Monday, June 22, 2020

Special 2020 City Notes | Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Humility & Hope in West Africa

" ... Johnny no longer looked at his useless legs as a curse but as a gift from God, for he came to understand that the Father always blesses and never harms his children. It was tender to hear Johnny tell how before he got a wheelchair, he tried to ease his mother's pain and show her his love for God by washing the dishes, which he would collect as he dragged himself on the ground and then wash in a bucket. It was a beginning of a lifetime of serving others and Jesus with all his strength. ... "

I am g
rateful again to share with you some Gospel witness and worship stories from sisters and brothers in other parts of the world to begin the week. The previous post's stories were from the body of Christ who live in the former Soviet Republics. Today's stories are from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea along the coast of West Africa.

"West Africa" excerpts adapted from Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance from Around the World, published in 2014 A.D.

Dennis' & Roland's Story in Borkeza & Kpassagezia, Liberia

The sun, like me, was not awake as we walked for the daily 5:30 a.m. prayer meeting. Dennis struck a makeshift church bell (an empty propane tank), calling Christians to rise and pray. In the distance, I saw a dot of light bouncing in the darkness and a woman's voice, clear and strong singing, "Good morning, Jesus. Good morning, Lord." About twenty Christians gathered this morning, and the meeting began with praise to God who made the day. ... Afterward, we went on toward two new Gospel plants at Borkeza and Kpassagezia. Roland needed to scout out places for well-drilling, and Dennis wanted to see the progress of the church. ... Roland and Dennis make a great team. Dennis is the preacher. Roland is the well-driller – a combination of fire and water. Roland's life is itself a story of grace. He was fifty years old before he believed the Gospel and received the grace of God. Before that time, as he describes it, he had an empty hole in his life that he filled up with money and achievements. But no matter how many things he stuffed into that hole, it was always empty – until Christ filled his life. Now he's in West Africa drilling wells, bringing fresh water to people who before had only contaminated water. ... Dennis learned his church planting methods from the book of Acts. They pray, fast, and then send evangelists in by twos to tell the Good News. Dennis said they target the toughest villages, the strongest strongholds of Satan, and there they pursue the most obstinate among the village leaders. When these men fall down before the cross, it opens a floodgate. ... New believers put their backs into the work from the beginning. But also from the beginning, they look beyond their village to the next village – even to the next country. Kpassagezia is the end of the line in Liberia, but beyond is the border of Guinea ...

Dennis's & Kulbah's Story in Malawu, Liberia

The story of Malawu is almost unbelievable. Malawu was the "Mecca" of spirit worship in all of Liberia. This mountaintop town was founded by a witch long ago, and such demon powers dwelled here that even presidents of Liberia would come here to seek special powers and curses against their enemies. Animal – even human – sacrifices were offered here. ... It was literally considered sacred ground, and so in the debauched worship of the Devil, shoes had to be removed and women had to remove their blouses before entering the gates of the town. It was a place of unspeakable evil and violent darkness. But about two years ago, a man from Malawu came down from this mountain, heard the Gospel, and believed on Jesus. He and Dennis and the evangelists began to pray. What followed was nearly a year of praying and fasting in preparation ... Many of Dennis's friends begged him not to go, saying he was going into a death trap. But Dennis fixed his heart on the Lord and not his fears, and just over a year ago they came up the mountain in faith. What they found was amazing! They were received by the elders who heard their witness for Christ and declared to them, "Our hearts and hands are open to you – even if you want to build a church building here!" When the village people heard that, they were so happy they began to dance with joy that they could have a place to worship the true God. They circled the hilltop with joyful dancing and singing. I had heard about this "Malawu Miracle" from Dennis, but I still was not prepared for what I saw when I reached the summit: there before me was the cross. The church building now stands on ground once dedicated to Satan. A Christian lady named Kulbah was the first to greet us. The marks of her transformed life could be seen on her beautiful countenace, by her beautiful dress, and by shoes on her feet. Now she is a free woman walking over the ground that Satan long ago usurped but which has now been reclaimed for Christ. ... In just over a year, the high altar where animal and human sacrifices were made has been overturned, and half the village has turned from darkness to light – and the light shines in their faces, for they are now sons and daughters of the King.

Johnny's Story in Jawajeh, Liberia

What can I say about Johnny? Johnny loves Jesus, Johnny loves kids, and Johnny has never walked. He was born a cripple, and his mother used to weep over him. In this society, his prospects were utterly hopeless – just a roadside beggar, just something to spit at. But Johnny had a friend who carried him on his back to church, and there Johnny received Christ – and then everything changed in his young heart. He no longer looked at his useless legs as a curse but as a gift from God, for Johnny came to understand that the Father always blesses and never harms his children. It was tender to hear Johnny tell how before he got a wheelchair, he tried to ease his mother's pain and show her his love for God by washing the dishes, which he would collect as he dragged himself on the ground and then wash in a bucket. It was a beginning of a lifetime of serving others and Jesus with all his strength. Today, Johnny's oldest son pushed his dad in the wheelchair to the little hilltop near the church, and Johnny clanged the "church bell," an empty propane tank. As he gathered children to the church from all over town, I thought of the Lord's parable where the master said to his servant, "Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled'" (Luke 14:21-23). From his wheelchair, Johnny can see so clear and far. He sees beyond his brokenness, beyond this broken world, to the One who was broken for him and who will someday give Johnny legs to run to Him.

Alphonso's & Nan's Story in Kuna, Sierra Leone

Alphonso is a Fula, from the proud tribe that brought Islam to West Africa many centuries ago. He was a zealous Muslim who gave the first call to prayer of the day from the mosque. One day he was told there was a man preaching Christ in his town. He found him and struck and cursed him. The Christian responded with kindness and tears and said to Alphonso, "I will pray that your eyes will be opened." Alphonso said, "What? Do you think I am blind?" and walked away. That night, before Alphonso was to get up and give the call to prayer, he was awakened by a voice, the words of Scripture, the words of Christ: "Come unto Me, come unto Me, come unto Me." Alphonso called out in the dark, "Who is there?" He lit a candle to see, but no one was there. Suddenly he was struck with great fear, and he remembered the words of the young man, "I will pray that your eyes will be opened." Knowing where there was a church, he went to them and the pastor led him to Christ. Alphonso became bold in declaring his faith to his family, and as a result was utterly rejected by them. His aunt even tried to kill him by poisoning him. Though the poison was powerful, the Lord spared his life, to the amazement and disgust of his family. Later the Lord brought a wonderful lady into his life named Nana, who also came to Christ out of Islam. Together they have spearheaded a rapidly reproducing church-planting movement reaching deep into Sierra Leone, even as far as the border with Guinea. In the past few days, I've seen new churches that have sprung up among fishermen, farmers, and soldiers ... but it's not without violent opposition. One church building I saw in Samu was recently destroyed by a mob, stirred up by a village elder when his own son became a Christian. Such attacks are just part of the price, and Christians here don't seem too worried about fighting over buildings. ... Despite the opposition, the testimony of believers is gaining ground, shaking hell's gates ...

Mohammed's Story in Pamlap, Guinea 

Alphonso wants to see churches established in Guinea, starting with the town of Pamlap. Alphonso has made contact with the chief there, who will meet us at the border. Alphonso went to that town a few months ago but was told to get out. Today we try again to share the Gospel without borders. We had no visas for Guinea, no permission to cross the border; but when the chief, whose name is Mohammed Lamin-Sesay, arrived, he took personal responsibility for us and directed the guards to let us pass. So Mohammed on a motorcycle led us into this new country into the heart of the town. Soon an impromptu council of elders was assembled, including the imam from the nearby mosque. Formalities and gifts of peace were exchanged. Alphonso declared the chief to be a man of peace, and the chief reminded the elders that Alphonso had once lived in this city when he was a boy. So they welcomed him as a "son of the soil." Yet Alphonso went on to explain that though he was a son of the soil, he was also now a Christian and wanted to start a church there. Discussions went back and forth in a marvelous mosaic of languages (Fulani, Susu, French, and English). Nana, recalling a language she hadn't spoken in years – Susu  was a vital link in carrying on and connecting the discussions ... (And then) the old Muslim elders agreed that a church could be built in their town, and one added, "We are ready for you to wake us up!" Another leader said afterward, "Guinea is ready for the Gospel!"

Soli Jesu gloria.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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