Captured By Rebels
by Christina Holder, Liberia
2 September 2008
Joe Wankollie remembers walking the broken roads of Liberia for more than 30 miles, trying to escape bullets cutting through the hot, muggy air.
It was along those long stretches of road during Liberia's protracted war that he first saw someone die.
Rebel fighters routinely executed innocent people fleeing for safety.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
"At that point, I felt that God had removed my spirit," Wankollie said.
The broken road winding through this war-torn land stretched ahead -- a disgraceful, open graveyard for the dead.
All that Wankollie could do was walk. And cry out to God.
Sometimes the suffering surrounding Wankollie was unbearable. Rebel fighters even captured him and put him into jail. There was a rumor that Wankollie had been broadcasting negative mesages about rebel fighters on the radio. At the time, Wankollie hosted a Christian program in his native tongue on Eternal Love Winning Africa radio, an SIM partner. Eventually, Wankollie's family was able to pay the rebels $25 for his release.
Throughout all of the hardship, Wankollie drew closer to God.
"There were so many people dying, so many people suffering," he said. "And yet He had His hands on me."
Today Wankollie looks at his life with new purpose. In post-war Liberia, he is committed to serving God through his role as SIM's business manager and to encouraging other Liberians to walk the hard road of honesty and accountability.
"Tomorrow, if the missionaries leave, the Liberians are going to be here."
He said he is encouraged by the work of SIM Liberia in the lives of his people. Missionaries partner with Liberians at Eternal Love Winning Africa, a nonprofit organzation that hosts a Christian radio and operates a housing complex and a hospital outside of the capital city. Missionaries work alongside Liberians to train them in sectors such as broadcast, services and medicine. Missionaries also disciple Liberians working through a consortium of churches.
But progress is slow. Fourteen years of civil war has set back everyone living in Liberia. It has been common for Liberians to graduate high school in their late twenties because schools were destroyed and fighting made it impossible to hold regular classes. Liberia is a country still in survival mode. Corruption and accountability remain a struggle.
Wankollie dreams of a Liberia where his people are standing on their own. To achieve this goal, SIM needs partners who want to see Liberians become the future, Christ-centered leaders of their country.
"Tomorrow, if the missionaries leave, the Liberians are going to be here," Wankollie said. "It is important for the Liberians to take leadership. This is our country."