What follows below are Pastor Jeff's own words, unedited, that he is sending to us from Africa via e-mail. This is the first in what will be a series of posts about his time in Sierra Leone.
God is good. All the time.
There are many expressions of faith shared within the faith community. Upon hearing, I am reminded that part of the truth and acceptance in this expression is my perspective of faith.
God has blessed and enabled me through the kindness of my congregations to lead teams to Sierra Leone (SL) since 1984. I began leading construction teams building a conference retreat facility. Life in SL has always been difficult but the Blood Diamond War from 1992 to 2002 left the country suffering for extreme brutality and setting it back decades in terms of progress.
Daily life is a struggle for existence since there is nearly an 85% unemployment rate. Since the war development was taking great leaps, the capital of Freetown finally has regular electricity which most of us in United States have taken for granted since the 1950’s. Last year was the first in 12 years I was unable to return to SL due to the Ebola virus. SL suffered more than neighboring countries. Nearly 14,000 cases resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths. I did not know what to expect as our team returned this year.
Meeting with church leadership, we were reminded that God is good. While I count on God’s goodness, what I witnessed throughout the country was set back. Many foreign aid groups, foreign investors and everyone that could possibility escape the ebola virus left the country, which meant fiscal demise for many. Many developing nations have what is considered a false economy. While the economy may appear to be improving, it is often being propped up by the presence of foreign military and other Non Government Organizations (NGO’s) such a numerous aid organizations. Without income, lodging deteriorated, restaurants closed, development ceased her normal activity.
Most living in villages live in mud huts with dirt floors and a grass roof. Others may have block homes made from local dirt with a small mixture of cement and a tin roof. Most live on a meal a day, the same meal, every day of the year. When I see folks coming to church from their humble dwellings I am amazed at their eagerness to Praise God. I am reminded that Praising God from whom all things come, does not always mean having the comforts in life I take for granted. I confess questioning, embarrassingly so, whether my foundation of faith that would see God’s goodness in such a difficult daily existence. Most have, endured war, disease, poverty, malnutrition and a daily struggle to exist. Each time I call Brima, my adopted son in Sierra Leone, I ask, “How are you and your family?” The response is the same, “Well, by the Grace of God, we are fine.”
Throughout my life, while I have often failed God and others. As I have at tried to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I am assured there is grace and forgiveness to move forward. There are man obstacles to faithfulness while living the American lifestyle. Tempations and detours to faith are surrounding us at all times. I have lived a life filled with blessings. I have always had the basic comforts of food, clothing, and shelter. Because of health standards, lack of war and disease I’m provided the blessings of family and friend. I’m reminded for many here, family and friends disappear quickly from the harshness of life.
My eyes are open to the abundant blessings God has provided. Along with this reminder comes the command from God to share my blessings with others.
Dear Lord, help me have this trust and faith.