Romans 15:13 (ESV)I am not sure what I expected in Liberia. I had seen some pictures of the orphanage and I knew it was a vastly different world than my home. I knew Liberia was one of the poorest countries in the world.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
On one hand, I was not surprised. The poverty in Liberia was as extreme as the pictures. On the other hand, there was something beyond the pictures that God wanted me to see. It was the people God wanted me to meet.
Anthony had started working for Fairfield Baptist Church Liberia in May. He was hired as a teacher at the school. However, the head pastor, Pastor Bill, had quickly realized that Anthony was a man that could not only teach the children, he could preach the Word. Actually, Anthony had been preaching for various churches for ten years, since he was seventeen.
Pastor Anthony and I spent most of my first day in Liberia together. He took me around the school and introduced me to the kids and the teachers. He and Pastor Bill drove me into town to check-in with the embassy (which ended up being closed). I got to see Monrovia and Painesville in the daylight after driving through in the dark the night before.
After our errands, I joined Pastor Anthony for a bible study. Actually, he had prepared a bible study for his adult bible study class and wanted to practice it on me. It was just me and Anthony and God's Word. That's what the bible study was about, God's Word and God's vision.
Pastor Anthony has a passion for God's Word that is contagious. He also has a vision. A vision for taking God's Word to a community desperate for hope. A vision for taking God's Word to a country devastated by war. A vision for taking God's Word throughout an entire continent.
This is a big vision for an assistant Pastor in a small church in Liberia. An assistant pastor that had his formal education cut short by a civil war. A small church with about fifty active adult members.
This is vision reserved for big American churches, isn't it? Churches with money. American churches with with a mandate from God to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Missionaries are supposed to be sent to Liberia, not out of Liberia. Right?
Brother Johnson is a former superintendent of one of the counties in Liberia. He's a deacon at the church. I'm not sure of Brother Johnson's age. If I had to guess, I would say he's in his late seventies. I don't guess this age because he looks like an old man. I guess this age by the wisdom in his words. Sometimes you can just feel the wisdom of the years from people as you visit with them.
Brother Johnson has a vision as well. He has a vision for a rebuilt Liberia. I sat on the porch with Brother Johnson and a man named Frank and learned of his vision. A vision for starting a community farm so that the community, and eventually the country, can start producing it's own food. He tells me anything you plant in Liberia will grow but that the country imports most of its food. If the ships don't bring the food, the people don't eat.
Frank attends the small Liberian church and he is the owner of a small construction company. His company won the bid to install the $12,000 security fence that the government required around the orphanage. One of our purposes of our visit to Liberia was to inspect their work and make the final payment.
Frank has a vision for his country recovering from the catastrophe of war. Frank is living out that vision with the fence building project. A dozen young men had work putting in this new fence for the orphanage. I don't know when these men will have a job this big again. However, they are living with hope with men like Frank leading the way.
Of course there was also Pastor Bill and his wife Maude. A couple that has given the last ten years of their life to this small church, school, and orphanage. Bill and Maude also have a vision. Their vision is to educate the children and to teach them about the hope in Christ. They're not looking to have seventy orphans adopted and sent to America. Their vision is for seventy orphans to receive love and hope and grow up to help rebuild their country.
As I sat there listening to Pastor Anthony teach me my second bible study, the sustenance of God, I understood why God wanted me in Liberia and why he wanted me there for two days by myself. God wanted me to meet the people. He wanted me to meet His people. He wanted me to meet brothers and sisters in Christ with His vision and His hope.
I've lost about a third of my 401k this year. Most of that in the past week. I'm not alone. Many Americans are seeing their vision and their hope diminish before their eyes. It does not take a lot of imagination anymore to see what could happen to our own country, whether by divine punishment or just reaping what we sow.
The good news is the Good News. No matter what happens, Jesus is Lord. No matter what happens, Jesus still died for my sins and rose again. No matter what happens, like my brothers and sisters in Liberia, I can have a vision and hope focused on on the cross.