'It's different when you come'


MONROVIA, Liberia --  February 2006 was our first trip to consider a conference to conference partnership. Today nearly 250 people from IGRC have experienced this journey. This is God’s partnership -- not ours -- and God continues to call others to go.

Being in Liberia certainly is a “risk taking mission”. Besides the physical challenges of travel on difficult roads and heat, we face the potentiality of contracting malaria and typhoid. Daily life in Liberia is a constant reminder of an ever present reliance upon God. Liberia is far, far away from our comfort zones.
IGRC teams travel to Liberia to participate in specific projects or to conduct workshops and trainings. We have completed numerous projects and countless children, youth and young adults are attending school. Many wells have also been dug throughout Liberia.
We have completely rebuilt and renovated 15 churches. Others are currently under construction including New Hope UMC – a Bassa congregation who found each other seeking refuge in Monrovia during the war and yearned to worship in their own dialect. Their struggles and survival stories are powerful, but their faith in God and their determination to have their own church completed are far greater.
IGRC has built seven schools and John Kofi Asmah United Methodist School in West Point (a crowded slum area of Monrovia) is currently under construction. The three-story school will be the ONLY high school in an area of more than 60,000 people. This school will be a powerful beacon of hope for West Point. West Point is a place where even many Liberians will not go, but IGRC and The United Methodist Church of Liberia are there.
It is the projects and trainings that cause us to travel to Liberia. However, we soon learn that we have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters in Liberia than we can ever offer. Often team members in Liberia comment, “I thought I was coming to Liberia to help change Liberia, but I am the one who is changed.” It happens every time! We come to realize through the great faith of our friends in Liberia the shallowness of our own faith and we are drawn closer to God. Our Liberian partnership is an amazing faith builder because of people – not projects.
The IGRC/Liberia partnership focuses on getting to know and understand people who have tremendous faith and hope even though their country is still war torn. These faithful and dear friends pray for us daily. They pray for all of  IGRC and not just for those who have funded projects or traveled to Liberia. They pray for team members by name before we touch foot on their soil. Before the arrival of each IGRC mission team some people in Liberia fast for three days and others fast for 21 days. While there we are covered daily with their prayers.
I believe walking this faith journey hand in hand and working side by side our brothers and sisters in Liberia are the ultimate goals of our work in Liberia. Our partnership is so much more than projects, trainings and buildings. No building or project can draw us closer to God or transform our individual spiritual walk.
As I write about our conference partnership with the Liberia Annual Conference and the faith journey we have been walking with Christ half the world away, I am reminded of words from a Liberian sister on our fourth trip to Liberia. I will never forget Martha’s words: “Bunny, it’s different when IGRC teams come to Liberia.” My questions to her were “What do you mean it is different? You have hosted many groups visiting Liberia. How are our teams different?”
Martha’s answer was simple, yet profound  as she commented, “It’s different because when IGRC teams come, they WANT to be with us. Your teams take time to talk with us. They want to get to know us and what we have experienced during the war. They want to know how we can hold onto our faith in the midst of so much destruction. We laugh and cry together. We pray together. It’s just very different!” If we travel to Liberia, yet never really take the time to fellowship with our brothers and sisters, we would most certainly miss an amazing blessing.
The apostle Paul writes in Philippians.1:3-6:  I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Like Paul, those who have gone to Liberia remember with joy those we meet and come to know and no ocean can separate the power of our prayers for one another. Some have returned two and three times and God continues to call others. It is my sincere prayer that we have just begun.
Future teams are planned for Liberia. There will be a teacher training trip in July 2011 others will join this team for other projects. We have been advised not to be in Liberia during the election; therefore, the October 2011 team will be postponed. Mission teams to Liberia will resume in February 2012 following the Liberian presidential election and inauguration. Let us all remember to pray for Liberia that the fall 2011 presidential election will be peaceful.
God continues to be faithful to call the right people at the right times to journey to Liberia. What about you? If God is calling you to Liberia or if your congregation wants to know more about our IGRC partnership, please contact bwolfe@igrc.org.

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