Radio ELWA Turns 50
by Jon Shea, SIM International
1 March 2004
Fifty years ago, on 18 January 1954, Africa's first Christian radio station, Radio ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa), went on the air in Monrovia, Liberia. Over several days in January 2004, hundreds of people in Liberia and in the United States held simultaneous celebrations marking the 50th anniversary and reflecting on all that God has done. Two of the original founders of Radio ELWA were present in the US gathering, along with many other missionaries and Liberians who had served at ELWA.
Beginning with transmission reaching only the capital city of Monrovia, in time ELWA's outreach extended to most of West Africa, parts of North and Central Africa, and for awhile even into the Middle East and Brazil. Local ministries grew to include the ELWA Hospital and Clinic and ELWA Academy.
During the past 14 years, four outbreaks of civil war have repeatedly destroyed the ELWA facilities and forced the evacuation of SIM workers. With so few SIM missionaries assigned to Liberia since 1996, dedicated Liberians took charge of the ELWA ministries with the full blessing of SIM. Beyond resurrecting a ruined radio and medical complex, they also kept the ministries alive throughout the 2003 violence. During the worst fighting, ELWA became a refuge to thousands. It also provided the only national coverage of Liberia with its low-power, shortwave transmitter provided by HCJB. The hospital and clinic remained in operation, and the academy is now again open.
The long-running civil war is said to have claimed some 200,000 lives. It certainly disrupted everything for most of the remaining 4 million citizens of Liberia, but now a new wave of optimism is sweeping the country. Liberians living overseas and a quarter of a million refugees outside the borders of their homeland are giving serious thought to returning. A significant number of the 100 congregations in the Evangelical Church Union of Liberia (ECUL), which relates to SIM, are not able to meet due to displacement of members and pastors. Seven new congregations have formed among displaced people within Liberia, and four are in refugee camps in neighboring countries.
As peace is re-established, the people of God in Liberia will be rebuilding their lives and their churches and seeking to bring healing to the many who were traumatized by the violence. Women and children who took up assault rifles to become combatants are especially in need of psychological and spiritual restoration. Many families have been torn apart. The brother of Tony Weedor, a Liberian who is serving with SIM in Ethiopia, has been missing since the beginning of the latest hostilities.
The church has sent two of their own missionaries to train church leaders in a district northwest of Monrovia, and an SIM missionary from Korea is developing curriculum for training pastors throughout the country. A short-term couple from SIM UK will join them soon. Rick Sacra, the missionary doctor who doubled as administrator during the crisis, and his wife are now on home assignment. Leaders of ECUL are begging for Christians from other countries to come and work alongside Liberians to rebuild their nation and its churches.
GiveProject # LR 95113—Short-wave radio transmitter for Liberian language broadcasts
Ask God to heal the soul of the nation of Liberia, and to give His people courage
for the enormous task of rebuilding.
SIM Liberia is seeking administrators, Bible and ministry teachers, radio specialists, physicians, children/youth workers and trainers, a vocational trainer, and a team to repair houses. Check out the opportunities!