Lello died while felling trees near a remote project site in the South Pacific island nation’s East Sepik Province, a press release from the Adventist supporting ministry said. He was 46.
“We are greatly saddened to announce the tragic death of John Lello,” the release said. “Please join us in surrounding his family in prayer.”
Lello’s wife, Pam, and the couple’s two daughters, Alissa and Abby, have since been flown to Port Moresby, where they were joined by Stephen and Laurie Erickson, another family working in PNG through AFM. AFM Associate Training Director Dale Goodson, who spent 12 years in PNG with the Dowa tribe, and his wife are currently en route to lend additional support, said James Arkusinski, Communication director for the ministry.
The Lello family had worked with Adventist Frontier Missions since 2009. They finished fundraising and launched to PNG in March. There, they ministered to the animist Ama people in the country’s northwest. The Ama live along a small tributary of the Upper Sepik River accessible only by plane or dugout canoe, Arkusinski said.
In an article for Adventist Frontiers, the magazine published by AFM, Lello was confident that God was leading his family to PNG, adding that “one thing is certain – He is calling you to give your all.”
Lello was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from church-run Walla Walla University in Walla Walla, Washington, United States, in 1991. Later, he graduated from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, United States, with a master’s degree in Science Education.
Before accepting a post with AFM, Lello taught math and physics at church-run Glendale Adventist Academy and Spring Valley Academy.
Adventist Frontier Missions is a Seventh-day Adventist lay ministry dedicated to establishing church-planting movements among people groups with no Adventist presence. AFM currently has 30 long-term missionary families or single missionaries serving worldwide.
Lello is the first AFM missionary to die in the field over the ministry’s 27-year history