Since the start of 2021, the JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy (JFCPS) hit the ground running. Five teams in Sierra Leone and three in Liberia continue partnering with local church denominations to plant indigenous, disciple-making churches in villages throughout their respective countries. Leadership trainings are also continuing where dozens of leaders are being trained to shepherd the new flocks in the years to come.
Since our teams in Sierra Leone restarted operations in October, there have been over 100 showings of the JESUS film and Walking With Jesus. The teams have been in over 40 communities since then, and over 9,000 people have attended a showing, with more than 1,200 people making decisions to follow Jesus, and over 400 are in follow-up for discipleship. In addition to that, 20 churches have been planted. There are also three church buildings in the process of being built.
“Although we’ve built other simple church structures in the past, we’re currently constructing three buildings right now in various stages of completion, and one of them is coupled with what they call a ‘food for work’ agriculture project,” Peter Koteles, Field Manager for Sierra Leone, explained. “It’s a project in which three villages are sharing the work and the crop in the field for cocoa, cassava and yams.”
One of those villages is Kamaluay in central Sierra Leone, where we met Mary Sesay. Mary was a young teenage girl when she left her Limba tribal village of Kamaluay to spend time with family in the Kono tribal district of eastern Sierra Leone. While there, Mary was introduced to a church that taught and worshipped in their local Kono tribal dialect; something which Mary was completely unfamiliar with. Up until that time, Mary was only familiar with a formal, liturgical service conducted in English. As a result, she really didn’t understand much of what was taught, so her spiritual growth was very limited.
When Mary returned to her home tribe in Kamaluay Village, she prayed that someone might come and plant a church in her village; one that would worship and preach in her mother tongue of Limba. God brought her into contact with Pastor Saidu Kamara, our JFCPS leader for that district. Pastor Saidu was able to connect a local Limba-speaking mother church to train up action group leaders so a new church could be planted in June 2019. When we visited the fledgling church that November, there were over 50 adults in attendance, and more youth and children than could be counted!
During our visit, Mary shared: “I am so excited by our spiritual growth, now that the village is able to worship and learn in our heart language of Limba! The new pastor is compassionate and he patiently answers all of our questions!”
The village chief committed land on which a church building could be constructed. With materials they were able to source locally (like trusses and uprights) as well as some roofing
tin donated by partners in Canada, the new church had a building in which they can now meet year round; even in the rainy season.
In November 2020, the village of Kamaluay initiated a farming project, during which they planted cassava, cocoa, and yams; enough to provide food for three surrounding
villages in the upcoming rainy season, when food is scarce.
Finally, in Spring of 2021, the farming initiative expanded into a “food for work” program. The JFCPS provides the initial seeds, but the villagers utilize the existing tools as well as local labor to cultivate expanded crops, which will allow the church to provide sustainable food for more villages ahead of the upcoming rainy season.
Our teams were able to restart regular JFCPS ministry projects in November, following a few months of focusing on COVID response. From November to December 2020, there were a total of 13,500 gospel presentations through the JFCPS in different areas of Liberia. A total of 633 people made decisions to follow Jesus and 306 of these new believers are in discipleship training.
Tornwon Feoday from the Gbonyea village, Liberia shared, “I praise God tonight because His death and resurrection is the one making me to stand here tonight. Right now, I give my life to Christ so He can walk with me from now on…He make me to know this love by allowing sinful person like me and people beating on Him for my sins. He still said, ‘Father forgive them.’ This proved that Jesus came to save all people from their sins. The life that I live was not in the right way, but now I am controlled by Him and the Holy Spirit is in me as I have accepted Christ. The Lord is going to take care of me all the time.”
Another villager, Moses Yarkpa from Beyeama, Liberia, shared, “My life before was a very bad life. I used to steal, lie, abuse, smoke, gossip, and even not forgive anyone who wronged me. Since I have accepted Christ. I pray that I live a new life that will bring glory to God and give
good testimony, so more people will follow and come to Christ. I tell you that God is able to do everything for me and also you as well. Let us do all to obey God. It is always good to give God the praise in our life because He is the way for us. I want to say sorry to all my friends to whom I may have done something wrong before.”
In January, the dry season, our teams started building projects. Currently, we have eight church building projects that are near completion and expected to be finished by May 30.
Pastor training has also resumed in the town of Totota, a large centre for travel and commerce in Liberia. Training is happening in April and May, for a total of four training sessions that take place over two to three days. Kamaluay farm workers project demonstrates the integrated body of Christ through our financial partners, local churches and national GAiN staff.