VIRGINIA, Liberia (ABP) – A former war refugee who returned to his native Liberia in 2005 to run a K-12 boarding school has been elected president of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention.
Olu Menjay, principal of Ricks Institute, a school with 620 students located about 15 miles from Liberia’s capital Monrovia, was elected to a three-year term of office at a convention meeting March 17.
Forced from Liberia by one of Africa’s bloodiest wars — which killed more than 200,000 Liberians and displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries between 1989 and 1996 — Menjay studied at Baptist-affiliated Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., earning an associate’s degree. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree at Mercer University, a master-of-divinity from Duke and a Ph.D. through International Baptist Theological Seminary in the Czech Republic.
In addition to rebuilding Ricks Institute, founded in 1887 but severely looted and vandalized as a battleground in the civil war, Menjay is assistant professor in the Roberts Department of Christianity in Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts.
He is also vice president and chair of the Human Rights Advocacy Commission of the Baptist World Alliance, the youngest person ever to be elected to the position.
Menjay said his goals as president include improving education both by strengthening Baptist schools in Liberia and securing scholarships for Liberian Baptists to study abroad. He also seeks to empower Liberian Baptist churches to “fulfill self-sufficiency with a focus to eliminate a future of dependency.”
A third aim of his administration is to expose the convention’s work to fellow Baptists around the world.
“In our post-war context the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention has an urgent responsibility to share our challenges and possibilities with our sisters and brothers beyond Liberia,” Menjay said. “As survivors of brutality through God’s amazing grace, we must share our story.”
Menjay succeeds Shelton Seidi, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Zwedru, who served two terms as president of the Baptist convention. The most famous person to hold the office was William Tolbert Jr., who at the time was vice president of Liberia. Tolbert, who in 1965 was the first African to be elected a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance, went on to become Liberia’s 20th president, holding office from 1971 until his assassination in a coup d'état in 1980.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.