It’s been 30 years since Broad Street United Methodist Church began to help support Etta Nicol of Sierra Leone.
In 1981, the Rev. Jerry Everly, associate pastor of Broad Street UMC, went with his wife, Carolyn, and other Holston Conference representatives to Sierra Leone, West Africa, where they were escorted around Moyamba by Nicol, then a teacher with a two-year degree. Later, they were asked if their local church could provide the teacher with the education she needed to become the principal when the then-principal retired.
Nicol was born into a tribe in Africa that did not educate females. A Methodist missionary talked with her father about sending her to school. Later, as he lay dying, her father called her in to ask if that was what she wanted. She said, “Yes.”
From 1982-85 Nicol was given the opportunity to further her education in the United States, made possible by Broad Street UMC. She came to Cleveland and lived with members of the church while attending Tennessee Wesleyan to complete her bachelor’s degree, and then going to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to complete her master’s.
While in Cleveland, the church arranged for her to go home on vacation once every year to be with her family, since she had to leave behind her bed-ridden mother and 2-year-old son.
After returning to her husband, children, and teaching position, she became principal of Harford Methodist School for Girls, where she taught for another year and was appointed principal there in 1986.
When war began in Sierra Leone in 1991, the Rebels overran Harford School and Nicol took the senior girls to Freetown where they could continue studies. She spent time as a refugee in Gambia, then returned to work with the young people. But in 1997, rebels overran Freetown and everyone had to flee for their lives. She went to Banjul on the Gambia on the west coast of Africa with part of her family. As refugees, she and her youngest son were supported by Broad Street church and friends.
Six months later, Nicol went back to Freetown and continued as principal of the girls’ school until she retired in January 1999.
But Nicol didn’t retire from her vision. She was ordained a deacon in the Sierra Leone Conference in February 2000 and in August 2001, the Harford School for girls was able to again operate in Moyamba.
In 2000 Nicol was appointed as U.M. Conference Director of Christian Education with the Sierra Leone Conference. She was asked by the resident bishop to go back to Freetown and fulfill her dream of a new school for girls. At the end of the year, there were more than 1,300 enrolled. She was ordained an elder at the Sierra Leone Conference in 2002 and had the oversight for 323 United Methodist preschool and primary schools. She is currently U.M. district superintendent of the Moyamba District of Sierra Leone.
Broad Street — through private donations, budget items and grants — sponsored educational support, a phone-in radio program weekly to get children off the street and into care, HIV/Aids Awareness Workshops for children, Children’s Camp, and has provided work materials for Tech-Voc children who finished their courses.
Nicol continues her work with the United Methodist Church with the project, Operation Classroom. The schools are still her priority as she tries to make a difference in the lives of children and young people. She said, “We started this long journey for Christ in 1982 and God is not finished with us yet. ... Together we are doing it to give glory to the Almighty God — To God be the Glory.”
Today, Nichol is one of two women appointed as district superintendents. She was appointed to the Moyamba District in the South, the second largest district after that of the capital. The bishop noted she could expect obstacles in a conference accustomed to male leadership for 130 years. She has a certificate in pastoral studies from the Sierra Leone Theological College.
She says she is blessed because “God has a purpose for my life and He provided opportunity for me to be able to do what He wants me to do.”
Nicol will be at the Broad Street United Methodist Church on July 29 to speak during the Sunday school time at 9:30 a.m. The public is invited to attend and hear this missionary talk about her work.