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Liberia Summer 2014

Undisclosed Location July 4-14, 2014

This is a Christian Liberal Arts college that offers degrees in several disciplines, including a theology and pastoral studies track. The Pastoral Studies Department offers programs that equip students to engage in pastoral ministry, women’s ministries, and biblical exposition. Each program combines extensive biblical training with practical skills. Dynamic classroom teaching from experienced instructors and a hands-on internship gives students an understanding of what pastoral ministry looks like in today’s world. The students come from Liberia and surrounding countries, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea.

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Liberia Summer 2014

Jul  21st,  2014The Liberian Advantage

by Jonathan Brown

Entrepreneurship requires action to seize opportunity, but it also entails present sacrifice for future gain. In Liberia, investment for the future is an incredulous notion. If rice is plentiful today, why should one worry about tomorrow? Liberia is a ‘live for today' culture. Despite the seemingly unproductive Liberian investment mindset, Liberian people may have a hidden advantage in their culture, perhaps even the ideal entrepreneurial foundation.

Historically, Liberians as hunters and subsistence farmers enjoyed the earth's bounty until depletion; entire villages then moved to find new land. More recently, Liberians struggled through internal conflict and many fled the country during civil war. Despite the difficulties and struggles, Liberians tended to respond with focus on the blessings of each day. In contrast, Western culture generally has either forgotten or neglected to develop an ability to handle stress. Americans often turn to medication, drugs and extreme cases, suicide to abate momentary fear of future concerns.

The entrepreneurial struggle is an emotional exercise ending in almost certain failure. The emotional roller coaster and its toll is the most painful aspect of the entire process. However, if entrepreneurs are able to focus and grow their venture just slightly each day, consistent growth results in amazing success, (0.3% daily improvement culminates to 100% improvement in a single year). The ability to focus on the value each day is an incredible Liberian advantage for sustaining growth through adversity. 

Liberians have been isolated from the developing world until recently: exploited for hundreds of years through slavery and corporate land grabbing throughout the 20th century, Liberians have little concept of their true opportunity. However, this reality is quickly changing. Cell phones have given individuals access to the entire world once out of reach, and modern infrastructure is developing each day. Local elementary education advancing to college degrees further enables Liberians to see and to seize the opportunity at hand.

The Liberian mentality, perseverance and resilience, with their daily focus is the true entrepreneurial advantage. Each day is a Liberian blessing that, day by day, carries the nation forward.


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Jul  18th,  2014The Bible Is a Dangerous Book

by Tom Brown

The Bible is a dangerous book—when superficially understood outside of its literary and larger context. The verse reads: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Such is a favored verse among many preachers. They call it “The principle of faith.” It goes like this: If one has enough faith, God promises to grant what is asked. In the asking, women will not have heartbreaking miscarriages or broken marriages; men will have good jobs, vibrant health, and lifelong prosperity, if she or he has a large enough faith.  

This kind of preaching proceeds from an unbiblical view of God. Rather than the believer being the servant of a good and all wise Father, God becomes the servant of His children’s requests. Such preaching also prepares the believer for disappointment with God. The God of the Bible is not the giver of gifts according to the child’s wisdom, but the giver of a better gift according to the Father’s greater wisdom—thus we pray according to Matthew 6:9-13.

Our good and all wise Father gives His children what they truly need, according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). God gives His children the best, He gives them Jesus Christ in a living relationship in the Spirit of power as Luke 11:9-13 tells. God compassionately hears the cry of His children and meets that cry, assuredly according to His sovereign love and all-knowing wisdom (Matthew 7:7-11). 

The greatness of faith trusts in the Father’s wise bestowment, even when that bestowment lay hidden in the hand of providence (see Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28-29; and Hebrews 11:6). The greatness of faith abides in Jesus in the midst of tribulation, not in expectation of release from tribulation. The greatness of faith finds deliverance and joy in Jesus Christ alone (John 16:33). 

Many of my students came to our course believing and preaching the above “principle of faith.” And through the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, most, if not all, have come to see a greater  faith; a gospel faith that rests in the sovereign hand of a  good Father according to His good will in all circumstances. 

It happened in seeing the larger view of Paul’s journeys and the greater joy of knowing Christ Jesus in Philippians 3:3-11. But it came to full embrace in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians when Paul wrote of God’s forging hand in the presence of suffering, not in the possession of prosperity. Paul wrote in two passages, “… we had the sentence of death in ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). And then of Paul’s contented embrace, “… Most gladly therefore I rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I asked the men of my course to write for me their understanding of, not “the principle of faith,” but the greatness of faith; a faith that realizes God’s better interest for His children in all circumstances—how does God meet the believer in his or her suffering and what should believers expect of God in the prayerful asking in faith? Here is what some wrote:

  •  (Victor Dolo) Suffering for the glory of God is part of the Christian life in this world. In suffering Christians are called to show the power of the gospel by faith as the book of Acts shows. When the Christian looks for an example to live the Christian life, Jesus is that example. 
  •  (Jefferson Anthony) Surely if we Christians have faith, God will deliver us from suffering and the hard things of life. God may deliver us now, but that deliverance is ultimately in the resurrection. The resurrection is true deliverance and true healing. In Romans we learned that God saves us by the life of Jesus and by His death. 
  •  (Enoch W Gaypia) Faith as we know it is the confident assurance of our hope. What we hope for is ultimate salvation. If faith could deliver us from our suffering and give us all we want, then neither the disciples or the church in Acts would have gone through persecution. Jesus suffered for us and is our example. God also tests us in hard times to strengthen our faith and make us good ministers as 2 Corinthians teaches. God is always good in every circumstance of life, even in our suffering. 
  •  (Miah Vah) God does not promise to deliver us from our suffering or give us what we want. God promises to strengthen us in our suffering and be with us as the book of Acts shows. Paul asked God to take away his thorn but God said His grace is enough and that Paul’s suffering was helpful. God does promise to accomplish His will in the world through us. 
  •  (Samuel Flomo) God can deliver us and often does but we should not demand that. God does answer our prayers too, but always within His will. God does care about our prayers. Psalm 40:1 says, “God listens to the cry of the believer.” And, Lamentations 3:25 says, “God desires that men seek Him.” 
  •  (Zlanlay Bull) Will God deliver us from suffering and grant our prayers in our faith? Absolutely yes, when we endure the difficulties of this world. Romans chapters 5 through 8 teaches us that deliverance and blessing is in Jesus Christ now, and finally when we are completely glorified. In our sufferings and desires, God cares for us and does not neglect us or treat us with silence. 
  •  (John K Malia) As Christians who identify with Christ, you can’t escape suffering. You must go through it as II Timothy 3:12 says, “Anyone who wants to live godly will suffer persecution.” Suffering helps us to be strong and dependent on the Lord. It also makes us able to identify with people. Suffering made the believers in Acts 8:1-4 ready to be scattered to preach the gospel. 
  •  (Harding Paye) God cares for us but He does not serve us. God also knows what is best. Christians need to learn to trust in God’s will for their lives. God promises to be with us in all our trials and care for us. God won’t give us anything that is bad for us but only what is good. God will and has delivered us from the suffering of sin. 


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Jul  17th,  2014Measuring Our Own Impact

by Jonathan Brown 

In Silicone valley, the world revolves around metrics. EVERYTHING in our lives has a quantitative measure; we know that 272.3ml, sipped at even 4 minute intervals, is the ideal rate of coke zero consumption to optimize computer “hacking” efficiency (however, only if the language is JAVA).*

In contrast, business in Liberia is more “art” than science. Where business is designed to generate profit, most have no true measure of their revenue or cost (the two determining factors of profit).  Monthly success is determined if business owners can afford food and inventory for next month’s sales. 

Our class, in order to understand our local economy, formed student teams of two or three students and visited different types of businesses - from a phone charging booth or an internet cafe to a stand to sell cooking oil. Students aimed to identify the real cost and revenue opportunity for these business, as if they were to start their own tomorrow. Most importantly, students need to identify the challenge local business owners face in making their business more profitable. Our hope is that together we view these challenges more appriately - as opportunities.

Local Liberian businesses will not produce complete financial statements overnight. However, if we learn to use just one metric, we can start to measure and appreciate how the local economy is growing. By measuring the impact these students have on the local economy, we aim to encourage and continue this growth. As empowered students, Christians and Liberians - we see challenge as an opportunity to think differently and carry the entrepreneurial spirit, "by the grace of God" as LICC students so often remind me.



*This is not a true fact


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Jul  16th,  2014They Get It!

by Tom Brown 

What is Liberia like? Imagine an endless sea of uninhabitable rainforest that captures the imagination; a six month season of misty rain that blankets the country in an erie monsoon; a perpetual symphony of a chattering jungle habitat that sings responsively in a natural language—and you have the land of Liberia. Imagine only 3 hours of ‘generator’ electricity each day; water transported in large buckets from which to wash, shower, and make coffee—and you have the simplicity of Liberia. Imagine primitive villages that time seemingly forgot somewhere in tribal antiquity; the seemingly chaotic hustle and bustle of crowded Monrovia and Ganta City, and in a seeming cultural irony: modern universities, colleges, medical schools, business centers, and governmental bureaucracy—and you have the progressive life of Liberia.

In all this there is the endearing welcome in the smiles of children who long to touch the unusual skin of the white man; a welcoming hospitality from appreciative students who possess an amazing readiness to learn with a mental capacity of remarkable and unobstructed intelligence.  

The course I am teaching is: The Book of Acts and the Early Pauline Letters. The approach I am taking is to use the Book of Acts as the line of historical development from which we examine each letter as Paul wrote them according to the fight for the gospel of grace from AD 49 to 61. 

One of the characteristics of the Physician Dr. Luke is his touch and teaching of God’s use of common Christians in the advance of the gospel among the nations. My Liberian students get it for Luke speaks within a cultural context they can understand. Liberians know the hardship of life; Liberians know disease that brings death, leper colonies that mimic the days of Jesus, and the imposition of false teachers that resemble the superstitious mindset in the regions beyond.

My Liberian students are learning to hold out for the true touch of God’s hand in a faith not measured by material prosperity in this world, but an eternal prosperity in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and theirs in Him — they get it! They are learning to say with the Apostle Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us“ (Romans 8:18). 

The course I am teaching could not be more relevant. We teach from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM each day, and the students never weary of the length of day. I could not be more in my element, more energized, more fulfilled than to hit the classroom each day with Dr. Luke and the Apostle Paul before me as we bring the Word of God and the transforming power of the Spirit to bear upon a people ready to think well on Jesus. In the days to come, I will follow this post with specifics on the transforming power of Luke and Paul’s writings upon the 21st Century men of Liberia. 

Pray for the pastoral students of Liberia that they will not only “get it” but also prepare to help their people rethink and replace false views of the gospel with the true gospel of grace. I am on my lunch break now. My students will soon return for our afternoon session in Acts 13 through 14 and the book of Galatians.   


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Jul  15th,  2014Managing the Master's Assets

By Jonathan Brown 

Tasked to inspire entrepreneurship, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the lack of Liberia's infrastructure. Ganta, the second fastest growing city in the country is connected to Monrovia through a single dusty road - a patchwork of dirt and concrete fissures with the optimism of fresh (and satisfyingly smooth) pavement.  This challenge and the resulting isolation can blind us from a larger dream.

But like the relief of modern roadway, LICC offers a refreshing vision amidst a dense, isolated and literal jungle. It is a hodgepodge of students, laborers and leaders, but Dr. Bour, the college's founder and leader, sees the opportunity in the fractured environment. He feels the coming future of a connected country and a country connected to the world.

In opposition to the second law of thermodynamics, Liberia is trending towards order and structure. Within this burgeoning country, LICC, through faith-based education and entrepreneurship, is inspiring the citizens of Ganta to see a world beyond their village and untapped opportunity all around.

It's exciting! And now I can hear some critter scurrying around here in the dark, which I suppose is also exciting, in a way.


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