In 2010 a man from Liberia was baptized as an adult and, professing his Christian faith according to what we believe and teach from the Bible, was received into membership at Grace Lutheran Church in Fridley, Minnesota. His name is Alvin Jask. Since then others from his family, originally from Liberia but now living in the U.S., have also become members at Grace, and one of his nephews is enrolled in our Christian day school.
Liberia is probably best known for Ebola, the disease that took so many lives in 2014. According to health officials, this is no longer a threat. However, Liberia is still consistently ranked as one of the poorest nations in the world. Not long ago the country was ravaged by a civil war that significantly set back any national progress. There are also many people who are physically impaired due to the violence of the war—some missing limbs, some without eyesight, and some with deformities due to medical inattention. Health care is neither readily available nor affordable to many Liberians.
Even though Liberia has had various setbacks in its progress (including Ebola), the people there have a fervent yearning to rebuild. Because of this, Liberia’s current president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (whom Alvin knows personally) has a number of governmental initiatives in place to rebuild the economy through improvement of roads, infrastructure, health care, and so forth. Alvin has a personal desire to contribute to this process, having an obvious love for his homeland. Having seen and experienced many of the blessings of living in the United States, he wants to use what he has learned to help
But more importantly, Alvin has a desire to share the Good News of salvation found through our Savior, Jesus Christ. It sometimes seems that the Lord’s hand is at work when nations have experienced such lows. This pattern was often experienced by God’s people throughout biblical times. During the period of the Judges, there was an oft-repeated cycle of repentance after the people had experienced devastation. Could the same cycle be part of what is happening in Liberia? One thing we do know, the Gospel always has the power to heal!
From the time he began instruction at Grace and learned about his Savior, Alvin has been committed to and excited about sharing the Gospel in his home country. He has spent a significant amount of his own money to construct a building in order to start a Christian day school a few miles northeast of Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia. He is now also planning on the construction of a church building nearby.
For the past few years, Alvin and I have been sharing ideas as to how to proceed in Liberia. The CLC Board of Missions has also been informed of Alvin’s efforts. The key is having people in place who believe and teach the Bible as we do. Therefore Alvin has been reaching out to many people he knows, and he now has twenty-five contacts who are eager for Biblical instruction, including five pastors. There are several people who are interested in helping him staff his Christian day school.
Missionary Dave Koenig and I have a trip planned to Liberia in November, 2015. By the time you read this, we will have met with our contacts there, investigated the opportunities, and attempted to determine whether doctrinal agreement exists with these pastors. May the Lord bless Alvin’s desire to share the Gospel of Jesus in Liberia, and may He give our church body the wisdom and zeal to assist in this work as we are able!
John Hein is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Fridley, Minnesota, and a member of the Board of Regents
of the CLC.