This week I have been visiting Sierra Leone in West Africa. In the 1990s the country suffered a very violent civil war. Many people were killed and thousands were maimed; losing hands and legs. The whole country was traumatised by these experiences. Many of the rebels were young boys who, under the influence of drink or drugs, were told to brutalise their friends and neighbours. Since 2002 there has been peace and the people have been able to begin rebuilding their lives.
It has been a great privilege for me to meet leaders from some of the churches in Sierra Leone. These men are working amongst people in some of the poorest communities, where people live on less than £1 per day. The pastors themselves receive very low salaries. One young man is working, with the help of some Christian ladies, amongst young girls in their early teens who work as prostitutes and live in appalling circumstances. They are seeing lives being transformed as these girls are helped to escape and find new hope and dignity in Jesus Christ.
Early this year one of the pastors was ministering to 7 families who each had a seriously ill child. All the children died. Shortly after his own 8 year old daughter, Efia, became very ill and, despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses, she died. While she was ill Efia showed a bright faith in Jesus. She spoke to all who visited her of his love for her and her love for him. She brought comfort to many who were in the hospital with her. She seemed to know that she was going to die and she was ready to go to heaven to be with Jesus.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” In our affluent and, often, cynical society we can learn so much from the short life of little Efia. God often “chooses the poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him.” I pray that the people of Sierra Leone will succeed in rebuilding their country and will escape grinding poverty. I also pray we will find that childlike faith which puts our trust in Jesus Christ for this life and the one to come.