When in 1926 Dr. George W. Harley, the great American missionary doctor, came to this part of Africa as part of the Harvard Medical Expedition, one of the first things he did was to care for the sick in that part of the country later known as Nimba County.
Dr. Harley built the Ganta Methodist Mission to educate first the Manos, main inhabitants of the area, and the rest of the Nimba people.
The doctor, at the same time, also devoted his time to healing the souls by engaging in evangelism. He later built the rock church that still stands there till this day. Dr. Harley soon discovered that leprosy was in the area and he began treating the lepers.
He then built the Ganta Hospital, the first referral hospital far into the Liberian interior. American Lutherans later erected a hospital and nursing school in Zorzor, Lofa County. It would take another a half century before the Lutherans would erect Phebe Hospital in Suakoko.
The Methodists, of whom Dr. Harley was a part, also opened a nursing school at the Ganta hospital.
How sad it is that such a rich and glittering medical facility, built and maintained over the decades purely by Methodist missionary money, is now in trouble and, according to our Nimba Correspondent Ishmael Menkor, threatening collapse.
You mean after all these years the Liberian government cannot find the money to maintain that purely humanitarinan effort developed by American Methodists? What is the real problem?
Surely Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, has not forgotten and can never forget that Phebe, built by American Lutherans, was in the identical boat in 1973 when President William R. Tolbert came to the rescue. When news broke out that Phebe was about to be closed down due to the shortage of funds, he asked his Health Minister, Counselor Oliver Bright, what it cost to run Phebe annually. The answer lay in the two stories that had been written about Phebe’s imminent closure: US$400,000. The President immediately ordered Minister Bright to draft a letter for the President’s signature directing the Minister of Finance, Steve Tolbert, to make immediately available an annual budgetary allocation of US$400,000 to keep Phebe open. Since then support for Phebe has primarily come from the Liberian government. But thankfully, the Lutherans have always, until this day, kept a keen interest in Phebe.
We are sure that the Methodists will do the same thing in Ganta. But in this time of crisis, we call on Senator Prince Y. Johnson and all the other political heavyweights in Nimba immediately to consult with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to keep the
Ganta Hospital open by injecting emergency funding to save lives.
It must be remembered and carved into our consciousness that it is the government, not the churches or anyone else, that has the primary responsibility to care for the sick in our country. The churches—Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran,
Catholic and in later years the Pentacostals, Seventh Day Adventist and the Ahmadiyya, have done us a great favor by investing in our health care delivery system and using it—and education, too, as a tool of evangelism.
The government must now face up to its responsibility to care for its sick, and to ensure the health and medical wellbeing of the whole Liberian population. Even as we do this, the religious community, the international community, private individuals and others would be encouraged to join in lending a helping hand to keep Liberians and others in our midst healthy and well.