The United Brethren Facebook page reached a new milestone: 700 likes. In fact, we’re at 701. The Facebook page is especially handy for urgent prayer needs.

Here are subscription numbers for our various email newsletters.

  • 985 people subscribe to the Connect newsletter. This is the official denominational newsletter.
  • 99 people subscribe to the UB Daily News (daily posts on UBCentral.org delivered to your inbox). So we’re on the edge of a milestone there.
  • 221 people subscribe to the UBCentral posts using Feedburner. It does the same thing as the newer and better-looking UB Daily News.
  • 105 people receive the monthly Global Ministries Prayer Guide.

Subscribing to the UB Daily News is the best way to keep up on what’s happening in the United Brethren world–missions, urgent prayer needs, pastoral changes, UB events, local church news, mission trips, etc.

You can subscribe to any of these e-letters here.

L-r: Bishop Phil Whipple, Global Ministries director Jeff Bleijerveld, associate director Donna Hollopeter, and Dr. Richard Toupin.

L-r: Bishop Phil Whipple, Global Ministries director Jeff Bleijerveld, associate director Donna Hollopeter, and a physician from Auburn, Ind.

As mentioned yesterday, four Indiana travelers–Bishop Phil Whipple, Jeff Bleijerveld, Donna Hollopeter, and a physician from Indiana–were to leave for Sierra Leone on Thursday, February 7. Unfortunately, because of snow in Chicago, they weren’t able to leave Fort Wayne, Ind., and had to change all of their travel plans.

Originally, they were to fly from Chicago to Brussels, Belgium, and then on to Freetown. Now, they will leave Fort Wayne around 4:30 pm today (Friday, Feb. 8), fly from Chicago to London, and then on to Freetown.

They are scheduled to arrive in Freetown at 5:20 am on Sunday. Ferries from the airport to the city don’t start running until 8 am. The meeting of Sierra Leone Conference ends at noon, in Freetown, so they probably won’t make it for much (if any) of the conference.

This is Bishop Whipple’s first visit to Sierra Leone, though he previously traveled to Africa when he was a local church pastor.

Beth Palmer sent the following on Friday morning, Feb. 8, concerning her dad, Charles F. Malson, Sr. Rev. Malson, a retired UB minister, is at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Mich.

“Grandpa is more alert today. Spent a fairly good night and needed some pain meds. Trach area and legs still an issue when it comes to pain. His digestive system is processing nutritional liquids, so they intend to add more again today.

“He is breathing longer periods with no assistance from the vent; however, it is available as a backup. This helps to strengthen the diaphragm that took a break from its task. The other muscles associated with breathing are also adjusting to working again.

“The abdominal mass is smaller, so the doctor said today that it is most likely as they suspecteed, fluids and blood that went to the wound area and still need to go away on its own.

“Daddy sat up longer yesterday in a chair. He was taken there by the assistance of a sling and relocated in his bed again by this amazing motorized device. Technology is wonderful when used for good.

“He is consciously lifting his own legs and working on lifting his arms a bit when requested. He looks more like himself with fewer bruises and less swelling.”

Charles F. Malson, Sr.
10928 Easy Street
Carson City, MI 48811
Email: cfmalsonsr@yahoo.com

Three regional meetings are planned during these opening months of 2013, the first just a few weeks away on February 25. These events will acquaint people with the proposals coming before the National Conference in June 2013. These meetings are open to anyone. Ministers and lay delegates are especially encouraged to attend.

Monday, February 25: Praise Point Church (Willshire, Ohio)
Location address: 555 Decatur Rd North, Willshire, OH 45898

Monday, March 18: Pleasant Heights Church (East Liverpool, Ohio)
Location address: 848 Northside, East Liverpool, OH 43920

Monday, April 8: East Washington Church (Ashley, Mich.)
Location address: 8051 S Crapo Rd, Ashley, MI 48806

Over 20 proposals for revising the UB Discipline will come before the delegates in June 2013. Most are minor changes, but some will no doubt generate a good deal of discussion. These regional meetings will acquaint people with the proposals and the rationale for them. Hopefully, this introduction will help cut down the amount of time taken in floor discussion at national conference.

Each meeting will go from 9:30 am through lunch. The host churches will provide lunch.

These events are free. But please let us know now many people from your church will attend, so we can give the host church a headcount for lunch.

On Thursday, February 7, four persons from Indiana left for Sierra Leone:

  • Bishop Phil Whipple, who has not yet visited Sierra Leone.
  • Jeff Bleijerveld, director of Global Ministries.
  • Donna Hollopeter, associate director of Global Ministries.
  • A former doctor at Mattru Hospital in Sierra Leone.

They will attend the annual meeting of Sierra Leone Conference and tour United Brethren churches and ministries in the country. They will also devote considerable time to the work at Mattru Hospital.

A few months ago, the doctor traveled to Sierra Leone, at his own expense, and initiated an extensive assessment with hospital staff and some national church leaders. This laid a foundation for the meetings that will be held during this February 2013 trip.

They will meet with various groups involved with Mattru Hospital—administrators, the medical board, Sierra Leone Conference leaders, representatives from the Wesleyan Church (which has a good hospital), and officials from the country’s health services.

“We hope to come up with a strategic plan, with action steps, that will take us into the next ten years,” says Bleijerveld.

“The hospital probably won’t be able to function properly in the next 10 years without outside staffing,” he says.

When we pulled out our missionaries in the 1990s during the civil war, it happened so quickly that there was no time to mentor Sierra Leoneans. After the war, the hospital was severely crippled. The buildings were looted and damaged, the hospital staff scattered.

“It’s been difficult to create a sustainable model,” said Bleijerveld. “So what we’re trying to do in bringing in these groups together is to determine, What is a reasonable model for Mattru Hospital? What do we need to do in the next decade?”

They will also visit the Vai people, a largely unreached group of 124,000 Sunni Muslims who live on the border with Liberia. Sierra Leone Conference has been sending teams to do evangelism and other work among the Vai. One Global Ministries project involves providing funds to cover travel costs for these teams.

They will also visit the Bible college outside of Freetown, some of the high schools and primary schools sponsored by Sierra Leone Conference, and individual United Brethren churches.

“Over 10,000 students attend United Brethren schools in Sierra Leone,” says Bleijerveld. “We have 78 churches, and I think we have just under 50 schools, all of them funded by tuition and government subsidies.”

Update: They were delayed, and now won’t leave until around 4:30 pm on Friday, February 8. Their travel arrangements will take them from Chicago to London, and then to Freetown by 5:20 am Sunday. Ferries from the airport to the city don’t start running until 8 am. Sierra Leone Conference ends at noon, in Freetown, so they probably won’t make it for much (if any) of the conference. This is Bishop Whipple’s first visit to Sierra Leone, though he previously traveled to Africa when he was a local church pastor.

elephant-ride500

On January 20-24, a Global Ministries Staff Summit was held in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Attending were 28 persons, most of them Global Ministries staff serving in various countries. Jeff Bleijerveld, director of Global Ministries, and associate director Donna Hollopeter sat down a few days after returning to talk about the event. Previously, we published their comments about the sessions they had together and their experience worshiping with the Thai churches on January 20. In this final installment, Jeff and Donna tell about the outing on the last day.

Donna: Our last day together, we took a sampan–a long narrow canoe with a huge motor on back–up the river to an elephant farm, where there were many, many elephants. We all rode elephants for an hour—up the hillside, down the hillside, into the river. For a little bit of money, 20 baht, you could buy a bag of food—green bananas and sugar cane—to feed your elephant.

Two people rode at a time. They would bring the elephant to a tower, and you would climb onto a two-seater bench. And off you’d go, with a Thai man riding on the neck of the elephant. The route included going into the river. Then you went onto the bank to another tower, where you got off the elephant.

Even with the Thai rider and a set route, the elephants all seemed to follow their own mind about what they would do. Any time they came near foliage, they came to a total stop to break off big chunks of plants and snarf it down. We were supposed to be following this path, but four elephants decided to cut across a field instead. The riders kept saying something to the elephants to get them back on track. Then there were some that, instead of going partway into the river, decided they wanted to cross the river to get something to eat on the other side.

Jeff: If you think it’s difficult matching yourself to the rhythm of a horse, you should try riding on an elephant. It’s a total core workout. You can’t match its movements. There is no going with the flow.

Donna: After that, they escorted us to a village where they had huge snakes—pythons and boas. You could have a photo taken with a snake wrapped around you, but the only person who did that was Camden Dice. He had a big yellow boa constrictor, probably 14 feet long, wrapped around him. While photos were being taken, he stood there trying to look enthused, and saying, “Why did I do this?”

After that, we did some shopping with some of the village vendors, and got back to the resort, had lunch, and then took off again for the Golden Triangle area.

At the Opium Museum

Jeff: We went through the House of Opium, a museum which tells the story of the opium trade and how it impacted not only Thailand but much of Asia during colonial times.

Donna: There was a lot of reading, along with videos. There were amazing facts about how even the CIA and the British East India Company were involved in the opium trade.

Jeff: It helped us understand why missionaries who entered China with opium traders were called White Devils. For a Westerner, there were may humbling moments.

The museum is located on the Mekong River at the conjunction of three countries–Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. The Thai royal family personally paid to develop the museum, which is truly world class.

Donna: Thailand used to be an absolute monarchy, but now it’s a constitutional monarchy. Their king is 85 years old, and the queen is 80. They are dearly loved, even revered. He has been on the throne for 60-some years. Both of them are in ill health. They no longer live in the palace, but have taken over a floor of a hospital in Bangkok.

Jeff: As soon as you arrive in the country, you begin noticing photos of the King of Thailand. The Thai people think very highly of the royal family. As an outsider, if you make a comment perceived as negative to the government, it is not appreciated.

Donna: One of their largest celebrations each year is on the birthday of the King, December 5. All industry closes down, and they have an official day of celebration.

A team from Canada and the US ministered in Haiti from January 25 – February 4. They mostly did construction work, plus a quilting ministry among Haitian women.

Joan Sider, from New Nope UB church in Toronto, Ontario, sent daily reports from that trip. Those reports have been compiled into one long record of the trip. You can read it here, on the Features section of UBCentral.

A second team from Canada is now in Haiti, February 5-12, 2013. This one is a medical team. They are in Les Cayes, in the south, holding medical clinics.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

After some initial confusion as to whether it was Rev. Gonzalo Alas (right) or his father who had a heart attack, we learned that it was indeed Rev. Gonzalo Alas, pastor and church planter in El Salvador. The confusion came as his son, Gonzalo David Alas, used his father’s email to send us the first prayer request.

Today, I spoke with Pastor Gonzalo’s wife, Gladys. She reported that he is home and will not be requiring surgery. They said all the tests came back fine, and he was told that he simply has a weak heart. He is being treated with medication. The heart episode took place on Sunday, February 3, and he returned home today (Wednesday, February 5).

The family would appreciate your continued prayers for his continuing recovery.

The Canadians and Pennsylvanians who made up Team #10

The Canadians and Pennsylvanians who made up Team #10

Top: Bins and cases waiting to be sorted; sorting the tools. Bottom: two tables were needed to accomodate the entire work team.

Top: Bins and cases waiting to be sorted; sorting the tools. Bottom: two tables were needed to accomodate the entire work team.

A team consisting of UBs from Canada and from King Street UB church in Chambersburg, Pa., arrived in Haiti on January 25, 2013. This is a construction team which will work on building a new church in Limbe, in northern Haiti.

A medical team will come to Haiti February 5-12. They will be joined by three ladies from Mission of Hope and Dr. Robinson Germain, a Haitian doctor. This team will go to Les Cayes, in the south, to hold several medical clinics.

Joan Sider (right), from the UB church in Toronto, has visited Haiti numerous times, and participated on both of these teams. And, as she always does, she sent back regular reports. What follows is an account of the first group (you can read about the medical group here). Unless otherwise indicated, all of these daily reports come from Joan.

Friday, January 25

We have arrived safe and sound with all 24 pieces of luggage. We arrived earlier in Port Au Prince than we thought we would. We left Toronto with a temperature of minus 10, and came to one of 32 celcius–warm indeed, but pleasant.

There was a lot more scrutiny with the luggage this trip. When we picked up the bags off the carousel, we noticed several bins had been opened and inspected; they had a tape around the bin saying it had been opened for inspection. I guess that happened in New York. Customs officials here in Haiti opened up a number more. We’re not sure if they were looking for anything specific. One did ask if we had any drugs.

We need to pray now that the next team’s meds all get through without any difficulty.

The airport is amazing–the changes made since even December when I came with Hermmy are quite remarkable. They are truly trying to make it a first class airport. There are still many porters who all want to help you–and get your tip–but even that is better organized.

Our American friends came in earlier than we did and were here waiting to meet us.

The big task of sorting all the materials we brought was next on the agenda. Everyone pitched in, and all is now in readiness for tomorrow’s journey up to Limbe. It is a 6-8 hours trip. We know the highway up as far as Gonaives is good. (more…)

The Global Ministries staff on the church platform.

The Global Ministries staff on the church platform (click to enlarge).

Brian Magnus under the church sign.

Brian Magnus, bishop of the United Brethren Church in Canada, under the church sign in Lo Mah Village.

Bryan and Emily Gerlach (right) with some Thai youth.

Bryan and Emily Gerlach (right) with some Thai youth.

Jenaya fascinates some Thai children with her camera.

Jenaya fascinates some Thai children with her camera.

Sunday on the Mountain

On January 20-24, a Global Ministries Staff Summit was held in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Attending were 28 persons, most of them Global Ministries staff serving in various countries. Jeff Bleijerveld, director of Global Ministries, and associate director Donna Hollopeter sat down a few days after returning to talk about the event. Previously, they talked about the sessions they had together. Here, they talk about the opening day–Sunday, January 20–when the entire group worshiped with the United Brethren churches high in them mountains of northern Thailand.

Donna Hollopeter: On Sunday, we went up to the mountain churches, where we have two churches and one church plant. It was about a two-and-a-half hour drive in a van, with very steep and narrow roads, one curve after another. We left about 6:45 for the 10:30 service.

Jeff Bleijerveld: At one point, we stopped and looked directly across the border into Myanmar. Even where the church is located, you’re within a mile of the border with Myanmar. It’s quite a porous border, which is a concern for the Thai authorities. They have the drug traffic fairly well controlled, and have tried to stamp it out. But some of the other countries don’t have the same capabilities.

Donna: The Thai churches all combined in one location for that Sunday morning service. We had a very good worship experience. Jeff spoke. Interestingly, his words went through three translators who were on the platform with him. He spoke in English, the next person translated into Mandarin, the next person translated from Mandarin to Thai, and the last person translated from Thai into Akha, the language spoken by the people in that village. So you have four different people up there saying the same thing (we hope)

Jeff: I have no idea what the Akha people heard me say. I tried to stay with a simple narrative—Jesus and the disciples and the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and how God is greater than the waves.

Donna: People came to church in their traditional tribal dress. They were very welcoming and gracious, and invited all of the guests to come up front. The women had made bracelets for every person attending. Some got two. Each bracelet had the words, “I love you.”

The people were intrigued with the Kline children, because the weren’t used to seeing three blond-headed kids. The kids came away with a lot of loot. They made a purse for Mia Kline, bracelets, and a necklace. The people kept rubbing their hair, because they were intrigued by how wavy and curly it was.

The church sits on a hillside. After the service, we went down the hill to a vacant lot where they played their own version of soccer—a little bit different than the soccer we know. Brandt and Mia Kline played soccer with the Akha kids.

Jeff: In the mountains, when you kick a ball out of bounds, it goes way out of bounds. The Thai kids were careful to keep it in bounds.

Donna: After that, we were invited back to the home of one of the pastors for tea and fruit. Then we went to see the other church building. Finally, before we left, we went to Pastor Lee’s home for lunch.