Strengthening the ties that bind the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church of Liberia
September 18, 2019
I participated in a World Mission global partner consultation this past winter in Nairobi, Kenya. The gathering was attended by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers serving in Africa and leaders and members of the various African churches and organizations with whom we partner in God’s mission. The purpose of the consultation was to hear about the work and witness of ministry on the African continent, and to gain insight for the development of the future strategy of World Mission.
I learned much from these men and women of faith. We worshiped together, sang together, danced together and prayed together. We sought to discern together how God is forming and shaping our partnership in ministry and mission for such a time as this. I presented the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Matthew 25 vision and the trifold focus of the mission work plan for 2019–20, aimed at building congregational vitality, eradicating systemic poverty and dismantling structural racism. After listening and learning from fellow followers of Christ in Africa, a smaller delegation of World Mission staff traveled to Monrovia, Liberia, to strengthen the ties between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church in Liberia.
It became clear to me that the Presbyterian Church of Liberia is a Matthew 25 church. They are actively engaged in the world, embracing both the perils and possibilities of our time. I witnessed stories of church vitality, and I was struck by the patience and persistence of our brothers and sisters in faith to work for change and advocate for justice, even in the face of its bitter denial. I learned how important it is to strengthen the ties that bind us.
The conversation was an easy exchange of ideas and desires between our PC(USA) delegation and leaders in the Presbyterian Church of Liberia, including its outgoing moderator, the Rev. Sando Townsend, who invited us into the dialogue. Liberia is still recovering from its history of civil war that left the country with many needs. Poverty affects many, especially youth and young adults. The challenge to develop education and training opportunities, access to health care, food, housing, job training and employment, as well as the need to develop infrastructure to attract business and commerce to the country, is apparent. The Liberian brothers and sisters we spoke with are aware of these needs, and many have established churches and organizations to address them.
I attended worship at a church in Monrovia. The congregation included rows of children who remained in worship with adults. A high school youth led us in praise and worship. The pastor delivered a stirring and spirited sermon reminiscent of preaching in the black church tradition. Afterward, he took the Rev. José Luis Casal, then director of Presbyterian World Mission, and me on a tour of a school the church built to help educate elementary school children in the neighborhood. He shared his vision for the educational facility and the need for scholarships so more children can attend and more teachers can be trained to serve the community.
It is my hope that the partnership between the Presbyterian Church of Liberia and the PC(USA) will result in assisting our Liberian brothers and sisters in raising up more followers of Jesus Christ who will dream, innovate and establish creative means to sustain and serve citizens in this beautiful country.
In Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus is judging nations. It is a nation’s responsibility to develop systems that ensure that the hungry are fed, the thirsty receive water, the naked are clothed, the stranger is welcomed, the sick are visited and the imprisoned are cared for. When we meet the needs of the least of these, we are meeting our own needs, and we are being faithful to the One who calls us to follow him, even Jesus, the Christ. I look forward to strengthening the partnership between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church of Liberia. I encourage all of us to be a Matthew 25 church together — actively engaging in the world and bearing witness to the love and justice of God.
Today’s Focus: Living the Matthew 25 Vision
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray:
As your disciples, we pray, O God, for eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to love and arms to embrace those near and far who thirst for justice and mercy. Amen.