Saturday, March 29, 2008

Easter in Sierra Leone

Our ELCA synod young adult group is visiting the companion church in Sierra Leone. Here is a message sent by Bishop Kanouse on Easter.

Dear NT-NL Friends:

"Jesus Christ is Risen Today! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!" The first Easter cry rang out about 8 PM on Saturday from the terrace of the rising Jubilee Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa. We were joined for the Easter Vigil by about 200 other worshipers who met in the gathering darkness to hear seven Old Testament readings plus the Easter Gospel in preparation for 42 (!) baptisms of infants, youth, young adults, and senior citizens! "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit... You are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever... Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." 42 times those words were spoken and the candles of the newly baptized glowed, filling the terrace with the new light of the Risen Jesus Christ. It was a marvelous culmination of the Triduum, the three Holy days leading up to Easter.

On Maundy Thursday our 14 young adults plus Billye Jean and I remembered our Lord's last supper as we also worshiped on the terrace of the Jubilee Centre. On Good Friday, we went to two local congregations, King of Kings Lutheran Church at the Fire Force building next to the Jubilee Centre or at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Kissy. It was a moving experience to share in the walk through Holy Week with our Sierra Leone brothers and sisters.

Today, Easter Sunday, our youth split into four groups and we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord at Faith Community (Pastor Marie Barnett's church in Lumley), St. Mark's in Calaba Town, St. Paul's in Kissy, and at Calvary Lutheran Church where we visited the school earlier in the week.

It has been a week of celebrating, making incredible new friends, learning the culture of our Companion Church, and enjoying the beach. On Saturday, we had a picnic at No. 2 River where we visited Lord of the White Sands Lutheran Church. On the way there, we stopped at Baw Baw and visited King of Glory Lutheran Church and school. Throughout the week we have been accompanied by about 50 youth and learned that the MAJORITY of the members of the churches are 29 years of age or younger! This is a youthful and growing church from which we can learn a great deal about DiscipleLife Formation.

Some of our young men joined the fishermen along the beach to pull in the fishing nets full of a new catch. We've had a few opportunities to shop for souvenirs and we've eaten at a variety of authentic restaurants where our youth were not afraid to sample the local cuisine.

Tonight we conclude our time here with a visit to the home of Bishop Tom and Marie Barnett for a closing dinner and celebration where 75 are expected for a night of singing, sharing, and perhaps a few tears as we bid farewell to our new friends and prepare to return home on Monday and Tuesday. All of our young adults have been deeply moved and are committed to coming back at some time in the future. We give thanks for your prayers for our journey, your words of encouragement to our youth, and your financial contributions that made this trip possible. We look forward to telling more of our story at the Synod Assembly and through a post-trip video we will put together.

Grace and Peace in Christ,
Kevin S. Kanouse, Bishop

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