The story about the death of the Rev. Isaac Momoh Ndanema of Sierra Leone was full of interesting little bits and pieces that I wish I could learn more about.
Ndanema died in June at the age of 107. He was praised and hailed as a great evangelist for the United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. The story gave a few glimpses of his evangelistic method:
The team used Ndanema’s private old Peugeot car until it was beyond repairs. He paid the repair cost over the years and did not receive any reimbursement from conference, recalled the Rev. Moses Massaquoi, his assistant at the time. Ndanema served faithfully, whether or not he was supported by the annual conference, Massaquoi observed.
The team had four main objectives:
- To organize churches in the east end of Freetown
- To train local leadership for the established congregations
- To construct new churches for the new congregations
- To open new schools in the eastern part of the city
Their work resulted in 14 churches and 10 schools in eastern Freetown and the hinterland.
I am struck both by the selflessness of his ministry and the social nature of it. Bob Walters of Friendly Planet Missiology and the North Katanga Annual Conference has written about the unique character of United Methodist growth in Africa, or at least the part he is living in:
Yes, The United Methodist Church is growing rapidly in North Katanga, as in other parts of Africa. But you also need to know that The United Methodist Church in North Katanga and Tanganyika has earned the hard way a reputation of being the pastors who stayed with the people when warring armies invaded their villages, the church leaders who can be trusted to oversee elections, the church of higher education, the church of community development, the church of social change (especially the role of women), the church of health and healing, the church that works well with others (even those with whom we disagree), the church that sits down with war lords who have committed unspeakable acts of violence. The United Methodist Church in North Katanga is a smart, courageous, skilled church that knows what it means when you say, “Real church work is hard.”
I heard in the story about Ndanema echoes of Walters’ description of the UMC in North Katanga.
From the story on his death:
“He was a family supporter. Part of his ministry was settling disputes among disintegrating families. I had made up my mind to quit the relationship with my husband because he did not seem interested to marry me after we’d had our third child,” recalled Mary Kallon, a member of the Musselman congregation. “Word got to Pastor Ndanema that I was moving out of the home. He called me and my husband, resolved the matter and we wed the following Saturday.”
Alfred Josiah, who met Ndanema in his youth, said part of Ndanema’s method of evangelism was taking care of people’s social needs. “He helped me secure a job which became my career up to my retirement,” he said.
Tommy Lansana said Pa Ndanema encouraged him to begin learning to read and write at age 21.
I read this story and wanted to learn more. I read it and wondered what we in the United States could learn about being United Methodists from our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone, North Katanga, and other places.