Hundreds of people gathered in Foria, Sierra Leone, in February to celebrate the newest addition to the family of Christian Reformed churches.
The recently-formed body called the “Christian Reformed Church in Sierra Leone” brings together believers from 33 worshiping groups planted and nurtured over the past three decades by missionaries from the Christian Reformed Church in North America and several other mission groups.
It was an awesome event. Guests came from the United States and Canada as well as from neighboring churches in Nigeria and Ghana to witness the profession of faith and baptism of 45 new Christians ranging in age from 8 to 80, to celebrate the ordination of two pastors, and to join with local believers in the church’s first-ever celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
But the “stars” of the event were Christians who kept the faith through a vicious, decade-long civil war and finally had their own church. They’re people like Pa Fatelay, an elderly Kuranko man who proudly displayed the baptismal certificate that was one of the few possessions he had managed to save when the rebels drove him from his home. Or like Kumba, who together with other women worked 18-hour days to prepare food for the hundreds of visitors. Or like the men, women, and children who walked more than 30 miles from surrounding villages to participate.
The site for the celebration, fittingly, was Foria, a village of some 1,000 people in the northern part of Sierra Leone where CRC missionaries Paul and Mary Kortenhoven lived and worked for many years.
It’s not easy to get to Foria. The road to the village is rocky and steep, with logs laid across the streams as bridges. A few weeks prior to the celebration, some parts of the road were almost impassable, even for four-wheel-drive vehicles. So the village chief—a Muslim—sent work teams to fix the worst areas. It called to mind the words of Isaiah 40: “Prepare the way for the Lord. . . . The rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”
That Sunday morning the village chief and elders, many of them also devout Muslims, walked up the hill where the visitors were staying to pay their respects.
They said they were glad that Christian Extension Services—a Sierra Leonean agency created by Christian Reformed World Missions and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee—had come to their community. And they said they appreciate the church and hope that it will grow.
To learn more about the CRC in Sierra Leone, read “The Bridge” in the May 2005 Banner (online at www.thebanner.org) and “Deadly Beauty: How the Church Helped to Halt the Trade in Blood Diamonds” in the April 2007 issue.