Dr. Sawyer’s Adult Literacy Initiative

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As he approached his 70th birthday, which he celebrated on Sunday and Monday, June 15 and 16, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, his wife Comfort and their many friends and associates wondered what they should do that could have a lasting impact on other people. After all, the good Lord had blessed Sawyer to achieve the biblical promise of three scores and ten, and he thought it would be proper to do something special for God and people.

So during the Thanksgiving Service at Sawyer’s church, St. Stephen Episcopal, he and his friends announced that to commemorate his 70th they would organize an adult literacy program to empower illiterate and semi-illiterate people in the immediate St. Stephen community in reading, writing and numbers.

The crowded St. Stephen parish responded to this selfless gesture with thunderous applause. They felt that Dr. Sawyer was doing the most appropriate thing on his birthday, by focusing not just on himself, but on his fellow human beings, for “that was the way the Master [Jesus] went.” Jesus’ Heavenly Father had empowered Him in spectacular and unique ways, so He “went about doing good” to anyone He could find—the blind, hungry, lame, the poor, imprisoned and marginalized, the lepers, sick, possessed and even the dead, to whom He restored life again. Above all, He paid the supreme sacrifice by dying on the cross to redeem us from our sins and reunite us with God.

Yes, Jesus used power for good. See how many of us whom God has blessed with some power use it to put other people down, to sideline them, to humiliate them, to mean them with the things we don’t even want or need anymore, to crush, persecute and even kill.
In yesterday’s Editorial we mentioned, as we often do, some of such African leaders who use their God-given power not for good, but for evil against their own people, forcing survivors into exile in the very countries that once colonized them, or elsewhere. How ironic, how sad, how heartbreaking!

Well, Amos Sawyer, too, felt that the good Lord had blessed him in many special ways—making him a highly successful student, teacher and political scientist who rose to national leadership—Chairman of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), and international recognition.

Just last month he was in Nigeria presiding over the team of international observers in Nigeria’s presidential elections.

At home, he has presided over the Governance Commission and steered the nation through a process that will share the enormous power of the presidency with the people, so that Liberians will, at long last, experience for real that first line in their Constitution—“All power is inherent in the people.” We pray that soon the Legislature will take the necessary action to make this dream a reality.

So, in the thinking of the Psalmist, Sawyer asked himself, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his goodness and loving kindness toward me? “I will,” he responded, “take up the cup of salvation . . . and pay my vows to God now, in the presence of all his people . . .”

Part of that vow, Sawyer said last Sunday, is helping empower the powerless—those who suffer the disadvantage, indignity and pain of being unlettered (illiterate).

One of Sawyer’s fellow St. Stephen parishioners, who chairs the Board of Alfalit, Liberia’s leading adult literacy provider, arranged a meeting with himself, Alfalit Executive Director, Rev. Emmanuel Giddings and Dr. Sawyer, to see how Alfalit could help. Alfalit has taught reading, writing and numbers to tens of thousands in all 15 counties and aims at making Liberia one day 100% literate.

Dr. Sawyer happily welcomed the Alfalit team and pledged to connect them with his own team to bring “synergy” (combined action or mutually advantageous cooperation) to the cause and expand it beyond the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12 Streets, Sinkor, St Stephen’s immediate neighborhood, where thousands of unlettered people live.

We pray that all people of goodwill will join this noble cause and help promote the unrelenting advance of adult literacy throughout Liberia.

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