On Monday, a saint died. Not a Catholic priest or nun, just an ordinary person named Isaac who lived an extraordinary life. After a long bout with cancer, Isaac Dweh, affectionately known as “Brother Isaac”, went home to be with his heavenly father. What a family reunion they must have had.
It was a warm day in 2008 when I first met him. I had traveled to Liberia on my first trip to Africa and had been looking forward to that day for some time. I was finally going to get to meet two of my spiritual heroes. Ironically they were both named Isaac. Little did I know how much one of these men would affect my life.
CLC had established a Christian bookstore in this war torn country in 1947 and it had operated all the way up to 1996 when it had to close because of the fighting. On the day that we had to finally close, Brother Isaac was the last to leave the store. Unfortunately, in his desire to make sure everything was properly taken care of in the store, he left too late. The rebels that were attacking Monrovia had now entered the city limits and set up road blocks. No one could get by without their permission. Isaac’s family lived on the other side of the checkpoint and he now had to wait in line to see if he could get through.
As he approached the front of the line, one of the rebel soldiers noticed the bookstore bag he had in his hands and signaled for him to step forward. Isaac did not know if he was being singled out to be arrested, tortured or worse. The young man looked at the bag, saw the CLC logo and asked if that was where Isaac worked. Everything rested on his answer to that question. Keen to tell the truth, Isaac said yes. The soldier gave him a knowing look and waved him on through. Somehow that bag saved his life.
I learned that story and many others from Isaac himself as we traveled together and he showed me what the capital city looked like now as it was beginning to recover from the war. It didn’t take long for me to understand that this man was one of God’s special people. As we were driving around Monrovia, Isaac mentioned that he needed to stop by the post office. I casually asked if this was where CLC would have gotten its mail in the past and he replied that this was why he had to stop. This did not make much sense to me since the ministry had been closed for so long until he explained that he had been checking the “CLC” mail for the last twelve years just in case someone was trying to get in touch with the ministry. Not only that, he had paid the fee to keep this box for every one of these years. What a man of faith.
In 2012, we re-opened the CLC bookstore again and not surprisingly, Brother Isaac wanted to be a part of the new team. He diligently worked with the store manager, James Cooper, to get the store open and to serve our customers who were delighted to learn that CLC was back and that Brother Isaac was too. In both 2014 and 2016, I was privileged to help host a pastor’s training conference for hundreds of local pastors from Monrovia and some of the interior cities as well. At each of these events, Brother Isaac was in charge of the huge book table and was always surrounded by people asking questions about the books. He loved to serve and people could tell.
One day during the first conference I noticed that some other people were helping him serve at the book table. I asked who they were and he introduced me to his wife and son who were volunteering their time. Ministry was a family business for the Dwehs. Even though he and his wife were no longer young people and their resources were meager, their family continued to expand as they offered help and support to extended family members including an infant who had just been born.
One of CLC’s core values is sacrifice and Brother Isaac lived this out on a daily basis. Despite his failing health this year, he came into the bookstore on many occasions to serve as best he could. I saw him in March and was amazed at his resilience in spite of the pain. He never seemed to stop smiling. What a big smile God must have had when he welcomed Isaac home to his eternal rest.