When Sorrows like Sea Billows Roll, would it be well with Mama Liberia’s Embattled Soul?: The Lingering 16 Billion Dollars Question

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By Moses Blonkanjay Jackson (MsEd, EdM) “The Mwalimu-Mku”

Simply Thinking Thoughts

In my thinking thoughts I reminisced the current wave of concerns over the 19 Billion dollars which was allegedly transported from the Freeport of Monrovia and has yet to be located. In reaction, the GOL has issued statements and eventually set up a huge committee consisting of security, religious and civil groups to investigate the 19 billion affairs. The social media for its part is replete with posts, some incendiary, some inciting, some cynical  and yet others defensive and sympathetic with the President George Weah led government. As if to put hot oil in the fire, the Ministers of Information, Finance, Justice and the former CBL Governor Milton Weeks have all come up with their respective versions. In fact, the Finance Minister has advised the whole world not to consider any of the versions but his.

At the layman’s level, taxi drivers, market women, scrap men dem and zogoes, and people in all walks of life have begun to use the “19 Billion dollar issue “ as a fun box. Some people have posted all kinds of comments and pictures of containers on the beach waiting, containers being transported, or containers emptied of their contents. Just to either make people laugh or maybe create awareness over the gravity of this issue.

Albeit, amidst all of this, I pondered whether the wave of incidents that Mama Liberia has experienced can be compared to a situation where people are supposed to pretend “it is well with their suffering souls while sorrows like sea billows roll” as was written in the song “When Peace like a river attendeth my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll…”

Construct of Sea Billows

For the layman’s sake, billows are rolling masses of waves either from the ocean or a huge fire. When you visit the beach, you will observe that the ocean is never resting but constantly rolling. It is rushing on shore continuously with small and big waves as if they were coming to catch you. Those waves are referred to as sea billows; they never stop threatening you and if you ventured into the ocean and did not know how to swim, they would bear you away.

During our youth in Rivercess, my brothers and I would go on the beach early 4am, each Sunday morning in search of strange items which may have been swept ashore by the rolling billows of the sea, which were the waves of the Mighty Atlantic Ocean. The treasures we fetched from the billows remained our sacred secrets unless a corpse was swept on shore that we were compelled to report according to tradition, as we had  suddenly become “persons of interest” to the investigating town chief. Alas, how we always wished the sea billows would never wash sorrows on shore bur rather treasures and happiness for our poor native souls.

Fellow Liberians, you will agree that this country has gone through a lot of turbulent events in the last four decades from 1979 to 2018 as sorrows like sea billows that continue to roll. Immediately the April 1979 rice riot, the 1980 coupe that saw the brutal murder of President Tolbert and execution of 13 government officials rolled in. Just as Non Commissioned Officer Samuel K. Doe had gotten his feet wet with his “struggle continues” slogan, Charles Taylor’s fierce 1990 Freedom Fighters rolled in and caused serious havoc when General Prince Y. Johnson seized and murdered him on video; subsequently enthroning Ghankay as President. When the nation state had thought the platform was now clear for productivity, President Taylor was dragged out of Liberia to the Hague and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, after incarcerating Gyude Bryant, rolled in to face the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that claimed thousands of lives. Ellen’s government was marked by massive rolling corruption that she admittedly could not contain; hence, the Liberian people of Liberia overwhelmingly voted for Senator George Weah as president.

Now, no sooner had George Weah taken office than a record high US dollar rate situation accompanied by outcry over abject poverty conditions rolled in. As if that was not sufficient to keep the youthful Head of State busy, 19 billion Liberian dollars in containers are on the run.

You will note that the sorrows which Mama Liberia continues to face are like sea billows or ocean waves that roll incessantly in the life of the 19th  Century hymn writer Horatio Spaffod. Having experienced a succession of misfortunes, Horation likened his situation with sorrows that rolled from the sea billows of life at a time when he was basking in the peace of his education, influence and affluence. Not overwhelmed by the terrible rolls of billows but rather resolved, he wrote:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Horatio was a Christian with hope in God, so he declared “Whatever my lot, whatever the level of poverty, whatever the level of joblessness.. thy hath taught me to say, is well with my soul because I have hope in God. Horatio knew a change would one day come to return him to his previous peaceful life, so he had hope. That hope was in Jesus.

Metaphorically speaking, the era of President Tubman is the peace that attendeth our way in Liberia. Since that time sorrows like sea billows have washed ashore all kinds of vices: coup, wars, Ebola, rampant corruption, inept leaders, thieves, mediocre legislatures, lopsided education system, crooked judges and filthy cities and market places.

Amidst all this, what can we say in the face of all of these troubles especially with the 19 billion dollars on the run? Can we say, like Horatio Spafford, “Whatever our lot, it is well with our despicable Liberian souls?

Fellow Liberians, without equivocation, I say “Yes, we can say it is well with our souls” When poverty conditions are alleviated, it will be well with our souls; when the US dollar rate drops, it will be well with our souls. Most of all, if we find the container with the 16 Billion dollars, oh yes. It will be well, very very well with our souls. If all those who are involved with the moving of the containers are prosecuted by law, it will be well. If people lose their jobs and go to jail for corruption, all will be well. If the ministers of Information, Justice and Finance come up with one convincing version of the “Container Story” all will be well. But for now, whatever our lot, we cannot say it is well with Mama Liberia’s soul.

To those ends, why don’t you join me in singing the old favorite Gospel hymn, “When Peace like a River attendeth my Way”; note the last  stanza.

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  4. And Lord, haste the day when the faith (HOPE) shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

I am simply thinking thoughts…and I will think thoughts until we find the containers with the 16 Billions.

Moses Blonkanjay Jackson (MsEd, EdM)

About the author
The Harvard trained,  Yale Fellow, Jesuit Scholar and Rivercess Village Man, Mwalimu-Mkoh Moses Blonkanjay Jackson served the Liberian Government for 4 years as Consultant and Assistant Education Minster.  He has returned to private practice as a part-time college lecturer, Education Engineer and researcher. He can be reached @ +231 206 645/ +231 886 681.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Nonsense! Such ill-informed interpretation of Liberian history. Whoever told this joker the stunted Tubmanic years were Liberia’s peaceful years? Of course, when mass illiteracy like a river attended Liberia’s way, when upward mobility in Liberia was based in who knows you, when 1/4 of the population expropriated 90% of the nation’s wealth, when 90% of the population was marginalized and treated like not even the proverbial second class citizens but like non-citizens, it wasn’t “peaceful,” or well at all with the souls of those 90%, sir! Reasons why the conduct of our uncivil war, or its characteristics in terms of the barbarism of the combatants was so horrific and internecine! Perhaps if your next punditry were limited to the fine beaches of Rivercess which you know so well than venturing in a realm beyond your confused capacity, it may very appropriately be well with your confused little soul. Think about it!

    • Come on, leave the brother alone. I think what he meant to say was that during the Tubman years, there was relative peace and Liberia was very calm. I mean we know that there were a lot of social ills in society, but not like they are today or have been since the 1980’s. LOL

  2. Great and refreshing perspective that the nation should never lost its faith in the God that has never failed to bring her out of the miry clay. I cry every time I sing that song, “It is well with my soul” being mindful of the story of Horatio Spafford who not only placed his trust in God during his life’s prosperity, but also during its calamities.

    When the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham lost all hope because of his circumstances (God promised him a son, but he and his wife Sarah were past child bearing age), he still hoped in faith. And indeed they had a son that formed the lineage of Jesus.

    So, to all back in Liberia, as the circumstances seem dire, hope in faith in God. He will not leave you as orphans nor will He tarry in bringing forth the vision for the nation.
    Habakkuk 2:3-4: “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry (my note: based on our timing, when we want it) wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry (my note: God’s timing, He’s never late).”

  3. There is ABSOLUTELY NO Lingering 16 Billion Dollars Question!!! The reactions and or subtantiations from the Finance Minister and the former governor (Weeks) has certainly dispelled Rodney Sieh´s/FPA´S speculations/rumors/lies and FPA´S criminal and irresponsible, and unprincipled behavior again which can be equated with the false alarm of one “SHOUTING FIRE IN A CROWDED THEATER”!

    That is:
    There has been absolutely no contradictions here. The three ministers and the former governor have all told the truth based on the intentionally cynical and false alarm By Rodney Sieh´s and his FPA.

    That is, all this boils down to an UNPRINCIPLED, INCOMPETENT, AND PHONY CYNIC Rodney Sieh/FPA (who initially published the fake alarm) “SHOUTING FIRE IN A CROWDED THEATER”!! SIMPLY DRIVEN BY PARTISAN AGENDA, PERSONAL VENDETTA, AND HIS GREED TO INCREAE HIS SALES OF PAPERS!

    That made clear: Current Republic of Liberia Comptroller-General Janga Kowo, IS ACTUALLY THE ONE WHO “DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT”.

    For certainly, as he says “money coming into the country does not go the Finance Ministry but rather to the Central Bank which is by law, the custodian of all funds coming into the country” is true.

    And this is why J. Milton Weeks, who was the governor of the bank when the money arrived, and even after it was wrongly misunderstood to be missing (as a result of Rodney Sieh´s criminal cynicism), was astonished that such could be the case.

    And hence his Milton Weeks´ natural and very truthful response was or is “WE WOULD LIKE TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THIS ALLEGATION” (Rodney Sieh´s/FPA´S FAKE NEWS ALARM) “IS COMING FROM.”

    And as hinted supra, this all boils down to this cynic Rodney Sieh and his FPA who initially disseminated such a false alarm based on:

    (1) little or no legitimate well-research, news but instead,

    (2) using eye-catching headlines for,

    (3) increased sales via such techniques as spreading of lies, rumors, exaggerations of fake and manufactured news driven By partisan agenda, and perdonal vendetta for rumor – scandal-mongering, intentional misrepresentations, fraud, in order to:

    (4) facilatate his Rodney Sieh´s PR ASSIGNMENT FOR THE LIAR AND POLITICAL GREENHORN ALEX CUMMINGS WHO HAD TO BE FORCED BY A COURT TO PAY PEOPLE HE CUMMINGS HIRED AS POLLWATCHERS. This is why:

    (5) cummings was displayed on FPA´S HEADLINES “SHOUTING FIRE IN A CROWDED THEATER” WHEN THE TRUTH IS THERE WAS OR THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO FIRE BUT CALM AND SERINITY.

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