Sunday, November 4, 2018

On to Gbarnga!

Liberia's newest member group, November 4, 2018
Gbarnga, Bong County
For over a year, I have strongly felt that the Lord wanted us to take the gospel to Gbarnga (pronunciation: BARN-GA, silent G).  Opening that city to missionaries, or creating a member group there requires approval from the Area Presidency, whose constant counsel is to build from centers of strength.  Gbarnga is three hours from Monrovia and an hour beyond our furthest current outpost, so some might view it as a bit of a stretch.  But Gbarnga is one of the largest cities outside Monrovia, many Liberians refer to it as the country’s heart, quite a few members in Monrovia trace their ancestral roots back there and many have told me they believe we have several good members currently living there.  I could never get real specifics, particularly any experienced leaders to use as an anchor and with so many other priorities, Gbarnga seemed destined to remain an unfulfilled dream.

Greeting and inviting Gbarnga residents
From June through October we added 24 missionaries, but nearly all of them were needed to cover all the new wards and branches being created within the existing stakes and the district.  By late September, I still had one uncommitted slot for missionaries arriving in four weeks, but I was fast running out of time to locate and lock down a new apartment.

On Sunday, September 30, I was attending a member devotional in the Paynesville Stake with the visiting Temple President and Matron from Ghana.  At the end of the meeting, a Brother Kabedeh came up, introduced himself as a former Paynesville  branch president and a police commander who was being transferred to Gbarnga on November 1 and asked how soon the Church would be coming there.  I told him we needed to talk.

Inviting people to attend the creation of the Gbarnga member group
We had a good chat and the following Saturday I shuffled my schedule and Michelle and I toured Gbarnga for the first time.  The town and the timing felt right.  I put together a proposal and had it waiting for the Area Presidency’s October 16 meeting, following their return from General Conference. In the meantime, I asked Sayon, our facilities employee, to see if he could locate a missionary apartment in Gbarnga that could be ready for occupancy by our October 29 transfer and a chapel to use the following Sunday.  This process typically takes several months and he gets REALLY nervous when I send him into scramble mode, which has happened a bunch lately.  With the growth of the mission, we have added ten new missionary apartments this summer and I already have him working to secure four more, even before stretching him with a remote locale like Gbarnga.

Creating the Gbarnga Group
Sayon raced to Gbarnga and found a great apartment that needed several weeks remodeling to get into shape. We cut a deal with the landlord that it had to be ready by the end of the month or we could break the contract.

By this time we were in the middle of zone conferences and everything was happening fast.  The right answer would be that the Area Presidency’s approval came just before I signed the first check and the lease, so we will probably leave it at that. The next weekend we found a great building on the main road to use as a chapel, signed a lease on that and I let Sayon work his magic.

Gbarnga elders teaching the gospel in the new chapel.
We actually had to double-park the two elders that I assigned to Gbarnga for two nights in Totota while their apartment was getting finished up and their furniture delivered, but this morning, we created the Gbarnga member group with 64 people in attendance, including Brother Kabedeh and two other solid returned missionaries who just moved there.  In the meantime, the Philbricks, our ace office staff, procured, packaged and delivered hymnals, manuals, sacrament materials and table, a pulpit, 70 chairs, a whiteboard and new bikes for the missionaries.  And shot some very sweet photos to memorialize the day.

This may all sound routine in most areas of the world, but pulling off anything like this in a remote town in Liberia is a concept about six miles down the road from absurd. Until you remember that the Lord is in charge and this is His work.

PS - I LOVE this calling.


  1. All in the lords work. Brother Kebedah is a great man. I enjoyed serving with him.

  2. Have missed your updates! This is so exciting. I can imagine that you're not getting much sleep moving the work along so fast ;)

  3. Thanks for your service and care for the people of West Africa.

  4. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring example of the Lord's work moving forward!

  5. It’s so beautiful to hear the miracles happening around our Elder. It’s so inspiring. Brother and Sister Pan


Mission President’s Reflections - 2018

Note: As part of our mission's annual history, I was asked to summarize the year with a "Mission President's Reflections."...