Tributes have poured in from Bishop John K. Yambasu's colleagues
My heart aches for Bishop Yambasu and his family and the people of Sierra Leone.
Bishop Yambasu’s untimely death is stunning news to the United Methodist Church. Bishop Yambasu’s undeniable love and passion for the church has been evident in his area and throughout the United Methodist Church.
Because of his sincere and deep love for the church, Bishop Yambasu gathered persons from diverse theological backgrounds to continue conversations about the future of the United Methodist Church, giving birth to the Protocol Through Grace and Separation.
His love for God and his church was never more evident than in his leadership in his area. I had the extraordinary privilege of walking alongside Bishop Yambasu in his beloved Sierre Leone while serving as the Deputy General Secretary of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. While leading worship, visiting the sick, leading meetings with other faith leaders, participating in government and NGO efforts to bring wholeness to the beautiful people of Sierre Leone; I learned firsthand of his remarkable leadership as he led his people through disease and struggle to a life of hope in Jesus Christ.
I am fortunate to have had Bishop Yambasu in my life. He leaves an enormous void in our hearts, minds, and work and will forever be missed.
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Bishop John Yambasu was a bridge-builder. He not only saw what was on the other side, he worked to build the bridge to get there. He worked with Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and others to care for the physical bodies of the people they all served together. He built bridges of trust, communicated that there was something more than division and discord, and never lost sight of a better world, a better church, and a better life….
John Yambasu’s physical life on this earth ended today. I ache inside thinking that I will never again see his wrinkled forehead, his unique smile, experience his warm embrace, or hear his standard lines: “Oh yes,” or “Thank you so very much.” My heart breaks for his wife, Millicent, and their five children, Rebecca, Adima, John, Emmanuel and Elizabeth. And while I know that the church has endured excellent leaders who come and go, I hurt for a church that seems just a little less than was yesterday when John was still with us.
Every day is a gift. I cherish the life of John Yambasu, my friend and my colleague.
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton
President-Designate – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
The Africa University community is heart-broken and deeply saddened by his untimely death. Bishop Yambasu was not only one of Africa’s powerful Bishops and the president of the Africa College of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, but had also just been selected as our new Africa University Chancellor who was going to be inaugurated at our graduation scheduled for October 17th, 2020. We have lost a great man of God and one of Africa University’s strongest supporters. We have indeed also lost a thoughtful and deliberate Board member whose wisdom and critical insights always enriched our deliberations. We cherish most his visionary leadership and clarity of thought, his statesman outlook, his consistently inspiring and encouraging advice. Africa University community will miss this great advocate and an inspiring leader.
Professor Munashe Furusa
Vice Chancellor/President CEO
Words are not enough to describe the blessed ministries of Bishop Yambasu. He was not only a leader of our church in Africa but touched all aspects of our global denomination. Our joint love for Africa University is indescribable. I enjoyed working with him in preparing for the future of this church, the future that he will be watching unfold from heaven. Both John and Millicent were pastoral to me and Barbara. He was a trusted loyal friend. He was an encourager for me in my role as executive secretary. I was honored to be part of the team that nominated him to be the next chancellor of Africa University and he was an overwhelming unanimous choice. Africa University is blessed to have had his leadership albeit for such a short time. I am praying for Millicent, his wife and their lovely five children. May God give the family strength and comfort during this painful moment.
Bishop Marcus Matthews
Executive Security – Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Our hearts are broken, and we're devastated by this sudden departure of Bishop Yambasu. This is a great blow to the people called United Methodists! It is our hope and prayers that God will comfort the family in particular and The United Methodist family at large. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Bishop Samuel Quire
Liberia Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
It is with deep sadness that we learned of the accidental death of the great servant of God, Bishop John Yambasu. On behalf of the Côte d'Ivoire United Methodist Church, we would like to express our condolences and pray for his family, church, and nation.
He will be missed.
Bishop Benjamin Boni
Côte d'Ivoire Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
My wife and me are very sorry to hear this sad news of death of Bishop Yambasu.
His death is a big lost for our United Methodist Church in Africa and the world.
We present our deep condolences to you, his family and all church at Sierra Leone.
May our God be with you all. You are on our prayers.
Bishop Unda Yemba Gabriel
East Congo Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
Bishop John Yambasu was my friend. Many United Methodist could begin their own tribute to this leader who died suddenly and tragically in a car crash while traveling to memorialize one of his pastors who died, with the words, "he was my friend."
I met him after we were elected bishops in 2008. Bishop Yambasu, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, and Bishop Trimble were asked by the Council of Bishops to travel to Nigeria for a mission of peace and reconciliation to prepare them for a process to elect a new bishop. We left Nigeria as colleagues and friends saying as long as we live we would remember our experience of praying together and listening and praying with the United Methodists in Nigeria.
In January 2019, First Lady Racelder Grandberry-Trimble joined me to travel to Sierra Leone to join our friends John and Millicent Yambasu at their Annual Conference where I would preach and assist in ordaining new clergy. We brought greetings from Indiana United Methodists and the Council of Bishops. Before we arrived and after we left other teams from Indiana traveled to Sierra Leonne for work on projects that have bridged a long-standing partnership made stronger under the leadership if Bishop Yambasu. The Indiana United Methodists including those long associated with Operation Classroom mourn the loss of Bishop Yambasu.
Bishop Julius Trimble
Indianapolis Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
Bishop John Yambasu is an outstanding leader of African Methodism. Bishop John Yambasu is one of the kindest persons that I have known. This is a very sad day. I will miss him so much. We were together in GBGM for one quadrennium. I will miss his great preaching.
Bishop Pedro M. Torio
Baguio Episcopal Area - Philippines
The United Methodist Church
My first encounter with Bishop John Yambasu was when he preached at the 2016 General Conference. As a delegate I was in awe of this prophetic, anointed preacher who dared to speak truth to the church. His intercultural competence was so profoundly displayed in his preaching that I just knew he was destined to do some bridge building work within the church. After my election as bishop, Bishop Yambasu extended radical hospitality to me as a new bishop. He and I were assigned to the same covenant group, so I got to know him very well. His passion for the church, integrity as a leader, reliance on the Holy Spirit, and love of all people was inspiring. In that small group setting I continued to be in awe of him as he treated us all as if we were essential conversation partners. I will miss him personally and the church collectively will miss his voice. I wonder what smart suit or shoes Bishop Yambasu is now wearing in heaven.
Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
Pittsburgh Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
Gloria, my wife and our children regret and are sad to hear about the tragic death of Bishop Yambasu. He was not only a son in the ministry, but my colleague, and my president of the West Africa Central Conference. It is my prayer, thought and hope that. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit will comfort, console and bless you and abide with you and the children. Blessings, peace and the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you.
Retired Bishop – West Africa Central Conference
The United Methodist Church
Bishop Yambasu's love for God and all of God's people was reflected in his leadership throughout our connection and the wider Church. He was an educator, a missionary, and a planter. He had just been named the Chancellor of Africa University, and served as the President for the Africa College of Bishops. His was a steady voice of deep devotion, collaboration, and the need to live our Christian witness. It was Bishop Yambasu's yearning for justice and healing that led to the formation of the task force that developed The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.
Through that work, I spent time in conversation with Bishop Yambasu and came to appreciate his humor, compassionate heart, and vision for the beloved community. His hope for our future did not rest in the ability of humanity, but in the witness of Jesus Christ and the power of the gospel. We discussed plans for a delegation from the Baltimore-Washington Conference to travel to the Sierra Leone area for shared worship, fellowship, and learning. That trip will one day be made in his honor.
Bishop LaTrelle M. Easterling
The Washington Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
A big and fruitful tree: Bishop John K. Yambasu
A big tree has fallen. This mighty tree had grown and expanded and had many branches, one of which was me. I came to be part of Bishop’s tree at the age of nine. After I was picked from the streets during Sierra Leone’s eleven-year long civil war. I was withering away but was given a second chance and the nurturing I desperately needed. This was all due to the influence and the care of Bishop Yambasu. He spent his life running after the lost, the lonely, and the desperate. I was fortunate enough to spend 20 years of my life under his care. He mentored me, coached me, and taught me leadership principles. But most importantly, he believed in me. Not only was he my father figure, but when I started my career, I was able to work with him on a daily basis and receive even more of his mentoring and wisdom. Together, we worked with the key stakeholders and the Helping Children Worldwide to reunify the children living in the orphanage with their families. He was excited by this opportunity to reach even more children and families and continue his vision of helping the most vulnerable populations in Sierra Leone.
We walked together throughout this process and continued to grow and nurture even more branches together. He dedicated his life to improving the lives of others. He was the best example I knew of servant leadership. Although he had many responsibilities and positions of power, he never forgot about caring for the people in his life. He often rearranged his busy schedule in order to be available for important events. He made it a point of duty to be available for my engagement and performed my wedding ceremony himself. He often made time to call and check in. We often talked about the expansion of the CRC and Mercy Hospital programs and his dreams for the future. He never stopped dreaming and planning. He always had a big vision for what the future could be. The last time I spoke to him on the phone, he asked me when we would be seeing each other next.
Daddy, you may not be around today physically, but I know that you are watching us. You mentored, you led, and you changed so many lives. Be rest assumed that this work you started will continue and this vision that you started will continue to transform so many lives… We shall see you again on the beautiful shore.
As you rest in peace, your faithful memories will continue to linger on.
Mohamed Nabs Nabieu
Child Rescue Center – (CRC) alumnus
Tribute to Bishop Yambasu
Bishop Yambasu was an extraordinary human being and disciple of Christ! We first met him at Floris United Methodist Church in Virginia, in the USA, in 1999. We met him again in Ghana in 2003, before we had ever visited Sierra Leone. Rev. Yambasu (at the time) and his wife, Millicent, had offered for our daughter, Mandy, to come live with their family in Ghana. Mandy had been accepted into the Peace Corps, but when their process was a little slow for Mandy’s liking, she decided she was going to go to Ghana on her own for a year. When we shared this news with our pastor, Rev. Tom Berlin, Tom kindly contacted his friend, John. Little did we know that the generous hospitality of the Yambasus extended to Mandy, would result in a beautiful long-term relationship and friendship between the Yambasus and the Morells.
Over the past 18 years we have learned and caught so much from the Bishop. We learned that no matter how busy one is, always make time for other people. We learned to be better listeners. We learned that prayer is the key in any situation and often the solution when there are challenges. We learned how to be more flexible. We learned how beloved Bishop was! We were blessed to experience the CRC resident children’s sheer joy and excitement when they mobbed him whenever he popped into the CRC compound, especially when the children were not expecting him.
What did we catch from Bishop J. K. Y. ? We caught his passion for the poor and the vulnerable in Sierra Leone. We also caught his passion for education and vocational training. We caught his performance many times over the years telling a West African folk tale. We caught some of his sermons live and many others we read when John would share the hard copies with us. His voice was unmistakable, captivating, and powerful! We caught his huge smile and his whole-body laugh. We will miss that infectious smile and laugh and never forget them. We caught his supernatural love for his family – his lovely wife, Millicent, and their six children: Rebecca, Adima, John Jr., Emmanuel, Elizabeth, and Janet, plus his two grandsons. John was a father to hundreds more children and a mentor to many many adults. We caught his enthusiasm for being an honest leader, and for always being transparent.
In March of 2019 Bishop and Millicent came to our home in Massachusetts to relax and rest. (Bishop was the busiest and most well-traveled person we knew.) There was a little bit of snow when they came, and Millicent and Allen went in the backyard and made a snowman. Millicent was so tickled building that snowman. And John thoroughly enjoyed watching his wife have fun.
We will miss him terribly! Allen, Mandy, and Patty extend our most sincere condolences to the Yambasu Family, the UMC Family, the Child Reintegration Centre Family, the Mercy Hospital Family and all who loved the Bishop. His loss will take a long time to process, but we are confident that we will all be reunited with him one day!
Patty & Allen Morell
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, 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.
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.
Rev. Tom Berlin
Posted on the HCW website
TRIBUTE FOR BISHOP JOHN K YAMBASU ON BEHALF OF MORROW UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, MAPLEWOOD, NY
Morrow Church heard the most awful news about the death of Bishop John Yambusu in a road traffic accident with enormous sadness, shock and concern for the future. Bishop John was a leader, a national leader for the country, (especially during the Ebola epidemic), he was a builder, of organizations, of schools and hospitals and more. He was also a welcome friend to our Church, capable of providing great inspiration.
Over nearly two decades a deep partnership emerged between Morrow Church, Maplewood and Bishop John and later the UMC of Sierra Leone. He has visited Maplewood often and as a result, members of Morrow have walked, danced and sold things to support our work across Sierra Leone. We have sent school supplies, hymn books, funded emergency medical supplies and even squeezed an ambulance into a 40’ container to help fight Ebola.
Three years ago, during a visit to Sierra Leone, he led a group of 5 members to a remote area, near Kenema. In brief, we were inspired by Bishop John to build a much-needed Primary School. I am pleased to say it is nearly finished.
This humble man was perhaps the most effective leader I have ever witnessed. Somehow, with almost no resources, available skills or money, this man of great faith would get people and organizations to work together so that ‘lo and behold’ a year later a health center, providing basic care or a maternity clinic or a school, would open in the poorest and remotest parts of the country.
He came from Moyamba which today is still a very rural town only reached along a dusty or muddy road. Even as he rose to great heights, he never left the poor and needy.
Dear clergy and laity of the Sierra Leone Conference,
We can only imagine the pain you are experiencing in grieving the loss of your Bishop. Bishop Yambasu was well known to the entire United Methodist Church denomination. He was an outstanding leader who brought together those with differing viewpoints and built bridges to solve problems. We so admired him!
The advocacy group I represent, UMKR, works on issues related to Palestinian rights. We reached out to him prior to General Conference 2016 to request that he lift up the people of Palestine in the sermon he would preach there. His reaction was "I'm with you." We were honored that indeed, he did mention the plight of the Palestinian people in that sermon. We are so grateful to him for stating what many are afraid to say.
We felt close to Bishop Yambasu through this experience, and we mourn with you at this time. We pray for his wife and children, for his staff, for all the people of the Sierra Leone Conference and for our entire connection, all those who worked with him and were influenced by him. May you find strength and comfort in the presence of the living Lord, who sustains us in times of sadness and grief, assuring us of our life after death, with Him.
For us, he will always be part of the great cloud of witnesses in our stories. A great man of faith, a faithful servant, an inspiring leader. He will truly be missed by us all.
The Steering Committee of United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR)
Lisa Bender and Rev. John Wagner, co-chairs
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It is with great sadness that Mission Alliance have learned of the death of Bishop John K. Yambasu. We want to express our sincere condolences on the occasion of his passing. Bishop Yambasu was a respected and beloved church leader that will be sincerely missed.
On behalf of management and colleagues in Mission Alliance,
Trine Grønborg Christensen
My dear brothers and sisters of Sierra Leone working with the Partnership in Development program and members of the SL Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, I have been finding it very difficult to say anything because, I still cannot believe that our beloved Bishop, who was so farsighted, innovative, hardworking; a strong mediator and people-centered has really been taken away by the cold hands of death. The news was a shock; and it has left our hearts bleeding and broken; we want you to know that we shared your pain and grief and indeed Bishop will be missed but his memories will forever live on
And so, I write on behalf of all team players at the Liberia United Methodist Development Services, LUMDS, to express our condolences for the irreparable loss that all of us including the global church; but especially you our friends from Sierra Leone have sustained. We are deeply sorry and pray that the Good Lord will console you and the bereaved family and give the strength to hold on during these difficult movements of your life.
Take heart in the Lord and be strong my friends. To my dear Bishop; wherever you are, may your gentle soul find rest in the Bosom of Father Abraham and light everlasting shine on you. Sleep on! Sleep on!! Bishop John K. Yambasu; affectionately called JK till meet again on that great getting up morning. You fought a good fight and you have finished your course.
Our thoughts are with you and the family at this sad time.
We all love you,
My dear, dear friends,
No words can really not express the grief and pain we are all feeling after the devastating loss of Bishop Yambasu.
It is a tragedy for his family and friends, The UMC in Sierra Leone and the entire United Methodist Church, globally.
You are all in my thoughts and prayers during these difficult times of sorrow and distance. I wish we could have been together; mourning and remembering Bishop together.
He was the one taking the initiative to our partnership in Sierra Leone and has played an important role in our relationship since the start. His leadership, commitment and warm personality has touched a lot of lives, and I am proud to be able to call him my friend. Which also makes this terrible loss so painful.
Bishop will be missed, but he will continue to live on in our hearts. We will remember his integrity, directness and passion for development work. We will remember his love for the United Methodist Church and the global UMC family. We will remember his words of wisdom, his laughter and loving remarks.
I think having had Bishop Yambasu in our lives has made us better people!
May the precious soul of our dear Bishop rest in peace.
Heartbroken and devastated,
Anne Ng Forster
Indeed we all learnt of this tragic accident and were rendered dumb-founded by the very sad news. At one point you would feel another message to say it's not true; he shall be coming soon. But Alas! we have to live with it. He was such a Giant in leadership, fatherhood and Spirituality. I personally learnt a lot from His Wisdom which he generously shared with others.
To you our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone take heart , the Lord will be with you always even in the midst of this darkest part of your lives. We are with you in prayer. Though we are hurt to this great extent may the Overwhelming Power and Love of God Almighty comfort and guide you always.
Grace and Peace
Alan Masimba Gurupira
Chabadza Board Chair
Solomon, Francis and Winston,
My heart was broken when I heard about the death of your great faithful and visionary Bishop John Yambasu. I am thankful that I got to meet him at your graduation in Richmond Indiana and hear his inspiring message. I thank God for his leadership in Sierra Leone, throughout Africa and around the world. I especially appreciated his work towards an amicable separation in the United Methodist Church through the Protocol agreement. We were all blessed that God sent him to lead us, inspire us and challenge us to be more faithful and fruitful Christian leaders who make disciples of Jesus Christ. I am glad we had the privilege of giving him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from United at your graduation.
We pray for his family, his conference, his friends and coworkers around the world as you all thank God for his life and all he meant to you, thank God for his eternal life and surrender him into God’s loving hands. Our prayers are with you.
Grace and peace
Dr. Kent Millard, President
United Theological Seminary
We write now to offer words of condolence and comfort to you and family as you all together grieve and find your way after the tragic death of your husband, Bishop John K. Yambasu. He was, for us, not only a trusted and beloved leader but also a mentor, a friend and brother.
The imprint of his life is indelibly stamped upon The United Methodist Church that he loved so much. He modeled for us global citizenship. He showed us the best in terms of Christian witness with missional impact. Bishop Yambasu blessed us all by his capacity to love and navigate through differences. Through his life and example, we are able to understand more fully the Wesleyan admonition to embrace “the world as our parish.”
We at United Methodist Communications are grieving with you because his touch upon our lives and ministries is profound. In so many ways, he helped us tell the church’s story on behalf of the whole church. We continue with hearts full of gratitude for his faith-filled life so full of love and understanding and vision. His mark is upon us, and we will continue our work as communicators with the awareness that his spirit is with us.
We have found some consolation in the opening words of Hebrews Chapter 12.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Bishop Yambasu has marked out a path for us to follow.
We are praying for you. We are praying for your children, Rebecca, Adima, John, Emmanuel, Elizabeth and Janet. We are praying for your entire family and the people of Sierra Leone. We are praying for all who have been touched by his life and ministry.
May the peace and love of God surround you.
Daniel Krause, General Secretary, United Methodist Communications
The Reverend Gary Henderson, Chief Relationship Officer
It is with a heavy heart I write to you about the passing of Bishop John K. Yambasu whose life was tragically cut short in a car accident this weekend.
Since 2009, Bishop Yambasu had served as the Resident Bishop of Sierra Leone. He was also the president of the Africa College of Bishops, and had been elected the incoming Chancellor of Africa University.
As a leader of our church, the entire United Methodist Church joins in mourning the loss of Bishop Yambasu.
Bishop Yambasu led with such a strong vision for possibilities of the the future of the church. In the midst of a complicated world, Bishop Yambasu courageously showed us how to find unity amid our diversity. The loss of Bishop Yambasu is a loss for the future of our church.
His loss is most deeply felt by his wife Millicent, and his five children: Rebecca, Adima, John, Emmanuel, and Elizabeth. May God surround them with comfort in their grief and sadness.
My colleagues from the General Board of Church and Society share their own remembrances of our friend.
Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for UN and International Affairs, says:
"Bishop John and I were contemporaries as UMYF national presidents, he in Sierra Leone and I in the Philippines. In a time of political ferment, we attended global meetings together where we asserted youth leadership, giving voice to both our fears and visions of a just world and a compassionate church. I will miss him and the voice he spoke prophetically in the church and society."
Marvlyn Scott, a longtime Church and Society staff member from Sierra Leone, says:
"The tragic death of Bishop Yambasu leaves me with a heavy heart to give tribute to a beloved Bishop of Sierra Leone. Bishop Yambasu was loved for his great stewardship to Sierra Leoneans. According to the hymnist, 'When for vanished days we yearn, days that never can return, teach us in the love to learn, love for evermore.' May his soul rest in perfect peace."
As their words attest, Bishop Yambasu’s life and ministry have been a blessing to The United Methodist witness for justice and peace in our world. May his spirit continue to guide us.
With God's Peace,
Church and Society
Bishop John Yambasu played a pivotal role in the worldwide mission of The United Methodist Church. As vice president of the General Board of Global Ministries, he had church-wide responsibilities in guiding United Methodist witness and service around the globe. As president of the African College of Bishops, he identified and helped to carry out mission opportunities across the continent. As episcopal leader of Sierra Leone, he exemplified the best of what it means to be a pastor to pastors and a visionary shepherd to a holy flock of Christian believers. He was the voice for health, justice, and peace in all matters sacred and secular and his influence on the world, continental and national stages reached across boundaries.
John Yambasu was one of the finest human beings I have known. His integrity and courage, his African pride and solidarity with all people were outstanding. I depended on him for wisdom and counsel in matters professional and personal. He helped me to sort out the pros and cons when, in 2009, I was struggling with the decision whether to apply for the position of Global Ministries’ general secretary. He helped me and the Global Ministries’ directors understand and respond to crises and opportunities in many places. He promoted collaborative mission in Africa, notably in response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014 and in development of church land for agricultural productivity. He helped to facilitate United Methodist reconciliation in Burundi in 2018, following a twelve-year schism.
To me, he was colleague, friend, and brother. Born on the same day and month in the same year, we often joked that we were twins, only born by different mothers, he in Bo and I in Hamburg. I knew him first as a Global Ministries-related missionary working with children and youth in West Africa and I was with the mission office of the Germany Central Conference. I was thrilled when he was elected to the episcopy in 2008.
John Yambasu strongly believed in the unity and wholeness of the church. He had keen insights into the current situation and future potential for The United Methodist Church in Africa and around the world. He believed in the value of a united church in and for African: “United Methodist, and that is who and what we are,” he said to me in a message a few days before his death.
This past April, I interviewed the bishop in a series of internet broadcasts interviews on how the church around the world was coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. In concluding that conversation, the bishop pointed toward mission and ministry beyond fear, disease, and death.
“Hallelujah for hope,” said Bishop John Yambasu.
And I say, “Hallelujah for John Yambasu, man of hope in Christ.”
General Board of Global Ministries
A Reflection from The General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries:
Bishop Yambasu earned a worldwide reputation for his devotion, wisdom, and kindness; but in this moment of grief over his tragic passing, I’m reflecting on how appropriate it was that he hailed from Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s roots travel some 2,500 years into the tropical rainforest floor. The foliage canopy there isolated the region from other West African cultures and became a refuge for people fleeing persecution and war. The Freetown estuary offered a natural harbor for ships to shelter and replenish life-giving drinking water.
For those of us who knew him, Bishop Yambasu was all of those things.
He was full of light and courage, a calming voice amidst a dark and uncertain future. He bucked convention and worked to broker a peace in our utter denominational brokenness.
I got to know his heart during our mediation meetings. He carried the hopes and aspirations of his people in his heart, and his love of Jesus was always paramount. Ever the mentor, he took a private moment with me during tense and heartbreaking separation meetings to encourage me. His words continue to inspire and challenge me to maximize my gifts as a leader.
I could not have been more blessed to know him in this trying season.
Bishop Yambasu was a true friend and champion for the work of Discipleship Ministries. Bishop Yambasu was a great advocate for the work of DRI (Discipleship Resources International), the development of indigenous publishing teams across the conferences in Africa and the development of the E-readers for Theological Education for the seminaries and pastor schools. The Sierra Leone Publishing team led by Phileas Jusu was one of the more recent teams established, and Bishop Yambasu supported the work of the team wholeheartedly. He also welcomed the E-Reader Project into the new seminary he recently and enthusiastically inaugurated in Sierra Leone. In so many ways, he was a great partner to and supporter of Discipleship Ministries.
Ironically, due to the postponement of General Conference, our church remains in an uncertain moment. The world is still in turmoil.
I believe however, that given the example Bishop Yambasu, God is calling us to keep pressing forward with the same tenacity and devotion that he showed us all.
His spirit will continue to refresh and shelter our efforts in the same way his home country has done for others through the passage of time.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Junius B. Dotson
BISHOP JOHN YAMBASU
Dr. Julius F. Sandy, JP, GOOR
I first came into contact with John Yambasu in 1978, as a young freshman in the university. I had been introduced to him by my elder brother, Alfred. John was three years ahead of me in college. Being a very young chap at that time, John did not believe that indeed I had matriculated as a First Year University Student, more so in the Sciences. His disbelief heightened each time our paths crossed, as I would be carrying a novel and not one of those popular science textbooks of our time. Ab initio, John was concerned about my school work. Ab initio, I found him to be a caring young man. “How the Course?”, he would ask, each time we met, and we met frequently. Being a man of very few words, I would answer, “fine”, and that will terminate my own side of the conversation. He would not go away without admonishing me to work hard; that University was not meant for “boys”.
During the second term, I joined the Juche Club, the FOCUS Press and the Green Book Study Group. John and the likes of Ken Kawa, (RIP), Jambawai, Olayinka, Jabez Sheku, Kondolovah, Beah, etc., were members of the Pan African Fellowship Evangelical Students Group. This Evangelical Society was regarded as a pious Christian Organization, meant only for very serious-minded Christian students.
One day, John and Ken invited me to “Fellowship” with them. I went there a few times and I abandoned the Group. To me and my new “friends”, this Bible Study Group was uneventful. I went back to the “Fools Paradise” and was elected Editor of the FOCUS Press, where life was exciting, rebellious, unguided and revolutionary. This was a totally new life for someone like me, who had been nurtured in my early days with a Christian Doctrine. The urge to explore the “other” side of life without a curious grandma wishing to know or ordering every step of my life was increasing. Thank God I met John.
One night, John saw me coming out of the Green Book Study Group. I was carrying on me, Kwame Nkrumah’s Book: The Struggle Continues, a collection of six pamphlets published in 1973. We have just been divided into Six Groups to study each of the Pamphlets and lead discussions during the next Session, which would always fall on a Saturday night. My own Group was to lead on: THE SPECTRE OF BLACK POWER, one of five pamphlets written by Nkrumah while he was in exile in Conakry.
On seeing me, John was visibly worried and concerned. He spent a few moments preaching to me to abandon that “unholy” path; that it can only lead to failure in college and self-destruct. He told my brother and they spent a few weeks counselling me on many things, including a return to the Christian Fellowship Group. I did not return but eventually (though not immediately) discontinued my association with the Green Book after a few weeks. John did that for me! He saved a sinking soul!! John and his Bible Study friends must have done so for many more people. While we were sinners, as the Good Book says, John had been converted, and he helped to strengthen us. Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, John and another friend of his early Bible Study Group rose to become Bishops of their respective Christian Denominations. They are both now in the company of Angels and Archangels; in the company of all who have died believing in Jesus. A few more were Ordained in established Churches.
From that time forward, John and I developed a relation built on mutual respect and full of inspiration for our personal growth and for humanity. In those formative years, John cared about the strayed sheep. He cared and worked towards winning souls for Christ. He cared for the perishing. In those very young years of his sojourn, John was identified as a leader, a caring Christian Leader, who would eventually lead a world of Christians. So has it been until that fateful 16th day of August 2020!
I always recount my encounter at a University Public Lecture in England many years ago. The topic was: THE DAY GOD DIED. I attended out of curiosity, to know whether or not God really and truly had died. It turned out that God really and truly had NOT died. Only great events, only great moments, and only great men and great women pass on from time to eternity. John’s passage from time to eternity is on such great moment. There may have been no earthquake, but the significance, knowing John from those early days, has not lost on me. Certainly, there was no earthquake. Certainly there was a “big bang”. I know that John was needed to preach in Heaven that Sunday (August 16 2020). What a day of rejoicing it must have been. I have never heard of the death of a man that is so symbolic and that is an embodiment of Christendom:
He died with a Sermon on his lap
He died with a Bible by his side.
He died with the Crucifix on his chest
He died in his Robe as Bishop, the symbol of a leading servant of Christ here on earth
He died on his way, not only to bury a sheep of his flock, but also to preach the Gospel to people in that part of God’s Vineyard.
He died on a Sunday, a day set aside by many Christians all over the world to pray, worship, praise, fellowship and share the Word of God.
Heaven must have rejoiced at his entry into eternity.
With no attempt to judge him, John died as a Christian. May God grant him eternal rest in Paradise.
John’s humility and his desire to save humanity were outstanding. Each time we spoke on the phone, he would pray for me and this country. He would do the same, whenever he came to visit me in my office. He came to see me in my office less than two weeks before he was called home. He spent more time praying for me and Sierra Leone than for the Pa Loko issue he came to discuss. I was touched with his love for the Church and country. “I will keep praying for you, Julius”. Those were his last words to me. He has never gone back on his words to me. I know he is alive in Heaven, praying for us and for this country.
John appeared to me in a dream exactly ONE WEEK before he passed on to eternity. He was organizing and leading a long Church Procession. My late brother, Alfred, was by his side, and they both were leading the procession. This was the same Alfred that introduced John to me in 1978. I am sure they have reunited and living in the company of all who have died in faith.
John, undoubtedly, was a good Preacher of the Gospel. He preached to serve and save humanity. That is what I admired most about him, each time he ascended the Pulpit. He did not preach about prosperity here on earth. He did not preach about riches. For him, it was not about gaining the world and losing one’s soul. He preached about salvation; about the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He preached about inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. He preached about good neighbourliness; about being our brother’s keeper; about doing to others what we wish them do to us. He preached about the wretchedness of the earth, and called on us, his congregants, to repent, take up the Cross and follow Jesus. John preached the Gospel undiluted and unadulterated. He preached the Gospel pointedly, truly and fearlessly.
But John was human. He was a mortal. Like all mortals, he must have fallen short of the Glory of God. May God forgive John of the sins he committed.
I have no doubt in my mind that Bishop John Yambasu is in HEAVEN, with his Bible in one hand; with his Sermon in the other hand, dressed in God’s Robe, walking all over Heaven, reading, preaching and pleading for his flock here on earth. He is PLEADING FOR YOU AND FOR ME.
The parting is difficult to admit and convey, but John is alive in Heaven.
EULOGY FOR BISHOP JOHN KPAHUN YAMBASU
Presented by your Humble Administrative Assistant Rve. Solomon G Rogers
Who am I?
Before I say a final good bye to somebody I had special admiration for, a mentor, a visionary, a motivator, an extra ordinary leader, a man who has followed the dictates of his name throughout his life and ministry. “Kpahun” in Mende means a farm. Because you were meant to be great the KPA that was considered to be “Menjei” after which you were named was the largest farm that your father made at that time, you were always meek and humble. When we were always together your question to me was WHO AM I? Since I did not understand the answer anytime it was asked, it has down on me to give an answer today in the words of Paul to the Corinthians and Philippians:
“You had the mind of Christ” You lived your life and died like Christ. You did not hold on your resources to yourself but to a very large extent to the poor and needy to the detriment of your family. You were most times misinterpreted for who you were and stood unshaken; this is why I consider you to be great.
Your greatness came from the innate desire to do extraordinary things – to reach beyond the status quo and relentlessly chase your dreams. It all started in your 12-year ministry in 2009 by setting and achieving “Vision 2020” goals. You aimed higher than where you set your mark, you forced yourself to get better, one victory at a time. You took the world by surprise not only your staff in the office but clergy and lay persons of Conference to a very high altitude when you quietly took your exit from the cockpit to the master on August 16th 2020 leaving us hanging there.
So, you really believed in the words of (William Faulkner) “Always dreamt and shot higher than you knew you can do. You never bothered just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors, but tried to be better than yourself. The reason for our transformation today
Mediocrity was never in your vocabulary. You can tell others or me, Solomon, you are capable of something better than what you have done, and when once that is done. You will say “You are just the best”
You exhibited so many leadership qualities I would want others to know, that God willing I will expand on later in life:
- You were a Responsible Leader
- A growing Leader
- An exemplary leader
- An Inspiring leader
- An efficient leader
- A caring leader
- A communicating leader
- A goal – Oriented leader
- A decisive Leader
- A competent leader
- A working Leader and above all
- A Unifying leader
The above leadership principles tell me you were modeled by the person of Christ Jesus. Some of the great shared principles of our brother and friend Jesus the Christ was that he motivated his followers by the actions of his own life of Humility, personal relationships and self-sacrifice.
You had lunch with your 11-member Cabinet on Wednesday 12th August 2020 at the Bishop Wenner School of Theology Leicester peak Freetown.
“Who am I” Solomon?
Your foresightedness and foretelling made you not only an overseer but a true Prophet of Africa and the whole world. You gave your mind to Rev Professor George Carew Saturday 15th August at about 14 hours GMTon the future of the United Methodist University one of the biggest legacies
Friends, “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us” says Wilma Rudolph.
So brothers and Sisters be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” (William Shakespeare)
Bishop you were born great and remain a great leader in our memories nationally and internationally. You motivated Clergy and Laypersons to achieve their highest potential for the cause of Jesus Christ for which I am a part, therefore you led and died like Jesus. Bishop I promise to remain committed to your dreams until I get my own home call. Sleep and take your rest my HERO.