Family and Beloved Church of Bishop John K Yambasu
Office of the Bishop
Sierra Leone Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
31 Lightfoot Boston Freetown, Sierra Leone
Beloved Friends and Family of Bishop John K. Yambasu,
I bring you the greetings and tribute to the life of John K. Yambasu from the United States nonprofit organization, Helping Children Worldwide. Firstly, we wish to express our deep heartfelt condolences to his widow Millicent and his family. We know no tribute, no matter how sincere, nor any words I share with you can adequately ease your grief in this time. But we all pray that the grace of our loving God will fill your heart, the divine peace of the Holy Spirit will surround you, and fond memories of the life you shared together with this man will bring a smile to your lips, even as they draw a tear from your eyes. And we hope that our message of love lifts your spirit for a moment, however brief.
Bishop John K. Yambasu was a champion of God, and we are proud to say he was one of the co-founders of the mission of Helping Children Worldwide. Our history is inextricably linked to the last 20 years of his life, the first of ours as a global mission and partnership organization. I am daily receiving word of people who were touched by the life or work of John Yambasu. I have forwarded a few messages from these people, as requested by those who reached out. Others have contacted you directly.
HCW is far from being alone in our grief, as you well know. The Bishop had many partners. Both the secular and the faith communities will feel this loss. He worked tirelessly to bring hope and healing to a wounded world, traveling far and enduring much to lend his voice to bring the peace of heaven to earth. He served on a number of pan-African and global councils, and was an advocate for higher education as a path for transformation, ambitiously founding the United Methodist University in Sierra Leone in 2017. He was on the road, or in the air, seemingly moving all the time, but always coming home to Sierra Leone and his cherished family.
He was generous with his life, devoting it to the care of God’s people, the widow, the orphan, the sick and ill-treated. Those of us who were blessed to walk even a short distance of his journey alongside of him know how deeply he trusted in the goodness of God and the faith he held in the United Methodist Church and the tenets of Christianity. His generous spirit lifted up anybody who came to know him with the gift of laughter and a booming voice imbued with passion. Bishop Yambasu believed in the future of the United Methodist Church to provide healing and spiritual growth to a broken world.
John K. Yambasu was a kind, insightful, courageous, and gifted leader, befitting of an ardent follower of Christ. Sierra Leone is, as it was during Bishop Yambasu’s entire life, one of the most challenging places on Earth for people to be born, to grow up and to thrive. Despite that, 2 Tribute to Bishop Yambasu 8/25/2020 John Yambasu recognized his birth and his life was a gift from God, and he wasted nothing of the life he was given. Even more, he believed in the power of good people to come together to lift others from despair and poverty. The establishment of the Child Reintegration Centre in Bo was a ministry he cherished at his core, one he characterized to me as “his heart.” We have on our website a quotation from John Yambasu about our relationship in supporting the destitute and vulnerable children of the world, and it reads “We are two hearts beating as one, two hands with one heart, reaching across the ocean for the love of God's children.”
I was blessed to represent Helping Children Worldwide, along with Kim Nabieu, as we celebrated Bishop Yambasu’s centennial anniversary date with you in Freetown last year, as together we honored his tenure as the sitting Bishop for the United Methodist Church in Sierra. His voice in the United Methodist Church was heard across the globe as a reconciling voice, and beyond his work within the church, he had peace missions throughout the entire African continent. I don’t know if every person who may read or hear this tribute is aware of the Bishop’s extensive global ministry. He served on the General Board of Global Ministry, where he began his career in service to the world. It was there that he conceived the vision that grew to become the Child Reintegration Centre, and by extension and in partnership with churches across the globe, the mission of Helping Children Worldwide.
Like many others, through my work and the shared ministry of HCW, I was given the gift of a personal relationship with this amazing human being. I can speak with certainty that he believed it was everybody’s obligation to bring aid to the suffering, to promote peace and to seek justice. I can hear his voice now, challenging me to dream his dreams, encouraging me to move ahead with our plans, and pressing me to do more, find more, give more than I imagined I could. He trusted God would continue to bring HCW partners the tools we needed to bring about transformation in the lives of impoverished people. And he was right, because God brought together many devoted servant hearts to accomplish this mighty work.
The staff at HCW is mourning the loss of one of our founders with our partners, and the United Methodist Church, but when our time of mourning has passed, his legacy will live on in each of us. Our partnership with the Child Reintegration Centre, with Mercy Hospital, with the Missionary Training Centre and UMC SLAC will live on and we will remain engaged in the work of transformation of lives. This year of CoViD19 has made some things more complex, and some things simpler. What is simple is understanding how connected we all are to one another, and how the life of one person can impact so many others. While we were unable to share in the 20-year celebration of the CRC with the Bishop directly, we received videos and photos, and held celebrations here to commemorate that event. We were separated by an ocean, and an unparalleled time of global peril, but at the same time, we were more closely united by a courageous spirit of love and human kindness. Of course, his family is his greatest legacy, but the Bishop’s definition of family was extensive. The Bishop’s vision for the people of Sierra Leone, for Africa and for the least among us will stand as the legacy of his career, and the work of the Child Reintegration Centre and Mercy Hospital to save and transform lives are a large part of that legacy. Your efforts in partnership with HCW and our work with the UMC in Sierra Leone will continue to be a part of the legacy of his life. For that is the greatest tribute that we can make to his life.
In the hands of God,
Melody Curtiss, esq.
Executive Director of Helping Children Worldwide
I met Rev. John Yambasu in 1997 when I took my first Volunteer in Mission trip to Sierra Leone in the midst of the country’s rebel war. Rev. Yambasu was friendly, efficient, and joyful. He had a remarkable ability to engage people from anywhere in the world in ways that drew us into his joyful circle. During that trip we repaired the Guest House at Leicester Peak, laying block that created new walls for the facility. I was impressed at the way Rev. Yambasu organized the work, motivated the young people who joined our work crew, and talked to contractors and building supply personnel to secure materials. It was obvious on that first trip that he was a man with natural leadership gifts and a deep desire to see the church become a blessing to his nation. It was Bishop John Yambasu who opened the United Methodist University in Sierra Leone in 2017 on this site. His ability to hold hope and patiently work to develop projects over long periods of time was a hallmark of his leadership.
Rev. Yambasu invited me to call him John and as the week progressed and I knew we would be friends. I carried his application to the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, my alma mater, back to the United States. He came to Candler in the fall of 1998 and spent Christmas with my family that year. When rebels invaded Freetown in January 1999, John called me and said that he had to gather funds to get his family to a refugee camp in Guinea. I asked members of Floris UMC for their assistance and they offered the funds in one Sunday. Once Millicent and their children were out of danger, I invited John to preach at Floris UMC to share the story of what was happening in his country. His sermon was so powerful that three months later church members asked what we were going to do in response. In December 1999, Floris UMC took up a “Millennial Offering” to mark 2000 years of the Christian faith by partnering with Rev. John Yambasu, who returned to Sierra Leone as a missionary through the UMC.
Rev. Yambasu used these funds to start the Child Rescue Centre, whose initial mission was to care for children whose lives were severely impacted by the civil war. Rev. Yambasu gathered 40 children and began feeding operations that served many more. His work was driven by a deep calling of Christ to care for the vulnerable. His ongoing passion for this ministry inspired and convicted us to continue the work and sustain this vital ministry over the past 20 years. Later, as the Bishop of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference, he led the transformation of this ministry and renamed it the Child Reintegration Centre. It now serves over 600 children in family-based care that offers education and medical care for future leaders of Sierra Leone.
Following the fractious called 2019 General Conference of the UMC, Bishop Yambasu brought together a global group of leaders in the UMC to create the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation. I was a part of the mediation team, whose work was sometimes tense. I appreciated the way my friend’s faith and leadership called us to do our best work in keeping with our shared love of Christ. While it is yet to be seen if the Protocol will be accepted by the delegates of General Conference, it is commonly agreed that it is the best hope for the UMC that he loved and served.
I will miss my friend John, who opened my mind to both the needs and joys of the larger world. His friendship was used by God to further my sanctification, grow in empathy and compassion, and find the joy of a deep and lasting friendship that I will treasure throughout my life, even as he has found his heavenly reward.
Dr. Aruna Stevens, Mercy Hospital lead doctor
On 4th July at the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of the Child Reintegration Centre, formerly Child Rescue Centre, I said these words to you and I watched you smiled ear to ear.
'If Sierra Leone had great leaders with visions like Bishop Yambasu, we would have so many success stories today. Good leaders have vision and inspire others to help them turn vision into reality. Great leaders create more leaders, not followers. Great leaders have vision, share vision, and inspire others to create their own.'
A few days ago, you asked for my five year vision for Mercy Hospital and my personal goals. Little did I know that was our last pep talk. You were so devoted in helping people.
Matthew 25:23 says 'The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ Rest In Peace our Good Shepherd!
He was just a humble and intelligent man and reminded everyone, every time, of the main mission of the church, which is the transformation of the world, and that the church should remain in the middle of the village.”
The founder of the Child Reintegration Centre, Bishop John K. Yambasu, was tragically killed in a road accident in Sierra Leone on Sunday, August 16, just days before his 63rd birthday. Just last month the CRC joyously celebrated 20 years since Bishop Yambasu appealed to fellow Christians in the US to come to the rescue of thousands of children left homeless by the civil war, and the mission of the CRC was launched to transform the lives of vulnerable children and families in Sierra Leone. Read more about Bishop Yambasu here.