Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

On August 4, 1942, Clarence Carlson boarded an Egyptian cargo ship in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to begin the journey back to the United States. War was on, and German submarines roamed the Atlantic Ocean. Two years before, when he sailed for Africa, the US was not in the war; it was still dangerous, but Americans were not targets. Now they were.

Carlson had already spent nearly 12 years in Sierra Leone. He and his wife, Erma, and two children left in 1938; Erma and both children were sick, but especially Erma–it would take her several months to recover. Back in the States, they were well aware of the need for leadership in Sierra Leone. They prayed about it for severa months, and finally decided there was only one thing to do. Clarence would return to Sierra Leone by himself.

Carlson wrote in the Missionary Monthly publication, “It is not easy to look forward to the separation of our family, but on the other hand, we could not be happy with this burden on our hearts. We shall both be happy in the knowledge that we are obeying what we believe to be the will of God for us.”

Dr. Leslie and Carolyn Huntley, who were stationed at Gbangbaia, later said of Carlson, “He was so gentle and genuine in his love and concern for all….He loved people, especially his wife and family, but he was a true Christian leader for our African workers.”

After two years, it was time to leave. The only other passenger on that Egyptian cargo ship was a correspondent with the International News Service. They slept in their clothes, with the cabin doors open and life preservers handy. They had an escort for the first two days, but then the ship was on its own. Upon reaching Trinidad in the West Indies, they joined a convoy for the rest of the journey to New York City, arriving on September 12.

Two of Floy Mulkey's missionary photos.

Two of Floy Mulkey’s missionary photos.

On August 3, 1970, Floy Mulkey finished her fifth and final term as a missionary in Sierra Leone. A Huntington College graduate, Floy spent 19 years, 1951-1970, teaching in our high schools and serving in the Sierra Leone national office.

Floy entered missionary service the same year as Bethel Mote, who served in Sierra Leone 1951-1973 (one more term than Floy). They traveled together a number of times, prompting Missions Director George Fleming to describe them as “twins.”

Floy Mulkey passed away January 21, 1996, in her hometown of Philomath, Oregon.

Clockwise from upper left: Archie Cameron. Archie and Maisy Cameron (on the ends) with their daughters and Hondurans. Archie with members of the Bethel Band, which he founded and led. Archie preaching in 1997. Archie playing the accordion--one of many instruments he played--to accompany some Honduran girls. Archie and Maisy.

Clockwise from upper left: Archie Cameron. Archie and Maisy Cameron (on the ends) with their daughters and Hondurans. Archie with members of the Bethel Band, which he founded and led. Archie preaching in 1997. Archie playing the accordion–one of many instruments he played–to accompany some Honduran girls. Archie and Maisy.

On July 31, 1952, a ship docked in La Ceiba, Honduras, with five Canadians aboard: Archie and Maisy Cameron and their three daughters. Immigration and customs red tape forced them to spend their first night in Honduras aboard the ship. They could only stand on the deck and catch a limited glimpse of this city which would become their home for more years than any of them imagined.

Archie’s father was born in Scotland, but immigrated to Canada. A return visit to Scotland proved ill-timed: World War I broke out, and the family was stranded in Glasgow for the duration. It was there, in 1917, that Archie was born. After the war, they returned to Toronto.

Archie grew up, was married, and became a Christian in a Presbyterian church in Toronto. He became Baptist for a while, and then began working with a classmate at Toronto Bible College who was pastoring a United Brethren church in Toronto. After graduating, Archie was assigned to three UB churches on the Niagara circuit–Sherkston, Stevensville, and Garrison Road–but all the while felt God calling him to missionary service in Africa.

Archie and Maisy interviewed with the UB Mission board, and were redirected to Honduras. Archie realized God had called him to the world, not specifically to Africa. So Honduras it would be…as it turned out, for the rest of his life.

We had become involved in Honduras in 1944, assuming oversight of five churches along the north coast. These English-speaking congregations consisted primarily of immigrants from Caribbean islands. We had sent missionaries to teach in the mission school. Don and Leora Ackerman and Betty Brown met the Camerons at the dock on August 1.

In 1953, the English churches got upset about our stand on secret societies and parted company. But by then, Archie had begun working among the majority Spanish population. They now commanded Archie’s full attention. He soon founded the Bethel UB church in Honduras, and it became the launching pad for much of the UB work which exists today in Honduras.

Archie, along with family members and laypersons from Bethel, conducted evangelistic meetings in villages throughout northern Honduras. People were won to Christ, and churches arose in those villages. Often, Archie and his group were the first evangelical witness in those villages.

Honduras Conference was officially organized in 1956, and Archie remained its leader until 1986, when he retired. Today, Honduras Conference has 110 churches and church plants and over 5000 members. The work which started in Honduras has now spread to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Archie and Maisy Cameron continued living in Honduras. Maisy passed away in 2003, and Archie died two years later at age 87. Physically, Archie Cameron was a small man. But the impact of his life makes Archie Cameron one of the United Brethren giants of the 20th Century.

Jeff and Joan Sherlock and children (left) with the Luke and Audrey Fetters (middle) and Phil and Darlene Burkett families.

Jeff and Joan Sherlock and children (left) with the Luke and Audrey Fetters (middle) and Phil and Darlene Burkett families.

On July 28, 1990, the Sherlock family left for Macau. They thought it would be for four years.

Jeff and Joan Sherlock met at Camp Scioto, the Central Conference camp near Junction City, Ohio. Joan traveled that summer with a Huntington College singing group which ministered at Camp Scioto. Jeff, like just about everyone in his family, worked at the camp. A long-distance courtship began, and Jeff and Joan were married in July l979.

They set up home in southern Ohio, became active in the Avlon UB church in Bremen, and brought three children into the world. For 12 years, Jeff worked for a large printing company, progressing from job estimating to quality control to sales. While working fulltime, he earned a Business degree and a masters in Business Administration from Ohio University.

In 1989, as he approached the end of the MBA program, Jeff began praying about doing something more significant with his life. He said, “I was doing my job very successfully and would have become quite well off. But no matter how efficiently I made catalog inserts, there was no eternal significance. In the long term, I had nothing to gain except money.”

Then along came the Missions Impact newsletter, with an ad seeking a new missionary couple for Macau—specifically, someone with business skills. It ran for several months, and each month Jeff would think, Hmmm, they haven’t found anyone yet.

In March 1990, the Sherlocks went to Huntington, Ind., for an interview with the UB mission staff. The Board of Missions would meet March 23 to make any official appointment. But Jeff also interviewed for a teaching position at Huntington College, something he had long desired. The interview went very well. And yet, it didn’t seem right to him. Macau beckoned.

As they left the college, Jeff asked his wife, “How do you feel about this?”

He thought he knew Joan’s answer. It was a choice between living close to Joan’s family, or going to the other side of the world. A choice between the familiar and the unknown. He knew her desires, and he knew her fears. But Joan surprised him.

“I just don’t think Huntington is where we’re supposed to be right now,” she said.

And so, they sold everything and left behind their life in southern Ohio, and began ministering alongside the Fetters and Burkett families and their Chinese coworkers. Half of Jeff’s job description involved teaching in the English Language Program, and half involved finance—business manager of the mission, and treasurer of Living Water Church and the ELP.

Even before arriving in Macau, Jeff felt his financial duties should be turned over to a national. This was especially important since China would take control of Macau in 1999, and nobody knew if missionaries would still be welcome. So Jeff resolved, during his four years in Macau, to train at least one local person to handle the finances.

As it turned out, three of the first eleven members of Living Water Church were experienced in bookkeeping and finance, and the ELP’s newly-hired administrative assistant had worked ten years as assistant manager of a trading company. Jeff quickly realized finances could be turned over much sooner.

The Macau missionaries had been asking the Board of Missions for more teachers so that the pastors, Luke Fetters and Phil Burkett, could do more actual pastoring. Huntington’s response: great idea, but no money.

Jeff raised the idea of replacing his family of five with several single missionaries. As a result, by February 1993, three single missionaries were in Macau, enabling the ministry to expand in some new directions. That story was told on July 23.

The Sherlocks left Macau in December 1992, shortly after the Fetters family returned from furlough. In the words of Luke Fetters, they “accomplished more in two-and-a-half years than anyone could have expected.”

Pastor Alimamy Sesay (left) and Adama Thorlie, representatives to the 2017 General Conference in Chambersburg, Pa.

Pastor Alimamy Sesay (left) and Adama Thorlie, representatives to the 2017 General Conference in Chambersburg, Pa.

In 2006, Germany joined the ranks of countries with United Brethren churches. It represented a full circle of sorts.

William Otterbein, one of our founders, came to America as a missionary from Germany, and the early United Brethren were mostly German-speaking people. When we began venturing into foreign missions in the mid-1800s, we started with Sierra Leone in 1855. But a lot of German delegates lobbied for their home country, and the 1869 General Conference consented. In October 1869—we moved quickly back then—Rev. and Mrs. C. Bischoff of Zanesville, Ohio, sailed for Europe to begin ministering in Bavaria.

By the spring of 1870, the Bischoffs reported that 72 persons had joined the church.
In 1879, a German mission district was organized with six missionaries, 235 members, and 34 preaching points. All of which stayed with the “other” United Brethren group after we split off in 1889.

Our group eventually made it back to Germany. However, we took a very unusual route, going through that original mission field, Sierra Leone.

On July 27, 1997, an independent church started in Berlin with eleven members from Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, and United Brethren backgrounds. The church targeted the many African immigrants in Berlin, especially those who had fled the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In November 2000, the congregation began worshiping at the Magdalene church in Neukölln, a borough in the southeastern part of Berlin in what was once the American sector. Forty percent of Neukölln’s residents were foreign-born, the largest constituencies being Turkish, Arab, and Kurdish, with a much smaller number of people of African background.

The growing congregation recognized the need for a pastor. Along came a Sierra Leonean named Peter Sorie Mansaray, who became the pastor in November 2003. He had just completed two years of theological studies at the Academy of Missions at the University of Hamburg.

After nine years of existence the church, which consisted mostly of United Brethren immigrants from Sierra Leone, felt led to become part of the worldwide United Brethren in Christ Church. So in September 2006, Pastor Mansaray flew to Africa to attend the annual meeting of Sierra Leone Conference. He presented their desire, and the conference accepted the Berlin church as a mission district of Sierra Leone Conference.

“This meant that we had given up our independence, accepted the doctrines and teachings of the United Brethren, and were now directly answerable to the Bishop of the Sierra Leone Conference,” stated the website.

In July 2007, Bishop Billy Simbo of Sierra Leone traveled to Germany to lead the culminating service of the church’s tenth anniversary.

According to the church’s website, “The UBC Berlin is an English-speaking community. However, we are moving in the direction of having bilingual services due to an increase of and desire of opening our church to German natives.” Most members of the church had lived in Germany for over ten years and knew the German language well. Their children, having been born in Germany, spoke perfect German and English, and sometimes the African tribal language of their parents.

Earlier this month, Germany was represented for the first time at General Conference, the international gathering. The current pastor, Alimamy Sesay, and a lay woman named Adama Thorlie, a Sierra Leonean who has been with the church since it started, attended the US National Conference July 12-15 and then the General Conference on July 16-17 in Chambersburg, Pa.

Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

Erma Burton grew up in a United Brethren pastor’s home, the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. James Burton. While attending Huntington College, she dated a guy named Clarence Carlson. He had started at HC in 1924, but the next spring dropped out and headed to Sierra Leone as a missionary.

Despite the separation, the relationship continued. Clarence and Erma became engaged in 1927, while he was still in Sierra Leone. But it turned out to be a long engagement.

Carlson returned to the States in 1928 and continued his interrupted studies at Huntington College, while also pastoring College Park UB church. But in 1931, education again got trumped by needs in Africa—in this case, a replacement for the departing field superintendent, George Fleming. Carlson was ordained on September 27, 1931, and shortly thereafter left for Africa.

Meanwhile, Erma had graduated from Huntington College. During a special service at College Park church, she was among five students who committed themselves to fulltime missionary service and and who would eventually serve in Sierra Leone: Martha Anna Bard, Mary (Bergdall) Huntley and Leslie Huntley, Emma Hyer, and Charles Saufley. Martha Bard and Clarence Carlson actually traveled together to Sierra Leone in October 1931.

Erma spent four years teaching school. Then the Board of Missions sent out an urgent appeal: they needed a woman missionary to become principal of the Minnie Mull School for Girls in Bonthe, Sierra Leone. Erma applied and was accepted.

Erma arrived in Sierra Leone on June 25, 1932. Clarence met her at the dock in Freetown. The next day, June 26, they were married there in Freetown (a minister from the “liberal” United Brethren church performed the ceremony). Carlson hired an African goldsmith to fashion her wedding band from a five-dollar gold piece which he had saved just for that purpose. After honeymooning for a few days in Freetown, they traveled to Bonthe to begin their assignments as a married couple.

Clarence and Erma served together for two terms—he as field superintendent, she as principal at Minnie Mull (Martha Bard was a teacher there). A daughter was born during their furlough in 1935. Back in Africa, a son was born, but Erma became ill and they were forced to return to the States early, in 1938.

We’ll continue their story on August 4.

John Jacob Glossbrenner, Bishop 1845-1885.

John Jacob Glossbrenner, Bishop 1845-1885.

John Jacob Glossbrenner was born on July 24, 1812, a few months after the death of Bishop Martin Boehm. He was raised Lutheran, became a Christian at age 17 under the preaching of a Methodist Episcopal minister, and joined the United Brethren church in 1830, the year of Bishop Christian Newcomer’s death.

Glossbrenner was among the church’s second generation of leaders—the Builders, who followed the Founders. Other Builders included Bishops William Hanby, Jonathan Weaver, Lewis Davis, and David Edwards. Glossbrenner would serve 40 years as a bishop, longer than anyone before or since. Historians sometimes describe him as a “model bishop.”

From 1831-1845, Glossbrenner served circuits in Virginia and Maryland. Five men helped buy him his first horse. On February 14, 1833, he married Maria Shuey (yes, they celebrated Valentines Day back then). They were married 51 years and gave birth to six children; one died in infancy, but five daughters grew to adulthood and married.

Glossbrenner was elected as a presiding elder (like a district superintendent) at age 22. Biographer Henry Adams Thompson wrote that, because Glossbrenner started in leadership so young, “Those not acquainted with him began to think of him as much older than he really was.” He was a delegate to General Conference in 1837 and 1841, and in 1845 was elected to the first of ten terms as bishop. All three bishops were rookies that year. Glossbrenner, at age 32, was the youngest.

Glossbrenner remained in Virginia—the South—during the Civil War. He sometimes was asked to preach to rebel soldiers, and though folks expected him to side with the North, he prudently avoided anything partisan. Another UB minister, after Confederate troops were driven out of his area, publicly prayed that they would be defeated. When the South recaptured that territory, he was forced to flee. Henry Adams Thompson wrote, “Mr. Glossbrenner would make no such mistakes as that. He was careful and discrete and had the confidence of both sides.”

Throughout Glossbrenner’s tenure as bishop, only ministers were allowed at General Conference. He became a strong advocate for lay representation—not just at General Conference, but at all other levels. He argued from Scripture and church history that laypersons had long been part of governing bodies. He wrote in the denominational paper, “What do the laity lack to justify their exclusion from our councils? Is it a want of piety, intelligence, or a want of loyalty to the church? Emphatically, no.”

The self-educated Glossbrenner, who as a young minister bought books whenever he had the money, also championed higher education for ministers. Since there were no United Brethren colleges, UBs were attending colleges of other denominations…and not coming back. He described this as “grievous neglect” of the persons God had entrusted to us. He wrote, “The loss of so many cultivated minds and pious hearts is irreparable….We cannot spare our sons to others. We cannot innocently neglect to train them for ourselves.”

Glossbrenner was described in many positive ways. Even-tempered. Calm. Dignified. Kind. Persistent in what he believed to be right. Not easily irritated. Modest. Unassuming. Didn’t seek attention or compliments. Wouldn’t disparage other people. Thompson added:

  • His sermons were “sound, systematic, and aimed at the conscience and heart of the hearer” in a “plain, simple style.”
  • “He sought to win men more by the proclamation of the love side of the Gospel, than by awakening them with its terrors.”
  • “He had a warm interest in the welfare of his itinerant brethren. Their troubles were his troubles, and their success his glory.”
  • In leading meetings, “He was skillful in preventing trouble, as well as in meeting it properly when it came.”

The title “bishop emeritus” was originally created for Glossbrenner. Maria passed away in 1884, and his own declining health made it clear that this would be his last term. The 1885 General Conference debated giving him a complimentary role on the board of bishops, perhaps as “bishop-at-large.” They settled on the emeritus title, which gave him “all the honors and privileges” of the office. He passed away on January 7, 1887.

There were an estimated 25,000 United Brethren when Glossbrenner entered the ministry, and about 250,000 when he died. Bishop Jonathan Weaver, speaking at Glossbrenner’s funeral, remarked:

He grew up with the growth of the church and was always to be found in the front rank of every advance made by the church….Bishop Glossbrenner was always ready for everything that would add potency to the church that he loved so well. If he erred along any of these lines, it was because he loved the church more than his reputation. The one great question with him seemed to be, “Is it right?”

In 1992, two American missionary families served in Macau: the Luke and Audrey Fetters family, and the Jeff and Joan Sherlock family. For several years, the Macau missionaries had been asking the Board of Missions for more teachers, but always got the same response: great idea, but no money.

The Sherlocks were planning to leave the field at the end of 1992. Jeff, a finance and business guy, raised the idea of replacing his family of five with several singles. Three single missionaries would cost just a little bit more than it cost to send the Sherlock family. Bishop Jerry Datema presented the idea to the March 1992 meeting of the Board of Missions. They not only approved the idea at that meeting, but appointed two single women.

On July 23, 1992, Rhonda Fleming (now Mudge) and an unnamed Huntington College classmate, both of whom had graduated in May 1992, arrived in Macau. Jeff Dice, a 1992 HC grad, joined them in February 1993 and served through 1995.

In Macau, various opportunities had been available, but they lacked the staff to pursue them. Not anymore. They launched an English Language Program at a second church planting site, which became the Living Word church. They expanded their role at the large Pui Ching Middle School. And they began teaching conversational English every week at high schools in Zhuhai, right across the border from Macau. Luke had done some teaching in Zhuhai, and saw it as an opportunity to reestablish the United Brethren witness in China which ended in 1952.

Benjamin Hanby

Benjamin Hanby

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.
Up on the House Top
Darling Nelly Gray
Who is He in Yonder Stall

Those are among the 80 songs written by Banjamin Hanby, an ordained United Brethren minister, and the son of UB bishop William Hanby.

Benjamin Hanby was born on July 22, 1833. At age 16, he enrolled in our first college, Otterbein University. He was also involved, with his father, in helping fugitive slaves escape to Canada along the Underground Railroad.

“Darling Nelly Gray,” written in 1856 when Hanby was just 23 years old, became a huge hit across the Northern states, and helped rally sentiment against slavery. It tells the story of a Kentucky slave whose sweetheart was sold to slave-owners in Georgia.

One night I went to see her, but “She’s gone!” the neighbors say.
The white man bound her with his chain;
They have taken her to Georgia for to wear her life away,
As she toils in the cotton and the cane.

Oh! my poor Nelly Gray, they have taken you away,
And I’ll never see my darling any more;
I’m sitting by the river and I’m weeping all the day.
For you’ve gone from the old Kentucky shore.

“Darling Nelly Gray” was based on the true story of Joseph Selby, a runaway slave from Kentucky who stayed in the Hanby home when Benjamin was just nine years old. Selby, on his way to Canada, showed up at the Hanby home with pneumonia, and died there…but not until after having told the story of his “Darling Nelly Gray.”

Benjamin Hanby became an ordained UB minister and pastored a church in New Paris, Ohio. But that was short-lived. He left the ministry to run a singing school in New Paris. In 1865, after his two Christmas songs were published, he moved to Chicago to work with a music publisher. But he died there two years later, at age 34. Makes you wonder how many other memorable songs he might have written.

Jerry and Eleanore Datema and two oldest sons.

Jerry and Eleanore Datema and two oldest sons.

On July 16, 1957, Jerry and Eleanore Datema began their first term as missionaries in Sierra Leone.

Jerry Datema was born December 15, 1924, in Dutton, Mich., near Grand Rapids. He was the fifth of eight children in a close family. He became a Christian at the Dutton UB church in 1947.

At age 20, in 1950, Datema felt the Lord pointing him toward missionary service. No family member, and nobody from his home church, had ever been a missionary. But as he read Scripture and pondered the future, missions always rose to the surface. He wrote in the September 1993 issue of Missions Impact, “After struggling unsuccessfully to convince the Lord He was making a horrible mistake, I surrendered to His will.”

In September 1951, Datema left the family farm and enrolled in Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago. There, he met a Minnesotan named Eleanore. They were married in 1954 and would raise four sons. They set up house in Dutton, where Jerry pastored his home church for three years…but always with his eyes set on missions.

On the same day in June 1957, Jerry Datema was both ordained and commissioned as a missionary. He wrote, “The greatest thrill of my life was that day in 1957 when I knew I was doing the perfect will of God in serving Him on foreign soil. Nothing in my life has ever been as fulfilling.”

A few weeks later, he and Eleanore and two sons arrived in Sierra Leone—he to work at Bumpe Bible Institute, Eleanore, a nurse, to run a medical dispensary. After two terms in Sierra Leone, they served 1964-1968 in Jamaica. Then it was back to Sierra Leone until 1971, when the Datemas began five years pastoring the Maple Hill UB church (now Homefront) in Grandville, Mich. Then, in 1976, it was back to Sierra Leone—this time as Field Secretary, the highest position on the field.

About six weeks before the 1981 General Conference, Datema was contacted by Bishop C. Ray Miller about letting his name appear on the ballot for bishop. He agreed, and a few days after General Conference, was notified of his election.

“We weren’t excited about leaving Sierra Leone,” he said in an interview published in the United Brethren magazine. “Missionary work was extremely fulfilling. I could bury myself in the work in one country, Sierra Leone, and understand it very well. When I became bishop, that suddenly changed. There were a few years when I felt frustrated, because I didn’t understand the cultures of all of these different countries….But that changed over time. And as I became involved with the overseas fields, I became excited about each one.”

Much happened during Datema’s twelve years as Overseas Bishop. Sierra Leone was nationalized many years earlier than expected. We pioneered new work in Macau, and expanded our ministries in India and other countries. We began supporting missionaries with a number of other organizations—in Japan, New Guinea, Greece, the Philippines, Austria, Kenya, Columbia, Russia, and elsewhere. The faith-promise emphasis helped the missions budget pass the $1 million mark for the first time. He dealt with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and helped prepare the Hong Kong church for the 1997 transition to Mainland China. And as he left office, he could only watch as his beloved Sierra Leone descended into war.

We’ll resume Jerry Datema’s story on September 15.