Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sierra Leone's 50th Anniversary of Independence

This past Wednesday, April 27th, 2011, Sierra Leone celebrated its 50th year anniversary of independence from British rule. Sierra Leone has been making great strides forward in recent years. Here are two videos celebrating this, the second featuring the Sierra Leone Refugee All Star Band (whom we'll see in concert tonight here in Phoenix thanks to Chuck and Donna Riser!).

Following the videos are the words to a popular Sierra Leonean Christian hymn sung in Krio.






Tεl Papa Gɔd Tεnki

Tεl Am tεnki, tεl Am; Tεl Papa Gɔd tεnki
Tεl Am tεnki, tεl Am; Tεl Papa Gɔd tεnki
Wetin I du fɔ wi; Wi go tεl Am tεnki
Wetin I du fɔ wi; Wi go tεl Am tεnki
Tεl Am tεnki, tεl Am; Tεl Papa Gɔd tεnki

(In English ...)
Tell Father God Thank You

Tell Him thank you, tell Him; Tell Father God thank you
Tell Him thank you, tell Him; Tell Father God thank you
For what He does for us; we're gonna tell Him thank you
For what He does for us; we're gonna tell Him thank you
Tell Him thank you, tell Him; Tell Father God thank you

Just imagine what Sierra Leone could become in the next 50 years!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Trust


One evening in Sierra Leone, I had an interesting conversation with a guy who is in the diamond mining business there. Minutes into our talk, he learned I am a pastor and I learned he adheres to no religious beliefs in particular, although he is bothered by the poverty in Sierra Leone and tries to help where he can. After learning that I'm a pastor, he related his only other experience with a minister. Some years earlier, he told me, the high-profile televangelist Pat Robertson had come to Sierra Leone and convinced him to work in a program called "Jewels for Jesus." After a few tricks and slips, however, Robertson left my new friend high-and-dry, having stolen $40,000 in equipment from him and, needless-to-say, leaving a bad taste in his mouth for religious leaders. "We were sitting by a river eating MRE's [that's 'meal-ready-to-eat']," he recounted, "when Robertson complained about how bad the food was and flung his food into the river behind him." He was astonished that such a well-known religious leader would do this while sitting among a group of very poor children. Pat Robertson's business dealings with dictators in Africa in order to get rich off of Africa's diamonds and gold is not well-publicized in the West or in Christian news, although in 1995 Time ran an article about his dealings with Zaire's Mobutu in order to get gold (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,982593,00.html). Robertson's business affairs with Charles Taylor in Liberia (who's soldiers taught rebels in Sierra Leone the tactic of forced amputations) in order to get diamonds is also not well publicized but is not unknown (http://groups.google.com/group/misc.activism.progressive/browse_thread/thread/e1ac779193b21dbd/a5426da333b2a822?lnk=gst&q=pat+robertson#a5426da333b2a822).

I sat around a table with a group of twenty or so Sierra Leonean pastors and told them our story of setting Lisa's diamond ring aside and how people had been giving us their wedding rings and diamonds to help. After the meeting, a wise friend told me that the history with Pat Robertson in their country would automatically create some skepticism towards what I am doing, since Robertson came only on the pretense of doing ministry when his real motive was to make money off of diamonds.


Wow. In a country scarred by civil war, with an unemployment rate of roughly 65%, a long history of government corruption, and to top it all off a well-known "Christian" televangelist who has burned the people of Sierra Leone in a big way, how can we build an enduring ministry? Only one word comes to mind: trust. It's that slow process of building trust over time as our friends in Sierra Leone get to know our character and integrity and we get to know theirs. We've got to get to that point where there is no "us" versus "them" but only "we."


As a leader, trust is not something you or I can manipulate or squeeze out of people. In fact, I have found that the more I squeeze the less trust I get out of a person. Trust is something that can only be given and received, but never taken.


I hope and pray I am modelling trustworthiness among my family and friends and those partners in ministry with which I work. I pray you are doing the same!