Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of Global Ministries

Another team is headed to the Mattru UBC Hospital in Sierra Leone today. The team will be there from February 10-29 and will be comprised of both medical and technical volunteers.

Our travelers include: Ray Proud, Hope Grube, Michael Seigel, Nick Pranger, Sharon McDonald, Dr. James Myers, Dr. Jonathan Steen, Dr. Alyssa Welch and her husband, Joe Welch. Dr. Richard Toupin planned to accompany the team but could not for health reasons. However, Dr. Ron Baker, who just returned from Sierra Leone in mid-January, has agreed to join up with the team early next week.

Be praying for the team as they address a number of repair and facility issues, offer medical care in the absence of a doctor, and make visits in the community to conduct and train others to do Discovery Bible Studies.

If you are looking for an opportunity to serve alongside the international church, then consider being a part of this short term mission trip to the heart of Mexico. During our time there we will participate in ministry projects associated with United Brethren churches in and around the city of Queretaro, Mexico, including children’s ministry programs. Come explore the possibility of developing your own ministry partnership between your home church and a United Brethren church in Mexico.


Dates: June 2-11, 2017
Cost: $1200 per person (includes airfare, lodging, ground transportation in Mexico, meals, and materials for the ministry projects)
Team size: Limited to 20 people.
Application Due Date: February 15, 2017.

Other Things to Know

  • Available to people from all United Brethren churches in the United States.
  • Must be 16 years old or older to participate.
  • Pre- and post-trip meetings will be held online and in person.
  • Speaking Spanish is helpful but is NOT a requirement.

For more information, call Bobby Culler at (717) 264-8414 ext. 204 or email at: Visit the Global Ministries website.

Materials at the FAME warehouse.

Materials at the FAME warehouse.

On January 26, Global Ministries staffers went to Indianapolis to pick up over $18,000 worth of medical equipment and supplies for Mattru Hospital. It all came from FAME (Fellowship of Associates in Medical Evangelism), an organization that receives medical, dental, and other healthcare supplies from generous donors and channels everything to mission hospitals and medical missionaries.

The same day, Global Ministries received $5000 in medical supplies from DeKalb Memorial Hospital of Auburn, Ind. Dr. Richard Toupin, a former UB doctor at Mattru, works at that hospital. He and his wife, Cathy, will lead a medical team to Mattru in February.

Global Ministries did an inventory and created a shipping list of all items, and then delivered everything to West African Education and Medical Mission for shipment to Sierra Leone. Directors Drs. Karen and Tom Asher generously offered us 20 feet of space in a 40-foot shipping container they are sending to Sierra Leone this month.


The funeral for Evelyn Baker–former UB missionary in Sierra Leone and First Lady of Huntington University–was held Saturday, January 28. (Full obituary.) The funeral was held at College Park UB church in Huntington, Ind.

While serving as missionaries in Sierra Leone during the 1950s, DeWitt and Evelyn started Centennial Secondary School in Mattru, the country’s first United Brethren high school (read more about Centennial’s beginning). At the funeral, a delegation of alumni from Centennial, who now live in the States, traveled through the night from the east coast.

They blessed the funeral service with two songs. The first was sung in the Mende tribal language spoken in that part of the country. For that song, they invited DeWitt and Evelyn’s son Ron, who is fluent in Mende, to sing with them.

Rev. Gonzalo Alas (right) is the new superintendent of Honduras Conference. He was elected on January 21 during the conference’s annual meeting.

We now have over 115 United Brethren churches in Honduras, mostly in the northern part of the country around San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba (the nation’s second, and third-largest cities). La Ceiba has been the conference headquarters throughout its history.

In 2007, Honduras sent Rev. Alas to start a church planting movement in El Salvador. He had previously started churches in the Copán region of Honduras, where previously there were no UB churches. When he left El Copán to go to El Salvador, 13 established churches and five church plants were functioning.

He takes the place of Juanita Chavez (right), who had served two terms as superintendent, beginning in 2009. Under her leadership, Honduras Conference was instrumental in establishing a church-based leadership training program called ETBIL (Educación Teológica Basada en la Iglesia Local). It has become a model for all of our Central American churches. The conference also approved Milton and Erika Pacheco as their missionaries to Thailand.

You can pray for:

  • Rev. Alas, his wife, Gladys, and family as they transition back to Honduras.
  • The five church plants and their leaders in El Salvador, whom Rev. Alas faithfully mentored and trained.
  • Rev. Juanita Chavez and her husband, Carlos, who have been faithful and committed servants of the Lord over the past eight years.

Jeff Bleijerveld (right), Director of Global Ministries

The following email was received Friday morning, January 13. Director Bleijerveld and associate director Michelle Harris are at Mattru Hospital in Sierra Leone with a ten-person medical team. They return to the US tomorrow, January 14. 

This morning the doctors are making their last rounds before we begin the trip back to Freetown. We’ll stay there overnight, and then begin the trip home with a layover in France.

Since I last wrote you, two babies were successfully delivered–one naturally, the other by c-section. We’ve also continued to receive new patients, and a variety of procedures have been performed. We are sad to report that one of the three babies admitted with cerebral malaria passed away the first night, but the other two are recovering.

Just this morning a set of twin babies with club feet were brought to the hospital. We’ve been in touch with the Ministry of Health to determine whether there is an orthopedic surgeon in the country able to perform the corrective surgery.

I am happy to report that the first installment of funding from a major donor has been received. Additional funds will come from another foundation, and Global Ministries will be contributing $50,000. The entire project will cost $430,000 but will benefit the hospital with new income from the sale of surplus power to the community and from small businesses they’ll operate at the hospital, like the water purification/packaging project.

In the meanwhile we continue to assist the hospital in paying staff salaries. With the focus on fundraising for the solar project, donors have decreased their giving normal giving toward the salary support project. As a result we left the hospital this morning having left salaries for November and December still unpaid. We nearly have enough to pay November, but lack some $4000 to pay for December.

Begin praying for the next team that will be in the country during the last two weeks of February. It includes a medical team and a technical team.

Jeff Bleijerveld (right), Director of Global Ministries

The following email was received Wednesday morning, January 11. Director Bleijerveld and associate director Michelle Harris are at Mattru Hospital in Sierra Leone with a medical team which will return on January 14. 

Our time in Sierra Leone is running down but the patients are increasing, especially since we were interviewed on the radio.

With the increase in patients, we have also dealt with some challenging needs. Three children under two were admitted with cerebral malaria. This morning one of them passed away. Continue to pray for the other two. We have also had three women admitted with cervical cancer. All three are terminal. Nothing can be done by the doctors to change their diagnosis. As Dr. Ron Baker always reminds us, “We treat, but it is God who heals.”

Micheal, who had major surgery, is doing better. So are a number of other patients who have had a variety of procedures, including a successful c-section and two hernia repairs. A molar pregnancy and DNC will take place today.

We have meetings with Bishop John Pessima and the hospital board later this day. There are some important, yet delicate issues to deal with. We’d appreciate your prayers.

Tomorrow, a group will be doing a medical clinic in Madena where Francis Mustafa and his wife, Bobbi, have started an elementary school with 400 students. Francis is from Sierra Leone, but taught high school biology in Indiana for many years. In fact, he was recognized as Teacher of the Year in Indiana some 15 years ago. The group will also visit the missionary cemetery in Gbangbaia where Dr. Ron Baker’s eight-year-old brother was laid to rest following a boating accident. Also buried there are many other missionaries who succumbed to a variety of diseases as young adults.

Yesterday we signed a contract with Daniel Kamara. He will be the new business manager at the hospital and will help us stay on track with the new income from the solar and water projects. He will be moving here with his wife and daughter and get started on January 30.

The team is healthy (aside from itchy bug bites) and sleeping relatively well. Unity has been great, and our interactions with the leadership and staff have been very encouraging. However, the pressing needs and sorrow many of the patients deal with on a daily basis weighs heavy on our hearts. Pray with us that our work today and in the future might be effective and seasoned liberally with God’s love and mercy.

Read Jeff’s earlier report from January 6.

Jeff Bleijerveld (right) Director of Global Ministries

Jeff is part of a 10-person team, mostly medical personnel, which is spending January 2-14 in Sierra Leone. He sent this report on Friday, January 6.

We made a number of important visits on our way to the Mattru Hospital, including the Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer in Freetown. In Mattru, we also met with the paramount chief and regional health directors.

Michelle and I have been in multiple meetings with hospital and conference leadership. We have also been asked to audit the hospital’s books for 2016 with the help of Matt Milich, an investment banker. Matt’s wife is one of the doctors, so it has been fun to see how God created a project here that’s perfectly suited to his gifts. The audit is going to take a few days and may include a number of recommendations. We also plan to meet the new business manager, Daniel Kamara. He is coming on staff as part of the solar and water projects. He has business accounting and finance education and has had excellent experience serving with the United Methodist Church.

Dr. Ron Baker’s mother, Evelyn, is in hospice and his wife, Jane, was hospitalized with influenza A. Jane is doing much better; his mother remains the same. Ron is recovering from bronchitis and is fine during most of the day, but coughs a lot during the night.

Yesterday a patient named Michael had surgery. He had a acute abdominal pain, infection and swelling and needed immediate surgery. He has come through the surgery well.

We have also connected with Francis and Bobbi Mustafa. They operate a 400 student grade 1-6 school in Francis’ hometown. We’ll send a small team to do a medical clinic there next Thursday.

At the end of the day, yesterday we went for a swim in the Jong River. It has a lovely sand bottom and clear water. It was one of Ron’s favorite things to do growing up. He can still swim across the river and back–even while recovering from bronchitis.

Thanks for your prayers. All are doing well. God is providing many opportunities to meet people, pray for patients, and share the gospel.

On Monday, January 2, a team left for Sierra Leone. It’s mostly a medical team which will work at Mattru Hospital. They will return January 14.

The travelers include two persons from Global Ministries, director Jeff Bleijerveld and associate director Michelle Harris (right). We are beginning a major and very exciting initiative at Mattru Hospital. Part of Michelle’s responsibilities include overseeing the missionary personnel we will be assigning to the hospital beginning early this year. This is Michelle’s first visit to Sierra Leone, though she lived ten years in the African nation of Gabon.

They are joined by a team of medical volunteers led by Dr. Ron Baker, who served at Mattru 1974-1990. The other team members include:

  • Dr. Dan and Elaine (RN) Metzger, who served at Mattru during the 1980s.
  • Dr. Ian and Laura Jackson and Esther (their 10 month old baby).
  • Dr. Kim Stillman, a third-year ER resident, and her husband Matt Millich (MBA).
  • Brooke Snyder, a nursing student.

Jeff and Michelle will help the medical team in whatever way they can. They will also meet with our national leaders to discuss several exciting projects, including the installation at Mattru Hospital of a solar electricity system and a water filtration system.

Information about these projects, and about several medical and other personnel who will soon join our team at Mattru, will be coming soon.

UB endorsed missionary Dave Datema (right) transitioned out of his role as one of three General Directors for Frontier Ventures, effective January 1. He will remain with Frontier Ventures in Pasadena, Calif., and with the US Center for World Mission, but will change roles. Here is his explanation.

“There are several reasons why I think it is time for me to step down from the Office of the General Director. The first reason is that I never planned on being GD for a long time. Back in 2009 when Dr. Ralph Winter asked me about taking the role, I saw that his health was rapidly declining and that the organization needed somebody to take the reins. I did so thinking that my role would be transitional, not knowing how long that transition might be. Now, seven and a half years later, it seems that I have been in this role much longer than any transition might necessitate. It was never my intention to be a lifelong General Director.

“The second reason is that I have increasingly recognized that my life-giving interests were more in the area of missiology than organizational development. I didn’t know in 2009 that so much of this role would cater to the latter not the former. Over the years, I have had many experiences, good and bad, that tested my mettle as an organizational leader. I’ve come to realize that my best contribution to Frontier Ventures is not the same as what some long for in an organizational leader.

“The third reason is that spending so much time on the organizational side has depleted my energy reserves. My zeal for it has slowly eroded. Years of living in a world of planning, org chart shuffling, dealing with personnel issues, real estate management and endless policies and procedures have taken their toll on my general well-being. As a wise man once said, ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’

“I now look forward to my new assignment and future. First, I hope to get our campus collaboration onto firm footing for a new season of ministry together. Second, I am looking forward to diving into a full-time ThM Program at Fuller in June, possibly leading to PhD work. Ironically, pursuing doctoral-level work was one of the main reasons we came here 17 years ago. Yet the road we travel rarely goes in a straight line. I’m trusting that God has been in the twists and turns and that being on this road again is part of his plan for me. Someone once said, ‘There is no knowing. But walking makes the road.’ It is in that spirit that I move forward, still part of this community, but in a different role. I covet your prayers.”