An amazing story is unfolding in West Africa thanks the vision and commitment of Little Church on the Lane, Messiah Moravian Church and two remarkable Moravians.
Mohamed and Safie Braima left their African homeland for the abundant opportunities available in America. They settled in Charlotte, N.C., joined Little Church, and built a comfortable life of meaning and service in that mission rich community. For about 30 years they lived and enjoyed the American dream.
Several years ago they felt the Lord leading them back to West Africa and the village of their birth in rural Sierra Leone. With continuing assistance from Little Church and others they have built a mission house, a church and a school for the children of Ngiehun in the Luawa-Yiehun region of that country. Mohamed and Safie have, in a short time, accomplished more than even they thought possible. You see, all things are possible in the Kingdom of God.
The few Southern Province Moravians who have visited the Sierra Leone Mission are amazed at the fortitude and grace of the people of Ngiehun. One of those visitors, Donna Hurt, the Director of Christian Education at Home Moravian Church, made a presentation at Messiah Moravian Church in Winston-Salem in April of 2011 about her visit there. She explained that even though the village is 90 percent Muslim, with a Muslim District Chief, the Moravian Mission is celebrated for what it has brought to the village. Cooperation between the returning Moravian missionaries and Muslim village leadership is a shining example of how mutual respect for other faith traditions can overcome religious differences for the sake of a community’s well-being.
Donna reported that the school is a great success. With land donated by the village leaders and lots of volunteer labor, the first few classrooms were built and furnished. Teachers and other staff were in place and the first classes had begun. She suggested that we join other Moravian Churches in collecting school supplies for the children of Ngiehun and those were shipped to Sierra Leone in 2011.
Donna also reported that after a most satisfying few days filled with worship and fellowship, she was urged by Mohamed and Safie to pay a visit to the Imam at the Central Mosque. She did so cheerfully as always and after a short tour she asked the Imam if there was anything she could do for him in return for his hospitality. In reply the Imam said that the Mosque was in great need of prayer rugs and that they would be grateful if she could provide some for the village. This resonated strongly with a number of Messiah members present that evening who are deeply committed to interfaith understanding and cooperation.
Late in 2011 Mohamed and Safie returned to Charlotte for some rest and relaxation. After a short time they redoubled their efforts in mission work as they traveled back and forth across the Southern Province telling their story wherever they could. On one of their trips to Winston-Salem in January of 2012 they were hosted for lunch by the Rev. Dr. Truman Dunn, pastor of Messiah Moravian Church. Truman shared with them the prayer rug story and asked if it would be appropriate for Messiah to make that kind of gift to the village. They said that they would be honored and thrilled to accept prayer rugs for the village Mosque and that the rugs could be shipped to Sierra Leone in a container scheduled to leave Charlotte late in February.
Now the question became, how does a Moravian minister get hold of prayer rugs for mosques in Africa? Fortunately Truman meets with an interfaith clergy group that includes Imam Khalid Griggs of The Community Mosque in Winston-Salem. Truman told the story to his friend Khalid and asked him how Messiah might purchase the needed items and if The Community Mosque might like to join in this effort.
After consultations with their respective congregational leaders this joint effort was agreed upon and each congregation purchased 20 prayer rugs. They were delivered to Charlotte in time to be put in the container along with letters to the village Imam from both Truman and Khalid.
In cooperation with Little Church on the Lane many churches and individuals donated other items necessary for the work in Sierra Leone. The container left Charlotte containing a more appropriate vehicle for the mission, 4,000 lbs. of dried beans as nourishment for the children at the school, other nonperishable food items, a great many school supplies, medical supplies and many, many other items that will benefit the whole village.
Mohamed says that these gifts to the people of Ngiehun are not only useful and beautiful but will be essential to the interfaith portion of the mission work he and Safie are prepared to do. Both Truman and Khalid are overjoyed that their friendship has made them part of an interfaith effort that stretches from Messiah Moravian Church and The Community Mosque in North Carolina half way around the world to a small village in rural Sierra Leone.
There is still much work to do and some of it will be new and costly and may call for an enhanced interfaith cooperative effort. There are 190 boys and girls now enrolled in the school. Safie says all of them come to school hungry and leave school hungry. She said that her dream is for a sustainable school lunch program that will break forever the cycle of hunger faced by the children. Some folks are meeting now to see if their hearts are warm enough and their minds are open enough to meet this need as well. Certainly there are more than two remarkable Moravians!
Roma Combs is a member of Messiah Moravian Church and Chairman of the Social Concerns Committee there.
From the May 2012 Moravian Magazine