Scam Into Blessing – Part 8

Before retiring for the evening, another Liberian pastor whom I had met that week invited me to preach for the congregation known as Highland Hills Baptist Church. Pastor Philemon Gwelikporluhson, who has become a very dear friend, was the pastor and also the man whom God had used to start this little work in an outlying area of Monrovia.

Pastor Philemon and his dear wife, Dylin, have six beautiful girls ages 6-19. At the time of my visit, they had been living in a small house with other relatives. All 8 of them lived cramped in one single room that was about the size of one average American bedroom. For many years, Philemon has been involved in the work of church planting and has successfully (to the glory of God) been able to establish four previous works that are now being pastored by local men whom he has tried diligently to train.

Due to his faithful work in planting churches and trying to train disciples to the best of his ability, his sole means of income was what the church could offer or what he was able to receive from sources outside of Liberia. Income from the church might amount to $5 or $10 in a week, or others might bring them some food as their offering to the Lord.

Obviously, he was in no position to be able to obtain even a small home. While it is part of a different story, we are thankful that through the kind and generous offerings of God’s people in different parts of the world (USA, the UK, and Australia), they now have their own little two-bedroom home they are renting. Praise the Lord!

The next morning was beautiful and another early rising. Liberians tend to go to bed between 10-11pm and are up around 4:30-5:00 each morning. However, during the hottest part of the day, many take a rest and try to limit their activities so as to remain a little cooler. Walking outside, I sat down on Pastor Togba’s small porch and watched Liberians walking back and forth on the main road. Most of them would not be in church worshiping the Lord who made them, and would certainly not be giving the honor and glory to Him for His wonderful works among the children of men.

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Scam Into Blessing – Part 6

The trip had already been planned and Bro. Trexler asked if I would like to go with him and Pastor Togba up to Gbarnga. This town is located in Bong County and was the main headquarters for the rebel groups during the long civil war. To get there, you travel through the town of Kakata and then on up close to the border of Guinea. Being the adventurous type (LOL), I decided that I would tag along for what was to be a 2-3 day trip into the interior where the US State Department and the British Foreign Affairs Office had highly recommended white guys like me not travel!

So with a straw hat on my head, no machete or gun for the wild animals we might encounter, a Bible in one hand and a “fa-tow” (face towel for perspiration) in the other, off we went on our African safari! The first place we came to was a suburb of Monrovia called Red Light District, so called not for any nefarious or immoral reasons but because this was the first district to get a stoplight – thus Red Light.

At an already crowded intersection, we saw a large part of the crowd circled around somebody shouting at the group. Pulling over to the side of the road, we were finally able to discern what was transpiring. The gist of the street preacher along with his thugs was this, “How many of you want a $100 US dollars only blessing? If so, then come up here and give us $100 US dollars! If you want a $50 US dollars only blessing, then come up and give us $50! God will only give you a blessing based on the amount of money you give to us!”

Listening to this health, wealth, and prosperity huckster, I was ashamed that fellow British and American preachers had done a great done exporting the false religion of charismatic phenomenon. The shameless badgering of the people for their money was nothing more than a way for the false preachers to earn a very nice living off the backs of their own people.

Moving back into the flow of traffic, I listened to Pastor Togba share that what we had just heard is about all many Liberians know of Christianity. They have been duped into believing that some deity called “God” will give them all they could ever ask for simply by scrimping their hard earned cash and giving it to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The desire of these people is to simply provide for their families and to strike it rich. Those who claim religion as their employment are doing well in Liberia. In the meantime, countless thousands were passing off into eternity because they had never heard that “Jesus paid it all, all to whom I owe, sin had left its crimson stain, He washed me white as snow!”

Continuing north, Bro. Trexler made a stop at the village of Cooper’s Farm. It was something right out of National Geographic. A small grouping of mud huts covered with thatch roofs stood in a line overlooking a valley just off the main road. Bro. Trexler informed me that two weeks earlier he had stopped by at this location and had the opportunity to provide medical assistance to the assistant chief of the village. Afterwards, he was granted the privilege of sharing the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the villages expressed further interest in knowing more about the Bible talks (as they could not read) and some of these people testified that their faith was in the One Whom they had heard about for the first time.

Exiting the vehicle, Bro. Trexler (who is a Physician’s Assistant by training as well as a missionary) enquired about the health of the man he had helped two weeks prior. Some of the men pointed towards one of the larger huts and we headed in that direction. Brother Trexler whispered that it would be fine if I did not want to go in to the hut or feel that I could. I whispered back that I would follow him wherever he went that day. Stooping low we entered the entrance to the hut and found it was divided into four living areas. One of them was where the assistant chief and his family lived. It consisted of one room and with the exception of one very old rickety looking wooden chair had no furniture. The floor was dirt, flies were everywhere, and the smell of sickness permeated the air.

I watched as Bro. Trexler got on his knees beside the asst. chief as he lay on his filthy blanket and gave him a medical checkup. There was nothing pretentious with this brother in Christ as he sought first to minister to the health of the man and then reiterated the words of life shared two weeks prior. The man lying on the ground was not doing well, but indicated that he would ponder what Bro. Trexler had shared.

We went back outside and a couple of men were working building what looked like crude benches. Considering there were no other pieces of furniture to be seen in the village, we asked what this was for. One of the men spoke up, “We were told about Jesus two weeks ago and placed our faith in Him. We have told everybody in the valley that they need to hear about Him as well. Therefore, we are building these benches so they will come and sit down with us and listen when Dr. Steve (what they call Bro. Trexler) comes back!”

Bro. Trexler and I looked at each with amazement and no words were possible as we considered what we had just been told. They had heard once and knew what the life-changing news meant to them and they wanted their friends and family to hear before it was too late for them. This was especially poignant considering the average life expectancy for a Liberian is around 42-44 years old.

The missionary humbled even more by the events informed the villagers that he would be back to their village in another week or so to teach them more of the Bible. Many might have just continued down the road and overlooked this small, seemingly insignificant village. However, just as the good Samaritan saw the need of the one who was bruised, bleeding and beaten, Bro. Trexler was willing to stop and render assistance and when he did, the Lord provided a sovereignly appointed opportunity to bring the message of light into another very dark corner of West Africa.

Our next stop would be Gbarnga.

(…to be continued…)