Saturday, February 13, 2010
Neah is one of the African Bible College students I spent time with in Liberia this past week. During the civil war Neah escaped to Cote d’Ivoire to live as a refugee and complete high school at a school aptly named “Grukarsen” -- which means, “War is Not Good.”
And it isn’t.
This past week I experienced firsthand why war is not good. War is not good because it leaves soccer players with one leg. While meeting with pastors in Ganta to plan our summer Love Liberia Project, one of the things we talked about was soccer. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion about who the team from Arizona should play, where the match should be held, and how it should be promoted. When with sudden authority Russell spoke up. “Listen, I’m the football (soccer) player here and I know football in Ganta better than anyone. Let me plan the event.” That was it, everyone agreed the responsibility was best his, they all new Russell was Ganta’s soccer aficionado. The painful irony, however, is that Russell has only one leg. A rebel bomb stole his other leg that let him run and score.
Do you see why I say war is not good?
War is not good because young women are raped by angry men. Welcoming us to nearly every town and city on our 800 mile trek through Liberia was the same large, rusting metal sign with the blunt message STOP RAPE. During 15 years of civil war, rape became a preferred weapon of many fighters. Some say the young men forgot rape was a crime. Women across Liberia are still healing from the scars. War fills my heart with rage when I hear that beautiful women are raped. War is not good, war is tragic.
War is not good because small boys attend school wearing nothing but blue flip-flops. We stopped in the remote, dusty town of Juarzon to make sure we were driving down the right jungle road when kids, on their way to school, gathered around the jeep to chat. Some wore blue and white uniforms. Some had on mismatched shirt and shorts. A few wore only the blue shorts with no shirt. But one small boy wore only blue flip-flops. He held a copy book in one hand and a grubby pencil in the other, but that was it. He wore no clothes. He smiled and waved as he went one his way. You see war has left Liberia poor. Some families remain to poor too buy their children clothes for school.
That’s why war is not good.
War is not good because the Grand Devil is dancing again. When we visited my childhood home, deep in the Sappo Rainforest, hundreds of Christians gathered to welcome my family back. But during my father’s speech, when he began to quote scripture, he was suddenly interrupted by beating drums – the Grand Devil was coming. It was Jesus versus Juju.
In the jungle it has always been the juju of the witch doctors and Grand Devils verses the truth of Jesus Christ. But during the horrible years of civil war juju spread wildly. The Grand Devils promised rebel fighters and boy-soldiers magical protection from bullets if they would participate in their ceremonies and make a sacrifice – sometimes human. Liberia has always been a Christian nation but juju became the faith of war.
And now, as the message of Jesus Christ is again being carried back to the cities and into the jungle, the Grand Devil is vexed. His power is threatened because Jesus is back.
You see war and anger and tribal dissention has fractured Liberia. That’s why the church I lead, The Grove, is returning to Liberia this June to lead The Love Liberia Project. Our people will travel the country and spread the word that The Love of Jesus is good, so very good. It’s better than anger, it’s better than bitterness, it’s better than revenge, it’s better than war.
War is not good.