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The Ugly Truth about Death

adam demark

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The wailing coming from the village was very loud and unbearable to my young ears.  I really didn't understand everything about death, nonetheless, African death wail. I could hear their bare feet pounding down on the red dirt road. Running to the death house to give their condolences. Loud wails, gut wrenching wails. I didn't want to go there but I knew I had to.  Sarah was my friend, and she had died in childbirth. The family was fighting over where to bury her and the baby. I couldn't stand the yelling, the ugly death smell, and the chaos. Why? Why must they fight? I didn't understand.

It was hot and humid. Our thermometer read 105F in the shade. Surely the heat would make them stop arguing. Maybe it would be so hot that they would just quit this wailing and commence the burial for our dear Sarah. We just had her at our house. She did our laundry three times a week. She loved clean clothes. She'd pound and scrub those clothes on the wash board. I don't know how she did it. But those clothes ran clear of the red Liberian dirt. Every single time. Sarah had an amazing smile. Her eyes were so kind and she could really laugh loud. She loved her job and her life and her family. Now she was gone.

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I cried. I had never experienced death before.  Death in West Africa. Death without Christ. A Christ-less eternity.  Sarah had heard the good news of Jesus Christ. But to my knowledge she never accepted the free gift of salvation.  Oh how I wish she would've listened and accepted. 

That's the ugly truth about Death. It's so final. It comes so suddenly. And it is inevitable.  But it doesn't have to be the end.  I wanted to talk to her again. To let her know that her life mattered and that God was the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE!

I made my way over to the death hut. I was greeted by Sarah's relatives. They clung to me wailing and crying long hard sobs. Holding my hand they lead me into the dark, little room where they had carefully laid Sarah.  My eyes adjusted to being inside and I looked down to see Sarah in the makeshift coffin. Her body was decomposing in the heat. She had been laying there in that room in that box for 2 days while her family fought over the location of burial. Her skin was splitting in the heat, her beautiful skin no longer shiny and clear. Her hands were folded on her colorful wrap skirt. Her legs were spread open leaving room for her beautiful newborn baby lying still and lifeless. My eyes filled up with tears and I could feel a huge sob in my throat. I had to be brave for the family but I couldn't. As the tears rolled down my cheeks and my hands trembled with the awful truth of death, her sister hugged me and said, "I'm sorry, Sarah loved you."  I loved her too I said. I felt like that's all I could say at the moment.

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I stepped outside to catch my breath. "God, this hurts so much" I prayed for strength. The African sun was beginning to go down. I must've waited to long to bring my condolences we were losing daylight.  I wondered what was going to happen. Would they bury Sarah or would they continue to fight?  I couldn't bear the thought of prolonged wailing.

Suddenly, the ladies came to me and with hushed tones told me that they had decided to bury Sarah quickly before the sun set.  I looked over to the fields to see men digging the grave. I watched the red dirt pile up on the sides of the hole. I think I must've been in a daze because all of a sudden we were walking down to the grave site and I was being pushed along the jungle path.

I heard singing. Is that us? Are we singing now?  Why?  I wasn't sure what was happening but the words to "When we all get to Heaven" was in the air.  I remember thinking, "Why are we singing this song?" It's beautiful but it doesn't fit. Sarah isn't in Heaven.  Their voices rose strong and clear.

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing his mercy and his grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He'll prepare for us a place

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We'll sing and shout the victory

My tears fell quickly down my face as the brutal honest truth hit my heart. Unless someone comes here to tell these people about the Good news they will continue to sing these hymns without hope. Somebody has to tell them! And I believe it was at that moment that God used the death of my friend Sarah to reveal to my young heart that people need the truth of the gospel. And would I be willing to be HIS ambassador?

As the sun was setting and the hymn was being sung, Sarah's coffin was lowered into the ground. The dirt was thrown quickly over the coffin. Family gathered and said their last words to her and each other.

And just like that, it was all over. The darkness crept in and the words of the hymn hung in the air.

Onward to the prize before us
Soon his beauty we'll behold
Soon the pearly gates will open
We shall tread the streets of gold

I knew that I had that promise. That hope in Christ alone.  I really wanted to let others know too.  You see, death is ugly. But in Christ we can know that there's more to death, there's life in Christ. Eternal life.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:9-10,14-15

Note to readers: This is a true story that took place in Liberia in 1986. I was 16 years old. I was impacted by the death of my African friend, Sarah. And I never go a day without thinking of the many others who have yet to hear of the wonderful news of Jesus Christ. When we all get to Heaven...Let's continue to tell others of this powerful news... that changes the ugly truth about death!

Treasure of Truth in Earthen Vessels

adam demark

~a testimonial by Julia Comer

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves." 2 Corinthians 4:7

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As the day rapidly approached to leave for our Women's Ministry 2018 trip to Liberia, I felt tired, ill-prepared, and quite honestly uninspired.  Sounds super spiritual, right?  But I was going anyway because, at the end of the day, I knew this was exactly what God had called me to and exactly where I was supposed to be.

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Throughout the days of travel, I spent a lot of time in prayer, asking God for a timely WORD from HIM that would encourage me and be the overarching theme of the trip. That WORD came the day after we arrived in the area where we would be teaching. I was reading in Colossians when the following words caught me eye and sank deep into my heart:

This same Good News that came to you is going all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
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Yes! Lives changed by the Word of God! Well now, there's some inspiration! And as we spent time with the ladies, that's exactly what we saw happening in their lives.

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While sitting with them and their families during our house visits and within the formal teaching sessions that occurred on George and Lucy's front porch, we heard statements over and over again. They attested to how TRUTH was impacting and changing their lives. Statements like, "I am happy because now I understand that I am free. There is no more need for sacrifice because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for my sin."  "Even though it is according to our culture to call our children 'bad, bad names' (insulting names) when they are "being frisky" (acting up), I know now that it is not right for me to do this because the Bible teaches that I am to be kind and encouraging with my words."  She clearly heard the message from Ephesians 4:17-31

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And a few more... "If we really understand what all Christ has done for us, why would we want to keep on sinning?" "I am in Christ and nothing can change that. I know now that I have eternal life because I am believing in what Christ did for me.

We sang a song most every day called, "Complete in Him" one of the lines in the song says, "There's nothing more that I can do for Jesus paid it all."  The ladies rejoiced greatly in this TRUTH!

As our time in Liberia wrapped up and we headed home, I found myself thanking God over and over that He is willing to use weak vessels like me to accomplish His kingdom work. Being a part of what He is doing around the world is a great adventure!   I don't want to miss out!  So, as God gives me opportunity, I will continue to go; and as a team, our prayer will continue to be that these ladies who are wives, mothers, and grandmothers within their own homes and sister, neighbours and friends within their communities will continue to apply and live out the truth they have heard.  Impacting the people around them with the glorious TRUTH of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Porch Talks and Rain Drops

adam demark

They say one of the most relaxing sounds is water falling. They also say that one of the most relaxing places is just right out on your own front porch. Put these two together...well, that's just the BEST scenario!

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Unless you're trying to teach a Bible study...and you're pupils can't make it and the ones who did make it can't hear you!

You see in Liberia when it rains, it POURS! And this June it poured for DAYS! There was water everywhere...not just running down the road but in the house! This might have kept us on our toes (and on our knees).  Teaching to 15 ladies over the sound of pouring rain can be interesting. Actually, it's not possible. The rains are too loud. That's ok.  That scenario only happened a few times. Once it rained for 14 hours straight.  That time we just had 3 ladies show up. It doesn't mean we couldn't dig into God's Word...we did! And you know what?  It was God's perfect scenario. It's what those three ladies needed on that rainy afternoon.

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It's in the those moments when you realize life is sometimes a whole lot of both pouring rain and quiet porch talks. 

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Much of our time is made up of planning life out. Finding the perfect scenario.  Then it never turns out how we hoped it would!  But maybe that's a good thing.  God shows up in all HIS PERFECT ways.  He has it planned out. It looks different then our little scenario did.  Bible classes in the pouring rain might be one of those scenarios.

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Then you have the one on one porch visits. Discussing what God is saying in HIS WORD. And how that applies to your life today. Because we say the most beneficial word is straight from God's Word!

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And the house visits. Those are special. There's something about seeing where a person calls home. And their special people. Culturally, a visit is a show of respect. It begins to chip away at the concept of us being superior and begins to establish more of a friendship which definitely benefits our discipleship goal. It gave us a chance to meet the family members that will be impacted by a mom knowing, receiving, and living out Truth within her home. One on one discussions allow for questions that don’t always get asked in the group teaching sessions. Even husbands got in on the discussions at several houses.

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And the walks into the village. Visiting locals and loving on all the children. And their pet monkeys.

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Kindness runs far and deep. And its this outpouring that draws people to Christ. They want to know more and experience more.

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 Teaching important TRUTHS from GOD'S WORD is what brings these ladies together on a rainy day. Subjects like Who am I? My acceptance and security are firmly IN CHRIST.  Believing in Christ's finished work on the cross changes how these women live each day.

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The best scenario is to GLORIFY GOD.

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Home Sweet Home

Lesley Doerksen

A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.
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Welcome to home sweet home for 28 Liberians!  Equip2serve was so blessed to be a part of this housing project.  Pictured above is the before and after photo. Can you see why we were so excited?  What a transformation! Five units complete with a separate bathroom & shower facility & front porch. Not to mention the new shiny roof, that will not leak water when it downpours!

We're excited to walk you through with photos of the project from start to finish. Thank you to all our Equip2serve members, Thorsten Weinss, and Liberian workers for all that YOU did to see this project to completion. Thanks to Pastor Daniel who took many of these pictures.

 Supply buying in Monrovia with Hank Demark & Ken Welch

Supply buying in Monrovia with Hank Demark & Ken Welch

 The old building is torn down. Construction crew ready to start!

The old building is torn down. Construction crew ready to start!

 Precise measuring for the foundation and footers

Precise measuring for the foundation and footers

 Foundation is in! Let's get the walls up!

Foundation is in! Let's get the walls up!

 Hot days getting those big cement bricks laid. So grateful for all the guys who worked along side the Equip2serve team!

Hot days getting those big cement bricks laid. So grateful for all the guys who worked along side the Equip2serve team!

 Cement brick walls

Cement brick walls

 We couldn't have done the project without the help of these men!

We couldn't have done the project without the help of these men!

 The sacrifice of the these ladies as they cooked, and did dishes in their makeshift kitchen outside.

The sacrifice of the these ladies as they cooked, and did dishes in their makeshift kitchen outside.

 The crew still enjoyed the rice and greens for lunch.

The crew still enjoyed the rice and greens for lunch.

 Home Hardware Durham donated hats and building supplies for the team.

Home Hardware Durham donated hats and building supplies for the team.

 Ken Welch & crew working on the windows.

Ken Welch & crew working on the windows.

 All the wood was mahogany!

All the wood was mahogany!

 Pre-roof. Windows are in and the doorframes. Top plate is put in place.

Pre-roof. Windows are in and the doorframes. Top plate is put in place.

 All the rafters were made inside the church with a big crew!

All the rafters were made inside the church with a big crew!

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The rafters are up!

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 These guys worked so hard in the hot, Liberian sun!

These guys worked so hard in the hot, Liberian sun!

 Perfect zinc roof!

Perfect zinc roof!

 Cement mixed by hand for floors and porch outside

Cement mixed by hand for floors and porch outside

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Adam Demark working on inside floor.

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Inside walls & doorframes placed in each unit. Thorsten Weinss getting them level.

 Pete Doerksen & Hope nailing up the ceiling.

Pete Doerksen & Hope nailing up the ceiling.

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Front porches will make a nice place for the families to sit outside out of the sun.

 Shower stall (one of four)

Shower stall (one of four)

 Laying brick on the gable ends, closing it off.

Laying brick on the gable ends, closing it off.

 Finish project. There was a bit of inside work to do before the families moved in.

Finish project. There was a bit of inside work to do before the families moved in.

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The group who will be moving into the new unit pictured here with Pastor Daniel and his wife Alice.  We are happy to have been able to bless these people and look forward to seeing how God will use this in their lives for his glory.

Thanks to all who gave financially. Thanks to all of you who prayed.

We give GOD ALL THE GLORY!

Go and Make Disciples

Lesley Doerksen

Remember Daniel?  He rode his bike approximately 14 miles every day to attend the Bible teaching!

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In this video, Daniel doesn't include his personal journey of what happened before he came to Christ.  His life hasn't been easy. 

Abandoned as a child by his parents, he was left to survive with his grandmother.  Pretty much on his own,  he was able to attend elementary school and finish high school.  Determined to continue on despite his poverty and life situation, he managed to farm to support himself and his grandmother. Daniel now has a small church plant in Northern Ghana. He seeks to grow in his walk with God. He became a diligent student, and often was the first to class even though he had a long bike ride to get there!

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Daniel gives all the glory to God.  He comes to Christ knowing that there nothing he has to offer.

Our team impressed by his perseverance, gave him a bike pump for his bike. It didn't seem like a huge gift but to Daniel it was. Pure gold.  His thanks was said in tears as he accepted the pump. After lunch he confessed that no one had ever given him a gift like this one. Nor had they ever taken him out for lunch!

Grateful for the simple blessings in life.

"I am Free!"  Daniel shares when he comes to Christ. 

Freedom in Christ. 

Freedom to proclaim the Good News!

Daniel has a heart to follow God. 

And to MAKE DISCIPLES!