LIBERIA: Salesian missionaries visit remote villages of Sahnpa and Zeah after more than a year
(MissionNewswire) Located far within the Liberian forest, the Salesian mission in the district of Tappita in Nimba County, Liberia, was restarted in 2018 after years of forced absence. Just a few weeks ago, Salesian missionaries were able to visit the villages of Sahnpa and Zeah for the first time after more than a year. “Last year, the rains started early and so they took us by surprise,” explained the director of the mission, Father Riccardo Castellino. It was the rains and other challenges that prevented Salesian missionaries from traveling in the region.
Currently, Sahnpa has no real church because the structure was crushed by a falling tree during a bad storm in 2016. To avoid the complete dispersion of the community, one of the members of the village has made a room in his house available for Sunday meetings.
“On our recent visit, one villager beat on a wheel rim of a truck which serves as a bell to summon people, more than a dozen gathered and were surprised to see a priest, but extremely happy they had not been forgotten,” adds Fr. Castellino.
After the Catholic Mass, Fr. Castellino was brought to see the place where the church stood and where the community intends to rebuild it. The area is currently an expanse of brushwood but there are reconstruction materials including blocks of mud, cut and stacked timber and metal sheets ready to use. Father Castellino notes, “They need more funding for materials to start the construction.”
For work on the church to resume, the site needs to be cleaned up and cement, tools and construction materials need to be acquired. To raise funds, Fr. Castellino asked community members to make a donation and send it to him. He adds, “We will try to do something to make sure that with the arrival of the rains, this community has a roof under which to gather to pray and grow in faith.”
Another local Salesian missionary made the trip to Zeah. Once there, he discovered that village residents don’t have a church building but instead celebrate mass under a Palava Hut, a kiosk used for village meetings. “With the church or without the church, faith survives! But we commit ourselves to doing something for them too and to visit them a little more often,” concludes Fr. Castellino.
Salesian Missions has been working in Liberia since 1979 when it opened its first vocational technical institute there. An estimated 64 percent of Liberians live below the poverty line and 1.3 million live in extreme poverty out of a population of 4.6 million, according to World Food Programme. Food security is also affecting 41 percent of the population making chronic malnutrition high.
The country was devastated by the recent Ebola outbreak with 10,678 people affected and 4,810 reported deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Salesian missionaries worked to unite vulnerable Ebola orphans with relatives or with educational programs to provide much needed ongoing care. Other Salesian programs provide food, medical care and education to Ebola orphans and former child soldiers.
ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)
World Bank – Liberia