Mt. Zion Christian Community Church is one of the founding congregations of the Liberia Evangelical Mission (LEM). Situated in the middle of Wroto Town, it serves a neighborhood of poor families. Wroto Town is a place of extreme poverty from the poor sanitary facilities and substandard housing, to the crowded narrow passageways that serve as streets and the many squatters that call it home.
Among its residents are hundreds of children, the majority of whom do not go to school. Although there is now a small school that has opened its doors in the community, the closest public school is too far away for the children to attend and so the vast majority of children simply do not go to school. Illiteracy is not just a problem for the children: many of the adults are functionally illiterate as well. It is a neighborhood where spiritual manifestations and battles take place. Spiritism and witchcraft are a part of the life of this community. It is in this neighborhood that Mt. Zion Church seeks to minister.
Rev. George Manyango, the pastor of Mt. Zion Church, has a heart for the people of this community and seeks to bring the love of Jesus to the people. As he walks down the streets of the area, it is not unusual for him to either greet or be greeted by different ones of the vendors selling their wares on the street and to be reminding them about the need to be in church. Church is the best place to learn about Jesus and Jesus is the One that Wroto Town needs.
A typical week at the church begins on Sunday morning around 10:30 when Sunday School starts. Punctuality according to the clock is not a high Liberian priority and so there may be only a small group present at the appointed hour. However, Sunday School will begin and as the lesson is taught by Pastor George little by little more people arrive. This will continue into the worship service until finally there is a good group of people gathered in the church. The lesson is quite basic and designed to be practical and challenging to the people to live as Christ would have them live. Mt. Zion Church, like the other LEM churches, does not have any classrooms as yet and so everyone meets together in Sunday School. The exception are the children who are lined up in the back of the church on a bench where they may have their own lesson.
Sunday School ends after an offering is taken and a closing prayer given. There may or may not be a short break before the worship service begins. The worship service always begins with a time of prayer. There will be a leader who will be praying as the congregation joins in. Prayers are shouted out to God as a number of the brothers and sisters pace back and forth around the church as they pray. It can be a little unnerving at first to one who is not used to this style of praying. It is loud and lengthy. After a good season of prayer, the praying gives way to music. Music and rhythm are important ingredients in the Liberian Church. As soon as the music begins so does the swaying, clapping and movement of the worshippers. The songs often take the form of the leader singing certain phrases and the congregation responding with its own set phrase. Drums, an electronic keyboard and a sasa or two (The sasa is a musical rhythm instrument made from a dried and hollowed gourd. It is shaken against a netting of beads that produces an effect something like a maraca.) are the instruments of choice.
The singing will be interspersed with testimonies, which often incorporate a song, the offering, given with much joy and gusto, special music from the choir and the introduction of visitors. Finally the time for the message will arrive. Rapt attention is given to the pastor, encouraged by the usher who wanders the aisles armed with a switch to quiet any restless person, young or old, in the congregation. Following the message there may be a time of special prayer for needs of the people in attendance. The service concludes following the announcements and a closing prayer. After the service the people never seem to be in any hurry to leave. They may sit together and visit for a time or the women’s society or other special group meeting may be held.
The next scheduled service at the church will be the Bible Study on Wednesday afternoon. A smaller group than the Sunday congregation will gather for a time of Bible study and many questions. While the pastor has a prepared lesson to share, the questions may range far from the stated topic, anything from “What is grace?” to “What is the difference between Christianity and Islam?”
Thursday and Saturday afternoons are choir practice. Not only is it a time of preparing music for the services but is also a time of learning discipline and responsibility. Each choir member may be asked to quote a Bible verse from memory before the practice begins. The choir serves a dual purpose of providing music for the services of the church and as a tool to attract young people to the church.
Friday afternoon is prayer time. Although a small group, it is a time of concentrated prayer that impacts the ministry of the church. There is no Bible lesson except a few verses may be read and very brief comment made. Instead the time is passed in prayer. Pastor George will suggest an area of prayer and then those present will pray. After a while another suggested topic will be given and more prayer will follow. Instead of sitting in orderly rows or a circle to pray, the participants pace around the building and pray out loud, much as what occurs on Sunday mornings at the opening of the worship service.
The goal of all these activities is to lead people to the knowledge of Jesus as their personal savior, as they are accustomed to say, and to teach them how to live Christianly. Please pray for Pastor George as he leads Mt. Zion Christian Community Church. Please pray for the outreach into Wroto Town. Pray that the light of Jesus will clearly shine in a community filled with darkness and that many will be brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus.