President Weah gives full endorsement, says “history of Liberia cannot be told without also recounting the numerous contributions of the Providence Baptist Church”
President George Manneh Weah stunned the congregation at the Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia with a triple-play move when he showed up for worship on Sunday, March 1, 2020. It appeared no doing of his own, in spite of his prepared speech, tight schedule and security detail; the service turned out to be a classic “Providence moment”.
It was more than just another ‘first Sunday’ in March. The Church, being the oldest in Liberia and where the nation’s declaration of independence was signed, was celebrating 199 years of service to God and country and, on that same day, announced its forward march (pun intended) toward its bicentennial, scheduled for February and March 2021.
President Weah graced the occasion on invitation by the Providence Baptist Church’s bicentennial steering committee, who, understanding the historical role of the church in the land, and the magnitude of next year’s celebration, deemed the Government of Liberia prime partner.
An embodiment of history
So when the President was finally invited to the lectern to speak from his prepared text, the words he spoke appeared to come so much more alive that he himself appeared moved by the Spirit of Providence.
See, he entered the church from its original entrance on Broad Street and was greeted by a delegation led by Senior Pastor Samuel D. Reeves, who escorted the President through the original church edifice, wondrous with history and heritage. They had not even entered the main edifice when President Weah, moved by what he already saw, was overheard saying, “If I had known, I would have invited Tweah to come along.”
Tweah is Liberia’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning, one of the most senior members of the President’s cabinet.
Walking through the old sanctuary, President Weah recognized a few names, among them the late Rev. Peter Amos George, who once pastored Providence Baptist and was a counselor-at-law and a businessman.
“The history of Liberia cannot be told without also recounting the numerous contributions of the country’s first church, The Providence Baptist Church. In fact, this church is an embodiment of the history of our great country,” President Weah told the congregation during his remarks.
“Often referred to as the ‘Cornerstone of Liberia’, the Providence Baptist Church is the first place of worship that some of our ancestors who returned home after being freed from slavery built after arriving on Providence Island.
“It was here in this same edifice that our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence that gave birth to Africa’s first independent Republic. This church has been so central to our national life that it even hosted our National Legislature for a period.”
The Chairperson of the Providence Bicentennial Steering Committee, Mother (Judge) Eva Mappy Morgan, gave an overview of the bicentennial plans and later, along with Cllr. George Henries, chairman of the Providence Baptist Church Deacon Board, presented a copy to the President.
Thank God for LEC
Shortly after President Weah entered the current sanctuary where the service was being held, and as the service seemed to be joyously and progressing according to plan, the public utility service provided by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), brought the service to a temporary halt. But, Pastor Reeves, being the eternal optimist and leader that he is, told the congregation: “We’ve been worshipping God before LEC and when LEC is gone, we will still worship God.”
That statement fired up the church and the choir began singing and, before long, the church’s generator kicked in and current was restored.
In his prepared remarks during the service, President Weah acknowledged Liberia’s challenges with electricity and lightly remarked about his own travails concerning the utility service at his home.
Then he turned to Rev. Reeves and said: “Therefore, in my own name, I will provide a 100kva generator to Providence Baptist Church.”
The congregation erupted in jubilation as the President and Rev. Reeves clasped hands over the munificent gesture. Someone remarked: “If LEC had not gone off as it did, perhaps the President may not have been inspired to make this gesture. Thank God for LEC!”
Affinity with Providence
The President also congratulated the Providence Baptist Church “for maintaining the Church so well during the many years of its existence. You have done a wonderful job,” he said.
“The Government is happy to partner with you for the upcoming bicentennial celebration. We will endeavor to do all that is necessary to ensure a very successful celebration of this critical component of our history,” he said as he highlighted opportunities for tourism and other dimensions of economic opportunities for the country.
“This comes at a time when we are taking targeted steps to improve our enormous potential in the tourism sector. I am glad you plan to work with the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism in this regard.
“It has been nearly two centuries; that’s nearly 200 years of rich history. We anticipate a celebration that reflects the true essence of the Providence Baptist Church, and its role in Liberia,” President Weah noted.
Then he said, in very subtle words: “I share in that rich history, both personally and as President of Liberia. So be assured that I will be a central part of the programs intended to commemorate that historic occasion.”
However the congregation would not understand how “personal” his share in rich history of Providence Baptist until he explained in an extemporaneous addendum:
“The late Rev. Peter Amos George, one of your former pastors, was my uncle. Yes, my own mother told me he was my uncle just the same way she told me that Mr. Weah was my father. So who am I to say that my mother lied?”
The letter from the Lord
The guest preacher for the 199th anniversary celebration was Rev. Dr. Calvin Birch, founder and Senior Pastor of Lighthouse International Church, located in Richmond, Virginia, the United States of America.
Speaking on the theme: “A Letter From the Lord”, with scriptural reference from the book of Jeremiah 29:1-14, prefaced his sermon by saying suggesting that because the communication of today’s world is so full of instant messaging and microwavable experiences, many people hardly take time to hear what God is trying to say to His people.
According to him, letters take time to write, and “are the most personal, intimate, and courageous forms of dialogue. When you write you use your emotions; you put in the time to express your thoughts and feelings to the recipient.”
But God, through the Prophet Jeremiah, wrote a letter to the children of Israel who were exiled in Babylon, offering words of hope.
According to him, there are three main messages found in the ‘letter from the Lord’.
Rev. Birch said first, God is saying to Liberia: “Love, unite and build. Today, our nation is undergoing the metamorphosis for tomorrow’s generation. While things may not seem like what we want it to be; I just want to remind you that God is alive. God wants us to hold together, to love one another, to forgive each other as God in Christ has loved us and forgiven us!”
The second message, according to him, is that God says “wait for the appointed time.”
“Let me let you know that our God answers prayer,” Rev. Birch advised. “He’s never late nor too early. God comes when it is time, and the Lord will visit you soon. Just hold on for a little while longer.”
At this juncture he advised President Weah to be mindful of who he listens to – especially under the guise of clergy – giving him wrong advice only because they want money or other favors from the President. If the President seeks feedback and counsel of clergymen who do not need money or favors from him, those are the right people who will give genuine advice, he said.
Rev. Birch also encouraged the President that he (Weah) still possesses the love of the people of Liberia and that he “can use it as political capital to bring development.”
The third message from the Lord in that referenced passage, according to Rev. Birch, is “You (Liberia) are blessed more than you know!”
“After you have suffered for just a little while, that same God who caused you to walk on dry grounds in wet places; the same God who’s been your help through ages past, will himself (not the archangel Gabriel or Michael), but will Himself restore you.”
Somewhere during the service, President Weah was seen taking off his glasses and wiping his eye. At the close of the service, 80-year-old deaconess Tarina G. Kpardeh offered a soul-stirring prayer for the President.