“Pastor Bill…I’m going to miss Liberia,” said Jimmy Gargar, laughing as he wadded up a napkin and threw it
out the window of our 4×4. He knew what little Native American remains in me hates the thought of littering anywhere, a common practice in Liberia. I met him 5 years ago as he told of memories from his homeland, Liberia. And now, I was seeing it for the first time as the two of us, three IMB personnel, and some members of the Greater Love Baptist Churches of Liberia persevered down mud sloped roads towards the Vai people. He told me of the poverty in which he grew up, of selling ice water on the streets to pay for his education. Before my eyes were many who follow in his footsteps.
Now a member of RTN, Jimmy and the staff began praying about why God brought him to the church. He’s been a faithful member, prayer leader, usher and servant. But, RTN believes that the sovereign power of God places the people of the world in our congregation for more than just service within RTN. People like Jimmy are a valuable link to the uttermost, the final frontiers of Unreached People Groups. Liberia has five of them and RTN was answering that call.
Liberia has welcomed a wealth of missionaries and has much need of them. The war torn country is trying to rebuild but such progress is often suppressed by corrupt leaders. It’s no place anyone I know of would go for vacation. All around us were NGO’s, US Aid, and UN vehicles pursuing whatever cause that brought them. It’s the place many go to dig wells, build schools and teach farming. While all of those purposes are good and are definitely needed, our purpose was none of the above. Simply put, our purpose was to engage UPG’s (Unreached People Groups) with the gospel and plant reproducible churches.
In Monrovia, the capital city, every other house or shop seemed to be some Christian place of worship or prayer. Theologically however, much is lacking, as the Prosperity Gospel runs wild. We connect with and trained members and pastors of the Greater Love Baptist Churches of Liberia, in the Bassa territory. They welcomed us in the streets with a ceremony fit for Kings. These churches began out of a prayer movement started by Gargar when in Liberia. Not only is their theology sound, but like us, they have missions on their mind.
Assisted by a partnership between IMB and NAMB, we pressed on in our vision, seeking towards the Vai, Gola, and Mende villages, (people and regions with a majority Muslim presence and lacking access to the gospel). Villages that were not only unreached, but unengaged laid before us. Our guides were members of CAPRO, a Missions organization out of Nigeria. They had heard of the villages we were going to but had never visited. Our orientation consisted of tribal procedures, barriers, and a warning against persecutions. Things Jimmy knew, but I didn’t. While we were there a press release was played over the radio of one local church being raided by the local Zo’s (withdoctors), and two people being chained to the cross that hung in the church. Pastor Austin of Capro played a video of violent extremes that Muslim’s north of Liberia were enforcing. All that to say, these people need Jesus, and it may come with a cost.
We loaded our four wheel drives and trudged hours back into the bush. Our first village was a Vai village; the local Imam and his son were there. Flash backs of the video I’d seen earlier that morning were now commencing in my mind. I began praying in my mind for God’s strength and peace. Having assembled the chief and elders and surrounding villagers we told them we had come as people of prayer to pray for their village. They were excited and we were well received. I explained to them that I would pray in the name of Jesus and wanted to tell a story from God’s Word about why. They were like children, anxious to hear what God wanted them to know. I told the story of the demon possessed man and how Jesus had delivered him. They were flattered to hear that the demons knew who he was. Many in these villages still play with evil spirits. Without much more hesitation they asked for another story about Jesus.
One of our partners, a journey girl with the IMB, stood and told a story known as C2C or Creation to Christ. With village eyes glued to her she told the story that explains how far man has fallen since Creation, the laws God gave, and his inability to keep them. It’s a story that explains a promised savior, his sacrificial life, his glorious resurrection, and His promise of the Holy Spirit to all who choose to follow and believe unto him. It’s a story the world is literally dying to hear. (There was evidence of sacrifice in many villages.) And then, without hesitating, she boldly asked the most conflicting question to who these people were and to what they believed in. “Is there anyone here who wishes to follow Jesus?”
Suddenly a silence fell all around us. That silence escorted in a feeling that anything in this moment could happen. These Muslims could chase us out, we could be persecuted, and we were a long way from home. As I looked around at our team members I saw anxieties, cautions, boldness and hope. And suddenly the silence broke. It started with the Imam’s son. He looked around the 40 or so that had gathered and with boldness and no sign of others joining in raised his hand proclaiming that he wanted to become a follower of Jesus. Within a moment’s time, he was joined not by one or two, but all who had come to hear what these teachers of God’s Word had come to say. The whole gathering of villagers, Imams, Chief and elders, had come to Christ. The Imams son said, “I’ve come from another village and will go and tell them what has happened.” And in that moment, our vision was manifested.
RTN has four major criteria before entering a partnership. Any effort we pursue must engage UPG’s, lack a dependency in sustainment, involve training indigenous leaders, and result in church planting. And now, the work has just begun in Liberia. RTN is working together with the Greater Love Baptist Churches to follow up and extend the kingdom. We ended up engaging 8 villages outside of walking distances to churches. In all eight we found people desiring to follow Jesus.
RTN is hoping to commit to sending teams every six to eight weeks. A God sized task that we know cannot happen alone. As we pray and cast this vision, we look for partners to join us. To join us and be able to say with us, “before we went the gospel had only gone so far. Now, by the grace of God, we have taken it farther.”
I remember Jimmy asking if he could serve as an usher when we returned. I smiled and said to him, “Pick up ten pieces of trash off the ground and we’ll talk about it.” The potential within the ministry of RTN and its people is yet to be completely realized. Jimmy Gargar is one of many links to UPG’s around the world among RTN members. It’s a church membership that believes in the gospel and exists so that all peoples can hear it.
We thank all of those at RTN and beyond who were praying for us. Like everything we do, it cannot happen with that.
Reach the Nations Community Church