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Abraham Sellu, 64, remembered as leader


5:00 P.M. EST May 6, 2011 | FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS)

The body of Abraham Sellu is carried to Kercher Memorial United Methodist Church, Kenema, in eastern Sierra Leone. UMNS web-only photo by Phileas Jusu.
The body of Abraham Sellu is carried to Kercher Memorial United Methodist Church, Kenema, in eastern Sierra Leone. UMNS web-only photo by Phileas Jusu.

Abraham Kai Sellu, former educator and mission coordinator who served Sierra Leone and East Africa, was remembered as a leader and peacemaker during funeral services held in April.

Sellu was a former principal of the Albert Academy, The United Methodist Church’s oldest boys’ high school in Sierra Leone, and retired East Africa coordinator for the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries.

Three services were held for Sellu, 64, who died March 29 after a heart attack at his Freetown residence. At all three – in Freetown, the capital; Kenema, his regional headquarters town; and Giema Dama, his home village – the Albert Academy alumni association and school brass band turned out.

“This is the highest honor an Academician can ever receive,” academy Principal Albert Kawa said.

Sellu had spent the last two years of his retirement at home in Sierra Leone, where his wife, Elmira, continued to work as a regional missionary to the Sierra Leone Annual Conference for the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministries.

“My mind goes back to those early days when we were new at the Albert Academy, and (I) will never forget the congenial welcome he gave us as the second group of girls coming into Lower Six - the original set was his own classmates,” wrote the Rev. Gloria Cline-Smythe, a former schoolmate and friend, on a blog.

“He had a great sense of humor.  Always a gentleman, always debonair, a great churchman, a strict disciplinarian, an outstanding scholar in his various disciplines. His accomplishments as a student and as a principal were most admirable.”

Peacemaking skills

As coordinator of the Board of Global Ministries for East Africa, Sellu and his family lived in Nairobi, Kenya, before relocating to Kampala, Uganda.

Abraham Sellu
Abraham Sellu

“I remember when the Sierra Leonean community in Kenya was threatened by division with squabbles here and there,” said Edgar Momoh, a Sierra Leonean United Methodist living in Kenya. “Because of his natural peacemaking prowess, the community held together until they relocated to Uganda. Many of us feared that once they were out of the way, we’ll withdraw to our little corners, which we did immediately (after) they left.”

Bishop Daniel Wandabula, who traveled from Uganda to Sierra Leone for the funeral in Freetown, recalled that Sellu was a seasoned missionary and peacemaker who helped resolve conflict in the East Africa Annual Conference.

“We will remember his love for the Albert Academy as a dedicated student and senior prefect, teacher and principal,” said Batilloi Waritay, on behalf of the Albert Academy alumni association at King Memorial United Methodist Church in Freetown. “We remember his sense of discipline and the many students who recall his attempts to not spare the rod and spoil the child. We remember his dedication to excellence in giving free lessons to students attempting public exams.

“We will recall the guidance and direction he gave as a principal to teachers, students and conference alike. We will remember his wonderful laughter that would force you to laugh as well.”

‘A man of integrity’

Sellu was born in Giema Dama, a predominantly Muslim community in the Kenema District of eastern Sierra Leone. He attended the Albert Academy from 1958 to 1964, then went on to the Fourah Bay College in Freetown, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in geography in 1968. The following year, he returned to the Albert Academy as a teacher, while at the same time working on a post-graduate diploma in education.
He was a United Methodist Crusade Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he enrolled in 1974, and graduated in 1976 with a master’s in geography. In 1978, he was appointed lecturer at the Milton Margai College of Education in Freetown. He returned to the Albert Academy as principal and served 1985 to 1999.

He was appointed coordinator of the Board of Global Ministries’ East Africa region in 1999, where he served until his retirement in 2009.

Speaking at the April 8 service at King Memorial in Freetown, Bishop John Yambasu called Sellu “a man of integrity” who handled critical financial responsibilities in addition to his duties as regional manager of the East Africa office.

Another funeral service followed on April 9 at the Kercher Memorial United Methodist Church in Kenema. The final funeral ceremony was held April 10 in Giema Dama, in a local community open hall where people meet to socialize and to settle disputes.

That village has no United Methodist church, and Yambasu challenged his listeners to build a church there in memory of “this great United Methodist who spent all his life in the service of the church.”

In addition to his wife, Sellu is survived by two daughters, Wuyatta and Elmira, and one son, Abraham Kai Sellu Jr.

*Jusu is a communicator for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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    I feel blessed to know Mr. Abraham Sellu. He was a father, a missionary and someone of high integrity. May His soul rest in perfect peace. He is gone but he will always be with us.

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