The Words of the Sakpedeh Family

Think Of God

Florence Kofi-Sakpedeh
February, 1999

I'm from Liberia in West Africa, from the capital, Monrovia. Before the war, Liberia had a population of 2.8 million people. Its resources are gold, diamonds, iron ore, cocoa, coffee and timber. Ninety-eight percent of the people are Christians and two percent are Muslims.

I was born in a family of 12 children. My mother was a village pastor and my father was a town chief and farmed cocoa and coffee. My grandmother had a big town church and was a pastor and a spiritual healer.

My family members were strong believers in God. My grandma taught us all the importance of God. Every morning we woke up and prayed together, and in the evening also. She was so kind that up until now we live on her merit. Our mother also followed our grandma's footsteps, and we her children do the same. Even though almost everyone took part in the war in Liberia, none of my family members got involved.

In 1988 there was a period of prophecy. Every night, from 2:00 am until 5:00 am, a lady would go up and down the streets ringing a bell and announcing "Judgment will come upon Liberia and we must repent." In the Old Testament Amos said, "Surely the Lord does nothing without revealing his will to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:6).

In 1989 rebel fighters entered the country unexpectedly and worked to take down the government. Not only the government suffered but the entire people that lived in the country suffered the consequences. It was more than a judgment upon the entire people.

I had six children, but only four are currently seen. My children, my mother and other relatives, were seeking a way to escape. Soldiers entered the capital from all sides with machine guns, cutlasses, sticks and knives. Air bombs, ground bombs and sea bombs exploded from all directions all around us. Families were separated. Only God was the answer.

The children are under you like chicks under a hen. But in such circumstances people get confused by the sound and sight of bombs and explosions. People go in all directions. The children, my mother and I were running along the road for safety.

We were in line, and they were killing every one, one by one. They tortured people before they shot them, and then threw the bodies in a hole. My turn was coming. They stabbed me, and I looked at them and said, "Think of God." Something happened. Shooting came from another direction, and they turned aside. I threw myself down on a dead body and stayed there one, two, three days. Then somehow I recovered.

Remember, if anything happens to you, in whatever circumstance, say, "Think of God," and pronounce his name. He is with you at that moment. He will never leave you.

There on the road, the soldiers would look at people and accuse them, whether they knew anything about them or not. You could not open your mouth to say anything. The soldiers took the clothing off the people who were trying to run away. They killed people for the rings on their fingers and ears. My twin babies were in my hands, and Floyd, Barbara and Patrick were with my mother behind me. They took the babies out of my arms. My mother went crazy when they stabbed me and I fell. I told her, "Don't cry! Think of God!" She and the children thought I was dead. She couldn't stand the tension and tried to plead for me, but the soldiers grabbed her. I didn't see them again for years. I was left with only my picture of Jesus. That gave me hope, and I trusted in God.

The whole time people were running in one direction and another, the only topic of discussion was God. No human being could solve the situation. Every time I went looking for my children, the way was blocked and I could not get through. You get to a roadblock and people ask you questions. You can't speak a word. If you open your mouth they put a gun to your head. God was our only hope.

On the road there were children two and three years old wandering around by themselves. When you walked by they grabbed onto your clothes begging you to take them with you, because their mother and father were killed. Families were separated because the parent was at work when the fighting broke out or because someone had gone to try to find food and couldn't get back. I went looking for the girls and got stuck and couldn't get back. Everywhere I found Liberians I asked where my children and mother were. I didn't know until 1994 if these children you see were alive.

One time people ran into a Lutheran Church compound for refuge. Government troops entered and killed thousands of people. I and a man I didn't know stood behind the tattered picture of Jesus on the pulpit, and the soldiers who were doing the killing did not see us. What faith we had to stand behind the picture of Jesus! On another occasion, an innocent man who was about to be killed held a little Bible on his chest and recited the 23rd Psalm. The soldiers shot at him seven times but the bullets could not penetrate the Bible.

We walked east for three months, experiencing many ups and downs, to the border of the Ivory Coast. The 23rd Psalm was our thought and it gave us hope in God. Millions of refugees were living in the Ivory Coast. The starvation was horrible. Because of starvation and the presence of those who had tortured us in our country, we couldn't bear it there. We moved out of Ivory Coast and went north to Mali.

Life when we arrived in Mali was like the Kingdom of Hell on earth. Temperatures in the sun were 150 to 160 degrees. The heat was unbearable. The only available rice, which is the staple food for Liberians, was so old that it turned to dust when we touched it. There had been no rain for over 26 years. Strong winds blew through the houses and knocked down the walls. Sick people who went to the hospital died, whether they could speak the local language or not. God is missing in action in Mali. We met the real Satan in Bamako, the capital of Mali.

How could we get out? We were stranded. We had no money to run out. No English-speaking person is allowed to work or sell in a French-speaking country. My husband David and I began a week of prayer vigils, singing and praying for three hours every night, from 12:00 midnight until 3:00 am. During every crucial time in our life in Mali, we did this. There was no need to sacrifice eating because we were already starving. At the end of every seven days something wondrous would come from God. Somebody would give us food to eat, like manna from heaven.

In 1996 we learned that my mother was killed in the war, leaving my old father alone with my children. We held a prayer vigil for four hours each night for 21 days, and we pleaded with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to repatriate us to Liberia. The drama was like Moses appealing to Pharaoh to leave Egypt. At the end God changed our direction and brought us here. In 1997 we arrived at the airport in New York City without knowing where we were going to go. Praise God, no machine guns greeted us on our arrival to the United States.

In the United States, Satan came in again, and an unexplainable drama began. God sent both spiritual angels and a physical angel (Joy Pople) to rescue me. While his angels were comforting me, he was inspiring a few others, including sister Elke Noll, Pam Stupa, Amy Daniel, and the Grace Episcopal Church, especially Father Shaffer. Praise be unto God.

With your warm hearts, hospitality, and obedience you have healed the wounds, pains, tears and great sufferings of my children and me. You represent the angels of God, rescuing Lot and his family from the world of Hell, like Joseph who rescued an entire family from the hunger of Canaan and like Moses who rescued the Israelites from Egypt.

May God richly bless you in abundance. May the glory and forgiveness of God shine upon you. May God continue to speak to your hearts, always.

Thank you for your support, presence, care and gift of yourself, which you share so wonderfully.

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