In my travels with CLC over the years I have heard many good stories, occasionally I hear great stories and every now and then I come across an amazing story. This week I want to share one of those amazing stories from Liberia.
The guy in the picture with me is Isaac Dweh, who is a Liberian national that served with CLC for 18 years until we had to “temporarily suspend” our operations in 1996 during the peak of the civil war. He is now one of my personal spiritual heroes and here is why.
As war in Liberia got more and more violent, Isaac and his coworkers did everything they could to keep the store open. At one point it had been looted and badly damaged and the team decided to re-open despite the danger that still existed. One day as the rebels were encroaching on the city of Monrovia, Isaac realized that the fighting was getting closer and closer and he needed to close the store and leave quickly if he was going to survive. In a hurry, he threw his things in a bag and left, traveling on the main road out of town.
Unfortunately, he had left a little too late and the rebels had gained control of the main intersection that he had to pass through to get home to his family. As he got closer and closer to the inspection point, his heart must have been beating faster than ever as he saw people being singled out and that many were not allowed to pass at all. When he got to the front of the line, he saw that the rebels were heavily armed and that he would have to do whatever they asked. They looked at him carefully and asked him what was in his bag.
As they inspected the contents of his bag, they noticed the CLC logo on the outside and asked him if this was from the store downtown. Isaac said that it was and that he had worked there and was on his way home. Without hesitation, the rebel inspecting his things told him he could go on his way. Even the rebels knew what the CLC store had meant to the people of Liberia and allowed Isaac to go home to his family.
Hearing this story was incredible enough, but was only half the story that Isaac shared with me. Later on the war got even more intense and Isaac and his family decided they had to leave the city to escape for their lives. They came to a river crossing point and were confronted by the rebels again. Isaac was captured this time and separated from his family. He was taken to a prison camp across the river and stripped half naked and told to wait. He was was quite concerned that he might be killed in the very near future as other prisoners were being taken out and executed one at a time and he could hear their cries. With nothing else to do, he decided to get on his knees and pray with the other prisoners.
Back across the river, Isaac’s niece was confronted by a rebel leader who did not like the fact that she was crying so loudly. Crying was sign of weakness that was not going to be tolerated by these perpetrators of evil. He demanded to know why she was crying and she told him that her uncle had just been captured and taken across the river to a prison camp where she was sure he was going to be killed. He asked her who her Uncle was and she said that it was Isaac Dweh. The rebel captain looked at her with surprise and asked her if this was the “Mr. Dweh” who worked at the CLC bookstore in downtown Monrovia and she said that it was. Quickly this man told one of his soldiers to run ahead to the camp and tell the others not to touch Isaac and that he was on his way.
The rebel leader went across the river to the prison camp shouting as he came closer for the others to leave Isaac alone, fearful that the message might not have gotten through. As he got to the place where Isaac was, he opened the door looked into the darkness and called out for Isaac. Isaac was still on his knees and had not heard the shouting and did not know what was going on. As he came out into the daylight he recognized the man.
Ironically, the rebels in this group were mainly from one tribe that was easily recognizable by those working for the Liberian leader Charles Taylor and had been told not to come into the city except for legitimate business purposes. In order to scout out the city for potential targets, this group sent in some of their leaders to look for work that would allow them to come and go. This particular leader had decided to stop into the CLC shop and had become a colporter (someone who takes books and Bibles on consignment and sells them door to door or in the markets).
He told Isaac that he would protect him and his family and he reunited them fairly quickly. Even though Isaac later had to leave the country as a refugee, he was never captured again nor had to fear for his life in that way. God had used the ministry of CLC to save his life twice and he was very grateful.
Not surprisingly, when I visited Liberia again in 2008 to scout out the territory and see of CLC could once again begin operations, I found Isaac willing to do whatever he could to help. Today Isaac is our point person in Liberia and is working with us to get the store open again this summer.