I lived in Liberia for seven years during the time of the civil war. It was a very unstable period and indeed, only now is Liberia hopefully coming out of this awful time of insecurity, threat, and lack of basic resources for living. I was part of a pioneering Christian missions team, that worked to develop and train Liberian young men and women in practical Christian discipleship and community development, as well as leadership development. In the end, in true African fashion I ended up with a small group of Liberians who have become like family to me. Liberia has a place in my heart like no other country apart from my own, which is the UK.
During the seven years, I and my American co-worker, were evacuated 3 times, in 1990, by car to Sierra Leone, in 1992 on a 12 seater Cessna to Cote D'Ivoire and again in 1996 by American helicopter to Sierra Leone and then C130 transporter plane to Senegal. The evacuation in 1992 was dangerous but nothing to compare with the situation in 1996.
Over Easter, in April 1996, the then rebels, led by Charles Taylor attacked the capital city of Monrovia for the third time in 7 years, and the peacekeeping troops stood down from their checkpoints. Our little missions team of 2 westerners, 16 Liberians and four dogs were caught in between the two groups of fighters, the " government" chasing the "rebels". For four days we were unable to go out onto the roads, as the rebels held the checkpoints and were looting houses all over our area of town. We called the American embassy who told us to stay put. But staying put became increasingly dangerous as groups of fighters were roaming the neighbourhood in stolen UN pick up trucks, and brandishing their AK 47 rifles. They were fearsome to behold. 3 different groups of fighters entered our property on the Monday and Tuesday after Easter.
On the Monday, they stole our cars, but made no other threat. On the Tuesday two more groups came, stole some of our belongings and threatened to kill us all and also there was a potential rape threat as well. However, miraculously they did nothing. They did not touch us. We were able to be calm and quiet, and did not panic or cry or scream. It was really amazing. I was able to give my testimony of my trust in Jesus to one of the fighters and he eventually left, having shaken my hand and thanked me. We were actually taken out of our house by a rebel general who had been contacted by one of our Liberians. Our brother, Moses, had risked his own life to go out on the road on Tuesday morning to find help. He met up with a young rebel who was from his village and a distant relative. This young man took him to the general who promised to come rescue the missionaries. This he did eventually and took Moses, my co-worker and I plus our 4 dogs by car out of town to the meeting place for evacuees, a big missions centre by the beach. Our other Liberians had already left by foot to walk out to the safe place. They also arrived safely with no harm.
When I arrived up in Switzerland a week later for debriefing, I discovered that many people had been praying for us around the world. In particular, 3 of our leaders in Lausanne had prayed that Tuesday morning against rape and murder. When we compared notes, we discovered that it was at the same time approximately that we were being threatened that our friends were praying for us. I believe God answers prayer.
Sometimes we go through difficulties, and life does not always happen as we think it will. But mysteriously in it, I have discovered that God is my ever present and loving reality who keeps me safe in the storm. I also realised that our Liberians had stayed to protect us as westerners, and risked their own lives in the process. How grateful I am to the Lord and to His people in Liberia for this demonstration of Christlikeness to me in the crisis, and to our friends who prayed for us.