By Brett Hetherington*
“Everyone in Liberia knows Jesus. Evangelism has been very successful. The hard work is in discipleship.”
These are the words of Samuel Quarshie, an associate pastor in Liberia and our driver and guide during our relationship-building visit to Liberia June 22 – July 4. During our time in the West African country, our team of five adults and five students from the East Ohio Conference stayed at the Camphor Mission Station in Grand Basa for one week, spent two days visiting the Revs. Ray and Cathy Ake in Harrisburg to see the Farmer to Farmer ministry, explored the capital city of Monrovia, and visited a ministry retreat and coconut farm in Edina.
Throughout the trip, participants were challenged by some of the situations that we encountered, and yet we were encouraged by the strength of the faith of the Liberian people. Every Liberian the team met was friendly and welcoming, and most were quick to praise God for their ability to wake in the morning. The team played games with the children, taught some crafts and Bible lessons, and even brought some American line dances to the Camphor Mission Station. But we also learned what it is to worship God without the trappings of American comfort, and just how blessed we are to have been born into a part of the world where we do not have to worry whether our bag of rice will last through the week.
The people of Liberia are among the warmest and most faithful I have ever met across several continents. You can see some of the experiences we had in the video included with this article. But perhaps the most impact comes from the two questions I asked each participant. I want to share those questions and some of the answers with you below and encourage you to find one or more of these participants and ask them to share their experience with you.
What impacted you the most on this trip?
“My eyes were open wide by the living environment of the people in the villages. It was very simple and labor intensive, and strongly faith based. Cooking facilities set up outside under a canopy of palm branches – an open fire, pots of water that had been carried from the well. Palm nuts to be crushed for oil. Climbing in trees to cut palm branches and hand-making bricks for building, farming without tractors. Children creating their own play time by climbing in and bouncing on tree branches. Singing out praise and thanksgiving to God – loudly without musical accompaniment. People walking, and walking, and walking…” – Nancy Leyden
“To me the most impactful part of my trip was watching how the youth that went along with us grew in the short time we spent in Liberia. It was really cool to see them adapt to all sorts of new situations and grow in their faith and love for each other, and especially for the numerous people we met in Liberia.” – Graham Arnold
“I think the most impactful thing on the trip was the dynamic of the people. The Christ-centered atmosphere and the openness of the people we met.” – Joseph Downey
“The most impactful part of the trip for me happened during our time in Harrisburg. Kathy provides a bag of rice, which we then separated into as many smaller bags as we could. We then drove to Yucima Fields to hand out these small bags of rice to the kids and families that lived in the villages. As soon as we got out of the car, at least 20 kids came running. After we ran out of the bags, another child came forward. This child wasn’t running but crawling. He didn’t get any rice due to his physical inability to get there. He didn’t cry. He was just happy I gave him some attention. This moment taught me that we will never be able to fix everything – which is heartbreaking. But sometimes what the kids need most is to know that they are loved.
Near the end of our trip I asked Sam how he decided on the names for his children. His response was way more serious than I anticipated. ‘Well, when I was going to grade school, my best friend’s name was Eunice. We both decided to name our kids after each other. Right after she was promoted from the 8th grade, she died. So, I kept my promise by naming my first kid Eunice.’ This story alone taught me that due to the health care not being adequate, not only are parents losing kids and kids losing parents, but kids are losing their best friends. Something that I never want to experience.” – Roxy Beers
What do you plan to do to build on your experience in Liberia?
“I hope to continue the mission of this trip by sharing and educating people about Liberia about its historical, political, and economical current stand point.” – Joseph Downey
“I want to change not being so wasteful with my resources and more importantly with my time. I can’t fix or help all so I plan to give more thanks and praise to God for what I do have and listen to the Holy Spirit to lead me to those I can help. I plan to share more stories and photos with others to hopefully instill ideas of how we can help. There is much to learn about God’s world and his people so when I find myself doing nothing, I can do something by praying for my brothers and sisters in Liberia. I can educate myself by reading more on the issues others face around the world.” – Nancy Leyden
“I would like to organize trips for families to experience God in different ways and to take them out of their comfort zones. When we are stretched and experience growth we are transformed. I want to help families to grow in their faith and for parents to disciple their children. As the director of Children & Family Ministries, my job is to come alongside families, to resource and equip them, to be their cheerleader, and to help them as they do ministry within their original small group—their family.” – Tammy Palermo
“I plan to share the story of Eunice, of the boy who will probably never walk, and all of the stories that most likely would have never made it out of Liberia. I want to promote not only Camphor Mission, but the villages outside of the school. Whether my speaking will obtain a huge $15 USD rice bag that can feed a village, $3.75 USD that could buy a family two live chickens, or simply just a prayer for my friends in Liberia – I’ll never shut up.” – Roxy Beers
To see photos from the trip, visit https://flic.kr/s/aHsmEVBM2C
If you have a story of how God is using your local church to transform the community, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The East Ohio Conference Communications team wants to tell your story.
*Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.