Reports from Sierra Leone

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Sirajin Kamara is the director of GR in Sierra Leone in western Africa. Because of civil war in that country, our staff have found it unsafe to keep there families there, so many have found temporary quarters in the nearby country of Guinea.

Meanwhile, they have found new work to be done in the languages of Guinea and Senegal -- opportunities they may not have otherwise known existed and outreach to many people groups with no evangelical witness.

From recent faxes, here are some excerpts of experiences Sirajin has related:


When the rebels struck Freetown (Sierra Leone) on January 6, I decided to go and remove the GR Tailender Vehicle from the parking lot storage area so that no one will commandeer/loot/steal it. (This vehicle is very important for the ministry as it makes travel and the carrying of recording equipment possible in remote areas in Sierra Leone and neighboring countries.)

Little did I know that the rebels were now in control of the area. I was put at gunpoint immediately upon entering the parking lot.

Several questions were posed on me as to who I am, what I do, where I stay and about my support of the government. I simply told them that I am a pastor. They asked me to drive them to town to meet their colleagues. I repeated that I am a pastor and virtually don't have any dealing with military matters. Seeing that they were desperate. I offered to give them the keys but refused to go with them.

It was at this juncture I saw two people on the ground -- people whom I had known -- shot and killed by the rebels because they too went to pick up their cars for fear of being commandeered.

What brought about the change of things I didn't know, but all of the sudden, the leader asked one of his boys to search me. They removed all the money I had and took away my watch. They then asked me to drive off.

Our office was spared of looting and burning. The building at our back (less than 3 meters apart) was burnt and the other in front of us (about 5 meters) was burnt down. When the landlord saw me after Freetown was liberated, he grabbed me jubilantly saying, "You are indeed a man of God and I now believe in your work."

According to the landlord who stays at the ground floor of our office, he saw no reason why our office didn't burn. He thought it was simply because we often prayed in the office.

The landlord now calls me "Bishop". Well it is because you have been praying for us. Do keep praying for us.

9th April 1999

From: Sirajin at Zinguichor, Senegal

Zinguichor is the headquarters of town of the Casamance, the Rebel controlled region of Senegal. I am no longer scared/threatened by Rebels because back home, I have lived with them for weeks.

... God in his sovereignty has already opened doors. Eight out of the seventeen languages we are to record are found here. Already 4 of those have been identified with speakers. Tomorrow, we shall be going to two villages around. We have a 3 man committee (2 pastors and a young man) assisting me. The French I know is not enough for me to work exclusively in a French country. "Mais Dieu est bon"- but God is good. He gives me the right words at the right time.

Indeed God is good. The people have asked me to give them 3 weeks to translate the script into their respective local languages as most of the languages have no written item.

On the other hand we too are not ready now to come and record here as we only have one Nagra (reel-to-reel recorder) functioning. The other Nagra was repaired a week ago, worked for 30 mins. And went back to the 'Hospital.' The man who is repairing the Nagra offered to sell to us a Nagra. I have however told him to take time (2 weeks) and thoroughly work on it or refund the $ I paid him.

With all this, our stay in Senegal has been extended to another month--June. The gift we received from U.K. and Nigeria is very timely. Some of that will cover the cost for the extra month.

I will be going to Freetown(Sierra Leone) on the15th April via Conakry(Guinea). There is a possibility of cease fire around April 27--our Independence Day. In that case, I hope to bring out the GR vehicle. But I am also going to quit the house we are presently renting. I hope to keep some of our things in the office and give away the rest. We really can't afford to rent a house now in Freetown. Of course the security situation is another factor. So for now, I am a rolling director.


14th April - Senegal

I returned from Zinguichor yesterday. Indeed God has been faithful in leading me in that region. I counted on the SIL cooperation to locate 5 languages in this region. Because of the security situation (rebel area), the language helpers were to travel to Kaolack, a town half way between Dakar and Zinguichor. This did not materialize at all. Instead I had to go to Zinguichor myself and look for LH's (local voices for the recordings).

I spent 4 days in Zinguichor. God led me to a very nice pastor who helped me greatly. A young man and another pastor, together with first pastor now formed a committee to facilitate our work. Instead of 5 languages there are now 8 languages. God is good. LHs have all been sought for the 8 languages. PTL. We only have one problem. The recording of these languages will only commence on May 25, as the few Christians in that community will be busy with a month long program starting on April 16.

Meanwhile, we are working on some 6 languages. We only now have one language out of the 17 to locate a LH. And that's the KASSONKE. We will also explore the possibility of recording more in those languages -- especially those below 20 minutes.

Our stay in Senegal has been extended to another 6 weeks. Thank God for the gifts we received from UK and Nigeria. These will help us for the added 6 weeks we will be around in terms of feeding, accommodation, transportation and others.

The other Nagra is still 'sick'. It is with the technician. Senegal is greatly influenced by African black fetish. The problem with the Nagra may not be unconnected with an attack by the devil. The rate at which people worship and adore black powers here is unimaginable. I hereby enclose a post card of one of their Muslim leaders here. This man is said to be adored by over 2 million Senegalese including the President and other top government officials. It is believed in many quarters that this man dictates a lot to the government.

The ironic thing about these Muslim leaders is that instead of giving their followers the Quran to read and believe in it, they instead give them fetish articles. You enter a restaurant, you see a lot of fetish articles hanging at the entrance, windows, etc. They will also have a painting of the Muslim leader they adore.

In the report I will be submitting at the end of this trip, I will tell you more about them and include pictures I took.

By the time this letter reaches you, I would have left already for Freetown (Sierra Leone) to see if the roads are open so that I can bring the vehicle out.

Blank tapes are expensive here. I am trusting God to buy some from Guinea when coming back. The cost of a blank tape here is twice that of Guinea.

I will try to write again. The Lord bless you.