By Mommy Emily
It was evening in the town of Zorzor, Liberia. The air inside the church was thick with sweat and praise. Arms raised, feet moving, bodies swaying, shoulder to shoulder. Up front, Pastor David Zawu was deep in the Spirit, leading the people by calling out praise and prayer items, and the drummer’s hands were flying, the beat of the djembe drifting out open windows into the dark night.
From amidst the salty smell of perspiration, the rustle of bright African fabrics, and the voices raised loud in song, I slipped out the back door into the night, where huts and shacks stood in the glow of the bright lights of this church.
Homes stretched far into the darkness, the sky pin-pricked above with countless stars, and my heart began to heave in sorrow. I wept and I wept, for all those beyond the church walls. For all those in darkness, for those who hadn’t heard of the love of Jesus Christ. For all the mothers and children who sat, day after day, breaking rocks so their family would have something to eat for supper. For all the fathers, hopeless — unable to send their children to school, even as they hadn’t been able to attend school, rendered helpless in a land of intense poverty and corruption.
Oh, my heart cried — that the church would spill out of the walls, out into the darkness. Then I heard the voice of God in His letter to Isaiah —
“This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
‘I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.’” (Is. 42:5-7)
And this is why God leads us to these men, because their hearts break, too. God called Pastor Zawu to ministry over a decade before we met him, out of the bustling city of Monrovia, to a poor town eight hours north. And there, God asked him — a pastor who had nothing, who was living with his wife and child in another person’s home — to start a school for vulnerable children. Ten years later, with no international support, that school was caring for 750 children.
When we came along, God simply asked us to encourage Pastor Zawu, to strengthen him in the task he’d been given, and to equip him with tools to go even further, to do even more for his people. Pastor Zawu had a vision for a rice farm, for a nursery for palm trees, for a piggery, and to have a Bible School where pastors could be trained. He also has a vision for a free health center where the sick could receive medical attention without having to walk for hours or to have to pay bribes for their prescriptions.
The Lord is so good to have helped us to help Pastor Zawu. Yet the devil fights — with discouragement, despair, and death. His desire is to steal, kill, and destroy. Pastor Zawu cleared the jungle floor and planted rice, then gave the harvested food to the villagers and to the school children, but other villagers rose up and demanded that land was theirs. So now he has been forced to find new land for clearing and planting. Clearing is an extraordinarily hard task. Not only do they have to spend weeks cutting down trees and roots, they have to burn the stumps before they can begin to plant. In Liberia, nearly every piece of land is jungle.
Then the government attacked the school, forcing Pastor Zawu to pay higher fees and reduce his school population to 450.
Yet Zawu persevered — riding across Liberia on his motorcycle to bring the Harvestime biblical training to more than 200 pastors, raising up Bible Training schools across the country so that his colleagues would be equipped in the true gospel, and the prosperity gospel which is so rampant there would be exposed as false.
Will you pray for Pastor Zawu and his family as they press on toward the goal to win the prize? (Phil. 3:14) Not the goal to end poverty, or hunger, or to bring medical aid — as good as those things are — but the goal of winning “the prize of God’s heavenly calling” — that is, the calling to know Him, and make Him known.
The task can seem overwhelming, and the obstacles are real. But the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: He has called Pastor Zawu in righteousness, and He won’t let go of his hand. And every one of those stars in the pin-pricked sky represents a son or daughter of Abraham. Pastor Zawu isn’t giving up until the whole sky is ablaze with them. And, by God’s help, neither are we.