DAYTON, Ohio – Sierra Leone United Methodist Bishop John Yambasu recently visited United Theological Seminary as part of a recently established partnership between United (UTS) and The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone.

Yambasu plans on opening a United Methodist theological school in Sierra Leone to help train leaders for the church, and he said these four students will be instrumental in providing leadership for the school.

Four students from Sierra Leone just began their participation in United’s online-hybrid program to earn their master of divinity degrees and were on campus in Dayton to attend the program’s two-week, face-to-face intensive session.

Partnership with United

The partnership with United began more than a year ago when Yambasu was researching schools and “by God’s grace,” met United’s President Wendy Deichmann.

“We started having conversations about the possibility of having students study here,” Yambasu said. “I wanted an institution that would provide training for the first batch of students, who would then return home and provide leadership at the new institution. I invited President Deichmann to Sierra Leone for her and her team to have a personal experience of our context so they would be able to know exactly the kind of needs we have for education.”

In March 2013, Deichmann, Professor Peter Bellini, Maria Bellini and alumnus, the Rev. Stephen Crowell, visited the West African country for a week.

Operation Classroom

During his visit, Yambasu also preached at Armstrong Chapel UMC in Cincinnati, Ohio, participated in a fundraising dinner for United’s Sierra Leone scholarships and met with representatives from the Indiana Conference of the UMC about Operation Classroom.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Indiana for about 25 years, with a program called Operation Classroom,” Yambasu said, noting Operation Classroom provides work study grants for students in Sierra Leone, provides training for teachers, rehabilitates schools, provides school supplies, does renovation work and builds new schools. “Mission teams go to Sierra Leone every year – sometimes two teams, sometimes three teams.”