Global Ministries, the Sierra Leone Conference, and the Lehigh Valley chapter of Engineers Without Borders have been working to bring a number of upgrades to the Centennial School in Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone. To date, new modernized latrines have been built, lighting is being installed to allow for evening classes and study, and very soon a drilled well will be installed.

One worker at the school shared this week that the students really like coming to class at night versus the late afternoon, as they have more time for chores and other work that can only be done during daylight hours. With Sierra Leone’s proximity to the equator, sunrise and sunset occur at approximately 6 am and 6 pm all year round.

Rev. Joe Abu is planning another trip along with engineering volunteers this spring. If you would like to donate to this project, you can do so by sending your gift, mark “Centennial School” to Global Ministries. If sending a check, be sure to make it out to Global Ministries.

Marcus and Stacie Flood, with Brooks the beagle.

Praise Point Church (Willshire, Ohio) has hired Marcus Flood as Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Ministries. He was previously youth pastor of a church in Saline, Mich., and has been a leader with different youth ministries for over 10 years.

Marcus and his wife, Stacie, were married on July 4, 2009. They met while attending Huntington University. Marcus graduated in 2008 with a Youth Ministry major and minors in Educational Ministries and Bible & Religion.

Stacie graduated in 2009 with a Social Work major. She continued her education by getting her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan.

Steve Dennie, Communications Director

On January 16, 2011, John Momoh Pessima was consecrated as the new bishop of Sierra Leone Conference. The service was held at the Au Memorial church in Kissy, a neighborhood on the east end of Freetown. Rev. Pessima grew up in that church and had been its pastor.

At the installation of John Pessima as bishop. L-r: Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries; outgoing bishop Billy Simbo, John Pessima.

At the installation of John Pessima as bishop. L-r: Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries; outgoing bishop Billy Simbo, John Pessima.

The Council of Ordained Elders, which consists of all United Brethren ordained ministers in Sierra Leone Conference, recommended Rev. Pessima to become the new bishop. Their recommendation was referred to the National Conference meeting in December 2010, where it was unanimously approved.

Bishop Pessima succeeded Billy Simbo, who served three years in Sierra Leone in a transitional role under the umbrella of Global Ministries.

Bishop Pessima came to the United States in October 2011 to meet with the Global Ministries Leadership Team. During that time, he sat down with me for an interview.

Growing Up with Rev. Ali and the Kissy Church

John Pessima was born and raised in Freetown. His mother and father were both Christians. However, it was a polygamous home. John’s mother, the oldest of four wives, gave birth to 12 children. Only three of those children are still alive. Of those three, John is the youngest, and the only son.

John grew up in the Kissy United Brethren church. The pastor was Rev. Henry Ali, who in 1985 became the first General Superintendent of Sierra Leone Conference—the first Sierra Leonean, as opposed to a missionary, to oversee all of the United Brethren work in that country. Interestingly, Rev. Ali was blind. Yet he was a highly respected leader in the Sierra Leone church.

“Rev. Ali discipled me,” says Bishop Pessima. “He was a very good leader. Some of us young guys looked at his leadership qualities and decided to become pastors. We talked with him, and he encouraged us. Three of us went to college together.”


Lots of thread for Elizabeth

Elizabeth opening her parting gifts. (click to enlarge)

Food is required whenever someone joins or leaves the staff.

On February 2, Elizabeth Holtrop concluded 8 months of service on the Healthy Ministry Resources staff, working in the bookstore. During that time, she shipped hundreds of boxes of Sunday school literature and other items to churches across the country. But she decided to move to Indianapolis, sharing a house with her brother and sister and making her way in Indiana’s  Big City.

The staff said goodbye to her with a Pizza Hut meal brought to the office. Since she likes to sew, she was given several gifts of thread and other related items.

Elizabeth graduated from Huntington University in 2011 with a degree in History and Political Studies. Her father, Steve, is dean of the Huntington University Graduate School.

It was a joy to have Elizabeth with us, with her big smile and eternally sunny disposition. We wish her well.

A team of 8 persons from UB churches in Canada has been in Haiti since January 30. Joan Sider (right), a retired schoolteacher from New Hope church in Toronto, is sending back daily reports. Here is Joan’s report about attending church on Sunday morning.

The service begins with the singing of a hymn or two and Scripture reading. Then the worship team leads in a time of singing–the difference in tempo is quite remarkable. The volume is as high as it can be. We know–we were sitting directly in front of the speakers.

It is interesting to hear the singing–often the leader begins and then the musicians catch up and finally find the key we are singing. It sounds somewhat discordant and it bothered me at first. But God reminded me that often my life is out of tune with him and I need to catch up and get on the same page as he.

After the time of worship, visitors are welcomed and each visitor, Haitian or Canadian, is given an opportunity to speak. Announcements and offering come next. Pastor Oliam Richard is trying to encourage his people to be givers and not just takers. Once a month, a special offering is taken and the people are to give 100 Haitian or 50 Gourdes–half of which will go for Delmas 33 church and the other half to our general church in North American for projects outside of Haiti. I think this is very commendable. Today’s offering was the special one.

A guest speaker spoke on Psalm 23. Of course, we couldn’t understand it, but it was a familiar passage upon which we could reflect ourselves. It appeared that the message was resonating with the people by their laughter at times, and very loud and frequent amens.


Dr. G. Blair Dowden (left) receives the Andringa Award from Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Huntington University has been recognized with The Robert and Susan Andringa Award for Advancing Racial Harmony for its “best practice” programs in the area of racial and ethnic diversity.

The Andringa Award is presented each year by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The award recognizes an initiative or program that helps create a welcoming climate, improves retention, or provides support for ethnic/racial minority students, faculty or staff.

“Huntington University is pursuing racial harmony and diversity at multiple levels with a variety of programs and with the clear commitment of its senior leadership, faculty and Board of Trustees,” said CCCU President Paul Corts. “We congratulate Huntington University for its significant achievement and impressive commitment to racial harmony and diversity.”

In 2008, the university launched the Horizon Leadership Program. The program is a partnership between Huntington University and Youth for Christ USA with the goal of creating a more racially and ethnically diverse campus. A cohort of students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds is selected each year to receive the Horizon Leadership Scholarship, a combination of federal, state and institutional aid. The scholarship covers all fees associated with tuition and housing costs for up to 10 semesters.

The university also helped develop the Harmony Initiative, an ad hoc group of local business leaders, elected officials, clergy, educators, and social-service workers advancing values of the City of Huntington’s mission statement, which declares Huntington to be “a community of civility and inclusion, where diversity is honored and differences are respected.” President G. Blair Dowden serves as chair of this task force, and two other university personnel are members.

“This work is ‘a marathon and not a sprint,'” said Dowden. “But by sustaining this momentum and building on early successes, we are transforming the university and its surrounding community. By sharing our experience and learning from others, we can all better serve ethnically diverse students. This award is a significant milepost along this journey.”

The area where our Gonaives church is located still hasn’t recovered from the affects of several hurricanes.

Top: Working in a salt basin. Middle: The team and a few Haitians outside a salt storage hut. Bottom: a salt basin ready for harvesting.

A team of 8 persons from UB churches in Canada has been in Haiti since January 30. Joan Sider, a retired schoolteacher from New Hope church in Toronto, is sending back daily reports. Here is her report for Saturday, February 4.

The team visited the salt-harvesting project, an exciting money-making project for the Haitian churches. Pastor Wedemarc started a business harvesting salt, and used it to support himself and 50 schoolchildren, and also provide some funding for the church he had planted. Seeing that this was such a viable business, it was expanded with the help of micro loans from UB members in the US and Canada–about $50,000 so far. The salt buyers include the Northwest Salt Company, out of of Kansas City, and a for-profit salt venture in Port Au Prince by Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind. Pastor Wedemarc is now looking for a manger so he isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations.


We left the hotel around 9 or so, and set off for a part of Gonaives which was very obviously the poor area of the city. We drove out to the area where the surface salt harvesting happens.

We passed a lot of basins until we came to ours. We have 5 done–3 shallow ones and 2 deep ones. A reservoir of salt water is used to fill the shallow basins. It is pumped from the reservoir.   The shallow ones have a depth of about 10-12 inches with a surface area of about 450 sq. meters.  One of the guys paced it off and he feels it is larger than what Pastor Wedemarc said–more like 1200 sq. m.

The harvested salt is bagged like this.

There are three salt colors–pink, gray and white. It fetches the same price and the quality is equal, but maybe a slightly different taste.

We saw men digging the basins–such hard work whether a deep or shallow one.  Women gather the salt with baskets or just use their hands.  Imagine yourself standing in a knee-deep saline solution!  Imagine digging one of these basins–having to throw the clay-like soil up and out of the basin!  We were able to watch several basins being harvested.

One knows when it is time to harvest the pink salt when the water turns a reddish color.  I guess the other colors have water that turn gray or white.   Our basins will be harvested in March.  It is expected that our storage crib will be filled twice a year off the harvests.

After our visit, we began the journey back to Port au Prince.  Even with an air conditioned van, it was a hot trip.  We were well packed in.  We ate lunch and then relaxed most of the time. Oh the men went out and began tuning up Pastor’s car by changing spark plugs and air filter, and caulking around the sun roof to keep it from leaking.  I think they want to try and do something with the fan belts at another time.

The men went for a walk to see George, a man who owns a little corner store. We have befriended this sightless man for a number of years.  He lost a number of fingers during a robbery where a machete was used on them.

There is a kitten in the yard here.  I have been making friends with it–not touching it, but talking to it and seeing that some water is out for it. The male helper here takes the cat inside with him at night.  I sure am glad to hear that.

Last Thursday, February 2, Jim Kendall underwent a heart catheterization. He had been having some issues with his heart–partly with low sodium and electrolyte imbalance, which causes heart arrhythmia. Jim is a retired Michigan pastor living in Charlotte, Mich.

Everything went well. Jim reported, “I have no blockage, nor any evidence of a previous heart attack. I’m grateful to the Lord for the good report. Evidently, my heart arrhythmia was due to my electrolyte imbalance. Thankfully, my sodium level is now within its normal range. I still have to take it slow for a few days while the incision heals. They ‘sealed’ it with a new device, a plug, instead of using the old sandbags. The incision is still a bit sore and tender. The Lord is good, all the time.”

Dr. Chaney Bergdall with students.

Nick Kight, a senior at Huntington University

Preach, teach, minister. The significance of these words constantly resonates with Dr. Chaney Bergdall. Even though he plans to retire at the end of the school year, he says he will never retire from his life calling — as a teacher and minister of the Gospel.

“I turn 65 next summer,” said Bergdall, professor of Bible and religion at Huntington University. “My wife and I would like to take this time to move closer to my son, daughter-in-law and our granddaughter. I’m looking forward to the move.”

It was 36 years ago when Bergdall joined the faculty. The position fulfilled his lifelong passion to preach and teach.

“I saw my coming here as a way that I could give back to the United Brethren Church. It was another way for me to serve which led me to accept the position,” he said.

Since arriving in 1975, Bergdall has enjoyed observing what happens in the lives of his students during their college years and will miss the interactions he has with them on a daily basis.

“I have fond memories of seeing students grow and watching them latch onto new thoughts about the Bible and the Christian life,” he said.

Over his years at HU, Bergdall has taught countless numbers of students — all of them appreciative of the knowledge they have gained under his direction.

“Nothing shone through more clearly in my classes with him than how much he loved what he was teaching and the desire he had to impart the beauty of that knowledge to his students,” said Peter Owens, a 2010 Bible and religion graduate. “It was the way he gave us the information that inspired us to work hard for him.”

As a current seminary student, Greg Casserino, a 2011 youth ministry and Bible and religion graduate, more than ever appreciates the constant encouragement he received from Bergdall to dig deeper and to put forth more diligence in his course work during his undergraduate career.

“I look back upon Dr. Bergdall’s classes with much respect and appreciation,” he said. “Dr. Bergdall’s well-articulated processes for digesting scripture have prepared me to encounter the rigorous coursework that is before me. I will be forever indebted to Dr. Bergdall for the countless ways which collectively worked together to shape me into a deeper man of God.”

Bergdall’s impact has stretched to the faculty, as well. He has become known among his colleagues as a “conscience” in tough times.

“Through conflicts and disagreements, Chaney stood bravely amid the harsh words and meanness that abounded at times,” said Jim O’Donnell, Luke J. Peters Professor of Business. “He spoke truth even when it was uncomfortable for him to do so. It’s no wonder he was, again and again, chosen to serve on the Faculty Concerns Committee and so often to be its chair. He was the spokesperson for the faculty, speaking sense, grace and truth.”

And as May 12, 2012, approaches, Bergdall remains excited as he starts a new chapter in his life. Once he and his wife, Patricia, get settled in Goshen, Ind., Bergdall hopes to continue being active in some way to give expression to his life calling.

“I’m a teacher and minister of the Gospel,” he said. “I’ll never retire from that.”

On January 31, Dr. Blair Dowden, president of Huntington University, participated in a panel discussion of college affordability in Washington, D.C., during the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

The panel was led by Zakiya Smith, senior advisor for education at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Additional panelists included the presidents of Hardin-Simmons and William Peace universities.

Coming just days after President Barack Obama unveiled proposals to tie federal funds to college affordability, Dowden’s remarks focused on cost-saving measures, a low 2.5% tuition increase, and Huntington’s innovative loan repayment assistance program for all undergraduates.