Sierra Leone’s newly opened United Methodist University was dedicated at ceremony attended by academics, diplomats, senior government officials and United Methodists who had traveled from near and far.
According to the United Methodist Church, the Jan. 27 event included the official launching of the first faculty, the Bishop Wenner School of Theology, named after retired German Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner. The school has been up and running since November, with students and staff in place, said the Rev. Edwin Momoh, the university’s adjunct professor of research and development.
Addressing the gathering, Sierra Leone Area Bishop John Yambasu, chancellor of the university, recalled with joy how his dream of a United Methodist University nine years ago had come to fruition.
“My many travels across the African continent (as a missionary of The United Methodist Church) opened my eyes to the massive illiteracy, poverty, misery, marginalization and exploitation of young people and the helplessness of many of them to take responsibility for their own destiny. Many still live in squalor and go through life-threatening experiences every day because they lack the needed education and skills that will make them employable.”
Yambasu also thanked all those who believed in his dream and had either journeyed with him or spurred him on to achieve his goal.
Through our diversified curriculum … United Methodist University will help create opportunities for the present and future population by ushering in sustainable development, reduction of poverty and help create a democratic and peaceful society where respect for law and order is evidenced,” he said.Wenner, who had flown from Germany to Freetown, for the occasion was overwhelmed with emotion.
“Today, when I was honored to unveil the plaque, I saw it with my own eyes: Yes, this is the Bishop Wenner School of Theology. A very nice building at an extraordinary place with great people teaching and learning here — the first faculty of several to come — all this is a great achievement of the UMC in Sierra Leone and I compliment you for that,” she said.
She recalled that United Methodists in Germany and Sierra Leone have a long-standing relationship dating back to the 1960s. She said she was accepting the honor on behalf of The United Methodist Church in Germany.
“We Methodists value education and particularly theological education. We see no contradiction in knowledge and vital piety. In fact, we know: They are twins. Therefore, keep on with the good work. I urge you, the students who are already filling this place with life, make good use of the school,” Wenner said.
Roger and Melania Reiner of Minnesota also were honored at the ceremony. They have been in ministry with Sierra Leone for more than three decades and helped get all of the books for the School of Theology Library, which Yambasu described as fully equipped with the resource materials required for undergraduate studies in theology. He named the library after the Reiners.
Melania Reiner said the dedication was a great day for the church in Sierra Leone. She said pastors in the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church donated the books and that they were just the vehicle through which the books arrived.
Yambasu named professor George Carew as vice chancellor of United Methodist University. Carew has vast experience in university academia in the U.S., Liberia and Sierra Leone. Carew said he believes it is the mission of the church to build a university that addresses the moral and spiritual void in the society.
Keynote speaker, the Rev. Kim Cape, top executive with the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said it was a great day in the life of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone and the world at large, but she cautioned against complacency.
“We are here because of the vision of Bishop Yambasu. He saw the need of his church and he had a vision for the school. But as we know, vision alone is not enough. (He) shared his vision with you and called you to action. He called you to dream with him, to work to build the school of theology and university for this generation and future generations.
“This work is not finished. There’s still work to be done. We must not sit back and say, ‘Oh, this is done. What a lovely ceremony.’ We must say we have a plan to do great work for God and must nurture it and make it grow.”
The United Methodist Church