Monday, May 2, 2022

Øyvind Aske: Bishop Yambasu’s Driver

This piece is written by Rev. Øyvind Aske, Secretary of Metodistkirkens Misjonsselskap (the Mission Society of The United Methodist Church in Norway). The Norway Annual Conference has a long-standing partnership with Sierra Leone Annual Conference. This article originally appeared on the website of Misjonsselskapet. It has been translated by UM & Global’s David Scott and is republished here with permission.

One rainy Sunday morning, August 16, 2020, Bishop Yambasu was on the way to a funeral outside Freetown. The evening before, he had called Abdul Kamara, his driver, and asked him to drive. He had chosen not to drive together with others who were going to the same funeral the day before.

There was little traffic on the road. On the way north, not far outside the city, the unthinkable happened. A car traveling in the opposite direction on the four-lane divided road hit the median, which is at least 20 cm (8 inches) high, bounced up in the air, hovered over the left lane, and hit the bishop’s jeep in the right lane. We know the tragic outcome: this accident caused Bishop Yambasu’s all too early death. Abdul emerged from the accident with serious injuries in his head and leg.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we from Norway had not visited Sierra Leone in mission for over two years. Only now, in March 2022, were we able to see the accident site, meet with Bishop Yambasu’s widow Millicent, visit the grave site, and get to see Abdul Kamara.

Abdul was born in September 1987 and has worked with CELAD (Community Empowerment for Livelihood and Development, The Sierra Leone-Norway Partnership) for several years, most recently before 2020 as the bishop’s driver. His education beyond primary school is some car mechanics. There was a good relationship between them, and the bishop put great value on Abdul, who lined up at all hours of the day.

He was a skilled driver. That fateful Sunday, he held a steady course until he saw the shadow of something come in abruptly from the left. The car that came flying met the left side of the bishop’s car with enormous force. The driver’s side door was knocked in, met Abdul, and knocked him unconscious.

He lay unconscious at the hospital a long time but woke up and survived. His vision in the left leg is impaired, and his left leg was broken in several places. The doctor explained that he could no longer drive a car. Abdul has in addition struggled with guilt after the accident. It was he who was the driver for the bishop who died that day.

The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone has not turned its back on Abdul. After the treatment at the hospital, he has gone back to his old workplace and “hung out” with his colleagues. They have tried to take care of him even if he can no longer drive a car. Eventually he got a job as an office assistant and does odd jobs for $100 a month.

On Sunday, March 20, after church service, we traveled up to Leicester Peak where the bishop is buried. The grave is covered with a roof and has brick and mortar walls and a gate that is locked. We had the CELAD staff with; Anne, Tove Odland, and I were there, and Abdul was also along. It was a very emotional moment.

Abdul knelt by the grave and afterwards fetched water and a cloth and washed the grave of dust and dirt. Andrew led the little ceremony. Joe sang, and we Norwegians said some personal words. We finished with the Lord’s Prayer and a blessing. Farewell, Bishop John K. Yambasu. Thanks for all the good memories. Rest in peace, and we will meet again in the heavenly home!

As for Abdul, he offers thanks for all the prayers and support from Norway. He himself says that he is now strong enough in his leg that he can drive cars again and hopes to be able to get the doctor’s statement on this eventually. He has a clear mark on the left side of his face, a dent that he thinks will heal eventually. What about his eye? He does not have the means to seek out an ophthalmologist or optician.

We may continue to pray for Abdul – a fellow human being with extra large challenges in our sister church in Sierra Leone.

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