Thirty-three years ago, in 1979, our family left Liberia after completing our missionary assignment with Lutheran Bible Translators, working among the Kuwaa people on a Bible translation project with Rev. Richard Thompson. He had analyzed and developed the orthography (written format) of the language prior to our arrival in Liberia. I was responsible for developing a literacy program, creating primers and readers and related literacy materials. Teachers were then trained and equipped to use these materials, teaching children and adults to read and write their own language. The New Testament was completed and printed ten years later, bringing God’s Word to the Kuwaa in the language of their hearts.
Now, fast-forward to March 3, 2012. I left Los Angeles at 1 PM and arrived in Liberia the next day at 5 PM local time (10 AM, LA time) as a volunteer missionary with the Kuwaa Mission. Accompanying me was Cindy Ellis, also a KM volunteer missionary, on her third trip to Liberia. She is our water engineer, supervising the well projects and the medical clinic construction in Kondesu this year. In her three trips to Liberia we have completed, by the grace of God and the financial support of many Lutheran congregations and individuals, eight well projects and one medical clinic.
Leaving Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, it took us twelve hours to reach Fassama, the first Kuwaa town. Cindy and I were crowded together in the front seat of a 1990‘s Toyota four-wheel drive pickup truck along with the driver. The back of the truck was loaded down with our luggage, construction materials, medical and school supplies, bags of rice, water filters and seven men coming up country with us.
In Fassama we met with the government clinic staff, took a tour of the clinic, and presented them with a large amount of medical items from the U.S. and other medical equipment and supplies purchased in Monrovia prior to our trip up country.
The highlight and purpose of my four week stay in Liberia was to conduct a teacher training workshop for village teachers. This workshop in lesson planning and classroom management came about at the request of village teachers, some of them volunteer teachers in mission and government schools in the Belle District. They had been informed earlier of the workshop by radio and came to Belle Baloma, location of our village home from 1974-1979. Some of the teachers came after walking over six hours through the tropical rain forest, to attend the four day classes.
Belle Baloma is forty-five minutes beyond Fassama and is the end of the road for travel by car or truck from Monrovia. Can you imagine returning to a place after being gone thirty-three years? I was greatly surprised by the changes that had happened to our village, now a town. Our house was gone along with practically every house in the town due to the fourteen year civil war and three incursions by rebel and government forces in the Belle Forest. They referred to them as the “Three World Wars.”
The town seemed five times larger with several churches and schools along with two water pumps, providing fresh, clean water for the townspeople. A number of the older residents remembered me (Fongbana), my wife Diane (Janga), and our children: Heather (Yongo Bio), Scott (Jasia), and Jenny (Ninaw Tuyen). They were so thankful that I was able to return to the Kuwaa after all these years, bringing them fresh clean water, medical supplies. and school assistance so sorely needed in this remote location in Liberia.
The Teacher Training Workshop began Monday, March 12 and ended Thursday, March 15. I had prepared materials for thirty teachers from the eighteen towns and was pleasantly surprised that a total of thirty-eight men and women showed up from fourteen towns. The other four towns were not informed due to lack of radio contact in their remote locations. We met from 8 AM to 4 PM with a one hour lunch break. Every day began with singing and prayers and ended the same way. We provided tea and cake for breakfast and meat/vegetables and rice lunch, along with written materials and copy books for note taking. We also provided reading glasses brought from the States for teachers needing them. The teachers were very enthusiastic about the workshop and were very cooperative and shared readily their experiences and suggestions for improved teaching methods among themselves after I had shared my materials and teaching experiences with them. Their written evaluations at the conclusion of the workshop shared their appreciation for my presentation, efforts, and willingness to come all the way from America to help them. They also expressed a desire for more workshops in the future, “If God Agrees.”
Then, on Friday, March 16, I conducted a teacher training workshop for Evangelists and Sunday School Teachers, again from 8-4. There were fourteen men and women in this group. I presented an abbreviated version of my four day Workshop for them with an emphasis on evangelism and sharing the Gospel with the children and adults as they taught their lessons with Sunday School materials I had brought with me for their use.
I thank God that I was given this opportunity to return to Liberia and the Kuwaa Chiefdom after being gone thirty-three years. The Lord has blessed me with good health these seventy-seven years of life and fifty-four years in the ministry of the Lutheran Church in elementary schools and Lutheran Bible Translators back in the ’70’s. I thank a number of individuals and two Lutheran churches and schools in Southern California (Christ, Costa Mesa and Abiding Savior, Lake Forest) for their prayers and financial support of my trip and the Kuwaa Mission. Finally, I wish to thank my wife and family for allowing me to return to our people, the Kuwaa, in Liberia.