Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Visit From the President (of Liberia)

Today, we heard from the President of Liberia, Her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Bishop John Innis, the bishop of Liberia, introduced the President by telling the remarkable story of how she came to be president and how she came to speak to us. She has had a fascinating journey, even having been put under arrest once for speaking out against the government of the time. In 2006, she became the first woman to ever serve as president of an African country.

The president has a distinguished, almost regal, air about her, and speaks with the careful consideration of a person who is well acquainted with speaking to crowds as large as this. She was greeted by a thunderous standing ovation, accompanied by the ululations of several African women in the hall.

I found it particularly touching that Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf was also welcomed by the children of the “Hope for Africa” children’s choir, about whom I have already blogged. What a message of hope for these children—not only that a person from their continent is addressing the General Conference, but that a woman—the first woman president in African history—has proven that a child from Africa can become whatever he or she desires to be.

Some comments from the speech:

-- 3 billion people (nearly half the population of the world) live on less than $2.00 a day.

-- 270 million children around the world have no access to health services.

--1 child dies every three seconds from preventable causes.

--Many children in Liberia were “drafted” to become soldiers in the civil war that took place in that country.

--44% of children in Liberia are enrolled in schools, the majority of whom are girls.

--Incentives are now being offered to talented people who will serve as teachers in rural Liberia.

--Development cannot succeed, unless the citizens are involved in conception and implementation of the development plans.

--The United Methodist Church has stood with the people of Liberia for over 175 years, since we sent the first missionaries to that country (the country’s first president, and the longest serving president, were both United Methodists).

The United Methodist Church owns and runs schools, hospitals, clinics, and rural outposts throughout Liberia.

The people of Liberia are thankful for the Church’s assistance in the past, but the people of Africa need the Church more now than ever before.

--Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf urged the delegates to consider establishing a Western Africa campus for Africa University.

--Children and Youth in Africa are truly our hope for the future; once, when the Presidential security team came through Liberia to prepare the way for the President’s convoy, children ran away. Now, when they know the President is coming, they flock the convoy and encourage her to get out and greet them.

“Liberia is on the way back. Africa is on the way back. There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Our world can indeed be made a future of hope and peace.”

After her speech, the president was greeted by the Council of Bishops, one by one. One bishop even paused to take a picture of her with his cell phone! I guess even bishops get a little star-struck now and then.

Once again, we are shown that there is a “future with hope” in another part of our world.




gavin richardson said...

i wish i was able to catch that. it was probably the one part of the whole thing that i'd really want to be there for.

David MacDonald said...


Thanks for the comment! Yes, it was truly a great moment--personally, and for the Church. It was good to see, in person, an individual who has done such good for her people, and is an inspiration for future generations.