Flooding Sierra Leone

August 22, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Rokassa. The name of the village took me several days to pronounce correctly, although the hospitality of the inhabitants made me feel immediately at home. And even as I bumbled my way through the cultural divide, they repeatedly honored me with gracious generosity. From the moment you arrive, the children in the village will gather around you, asking for you to take their picture. With salutes, raised thumbs, and bursting smiles, they will hold their poses as long as the camera keeps rolling.

My journey to Rokassa came during the rainy season, when the tin roof of our dwellings and puddle-filled roads provided a setting for teaching where tranquility and a sense of silence seemed to pervade the land. The vegetation was green and the nights were punctuated by the sounds of bleating goats and foreign birds. Life in the village is simple. Electricity is scarce, available for a few short hours each day, and our showers came by way of a plastic tub of collected water and cup to pour over our heads. Our students slept of the floor of a local hospital and dedicated more than 7 hours each day to their studies in a small classroom within the village school.

We had come to Sierra Leone to assist local leaders with the continuing develop of a growing seminary called RBI (Reformed Bible Institute). Over the course of 5 days, we taught theology, pastoral ministry, church history, ethics and leadership to a class of over 40 students devoted to seeing the Kingdom of Christ come to this corner of His world.

Some are former Muslims who have already sacrificed family and their former communities. Now, as pastors to unreached people groups throughout the land, they sacrifice their health, financial gain, and personal safety to spread the light of Christ to regions cloaked in darkness. As we huddled together in our crowded classroom, we learned as much as we taught. We worshiped together without instruments and the pure voices of these emerging leaders filled the village with declarations that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The work, we were told, is difficult. The spiritual soil in many places is tough for planting. And yet there was an unshakable belief in the faithfulness of God to bring his promises for Sierra Leone to fruition. The evidence was all around us. Amidst a Muslim village of 500 inhabitants there now sits a Christian school, a hospital, and a classroom full of over 40 converts who have been called to minister the gospel to the next generation. Of course, we always desire more. We always wish for things to come more quickly. But our God is a patient God who has revealed to us the certainty of human history. These pastors we gathered with are the glorious “first fruits” of a movement of God’s Spirit that is spreading like a fire across Western Africa, reclaiming what was once lost to superstition, magic, tribalism, and the dark veil of Islam. In the eyes of these pastors we saw the future. A light on the hill of Africa illuminating Christ into the hearts of every tribe, nation and tongue.

But the rain kept coming.

It poured out of the heavens for days upon days until the soil on a hillside outside of Freetown broke free and roared its way into villagers down below. Hundreds of lives were lost, hundreds more were displaced and left homeless. In a country that has suffered for so long under dictators and diseases, the latest tragedy in Sierra Leone could (and most likely will) be interpreted by some as a cosmic curse on a land full of violence and corruption.

But those critics will not have met the men and women I did. They won’t have listened to their singing. They won’t have heard their visions. They won’t have witnessed a new generation of leaders who are willing to leave their families for weeks, travel hundreds of miles, and sleep on concrete floors to study the word of God. Men and women who believe that the power of God is infinitely more potent than the spells of a witch doctor, prayers to the spirits, allegiances to secret societies or the hollow promises of false prophets. Men and women who are peering into the heart of a wounded country to offer them a lasting hope in the love of a Father who is calling his children to come home. A Father, who when the flood waters recede, will use his Church to bring healing to a country longing for salvation.

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.” – Hosea 6:1-3