MONROVIA, Liberia—Negative COVID-19 tests in hand along with masks and passports, Southeast Christian Church’s first international missions team since the start of the pandemic set off for Liberia May 25. Their goal was to explore ministry, pray for the country and visit girls’ schools founded by Tony and Beth Weedor.
Landing in Monrovia was a homecoming for the Weedors, who fled the country in 1993 after rebels invaded the mission compound where they lived and worked. For months they walked to the Ivory Coast, hid and prayed they’d survive with their baby girl.
Every road, village and market holds memories. Though they moved to the United States 24 years ago, earned multiple advanced degrees, raised four children and worked in ministry throughout the U.S., the Weedors never left Liberia behind. Tony currently works in Southeast’s Missions Ministry.
This too is Liberia!
In 2017, Beth founded Petals of Hope International, a school for girls, and a second school in 2020. Beth went to school because her grandmother insisted and paid her school fees, but it is a far-off dream for most girls in Liberia. Just 16% of urban girls attend school. By high school, the number drops to 3.8%.
“Girls have no rights in Liberia,” Beth said. “They are not considered worthy to attend school, forced into marriage, often victims of female mutilation, rape and violence. My goal is to help one child at a time, one community at a time, one city at a time.”
As the team traveled throughout the country, Tony often said, “This too is Liberia.”
It is in beautiful resorts popular with the rich and famous. In colorful open markets along the road. In lively church services that last at least two hours. But it’s also in extreme poverty, homes without electricity or running water and in mud-filled roads pocked with gullies. There are no street lights, stop signs or street names. Cars compete with motorbikes and pedestrians. At roadside stands, people buy small jars of gas because it’s more than $6 a gallon.
Though Liberia is mineral rich with diamonds and gold, no profit filters to the people. Just 17% have access to medical care, 64% live below poverty on less than $1.90 a day and 25% have no access to safe drinking water.
Many Liberians are Christians. There are good churches, but beliefs about God are often a mixture of animism, folk Islam and voodoo.
The team visited Petals of Hope schools every day where they heard the girls singing, “For you, for you, Jesus loves you.”
The girls are never far from Beth’s mind. She raises $30 a month per student to provide uniforms, books and school supplies. There are no fees as their families have nothing to give.
The Weedors built the second school around a large open room that they hope to use as a church. They dream of opening a clinic on the property for those who have no access to medical care.
One morning, the team drove through Congo Town, Rehab, Last Mile and a string of small communities to visit Beth’s family in her village. It’s where her umbilical cord is buried to always draw her home.
It seems the entire village was waiting on Beth’s porch with her mother to greet the team. The team brought gifts of rice, bananas and herbs, and her mother, now in her 80s, opened packages and began making lunch over a coal fire.
It takes two hands to wash one.
The Weedors focus on immediate needs. Girls who need education. A clinic to save lives. A church to share the Gospel and give hope.
When the door opened to meet with Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gorbee Logan and Dr. Francis Kateh, Deputy Minister of Health, the team rushed through bumper-to-bumper traffic to their office in Monrovia, praying in the van that God will open doors. Kateh explained that he went to medical school in Chicago, has been to Louisville and even visited Southeast. He and his family were content in the U.S. when God called him back to Liberia to help with medical needs.
He explained there are 303 doctors and five dentists to care for 4.5 million people. A new program trains village leaders to recognize dangerous health issues such as high infant mortality, malaria and typhoid fever.
When Charlie Vittitow, a dentist who now leads Southeast’s Missions Ministry, explained that missions partners train dental and health workers around the world, the doctors threw the door wide open to work in Liberia.
Tony left Liberia with hope.
“We are grateful for partnership with Southeast,” he said. “It takes two hands to wash one. We are grateful for our church that cares about our people.”
Vittitow left Liberia thinking how the global church can help.
“It’s difficult to think of only five dentists in Liberia,” he said. “That means many are suffering. And it is a small indication of other staggering social, emotional, physical and spiritual factors that are affecting these people. We can take the skills and resources the Lord has given to help in Liberia.”