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Anyone visiting Liberia, and particular its capital of Monrovia, cannot fail to notice the deep Christian faith of its people, apparent in their humility, humbleness and work ethic, as well as in the vicinity through the incredible work being done, often against the odds, through Christian churches, schools and individuals in the community.
Liberia is a country that has recently suffered greatly through a relentless civil war lasting over 13 years and taking the lives of many innocent people, often through brutal means. It will take a long time for the country to build itself up again after such devastation, but through the faith of its people, they are doing just that. Everywhere you go in Monrovia, the people's love of God and their faith in a better tomorrow is apparent, and it is this faith which will ensure that Liberia will once again thrive and return to the beautiful country that it once was.
ABOVE: Christianity is the dominant faith in Liberia, and its impact can be found everywhere as the country continues to recover from a long and horrific civil war. Church members proclaim the Lord inside and outside of their buildings. Here you can see Christian marches, usually undertaken by churches to increase the visibility of their flock and to encourage new members, as well as to reach out to the community at large. Such marches can be seen often during the weekend. To the bottom right you will see a car with 'JESUS' written in capital letters. This and other Christian messages and symbols appear frequently on cars in Liberia, showing the people's strong and unshakeable faith.
ABOVE: Many schools are provided and run by churches who enable the children in the community to get an education at a cost that is not too prohibitive, and instil in them values that will last a lifetime as well as a sense of community spirit and stability.
ABOVE: The photos above were taken at West Point. West Point is the second largest slum community in Liberia, containing around 45,000 people, most of whom live in tiny shacks built with corrugated metal sheets. On the left you can see Victory Temple Church, which we accessed by walking through the slum community, down many very narrow alleys and up some winding and steep steps. It was the vision of one of the women who still worships there - the last remaining original member of this vibrant church of which a large proportion are young children. Our Founding Director was invited to speak at this church and she used the opportunity to speak about Everland, Michael's faith and his humanitarian work. On leaving, the pastor there turned and said to her "Michael was such a good man, wasn't he?' To the right, you can see MJL's Trustee Karen, surrounded by children from the vicinity.
ABOVE: Situated in the midst of New Kru Town, which is the largest slum community in Liberia (over 60,000 people), The Abosso Apostolic Faith Church is doing incredible work in providing for the poor and reaching out to those who need help and support. The grounds also hold a school containing no less than 500 pupils, and this school is where the majority of the Everland children study each day. The children are very familiar with this site, being at the school during the day,and in worship at the church at weekends. However, they are the fortunate ones. Many children in the community will never be able to afford to go to school and to get an education. MJL is enabling many children from this needy community to be sponsored through our sponsorship scheme. It is our hope that we can give as many children as possible a better life, thanks to Michael's inspiration and fans around the world who are embracing his message of love and hope for a better tomorrow.
One of the supporters who travelled with our team speaks to the congregation at Abosso Apostolic Church about the differences between the West and all that he witnessed in Liberia. He explains to a captivated audience who are having his words translated by the pastor, that the West is in general is rich materially, but becoming poorer spiritually, and he speaks of his trip to Liberia being one during which he has seen hope and light in a hopeless and dark world.
ABOVE: We were given a very warm reception everywhere we went, especially in the churches. The Upper Room Temple at Abosso Apostolic Faith church had notices on its walls throughout the church, welcoming us all by name. To the left you can see our Trustee Karen, pinning a flower to each of the ladies in the church as a gift of thanks for their hospitality and warm welcome.
ABOVE: After the service, the team give out Michael Jackson badges to the children, and the children flock around, wanting us to pin them to their clothing.
ABOVE: Children from the Abosso Apostolic Church in New Kru Town join us for photos after the service has taken place.
Having just returned from an 11-day stay in Liberia, I am still adjusting to the social and spiritual lifestyle of our western culture. I cannot begin to explain the conditions in which the majority of the people of Liberia live every day. Parents work long hours to make enough money to just buy food for their children. Children will work for six weeks selling gum on the side of the road to make $1-$2 to bring home to help the family. And amongst all this poverty I saw Abraham like faith in God or Jehovah Jireh. The story of one man was truly astonishing. After the war in Liberia many of the churches in outlying counties were destroyed and congregations scattered. One man heard the call of God to travel to these 15 counties and to reestablish over 30 churches. In his 70’s at the time, he walked from county to county, through jungles, and over rivers and restored these churches bringing the gospel back to the people of Liberia. When I met this man, now 82 years old, he kept thanking me over and over again for making the dream of Everland a reality. As I sat in the presence of a modern day Paul I was overwhelmed with this man’s faith and his works as a result of his faith. He greeted me with such warmth and love and I felt that it should be I who was thanking him for believing in this project and in the ladies that worked to bring love and light to the children of Liberia. As a result of his work, he is suffering from injuries sustained during his journey and he humbled me even more when he asked me to pray for him. How does one pray for Paul? It is so easy for us in our society to sit back and judge others and to tell people how to live their lives. While in Liberia I saw people with enormous faith in a mighty God who backed their faith with works. They did not have time to judge because they knew they had work to do and people to love. I am shamed by the people of Liberia and the love they have for their Creator and His Son because that love spills out onto every one they meet. It is my prayer that in the near future I can return to my Liberian family and take a team with me. It is my joy and honor to be considered a part of their family. For I am and will always be a Liberian Girl.
By Karen Edwards, Trustee, MJL (pictured below with her sponsored child, Favor)