Samantha Essig

Two staff changes are occurring at the United Brethren National Office. Cathy Reich, who has been administrative assistant to the bishop since 2007, is transitioning to a new role: Events Coordinator. Taking her place as administrative assistant, as of August 16, is Samantha “Sam” Essig.


Samantha was born and raised
in Huntington, Ind. Her paternal grandfather, George Brown, is a brother of UB missionary June Brown.

She graduated from Huntington University in 2013 with a degree in Psychology, and two years later married Jake, a 2014 HU grad. They moved away for a while, but returned to the area in 2020 after Jake was named soccer coach at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Samantha has spent two stints as an admissions counselor for Huntington University, about two years total. That’s what she was doing since the beginning of 2021, before the position at the UB National Office opened up.

We welcome Samantha to the UB team. As administrative assistant, she will interact regularly with United Brethren ministers and other leaders.

Cathy Reich (left) and Samantha Essig

Cathy Reich has spent nearly 25 years working at the denominational office. In 1975, as a student at Huntington University, she began working in the UB printshop, and continued doing so until the 1981 General Conference voted to close the printshop. She then became administrative assistant to Paul Hirschy, who had just been elected Director of Church Services. She left that job in January 1984 upon the birth of the first of her three children.

In November 2007, Cathy returned to the UB National Office as administrative assistant to Bishop Ron Ramsey. She continued in that role with Bishop Phil Whipple and then with Bishop Todd Fetters.

Organizing events became a major aspect of Cathy’s job. The flagship event is the US national conference, which occurs every two years. But there are many other events, including the UB women’s conference, the pastor & spouse summits, the annual youthworkers summit, ministry team meetings, and other gatherings. Cathy scouts locations, negotiates with hotels and convention centers, oversees event planning and registration, and handles many other responsibilities related to UB events. Over the years, Cathy has acquired considerable expertise, knowledge, and savvy when it comes to the various types of UB gatherings.

As Events Coordinator, Cathy will focus solely on these meetings. It’s a part-time position which she will do remotely, without an office at the UB headquarters. But she’ll still be around, close at hand, continuing to advance the work of the United Brethren church.

Judy Dyer (left) and Jennifer Furnish

Judy Dyer retired April 30 after seven years at the United Brethren National Office. As accounting assistant, she worked closely with Finance Director Marci Hammel to handle the various financial needs of the US National Conference and of UB Global.

Judy grew up in Huntington, graduated from Huntington University, and attends the local College Park UB church. She and her husband Phil, who retired from the Norfolk & Southern Railroad in 2019, have two daughters—one living in Warren, Ind., with three children, and another living in Columbus, Ohio, with a wedding scheduled for September. In retirement, Judy says she plans to spend a lot of time with family, including those three grandchildren. She and Phil also hope to do some traveling, and already have planned two trips to Florida.

“Seven years—wow!” says Judy. “It will be interesting to see where God takes Phil and me on our next journey.”

Taking Judy’s place is Jennifer Furnish, who joined the staff in mid-April. Jennifer is a 2008 graduate of Indiana Tech. She most recently worked at Innovative Pension Consulting in Roanoke, Ind.

Jennifer was born in Huntington and grew up here. In 2014 she married Derek, who is from nearby Warren. He works out of Bluffton with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Jennifer and Derek have three young children—Eden, born in 2016; Rhett, 2017; and Wyatt, 2019. They attend Bethel United Methodist Church in Huntington.

The UB National Office gives best wishes for a well-deserved retirement to Judy, and a hearty welcome to Jennifer.

The United Brethren National Office in Huntington, Ind., has a job opening for Finance Assistant. This is a fulltime position with benefits (including health insurance, vacation, and retirement plan).

We are looking for someone with bookkeeping and Excel knowledge. This person assists the Director of Finance in many areas including but not limited to data entry in the accounting software, UB Global donations, and retirement plan contributions. This person also cooperates with other office staff to administrate telephone, reception, and mail activities.

If you are interested in this position, or if you know somebody who might be interested, please contact Finance Director Marci Hammel at marci@ub.org, or call 260-356-2312, ext. 308. The full job description is available upon request.

In July 2021, delegates from United Brethren churches in the United States will gather for the biennial US National Conference. This year, we are meeting in Fort Wayne, Ind., where we previously met in 2013.

The 2021 US National Conference will hold its business meeting on Thursday, July 15, 2021. The delegates will hear reports, and will elect a bishop and four members of the Executive Leadership Team. The intent is to keep other business to a minimum this year, and save any significant business for 2023 when, hopefully, the pandemic will be behind us.

The United Brethren constituency is invited to submit proposals for consideration at the 2021 business meeting. A proposal needs to come from a group or official entity — not from an individual. Examples: a local church board, cluster group, a denominational leadership team or study committee, etc.

The Bishop’s Office and the Executive Leadership Team are responsible for processing and approving proposals for presentation to the conference.

The deadline for submitting proposals is March 1, 2021. If you would like to submit a proposal for revising the Discipline, or a proposal of some other kind, please send it to: bishop@ub.org.

“It’s Not Supposed to Be Like This!”

by Bishop Todd Fetters

It’s Christmas Eve in an unprecedented year where nothing seems certain or predictable, except uncertainty and unpredictability.

But, that’s where I think 6-4 BC and Advent 2020 intersect rather extraordinarily. Something unprecedented happened then that is still impacting the world to this very day. Remember? Luke 2:6-7 will remind you.

“While [Mary and Joseph] were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

I imagine Joseph struggled with the uncertain and unpredictable events that met him in Bethlehem. Perhaps he prayed, “Heavenly Father, seriously?! It’s not supposed to be this way. No comfortable place for my pregnant wife? No soft, sanitary place for the birth of your infant Son? A stable for shelter. A straw-filled trough for a bed. Noisy, filthy animals for nursery companions. This cannot be what you were thinking as fitting for the birth of a King.”

Yep. It was supposed to be that way. The result? The Savior of the world was born.

Undoubtedly, your Christmas Eve looks, sounds, and feels different this year. Perhaps you’re struggling with how uncertainty and unpredictability have messed with your Christmas — “It’s not supposed to be this way.” But, what if it is? What if God, through the Spirit of Jesus, is about to do something unprecedented in your life that will bring glory to Him now and familiarity to you in years to come?

Don’t waste this moment. Please! Seek the Lord afresh this Christmas and find Him anew! After all, our stability is in the stable — Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years.

L-r: Tim Sherman (chair), Christine Augustat, Kristi McConnell, Dalton Jenkins, Jeremiah Greenland, Steve Fish.

The Nominating Committee prepares the ballot for bishop and for members of the Executive Leadership Team. The following persons were appointed in July 2020 by the Executive Leadership Team. They will serve 4-year or 6-year terms starting in 2020.

  • Tim Sherman (chairperson) is senior pastor of Bethel UB church (Elmore, Ohio). Term ends: 2026.
  • Christine Augustat is Family Ministry Pastor at Fowlerville UB church (Fowlerville, Mich.). Term ends: 2026.
  • Kristi McConnell, an architect, is a layperson from Banner of Christ UB church (Byron Center, Mich.).
  • Dalton Jenkins is senior pastor of Bethel Temple of Praise (Yonkers, New York). Term ends: 2024.
  • Jeremiah Greenland, vice president of Operations at Susquehanna Civil, Inc., is a layperson from Prince Street UB church (Shippensburg, Pa.). Term ends: 2026.
  • Steve Fish is Teaching Pastor and Director of Missions at Emmanuel Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.). Term ends: 2024.

The Nominating Committee is currently at work preparing ballots for the 2021 US National Conference, which will elect a bishop and four members of the Executive Leadership Team.

United Brethren pastors were invited to share their church’s plans regarding reopening their church building. They were asked about changes they’ve made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and what restrictions they are putting in place upon reopening the building. There were no questions on specific topics—masks, social distancing, nursery, offering, etc.

About 90 pastors responded. The responses were compiled and categorized by Communications director Steve Dennie. This should give you snapshots of what other UB churches are doing, and perhaps give you some ideas as your church shapes its own course.

Bishop Todd Fetters has instructed churches, “Given the fluidity of the information and conditions regarding Covid-19, our local church leadership teams are encouraged to develop flexible plans that also give people the freedom to choose attending or not attending without stigma or shame.”


Seating

Seating, obviously, requires adjustments in the interests of social distancing. How to do that depends on whether you have pews, or moveable chairs.

Ten churches said they will space chairs apart, possibly with various sizes of groupings to accommodate family units (4 chairs, 2 chairs, etc.). One church is moving its service to the gymnasium, where they have room to space chairs six feet apart.

Twelve pastors said they will block off every other pew. One church is designating every other row for the 9:00 service, and the other rows for the 10:30 service.

Five churches are asking families to sit together.

Three churches are dismissing people by row, so that folks don’t bunch up as they leave the sanctuary.

One church took out its pews—which they’d been wanting to do anyway—and replaced them with round tables spaced six feet apart.

Two say they will use ushers to help seat people.


Capacity

Many churches are limiting attendance in some way, either on their own or to meet a state mandate on capacity (50%, 25%, etc.).

Because of the reduced capacity in a service to meet social distancing guidelines, a couple churches are adding more services and/or venues. One church, with only 10 people allowed in the building per service, is doing four consecutive services.

One church is limiting attendance to 40 people, plus 10 volunteers.

One church is asking people to come only once during June.

A couple churches are asking people to register to attend.

One church is offering two services, but the first one will be restricted to vulnerable people, with no kids allowed.

A half-dozen or more churches are doing drive-in services.

Four churches are making services shorter, to allow more time between services or between Sunday school and the service.

An idea from one church: “Started a new service that is the safest we can make it (limited attendance through sign-ups, first service of the weekend, required masks, social distancing, asking people not to sing along with worship). An on-ramp for people to start attending gatherings.”

One church is doing what they call a phased restarting: begin with a shortened service, and add elements as they go.


Sunday School

At least 15 churches said they will eliminate Sunday school for now. One church is moving Sunday school to the sanctuary so they have room for social distancing, as opposed to meeting in smaller classrooms.


Children’s Programming

At least 25 churches have suspended all children’s programming for now. That would include nursery, children’s church, and Sunday school.

One church said they will make the nursery available, but without staff.

One is continuing children’s ministry, but without self-checkin.

Two churches have closed access to the playground.


Distancing/Contact

Over 20 churches said they will encourage social distancing.

Fifteen will forbid shaking hands or hugging.

Only one church said they will check people’s temperature.


Socializing

No surprise: many churches are suspending the greeting or fellowship time as part of the service. One said they are replacing “meet and greet” with “stand and wave.”

One said they will have a “Walmart style” greeter.

One church said the pastor will not greet people after the service.

One will close the lobby and other gathering places, another will forbid gathering after the service, and a third church will forbid socializing in the sanctuary, foyer, and outside steps.


Refreshments

At least a dozen churches are eliminating any food and drinks (coffee, cookies, etc.).

Two churches are making the water fountains off-limits, but one of them will provide bottled water as an alternative.


Printed Materials

A larger number will not distribute the bulletin, but will make it available on a “self-serve” table for those who want a bulletin. Likewise for sermon inserts. Some churches are eliminating the bulletin altogether.

Several mentioned the goal of a “touchless experience” on Sunday morning: nothing to distribute, no Bibles or hymnals to hold, nothing to pass down the rows, no doors to open.

Two churches will forgo passing attendance pads.

Three are removing Bibles and hymnals from the pew racks.


Entrances/Exits

Entrances and exits are chokepoints where social distancing and touch can be easily compromised. Churches are implementing various measures.

Seven churches mentioned propping doors open, so nobody touches door handles or surfaces. Two churches will have a person posted at entry doors to open and close them for people.

Several are designating one entrance and one exit, so traffic flow goes in the same direction. Others are restricting the number of entrance and exit points in some way.

One church is assigning elders to observe people entering for signs of contagion.


Music

Not much was mentioned about music. Two churches said they will limit singing, one will have no singing, and another will use humming instead of singing.

One church is keeping the worship team small and 16 feet from the first row. Another church is using videos instead of a worship team.


Offering

A total of 41 churches said they won’t be passing offering places. Most will use a dropbox or basket somewhere, usually in the back of the church, where people can place their offering.

One church is using offering places, but not passing them. Only ushers will touch the plates.


Communion

As with the offering, many churches will not be passing communion trays—or, in one case, not doing communion at all.

Six churches plan to use prepackaged communion elements.

One church will keep people six feet apart as they come forward to get the elements.


Masks

Six churches are requiring masks. One church will require masks only for age 2 and above.

Thirteen said they will encourage masks, and 11 said they will make masks option.

Nine will provide masks. One will provide several masks in baggies for people who forget to bring one or don’t have one.

One church is encouraging masks “especially for singing.”

Some rules about masks apply to moving around. One church expects people to wear masks to and from their seats. Another encourages masks in hallways and entryways. Two encourage or require masks when moving around the facility.

One church suggests that people remove masks at intervals if they have difficulty breathing.

One church may designate the balcony and narthex as “mask only” locations.

Another church says the pastor and worship leader won’t be required to wear masks while serving in the service.


Building

Some churches are closing off access to parts of the building, to prevent possible contamination and eliminate the need for sanitizing those areas.

Two churches will use only the sanctuary, lobby, and restrooms. Another will close off its upper and lower floors.

One church is closing off the stairways.

One church will turn off the fan and air circulation, while another will open the windows at the door for cross-ventilation.


Bathrooms

Bathrooms can get crowded. One church will limit one person at a time in restrooms (unless it’s a parent and child). Persons using the restroom will need to use disinfectant on whatever they touched while in the restroom.

One church will assign persons to sanitize bathrooms and water fountains after being used. Another has bathroom attendants to guard against crowding and to ensure sanitizing.


Sanitizing

At least a dozen churches mentioned that they will provide sanitizer stations. In reality, most churches will no doubt do this.

One church will require attendees to use hand sanitizer before entering the building.

Two churches will require everyone to use hand sanitizer—in one case, before people even enter the building.

Four churches indicated that they will wipe down surfaces, pews, seats, etc., between services.

Churches are also organizing to do deep cleaning during the week.


Vulnerable People

In many different ways, churches have encouraged various people to stay home for now—if you’re over 65, if you have physical vulnerabilities, if you’re not feeling well, or if you just don’t feel comfortable returning yet.

Said one church: “Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable returning to corporate worship has the blessing of the board to stay home without any fear of being judged or looked down upon.”


Reopening Date

Churches also indicated when they reopened or plan to reopen. Here are the number of churches which have opened or plan to open on various dates.

1 — March 22
1 — April 5
2 — May 3
8 — May 10
13 — May 17
7 — May 24
12 — May 31
1 — June 1
1 — June 3
13 — June 7
1 — June 13
8 — June 14
1 — June 20
4 — June 21
1 — July 5
1 — July 11
2 — July 12
1 — August 2

Todd Fetters (right), Bishop
Church of the United Brethren in Christ, USA

The fires of racial tension in our country have been stoked once again. After an initial sigh, which could be translated, “Oh no. Lord help us,” the scriptural words that rose within my soul were, “Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).

My heart truly breaks for our African American brothers and sisters in the United Brethren in Christ. I mourn with you that race relations in the United States is not where any of us had hoped and would have thought it would be 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Earlier this week, I spoke with a personal friend and several United Brethren ministers who are African American. They graciously afforded me the privilege of listening to their thoughts and feelings. Despite a spike in frustration and a resurgence of fear and anxiety due to historic and systemic racism, each of them expressed an enduring and persevering love for the Lord and their fellow man. These men and women know that the real power to heal our pronounced relational divides lies in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we grieved together, but not as men and women without hope. Our hope is placed in God who created us without favoritism or preference, and who loves us unconditionally. Our shared hope for America and the nations firmly resides in the Holy Spirit who can free our minds from the chains of ignorance, bigotry, and hatred, compelling us to act with understanding, grace, and brotherly love. Certainly, I must say that it seems to me that God has our attention. I know He has mine.

With 250 years of history under our belt, I’m grateful that the United Brethren church has typically landed on the correct side of issues of race and the vulnerable. When most American denominations were compromising to allow room for slavery, we remained abolitionist. As the Civil War ended and other denominations were trying to figure out how to make room for former slaves, we pushed ahead to advocate for full citizenship. As we saw Native Americans and Chinese immigrants suffering abuse, we spoke out against it.

We emphasized this in 2001 when the United Brethren in Christ adopted eight Core Values. One of them, “We Demonstrate Social Concern,” says:

”We must not only seek the salvation of our fellow human beings, but show genuine concern for their total well-being. We recognize our responsibility to victims of poverty, prejudice, injustice, and other forms of human suffering.

“The poor will always be among us, and we cannot ignore their plight; the Bible clearly states our obligation to those living in poverty. But there are many others, whether they are poor or not, whose situation requires our aid. They include persons in prison, immigrants, widows, orphans, the unborn, the handicapped, the homeless, the elderly, and victims of abuse. We also respond corporately to large-scale tragedies, giving sacrificially to help victims of natural disasters or social strife.

“Demonstrating social concern also involves raising our voice against injustice and prejudice. We stand against discrimination, slavery, and injustice, insisting that equal rights be granted to everyone. We advocate fairness in the workplace, in the courts, and in all other settings, and seek the end of any discrimination based upon racial, national, economic, or social differences.”

This Core Value states some actions to take: raise our voice, stand against, advocate, recognize our responsibility, seek the end, insist, don’t ignore, help, respond corporately. As United Brethren, inviting anyone to “come with us…we will treat you well” (Numbers 10:29), we can apply these in various ways to society’s ongoing struggle with racial injustice.

Some of us thought 20/20 would be a nice metaphor for vision in 2020. Perhaps there is more for us to see. Perhaps 20/20 is a Divine prescription to see racism more clearly and do something to eradicate it.

While United Brethren can be thankful for our history, we do not take this moment to pat each other or ourselves on the back. Instead, we mark this moment by taking up the same mantle of our spiritual fore-brothers and fore-sisters, which is to follow the example of Christ and love our neighbor, regardless of color, as ourselves.

Amidst this tragic chaos, I have wondered and I’ve prayed, “What does the Lord ask of me? What does the Lord ask of the United Brethren church?” Micah 6:8 provides an answer from God himself:

“He [the Lord] has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Let’s act justly. As individuals and as churches, we need to find our voice to stand and speak against discrimination and injustice. Our history shows that UBs know how to do this.

Let’s love mercy. Our Lord is patient with all of us, not always giving us what we rightly deserve. Just as we love receiving mercy, we need to love showing mercy.

Let’s walk humbly with our God. He created every man and woman of every nation, tribe, and tongue. None better than the other. All very precious to Him who sent His Son to die so that anyone might have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I realize that when it comes to issues of race, UB people are at different points. Some have spent decades working on racial awareness and understanding. Others have just recently been jolted awake to the problems. Wherever you are on that road, continue down it. And as you journey, remember to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

My prayer is, “Lord, you have our attention. Show us where to go from here.”

We have United Brethren churches in 18 countries–ten national conferences, and eight mission districts. In addition, UB Global missionaries with other organizations serve in ten countries where we don’t have UB churches. That gives us a presence in 28 countries. A few of those countries have not yet reported a case of the coronavirus…but are making preparations for its arrival.

Here is a look at the United Brethren world. As you’ll see, the United States isn’t the only country taking drastic measures to combat the virus. Numerous other countries throughout the world, including some with only a few or no cases, are also imposing strong restrictions of various kinds.

Beside each country heading is a number in parenthesis. That is the number of cases as of March 19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Those numbers change by the hour, but will give you an idea of the current severity in each country where we have a presence.


Africa

All things considered, Africa has not been hit very hard by the virus…yet. Egypt leads the way with 196 cases, and Algeria (72), Morocco (49), and Tunisia (29) are also in double digits. Those countries are all in North Africa. For most of sub-Sahara Africa, cases are just now popping up. The exception would be South Africa, which has 85 cases.

Sierra Leone (No cases)
We have a large presence in Sierra Leone, where UBs have served since 1855: 62 churches, dozens of primary schools, five high schools, and a major hospital.

Sierra Leone was perhaps hit harder by Ebola than any other country. But thus far, they have no cases of COVID-19–which may reflect a lack of testing. Both of the neighboring countries, Guinea and Liberia, have now reported cases. Earlier this week, Sierra Leone took some strong preventive measures.

1. People entering the country by any means will be isolated if they show any of these symptoms: fever above 99.5 degrees, persistent cough, or difficulty breathing.

2. Anyone coming from a country with 50+ confirmed cases will be automatically quarantined. Anyone coming from a country with less than 50 cases will not be quarantined, but will be contacted and checked throughout the next 14 days.

3. Four hospitals have been designated as quarantine facilities.

4. Citizens are encouraged not to travel internationally.

Liberia (2)
We have 9 churches in Liberia. The first case was reported Monday, March 16–the head of Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency, who returned March 13 from a trip to Switzerland. A domestic worker for that official became the second case. The official refused mandatory quarantine after returning from Switzerland, and has been suspended from his job by Liberia’s president.

The announcement of this first case sparked panic in the capital of Monrovia, with a run on hand sanitizers and face masks. The country has banned traveling to countries that have more than 200 cases of the virus. All school and university activities have been suspended for one week, starting March 17.

Sierra Leone and Liberia are the only African countries with UB churches. However, UB Global has endorsed and sojourn missionaries serving in several other countries.

  • Nichie Parish Stonall serves with Impact Africa in South Africa, which has 85 cases.
  • The Mallay family serve in Togo, a West African country which has one case (but borders Burkina Faso, which has 20). Seth Mallay is a doctor in Togo.
  • The Steve and Amanda Taylor family serve at a school in Kenya, which has four cases. (Kenya’s first case was a 27-year-old Kenyan woman whose flight from the US included a layover in London.)

The Caribbean

There are many island nations in the Caribbean, and several have reported cases of COVID-19. Most are taking strong action to keep the disease out, including airplane travel restrictions. We have churches in just two of these countries: Jamaica and Haiti.

Jamaica (12 cases)
On Tuesday, March 10, Jamaica announced their first case of the coronavirus–a Jamaican woman who had recently returned from a trip to Great Britain. Our Jamaican churches had planned big services for last weekend as part of their annual national conference meeting, but they were cancelled.

Haiti (0 cases)
Thus far, Haiti has no reported cases of the virus. There was one suspected case this week, but the test came back negative. However, Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic, which has reported 12 cases (all apparently originating from Europe). Haiti closed its border with the Dominican Republic, banned travel for government officials, and suspended flights from Europe, Canada, and Latin America. They are evaluating whether or not to continue allowing flights from the USA. For now, all arriving passengers from the US must undergo health screenings.


Latin America

Mexico (93)
We have 40 churches in Mexico. Their first five cases all involved infections from Italy–three persons who attended a conference in northern Italy, and two students in Milan. They now have 82 cases.

Mexico’s president is facing strong criticism for his seemingly unconcerned attitude toward the virus. Public service announcements promote handwashing and social distancing, but that’s about the extent of it. The President of El Salvador begged Mexico to take strong action: “Otherwise, in 20 days the epicenter of this pandemic will not be Europe, but North America.”

The prodding may be working. Mexico will close all schools from March 20 to April 20.

Honduras (9)
On March 11, Honduras, where we have 110 churches, confirmed its first two cases of the virus, both involving Honduran women–a pregnant woman who returned on March 4 from a trip to Spain, and a 37-year-old woman from Tela (where we have a church) who returned on March 5 from a trip to Switzerland. Several other cases have now been reported, including a baby.

Honduras has taken strong steps. On Monday, March 16, the president imposed a seven-day lockdown on the country. Public and private sector workers have been sent home, public transportation banned, beaches closed, borders closed (by land, sea, and air), all flights suspended, non-essential businesses closed, dine-in restaurants closed. Nobody can visit nursing homes or hospitals. La Ceiba, the country’s third-largest city and the center of UB work in that country, is in a state of virtual lockdown. Likewise for San Pedro Sula, where we also have several churches.

In addition to our churches in Honduras, we have the Reeck, Andino, and Roberts families serving there with other mission organizations.

El Salvador (0)
El Salvador is a mission district under the direction of Honduras Conference. We have five churches there. El Salvador thus far has no confirmed cases, and is taking drastic action to keep it that way. On March 14, the president declared a national emergency, shut down commercial flights, sent home all non-essential public employees for 30 days, closed schools for 21 days, and banned nearly all foreign visitors. The country is now under a 21-day quarantine. All public transport is being sanitized three times a day, and all workers must wear masks.

Costa Rica (50 cases)
On March 6, Costa Rica, where we have just one church, became the first Central American country with a case of the coronavirus. It involved an American tourist from New York whose husband had had contact with an infected person. Costa Rica now has 50 confirmed cases and is being overwhelmed with testing.

Cost Rica’s government ordered the closing of all bars and discos. Until April 12, citizens and residents who enter the country will be required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. They will also undergo medical checks at the airport, and must state the address where they will self-quarantine.

Guatemala (6)
We have 18 churches in Guatemala, mostly in very poor urban areas. Guatemala confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Sunday, March 15–an 85-year-old man who had recently returned from Spain, and who died that day.

Guatemala has suspended all passenger flights until March 30, closed all schools and universities for three weeks, and is limiting gatherings to 100 people. They also blocked all deportation flights from the United States.

Pastor Jaime Chun, the elected superintendent of Guatemala National Conference, sent a note on March 19 saying, “Here in Guatemala, meetings of all kinds have been forbidden by the government. As of today, seven people are infected by the virus and 300 people are reported quarantined. The United Brethren churches here have stopped meeting. We closed the churches and opted for each family to pray, read the Bible at home, and communicate through Facebook and other means.”

Nicaragua (0)
We have 32 churches in Nicaragua. No cases have been reported, and the country seems to be openly disregarding all prevention measures. On March 14, President Daniel Ortega held a mass rally and parade in downtown Managua under the title “Love in the Time of COVID-19.” There are no travel restrictions. However, Cuba is reportedly sending doctors and pharmaceuticals to help Nicaragua prepare for the pandemic.

Europe

We have just three churches in Europe–a predominantly African church in Berlin, Germany; and two Haitian churches on the outskirts of Paris, France. Both of those countries have around 8000 cases of the virus.

In addition, we have endorsed missionaries in several other countries.

  • Spain (over 14,000 cases): Ron and Brenda Anderson serve with European Christian Mission, and Jaime Clore serves with SEND International. Spain has the second-most cases in Europe (after Italy).
  • Poland (246 cases): Arek and Donna Delik serve with Operation Mobilization.
  • Russia (147 cases): Kurt and Bekah Siegal serve with an organization in St. Petersburg.

Asia

All of the places with UB churches in Asia are dealing with the disease–Hong Kong (208), Macau (15), Thailand (212), and India (151).

Many of Hong Kong‘s early cases can be traced not to China, but to travelers returning from Europe or Canada. Macau‘s first two cases, on January 22, involved a man and woman from Wuhan, China. Macau took strong action early, including closing all of the casinos, and now have only 15 confirmed cases.

And, of course, the US and Canada are dealing with the virus.


Pray for our Brothers and Sisters Around the World

One of our Core Values is, “We Esteem Each Other.” It says:

As United Brethren people across the world, we recognize that what happens in any of our churches matters to each of us. We are concerned about the welfare of sister churches not only in the next town, but in other countries. From Central America to West Africa to the Far East to North America, we are part of each other. We help each other, we learn from each other, we esteem each other, and we cooperate with each other to accomplish more for the Kingdom than we could by ourselves.

Please remember in prayer our fellow United Brethren in other countries. Most of those countries have far fewer medical resources than we have in the United States (one ventilator in all of Sierra Leone!). Pray that, during this time, we can all be a light for Jesus for our communities and countries.

Rev. Kyle McQuillen

Rev. Kyle McQuillen passed away on March 16, 2020. He was the United Brethren director of missions 1993-2001, during which time unprecedented international expansion occurred. Before that he was pastor of College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.), an associate director of missions, and a missionary in Sierra Leone. Following is a chapter about McQuillen from “All for Christ,” Volume 2.

In August 2001, Kyle McQuillen retired after eight years as the United Brethren Director of Missions. His tenure saw the greatest overseas expansion in UB history, with new work started in Thailand, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Mexico.

When it comes to United Brethren missions, 2001 was the end of an era. Until that time, Huntington, Ind., was the United Brethren world headquarters, and the bishop was the bishop for the entire UB world. The 2001 General Conference changed all of that, formally establishing a structure with seven sovereign national conferences — the US, Canada, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Those conferences chose their own leaders and administered their own affairs.

But prior to 2001, we were, basically, colonial. UBs around the world looked to that office building in Indiana. It was our Mecca.

For the conferences and mission districts outside of North America, the bishop was somewhat secondary. The person most visible to them was the Director of Missions. That’s who chaired their annual conference meetings, ordained their ministers, dispensed funds, and made numerous decisions regarding their work. A very powerful and influential person. A person whose constituency existed outside of North America, and who was highly esteemed there.

In 2001, the Director of Missions position changed in many ways. The title changed to Director of Global Ministries. But more significantly, the position was stripped of all authority in the national conferences. Now, the Director of Global Ministries came as an observer and as a partner to work alongside the national conferences.

Kyle McQuillen was the last Director of Missions when the position held a great deal of authority around the world. His eight years in that position were a wild ride.

From the Coal Mines to the Pastorate

Kyle and Mar Louise McQuillen both grew up in Philipsburg, a town in central Pennsylvania. Kyle was the son of a coal miner. From age twelve until he went to college, he and his brother ran Caterpillar bulldozers for the coal company, scraping topsoil off of coal for open-pit mining. They worked every weekend and through the summer, but neither wanted to spend a career doing that. Plus, the coal business petered out in central Pennsylvania, and a lot of companies went under. So while Kyle’s brother began a career with General Motors, Kyle headed for the ministry.

Kyle entered Lycoming College, a small Methodist liberal arts school of about 1200 students in Williamsport, Pa. After his freshman year, he traveled to England in 1958 and spent two years at the University of Exeter — his first taste of world travel. Then he returned to Lycoming for his senior year. In 1960, he proceeded to Wesley Seminary in Washington, D. C., earning a Master of Divinity degree. Meanwhile, Mar Louise became a Licensed Practical Nurse.

At age 19, Kyle began serving in the ministry. He started with stdent pastorates while in college, 1958-1963. After graduating from seminary in 1963, Kyle was ordained and became a fulltime pastor in Mercersburg, Pa.

In 1965, Kyle got a tremendous introduction to world missions. Dr. James Teeter, a surgeon friend from Waynesboro, Pa., asked Kyle if he would be interested in visiting United Methodist mission fields. He provided a substantial monetary gift which enabled Kyle to spend six weeks traveling around the world.

When Kyle returned, he and Mar Louise began talking about their shared interest in missions. They finally made themselves available to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, which in 1968 accepted them for service in Nigeria.

But first, the Methodists required six months of orientation for new missionaries, including two weeks in a cross-cultural or ethnic context. Husbands and wives were assigned to different places. Kyle worked in Spanish Harlem — visiting homes, attending churches, and trying to grasp how people lived in a very poor, run-down community. Mar Louise spent her two weeks in a hospital for mentally handicapped children.

To Africa

In mid-1969, the McQuillens traveled to Africa. Because of the Biafran war raging in Nigeria at the time, they couldn’t get visas from the United States to Nigeria. So, they went to Sierra Leone, hoping to secure visas there. It took six months.

“It was a difficult period of trying to fill in the time as we waited for our visas,” Kyle said. They homeschooled their three kids and helped with the United Methodist national church in Sierra Leone.

“We almost gave up hope that our visas would come,” Kyle recalled. In fact, he was prepared to take a new job as the Director of Stewardship for the UMCs in Sierra Leone, beginning on January 1, 1970. He would work under the supervision of an African bishop. But on December 27, their visas arrived.

The McQuillens were sent deep into the Nigerian bush to a village called Zinna. In an area with a quarter-million people, they were the only Caucasians. Zinna was a quiet village in a nice setting. Though it was a hot part of the world, Zinna, located on a hill, tended to be relatively cool. The McQuillens lived in a cement block house with a tin roof and cement floor. No electricity. No running water; they carried water from a river a mile away. They lit kerosene lamps, cooked on a wood stove, and used a kerosene-powered refrigerator. Youngest daughter Janet’s playmates were all Africans.

The two older children, Keith and Susan, attended a boarding school 600 miles away. Kyle and Mar Louise saw them once every five-and-a-half months, when they would came to Zinna for about seven weeks.

Mar Louise, being a nurse, worked in village dispensaries that handled such things as childbirths, circumcisions, snakebites, malaria, and minor surgeries. Anything more difficult got referred to a hospital, though there was no hospital nearby.

Kyle worked with African pastors in the Hausa language (which he learned), training them as evangelists and pastors. He also taught English twice a week at a high school two hours away.

Three years into their term, Mar Louise contracted hepatitis. Because of the incubation period, they knew when she got it: during a communion service. That day, Kyle had waded into the dirty river, muck up to his knees, to help baptize 105 people. Afterwards, there was a communion service. Because they only had about a dozen cups, they kept reusing them — someone would drink, then they’d refill it for the next person. Mar Louise evidently caught hepatitis from someone who drank from the same cup.

Mar Louise spent five-and-a-half months in bed. She was jaundiced and lost a lot of weight. Finally, a doctor told them that if they stayed in Nigeria, she would die. So in 1972, one year short of their four-year term, they returned to the States on medical leave. When they received Mar Louise’s liver damage report, it was decided they wouldn’t return to Nigeria anytime soon.

Among Kyle McQuillen’s priorities in Nigeria was transferring the Nigerian church away from missionary supervision. He worked with the Nigerian leaders to make this happen. When he and Mar Louise left the country, no missionaries came to replace them. “The church had come to stand on its own,” Kyle said.

Back to Africa with the United Brethren

Kyle spent the next year traveling across the United States to speak in United Methodist churches about Africa. Then he was assigned to a United Methodist church in Shippensburg, Pa. Next door was Prince Street United Brethren church, then pastored by C. Ray Miller. The Millers and McQuillens became good friends. Kyle even did some preaching and evangelistic services for the UBs.

In 1983, the Missions board decided to nationalize the Sierra Leone church, and needed a new field superintendent who could make it happen. Bishop C. Ray Miller, the chairman of the Board of Missions, knew someone who might be up to the task — a person with experience in nationalizing an African church, and with experience in Sierra Leone itself.

After seven years in Shippensburg, Kyle and Mar Louise accepted a church in Berwick, Pa. It was there, in 1983, that they received a call from Bishop Jerry Datema. Would they be interested in going to Sierra Leone to oversee the nationalization process? At the end of 1983, Kyle, Mar Louise, and daughter Janet were back in Sierra Leone. They intended to stay for several years, accomplish their task, and re-enter the Methodist ministry.

“I had no intention at that point of leaving the United Methodist Church,” Kyle said. “I was seconded, loaned, from one denomination to another. The United Brethren church even paid into my United Methodist pension while I was in Sierra Leone.”

The nationalization process went faster than expected (as told in chapter 5 of All for Christ, Volume 1). In the spring of 1985, met with the Board of Missions and told them he saw no reason to wait; the Sierra Leoneans were ready. The Board agreed. When he left in 1985, he was the last Field Superintendent. After 130 years of missionary work, the United Brethren work in Sierra Leone was fully in the hands of Sierra Leoneans.

Mission Director

The McQuillens accepted a pastorate in Bellefonte, Pa., near Penn State University. In Kyle’s second year there, Bishop Datema contacted him again, asking him to serve on the Board of Missions as a non-UB representative. Then, in 1987, Datema invited him to join the staff as associate director of Missions.

“That was probably the biggest decision of my professional life,” Kyle said. “I would be leaving the church where I had been converted. I had gone to college and seminary in Methodist schools, had 28 years invested in pension in the Methodist church, and nearly all of my background was in the Methodist church. At that point, I knew I could no longer be seconded, but would have to change denominations. But I made the decision, and we left on very good terms.”

Kyle transferred his ministerial credentials to Pennsylvania Conference, and he and Mar Louise became members of College Park UB church in Huntington, Ind.

For two years, Kyle worked in the Missions Department alongside two other associate directors, Hazel McCray and Harold Wust. Kyle didn’t expect to ever go back into the pastorate. But in 1989, he was invited to become pastor of College Park UB church. He remained there for four years. Then, in 1993, after Jerry Datema announced his retirement, Kyle agreed to let his name appear on the ballot for Director of Missions. The 1993 General Conference elected him to that position, and the 1997 General Conference re-elected him.

When asked what he most enjoyed about his work as Director of Missions, Kyle replied: “Unquestionably, the thing I have enjoyed most is my association with people of other cultures and the opportunity to see the church grow outside of the United States. I will miss my relationships with pastors and laypeople of other conferences. It’s not the travel, the going to another place, because travel — the waiting in airports — isn’t fun. It’s being there with them — people like Jose Ramirez, Francisco Raudales, Juan Pavon, Peter Lee, and Lloyd Spencer.”

The Globetrotting Ends

One time on a plane, Kyle and Mar Louise listed the countries they had visited — not just stopovers in airports, but actual visits. They ended up with 82 countries. The major omissions were the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Australia, Brazil, and the southern part of South America.

He said, “Of the 82 countries I have visited, the one country to which I could easily emigrate would be England. We both like it very much.”

It went back to Kyle’s college days at the University of Exeter. As of 2001, every year for the past 25 years, the McQuillens had vacationed in England. While serving in Sierra Leone, they left briefly to spend their 25th anniversary in England, something Kyle had always promised Mar Louise they would do.

Retiring to Florida

Kyle and Mar Louise retired to Edgewater, Fla., just south of Daytona Beach. They moved into a home in a gated community of about 600 homes on the intercoastal waterway; Kyle’s brother had retired to the same community. Mar Louise actually moved there in 2000 and began working in a doctor’s office

“My family wants to make sure I do something,” Kyle said before leaving office, “because it’s been an active life. They say, ‘Don’t come down here and sit. You’ll go nuts.’ It’s wide open what I could do. I don’t want to necessarily end up as a greeter at Wal-Mart, and I don’t want to do 60-hour work weeks anymore. But I want something that will keep me busy.” As it turned out, those 60-hour weeks didn’t necessarily go away.

He began volunteering for the local police department, became a prison chaplain, and later joined the staff of Edgewater Alliance Church.

As of June 2014, he was overseeing a reentry program for 292 inmates at Tomoka State Prison in Daytona Beach. He wrote, “I work 55 hours a week at the prison and love my work among so many inmates on whom others have given up hope.” He was also serving two days a week as pastor of Visitation and Member Care at his church.

“I’m 76 now and enjoying life as much as ever!”