On This Day in UB History: May 16 (Sierra Leone)

On May 16, 1994, the Board of Missions unanimously passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of all missionaries in Sierra Leone by the end of 1994. Wrote Missions director Kyle McQuillen, “This is not a temporary move. It is a final withdrawal of missionary personnel.”

Sierra Leone’s descent into anarchy had dominated the March board meeting. Rebel activity kept rising, and missionaries with other groups had been killed. Although 9 of the 14 board members had served in Sierra Leone, they raised serious questions about our long-term role there.

Two months later, the board gathered in Huntington, Ind., for an emergency session. They spent hours wrestling with their options before making the decision to pull out. Our churches and other ministries, including Mattru Hospital, would continue, but under national leadership.

During the next seven months, UB missionaries trickled out of the country–the Welch family and nurse Neita Dey in May, the Tom Datema family in August, Tom Hastie in October. Nadine Hoekman, a nurse at Mattru, chose to remain in Sierra Leone as an independent missionary; she signed documents releasing the United Brethren from responsibility for her welfare.

Bishop Ray Seilhamer and Kyle McQuillen traveled to Sierra Leone in December 1994 to attend Sierra Leone Conference. When they left on December 13, they took with them the last three UB missionaries: nurse Sara Banter, and Phil and Carol Fiedler.

And thus ended the era of United Brethren missionary involvement in Sierra Leone. But only for 13 years.

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