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Liberia: A land of tears and hope

A row of United Nations helicopters at the Monrovia airport in 2005. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

What if Dr. Kent Brantly hadn’t contracted Ebola? What if he were still in Liberia treating victims of the deadly virus? 

Would the news media here still care? 

Would we?
Inside Story | Erik Tryggestad
I want to think so. A big part of my job at The Christian Chronicle is putting human faces on global issues. 
I don’t always succeed, but I try. And it’s always a blessing.
I traveled to Liberia with a small group of Christians in 2005, just before the country’s first democratic election since its second civil war. I hoped to find stories of faith in the ashes of a barbaric conflict that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
I remember seeing banks of white United Nations helicopters as the plane touched down in Monrovia. The city smelled of gasoline from cars and generators. Power lines dangled lifelessly from poles riddled with bullet holes.
I remember watching Jack Evans preach to a room full of Liberians. The president of Southwestern Christian College put his arm around another longtime minister, Marvin Phillips, and said that, even though their skin isn’t the same color and they don’t always agree, they’re still brothers in Christ. Powerful.

Most of all, I remember an 11-year-old boy named Matthew who had known little but war since his birth.
We found him playing with friends outside the V.P. Road Church of Christ on a Saturday afternoon. 
“Do you go to church here?” I asked. He nodded.
I was skeptical. This exact scenario had happened the year before in Nigeria, as some youths walking by a church building told me, “Yeah, that’s where we worship. Now give us some money.” So I asked Matthew what he learned in Bible class on Sunday. 
Matthew and his friends play outside the V.P. Road Church of Christ in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2005. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

“Memory verse,” he said, quietly.

Crud. Maybe he’s for real. 
“Do you remember it?” I asked.
He did, without hesitation. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but through me.’ John 14:6.”

Book, chapter and verse. Wow. I tried to take notes, but it’s hard when your eyes are filling up with tears.

Today, I weep again for Liberia, for a people who already have endured more than they should, now facing a horrible plague. 

But I rejoice that brothers such as Kent Brantly are willing to put their lives on the line to show love and compassion to the hurting.
And I rejoice that children such as Matthew, in the midst of suffering, are learning that there is truth and life in the One who overcomes the world.

Contact: [email protected]

Downtown Monrovia in 2005. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

Filed under: Inside Story

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