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Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

Twenty-five leaders from United Brethren churches are gathered together this week in Masaya, Nicaragua. They have come from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

The focus of our time is to become acquainted with the ministry of ETBIL (Educación Teológica Basado en la Iglesia Local). For the past two years, Felix Zaldivar and Celso Midence, regional trainers for Central America, have been working to implement this ministry in Honduras.

The ministry is focused on developing and multiplying disciples and leaders within the local church. This “in-service” approach is based on 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” This methodology used by Jesus and the early church contributed to the rapid expansion of the church.

This is the first time we have gathered all of our Hispanic leaders for a retreat of this nature. Pray that God will help us embrace the challenge to make and multiply disciples and develop the leaders needed to expand the ministry of the church throughout the world—from “Latin America” to the ends of the earth.

Rev. Randy and Chrystal Carpenter (left) and other workers.

L-r: Rev. Randy and Chrystal Carpenter (left), Dwight Kuntz (right), and other workers.

The York Town UB church

The York Town UB church

Working on the York Town roof.

Working on the York Town roof.

After ten-and-a-half years, the roof at York Town UB church in Jamaica is getting replaced. In 2004, a hurricane took the roof off the education building, and it has been exposed to the weather ever since. The destruction went far beyond the roof, as the inside of the building also sustained a lot of damage. After some minor repairs to the structure, a good cleaning, a new paint job, and a lot of new fixtures, the inside will once again be usable.

The congregation at York Town has done a lot of hard work and fundraising to get back on their feet, but this has not been easy. In came help from the Sunfield United Brethren Church from Sunfield, Mich. Together, they saw the forms for the roof of the building go up last week. The new cement roof was poured Monday, March 9, once again shielding the building from the weather and thieves.

Help is still needed to restore the inside of the building, but it can now be done, and the building will slowly be put back into use.

The congregation praises God for his faithfulness and the help of the Sunfield church. A big thank you to Rev. Randy and Chrystal Carpenter , along with Jim Steward from the Sunfield Church; Martha Hanley from the Eden UB church (Mason, Mich.); Troy Howell from the Salem UB church in Jamaica; and Rev. Dwight Kuntz for investing their time and labor to see this project through this first stage.

Roger Reeck, UB endorsed missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators, underwent ankle replacement surgery on February 17. On March 4, Roger sent this update.

“I praise the Lord for you and for your prayers on my behalf. On Monday, I had my cast and stitches removed and am now in a boot and allowed a small amount of weight bearing. Everything has healed well, and xrays show that the alignment of the ankle replacement is right on! There is quite a bit of pain.

“On Thursday, March 5, we will travel to Tucson, Ariz., where we will stay for a few weeks. The trip involves small planes and climbing steps, which might be a challenge.”

Roger Reeck underwent ankle replacement surgery on Tuesday, February 17, in Medford, Oregon. Marilyn writes, “Roger came thru the operation fine. The doctor is pleased especially because he was able to correctly align the ankle. Roger will be in the hospital for another 36 hours as they seek to control the pain level. Roger is in good spirits.” Roger added that the pain right now is “bearable.” Roger and Marilyn are career missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and come under the Global Ministries umbrella as UB endorsed missionaries.

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Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

January saw a significant decline in the number of new cases of Ebola being reported throughout West Africa. Nearly a year since the original outbreak in Guinea, the World Health Organization reports that some 9,252 have died of the deadly disease (as of February 10, 2015). The vast majority of these have taken place in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Sierra Leone has the highest number of reported cases, 10,987, with 3,363 deaths (about 500 less than Liberia).

Country Cases Deaths
Guinea 3,081 2,032
Liberia 8,931 3,858
Sierra Leone 10,987 3,363
Totals 22,999 9,252

On January 30 we received this report from Rev. Justin Marva, conference administrator for Sierra Leone National Conference.

“We thank God that the health situation out here has improved. Most regions except for the north and west do not have cases of Ebola for the past three weeks. However, we don’t want to be complacent, so we are still maintaining the health rules. Schools are still closed and all public gathering banned. However, there are still church services and people are now allowed to travel. We hope everything will be alright by April as we expect schools to reopen soon. We are doing fine. Keep praying for us.”

The three shipments of medical and relief supplies have all been received and are being distributed. The pallet of rice, beans, and other various food items gathered by UB churches and packed by the Cochranton United Brethren Church in Pennsylvania, is being distributed by conference leadership.

The 20-foot container gathered by numerous UB churches and others in the Eastern US also arrived and is being distributed through the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone. This same organization is also handling the distribution of the 40-foot container filled with nearly $400,000 worth of medical supplies. We did not gather those supplies, but we provided the $14,000 needed to ship the container.

Bishop John Pessima (center) and other workers with newly-arrived boxes of relief supplies.

Bishop John Pessima (center) and other workers with newly-arrived boxes of relief supplies.

Unloading supplies sent for Ebola relief.

Unloading supplies sent for Ebola relief.

Bishop John Pessima (right) and others with supplies sent to Mattru Hospital by UBs in Berlin.

UB workers with supplies sent to Mattru Hospital by UBs in Berlin.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

Rev. John Pessima, bishop of Sierra Leone National Conference, reports that the distribution of items gathered by United Brethren churches in the Eastern United States has gained the attention of local and national radio, TV, and print media. With the assistance of the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone (CHASL), 50% of the items are being sent to the western region, 20% to the north, and the remaining 25% to the south. CHASL has also been instrumental in clearing the containers with port authorities, including the container that delivered the pallet of food items and the 40-foot container of medical supplies we had the privilege of underwriting.

In addition, Ebola relief supplies have come from the United Brethren church in Berlin, Germany, which consists largely of immigrants from Sierra Leone. Dr. Ladipol of the Berlin congregation has spearheaded efforts to provide for Ebola relief, including for our own Mattru Hospital.

Continue to pray for the complete eradication of Ebola. According to the Associated Press, a quarantine was imposed in a fishing district of the capital city, Freetown, after at least five new Ebola cases were confirmed there, an official said on February 14.

The report said Sierra Leone has seen nearly 11,000 confirmed, probable, and suspected Ebola cases during the worst Ebola outbreak in history. That’s the most of any country, according to the World Health Organization. Despite a drop in cases, transmission in Sierra Leone remains widespread, with 76 new cases confirmed in the previous week, according to WHO.

 

Roger and Marilyn Reeck (right) are UB endorsed missionaries in Honduras. They serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Roger has had continuing ankle problems for several years. Here is an update received on February 13.

It is wonderful and comforting to have such a great group of caring, prayerful people that we can approach at this time.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). This verse has become a reality in our lives over the last months.

Roger and I leave from Honduras for Medford, Oregon this Saturday, February 14. On Tuesday, February 17, Roger will undergo a total ankle replacement. The main requests are: good pain control, good healing (no infection), and protection from blood clots since Roger has a prior history.

The effectiveness of this operation will determine our contributions in the future. We rely on God’s promises.These are some of the things that are causing us to be hopeful and grateful:

  1. The Lord’s provision in all areas.
  2. A Christian doctor who commits everything to prayer and recognizes that he is an instrument of God.
  3. Housing in Medford: Dr. Owen, the orthopedic surgeon and his wife have graciously offered to host us in their home for the two weeks after the operation.
  4. A great place to stay during the recuperation period. After Medford, we will spend several weeks at the Wycliffe center in Tucson.

The basketball world is mourning the death of legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith. There is an interesting, if somewhat obscure, United Brethren connection. UB minister Steve Barber called in with some details.

Rev. Cecil (C. R.) Smith was a former minister in Illinois; the churches he pastored included the Manlius, Coleta, and Mt. Carroll UB churches. On the side, he coached high school basketball. Dean Smith was his nephew (his brother’s son). As Steve Barber said, it’s easy to imagine that somewhere along the line, Dean Smith showed up at a United Brethren church to hear his uncle preach.

Rev. Smith had two daughters, both of whom became United Brethren missionaries. They would be first cousins to Dean Smith. Leora (Smith) Ackerman and her husband, Don, spent 11 years as missionaries in Honduras, 1947-1958. Juanita (Smith) Guenzler was a UB missionary nurse in Sierra Leone, 1950-1965. So at some family gatherings, perhaps Dean Smith received some spiritual inspiration from hearing stories about his cousins serving Christ in distant lands.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

Global Ministries, through its partnership in with International Needs, is now working on Turkey’s border, where refugees are flooding in from Syria and Iraq. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees counts over 1.6 million refugees (and growing) now living in Turkey. Most are from Syria. Half of them are children.

We invite you to help support these efforts.

The Islamic State (ISIS) and fighting in Syria has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes. Now they are trying to survive in camps amidst snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Christians are meeting the refugees in their despair, providing hope found in Christ alone.

Behnan Knotgun, director of International Needs Turkey, is with refugees handing out warm clothing, blankets, and firewood for cooking and heating. He reports that the needs are great. Although Turkey is predominantly Muslim and the nation’s evangelical church is very small, he says, “They have done marvelous things for the refugees. They are welcomed by the local authorities. They respect the churches, and they welcome us very well.”

Konutgan says many refugees were stuck in the mountains without food or water. The stories from the mountains are horrible. One woman told Konutgan that some women, not wanting to see their children suffer, threw them off the mountains to their death.

Another woman told him that she gave her daughters to a Saudi man and gave him $50. He said he would take care of them until the conflict ended. She hasn’t heard from the man and believes her daughters were kidnapped.

Konutgan says the refugees want to know about Jesus. And in the midst of tragedy, God is working. “They hear the Bible, so this is a good opportunity for the Gospel. I’m sure they will come to Christ Jesus. There are thousands of people among them who secretly say they love Jesus.”

To help with refugee support, you can send contributions to Global Ministries. Contributions will then be forwarded to International Needs.

Global Ministries
302 Lake Street
Huntington, IN 46750

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At the Honduras Conference waterpark.

At the Honduras Conference waterpark.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

Honduran National Conference is working hard to develop numerous sources of income for church planting, pastoral assistance, and missions. With very limited resources, they have found it necessary to be creative and ingenious. The new waterpark at the conference retreat center is just one example.

The property lies on the coastal highway just outside the city of La Ceiba. It was purchased fifteen years ago. Since that time, a traditional pool and some picnic shelters were built. However, the long-range plan after completing the waterpark is to build a sports complex, a conference center for business meetings and receptions, and a small hotel and bungalows for snow birds. They are targeting local schools, municipal programs, and local businesses. But they would also market to tourists.

I had the opportunity to tour the center on January 15. They’ve made a great start as the project moves one stage at a time. They don’t overlook a single opportunity to turn a profit, including the sale of fruit that grows on the property.

If you’d like to know more about this project, contact us at info@ubglobal.org.