- - Thursday, April 13, 2017

How do you get from Sierra Leone to Slidell? If you’re a young boy growing up in West Africa with dreams of being an ambassador, how do you end being an ambassador for Christ—in Louisiana?

Eugene Wellington has lived in Slidell, Louisiana since 1991, but grew up in the West African country of Sierra Leone—-he and his eight siblings. His father worked as an accountant for the gold and diamond mines. As a result, his family lived an affluent life. “We had servants and drivers at our house—-we had everything,” Wellington said. “In Sierra Leone, at that time you were either rich or poor, there was no middle class.”

One of Wellington’s uncles served as an ambassador to the United Nations and the Supreme Court. The allure of the prestige and power of this man made the young Wellington pursue a similar path. But first, he would need schooling.

He journeyed to Poland and attended the University of Krakow—-the same institution where Nicolaus Copernicus and Pope John Paul II studied. Wellington has a daughter who still lives in Poland, and he travels yearly to see her there and to visit with college classmates.

After college, a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit one of his sisters became something more permanent. He decided to build a career in the States, working for a department store. In 1991, he transferred to Slidell.

The career was going great until immigration officers came and arrested him. Though he had married a United States citizen, he was threatened with deportation. But after seven years and the pro bono help of a New Orleans lawyer, Wellington’s case was cleared, and he became a U.S. citizen. During that time, however, he had lost his career position and was left doing menial tasks and manual labor. “Here I was with a Master’s Degree, and I couldn’t get a job at McDonald’s,” Wellington said. “I cried so much, and God reminded me how I had looked down on homeless people on the street. I promised I would help others from then on if God would restore me.”

Wellington recounted to the Slidell Independent how that period also brought an internal change.

Wellington was raised with Christian values, but admits getting away from those Christian principles as he enjoyed the American lifestyle. Oddly enough, however, the night before the agents showed up he had gone to First Pentecostal Church on Robert Boulevard and rededicated his life to God. As he faced an uncertain future, he remembers calling Pastor Donald Bryan who dropped what he was doing and went to meet the agents with Wellington in custody—even though he barely knew the man.“He told me they would pray for me,” he said. “I always remember that.”

After that turn of events in his life, Wellington began ministering and now pastors at El Bethel Apostolic Ministry. He also leads the Community Christian Concern, a nonprofit ministry that helps the homeless and destitute. He shepherds his congregants, but also looks to the entire community as his field of service.

In 2015, Bishop Wellington attended an Issachar Training session in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He said the event was a blessing to him, enabling him to meet other pastors and gain a lot of valuable information. At the time, when asked whether he had considered running for office himself, Wellington said he had thought about it and was considering a spot on the City Council.

I had the privilege of talking with Bishop Wellington this week, talking to him about his fascinating life story and his active participation in the community. What follows is a portion of that dialogue.

Tell me about your international ministry. [In 2016, Wellington was honored with the Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award from the National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America.]

Since 2004 I have traveled to Africa every year, where I help to build schools and build wells and churches. I’m very close friends with the wife of the President of Sierra Leone. We grew up together. My father worked for the diamond mines, and so did her father. I went to school with her younger brother. So I have some access within the government. Whenever there’s a crisis in some country, I see how we can get involved and see how we can get aid to them.

Whether in Sierra Leone or here in Slidell, Louisiana, I live for two things—-God and people.

Explain the thought process that led you to identify as Republican.

When I first became a US citizen, I registered as an Independent. But then I found out that as an Independent I could not take part in the nomination process. I thought, “Wait a minute, I want to be a part of this thing!” You know? I’ve lived in this country, and I worked hard to be a citizen, and I did so to have the right to vote. So, that’s why I did not remain an Independent.

But then, I had to choose between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party—which one? Which one comes the closest to believing in the ideals for which I stand? After I had taken a definite and closer look at them, I found that the Republican party does. And so it was a no-brainer. I chose to register as a Republican, and I stand up for that very strongly.

The Republican Party seems to have policies derived from The Bible. When I think about the pro-life issues and the homosexual issues related to marriage—-Republicans are not perfect, but they have the ideas I believe are God’s ways.

Are you and your congregation engaged in local politics?

Eighty percent of those who choose to run for political office around here will come and talk to me before their announcement—-for my endorsement for prayer and support. They desire to use my name and influence: “Bishop Wellington stands with me.”

When they come though, I tell them that I will watch what they are doing in office and will hold them accountable. I tell them, “I will hold you accountable. When you take this office, this church is going to be watching you—watching your conduct in there.”

Have you given any more thought to running for elected office?

The most important thing is to determine the answer to the question, “Is God calling me to this?” My family would say I don’t make decisions quickly—-that’s true. I carefully weigh them, because my walk with God is very important. My integrity is very important. If I know that God’s in it, then there’s nobody that can stop me from doing from obeying. But, if I’ve got a doubt, then there’s nobody that can make me do it. So, I’ve got to know, “Is this God’s will?”

And with all major decisions, I always pull my family into the decision and ask them, “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this. What do you think?” Because I know that somewhere down the road the buck doesn’t stop with me. My decisions will affect my family, they will affect my children and my children’s children, and generations yet unborn will be affected, the decisions I make today.

I’d love to get close to a politician—-one with integrity—-someone that I could watch and walk in his shadows and understand more about politics and legislation and policies. So that when I do feel that nudge from God I can say, “I know all that comes with this, and I’m ready to take that step.” I’m not walking into it blindly.

Have people in your community encouraged you to consider running for office?

Yes. People have approached me and they take note that I am black and a Republican and also an Evangelical—-and that I also have integrity. I think that’s why many have encouraged me to run, because I would not only get the support of Republicans but will also get the attention of minorities.

After spending 15 years of your life helping people in times of need and pastoring a predominantly black congregation, you know the community and are connected to it. It has been told to me by one of our previous mayors that I might have the potential to unify blacks and whites in Slidell. Because I don’t come from this country, I’m not looking at our politics from the eyes of an African-American or a Caucasian—-I just see things as “This is fair” or “That is fair.”

I remember when Katrina took place, my home was devastated and my office was devastated and my church was devastated. Someone from our city government thought I was going to leave: “He’s not from here. He’s going to leave and never come back.” But I didn’t. And they went out of their way to make sure that we were helped. They recognized that if they helped my church get up again, that I and my church could help the community get up. And we are still here.

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