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Monday, January 2, 2012

Liberia Day 4 – Visitation

Today, we, along with Bishop Amos Bolay, visited nine of thirteen Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia congregations in the vicinity of Monrovia, Liberia. At each church, the pastor and church leadership was waiting for our visit. In some cases, a choir and parishioners also waited for us to arrive. The ELCL does not count children in its membership counts. Many of the congregations have three services a week. We travelled to many different types of congregations and saw many districts of Monrovia. The congregations we visited include: St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lynch Street; St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church, Paity Town; Grace Lutheran Church, Zumah Town; Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church, Banjor, Lower Virginia; Emmanuel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chocolate City; St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chicken Soup Factory, Gardensville; Christ Lutheran Church, Coco Cola Factory, Payensville; Upper Room Lutheran Church, Coco Cola Factory, Payensville; St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Red Light. Many of the congregations also have schools associated with them.

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lynch Street, Monrovia
St. John's was founded in 1992.  Many of the congregations are formed around ethic groups. As a result, each congregation uses different types of drums.

Drums from St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church
Next to the church is a coffin workshop.

Coffin Next to the Church
Nearby the church is a mosque.

As we traveled Bishop Bolay said that there is a big need for training pastors in the ELCL. He lamented, "We have pastors who do not know the Small Catechism. We do two or three day training workshops, trying to train pastors. The workshops create a lot of excitement and encourage the pastors to study." This is reminisce of the condition of some congregations at the time of the Reformation, when Dr. Martin Luther lamented that some priests did not know the Ten Commandments or the Lord's Prayer. There is great need for pastoral training.

St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church in Paity Town was founded in 1995 during the hottest part of the Liberian civil war. The congregation is named after Martin Luther and has a school associated with it. It is located in one of the most difficult locations due to the extreme poverty of the area.

Children in Paity Town
Bishop Amos Bolay reflected on the Liberian civil war as we visited the ELCL congregations. He noted that the war made people very serious about their faith. Yet even now people are forgetting that the Lord delivered them during the war. Bishop Bolay told us about the three months we spent in a rebel prison camp during the civil war. He said, "If you are fleeing from a war, do not go back to retrieve material things."

Foundation for Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zumah Town
The drums at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church were square and from the Grebo Tribe.

Grebo Drums
Walking to Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, we passed some African Hunting Dogs.

African Hunting Dogs
Bishop Bolay explained that some adults and older people do not want to become Christians because they do not want to give up their traditions. This is why Jesus spoke about the faith of children.

Sophie attends Grace Lutheran Church
Our next stop was to Banjor in Lower Virginia where Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church resides.

Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church
A mosque sits behind Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Mosque is the White and Green Building
It is very difficult for muslims to convert to Christianity. When a muslim converts away from Islam, he is considered dead to the family. To convert to Christianity means to lose your family.

Emmanuel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church
Emmanuel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church is located in Chocolate City, named not after the coco bean, but after the color of the soil that looks like chocolate. Emmanuel Temple was founded in 1996. Note the green LCMS logo cross.

Readings for the Circumcision of Jesus
At Emmanuel Temple Lutheran Church the readings for the Circumcision of Jesus (1 January 2012) were written on a chalk board next to the altar.

Outside of St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church
St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in 1995 and is located in Chicken Soup Factory, Gardensville.

Field Behind Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
There are two congregations in Coco Cola Factory. One is Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church and the other is Upper Room Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
Pastor Dennis Mbombo stands in front of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Coco Cola Factory. The area is known as Coco Cola Factory because of the bottling plant nearby.

Coco Cola Factory
In the villages, it was very common to see African Hunting Dogs.

From Coco Cola Factory, we traveled to St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Red Light. It is named Red Light because before the Liberian civil war there was a three way intersection with a stop light. A market and trading center developed around the "red light." Although the red light is gone, the area is still called "Red Light."

St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church
St. Paul's also has a high school that has over 1,000 students.

St Paul High School in Red Light
The visitation of ELCL congregations was invaluable in better understanding this Lutheran church body in Liberia. In some cases, the pastor and church leadership waited for us all day until we arrived to meet them. It took us about 10 or 11 hours to drive around and see each one of these congregations, often times only spending a few minutes there. When the four separate church bodies decided to unify in 2009, about 100 congregations left because they wanted to remain Pentecostal. The congregations that stayed to form the ELCL have made an intention decision to be Lutheran and are working to improve. We all found the visitation to the congregations instructive, inspiring, and encouraging. The Lord will have a church for himself  where he desires.

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Posted 3 January 2012 in Monrovia, Liberia.


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