Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Liberia # 2

By Greg:

This car should start the first time, every time!
Sunday morning we got in our Ford Everest (like an Explorer) and prepared to go to Church.  Well, it would not start.  We have a missionary couple, the Coopers, who are temple missionaries.  They do not have a car because they can just walk to the temple.  But to go shopping is hard for them.  Also, they are busy on Saturdays, and the temple is closed on Monday.  So, we let them use our car on Mondays as our "P" day is suppose to be Saturday.  They told us it would not start for them one day while we were in Liberia. I felt bad for them.

You might assume they carried jumper cables
When it would not start for us I knew it was a battery problem.  I looked at the battery and the water level was low in every cell.  I added water and then started asking for jumper cables.  This is a good lesson.  Ask for a solution, not the tools for the solution. My real goal was to start my car, not find jumper cables.

 Of course, no one has jumper cables here.  The guard at our apartment solution was to take the battery out of the big generator and put it in our car!  All he had was a pair of needle-nosed plyers. I would not let him do that.

Well I set off looking for jumper cables on a Sunday morning.  I thought that a taxi might have them as most of them are barely working vehicles anyway.  The second taxi said, “No jumper cables” but he knows a “guy”.  We got to his guy and he had no jumper cables, but he and his friend put a battery and some wires in the trunk of the taxi and we were off, back to my car.

The two men held the wires on my battery with their fingers, one on the positive and one on the negative and amazingly my car started.  They put the red wire on negative sides, but I decided not to teach them anything, they knew what they were doing.  I paid the taxi and the cable guys and we went to church.  No problems since.   Welcome to Africa!

I want to talk more about Liberia.

Before The War (as I was growing up “The War” was WWII but The War here was the Liberian Civil War—technically there were two of them).

In 1980, an African man named Samuel Doe staged a military coup against the elected president and took control of Liberia.  This coup ended years of peaceful elected leadership.  He later held an election to get himself elected.  That election was a fraud.  A rebellion began.  Over 200,000 people were killed in the “First Civil War” which lasted from 1989 to 1996.

One of Poe’s followers, Samuel Taylor, who was of American decent, led another rebellion.  Poe was not from former Americans and resented those who descended from former American slaves—who were the elite of Liberia (Taylor had earlier been kicked out of Poe’s government for embezzlement).  Taylor had been educated in the US and during his exile went to Libya and was trained by Kaddafi.

Well Doe was executed by one group of rebels and Taylor was eventually elected President.  Of course he also had opposition.  Another civil war broke out that lasted from 1999 to 2003.  In Taylor’s trial (last summer-2012) it was found that he had been supported by the CIA in his attack against Poe, who had communist/socialist leanings.  The CIA often supported evil dictators during this period, if they were against communism.

During most of both civil wars it was hard to tell who the “freedom fighters” were and who were the “rebels” and most of the time both were attacking the “people”.

The Civil Wars spilled over into Sierra Leone.  The movie “Blood Diamond” depicts the fighting in Sierra Leone and the attempts by both sides to get diamond to purchase guns and supplies. There is another “R” rated movie about all this called “Lords of War”.  I don’t recommend either of them but the second shows how the guns were stolen from the former Soviet Union and sold into Sierra Leone with diamonds.  I like Nichols Cage and Brad Pitt, but I don’t like the movies or this history.  This was a terrible human tragedy that still affects lots of people.

When we were in both Sierra Leone and Liberia we saw many, many men who were missing one arm.  This was as the result of the war.  A common punishment was to chop off an arm, at the wrist, elbow or shoulder, depending on the crime.

Both sides in both countries took the public treasures (the entire social security fund was lost) as well as the natural resources, but most tragic was they took the boys.  We met a Branch President who took his family into the bush and lived in hiding for 10 years so they would not “steal” his sons and make them fight.

This is the Branch President.

The rebels attacked the city of Monrovia.  They destroyed buildings and the infrastructure.  Before the War Liberia was one of the most modern of all African countries.  It was the only country that had not been a European colony.  It was founded by freed American Slaves.  The capital was named for James Monroe and most of the AMERCO-Liberians have American last names.  The leaders of the country before the War were mostly descendants from these former Americans.

The rebels tore down power lines and afterwards the wires were stolen and sold for scrap.  Today there is no power system. There are still power lines, but no grid, or system.   All of the power to buildings is provided by generators.  The phone system never recovered and like most of Africa, today everyone uses a cell phone.  Liberia is now one of the poorest countries in the world.

There are still some power lines, but they are not live and working.

They Church had a Stake in Liberia from 2000 to 2007, and was growing.  We had buildings and Bishops and a Patriarch, but the War even devastated the Church.  They disbanded the Stake and now there are two Districts that are hoping to one day be Stakes, again.  As I said, over 200,000 people died during the War.

The War was ended by efforts of women.  They “prayed the devil back to hell” and formed a group of 3,000 women that sought for peace.  They were Christians, Muslims, Jews and Natives.  But they were tired of war.  They demanded a meeting with President Taylor and pressured him to attend peace talks.  Peace came as the US and the UN entered Liberia and Taylor was eventually arrested and taken to The Hague and last summer he was convicted of crimes against humanity and is now serving a 50 year prison sentence in The Hague.

The UN is everywhere in Liberia.  They are keeping the peace.  With their help a free election was held and one of the Peace Women was elected President.  Her name is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  Why don’t we have women decide if we are going to have a war in the future?  I think they might always choose peace.

Today the Church is growing, the fastest rate of growth in the entire Church.  There is almost a certainty that Liberia will become a mission by itself this summer.  The members who survived are strong and the people are craving God in their lives.

This is a new building that will some day serve as a Stake Center.

We have a friend who was a missionary during the war.  He was captured and was in fear of execution.  Some thought the Church was CIA and thus anyone associated with the American Church was bad.  One of the rebels was a member of the Church and was able to secure Brother Prince Nyounfor’s release.  He was exiled to Ghana where he finished his mission and worked for 5 years before returning to Liberia.  He was a Bishop during the Stake period and is now a counselor in the Mission Presidency.  He is a wonderful man.  Everyone in Liberia has real “War” stories.
The future is with the children.  They need education and protection.

Some question the future.  At one point in US history, Benjamin Franklin asked whether the sun was rising or setting.  For the sake of the children of Liberia, I hope it is rising!


  1. I hope it's rising too. I can't believe the violence in the world, so sad.

  2. Thank you for this post! I came across your blog as I was searching for more information and stories about the missionary work in Liberia. Our son was just called to serve in Liberia (beginning in September--he's going to LOVE IT, right?). We're excited for this adventure ahead of him and your blog stories are quite helpful. I love your writing style, especially the details and your humor.

    1. Yes, he will love it. Send me your email address and I will tell you more. Send it to Your email does not come through on the blog post replys.

      Elder Haws

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