Prayer In Action For War-torn Liberia

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 6, 2004

On December 24, 1989, Charles Taylor and his rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) launched an attack overthrow the regime of President Samuel K. Doe. This attack was the beginning of 14 years of instability in Liberia. The attendant widespread human rights abuses and fighting forced thousands of Liberians including women and children from their homes and while countless others were killed

Geraldine Kaba, Executive Director of MRRDN was one of the thousands of refugees who fled Liberia in the 1990s to escape the fighting. Three years ago, she and other Liberian refugees formed the Mano River Relief Network to help others in the war-torn Mano River region of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra-Leone.

The network now has chapters in some US cities and provides aid to Africa through capacity-building workshops; family reunification programs and relief supply programs. Geraldine says their goal is more than just providing temporary relief. They want to give people skills to make their lives better.

"In our own little way, we've tried to meet some of the needs," she says. The group brainstorms innovative solutions, such as providing computers and classes or providing sewing machines so people can make school uniforms. They are also working with refugees outside Liberia to bring them home.

For Geraldine, prayer plays a significant role in the work they do. Last year in July, her organization sent emails to their members asking them to pray during the week of July 26.

This day, Geraldine explained, is usually Liberia's independence day - a day of celebration. But because conflict was heightened at that time, people were instead encouraged to give up a meal and pray.

"Believe me, after that one week, we had so much," Geraldine says now. She points to the events that followed soon after-US President Bush put pressure on Taylor to step down, Taylor's eventual exile and the peace accord signed by the Liberian government and rebels four weeks later.

"In our minds, that week of fasting and praying was a sign from God that our prayers were answered," says Geraldine.
Prayer plays a big part in Geraldine's own life as well. She believes that the Higher Power, divine Love, is looking out for her and guiding her. For Geraldine, God is an omnipotent divine Protector.

She prays to this divine Being whenever the feeling impels her. "I incorporate prayer in every aspect of my life," she says. "I've always relied on prayer to get me through hard times."

In her humanitarian trips to the Mano River region, Geraldine says people are depending on and turning to prayer constantly. "Prayer is fundamental to how these people are surviving this conflict," she says. "That's the only thing you can hold onto. It's a very spiritual country now."

There are countless stories of how people have seen their prayers answered, Geraldine explains. One after another, individual are able to tell stories of how they found protection or have been kept alive under the worst conditions.

One woman, Deborah, was trapped in her home with her daughter, son-in-law and their five children. Soldiers looking for members of a warring tribe had been told they could find them in this home.

The soldiers had a container of gasoline and were throwing it all over the place.

Deborah and her family huddled under the bed. "They were all praying that they wouldn't get burned," Geraldine says now. "Deborah prayed in her heart because she couldn't say the words out loud."

They watched as the soldier looked for the matches. But the soldier could not find them. He finally left without starting a fire.

On her trip to Liberia during New Year's Eve 2003, Geraldine saw improving conditions and a glimmer of hope. "People go to church from 10 to midnight on New Year's Eve," she says. "It's called Watchnight. The entire city shuts down."

Everywhere she went, people gathered in every corner and building to thank God for being able to gather in peace. "Each space you could find had people gathering there, praying, singing, magnifying and rejoicing that they lived to see 2004," she says.

"I sat there and looked, and it was something to behold." She remember stopping at one particular church gathering. In the middle of a devastated city, this church was freshly painted and lit up.

"I stood there amazed," says Geraldine. "Tears came to my eyes. It was built. They had painted it. I sat there and looked, and it was something to behold."

Though heartened by the progress made in her country, Geraldine says there's plenty more to do to improve conditions there. But she cherishes a strong trust in God's guidance and provision to help with their work.

"We want to let the world know about the plight of the situation and the refugees outside and how prayers are helping them to cope with their plight," she says.

"It's heart wrenching, but prayers will take care of it. God will understand. He will take care of it."