A container full of aid, hope

Liberia: A Laurel church collects goods for needy residents of the war-torn African country.


September 03, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After months of delay because of the rainy season in Liberia, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is poised to ship a 20-foot-long container with supplies to aid people who have suffered during a 14-year civil war in the West African nation.

"We had the container all packaged and ready to go, but we had to wait until we could be sure that we could get it through," said the Rev. Connie Miller, who serves as pastor of the church with her husband, the Rev. Tom Miller. "Now that we've made some contacts with people in the area, we plan to send it in October."

About four years ago, the Laurel-based church started the Liberia Project after Daniel Solee, a church member who sought refuge from the war in Liberia, urged the congregation to help those suffering in his homeland.

The Liberian civil war began in 1989 after Charles Taylor led a group of Libyan-trained rebels in overthrowing the government run by Samuel K. Doe, who was killed during the war.

Fighting in the country has led to the deaths of more than 250,000 Liberians and the displacement of millions into refugee camps.

With help from the international community, the war ended about a year ago after Taylor, who was elected president in 1997, was forced into exile in Nigeria.

Solee, whose parents and other relatives were killed in the war, said the region is gradually returning to calm with the presence of 15,000 United Nations troops.

An interim government oversees the country, and elections are scheduled next year.

Solee said he is concerned about his siblings and extended family members, along with other Liberians without homes and in need of medical help.

"I came here as a refugee in 1990, and I got my citizenship," said Solee, who works for the Howard County Department of Social Services.

But, he said, "I keep thinking about the thousands of Liberians, particularly those concentrated in Lofa County, who are displaced. And that's why it's important to get medical supplies to them."

Holy Trinity Lutheran will sponsor a multicultural festival at 4 p.m. Oct. 9 at the church to celebrate diverse cultures with food and fellowship, and to collect monetary donations to help Liberian refugees.

The church is also accepting contributions to the shipment and money to help with shipping costs of about $4,000.

According to the project's Web site, www.liberiaproject.org, the church is in need of items that include a portable generator; a sturdy, four-wheel-drive vehicle to be used as an ambulance; medical equipment, including blood-pressure cuffs, bandages and syringes; textbooks for junior and senior high school students; and Bibles.

The church's shipment will be the fourth one it has sent to the nation in recent years. The church has donated more than $10,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment to the country, Solee said.

According to the Web site, the church's long-term goals in the country include helping to build or renovate a health facility and establishing a high school.

Solee said he is thankful to God, his church and the international community for helping his native land.

"My wife and my family are very grateful," he said. "We want to continue to bring an awareness to the needs in Liberia."

The Millers said it wasn't a hard decision to start the project.

"The Lutheran Church has a long history in Liberia with missions," Connie Miller said.

Her husband said Liberian officials have visited the church and expressed their gratitude to the congregation.

"The folks came here from Liberia and said thank you, and that's how we know that we've made a difference," he said.

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