Erik and Iris Rojas (right) lead the one United Brethren church in Costa Rica. Pastor Rojas sent a message on April 9. He said they’ve had about 500 cases of Covid-19 since the first case was confirmed on March 6 (an American tourist from New York), and there have been two deaths. But thanks to tough restrictions from the government, they appear to have the curve under control. He then sent the following information about his church in San Jose.

“During this Easter, by order of the government, everything is closed except for hospitals, pharmacies, and places where they sell food. There is a very strict vehicle restriction. The beaches, the parks, the hotels, etc., are totally closed. All people are asked to leave home only if absolutely necessary. Thank God, we have no knowledge of anyone in our congregation who is ill. We all try to help each other with food and finances, because we know that many have lost their jobs and others have reduced their working hours and, therefore, their wages have also been reduced.

“On Sundays and Wednesdays, my wife and I are sending videos with words of encouragement, Bible reflections, and preaching for the entire congregation using Facebook and WhatsApp. At home we work as a family so as not to lose communion with God. We all have devotional times together. In addition, we try to be in constant communication with the members of the congregation to know their needs and requests.”

On Good Friday, the UB Global staff led United Brethren from around the world in a Day of Fasting & Prayer. A lot of people took part in several different ways. Here are some highlights:

  • 23 people joined at 10:00 Friday morning for a prayer time on Zoom.
  • 12 accounts (some with multiple participants) engaged in a second Zoom prayer time at 8:00 Friday evening. Milton and Erika Pacheco, UB Global missionaries in Thailand, led in worship.
  • 42 family units (21% from outside the United States) signed up to pray for a 20-minute slot as part of the Friday 24/7 prayer time. They included UBs from Canada, Costa Rica, Honduras, and the US.

Pastor Mike Brown preaching at the drive-in service.

Franklin UB church (New Albany, Ohio) held a drive-in service on Easter. They normally have two services every Sunday, but their last service was March 15. They decided to try to drive-in concept at 10:15 on Easter Sunday. People stayed in their vehicles, and parents were encouraged to bring snacks or games to keep kids occupied during the message. Pastor Mike Brown preached from a wagon outside the church, the people listened by tuning in to FM 88.3. A local TV station did this news story.

This Easter Season was unlike anything our world has experienced. We’d like to capture stories from United Brethren churches about what Holy Week looked like. Other UB churches in the US and around the world will be interested.

While the past week is fresh in your mind, please take a few minutes to write a couple paragraphs about the Easter Season at your churches, and particularly your Holy Week observances. You can send an email to news@ub.org, or use the form on the Covid-19 response page.

During the 2017 US National Conference in Lancaster, Pa., many UB people enjoyed attending a production at the local Sight & Sound Theatre. You may be interested in knowing that the S&S production of “Jesus” will be available this weekend–Friday, Saturday, and Sunday–for free over the internet and on the TBN cable network (Trinity Broadcasting Network).

You can view it on TBN at 1:00 pm Eastern Time on TBN.
Or, view it anytime April 10-12 on the TBN app or their website.

You can watch a trailer for “Jesus” on Youtube.

Jennifer Blandin (left) and Jenaya Bonner.

On Wednesday evening, April 1, UB missionaries Jennifer Blandin and Jenaya Bonner spoke about their experiences in Macau relating to the pandemic. About 20 people participated in the Zoom meeting.

Macau’s first case of COVID-19 came on January 22. The local government took quick and aggressive action. There were only a few cases, and Macau actually went 40 days being corona-free. More recently, they let in some people from outside, and there are now about 40 cases in Macau, but they’ve not yet had a death from COVID-19. For the world’s most densely-populated city and a major tourism center, that’s very commendable. Here is what Jennifer and Jenaya had to say.

Jenaya: In Macau, this has been going since the end of January. The Chinese New Year celebrations [January 25 – February 8] were cancelled. My family was here at that time, but they were able to head back to the States before things got crazy. My mom had to be quarantined from work.

Jennifer: I returned to Macau right before the Chinese New Year, which is the equivalent of Thanksgiving and Christmas in America. We met February 2, but then didn’t meet for the rest of February. In March, as other businesses reopened, we began to offer the option to worship at church. Now, if people feel comfortable coming to church, they can.

Jenaya: Early on, everybody was afraid. But the government shut things down quickly, and we didn’t have a lot of coronavirus patients early on.

Jennifer: My hands are raw from washing them so much. About 99% of people wear face masks in public; if you don’t wear a mask, people look at you weird. There was also a sense of fear of people who looked different from everyone else. I encountered that a few times —“Oh, you’re a foreigner.” Because Macau is so densely populated and we live so close together, it’s difficult to distance yourself from everyone else—and practically impossible to do that when you go outside.

Jenaya: A lot of businesses reopened after three weeks or so, but some are still closed. Theaters and other public places haven’t reopened. Kids have been able to go outside with their parents, with caution. We went 40 days without a local case of coronavirus, and then it was an outside case coming in.

Jennifer: I am grateful I only have one person in my home. Some families may have 3-7 people living in a very small space. During the city wide locked down, public parks were also closed, so there was no place for kids to run off energy. I’ve appreciated at least being able to go outside. As of now, we’re looking at schools reopening in May. I did see that universities are allowing year four students to come back on April 20 to finish out their year, but students in years 1-3 are finishing online this year.

During March, more things were starting back up, but since we got more cases, some things took a step back. Last week I was supposed to go out and have a walk with a couple people, and I was excited about that. But after new cases arose, the walk was cancelled. In terms of ministry, I’m using my phone a lot more. I have met with some people, with caution. But others don’t feel comfortable meeting.

Now, anyone who comes into Macau must be quarantined for 14 days. They’ve chosen different hotels for that, but they aren’t locking us down like they did earlier. As of now, most people returning to Macau are students who were studying overseas, along with some foreign workers.

Jenaya: In my English center, we’ve been back to doing English classes for about five weeks on a limited basis . We have about half the number of students we had before. There are many restrictions. We use hand sanitizer as they come and leave, we sanitize everything they use, their temperature is taken, we wear masks, everyone stays a meter apart. Since our classrooms are small, we’re trying to reduce by half the number of students in a class. With the new cases recently, some parents have gone through a second wave of fear. It’s been up and down in terms of who shows up.

Jennifer: In February, the casinos were shut down for two weeks. They are open now, but the borders are still closed. The casinos are like ghost towns, because only local people are there—no visitors like we had before. Streets are busy with local people are going back and forth to work, but tourists areas are like a different country.

Jenaya: Some days it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, because you haven’t seen a single person.

Jennifer: This is more of a marathon than a sprint. Probably 3 or 4 weeks in, people were complaining about wanting things to go back to normal. I remembered how the Israelites wanted out of Egypt, but when they got to the desert, they were bellyaching about going back to Egypt.

Jenaya: I don’t want the time to be wasted. I want to sit and listen to what God is saying. To continue to listen to what God is doing.

Jennifer: One thing is becoming a prayer of mine: whatever God is doing through this, whatever he is trying to shake free, I pray that we will embrace it. A couple weeks ago, when I realized Easter wasn’t going to happen, I began asking God, “What do you want us to learn from this? What do you want us to change?”

The National Association of Evangelicals, its member denominations (which include the United Brethren in Christ USA), and other groups have joined to designate Good Friday, April 10, as a Day of Prayer & Fasting. We invite you to participate. Perhaps your church will want to include this as part of your Good Friday observances, in whatever form they may take.

Last summer, during our US National Conference, we focused on the theme “Let’s Pray.” Our world certainly needs prayer during this coronavirus pandemic.

Whether or not this fits with what your church has planned for Good Friday, perhaps you can find ways to use the following Suggested Prayers, which touch on many aspects of the crisis.

Suggested Prayers

  1. Pray that God, in His power and mercy, would end the coronavirus pandemic.
  2. Pray that all of our government leaders will be protected from the virus, and that they will have the patience, wisdom, civility, and compassion to deal with the many problems facing our country in this perilous time.
  3. Pray for the safety of all members of the medical community, and pray that they will be able to care for the sick with wisdom, kindness, and stamina.
  4. Pray that the sick will be healed and restored, and that the elderly will be protected.
  5. Pray that the medical community will have the medical supplies, drugs, testing kits, protective equipment, ventilators, and hospital and ICU beds needed to take care of the ill.
  6. Pray for those who are grieving for lost friends and family.
  7. Pray for the poor and all those who have been hurt by the economic downturn: employees, the self-employed, small business owners, big businesses, churches, and charities.
  8. Pray that all those who have lost jobs will be able to return to work soon.
  9. Pray to restore the economy.
  10. Pray that in these difficult times, hurting people will not turn to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and domestic abuse.
  11. Pray for those confined by quarantine, those who are sheltered in place, and those practicing social distancing, that they might not despair in loneliness and isolation.
  12. Pray for our education system at every level that has broken down under the threat of disease.

Suggested Scriptures

  • Jeremiah 29:5-13
  • Isaiah 53
  • Isaiah 60
  • John 19
  • Romans 5:6-10
  • 1 Peter 2:11-25

We have some catching up to do regarding the appointment of senior pastor. The following new appointments have occurred since October 2019.

  • Ryan Koch was appointed senior pastor of Hopewell UB church (Auburn, Ind.) effective October 21, 2019.
  • Ken Meyer was appointed senior pastor of New Horizons UB church (Rockford, Ohio) effective October 27, 2019.
  • Stan McCammon was appointed senior pastor of Mt. Olivet UB church (Chambersburg, Pa.) effective December 1, 2019.
  • Dan Young was appointed senior pastor of Findlay First UB church (Findlay, Ohio) effective January 1, 2020.
  • Larry Reinertsen was appointed interim pastor of Mount Washington UB church (York, Pa.) effective January 5, 2020.
  • Brian Black was appointed senior pastor of Macedonia UB church (Greencastle, Pa.) effective January 20, 2020.
  • Art Page was appointed senior pastor of Lurgan UB church (Lurgan, Pa.) effective April 1, 2020.

Roger and Marilyn Reeck (right) are UB Global endorsed missionaries serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They are based in La Ceiba, Honduras, but a lot of their work involves consulting and training in other countries. They sent this update:

“Over the last several years the Lord has taken us to several countries, and we have had the privilege of meeting and knowing so many of His chosen people. Now, we feel a very strong burden for them.

Honduras. There are many cases of coronavirus, and the country is under complete shutdown. They do have good hospitals and hospital staff, but medical resources are limited. We pray for God’s children in these countries.

Guinea Bissau (in West Africa). There are very few hospitals, they are not well staffed, and they have few medicines, masks,etc.

“Venezuela. The hospitals are lacking even the smallest supplies. That includes not even having gloves or soap. The people are already malnourished and have no built-up immunity. All we can do is to call out for God’s mercies.

We know that His love extends to all and is revealed to others through His children. May God help them to be that Light.

We were in Honduras from November to the middle of February. During that time Roger travelled to Brazil and checked the translation of the Yaminahua language. His time was very profitable. In January he was to spend three weeks in Colombia leading a Joshua Translation Workshop, but that was cancelled. Another event to take place the end of March was cancelled also.”

Two of their daughters work in the medical field. Christy Andino and her husband, Rigo, are UB Global missionaries with Commission to Every Nation. Christy is a nurse with a mission hospital in La Ceiba, Honduras. Marilyn writes, “At the moment, many decisions have to be made about the care of coronavirus patients.”

Amanda is a doctor of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital in San Antonio. They already have many coronavirus patients.

Roger and Marilyn have been in the states for several weeks visiting churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and attending a conference in Dallas. They have decided not to return to Honduras right away. They are spending this time with their daughters in San Antonio. They write, “The great thing is that we can do our work from anywhere there is internet.”

Sierra Leone is one of the few countries that hasn’t yet confirmed a case of COVID-19. But they are bracing for it. President Julius Maada Bio said on Thursday, “It is no longer a question of whether the coronavirus will come to Sierra Leone, it is a question of when. We cannot afford to wait for a positive case.” The country lost nearly 4000 people during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.

Sierra Leone has banned all public gatherings of more than 100 people, banned all sporting events, suspended overseas travel by government officials, and deployed soldiers at the airport and land borders. All passengers coming from countries with over 200 cases must undergo a quarantine.

Airlines were given 72-hours notice to stop all flights to Sierra Leone effective March 21. Learning of this, Dr. Richard and Cathy Toupin, UB Global staff at Mattru Hospital, made a hurried trip to Freetown. The last we heard, they secured passage on a plane leaving the country–perhaps the last one for a long while–and have begun their journey back to Indiana.

During the Ebola crisis, the Chinese built a high-containment Biosafe Level 3 (BSL-3) lab in Sierra Leone (the highest level being 4). This, according to the country’s health minister, made them one of only two countries in Africa with the facilities to test for the virus before it even arose. He said they have established three sites that can do 40 tests per day. (The US has 13 BSL-4 labs and hundreds of BSL-3 labs. There are BSL-4 labs in South Africa and Gabon, and BLS-3 labs in 3 or 4 African countries.)

The Chinese government announced that they were donating to Sierra Leone 1000 test kits, 1000 surgical masks, 1000 medical gloves, 500 respirators, 500 sets of protective gowns, and 200 medical goggles.

On March 18, a Kenya Airlines flight landed in Freetown with a suspected COVID-19 case. There were four Japanese passengers, and one of them had been coughing. Sierra Leone officials were given advance notice when the plane landed in Liberia prior to departing for Freetown.

Sierra Leone health officials required that all disembarking passengers be quarantined for 14 days. All four Japanese passengers stayed aboard, as did a number of other passengers who were not Sierra Leonean; they were probably returned to the country where they had boarded. The rest, all of them Sierra Leonean, were taken to one of the quarantine facilities already set up.