The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'You never put God aside'

'God was always there' for Liberia's Lutherans

Colorful flowers and palm branches signifying welcome flutter in the cool ocean breeze outside St. Peter Lutheran Church, Monrovia, Liberia. Hundreds of Liberian Lutherans?many dressed in traditional African attire — gather Sunday, Feb. 13, to welcome Lutheran World Federation President and ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko.

This is the first stop on their four-day journey around Liberia, with their wives, Ione Hanson and Gladys Mathemba Noko, and LWF Area Secretary for Africa Musa Fillibus. The group also traveled to Abuja, Nigeria, where they met with church leaders in Central and West Africa. Their trip included Freetown, Sierra Leone, where they visited the war-torn country's president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah; Lutheran leaders; and newly resettled amputees.

While waiting for the LWF delegation at St. Peter, an usher stops to chat. "This occasion is very important to us. We have done all we can," she says. Her smile breaks like sunshine across her face.

"I'm very happy," says Lutheran Church in Liberia Bishop Sumoward Harris. "This is the first time in living memory for the ELCA presiding bishop to visit Liberia."

But this isn't the first time in living memory so many people have gathered here. On July 29, 1990, hundreds of parishioners and residents sought refuge here from a civil war that began in 1989. Armed men entered and slaughtered more than 600 people, including the Lutheran pastor. They are buried nearby in the church's compound.

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