Africa Bible College
As we circled the airfield in preparation for landing we knew we were in a place where peace was in progress. UN helicopters, cargo planes, tanks and trucks dominated the Liberian airfield.
Our little two-engine prop plane, with a total of 17 passengers, taxied noisily to the arrival gate, missing the stop blocks on the first try. The Russian captain did a quick 360 degree turn to make another try at the blocks. While spinning around we caught a glimpse of the next Russian flight crew in their makeshift office – a rusty 50 foot container – awkwardly placed near the edge of the runway.
Depressed economic conditions have affected everyone in the country, even those working in professional businesses.
As we disembarked, a large bag of cow meat was placed in my hands by the flight attendant. ‘Please give this to Kessely at ELWA’, he requested with a heart-warming smile. How could I refuse when meat of any kind was a scarcity in the country?
The merry-go-round of parking the plane reminded us of our present revolving door experience in Liberia. Twelve years ago we had to say goodbye to Liberia abruptly following the destruction and looting of the Africa Bible College (ABC) campus during the civil conflict.
Those 12 years in Kenya – Del at Daystar University and Becky establishing and operating Amani ya Juu – have been some of the most stimulating years of our mission careers. Now we find ourselves back in Liberia, full-circle.
Waiting for our luggage to arrive on the conveyor belt, we tried to assess what lay before us. Here we are, beginning the construction of ABC all over again, rebuilding the same facilities we had first built 29 years ago.
Symbol of restoration
It would have been easy to see this work as defeating and discouraging, but we knew all too well that this was a wonderful opportunity to view the reconstruction of the campus as a symbol of God’s forgiveness and work of restoration.
God makes ‘all things new’ through the transforming power of his redemptive grace. As we ventured into the interior of Liberia to begin the rebuilding of the ABC campus – which had been swallowed up by the unrestrained jungle – our thoughts turned to Nehemiah.
Could we stay in the ‘King’s palace’ (Kenya) rather than concern ourselves with the plight of ‘Jerusalem’ (Liberia)? The pull was too strong to ignore. What a privilege to be bearers of hope and agents of peace to those who had lost all hope years ago.
When the first truckload of materials arrived in Yekepa, many came from the community to help with the unloading. With silent reverence they flowed onto the campus to show support, carefully handling each sheet of roofing and plank of wood.
For twelve long years the community watched the jungle grow around them while their hopes of peace diminished with each passing day. The return of ABC was a visible sign that peace had taken hold in their country. It was a sacred moment for us all.
Emmanuel was one who made it through the first two years of ABC before the war interrupted his education. He volunteered a week of his time to work on the campus, choosing to clean the library – where six inches of dirt and debris had settled on the floor! He hopes that he will once again study in his favourite building, reading about the treasures of God’s truth.
Emmanuel is not only involved in the physical rebuilding of his country but he is also helping to rebuild lives by providing counselling to victims of the war. Many of the ABC graduates are involved in ministries that are restorative in nature – work-training for ex-combatants, reconciliation training for pastors, counselling for women who have been traumatised by war, and so on.
Emmanuel helps restore ex-combatants to their communities. One particularly tough case he related was of a former rebel soldier who had killed someone in his own home village during the war. Emmanuel patiently mediated the entire one year process, until the bereaved family finally extended forgiveness and accepted the ex-combatant back into their community.
As the reconstruction of ABC got under way, many people from the community came onto the campus to see for themselves – some bearing the gift of a pineapple and many others bringing words filled with gratitude.
‘Thank you for coming!’ ‘May God bless you for what you are doing’. ‘What you are doing gives us a reason to hope again’. ‘We give God thanks; the source of peace, for bringing peace to Liberia!’
Del and Becky Chinchen