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District superintendents attend a two-day training in Freetown in basic computer skills Sept. 8, 2016. The training, organized by John Yambasu (left), was to equip the superintendents to use laptops donated by United Methodist Communications upon their return to their districts. Photo courtesty of Phileas Jusu, United Methodist Communications

Photo courtesty of Phileas Jusu, United Methodist Communications

District superintendents attend a two-day training in Freetown in basic computer skills Sept. 8, 2016. The training, organized by John Yambasu (left), a Global Missionary Fellow in Sierra Leone, was to equip the superintendents — some of whom did not have computer knowledge before — to use laptops donated by United Methodist Communications upon their return to their districts.

The Rev. Mariama Bockari, a first-time computer user, learns how to save a document on day two of training as Bishop John Yambasu looks on. Photo courtesty of Phileas Jusu, United Methodist Communications.

Photo courtesty of Phileas Jusu, United Methodist Communications

The Rev. Mariama Bockari, a first-time computer user, learns how to save a document on day two of training as Bishop John Yambasu looks on. The two-day basic computer training was to empower Sierra Leone Conference district superintendents to use computers to do their work.

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New laptops help connect district superintendents in Sierra Leone

By Phileas Jusu
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone | Oct. 13, 2016

United Methodist district superintendents in Sierra Leone will now present reports differently – not in the old-fashioned business-as-usual paper-written style. Thanks to a new project through United Methodist Communications’ ICT4D (Information and Communications Technology for Development) Church Initiative, each district superintendent in the country received a new laptop for their ministry and to help them more easily communicate with others.

A two-day training — held Sept. 8-9 — in Freetown, showed the district superintendents how to use a computer, use the internet and send emails. Each of the participants received a brand new Dell laptop, a flash drive and a mobile internet modem. There are nine districts in the Sierra Leone Conference.

For the Rev. David Foray, Moyamba West District Superintendent, this will terrifically reduce his workload and work time. Before now, he would collect all the hand-written reports from circuit ministers in his district; compile, edit and rewrite them; and get someone with a computer to input all the content before sending the final copy to the conference secretary for inclusion into the pre-conference journal. A laptop equipped with a mobile internet modem together with a flash drive has changed all that.

“The conference has made much improvement in my work. Now, I will do it myself and email it to the conference secretary,” Foray said.

The Rev. Mariama Seray Bockari, Makeni District Superintendent in northern Sierra Leone, said the laptop will continue to be beneficial to her and her community. “It will make my work very simple. I will now be communicating without writing on paper.” Previously, Bockari would have to be telephoned and reminded about an email sent to her before she would go to the nearest internet café and have someone check her mail for her for a fee.

Possessing a laptop has always been the dream for the Rev. Mohamed Deen, superintendent of the Kono District.

“I feel so grateful. It connects me to the outside world through messages in the social media, which I have not been receiving all this while,” he said. Like Bockari, Deen has had to write his material on paper and pay someone to type it for him. “Sometimes, it takes days to complete. But now, it will be very easy to do report writing and other official work.”

For the Rev. Henry Macavory, Bonthe District Superintendent, a laptop equipped with internet accessibility is a blessing.

“Bonthe District is an island and very challenging in getting information out manually,” he said. With a laptop now and an internet connection, Macavory will send information across to the conference very easily. Previously, he would have to wait for someone traveling to Freetown to take along his hand-written reports. He is also a distance-learning student. He says he will use the computer to send his assignments to his tutors in the United States. As a pastor, he could use the internet to support sermon planning. He says the computer will enhance his community work because he would assist those without internet access in Bonthe to use his laptop to check their mails.

The Rev. Francis Ben Charley, Bo District Superintendent, expressed appreciation to United Methodist Communications for providing the laptops. He says the computers “make district superintendents part of the 21st century.”

Charley is also dean of the bishop’s cabinet. “The bishop would no longer have to use his cell phone to call me daily because he now can alternatively access me by email and he would be very sure I’d respond in time,” he said. “It will also make me keep accurate records because I am now going to set up a database of all the churches and schools in my district.”

The Rev. Moses Conteh, Moyamba East District Superintendent, said computers give their users great flexibility. “My work will now be sent directly from any location to anywhere needed. Reports of my district activities, needs, proposals, projects will now be done easily from my laptop.” Conteh said he did not have much prior knowledge in computer software programs and was excited to participate in the training.

Before he got a laptop, Conteh would have to wait until he got to Freetown — about 180 kilometers away from his district — before he could check his mail. He was excited that now he could do so right from his residence at Taiama. At his church in Taiama, Conteh keeps a ledger where they enter baptisms, weddings and church attendance. To call meetings, he would have to write notices that would be hand-delivered to pastors. But he said the mobile phone had considerably reduced the use of snail mail. So he did phone calls for meetings. But even with that, sometimes reception is too poor to hear the person on the other side. He said he will now be using email more often to reach out to colleague district superintendents, the bishop and partners in the United States.

“I used to carry a big bag of books of documents, but now, it’s been made so easy,” he said. “In fact, we now have a flash drive to save all our work. I’ll now have to travel light to Freetown because I’ll just save a few documents I need in my flash drive and take that along with me without the computer.”

Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone.