Bringing Hope for Survivors of Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone
November 10, 2016
In the West African country of Sierra Leone, many among the Muslim majority in the Northern Province offer sacrifices in hopes of keeping malevolent spirits from harming them.
They also make sacrifices to ancestors, and their traditional African religions include a creator god who is accessible only through the mediation of paternal ancestors. The ethnic Temne of the region who blend these traditional beliefs with Islam believe their ancestors judge them. They also are on the lookout for witches, trying to discern anyone whom they believe could cast spells leading to accidents, death or falling idle.
"Magical medicines" are then concocted to kill suspected witches or at least make them ill.
The director of a ministry based in Freetown, the capital of the impoverished country, requests prayer for indigenous evangelists who have been proclaiming Christ to the Temne among such cultural barriers. Their efforts in the Northern Province include villages inhabited by Roma, also called Romani, a nomadic people of Indian descent usually found in central and southern Europe, not Africa.
"My team and I have just returned from an evangelistic and mission trip to several villages in the Northern Province - one of which is the Romani village in the Kasseh Chiefdom, one of the villages badly hit by the Ebola virus, with over 50 adults that died from that disease there," said Mitford Macauley, director of Trinity Gospel Ministries. "One year after the end of the Ebola saga, you can still feel the effect of that disaster on both the people and the place. There is so much loneliness and hopelessness."
"What is most pathetic is that most of the children in this village are orphans who are struggling to survive," the ministry director said. "In the entire Kasseh Chiefdom, this village is the only one with a church."
This month marks one year since Sierra Leone was first declared free of the Ebola virus that struck in 2014-2015. Sierra Leone was the second-worst hit country in deaths from the Ebola virus, which killed more than 11,300 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The ministry introduces the hope of Christ into such despair, but the challenge of sharing Christ with a people entrenched in the traditions of Islam and ethnic religions is daunting. Evangelists also face difficult driving conditions, as roads for reaching the unreached are often primitive, not adequately maintained or nonexistent. Macauley requested prayer for a sturdy vehicle for the ministry's Jesus for the Rural World Gospel Campaign Movement, which would cost about $12,000, as well assistance to cover costs for monthly evangelistic campaigns, including transportation and feeding of team members.
"Also pray for provision of hundreds of Bibles for new, hungry disciples coming into the kingdom of God through the Jesus Rural Movement," he said.
As the kingdom grows, buildings need to be constructed for new congregations that recently formed in four villages, he said.
The Temne people of Sierra Leone are considered unreached (defined as less than 2 percent evangelical Christian), according to the Joshua Project, which lists them as 61 percent Islamic and 35 percent ethnic religions.
The Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 exacerbated conditions for the Sierra Leone's poor, who are now in crisis due to food shortages and inflation. A recent United Nations report noted that 3.5 million people, about half the country's population, lack enough food. About 600,000 of these are "severely food insecure," according to the report. Analysts point to 60 percent unemployment that is not expected to improve soon with austerity measures pending.
Macauley said the poor in Sierra Leone have faced further challenges since Ebola wrecked the country's economic progress.
"Before Ebola, our economy was being celebrated worldwide as one of the fastest growing economies, but all of this has changed," he said. "Inflation has reached the highest ever. Presently there is a lot of suffering in the masses barely surviving. Quite recently, hundreds of people were scrambling at a dumpsite in Freetown for rotten chicken that was to be destroyed by the Sierra Leone Ports Authority."
Ministry workers note that parents are finding it increasingly difficult to come up with school fees for their children's education.
"All of these and more are issues that need the divine intervention of God, and we ask you all to pray for us," Macauley said. "Pray for a divine touch upon the economy of Sierra Leone, which has reached its lowest point at this time due to the post-Ebola effects."
The Ebola crisis is estimated to have orphaned more than 12,000 children in Sierra Leone. The village in the Kasseh Chiefdom that Macauley and his team recently visited was full of them.
"What is most pathetic is that most of the children in this village are orphans who are struggling to survive," he said. "In the entire Kasseh Chiefdom, this village is the only one with a church, so we are planning to return to minister the love of God to them."
Closer to Freetown, workers are building an orphanage to minister to the needs of children who have lost their parents to the Ebola virus. Macauley thanked Christian Aid Mission for start-up funds for the project, which still requires $50,000 for completion.
"Like the Father's heart, which is so enlarged towards orphans, so are our hearts becoming, the more we consider the situation of Ebola orphans, especially when we see lots of them around in towns and villages and the unfavorable conditions surrounding them," he said. "This makes the orphanage project an urgent one."
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