New Beginnings UB church (Montpelier, Ohio) closed as of August 26, 2018. They will auction their buildings and property, with the proceeds going toward UB church multiplication. This church was founded in 1869. Richard Thorp had been the supply pastor since 2010.

Crosslife UB church (Columbia City, Ind.) closed September 28, 2018. This church began in 1997 as a church planting project of the Center for Church Planting in Northeast Indiana, a cooperative venture of Central and Michindoh conferences. The church used the name Eagle Quest until 2017, when they undertook a relaunch and rebranding under the leadership of Rev. Teddy Fairchild.

Maranatha UB church (Perrinton, Mich.) closed as of September 30, 2018. They are selling their property and donating the proceeds to a 501(c)3 of their choosing. This church was founded in 1878. Larry Mepham had been the pastor since 2011.

Fresh Spring (formerly Living Word UB of Columbus, Ohio) voted unanimously on October 7, 2018, to withdraw from the denomination. They had been meeting at a new location where they decided to join with another group. This church began in 1968 when the congregation, formerly part of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, affiliated with us rather than join the merger into the United Methodist Church. Back then, the church’s name was Redeemer United Brethren Church.

Jeff Bleijerveld, Director of UB Global

Hundreds of people have been killed in Nicaragua since April 18 in what has become a popular uprising against the Central American country’s president, Daniel Ortega, and his government.

We invite all our churches to join us in prayer for Nicaragua this coming Sunday, October 14. You can use this Powerpoint slide (1920x1080px).

Below is an update we received at the UB Global office this morning (October 10) from our national leader, Bishop Armando Lopez.

“The situation is still very difficult, as there is no security for anyone, even foreigners. Everything has been deeply politicized, and there is a profound economic crisis at present. The cost of living has increased 70 percent, and fuel by 20 percent. Unemployment shot up to almost 300,000 unemployed. The crisis has driven away tourism, which was one of the major economic drivers. Restaurants and hotels have had to close their doors and lay off employees. Add to this tropical depression Michael that flooded farm fields and neighborhoods. Thousands of victims are in shelters, such as churches or houses, having lost almost everything.

“As a result of these pressures, the crisis is hitting everyone, not simply the poorest, who already live with very little. In addition, there are serious threats from the United States of sanctions against Nicaragua to force the government to negotiate with its citizens. These sanctions would be the withdrawal of international loans that would hit Nicaragua very hard. Pray concerning the lack of food to feed the hungry, and the treatment of the sick. We are concerned for those in Niquinohomo who have been particularly hard hit with health concerns.

“Political persecution remains strong, resulting in thousands of young people migrating to Costa Rica. More than 500 people are being held as political prisoners, accused of terrorism, and tortured by the police and paramilitary forces. Even though the new stories no longer appear in your newspapers or news broadcasts, the protests in the street continue, although not so many people, due to the risk of arrest, torture, and death.

“We as a church remain neutral, praying and counseling our brothers and helping the needy with what we can. We ask that you not give up praying. Nicaragua is not another Cuba, or another Venezuela, and we appreciate all the spiritual help that God provides as a result of your prayers. We will remain in touch. May God bless and keep you.”


Julie Hui (left) and Lai Au Yeung.

Julie Hui and Lai Au Yeung, from United Brethren churches in Hong Kong, have been part of our international team in Thailand since October 2016. Both have now completed their two-year commitments and have returned to Hong Kong.

Julie and Lai were a crucial part of beginning the friendships and ministries around the UB community center in Chiang Rai, and modeling Christ’s love to those around them.

Lai returned to Hong Kong in early June to continue her teaching role in a kindergarden. Julie, who graduated from Huntington University in May 2016, left Thailand in September. However, she will remain involved by overseeing the Thailand ministry for Hong Kong Conference.

Members of the UB Global team are heading across the Atlantic this week.

On Wednesday, Executive Director Jeff Bleijerveld will fly to Paris, France. A congregation of Haitian immigrants on the outskirts of the city is interested in becoming United Brethren. The connection comes through Rev. Oliam Richard, superintendent of our churches in Haiti, who planted this church 20 years ago.

On Thursday, associate director Michelle Harris leaves for a week in Sierra Leone. She’ll meet with our three missionaries at Mattru Hospital—Dr. Jon and Heleen Yoder, and Pamela McKee. Our missionaries work under high pressure all of the time, so spending a few days away from the hospital and talking about the future will be a welcome and valuable time. She will also meet with Abdul, the new business manager who oversees the solar and water projects based at Mattru Hospital.

Liberty UB Church (Stockport, Ohio) will celebrate its 150th anniversary on Sunday, October 14. Bishop Todd Fetters is the guest speaker for the 10:30 a.m. worship service.

The next Sunday, October 21, Bishop Fetters will speak at another anniversary–the 20th anniversary of Anchor UB church in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Mark and Ruth Ralph, retiring after 43 years in ministry.

Pastor Mark Ralph speaking to children.

Mark Ralph with his father.

On Saturday, September 29, a retirement party was held for Pastor Mark and Ruth Ralph, who have served in pastoral ministry since 1975. Of those 43 years, all but about ten years were spent at United Brethren churches.

The celebration was held at Mt. Zion UB church in Wayne, Ohio, the congregation the Ralphs have served since 2012. Here are the other UB churches:

  • 1975-1981: Brown Corners UB church (Clare, Mich.).
  • 1983-1986: the UB church in Charlotte, Mich.
  • 1986-1989: UB church planter in Birmingham, Ala.
  • 1997-2009: Sunfield UB church (Sunfield, Mich.).
  • 2012 to the present: Mt. Zion UB church (Wayne, Ohio).

Some folks from Mark’s previous pastorates attended the retirement celebration. Also present was his father, now age 96, a longtime minister in the Evangelical Congregational Church. Mark was present for his father’s last Sunday in fulltime ministry. His father returned the favor on September 30, hearing his son preach his final sermon as pastor of Mt. Zion.

Mark graduated in 1974 from Huntington University with a degree in Bible & Religion. Now age 67, he and Ruth are retiring to a home in Ohio City, Ohio, near where their daughter lives.

Missionary Roger Reeck is undergoing a bone fusion operation on his right foot today (October 1). Marilyn says an orthopedic surgeon from Oregon is flying to Honduras with a team to spend a week doing surgeries. She says, “Besides for straightening the foot, potentially it could lead to less pain.”

Roger and Marilyn Reeck (right) are endorsed UB missionaries serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They are based in La Ceiba, Honduras, but consult with Wycliffe projects in Africa and Latin America.

Roger returned to Honduras from Brazil on Thursday night, where he worked with the Yaminawa translation team. One of the four persons was from Bolivia and the other three from Brazil. They checked half of Luke, Mark, and Acts during the three week session.

Marilyn returned from Colombia on Friday night. She had travelled to the Colombia/Venezuela border where a training session was held for Venezuelan pastors and their wives and other church workers. There were two groups of 36 people and seven trainers.

Marilyn writes, “There are so many stories of the suffering of the Venezuelan people. Great groups of people are trying to migrate to other South American countries, and a great number of them do not have money to travel by bus. They walk for several weeks. But, in order to get to the adjoining country and beyond, they have to walk over a high mountain pass. They do not have adequate clothing to keep them warm and many have died. They walk for several weeks. Pray that God’s people find ways to set up assistance along the way.”

UPDATE ON TUESDAY FROM MARILYN: “The operation lasted 4 hours but everything turned out great.”

Three former Sierra Leone missionaries from Grace UB church. L-r: Audrey Fiederlein, Kathy Jones, and Shirley Fretz

Shirley Fretz, who served 18 years as a United Brethren missionary in Sierra Leone 1967-1985, passed away Wednesday, September 26, 2018. She had suffered from Huntingtons Disease during the last several years.

Funeral time: 1pm on Saturday, October 6, 2018.
Funeral location: Grace UB church, Sherkston, Ontario

Shirley Fretz

During her 18 years in Africa, Shirley received a letter from her mother nearly every week. The letters often arrived three or four at a time. “She was very happy when I became a missionary,” Shirley said of her mother. “She had been praying for Sierra Leone before I was even born. Tears came every time I left for Africa, but she knew the Lord wanted me there.”

Shirley grew up at Grace UB church in Sherkston, Ontario, a church that has produced a number of missionaries over the years. She dreamed of being a missionary like Olive Weaver and Ruth Benner, two women from the church who were then serving in Sierra Leone. Shirley spent ten years working for law firms, but couldn’t get missions out of her mind. She eventually responded to an altar call by Bishop Clyde W. Meadows, a call to serve Christ wherever God wanted.

Before she knew it, she was contacted by the UB missions office. They needed someone to oversee the Minnie Mull boarding home in Sierra Leone. Was she interested?

Shirley arrived at Minnie Mull in April 1967. The school had over 400 primary-age girls with 104 staying in the boarding home. Shirley procured supplies, kept financial records, helped supervise cooking and laundry, counseled children, and generally served as a mother to over 100 youngsters.

Her second term, which began in August 1971, found her in a whole new role: business manager of Mattru Hospital. She spent the next ten years handling the payroll, bookkeeping, banking, and other non-medical responsibilities. After the 1974 arrival of Dr. Ron Baker, Shirley watched Mattru develop into a thriving hospital.

Shirley decided the hospital needed a male administrator, especially since the culture favored having men in supervisory positions. So after her 1981 furlough, she moved to Bumpe and spent two terms working in Christian education. For four years, she devoted much of her time to the Bumpe Primary School children. After school, kids walked to her house for Bible classes, and she often provided one-on-one spiritual counsel. Later, her job was placed under the direction of the national church’s Christian Education Department. They held clinics and workshops in various districts, helped with the camping program, and emphasized Christian Endeavor.

During her furlough in 1983, Shirley had a difficult decision to make. Her father had been hospitalized with cancer almost continuously since July 1982. Should she stay home and await his death, or return to Sierra Leone in December as scheduled?

Shirley later recalled, “My dad was very alert right up to the end. He knew exactly what was going on, and I’m sure that if I had visited him the day I was supposed to leave for Africa, he’d have said, ‘What happened? Why didn’t you go?’ I knew he would be gone soon, and it would be good for me to be there, but you can’t just stay home and wait for something to happen.” She left at the end of November and arrived in Bumpe on December 6, 1983. The next day she received a telegram saying her father had passed away on December 6.

Bishop Jerry Datema was in Sierra Leone at the time for annual conference. He led a memorial service at the Bumpe church the same day as the memorial service back in Canada. The church was full of people — they didn’t know Shirley’s father, but they knew Shirley. The Bumpe primary children sang a couple of her father’s favorite songs, and then Bishop Datema preached. Shirley said, “It was almost like being home for the funeral.”

Although Shirley fully supported the 1985 nationalization process, it brought an end to her position. Everyone knew Shirley was leaving the country—this time for good —on Monday, August 19. The stream of constant good-byes began on Saturday. “I must have had 50 people visit my house between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning. To Sierra Leoneans, people are important. When they know you are leaving, everybody wants to come and spend time with you. It was rather hard saying good-bye to all the people I had grown close to during my 18 years there, knowing I might not see them again.”

Wanting to remain in some kind of mission work, in December 1985 Shirley became receptionist-bookkeeper for the Brethren in Christ mission office in Stevensville, Ontario.

L-r: Brandon Baker, Andrew Franks, Eric Griffon, Cody Morehead, Julie Llewellyn, Nick Balsiger, Lissa Litka, Tomi Cardin, Dennis Wood, Cyle Young, Brad North, Bob Bruce (instructor).

Eleven persons took the two-day United Brethren History Course on September 24-25. The class was held at the United Brethren National Office in Huntington, Ind. The instructor was Bob Bruce, pastor of Caring Ministries at Emmanuel UB church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).

The participants:

  1. Brandon Baker, Discipleship pastor at Praise Point UB church (Willshire, Ohio).
  2. Andrew Franks, Youth pastor at New Hope UB church (Huntington, Ind.).
  3. Eric Griffon, Worship pastor at Fowlerville UB church (Fowlerville, Mich.).
  4. Cody Morehead, lead youth worker at Heart O the Lakes UB church (Brooklyn, Mich.).
  5. Julie Llewellyn, director of Early Childhood Ministries at Emmanuel UB church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
  6. Nick Balsiger, associate pastor of Discipleship & Student Ministries at The Well (Huntington, Ind.).
  7. Lissa Litka, Spiritual Journey director at Morning Star UB church (Kokomo, Ind.).
  8. Tomi Cardin, member of the Executive Leadership Team, board chairperson at Anchor UB church (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
  9. Dennis Wood, senior pastor of Park UB church (Bluffton, Ind.).
  10. Cyle Young, senior pastor of Heart O the Lakes UB church (Brooklyn, Mich.).
  11. Brad North, senior pastor of South Scipio UB church (Harlan, Ind.).