There are very few times in life when things work out exactly as we had hoped. This is particularly true in Africa where so much is in flux and there are so many unknowns to consider. Despite this reality, a new CLC Bookstore was able to open for business in Monrovia, Liberia on Monday September 3rd only a few days after our container of books arrived and a few weeks after the work to prepare the store had begun. God’s timing is perfect even when it takes my breath away to watch how things come together.
The story of CLC in Liberia goes back to 1948 when we opened a store in this vibrant West African country for the first time. Over decades of sacrificial ministry by many CLC missionaries, this work grew and made a significant impact in this country that had been founded by returning African American slaves. Eventually, the work was handed over to national workers and continued to be a beacon of light. During the early 1990’s the store became a target for the violence that engulfed Monrovia during the civil war that erupted. Twice our store was looted and destroyed and after the second time this happened, our workers had to flee for their lives and eventually became refugees. In 1996, the CLC Ministry in Liberia was “temporarily suspended” and we did not know when we would ever be able to open again.
Peace seemed to be returning in 2006 with the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (the first woman President in all of Africa) and the ceasing of hostilities between the warring parties. In 2008, I had the joy of traveling to Africa for the first time and scouting out the territory to see if it was time for CLC to return again. In God’s timing, we had to wait four more years for that dream to become a reality. In February of this year, I returned with a team and we became convinced that we had a carpe diem moment in front of us. All the pieces seemed to be falling in place for the store to re-open again in 2012.
Getting the store opened required finding a location, acquiring the initial inventory, shipping a container, finding the right workers, building shelves and much, much more. While each of these things involved hurdles that we did not always know how we would overcome, they all were resolved in God’s timing. The story of finding the location is so amazing that it will require its own separate blog post. Ultimately, the door was opened for us to have the store opened on the campus of Providence Baptist Church with an entrance onto one of the main streets of this bustling capital city. This church is the place that Liberia was founded in 1847 and the founding documents are still on view in the church. Given its historical significance, it is one of the most well-known places in all of Liberia. It would almost be like having a CLC store in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
In August, our national leader from Sierra Leone (and a close personal friend), Jusu Wai- Sawi, went to help the team get things ready to get the store opened. In the space of one month, bank accounts were opened, shelves were built, the container arrived, books were unpacked and a team was selected. Amazingly, one of the team members is Isaac Dweh who served in CLC Liberia for many years prior to the store closing in 1996 and was the subject of an earlier blog post this year. Just this week, I received word that their first two weeks of sales nearly doubled our original budgeted projections. We serve a good God who can overcome any obstacles we face. May He richly bless this re-born Christian literature lighthouse as the lights are back on and fresh resources are going out the door every day.