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Liberia

Welcome to Liberia! This West African nation enjoys the rare distinction of never having been colonized or occupied by a foreign nation. Although Liberia has been a free and independent state since 1847, civil war in the last years of the twentieth century tore this nation apart. In the midst of it, believers in Jesus put their hope in God and continued to witness and work for His Kingdom.

men in a canoe

Team's Vision

We envision a body of mature believers who, being transformed by the power of the Gospel, go as servants to impact their communities and others for God. The purpose of SIM Liberia is to see Christ honored and glorified, as witnesses, serving with his people in Liberia by being and making disciples, to transform lives.

History

Among Liberia's indigenous peoples, no dominant kingdom ruled, resulting in a number of smaller independent tribal kingdoms. In 1461, Portuguese explorers visited Liberia's coasts and for the ensuing 250 years trade was conducted between European merchants and African coastal inhabitants (including much slave trading).

Beginning in 1821, free African-Americans and former slaves established settlements among the indigenous people along the Pepper Coast of Africa, under the sponsorship of colonization societies in the US who wished to "relocate" free black people to Africa. These settlers took control of the current site of Monrovia in 1832, after a series of conflicts with the local tribespeople. On July 26, 1847, they declared themselves the independent, free and sovereign nation of Liberia to protect their claim from burgeoning European colonization. The elite ruling class that grew out of the settlers, known as the Americo-Liberians, controlled the government until they were ousted by a military coup d'etat in 1980. When its leader did not fulfill promises to enfranchise the citizens of Liberia, he was overthrown by warring factions that disrupted the nation for the next 14 years.

Although it experienced a boom in the period after the second World War, Liberia's economic development was badly crippled by the civil war, which finally ended in 2003. After a UN-supervised disarmament, a democratically elected government was installed in 2007, headed by President Mme. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. She was elected to a second term in 2011.

In 2014, Liberia was disrupted again by an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease which had not previously been detected in the region. Nearly 11,000 cases were recorded in Liberia, with 4,809 deaths, but it is believed that many cases and deaths went unrecorded. Monrovia and the western counties of Liberia, bordering Sierra Leone, and Guinea experienced the rapid spread of the disease, while the southeastern region and their eastern neighbor la Cote d'Ivoire, was spared. The World Health Organization declared the epidemic to be over in January 2016, but isolated outbreaks are expected to occur.

Missionary working with Liberian man

Christianity and SIM ministry in Liberia

Due to Christian influence of settlers from the United States, Protestant missions had an early start in Liberia. Two Baptist pastors were among the first to arrive in 1822. Some of the earliest settlers were also Methodist, and the Methodist Church has developed into the largest denomination in Liberia. Other Protestant groups followed: United Lutheran Church (now known as the Lutheran Church of Liberia), Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptist Mid-Missions, Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, and Worldwide Evangelization Crusade.

Although the Portuguese contacted Liberia as early as 1462, no permanent Catholic work was established until 1906. The Catholics sponsor many schools and a major hospital in Liberia.

SIM first became involved in Liberia when it merged with the West Africa Broadcasting Association in 1952, a small organization that was given a license for Radio ELWA to proclaim the gospel from Monrovia to all of West Africa, with the blessing and encouragement of the Liberian government. The ELWA Hospital was established in 1965 and a school for missionary children, ELWA Academy, was developed.

SIM began church planting in Liberia in 1976 among several unreached peoples (Muslim and animistic) who had heard ELWA's broadcasts and requested that SIM send missionaries to teach them more about salvation in Jesus Christ. Mission stations were developed in Lofa, Bomi and Cape Mount counties, and on the Firestone Rubber Plantation in the 1980s. Additional SIM-related churches grew out of Bible classes taught by missionaries in high schools in Monrovia.

The Liberian civil war first disrupted the ministry of SIM in 1990. Violent anti-government forces marched towards the capital in a coup d'etat. After hosting 20,000 refugees on the ELWA campus for several weeks, the last few missionaries who had tried to ride out the conflict were forced to evacuate. The next year, regional peace-keeping efforts allowed SIM missionaries to slowly return to the ELWA compound. All the buildings had been looted and vandalized, some were even bombed. The upcountry stations were not safe for missionaries to return. Eventually, the hospital and the radio were operating again.

When civil unrest again erupted in 1996, fighters occupied and then looted the ELWA campus. SIM was unsure that they should resume their work in Liberia unless there was peace. In the absence of missionaries, Liberians who had been a part of the ministries took the initiative to re-open the clinic and radio operations because they felt called to continue the ministry. Until the war ended in 2003, they slowly rebuilt and maintained the ministries with help from a few SIM missionaries. In the post-war period, a time of accelerated growth and new demands for modernization, SIM oversees the operation of ELWA Hospital, Radio and Academy, with Liberians filling most high level management roles. ELWA has nearly 300 employees.

SIM's Partner Church

Also in the wake of the 1996 civil crisis, the churches which had been planted by SIM missionaries and their Liberian co-workers formally organized as the Evangelical Church Union of Liberia, now the Evangelical Church of Liberia (ECOL). As of February 2016, ECOL has expanded to 110 organized churches and numerous start-up congregations. When many of these churches were displaced during the final period of the civil war, from 1999-2003, they used the opportunity to reach out in the refugee camps to those who might not have had the chance to hear the gospel in their remote villages. ECOL was also the implementer of SIM's relief efforts in the wake of the fighting in 2003, as well as a post-Ebola Trauma healing ministry and relief effort. Recognizing the need for further Bible and pastoral training for many of their pastors and church leaders, ECOL plans to develop a Bible Training Center outside of Monrovia in Tubmanburg.

During the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2015, SIM, in cooperation with Samaritan's Purse, opened the first Ebola treatment unit (ETU) in Monrovia at the ELWA Hospital. In the effort to treat the initial patients, missionaries Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly contracted the disease and were evacuated to the U.S. Dr. Rick Sacra also came down with Ebola as he tried to keep the ELWA Hospital open for obstetrical services in the midst of the crisis, while most hospitals were closed. Two hospital staff were lost to the disease, and two others became sick but survived. The ELWA campus hosted the largest treatment unit, run by Doctors without Borders; a Centers for Disease Control testing lab; and a Ministry of Health ETU run by ELWA Hospital Medical Director, Dr. Jerry Brown who was also featured on TIME magazine when the Ebola Fighters were honored at the Persons of the Year in 2014.

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