This short account of the 3 years the Ntumy family spent as missionaries in Liberia between 1988 and 1991 will leave you not wanting to put the book down until you have got to the end. His story will take you on an adventure into the Bible showing how God's Word can be relied on and trusted even when you have nothing. You will be reminded of the power of prayer and fasting, of the miraculous working God and that He will make a way where there is no way. The war years in Liberia were filled with pain, trauma and death for the civilians. Yet time and again, just when a calamity such as torture, imprisonment, or death was to strike, there was a miraculous intervention on behalf of the missionary. In this book, you would find out how much it really costs to serve God and the tremendous benefits of knowing that you are operating in His will. For on Christmas Eve, 1989, their lives would never be the same again. May yours also never be the same.
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APOSTLE DR. MICHAEL NTUMY
Christian Best Seller
HOSTAGED IN LIBERIA:
A missionary's harrowing account.
APOSTLE DR MICHAEL NTUMY
Copyright © 2015 by Apostle Dr Michael Ntumy The Church Of Pentecost, Germany
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrievable system, or transmitted in any form or by any means --electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the express written consent of the Copyright owner.
Layout & Cover Design by Isaac Annor
ALL MISSIONARIES OF:
THE CHURCH OF PENTECOSTELIM PENTECOSTAL CHURCHES, U.K
My special gratitude goes to Apostle Emmanuel Gyesi-Addo, International Missions Director of The Church of Pentecost for writing the Foreword and to Rev Paul Hudson, International Missions Director of Elim Pentecostal Church, U.K, for contributing remarks on the back cover of the book.
Special mentions go to Rev. Isaac Annor of The Church of Pentecost Headquarters in Accra. He designed the cover and formatted the manuscript. Apostle Jonathan Ajayi, National Head of COP Liberia, Pastors Joseph Slewion, Eric Kollie and Elder Emmanuel K. N. Asmah also of COP Liberia helped in providing photos of the locations mentioned in the book.
“Uncle” Jim Amekporfor is the Paris-based journalist of a reputable international Press. He edited the manuscript and offered many suggestions which have enhanced the quality of the book. To him I express sincere thanks.
Elder Dr. Samuel Amo Tobbin, CEO of Tobbinco Group of Companies and Deacon Emmanuel Blay, Managing Director of Star Capital Ltd for their financial support towards the printing of this edition.
To my dear wife and our beloved children, I express my deepest appreciation for their love and continued support.
Many people take the grace of being alive and in good health for granted. Socrates, the Greek philosopher is quoted as saying: “The unexamined life is not worth living,” It is also true that the Christian who is unaware of the beauty of grace in his life has missed the entire point of living the Christian life.
Out of the awareness of grace, I believe, comes true freedom, authority, power, love, worship, and life in abundance. This is the point that Apostle Dr. Michael Kwabena Ntumy makes in this book, HOSTAGED IN LIBERIA: A missionary's harrowingaccount. In it, the Author illustrates the grace of God in the midst of difficult circumstances and the catastrophic consequences of the Liberian civil war.
In this second edition of the book, the Author goes further, with the addition of more chapters, to demonstrate the fact that divine grace is more than deliverance, second chances, surprises, and unmerited gifts. Grace not only comes in our inability and failures, but provides radical changes and a paradigm shift in our belief system.
Dr. Ntumy's experiences at the Flamingo Camp in Liberiacan be described as one of hardship and suffering bornewith heroic fortitude, and self-devotion. What made thesituation worse was the awful apprehension they facedabout the uncertainty of their fate day after day. God in Hisfaithfulness kept them strong and finally made a way fortheir deliverance from that horrendous camp. The storyserves as an outstanding example for all Missionaries onthe field and would-be missionaries of the faithfulness ofGod even in hopeless circumstances. It is also anencouragement to perseverance in missionary labors.
Apostle Ntumy believes that the events of the civil war and the days in captivity have built in him a special trust in the LORD and prepared him for the later events and stages of his life.
This book finds relevance for both the believer who is strong in faith, the seeker and even for the agnostic. For the missionary, its message is timeless - what sustains a missionary during times of crisis is the hope that God gives.
That hope is fundamentally based on who God is and what He says He will do. The story, sculptured in the socio-cultural milieu of both rural and urban West Africa in the late 80's to the present, could also serve as a reference material for researchers and research institutions in Missiology, and the security implications of instability on the psychological, social, economic and cultural effects on the population (including non-citizens), for both Liberia and West African sub-region as a whole.
This book will bless anyone who reads it with an open mind, a willing heart and above all, the desire to act. Anyone can trust God when the going is easy. It is when everything looks impossible that our faith is put to the test and God shows Himself greatest. As you reflect quietly on the pages of this book, it is my fervent prayer that your trust in God will be lifted to a very high pedestal and become great enough to tackle your most difficult situation. May it transform the faith of the reader to a high level such that, the reader will possess the heartfelt inner confidence to know that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. If the principles of this book are taken seriously and adhered to, it will engender faith and transform lives.
May your will, intellect and emotions act in tune with the truth and power of God as you explore the hidden treasures contained in HOSTAGED IN LIBERIA: A missionary'sharrowing account. . I give it my heartfelt recommendation.
Emmanuel Gyesi-Addo (Apostle) International Missions Director
The Church of Pentecost.
From the Military into the MinistryI loved the military. I still have a very strong passion for the uniform corps. The uncle after whom I was named fought for the British during the Second World War in Burma. As a boy I would often dress in his uniform and would tell everyone around that I was a soldier.
As I grew, my passion for the military increased. The willingness of the soldier to defend his nation, and his fellow man for that matter, exposing himself to danger even to the extent of paying the ultimate sacrifice, to me, was the noblest thing to do.
Everything I did in those years had military service as the ultimate goal. I wanted to rise to one of the highest ranks, my preferred being “Major-General”(somehow, as a kid the prefix “Major” appealed very much to me, thinking it emphasized what kind of “General” he was.). After university I would enter into Ghana's famous Military Academyand pass out as a Lieutenant and rise through the ranks to achieve my dream. My purpose was not to lord my position over others but to show exemplary leadership to my subordinates. This would be my best service to my nation and to my generation.
I did not have to graduate from university and pass out of military academy before becoming a soldier. I convinced myself that I already was one. I defended the cause of the weak, appearing on the scene to literally snatch them from the hands of their bullies. I “trained” myself in bravery and courage, facing danger without shrinking or intimidation. I subjected myself to a hard and rigorous living, all in my perceived personal preparation for formal military service.
My father spurred me on by telling me what a real “man” was: bold, brave, strong, not complaining when things went wrong but finding the best solution, being decisive, ready to help others especially those in danger and wearing a blank expression that is, allowing nobody to read your mind by looking at your face. All these should be matched with honesty, truthfulness and hard work.
Meanwhile, I had graduated from Atebubu Teachers Training College at age 19, and began my teaching career in Ghana's northern town of Yendi. It was there, and in The Church of Pentecost, that I encountered my Savior Jesus Christ and became fully involved in Christian leadership and service.
My commitment and zeal for God and the church were so high that after two years I was ordained Deacon, and, a year later, as Elder in the Church. I had a passion for God and desired to have people accepting Jesus Christ into their lives.
After school, I would engage in personal evangelism and lead converts to church. I loved to pray and would spend several days every month fasting and in reverent submission. I joined other members of the church in all-night prayer meetings. I loved preaching at open-air gospel crusades and was delighted to see people streaming upfront to accept Jesus into their lives. I was amazed at seeing miracles happening right before me—the blind, cripple, the hearing-impaired and the mute all getting instantly healed. I was awed by the power of Jesus' name—how just mentioning His name produced such spectacular results. I loved to establish the faith of new converts as well as teaching and preaching the word of God.
Not long after, the Lord began to use me in very profound ways. Demonic spirits were cast out from people, the mute spoke instantly, some cripples walked as we prayed for them as well as other sicknesses being healed. Eventually, my Pastor placed me in charge of four local churches where I would visit, and minister. Over time, many people became convinced that God had other plans for my life than that of a school teacher.
Personally, I got increasingly convinced that God was calling me into full-time pastoral ministry. While I loved the Lord and His work, I did not think full-time pastoral ministry was for me. I wanted to be a soldier, an officer in the military. In my dreams and other forms of revelation, confirmed by those that other people had, I knew I was to be a pastor but my passion for the military tried to stifle the voice of God within. One day the tension came to a head.
The Presiding Elder of my local church came to my house and told me God had laid on his heart that he and I should go to one village and start another church. The period we were supposed to go coincided with the time I was going to write my university entrance examination. When I told him about my impending examination, he bluntly replied, “If you want your own wishes to precede the will of God, you may go ahead. If you want God's will to come first in your life, let's go.” Having said that he left.
While many others will simply have rationalized that statement and simply brush it aside, for me it landed like a bombshell. I loved the LORD and wanted His will to come first in my life. However, I also wanted to have a good education to brighten my future prospects in the military.
Accepting to go with the Elder would mean truncating my educational pursuit and my military ambitions.
When the Elder left my house, I was gripped by emotion. I knew I had come to a turning-point in my life. I rushed to my bedroom, dropped on my knees and poured out my soul in agonizing prayer and profuse weeping. I felt as though I was throwing my future away. I knew what I was going through was not an illusion but giving up everything seemed very hard for me to do. Suddenly after about two hours, I felt a sweet release within me. I heard myself saying, “LORD, I give my future to you—yes, my future and all that is in it. Take my life and use me as you wish.”
I got up, washed my face and rushed to tell the Elder that I was ready to go with him to that village. He seemed somehow sorrowful for what he had said and indicated that he could go with any other person. For me however, “the die had been cast and no amount of witchery or prayers could ever prevent the crossing of (my) Rubicon.”
From that day, I abandoned all my military ambitions and tuned my spiritual binoculars towards God and the plans He had for me. When that call came in April 1984, I GLADLY answered. I was 25 years old. I resigned from teaching and entered Pentecost Bible College to be trained for the pastoral ministry.
From the home-front to foreign missionsMy Pastor, Rev Ebenezer Appiah Agyekum, and the brethren of the Yendi congregation organized a farewell service for us.
With my wife Martha and our four-month old son, Emmanuel, we bundled our few belongings into a truck and headed for our first duty station.
Tamale, capital of Ghana's Northern Region, was our destination where I was to assume duty as District Pastor. The head of our church in that region, Apostle Samuel Kofi Ansong and his wife Cecilia, received us with open arms and mentored us in an exceptional manner. The older people in the church considered us as their own children while the younger ones as one of them in all respect. All they waited from me was an instruction and directives of what needed to be done… an all-night prayer meeting, a retreat or seminar, bible study, house-to-house witnessing, gospel crusades/rallies or whatever form of activity…and it was done. One could not differentiate me from them, all hands were on deck.
Our ministry in Tamale was however not destined to be long.
After only eleven months we were transferred to Krachi-Nkwanta in the Volta Region. Painful as it was to both the church and ourselves, we left Tamale with the joy of having done what we felt was just what the LORD wanted us to do.
During that period of eleven months, we were enabled to plant three vibrant congregations and left behind a District bonded in Christian love and on fire for God Krachi-Nkwanta is a rural town at the northern fringes of the Volta Region, bordering the Northern Region and the Republic of Togo on the east. Our church in the district consisted of seven scattered congregations with a combined membership of 153. It was a newly carved church district and I was to be the first pastor to be stationed there. Only three of the congregations were by the main road. The others could only be reached by bicycle or on foot. Since there was no means of transport, I had to walk various distances and cross dangerous rivers to reach those churches. The longest distance was 24 km to Alokpatsa. The first time I went there, my greatest fear was how to make the return journey; 48 km in two days on foot! My worst nightmare came when on our return to the main road, the last cars plying that road had closed. We could not afford to fail the members of the next congregation who were waiting for us that evening …ten kilometers away.
We had to walk.
The challenges of Krachi-Nkwanta notwithstanding, after three years, we had doubled in size to fourteen congregations and more than quadrupled in membership to nearly seven hundred. It was fulfilling to see the stranglehold of idolatry over people's lives broken and multitudes delivered and trooping to the LORD. It was a delight to see converts established in the LORD and becoming soul-winners. The church became “attractive” to many and enjoyed the respect of many. Personally, many regarded me as the pastor of the town, enjoying their goodwill and favor, although some colleague pastors of other churches privately accused me of poaching their members. It also came to my hearing that some others also felt that the huge successes that we were experiencing was as a result of my use of some cultic powers. I was shocked but not worried, remembering the allegations against Jesus Himself that He cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub.
After sometime, the people of my church began to be worried.
One day I asked Elder Isaac Ahorsu who was like my protégé what the problem was. He confided in me that pastors like me do not always remain at one station for long; they are often whisked away to some other place whenever there was the need for a “dynamic” pastor in that place. In brief, they were sure that from the way the church was growing and progressing, it would not be long before I would snatched from and transferred elsewhere.
It was not long when their worst fears came true. I had travelled to Tamale to participate in the farewell service of my godfather, Apostle Samuel Ansong. Maggie, their daughter expressed her intention of coming to visit us at Krachi-Nkwanta but “because of our transfer to Liberia, it would no longer be possible."
“Transfer to Liberia,” I retorted. Since when was I transferred to Liberia without my knowledge?”
Well, the respectable apostle brought me a copy of the church's circular from the office of the Chairman of the church and there it was. I had been called into missionary service and being sent to Liberia to assist the National Head of the church.
(In the ministry of The Church of Pentecost, every minister was to be prepared for transfer at any time to anywhere, even without prior consultation if the exigencies so demanded.) That was my case. The absence of telephones and the bad roads at that time virtually cut off Krachi-Nkwanta from the rest of the country, making it difficult for the flow of communication from the Headquarters of the church.
I returned to my duty station and prepared to leave for Liberia.
16 October 1988 was the date for our farewell service prior to our transfer to Liberia. Reverend J. K Ennumh and all our pastors and key leaders of our church in the Volta Region of Ghana, from Aflao in the south to Kpasa in the north, were present.
Soon the joyful songs of praise by the congregation metamorphosed into heavy sobs; as if the reality of our departure had then dawned on the members. The climax of the farewell service was the imposition of hands by ministers upon us in prayer, asking for divine help in the assignment to which we had been called.
Then it happened: as soon as the prayers ended, there was a prophecy through a girl who appeared to be in her late teens and whom I did not know. Later I got to know her by the name Sarah Owusu of Old Tafo in the Ashanti Region capital of Kumasi. She had gone to visit a pastor in the Volta Region who then travelled with him to Krachi-Nkwanta for our farewell service. “Thus says the LORD,” Sister Sarah started, “Myservant, I am sending you to where you are going. Don't think theassignment is going to be easy. It's going to be rough anddangerous.… But I am with you. I will deliver you and honor you forall to know that I am the faithful God. I will also increase yournumber as a family and bring you safely back home. Thereafter, I willuse you mightily in ways which you cannot understand now. Do notbe afraid”
So it was, after four years of ministry in my home country, we responded to the missionary call of God. A few days later, armed with missionary zeal and passion, we bade farewell to Ghana and headed for Liberia. The LORD had only opened a little window into the future for us to know that the assignment was going to be “rough and dangerous.”
However, what the difficulties and dangers were, we did not know. Later events would unfold to reveal what those rough times and dangers entailed.
Brief historical overview
LIBERIA, the oldest African Republic, lies on the West Coast of Africa, between Sierra-Leone to the west, Guinea to the northwest and Cote d'Ivoire to the east.
Founded as an American Colony for freed slaves around 1821, she was granted independence on 26th July, 1847, with J.J. Roberts as the first President.
Very close ties were still retained with America, including the use of the American dollar.
The Republic enjoyed political stability for over a century until 1980, when Master Sergeant Samuel Doe toppled the administration of the nineteenth President, Dr. William Tolbert, beheading him in a bloody coup d'état.
Sergeant Doe's military regime, under The Armed Forces Ruling Council, ruled Liberia until 1985 when his National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) won the elections with himself elected the First President of the Second Republic.
To the indigenous Liberian, (as contrasted to the descendants of the freed slaves, also called the "Congo" People, who had dominated the political arena since independence) it was a time of real freedom, for Doe, also an indigenous national, to assume power. Above all, the fact that he was the “Youngest President in the whole world" at that time (he was about 29 years old when he staged the coup d'état, 34 years old when his party won the elections and was sworn in as president), was a bragging point to many of his compatriots.
Socially, Liberia was a very peaceful country. The people virtually lived in accord with the spirit of the motto of the nation: “The love of liberty brought us here.” Everybody minded his “own business” and offenses against another were simply resolved with an apology, “I say, don't mind, yea.” This made normal life on the streets very friendly and casual. Though mostly poor, majority of the people were satisfied with their lot, with those financially well-off sharing liberally with their unlucky compatriots. Life in Liberia was “sweet.” Lebanese and other businessmen had introduced payment by installment, thus enabling every salaried worker to have access to credit. Many other West Africans came around to enjoy the “sweetness” of Liberia. Majority would openly enunciate the futility of travelling to USA since whatever they could have hoped to acquire in America could easily be obtainable or accessible in Liberia. One Ghanaian who was a canoe fisherman, disclosed to me that on a good day they would cash-in about three thousand US dollars in fish sales.
Ghanaian doctors, teachers, accountants and many from other professions travelled to Liberia for a piece of the nation's cake.
To the average Liberian, life was blasé'. Probably everybody had something to eat everyday. The rural dwellers, popularly called the “country people,” tilled the soil for subsistence while the city dwellers engaged in all sorts of commercial activity. Life aspirations were relatively low and most people were quite satisfied with their lot. Many families had a couple or so of their members living abroad…mostly in the United States of America. Frequently they would send remittances home for various purposes. Such people would often show off or flaunt their latest acquisitions received from abroad by phrases like, “My son in America…” The “sweetness” of Liberia was epitomized in a song by Zack and Gebah entitled, “Sweet Liberia.” The nation's television station played it as their closing signature song every night to highlight their progress in nation-building through patriotism. Thus whether real or perceived, everybody thought Liberia was “sweet” prompting even the poorest of the poor to join in the popular refrain,“I born here, I die here” (literally, “I was born here and willdie here”)
The Church of Pentecost in Liberia The Church of Pentecost was established in Ghana through the ministry of Pastor James McKeown, an Irish missionary who went to Ghana, then Gold Coast, in 1937. Soon the church spread to other countries in West Africa, then to Europe, North America, then to the rest of Africa, Asia, Australia and South and Central America. By December 2013, the church was visibly present in 84 countries around the globe.
The Church in Liberia was started in 1962 by a group of Ghanaian fishermen in West Point, Monrovia. They mobilized their folks in such coastal towns and cities as Buchanan, Marshall, Robertsport, Banjor and Harper to start branches of the church there. The key lay leaders were Elders Kobina Awotwe, Kwadwo Kum, Matthew Assefua, Acquah, and the Asmah Brothers Later Ghanaian professionals, such as teachers, accountants, medical doctors as well as artisans and businessmen who had travelled to Liberia in search of greener pastures, joined the church and helped the largely illiterate fisher folks to provide the much needed leadership for the church. Among them were Elders James Gyankomah Botwe, Francis Ofori Yeboah, Mark Etsibah, Frank Osei Owusu, Dan Walker, Andrews Cobbina, George Appau, Boadu, Owusu, Tandoh, Adu, Aboagye, Sarpong Asante, Dr. John Oduro Boateng, Frank Agyemang, Dr. W. Addo Larbi, Amos Quantsin, Kofi Eku and Ekow Christian.
Occasionally, the church in Ghana sent some visiting ministers to minister to the young church. In 1976, Apostle F.D. Walker was sent there as the first missionary. He was followed by Apostles F. C Ampiah in 1982 and D. K. Arnan in 1988, Blessed Bonney in 1996, J.W.D. Cudjoe in 2006, Massaboi Zuwu (the first Liberia to be ordained Apostle in the church) in 2010 and Nathaniel Ajayi in 2012Apostle Frederick D. Walker and wife, Florence. Apostle Daniel K. ArnanBy 1988, The of Pentecost in Liberia comprised 27congregations or local assemblies with a total membership of about 1,200. One Liberian, George Boye Logan, had been called into the full-time pastoral ministry and stationed inKakata. Two others, Edwin Mulba Flomo, Peter Michael Willie, and a Ghanaian, Eric Osei Boakye, had been called as Field Assistants and stationed in No. 3 Compound, Monrovia and Harbel (Smell-No-Taste), respectively.
Arrival and assumption of duty
That was Liberia - the country to which the International Missions Board of The Church of Pentecost sent me along with my family, to serve as a pastoral missionary under the renowned Apostle D. K Arnan, who had just ended his five-year term as General Secretary of the church worldwide.
We arrived in November 1988. From Robertsfield International Airport where we were met on arrival by some leaders of the church, we drove straight to our duty station, Buchanan, the second largest city of Liberia, about 88 miles east of Monrovia, the capital. Our residence (mission house) was the first floor of the residence of Hon. Levi Johnson, a former County Superintendent (Regional Minister).
The church in Buchanan was relatively small, with about 60 members. Besides, there were little churches at No. 3Compound, Little Bassa and a “cell group” at Oldfield in Buchanan. Altogether the Buchanan District had a total membership of about 120. In terms of logistics, the church had virtually nothing, no car, public address systems or any such tools needed for usual church work.
Our field of operation was vast, comprising almost a half of the entire nation. To the north-east, all the way to the border with Guinea, were cities like Suakoko, Ganta, Sanniquellie and Yekepa. To the east of Buchanan lay coastal cities like Cestos City (also called River Cess), Green Ville, Sasstown and the beautiful Harper City, capital of Cape Palmas, and to the Cavally River, running along the border with Ivory Coast.
With such a huge “mission field” to evangelize and plant churches, the task, humanly speaking, could appear daunting. The heartbeat of Jesus Christ in Matthew 9:37, “Theharvest is plentiful but the workers are few” finds clear meaning here.
For me however, whether there was a car, a public address system or not, made no difference. The local church in which I grew up did not have any of those items. When I met with those challenges in the mission field, it was then that I realized how oftentimes our conditions of poverty could be serving as a preparation for some future role God might have for us to fulfil.
For now we had arrived. We trusted God to provide everything we would need to facilitate the work of God.
Before then, however, it was time for action; time for “Kingdom Business.”
“Where are the difficulties God spoke about?”
We put forward a very simple five-point strategy to achieve our missionary goals:
1. Establish the faith of the few members in the existing churches in our district through systematic teaching of the word of God.
2. Strengthening the prayer lives of the members through regular times of fasting and organizing special times of prayer for baptism in the Holy Spirit, for the gifts and operations in the Holy Spirit as well as for their personal needs
3. Equip them in various aspects of Christian service such as leading of congregational prayers, personal and open-air evangelism
4. Releasing them for participatory church life and soul-winning 5. Playing their individual roles as responsible church members –supporting God's work as well as supporting one another.
Alongside Elders like Frank Agyemang, Kofi Eku and Amos Quantsin, we were blessed to have a group of young brothers and sisters in the church in Buchanan who were enthusiastic for mission engagement anywhere. Joseph Slewion had just thentered university, Eric Kollie was in 12 Grade, Cecilia and Mary Essilfie, Austin Ness, Emmanuel Kpetoe and many others were in Senior High School. Other young people like Oscar Blankson, Aikins, Isaac Efisa, Samuel Koroma, Sister Hagar Forson, John Acquah, Ofori, and Kofi Nsiah were ever ready to move at any time we had to. We mobilized them into
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