COVID-19 was already a pandemic when Harry Kpoh reached Liberia March 21. He knew the mission trip was risky. Borders between countries were closing. Transportation was limited. Daily stats of COVID-19 deaths around the world escalated by thousands.
Kpoh thought of canceling amid all the unknowns.
But he didn’t.
A 40-foot container packed with hospital beds, IV poles, medicine, high-protein food and personal protective equipment was already in Liberia waiting for distribution. Clinics and medical centers in Grand Kru County, part of the country with few roads and little infrastructure, desperately needed supplies. They had few resources to fight a pandemic.
Above all, Kpoh believed God was in the details. He couldn’t turn back.
“Of course, I was worried for my family back in Louisville,” Kpoh said. “We knew if coronavirus hit Liberia, we would not have access to medical care. At the same time, we believed God took us to Liberia at the right time.”
As soon as he landed, Kpoh began trucking supplies to medical centers and clinics. Church leaders and government officials helped. Southeast Christian Church, Supplies Over Seas (SOS), Catholic Medical Mission Board and Help the Hungry are some of the organizations that supported Kpoh’s work in Liberia.
“It was always hard,” Kpoh said. “We were waist deep in mud on some roads into Grand Kru County. When our cars broke down, we were stranded for days and had to sleep sitting against a tree or in the car. Sometimes we ran out of food on the road. There was no Internet service, so we could not communicate with our families.”
At one medical center, Kpoh found that they had just one IV pole that traveled between patients. He gave them 14 IV poles, an x-ray machine and medicine to stock their pharmacy. In another clinic, he found patients lying on makeshift beds made of bricks covered with cloth. Kpoh gave them hospital beds.
He gave personal protective equipment to the Minister of Health for distribution. That gift was like gold.
High-protein food packets in the container became a lifeline for starving Liberians.
“Desperate people came to us for food,” Kpoh said. “The conditions are deplorable—worse since COVID-19. They have nothing. Not clothing or food. There are no missionaries in that part of Liberia. They need hope, and they need Jesus.”
Kpoh’s team went to 22 communities and helped some 8,000 people. Thousands more need help. Though he initially planned to stay in Liberia for three weeks, he ended up staying for nine weeks due to travel restrictions.
In the 13 years since Kpoh left Liberia to study in the U.S., not much has changed in Grand Kru County. Two civil wars left more than 600,000 people dead. Chronic hunger, lack of clean water and sanitation, high child mortality, poverty and child labor became far too common.
Needs at home were always in the back of Kpoh’s mind as he earned a master’s degree in business management and information technology or when he began working at United Parcel Service. A coworker invited him to Southeast after hearing him hum hymns. He became a member in 2012.
Though Kpoh built a new life in Louisville with his wife Victoria and three children, he never forgot needs in Liberia. He founded Trembo National Development Association to meet needs in Grand Kru County.
Outreach began with a conversation.
“An elder in Liberia told me how his pregnant wife went to a clinic to have her baby,” Kpoh said. “That clinic didn’t have hospital beds, so they sent her to another clinic 20 miles away. The elder didn’t have a vehicle, so they had to find transportation. His wife and baby died on the way. I came back and found that the mortality rate for mothers and babies is devastating. That’s when I began collecting and taking medical supplies to Liberia.”
Kpoh has forged partnerships with churches and nonprofits.
Liberians on Kpoh’s team continue to meet needs in Grand Kru County. He’s already thinking about his next trip.
Kpoh currently is self-quarantined and anxious to get back to work and worship.
“As I look back, I can say, it was hard, but mission accomplished,” Kpoh said. “God was with us in every part of the journey.”