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Sierra Leone's Gospel Moment Has Arrived, Ministry Shows

February 16, 2017

Christians celebrating in Sierra Leone.
Christians celebrate the joy of knowing the Lord in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone is said to be the first country in West Africa to hear the gospel, yet foreign missionary efforts have met with little success while Islam has become the religion of the country's majority. An indigenous Christian missionary, however, believes the moment for vast spiritual harvest has come.

Islam grew from 10 percent of Sierra Leone's population to more than 60 percent in the 20th century, according to missions analysts. While Muslim missionaries arrived in good measure to Sierra Leone in the past century, much of the Islamic growth came from the presence of U.N. peace-keeping forces from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India who built mosques in areas where they were stationed. Historically, relations between Christians and Muslims in Sierra Leone have been remarkably peaceful.

Since the first Protestant church was founded among freed slaves in the capital, Freetown, in 1785, the gospel has met such fierce opposition from animist, occult and other forces that only 13 percent of the population now identifies as Christian. Much foreign missionary work collapsed during Sierra Leone's rebel war from 1991 to 2002.

Indigenous churches and social ministries have sprung up in the face of the war and the effects of the Ebola crisis that ended in 2015, and those native workers will remain regardless of the security situation in the country. An indigenous missionary said the war and the Ebola virus left many people hungry for the hope that God offers in Christ.

"All that happened to us as a nation these past years, the 11 years of rebel war and the past Ebola saga, have been as a divine messenger to bring our people to the place of repenting from their evil ways, receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ and appropriating the mercy of God in Christ Jesus," said Mitford Macauley, director of Trinity Gospel Ministries (TGM). "Therefore we are wasting no time to go out radically with the gospel of Christ into the unreached regions, in the rural districts of our nation, in order to liberate our people in obedience to the divine mandate."

"We are wasting no time to go out radically with the gospel of Christ into the unreached regions in order to liberate our people in obedience to the divine mandate," the ministry director said.

TGM workers have long provided for Sierra Leone's many poor in their gospel outreach, and one of the most critical needs now is caring for the estimated 12,000 children orphaned by the Ebola virus. To help meet the need, TGM is constructing an orphanage that requires $50,000 for completion.

"We believe God to provide the needed funds for the completion of this great Calvary Orphanage project, which is intended to become the home for about 60 Ebola orphans," Macauley said. "We have been working on it, and two dormitory buildings are about at the roofing stage. We need your support to see this project through."

Such projects are integral to the ministry's evangelistic emphasis. TGM recently completed a six-week outreach to 22 villages that saw outstanding results, he said.

"All of these 22 villages had no church presence previously, and all of them have never heard the gospel preached until now," Macauley said. "During our film shows and campaigns, we saw hundreds of people encountering the power of God in deliverance from sickness and diseases, and also from demon possessions and oppression. Thousands of people turned from their sins of immorality, idolatry and occultism to the Lord Jesus."

In partnership with another ministry that shares the same passion, he said, 18 church planters have since been dispatched to follow up with those who have placed their faith in Christ, he said.

Missions analysts note that churches in Sierra Leone suffer from a sharp shortage of biblically trained leaders. Many centers for theological education were lost in the civil war, and needs are great for training in counseling, ministering to the disabled and facing occult powers. Amputation of arms, legs, hands and feet was a hallmark of the rebel war, and the 10,000 children trained to be soldiers have grown into scarred adults who know little more than how to do violence.

TGM recently gathered 109 new Christians, selected by church planters as potential leaders, to help fill this need for trained leadership.

"These disciples were given additional relevant teachings and trainings to enable them to continue the work of the ministry in their respective villages, while as the lead ministry we continue to develop these fellowships as churches," Macauley said. "Also, as part of the retreat, a baptism of about 100 of the potential leaders was done by me and my colleague."

Roads to these remote villages are rugged and distances long. The ministry has been getting by with some motorbikes and an automobile that has broken down several times, as its base is too low to the uneven ground.

"We need such vehicles as a Toyota Hilux or any other high vehicle," Macauley said. "We also need some motorbikes and bicycles for church planters to cover more ground."

Person preparing for baptism in Sierra Leone.
A candidate for baptism gives his testimony.

Team members seek hundreds of Bibles to meet the spiritual hunger of the new Christians, two motorbikes for the church-planting efforts and assistance for the costs of monthly outreaches, including transportation and food. The ministry also needs assistance for construction of church buildings in villages were congregations are forming. There are no suitable buildings for such purposes. In these villages, schools are built with small classrooms, and attendance at worship in them has already outstripped their capacity.

"We also discovered that these villagers need basic relief attention, as most of the children and women are undernourished," he said.

The ministry's indigenous missionaries are bringing the healing power of the gospel to devastated peoples. Most of Sierra Leone's population – which is 63 percent Muslim and 23 percent tribal animist – is suffering some measure of emotional/psychological trauma, and Macauley said his teams are excited about their fresh missionary vision that is rapidly expanding into new frontiers.

"This is a special time for the advancement of the gospel in our nation through this vibrant missionary vision," he said. "What we need at this time is more support so that we can run with it, as we cannot do it all alone. We are praying for all of our friends and donors of Christian Aid and believe that God will provide much more for them to support us more. Their support has largely encouraged us in our most challenging times, and we believe they can do it again at this time."

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 530TGM. Thank you!

Help provide physical and spiritual healing in Sierra Leone
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