The journey of accompaniment means being open to the community in which we are being hosted. After the busy day of meetings on Friday we had an evening of cultural experiences put on by the ELCSL youth. Dancing, skits, songs, and other celebrations were held to honor us and our partners as we celebrated together. A total of four bishops of the Lutheran church were present. Bishop Momoh of the ELCSL, Bishop Jenson of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, Bishop Thomas of the Lutheran Church in The Gambia, and myself. Being the only white people in a community and celebration, particularly a Lutheran celebration is a valuable humbling learning experience. My bishop colleagues bring a great deal of pastoral, leadership, and theological experience to the conversations. It is humbling to have been able to learn, converse, and grow with them.
Oct. 26, 2018
A full day of meetings and partnership conversations. The ELCSL, in the words of Bishop Momoh, has had a “sweet and bittersweet” history. In 30 years it has seen war, theological and ecclesiastical conflict, and many natural and human made disasters. Yet it is still here. 26 congregations with almost 5,000 members. Expecting to add 3 more congregations by 2019. They are growth minded and focused on diakonia.
Oct 27, 2018
An day of #kilometersandkilometers of the #elcsl30th celebrations. We drove east from Bo to Kenema City to visit Incarnation Lutheran. Kenema is closer to Monrovia, Liberia than Freetown and here the native language is Mende not Krio. It is also home to a Polytechnic University at which several members at Incarnation work.
The congregation has been hard at work building their sanctuary and a parsonage. When a well being dug turned out not to be fruitful the enterprising folks turned it into a septic tank for the church. It was a clarifying visit about expectations of partnership and what accompaniment means.
From there we drove about 2 hours to the village of Jimmy south of Bo. There we were met by the local district pastors and a festive procession including traditional mens and womens society costumes and dancing. There we had lunch with church leaders and local officials including the local imam. Religious tolerance, including the acceptance of religious intermarriage, has been a hallmark of Sierra Leone. Jimmy also is the home village of former ELCSL bishop Tom Barnett’s spouse the Rev. Marie Barnett. Her eldest brother was our host.
The road to Jimmy was a tough one so we arrived back to Bo and only had a few minutes to grab vestments and head to Senehun (about 30 kilos west of Bo) for a eve of celebration worship service and dinner. Faith Lutheran there was officially renamed tonight forvRev. Dr. Jeremiah Yovanie who was critical in bringing Lutheranism to Sierra Leone. The partnership with #ntnl was also honored as I was honored to pray the prayer of dedication naming it Rev Dr. Jeremiah Memorial Lutheran Church.
After much celebrating and dinner it was time to get back to Bo. The newly elected President of Sierra Leone was in town today so along the way all day we had seen crowds waiting to greet the motorcade. Tonight we ran into significant traffic as party goers were hitting the Bo night spots after the day of political celebrations.
Go to rest tonight in the awareness of another shooting in my country. Targeting our Jewish sisters and brothers in Pittsburgh. Last summer my family enjoyed a lunch meal just blocks from that Synagogue while on vacation. Anti-semetic violence, along with all hate speech and violence, must be rejected and condemned. Our hearts and our actions must be turned to change this destructive pattern in our society.