Republic of Sierra Leone
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Sierra Leone lies on Africa’s western coast with Guinea to the north and east and Liberia to the south. Unusual for Africa is the volcanic mountain range that runs southeasterly from the Capital, Freetown, to the thickly wooded peninsula in the south from which Sierra Leone takes its name, “the Lion Range.” The land area of Sierra Leone is approximately 72,000 sq km (28,000 sq miles) supporting a population of approximately 6.4 million people. The original inhabitants of the area were the Mende and Temne people. Two events that have helped shape the course of events in Sierra Leone were the coming of European explorers, merchants, and slave traders and later the repatriation of freed slaves from across the seas. The Portuguese, followed by the French, followed by the British eventually claimed all or parts of present-day Sierra Leone for their own exploitation. In 1787 the first attempt at establishing a colony for repatriated blacks (and some whites) failed after most of these inhabitants died of disease. In 1792 freed slaves were brought from Nova Scotia by Thomas Clarkson to found the colony of Freetown, which was transferred to British administration in 1808 and became a British protectorate in 1896. A hierarchy developed between the indigenous Mende and the former slaves that resulted in deep social division. War between the two groups in 1898 resulted in the deaths of many settlers and foreign missionaries.
Independence from Britain came in 1961. The Republic was established in 1971. Recent history of Sierra Leone has been marked by military coups, ethnic factionalism and violence. Since 1992 Civil war has cost many thousands their lives and thousands of farms in the country’s main growing areas have been lost. As agriculture accounts for 70% of the economy this loss has been terrible. Rice and palm oil are the two major crops. Some peanuts and cattle are raised in the north. Diamonds, bauxite, rutile or titanium provides much of the country’s hard currency. Currently the economy is at near standstill. The Gross National Product is estimated at only $180 ( US) per person. The country is presently governed by a single legislative body known as the House of Representatives.
In terms of religion the thirteen indigenous tribes which make up the population are split between Islam (60%), Traditional/indigenous beliefs (30%) and Christianity (10%).
The story of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Sierra Leone begins with Orlando Price. In the 1960s Orlando Price was able to go to the United States to gain an education. Returning home in 1966 and desiring to spread the Gospel to his own people Price invited Elvis Huffard, an American of the a cappella Churches of Christ, headed for Nigeria, to delay his plans for a year by first ministering in Sierra Leone. Huffard lived and worked in Freetown. Local churches started and grew. The World Bible School was able to initiate work and become active in providing education by correspondence. Beginning the late 1960s more than two dozen American missionary families of the a cappella Churches of Christ worked to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people of Sierra Leone. The Vultee and Una churches of Nashville and the Berclair church of Memphis, Tennessee were the prime supporters of the Sierra Leone mission in the early days. For a time the church in Sierra Leone continued to grow with the help of these dedicated servants.
Freetown Bible Training School was established in 1972 to provide education and leadership training for the local church. Many men took advantage of this opportunity for training and then returned to their villages to preach. The opportunity for training was short-lived as the school was forced to close in 1981 when all of the foreign workers were ordered out of the country. However, the skills provided in that brief period gave the students the opportunity to provide their own leadership after the missionaries were gone. In the 1980s the Church in Sierra Leone was said to be growing and able to manage their affairs. Approximately 25 Churches of Christ congregations were reported in 2014 with nearly 1500 members.
Bo Christian Church is associated with International Churches of Christ.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, January 7, 2014
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
For online directories of a cappella Churches of Christ see:
World Christian Broadcasting
605 Bradley Court
Franklin, TN 37607
Telephone: 615 371 8707
Fax: 615 371 8791