UB Global missionaries Dr. Richard and Cathy Toupin (right) are currently working at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in Central Park, New York. They spent the first few months of the year at Mattru Hospital in Sierra Leone, but were forced to return to Indiana early because of the pandemic.

Before the Toupins left for New York, UB Global spoke with them in a public videochat. The Toupins talked about how Mattru Hospital was preparing for the coronavirus.

Sierra Leone was among the last countries in the world to have Covid-19 cases, reporting its first case on March 31. As of April 21, there are 43 confirmed cases, and no deaths. Says Richard, “They are doing significant social distancing. The government has been very aggressive and proactive in closing the borders, preventing flights from going in and out, and restricting movement within the country.”

Around the end of February, they recognized that Covid-19 was spreading globally and would eventually come to Sierra Leone. So the hospital leadership began making preparations. The senior medical staff now consists of one physician being seconded by the Nigerian government, and three community health officials (CHOs).

Richard: “One thing the hospital has lacked for many years is a fence around the hospital. Community members take many different paths through the hospital grounds. So the first thing was to put a temporary fence around the hospital. About the time we began this plan, we received a $10,000 grant from the Southwestern Medical Foundation. Part of that money was used to build this fence. It has been completed, so now the hospital has borders, and people are not crossing through the hospital as much as they were.”

In 2014 during the Ebola epidemic, the hospital built a triage building. That has been rehabilitated. They also created an isolation unit for Covid-19 patients, using a ward built initially for tuberculosis patients. In addition, the government set up testing capabilities at the hospital to test for Covid-19. Says Richard, “There has been a very good relationship between the hospital and the district health medical team.”

Cathy: “When we had our meetings, the head lab guy said they would be able to test without taking the actual samples back to their lab, so that everything else wouldn’t get contaminated.”

Richard addressed the lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). “During the Ebola years, the whole world was focused on the three countries of West Africa affected by Ebola, so all of these supplies came into Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. That’s not the case now. While we were there, we were scrambling to determine where we would get PPE. It turns out there was a really good supply of masks left over from the Ebola days. They had thousands of masks, but some were damaged during their time in storage. The local government hospital on Bonthe island, downriver from Mattru, had lots of gowns but they didn’t have masks. So we exchanged that kind of PPE. Unfortunately, there’s a real need for gloves, and hopefully the government will be able to step in to supply that PPE when the time arises.

“As far as we know, there is one ventilator in the country. To put that in perspective, there are 10.6 million people in Sierra Leone, and just one ventilator at a private hospital. It is quite awful to think about the consequences of what will happen if this becomes widespread in Sierra Leone. About 85% of people do well with this illness, but 15-20% don’t do well and need to be hospitalized. Of those, a high number need to be on high-flow oxygen, and a smaller percentage, 3-4%, end up on ventilators.”

Richard said portable oxygen cylinders are uncommon in the developing world. At Mattru, they have large storage containers, and oxygen is piped into rooms. “So the only option in rural Sierra Leone is to use an oxygen concentrator. They require electricity, and over time they wear out. Part of the recent grant money is earmarked for oxygen concentrators, but the problem is getting them into the country, especially now that there is very little shipping coming into Sierra Leone.”

Cathy: “We have only one oxygen concentrator that is working right now. We used to have three, and we bought a new one while we were there, but it lasted a week and then broke. So at this point there is only one oxygen concentrator. We’re trying to get two more, but the whole world is needing them, and we don’t know if we’ll be able to get any more. We do have somebody coming to look at the old ones to see if they can be prepared, but they definitely need something to give oxygen to these patients.”

A solar grid was installed at Mattru Hospital in 2017. Some technical issues remain, but it has been a huge blessing to the hospital.

Richard: “Having 24-hour electricity is something we in the West take for granted. If the power goes out for an hour or two, we kind of freak out. In Sierra Leone, a significant portion of the country doesn’t have 24-hour electricity, and the same is true for the town of Mattru Jong. Having electricity 24 hours a day has been revolutionary for the hospital. It has allowed the lab to work 24 hours a day, and has provided lights into the maternity ward, power for the operating room, and power for oxygen concentrators when they are functioning. So it has revolutionized the care.”

HU Students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.

Huntington University received accreditation for its Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program. This is the nation’s first accredited OTA bachelor’s degree program.

“As the first accredited OTA program in the country, we are able to provide education that is cutting-edge, evidence-based, and state-of-the-art,” said Dr. Nicole Scheiman, OTA department chair and program director. “We can provide advanced education in clinical practice, leadership, and professionalism.”

The five-year accreditation was granted by ACOTE, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Accreditation enables students to take the exam needed to work as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).

Having the degree at the bachelor’s level prepares Huntington University graduates for leadership positions that require a bachelor’s degree. Graduates will have a competitive edge in the healthcare arena.

Huntington University’s Class of 2020 will be the first class of students in the nation to graduate with Bachelor of Science degrees in Occupational Therapy Assistant.

Kory Alford has been hired as coach of the Huntington University men’s basketball team. He is the son of Indiana legend Steve Alford, who won the Mr. Basketball award in high school and went on to lead Indiana University to the 1987 NCAA championship.

Kory played under his father at both New Mexico and UCLA, reaching the NCAA tournament all four years (and the Sweet Sixteen twice). He also played on two state championship teams as a high schooler in New Mexico. Most recently, he has been part of the coaching staff at the University of Nevada-Reno.

Said HU Athletic Director Lori Culler, “He brings tremendous knowledge of the game, strong recruiting connections, Indiana family ties and a faith-infused approach to coaching that will enable him to hit the ground running.

Kory said he has always dreamed of leading a basketball program, and it’s truly special being able to lead such a program in his home state of Indiana. “God has blessed me throughout my career in this sport, and I consider it a great privilege to be able to contribute to the Christ-centered mission of Huntington University.”

The video above is a very informative interview with Kory Alford. At the 4:15 mark, he begins telling his faith journey.


On Good Friday, UB Global missionaries Dr. Richard and Cathy Toupin (right) left for New York City to work with Samaritan’s Purse in treating COVID-19 patients. Last September, they attended an SP conference in Florida, during which they signed up to be part of a Disaster Assistance Response Team. After Palm Sunday, they received a call: you’re needed in New York. They have committed to work there for three weeks, until May 1, and could opt to extend it another two weeks.

They were told it would be 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week. So their prayer request from the United Brethren family is for physical and emotional strength.

The Toupins started the year serving a couple months at Mattru Hospital in Sierra Leone. With the country closing its borders, they left a little sooner than planned, and returned to their home in Auburn, Ind. They completed a 14-day quarantine last Sunday, April 5. On their blog, they wrote about their decision to work with Samaritan’s Purse.

Erik and Iris Rojas (right) lead the one United Brethren church in Costa Rica. Pastor Rojas sent a message on April 9. He said they’ve had about 500 cases of Covid-19 since the first case was confirmed on March 6 (an American tourist from New York), and there have been two deaths. But thanks to tough restrictions from the government, they appear to have the curve under control. He then sent the following information about his church in San Jose.

“During this Easter, by order of the government, everything is closed except for hospitals, pharmacies, and places where they sell food. There is a very strict vehicle restriction. The beaches, the parks, the hotels, etc., are totally closed. All people are asked to leave home only if absolutely necessary. Thank God, we have no knowledge of anyone in our congregation who is ill. We all try to help each other with food and finances, because we know that many have lost their jobs and others have reduced their working hours and, therefore, their wages have also been reduced.

“On Sundays and Wednesdays, my wife and I are sending videos with words of encouragement, Bible reflections, and preaching for the entire congregation using Facebook and WhatsApp. At home we work as a family so as not to lose communion with God. We all have devotional times together. In addition, we try to be in constant communication with the members of the congregation to know their needs and requests.”

On Good Friday, the UB Global staff led United Brethren from around the world in a Day of Fasting & Prayer. A lot of people took part in several different ways. Here are some highlights:

  • 23 people joined at 10:00 Friday morning for a prayer time on Zoom.
  • 12 accounts (some with multiple participants) engaged in a second Zoom prayer time at 8:00 Friday evening. Milton and Erika Pacheco, UB Global missionaries in Thailand, led in worship.
  • 42 family units (21% from outside the United States) signed up to pray for a 20-minute slot as part of the Friday 24/7 prayer time. They included UBs from Canada, Costa Rica, Honduras, and the US.

Pastor Mike Brown preaching at the drive-in service.

Franklin UB church (New Albany, Ohio) held a drive-in service on Easter. They normally have two services every Sunday, but their last service was March 15. They decided to try to drive-in concept at 10:15 on Easter Sunday. People stayed in their vehicles, and parents were encouraged to bring snacks or games to keep kids occupied during the message. Pastor Mike Brown preached from a wagon outside the church, the people listened by tuning in to FM 88.3. A local TV station did this news story.

This Easter Season was unlike anything our world has experienced. We’d like to capture stories from United Brethren churches about what Holy Week looked like. Other UB churches in the US and around the world will be interested.

While the past week is fresh in your mind, please take a few minutes to write a couple paragraphs about the Easter Season at your churches, and particularly your Holy Week observances. You can send an email to news@ub.org, or use the form on the Covid-19 response page.

During the 2017 US National Conference in Lancaster, Pa., many UB people enjoyed attending a production at the local Sight & Sound Theatre. You may be interested in knowing that the S&S production of “Jesus” will be available this weekend–Friday, Saturday, and Sunday–for free over the internet and on the TBN cable network (Trinity Broadcasting Network).

You can view it on TBN at 1:00 pm Eastern Time on TBN.
Or, view it anytime April 10-12 on the TBN app or their website.

You can watch a trailer for “Jesus” on Youtube.

Jennifer Blandin (left) and Jenaya Bonner.

On Wednesday evening, April 1, UB missionaries Jennifer Blandin and Jenaya Bonner spoke about their experiences in Macau relating to the pandemic. About 20 people participated in the Zoom meeting.

Macau’s first case of COVID-19 came on January 22. The local government took quick and aggressive action. There were only a few cases, and Macau actually went 40 days being corona-free. More recently, they let in some people from outside, and there are now about 40 cases in Macau, but they’ve not yet had a death from COVID-19. For the world’s most densely-populated city and a major tourism center, that’s very commendable. Here is what Jennifer and Jenaya had to say.

Jenaya: In Macau, this has been going since the end of January. The Chinese New Year celebrations [January 25 – February 8] were cancelled. My family was here at that time, but they were able to head back to the States before things got crazy. My mom had to be quarantined from work.

Jennifer: I returned to Macau right before the Chinese New Year, which is the equivalent of Thanksgiving and Christmas in America. We met February 2, but then didn’t meet for the rest of February. In March, as other businesses reopened, we began to offer the option to worship at church. Now, if people feel comfortable coming to church, they can.

Jenaya: Early on, everybody was afraid. But the government shut things down quickly, and we didn’t have a lot of coronavirus patients early on.

Jennifer: My hands are raw from washing them so much. About 99% of people wear face masks in public; if you don’t wear a mask, people look at you weird. There was also a sense of fear of people who looked different from everyone else. I encountered that a few times —“Oh, you’re a foreigner.” Because Macau is so densely populated and we live so close together, it’s difficult to distance yourself from everyone else—and practically impossible to do that when you go outside.

Jenaya: A lot of businesses reopened after three weeks or so, but some are still closed. Theaters and other public places haven’t reopened. Kids have been able to go outside with their parents, with caution. We went 40 days without a local case of coronavirus, and then it was an outside case coming in.

Jennifer: I am grateful I only have one person in my home. Some families may have 3-7 people living in a very small space. During the city wide locked down, public parks were also closed, so there was no place for kids to run off energy. I’ve appreciated at least being able to go outside. As of now, we’re looking at schools reopening in May. I did see that universities are allowing year four students to come back on April 20 to finish out their year, but students in years 1-3 are finishing online this year.

During March, more things were starting back up, but since we got more cases, some things took a step back. Last week I was supposed to go out and have a walk with a couple people, and I was excited about that. But after new cases arose, the walk was cancelled. In terms of ministry, I’m using my phone a lot more. I have met with some people, with caution. But others don’t feel comfortable meeting.

Now, anyone who comes into Macau must be quarantined for 14 days. They’ve chosen different hotels for that, but they aren’t locking us down like they did earlier. As of now, most people returning to Macau are students who were studying overseas, along with some foreign workers.

Jenaya: In my English center, we’ve been back to doing English classes for about five weeks on a limited basis . We have about half the number of students we had before. There are many restrictions. We use hand sanitizer as they come and leave, we sanitize everything they use, their temperature is taken, we wear masks, everyone stays a meter apart. Since our classrooms are small, we’re trying to reduce by half the number of students in a class. With the new cases recently, some parents have gone through a second wave of fear. It’s been up and down in terms of who shows up.

Jennifer: In February, the casinos were shut down for two weeks. They are open now, but the borders are still closed. The casinos are like ghost towns, because only local people are there—no visitors like we had before. Streets are busy with local people are going back and forth to work, but tourists areas are like a different country.

Jenaya: Some days it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, because you haven’t seen a single person.

Jennifer: This is more of a marathon than a sprint. Probably 3 or 4 weeks in, people were complaining about wanting things to go back to normal. I remembered how the Israelites wanted out of Egypt, but when they got to the desert, they were bellyaching about going back to Egypt.

Jenaya: I don’t want the time to be wasted. I want to sit and listen to what God is saying. To continue to listen to what God is doing.

Jennifer: One thing is becoming a prayer of mine: whatever God is doing through this, whatever he is trying to shake free, I pray that we will embrace it. A couple weeks ago, when I realized Easter wasn’t going to happen, I began asking God, “What do you want us to learn from this? What do you want us to change?”