The Krio translation of the English word “disciples” is “lanin boy den.” (Krio actually has different vowels than English so I can only type this phrase in an approximate way.) In Krio, a disciple is one who is learning (ie, “lanin”). Last week in Njala, Lutherans came together as disciples to learn: we were teachers and students together, as well as a community of faith learning from each other.
The occasion was a week of training for the lay evangelists of the ELCSL. While some of the original ELCSL evangelists received training 20 years ago, many of those currently serving have never had substantive instruction in basics of the the faith or in the leadership needed to sustain a local congregation. These faithful men (and one woman) have nonetheless led and maintained their churches year after year, many without any substantive pay in current years. The ELCSL, in partnership with the ELCA, recently identified education for pastors and evangelists as a priority for the future of the church. This is an area I am paying particular attention to in my time remaining in Sierra Leone. Funding has been an issue in the past, and will remain an issue in the future, but we also need to establish processes and systems to ensure that the mandate for such training is carried out. The ELCA provided a grant for this particular workshop to take place.
One of the highlights of the week for me was the chance to see my colleagues in action as teachers. Rev. Hannah Kargbo provided a lectionary based bible study and insight on sermon preparation. Rev. Dalton Levi-John taught Lutheran history; Rev. Moses Kobba Momoh taught stewardship; ELCSL treasurer taught financial management; and Rev. Edward Lavally taught leadership. All are very fine teachers. My teaching focused on Luther’s Small Catechism and I also did some instruction on issues related to worship. Pastor Lavally stayed very busy as our host in Njala. His family along with members of his congregation provided additional support as cooks and servers for every meal.
The consensus at the end of the week is that the ELCSL should do this kind of thing more often. The evangelists expressed a willingness to meet twice a year — during school holidays, as many earn their livings as teachers. I would like to see similar programs held on a regular basis for the ELCSL pastors.
The 7 days I spent in Njala last week were the longest period of time I’ve ever been out of Freetown. It turned out to be a good week to escape the torrential rains in the capital city. We had some rain in Njala, but intermittently so. I enjoyed the chance to walk in the quiet beauty of a rural, provincial setting, to do some bird watching in the mornings, and at night to see fireflies flickering under an incredibly vast, star-filled African sky.