LIBERIA'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE GLOBAL SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE
Each time I make a trip to Libera, especially in the last three years, I often leave with this feeling of despondency and hopeless. "Can anything good come out of the land of liberty?" I pray and hope that that day comes when future generations will start responding "come and see".
Presently, however, the nation is moribund and if something powerful and significant does not happen that will affect a change, Liberia may become a failed state like another Somalia. The level of lawlessness that has engulfed the land is plain stifling. We need a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit on the length and breadth of the landscape of Liberia. I am one who always tries to strike a balance between spirituality and practicality. Prayer, I vouch, should be accompanied with an equal amount of planning and hard work. God does exceedingly abundantly according to the power that is working in us.
However, at this point, I have come to the conclusion, through constant prayer and meditation for Liberia that a spiritual dynamic is presently missing . That missing piece, as revealed to me, is connected with the nation's prophetic destiny. The history of Liberia before 1847 (declaration of independence) shows that the initial foundational stones of the Republic were laid in Christian thought and philosophy. Monrovia, was initially called "Christopolis" (city of Christ). One of the most influential founding fathers of the Republic, Jehudi Ashmun, was both a missionary and a businessman. Without delving into all of the controversies surrounding the founding of the nation, the influence of the gospel in this early history was not lost on most historians. In his article, Journal of Church and State (1982), William A Poe mentions that
"There have been few societies in which Baptist ministers have played a more formidable political role than Liberia" (p. 534).
Poe goes on to explain that:
"The story of Liberia's founding by the American Colonization Society as an African home for free American blacks is well known and need not be repeated here. Not so well known, however, is the fact that its patrons seriously considered naming this African colony "Christopolis" but in the final analysis decided otherwise.." (p. 535).
That the 1847 constitution declared Liberia a secular state did not overshadow the indelible mark left in the annals of Liberia's history by men such as Jehudi Asmun, Colin Teage, Lott Carey, and Hilary Teage. These men were both ministers and political leaders. Hilary Teage, for example, was largely responsible for writing the Declaration of Independence of Liberia.
While differences of opinion may exist about "serving Christ and Caesar" as these men did, no one can deny that Liberia's roots were nourished in the soil of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am fully persuaded that the advancement or propagation of the gospel goes hand in hand with national prosperity. Christianity was introduced to Liberia by 1822. The most influential denomination in the nation has been the Baptists. For almost one hundred years, the Baptist denomination in Liberia broke ranks with her parent body, the Southern Baptists in the United States. It was during this period that the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention (LBMEC) was founded. The denomination prospered and grew without any foreign support. Institutions like Ricks Institute were initially funded by local Baptists congregants. Some of them were prosperous coffee and cocoa farmers. An influential Baptist scholar, R. B. Richardson, was later to head Liberia College (present day University of Liberia) after serving as the head of Ricks Institute.
Unfortunately, the record does not show that any missionaries were trained and released into the surrounding nations of West Africa. Other denominations later came to Liberia but their work was mainly centered around White foreign missionaries. Liberia had the unique opportunity, among all the nations of Africa, to have served as a launching pad for the propagation of the gospel throughout the continent. I believe she failed in fulfilling her prophetic destiny. Could this failure be connected to the intractable problems we now face as a nation?
I will examine this question in my next blog.
Journal of Church and State , Autumn 1982, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Autumn 1982), pp. 535-551. Oxford University Press