By Mommy Emily
Outside the church building, morning glories rise, white petals lifted like pale faces to receive the sun.
We pile out of Pastor Sonnel’s van on our visit of 14 villages and the churches we partner with through the microloan program here in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
Our necks and feet are red from sun and crimson dust. We’ve been to three other villages so far, all of their names starting with “Ka-“, the Limba people smiling with tooth-gapped smiles, waving, as we pass through, children rolling inner tubes along with sticks and laughing as their mothers gather under wide-mouthed trees to chat and complain about the yellow birds that attack the branches above them.
Every village has houses lining the one road that winds through like a pencil stroke. A pencil stroke with sudden pitfalls, sudden potholes filled with water from the rainy season, like the tip of the pencil just kind of bleeds in those spots on the paper of their country. The richer families live in homes roofed with tin; the poorer ones in homes roofed with thatch.
We arrive this Sunday morning at Kakola village – the flowers bobbing their heads, as if they’re greeting us in the Krio language – “Kushe” – as we pass them. We climb the zinc steps to greet a congregation that’s gathered – all of them turning in their African dress and scarves and worn suits to look at us.
Only there’s something wrong.
They have no pastor.
A congregation has gathered with no one to lead them. In fact, they’ve been abandoned – the Catholic diocese which owns the building choosing to transfer the pastor without finding him a replacement.
And so the people continue to come – “they’re waiting each Sunday for someone to show up,” Sonnel whispers to me sadly.
The air and colors and smells of warm earth and bodies all seem to stop – the faces paused in their brown creases and sad eyes.
I have met orphans, many of them – but never before an orphaned church.
“Sir, please, I need to encourage them,” I say through tears and the colors and smells begin to move again. He nods, asks his co-director and brother Daniel to translate, and we head to the front, eyes following while babies laugh on mothers’ knees.
I open the Bible and turn to Ezekiel 34 which the Lord had reminded me of the day before, knowing full well these people awaited a word from Him.
It’s a passage of the shepherds who care only for themselves, but also of God, who says when those shepherds abandon them, He Himself will lead them.
Heads nod quietly as I stumble over the passage and I look towards the open church doors at the back, inviting the Spirit to fill this place with comfort. We pray.
Then we meet the women receiving microloans – only with no pastor to introduce them or to stand proudly beside them, face shining.
And after we leave, their eyes clinging to the backs of our heads like children clinging to the hems of our skirts — because we have other churches to visit – I cry in the van, all of us staring out the windows, passing by white and yellow fields of cassava and corn.
And God’s words trail behind us – like a long rope between us and those we’ve left behind:
“Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them…” Ezekiel 34: 11-12
Friends… we long to help this village, and many others like it, build a church. They are so hungry for the word, and if we build a church, then we can help provide a pastor (if they remain in the Catholic church then they would need to wait for a priest). We have a list of 7 villages hungering for a church and someone to lead them. Would you pray with us? Thank you. And for more information on our church planting vision, please go here: The Lulu Tree: Church Planting