Michelle Harris, associate director of UB Global
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
In September, I traveled to Sierra Leone to visit our Mattru Hospital team. For five days in Mattru, we focused on the work at the hospital. It’s a busy place—for the medical staff as well as our engineering team. The November Worldview newsletter gave a glimpse into the routines of our staff in the article “Three Times a Day.”
Getting the group together at Mattru is a challenge. Someone is always either on call or needed on campus, so though the team meets weekly, a retreat needed to take place elsewhere. So, we traveled up to Freetown where we stayed at a simple, but beautiful place.
There were seven of us. I was joined by Dr. Jon and Heleen Yoder (doctor and nurse), Dr. Richard and Cathy Toupin, nurse Pamela McKee, and Matthew Asher, an engineer working on the solar and water project at Mattru Hospital.
The lodgings were simple—beds with mosquito nets, and fans that used solar power to make it mostly through the night. Showers were mostly a trickle of cool water. Our meeting place was an open area above the restaurant where we arranged our wooden chairs with cushions in a U shape so we all had a view of the water as we talked and sang and prayed.
Our foundation in scripture was Psalm 23 and John 6:35, focusing on Jesus as our very good shepherd, who provides bountifully for us. We grounded our discussion of the challenges of culture shock in wise words from Ajith Fernando, Youth for Christ Director from Sri Lanka. His book, The Call to Joy and Pain, reminded us that suffering in ministry often flows from our commitment to people, and that Paul’s words to the churches are filled with both joy and pain. We worked through the realities of culture shock and tasks for people in their first term of service.
And we rested. Some of us slept in, using the 9:00 am starting time as the beginning of breakfast—omelets or crepes. Others took boats across the bay to have early morning walks on the beach. We worked our way through the menu, comparing dishes like fish and chips, Thai curry, and bruschetta—it was all good. We took advantage of free coffee, served in small white teacups with cream and sugar. Some of us napped in the afternoon, some walked on the beach and swam in the ocean. We took turns on the hammocks and listened to bird calls. We played games and laughed after dinner. We talked and sang and prayed.
Our Shepherd restored our souls.
Betty Ruedger Guenzler, 83, passed away November 19, 2017, in Mount Carroll, Ill. Betty served three terms as a United Brethren missionary nurse at Mattru Hospital in Sierra Leone, 1963-1971.
The funeral service will be held at 11 am on Tuesday, November 28, at the Mount Carroll Church of God, with visitation one hour beforehand.
Betty became a Christian at a young age, and graduated from high school in Mount Carroll, Ill. She entered nursing school in Lansing, Mich., and during her final year sensed God calling her to become a missionary nurse. After graduating, she enrolled at Huntington College to study the Bible. While at HC, she applied for service with the UB mission board.
Mission director George Fleming said her duties during her three terms at Mattru included surgery supervisor, ambulance driver when needed, teaching in the nursing school, bookkeeping, and head nurse. During part of that time, Betty served alongside Juanita Smith, who was also from Mount Carroll (Juanita’s father, Cecil, pastored the Mount Carroll UB church). Juanita served 12 years at Mattru, 1953-1965.
Charles Guenzler and Juanita Smith were married in 1965. After Juanita became ill, Betty Ruedger was among a group of missionary nurses who came to Mt. Carroll to help Charles care for his wife. After Juanita’s death in 1981, Charles and Betty stayed in contact.
Charles and Betty were married on June 8, 1985. They enjoyed 32 years of married. Charles, at age 93, passed away on October 28, 2017. Betty died 22 days later. (Read her obituary notice.)
Matthew Asher has been serving at Mattru Hospital since February 2017. He left his engineering job to become the lead engineer for the solar and water projects at Mattru Hospital. The Sola Wata Water Packaging Center was launched in July, becoming the area’s first center for treating, packaging, and distributing water.
In September, Matt was joined by Lizzy Kolar, a fellow graduate of West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Kolar, a mechanical engineer, is taking a three-month sabbatical from her job with General Electric to work on the business side of the water project–marketing strategies, data management, employee training, work procedures, etc. She will also help Matt install the solar-energy system at Mattru.
Here is a good article about Matt and Lizzy, published by their alma mater.
Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of UB Global
On August 14, catastrophic floods and mudslides hit Freetown, Sierra Leone. We’re grateful for all who responded to our call for assistance. UB Global received $18,692.75 from churches and individuals.
Initially, the government put the death toll at 450. Reverend Bishop Emeritus Arnold Temple, who leads a Methodist church near Regent, said the country is now mourning well over 1,000 victims, some of whom may never be found.
Bishop John Pessima sent these photos from the site where the Church Council of Sierra Leone, a network of Christian churches and relief partners, set up temporary camp from which supplies are being distributed.
Rev. Mrs. Josephine Bankola, Rev. Joseph Farma, and Rev. Sorie Kamanda have been representing the United Brethren at the camp. Rev. Kamanda is there every day while the other two pastors are there three days a week to provide psycho-social care and counseling to the many survivors.
Continue to pray for their efforts and the resettlement of hundreds of families.
UB Global has been working in partnership with the Sierra Leone National Conference to install a solar and water filtration/packaging projects at the Mattru Hospital that will be completed by March 2018. Both projects have technical operations and income generating components that will require specialized training to manage and operate in the future.
UB Global is looking for a person with business operations background to oversee and train local workers to manage these two business ventures. This person will work closely with the the existing business manager and personnel in establishing procedures and protocols and ensuring that they will function satisfactorily after his/her departure. The assignment will last for 6-12 months and could start as early as spring of 2018.
UB Global will work to develop a budget and assist the appropriate candidate to raise support for this position. Matching funds may be available.
If interested, or if you want more information, contact UB Global at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There has been concern that Haiti, where we have many churches, would get brushed by some of Hurricane Irma. Jeff Bleijerveld, director of UB Global, spoke today with Rev. Oliam Richard, our superintendent in Haiti. He said they were rejoicing that the hurricane passed to the north of the country and that there was very little damage.
On August 14, flooding and a landslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone, resulted in the deaths of more than 400 people, and left thousands bereft of shelter, clothing, food, and safe drinking water. The dead include a number of United Brethren people from our churches in Freetown.
Some have been asking what they can do in response to the devastation. Rev. John Pessima, bishop of Sierra Leone Conference, sent the following update.
We have some of our members whose relatives died in the incident. Some bodies were discovered, and some are still missing. The wife of our national men’s ministry president, Mr. Christopher Mattia, is still missing eleven family members. A steward at the Au Memorial United Brethren Church at Kissy, Madam Sia Mannie, lost all three of her children. Hawa Conteh, a nurse at the Mattru Hospital, lost seven of her relatives in the same house. None of these have been found. We are still investigating as the search is ongoing.
All heads of churches were called on by the government to visit the site and agree on what to do as a church. We are to send to our partners and request assistance for our members whose relatives died in this ugly incident. Locally, we have started making appeals in our local churches for used clothing.
On behalf of the conference, I am appealing to United Brethren around the world for assistance in any form for families of the victims, and for the survivors who are still on the streets without food, safe drinking water, shelter, and clothing.
I am attaching pictures I took at the site during the heads of churches visit. Paramount among these is your prayers for our nation. We have suffered a lot, from civil war to Ebola and now landslide and flood. God bless you as you remember us in your prayers.
Donations can be sent through UB Global. Mark a check as “Sierra Leone Relief” and send to:
302 Lake Street
Huntington IN 46750
You can also go here to give online. Select “2-9898 Sierra Leone – Special Projects,” and indicate in the comments box that your gift is for “Sierra Leone Relief.”
We’re excited with the progress being made at the Mattru UBC Hospital in Sierra Leone as our UB Global staff work alongside our national leadership and hospital staff. While struggles and challenges remain, everyone has been pulling together and trusting the Lord for His help. Here are a few ways your gifts and prayers are making a difference.
Matt Asher and his team have rewired the hospital in preparation for solar power. The first of three containers of solar panels has arrived at the port in Freetown and will be cleared and transported down to Mattru in the coming weeks.
The water packaging business, Sola Wata, has opened and is producing pure packaged water. The business is not only a source of healthy water for the district but will be a sustainable source of funding for the hospital.
Numbers of patients at the hospital have increased steadily as people in the district know that quality medical care is being provided. In a live radio interview, hospital staff encouraged people to bring children with suspected malaria right away. With early diagnosis and malaria medications funded by donors, more children are recovering.
Since the team arrived in March, there have been no maternal deaths. Bonthe District, where only two hospitals serve 200,000 people, has one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world. Dr. Jon Yoder and Dr. Harrison (from Nigeria) have provided excellent medical care.
In her role as head matron, Pamela McKee is training and encouraging hospital staff and the many student nurses who serve from the nursing school. She has instituted monthly employee and ward of the month contests to improve morale and excellence.
Dr. Richard and Cathy Toupin leave August 11 to serve at Mattru Hospital for two months.
Heleen Yoder has led the opening of a psychosocial unit for child survivors of gender-based violence. Seven hospital staff have completed training in medical and psychosocial care for these children.
Heleen writes, “One of the most popular training sessions was a discussion of the story of Amnon and Tamar (2 Samuel 13). The story resembles many aspects of Sierra Leone society: a polygamous household, a father who doesn’t know his children well (and sets a bad example), a dutiful daughter obeying her father, a powerless girl facing rape, bystanders (the servants) who close their eyes to a girl at risk, a brother who tells her sister to ‘be quiet’ after the rape, a father who is angry but does not take action, a girl who loses the prospect of marriage….None of the participants had come across this Bible story before, and it provided much room for discussion.”
Please pray for our team and the hospital staff—for unity, excellence in providing care, and that the hospital would be a real source of physical, emotional, and spiritual health and light in the community.
With so many good things happening at Mattru Hospital, it came as a shock to Dr. Jon and Heleen Yoder when a large tree fell on their house on August 8. Fortunately, no one was in the house at the time, but as you can see in the photo, the house was severely damaged.
In messages sent back and forth to Michelle Harris, UB Global Associate Director, Jon and Heleen said that while the damage to their home is of great concern, their hearts were more burdened by the passing of a 20-year-old woman at the hospital that morning. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Would you pray for Jon and Heleen and for UB Global as we figure out temporary lodging and repair the damage, while they continue ministering at the hospital day-by-day? Let’s trust God for his provision to repair the house and care for the many other needs at the hospital. He is never taken by surprise.
UB Global continues to provide salary support for Sierra Leonean hospital staff. But with the focus on the solar water project and other funding needs, we currently have a shortage of money designated for salaries. Please consider helping to fund the hospital staff as they serve faithfully in Mattru.
Contributions can be sent to:
302 Lake Street
Huntington, IN 46750
We may be a little biased but our 2017 Kids’ VBS Project is fun, informative, and will give your kids’ program a distinctly international flavor. Contact us if you’d like a copy.
Every year, children in Vacation Bible School support a mission project of some kind. For 2017, Global Ministries has selected Project Compassion, which ministers to children in India who live with HIV/AIDS.
Global Ministries is providing five short videos along with suggested foods, activities, and ideas for follow-up at home which can be used for VBS or summer Sunday school.
Through these short daily videos and activities, your kids will learn and experience a taste of what daily life is like for these UB children on the other side of the world—whether by learning how to say say hello, or trying out lentils and rice.
Our prayer is that our kids will deepen in their understanding of God’s global family as they have the opportunity to learn, pray, and give.
If you are interested in receiving these materials, let us know at by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling toll-free (888) 622-3019.