Post by Jeanne Damoff, Lulu Tree Board Director
I live in a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood in a big city in the United States of America. I drive a dependable car and shop at grocery stores that sell organic coffee beans and roasted sea-salt beet chips. I have two laptop computers and a phone that’s much smarter than me, and I’m almost never without access to the popular opinions of my western, increasingly post-Christian culture. I know what I’m supposed to think and what I’m not supposed to think according to the enlightened voices of the times.
There are hundreds of churches in my city, and they bend over backwards to appeal to the populace, but more and more people who live in my culture no longer feel a need for God, much less organized religion. They have intellect and information after all. And many days the weight of this thick blanket of unbelief anesthetizes and almost lulls me to sleep.
But then I remember.
I’m lying in a narrow bed under a mosquito net in a room heavy with tropical heat. It’s not yet dawn when I’m awakened by the loud clanging of the village church “bell” — a large metal cylindrical object hung from a rustic wooden frame.
I roll out of bed, step into my flip-flops, tie a scarf over my hair, and head for the door with my friend, Emily, founder of The Lulu Tree and my travel partner here in Kamassaralie Village in Sierra Leone. We don’t bother to change out of the t-shirts and cotton pajama pants we slept in. There’s no fancy dress code, and there’s no electricity in the church anyway. The service we’re about to attend will be dimly lit by one small battery-operated lantern.
As we step off the porch onto the dusty ground we can vaguely see villagers emerging from their homes all around us and heading up the hill toward the church that sits at the top end of this gently sloping village. Some carry small flashlights — a wise decision given the variety of deadly poisonous snakes in the region.
The clanging has fallen silent, but the jubilant sound of drums and singing beckons us on. We climb the wooden steps, enter the small building, and find a seat on one of the simple wooden benches lining the two sides of the room.
This is not a specially called meeting to address an urgent situation. The believers in this village come together this way at 6:00 AM every morning except Sunday to worship God and pray in the new day. When the church is full, Pastor Ezekiel stands up with his Bible and a flashlight and gives a ten-minute sermon on a passage of scripture God has laid on his heart.
This young pastor speaks with insight and anointing, and it makes me think of the reaction the rulers and elders and scribes had when they heard Jesus’ disciples speak. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
Pastor Ezekiel has been with Jesus, and he leads us all into that holy space. After opening the Word, he guides us through prayers for the sick, prayers for the lost, prayers for their nation’s upcoming elections, prayers for God’s power to be loosed in their midst. And the people pray, out loud, all at the same time, some moving about the room. It’s both intense and orderly. Spirit-led and structured.
After prayer we sing some more, call and response, with the blur of hands on drums — the glad thrumming like a rain of exclamation marks, magnifying this faith now awakened and churning in our souls. Then we file out into the hazy light of newborn morning. Roosters crow, and goats nibble at tufts of grass. Villagers return to their homes to make their humble breakfast and begin their day of hard work, laboring to survive. No one is debating whether or not Jesus really meant what He said about denying self and entering His suffering. They live that reality every day. And no one is posting insta-selfies with snappy hashtags either. I’m learning presence here. Neighbor smiles at neighbor, and little children laugh, and I feel like the air is clear for miles and miles above my head.
And Emily and I, we walk back to Pastor Sonnel’s house, where Mommy Christiana will make our breakfast over an open fire, and one burden is pressing on our hearts.
A burden for more churches.
This village has Pastor Ezekiel, trained by Pastor Sonnel, and Ezekiel has his “Timothy” — an eighteen-year-old named Dominique, who is already showing great aptitude and giftedness. But so many of the surrounding villages have no church and no way to get to one except to walk through miles of brush and sometimes even cross a river on foot.
In Sierra Leone, every village has its sorcerer and open demonic manifestations are commonplace. There’s no respectable varnish disguising the darkness that also exists in the west but hides behind a million masks. There’s also no luxury to wonder whether or not Jesus is who He claimed to be and meant what He said. The spiritual battle lines are plainly drawn, and the stakes are life and death.
So, we’re praying. For more pastors to be trained like Ezekiel and Dominique, and for churches to be planted in villages where there is no light breaking into the darkness. We’re praying, and we’re making provision for their training, trusting God to send them out.
And here in my comfortable home in a nice neighborhood in a big city in the United States of America, I mute the enlightened voices and close my eyes. If I get still enough, I can almost hear the drums thrumming and the voices raised in prayer and praise. I can feel the heat and taste the dust, and the blanket of unbelief evaporates like a cloud.
The ground beneath my feet is holy, and the air is clear for miles and miles above my head.
There are a variety of ways you can partner with The Lulu Tree to help us plant churches in villages and train and send out pastors. For more information, visit our website.
Praise and Prayer:
- Please pray for pastor training and church planting in Sierra Leone, that the gospel will spread and the Lord would raise up many new pastors and churches throughout the country.
- Praises that a new church building has been donated, and the village of Massaralie will soon have a church home!
- Praises that the new medical building is nearly complete, and will soon serve 12 neighboring villages!
- Praises that the needed farming equipment and rice seed has been provided so that the Lulu farm in Sierra Leone is able to produce and harvest food that will sustain the villages during the “hungry time.”
- Prayer for our leadership in Sierra Leone, as Pastor Sonnel just lost his oldest sister – that they and their families would be protected from the attack of the enemy and would continue to be shining lights for all to see.
- Please pray for Joel, our Co-Director in Uganda. He has been diagnosed with Malaria.
- Please pray for provision for a fence to be built around the vegetable gardens at the School of Hope, as goats have gotten into it and devastated the crops.
- Please continue to pray for Auntie Loy’s health.
- Praises that enough funds have been raised not only for a mama kit outreach in March in the villages, but for a subsequent mama kit outreach in Karamoja in the coming year.
- Praises for the successful prayer clinic recently held by The Lulu Tree in Uganda, where the Spirit moved in mighty ways and many lives were blessed!