Death and hope in Sierra Leone
Rains are usually heavy in Sierra Leone during the month of August, but what happened on Monday 14th August 2017 defied expectations. Rain started to fall on the Sunday evening, without indications that it would cost Sierra Leone countless lives and property in just a few hours. The rain got heavier and in the early hours of Monday, an explosion-like sound was heard. Mount Sugar Loaf, overlooking the town of Regent in the east of the capital Freetown, had caved in and submerged hundreds of houses and the hundreds of lives therein. In parts of Freetown, the water current rolled along heavy rocks with ease, causing massive flooding across streets and houses.
Many lives were lost in just a few hours. The official toll is of about 500 deaths and 600 missing, presumably buried under the mud. Entire families were wiped out, women made widows and children became orphans. Having already been hit hard by a brutal civil war and the Ebola outbreak, the country needs help, support, hope and courage to heal the wounds of this recent tragedy.
Students from SLEFES (Sierra Leone Fellowship of Evangelical Students) have not been spared by the tragedy. It was a daunting task to proffer solace to students who lost parents and breadwinners, if it weren’t for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paulina Sowa, a student at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), was heartbroken when the flood took away her father. A military officer, he had been the sole provider for Paulina and her three siblings. He was building a home for his family when he was trapped by the water current at the building site and died.
Humanly speaking, the hopes of Paulina’s aspirations of becoming a medical doctor are gone, but with Christ all things are possible, even without her father. She says:
“but for Christ, all hopes are death. I will continue in the Lord for my life and my siblings.”
The disaster also delayed the Innovation project for a number of weeks. Having secured funding from the IFES Innovation grant, a group of students from Njala University were recording a film based on a previously successful play called “Campus Life: Christ makes the Difference”. The film aims to both encourage Christians in their walk with God on campus and to reach non-believers with the gospel. The mudslides and flood took the lives of three SLEFES students who were visiting their families in Freetown. The crew was so distraught by the loss of their friends that the project had to be put on hold, but they have now completed the first draft of the film.
God, through prayers, has provided comfort for the movement as we look forward to building hopes on what Jesus our Lord has promised to do whenever we suffer these things. The word of God has been the most powerful tool to heal wounds and restore courage to proceed in the course of life in times such as this.
William Yandi Conteh, General Secretary of SLEFES Sierra Leone