—including the church building and parsonage–to the restart. Their final service was held October 24.

The Lead Team from Michigan, which had supported the Imagine This church plant in Grand Ledge, Mich., was looking for their next project. We had already settled on starting a church somewhere in Lansing, but weren’t thinking about the existing Lansing congregation. So I suggested to the lead team that we throw our energies together—lead team and restart project—rather than start two different things in  Lansing at the same time.

The church planter will be Tim Flickinger (right), formerly senior pastor of Fowlerville UB (Fowlerville, Mich.). In September, when the Lansing UB people made the decision to close, they had no knowledge about who the church planter would be. We had been talking to Tim about starting a church, but weren’t ready to announce anything at that time. However, a week before Lansing’s final service, Tim came to talk to the congregation to share his vision for the new church.

We took Tim Flickinger through the assessment process, and sent him to a couple church planting training events. His assessment came through very positively.

We’re looking for funding. We’re using some money which was part of Michigan Conference. Fowleville UB has signed up to be a three-year supporter. The pastors who are part of the Lead Team will be raising funds from their churches to help support the project. Whether they use the Lansing facility has not been determined. It’s an older building and isn’t handicap accessible. It would cost quite a bit to update the building to be a contemporary, community kind of church.

Tom Blaylock is serving as a church planting coach for Tim Flickinger. Tim is working on setting a vision for what the church will be and developing a core group. Some people from Lansing UB have already affiliated with the Eden UB church in Mason, Mich. However, some people from Imagine This, who currently drive to Grand Ledge from Lansing, may become part of the core group.

Lake View UB church (Camden, Mich.) is putting on three performances of “The Christmas Song,” a dramatic musical presentation.

  • Friday, December 10, 7 pm
  • Saturday, December 11, 7 pm
  • Sunday, December 12, 6 pm

The Christmas Song features a 28-voice choir, inspirational drama, and music that will touch your heart. The remarkable story of God’s love is powerfully revealed…from the angel’s appearance to Mary; to the Decree of the Census and the journey to Bethlehem; to their desperate search for shelter; and finally, the breathtaking joy of the Christ child’s birth.

Tickets are free, but are necessary for admission. To obtain tickets, call: 517-567-8529

Lake View is located a half-mile west of M-99, 2 miles north of Pioneer, Ohio; and 16 miles south of Hillsdale, Mich.

New Hope's worship teams leads people in singing during the dedication service.

Senior Pastor Ray A. Seilhamer

The view from the upstairs technology booth.

New Hope UB church (Huntington, Ind.) dedicated its new Family Life Center during a 4pm service on Sunday, December 5. Bishop emeritus Ray A. Seilhamer, senior pastor of New Hope Church, emceed the service. Gary Dilley, senior pastor of cross-town College Park Church, gave the dedication address. A meal followed the service.

The 13,300-square-foot facility includes:

  • A gymnasium/fellowship hall with a large stage on one end.
  • A new kitchen.
  • A large lobby area.
  • A youth area upstairs.
  • An exercise room.

New Hope started out as Etna Avenue UB church. The congregation moved to the current location in 1976 under the leadership of senior pastor Jim Sturgeon (who passed away on October 22, 2010). In the mid-1980s, during the tenure of senior pastor Russ Birdsall, they added a Christian education wing with classrooms, a fellowship hall, a new foyer, and offices.

The congregation decided to build the Family Life Center in 2007, and launched a fundraising campaign. A groundbreaking service was held April 25, 2010.

The financial goal is $836,576. To date, they have raised $628,060 in cash, with a total of $751,857 in gifts and commitments. If the church meets its financial goals, they will have a debt of $93,000 after 2012.

New Hope has a membership of 150, with 200 people who attend at least one service a month. The total constituency is over 300. Ministries the church currently runs include:

  • The Stephen Ministry, which has existed for over 5 years.
  • GriefShare, a powerful ministry which will start its fourth group next spring.
  • DivorceCare, which just completed its first group.
  • Pioneer Clubs, a midweek children’s ministry.
  • A “Carpenter Shop” and food pantry, which minister to people within and outside of the congregation.

Beginning in January 2011, New Hope will work under College Park Church’s Upwards Basketball program. The new facility will provide practice space for the basketball teams and cheerleaders, and games will be held on Saturday mornings.

Steve HenrySteve Henry, pastor at Victory Heights UB Church in Franklin, Pa., had a heart attack on Sunday, Dec. 5, after shoveling snow. He has had two previous major heart surgeries. He is now in the Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. Bishop Phil Whipple will visit Steve in the hospital Monday night, Dec. 6.

They’ve had a bit of snow, so pray not only for Steve and his recovery but for Phil and Sandy Whipple as they travel to Pittsburgh, then on to Cochranton on Tuesday.