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.
Because of travel constraints in Sierra Leone, we had to wait several weeks until our in-country director was able to collect the last church plant reports available before the country was placed on lockdown and public gatherings were banned.
The results were extremely encouraging, despite the changes that have taken place related to the COVID pandemic. In the months of March and April alone, 13 churches were planted in Sierra Leone! In just those two months, over 3,500 watched the JESUS film, nearly 500 made a public declaration of faith in Christ, and 255 are in follow-up discipleship.
We were especially excited by the fact that two new plants have penetrated even deeper into the unreached Bom tribal District! Pray with us that the follow-up groups will continue strongly, despite some of the challenges faced because of the COVID-19 restrictions and the rainy season. If you have access to Google Earth/Maps online, to get a sense of just how remote these villages are, type in these coordinates on Google to reach the Topain Village location: 7°13’55.51″N 11°56’51.30″W.
Musa Fowundu (see photo) of Topain Village shares: “I watched this film before in Bo Town, but I did not understand it because the translation was English. I love [this] film because of the Mende dialect, I understood everything in the film and I enjoyed every bit of it. The film actually touched my heart because of what was done to Jesus as a result of His sacrifice for us all. Indeed God is actually good to us. It is a fact that we are the ones that are creating problems for ourselves, because we don’t love God and do not want to obey Him at all. Because of this film, I will learn to trust and obey God for the rest of my life because He cares for me, and also because of what He did for me by sending His Son Jesus Christ to come and die for us. I appreciate God tremendously.”
Impactful COVID-19 Engagement!
In the same way 9-11 was a defining moment 20 years ago, COVID-19 is likely to be a defining event in our generation for years to come. On a global level, many people will, in fact, define their world in terms of pre-COVID and post-COVID.
Although on a smaller level then in many other countries, the coronavirus pandemic has still had a dramatic impact on the lives of our workers and communities in the countries where we minister. It required us to be creative in how we adapted the ministry.
In all of the countries that JFCPS and GAIN minister in, our teams and ministry partners have been ideally positioned to adapt to meet the needs of the people in their communities. For the time being, we may not be able to show the JESUS film to large gatherings. However, God has provided the means for our teams to demonstrate God’s love by equipping communities with hand washing stations, hygiene training, and best practices to ensure vulnerable people do not contract COVID (or other diseases). This demonstration of grace has even extended to Muslim and military members of the community.
Reverend John Kamara has lived in Musaia – a large town in northern Sierra Leone, 10 miles from the Guinea border – all of his life.
He has served there as a pastor since 1964, and has been around long enough not to be discouraged when he doesn’t see immediate fruit on the vine! Prior to becoming a pastor, Rev. John learned farming from his father. Throughout his lifetime, Rev. John has trained more than 2,500 farmers throughout Sierra Leone and is now a
practicing beekeeper. He even has a video on YouTube (bit.ly/beekeeperjohn) filmed by the UN Agriculture Program sharing about his community development expansion.
Rev. John shared that, as with a seed when planted, though you won’t see any immediate activity, you can be sure the Spirit is at work in people’s hearts. It may be germinating below the surface, but the fruit will only be evident when it is ready to surface.
“Though the JESUS film was shown in their community over three years ago, people still talk about it,” comments Rev. John. “Before the film showing, we had only an informal fellowship, but since the film showing, the growth in numbers has increased steadily to where we currently have three robust church leaders and over 70 in attendance! Even the Muslims have taken notice of how Christ has impacted their community!”
Pray as JFCPS seeks the Lord’s will in expanding integral, wholistic mission throughout the Falaba District in
partnership with Rev. Kamara and other like-minded denominations.
In Sierra Leone, when a person speaking the Krio dialect wants to indicate that they are moving forward at a slow but steady pace, they express it by saying, “Small small.” For the past year, this is how the pace of forward movement has seemed as we have been seeking the Lord for His means and timing to reach the Bom Tribal District. Today, we have begun seeing the fruit of that slow but steady forward movement.
To date, JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy (JFCPS) has planted nearly 20 churches in the area surrounding, as well as on the outer fringes of the Bom Tribal District. The specific church plants have been across the Wannje River in Bom territory; two of which are jump-off points to penetrate further inland.
The village of Bandakor is the first village one reaches as they travel down river by canoe. It is also the village in which a church building was erected entirely with the labour and finances of the villagers themselves. This even included the galvanized zinc, which was provided by the New Harvest Ministry denominations; the ministry JFCPS partnered with to plant the church in the first place.
All maps indicate that Bandakor is also the ideal jump-off point from which to travel inland towards the Lake Kwako region – ground zero for the Bom Tribal district.
As the JFCPS team was praying and strategizing after a wonderfully spicy chicken and rice dinner, they shared with Pastor Alex that Lake Kwako – although not exclusively their target – was their ultimate destination.
Almost casually, Alex Paul Gbenga, our church planting leader for the region, mentioned that the Lake Kwako Tribal Chief was his sister-in-law’s uncle. The Tribal Chief was in Pujehun hospital for care back in July, at which time Alex Paul shared with him the ministry work JFCPS was engaged in. The Tribal Leader let Alex know that they are always welcome to plant a church there at any time! In fact, the people there had been praying for some time for someone to bring Christianity there!
The team was so astounded by the confluence of “God threads” that they asked Alex to repeat the course of events two more times, just to be sure they understood correctly. Now, to be sure, fulfilling the chief’s request will have its challenges. The team is learning that Lake Kwako is unreached because it is only accessible by canoe between the months of June through October.
Praise Jesus that the Lord has already planted the church and permanent building in Bandakor, the best jump-off point for future penetration towards Lake Kwako.
Please pray for the Lord of the Harvest to raise up labourers to become Action Group members who will follow up a future church in Lake Kwako, when the time comes, as well as raise up leaders to ensure that the new churches in that area (and others throughout the region) would develop deep roots in both the Word and the grace of our Lord. Jesus is jealous for His Bride, and it seems clear to the team that He has blueprints for us to follow. May we be attentive and obedient to His leading!
When Ebola was rampant in Liberia, in 2014 and 2015, 4,810 people died from the virus. At the time, many people turned to the local witch doctor so that their family and loved ones could be protected from the deadly virus. Offerings of money, clothes and alcohol were given; most of these people died lost. Now, with COVID-19 spreading in Liberia, there is an opportunity to share the love of God with those who are in search of hope and peace.
Our JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy (JFCPS) teams were uniquely positioned to provide COVID training for our newly planted churches. These 21 churches were planted between January and April 2020 before the government issued a mandatory country-wide shutdown in April. The Liberian Ministry of Health trained and certified our teams to provide the COVID training among these new churches. At the same time, this also gave us an opportunity to reach out to some of the Muslim communities that were resistant to having the film shown. Training was offered at no cost or obligation. Because of this, we were able to build many friendships with Muslims who understood that we cared for them.
In May and June of this year, we held 19 training sessions where a total of 344 pastors and leaders were trained, and 211 churches were present at the trainings. When the certified trainees took the new COVID training back to their villages, we estimate that they educated 172,776 people.
At the Voloblai Town COVID training, the local church in the village of Kpelle 1 reported that they have grown from 15 members to 25-30. “We have 1,300 to 1,400 people in our village. We have grown from 15 to what we are now. Praise God!”
When the team put on showings of the JESUS film in Kpelle 2, James Sumo was one of the villagers who made a decision to follow Jesus and committed to follow-up.
James said, “Tonight, this town is blessed by the presence of God to see the move of God in our town. I have been out there in the world for a long time, but tonight I turn over my life to Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour. What a great film! I would like to ask that you please come back to help our young people to live for God. Thank you people (JFCPS) for coming to our town.”
“The feelings of the JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy team members are that there have been many lives that have been spared due to th
In November 2017, Darren Child of The JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy (JFCPS) Canada, travelled to Liberia to visit and encourage the two Dan teams diligently working in the Nimba County, and to verify JFCPS churches they had planted in the region. Together with the in-country JFCPS coordinator, Nasahn, and the four JFCPS workers, Darren visited 42 church plants, the majority of which were planted in 2017. Out of the 42 churches, 37 experienced a growth in attendance with 16 at least doubling in number. More than 550 adults have been added to the churches, which is a growth of 75.6%. Many children are being brought to churches, too, and started early in the Word of God. More importantly, the JFCPS church plants are growing spiritually as church plant leaders who have been equipped with training, Bibles and Theological Education by Extension (TEE) books learn to live out and share spiritual truths with more clarity and confidence.
The feedback from new church plant leaders was overwhelmingly positive. They talked about how their own lives were being transformed and how the churches were doing well. Glory to God! Here are just a few of their comments:
“The church is fine and growing each day. I have been a Christian but now fully understanding the Gospel. The JESUS film is inspiring. It made me stronger.” – Rev. Teah of Karnpala Zone 1
“I was a drunk and always in fights with others. I was convicted by the JESUS film. The church is good and we are cooperating with one another.” – Belleh of Gbleyee village
“I used to worship idols and practiced voodoo. A person would get sick if I talked to them. Through the JESUS film, there are changes in my life. Now Jesus has control of my life.” – Morris of Zualay village
“The church is growing. The people used to bring lawsuits against each other, but the JESUS film has changed the story. We exist in love.” – Beyee of Gblan-Deavioaplay village
“I was careless and not serious in life. After Christ came into my life, I changed. God is helping me lead the church. It is growing. There is unity in the church. Baptism is on the way soon.” – Morris of Mahnzoplay village
Darren, who is a machinist and millwright, had an opportunity to discuss administrative issues with the teams to help them with reporting, the use of the GPS device, and the maintenance of motorbikes and equipment. He also verified a church building project and took part in its dedication ceremony. As well, Darren trained the teams on how to operate the new 50-pound portable equipment set he brought in from Canada for one of the teams. This included a projector, power supply, speaker, screen and accessories that fit in a hard-shell suitcase that can be strapped onto the back of a motorcycle.
“We, the pastors of this district, are well aware of what you are doing to expand the Kingdom of God here,” Pastor Dako A. Turay told the JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy (JFCPS) team. “We have worked together before and the work is actually flourishing. I praise God for that. We have nothing to give to you in return for what you are doing, but I believe your labour in the Lord will not be in vain. Keep up your good work and you will be surely blessed in Jesus’ name,” he added. Pastor Turay chose six people from his church, Jesus is Lord Ministry Kabala Town, to form an Action Group and go through a 4-day training.
John Kamara, a trainee said, “This training has increased my desire to be more involved in the things of God. What I learned from it is more than anything in my life. It exposed me to the basics of Christianity. I will make use of what I have learned. Thank you very much.”
Another grateful trainee, Alimamy Turay, commented, “I want to thank God for this wonderful Action Group training because before this, I had no idea how to talk to people about Jesus. But now I can say that I am well-equipped to evangelize because of this valuable training. I am blessedbecause it has helped me to grow in my Christian faith.”
This Action Group went to Bilimia 2 to do an outreach with the goal of planting a church. They showed the JESUS film for two nights. About 80 people prayed to receive Christ and 17 adults committed to follow-up meetings. They now form the core of a church plant.
In another part of Kabala Town, Pastor Tambay Y. Koroma of New Apostolic Church received the JFCPS team enthusiastically. “This new church planting strategy is really impacting church growth in this district. I want to say that we are always in a position to work with you as long as it is being implemented here. I pray that we will take this entire district for the Lord Jesus through this strategy,” said Pastor Koroma.
Together with the JFCPS team, Pastor Koroma identified Kasumpay Village as a new church plant location. After being trained on church planting, an Action Group, composed of six people from his church, went to Kasumpay to evangelize with the tools they just learned to use.
“What I am happy about in this training is the simplicity of the various methods of evangelism especially the Road to Life booklet. Even those who are uneducated can understand it well,” according to James Kamara.
Nine church plants were started in recent months in the villages of Kompala, Yafradon, Kaponpon, Kasoris, Kanid, and Pebu, in addition to Kasumpay and Bilimia 2.
Two years ago, Bendu Community Church led by Pastor Lebbie in Koidu Town, Sierra Leone adopted the JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy (JFCPS) with the goal of planting new churches in the surrounding Kono villages. “We simply don’t have materials to train our members. Thank you for coming here to assist our church with training and valuable church planting materials,” Pastor Lebbie told the JFCPS team.
Sahr was one of the seven members selected by Pastor Lebbie to become part of the Action Group. After the training, he remarked, “The training has awakened a greater desire within me to serve God. My eyes have been opened to many spiritual truths that I was not aware of. I especially enjoyed the lessons about the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. God’s Spirit dwells within me and gives me His wisdom and strength to live according to the Word of God. I am excited about teaching others all that you have presented to us in this Action Group training.”
Rebecca echoed the same enthusiasm about gaining valuable spiritual lessons. “The most powerful one for me was the lesson on prayer. I never realized how important prayer was for those who want to grow strong in their faith. My prayer life will change drastically,” Rebecca said.
Having identified Bendu New Site as the location of a new church plant, the Action Group, together with the JFCPS team, went there to conduct an evangelistic outreach using the JESUS film and door-to-door visitation. Twenty-five people prayed to receive Christ, a large majority of whom committed to attending the follow-up.
Adama, one of the new believers, who started attending the church plant, testified, “After watching the JESUS film, I concluded that there is no other religion in the world like Christianity. It is about loving God and obeying His commands. It is about compassion and concern for the people around us. Nobody needs to persuade me that I should follow the example that Jesus left us. I am ready and willing to do so because I know that God cares about me.”
A church plant was started in the area with 22 adults and 18 children initially attending.
In March 2014, a team from Canada went on a church verification visit to Sierra Leone. They found this church plant has grown to 45 adults, 20 youths, and 40 children. All of the original attendees were still in the church. It was led by Pastor Suluku who narrated that the church was very prayerful. “People are always willing to fast and pray. Members are growing spiritually. 70% of the people are cooperating with the work of God,” she said.
Today, this young church is planning to start a new church in Koquima, a neighbouring area.
New believers in the village of Toorkopa had no hope of ever saving enough money to buy the zinc sheets used for the roof.
By faith, they cleared the land that they were given to build a church. Then they began to make bricks for the walls with no hope of ever getting roofing material.
After visiting the new church plant and seeing their desire for a small church building, the JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy (JFCPS) team announced that they would provide them with six bundles of roofing materials. A village elder expressed that the week before the team arrived, they had met and began praying that God would send someone to this village and that the person would send them roofing material for the church roof!
“I thank God tonight for the JESUS film show. Seeing Jesus speaking in my own language is a very great thing in my life tonight. During the days of my youth, I did so many bad things like smoking, womanizing, taking people to court and many others. With all I did, I found nothing to profit me until I am now in my old age. Therefore, I have come to receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I learned also from the teaching of Jesus about the seeds from the parable. I choose to be the seed that fell on the good soil, which indicates the true Christian who is in right standing with God. As I have received Christ, I pray that God bless me to remain with Him forever.”
“Before the JESUS film showing, I just attended church but I was really not that interested in church. But when I saw in the film how Christ was treated, I was afraid of where I would end up when I die. The movie confirmed to me that I need Christ in my life. I was not right before God. The message of the JESUS film has transformed my life. I accepted Christ.”
Villagers from Mawoe Town, a town in Lower Bong County where a Kpelle JFCPS team works, were also eager to share how God has been working.
Pastor Nelvester’s Testimony
“I am so thankful to the Almighty for giving our church this great opportunity to be trained by the JFCPS Team, which we have been in search of for years now. We believe that this teaching has unlocked our understanding to launch deeper in the Great Commission by helping to show people the way to Christ. I say once again, thank you for this blessing shared with us for the past three days.”
“I am calling this night the best night ever. To see the birth and death of the Lord Jesus. I believed truly that He is the only Son of God. Therefore, I accept Him to be my Lord and Saviour. Thanks to the JFCPS family for coming to this town, which was once called the land of serpent, to save us.”
Every two months, George, our in-country Sierra Leone Church Plant coordinator, visits all four JFCPS teams throughout the country to collect reports, deliver supplies and encourage them in their church planting efforts. Recently, George reported 12 churches planted in the months of January and February alone! Below are some of the testimonies and feedback from the pastors and new believers in these churches:
“My name is Marion. My husband is a Christian but I’ve not been following him to attend church services. I was not interested in the things of God. But after watching the JESUS film for the past two nights, I realized the power of God and nobody could live without Him. I’ve therefore decided to follow God and serve Him for the rest of my life. I want to thank you for the JESUS film, especially in the Mende dialect.”
“The JESUS film has explained everything about Christianity. The attitude of Jesus towards people has taught me to love people, no matter their condition. You know, this film has brought encouragement to me to love people. If we don’t love people around us we cannot love God. If you want to learn how to love people, please become a follower of Jesus Christ; He will teach you how to love your fellow human beings. For this reason, I will be his follower for the rest of my life.” – Fea of Buma Village, Kono District
“Thank God again for working with your team.Together, we planted the Mother Church here in Kabala Town, and I must be frank with you that the JESUS Film Church Planting Strategy actually boosted the growth of this Mother Church.Your training materials are really helping me to teach and do more evangelism. I just want to appreciate you for such a program in this district. This is really, really helping the spread of churches here and also their growth. Thank you very much for your work here.” – Pastor Alfred, Heremakonoh Town, Kuranko District
“My name is Amadu. It is good that I watched the JESUS film because what other people have been telling us about Jesus and what I saw with my own eyes are quite different. Indeed Jesus is the right way to God. There is no controversy about that. From His birth to His ascension to heaven, it is well spelt that He is the Son of God who should be followed if we want to go to heaven. I am convinced within my heart that I must follow Him for the rest of my life. There is no falsehood about Jesus. So I stand by my action and no one could change that.”
“The woman with a hunched back came to Jesus with the hope that she would get healed and it was done to her as she desired. Also, I saw that same woman opposed by the leaders of the temple after her healing, but she did not argue with the people. Instead, Jesus defended her. I know that what Jesus did for the woman He can also do it for me because I now believe in Him. Surely He will fight for me.” – Fatmata Kamara, Rogboreh Village, Loko District