18th February: Fogbo, Manalo, Makomba School, Makoibundu, Magbafti, St. Stephens Rokel

The last day of standard visits, an a day that threatened on paper to be hideously long! Not only did we have the five originally planned visits to make, but we also gained one during Conference when Reuben realised that he hadn’t included St. Stephen’s at Rokel in our itinerary…

Fogbo (pronounced fo-bo) is a large fishing community of some 2000+ people along the coast from Tombo and Tissana to the East, where Rev. Charles Moinina is the current minister (although we heard at Conference that he will be posted elsewhere soon). This church is twinned with Sheppey Evangelical Church in the UK. During the New Year’s Eve celebrations a fire broke out here, Charles wrote the following account for us:

On the eve of this New year (2010) , before our usual church service, heavy wind blown out within the Fogbo village. While young people were singing and dancing , many elders thought it was a sign of blessing and prosperity hence the wind served as agent cleansing the village against bad people.

The new year’s eve in Fogbo had been characterized by fantastic cultural jubilation and exhibitions. Surrounding villages converge to fogbo with their dance troops on competitive basis and winners were awarded with special prizes and recognition in the koya Rural District.

I and few committed members of my church were busy at visiting Christians homes urging them to attend service on time. We were able to get good number of Christians and started the service..The Theme of of the service was-‘ Asses your Result Card” (Numbers13:26-33) Preacher-Rev.Charles Moinina

Shortly after the sermon, there was dramatic change from jubilation to lamentation compounded by serious shouting and crying everywhere in the village. Allegedly , the wind has blown off the fire from one of the kitchens and spread out burning both thatch and corrugated iron sheet hourses with Christian homes being the main terminal causalities.

As a result ,most people are now over concentrated in neighboring houses or sought respite in other villages .Children who attended schools and churches at Fogbo have found themselves in non school and church environment. Lack of shelter, food and clothing has worsen the standard of living for the Fogbo people

As the only pastor of this community ,the people particularly the Christians are constantly asking me to share their plight with fellow Christians in Sierra Leone as well as abroad for support in any form that will relieve them.

May God blesses the giver and give him a blessed rest eternally. May the power of the Holy Spirit shine in them so that others may see their good works and bless Christ Jesus.

Arriving in Fogbo we were able to see for ourselves the extend of the disaster as we we taken on a walk through the community. It was clear that a significant portion of the heart of the village had been burnt down. It must have been, and must continue to be, an extremely hard time for these people.

As we walked, the children of the school accompanied us (a growing school now with over 200 children), fascinated by these two white men. At times there were some 40 children trying to all hang from our arms, tugging at our skin, wondering why it was different to theirs. After a while they also took up a chant, encouraged by one of their teachers. When we asked what it was, the translation was given as, ‘We want clothes!’

Manalo (twinned with Copthorne) was quite a contrast to Fogbo. The church here, led by Rev. Amadu Sesay, is small and struggling. They are in a Muslim dominated area and one in which work opportunities are low. It is hard for many to pay school fees, and there is little access to health care facilities. Regardles, Amadu remains cheerful and does what he can to share God’s love. It was good to see him again – attending his wedding in 2004 was a highlight of that trip. Another old friend at Manalo is their former pastor, the now retired George Braima who asked us to remember him and the youth of the church.

Having attended Makomba on the first Sunday for the service, we didn’t get a chance to visit the school which is on a nearby site, and so we called here as we drove through. Pastor Michael Tarawallie met us here, but said goodbye almost immediately – cycling off to Makoibondu where we would shortly meet him again. The school is on a large plot of land a little way out from the village, and as such is a bit isolated, leading them to be concerned about protecting it. They are trying to build a caretakers house so that someone can stay there (maybe a teacher?) and guard it out of hours. Apparently there was an arson attempt a little while ago.

The school seemed to be in good shape and spirit (except for the ceilings which seemed to be coming down – although from memory this is nothing new). They also have a new well which was provided by ‘Living Water International’ – I wonder if they might help other communities we work in who are asking for them?

Just down the road we caught up with Michael Tarawallie at Makoibondu. I was quite envious of his cycle ride – we have had little proper exercise, and cycling is one of my favourite active pastimes! The people here are surviving – like everywhere today the people are poor and there are little employment opportunities. They asked for help with furnishing and for a porch so that a gate can be erected to keep animals out during services. They also have plans for agriculture in the church grounds -much to Tim’s delight they hope to grow bananas! Like so many others at the moment, they are also concerned about demarking the land to stop encroachment.

The last of the M’s (I believe it is a Mende tradition to name places with Ms or Rs) – Magbafti, twinned suitably enough with another M, Mortimer West End in the UK. Much to our surprise we were well ahead of schedule by this point – for the first time ever on any visit. Not quite sure how that happened… We were so far ahead that Rev. Theophilus Nicol hadn’t arrived yet to greet us. Not put off by this, the local people introduced us to the school and gave us a presentation without him! The welcome took place in the church alongside the Primary School. This was as vibrant and noisy as ever – although for once there was no cultural dancing (something Tim has yet to experience). After the able presentation, we were taken around the grounds to see the concrete posts that have been erected with funds given to us by Mortimer West End (thanks!) to respond to encroachment on the land, something which has been a real problem here. Just as we finished this tour, a rather surprised Theophilus made it, jsut in time to take us back into the church for a closing prayer!

Finally we made it to our last destination, St. Stephen’s, Rokel. Quite a contrast! At this old established church we were greeted by a number of older men, and surrounded for one of the few times in this land by quiet. Our former agent Joe Pearce, known to many in the UK, is currently overseeing the church here, although in the mid-year postings Jacob Dove will take charge (Reuben’s nephew? cousin?). They asked me to remember them to St. Stephen’s in Middleton, UK with whom they have shared a long relationship. They have been busy trying to renovate the church, paining it, making a start on building a toilet block and so on. They also boasted of their new belfry (courtesy of the hard work of Francis)! We also had the chance here to meet up with retired minister, Rev. John Walter Thomas, an old friend of the SLM.

And so at the end of a packed day we made it home much earlier than expected – we even had time to pack before going to bed!

Related Images:

About Ben Quant

Ben is the former Chairman of the Sierra Leone Mission Committee in the UK, now serving as a co-opted member of the SLM, as well as the minister of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion church in Wormley, Hertfordshire (www.wormleyfreechurch.org.uk)
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