Emerging Media, Emerging Ministry in Yekepa, Liberia

By April 5, 2011

Liberia (MNN) — Liberia's first online filing for a radio license demonstrated to students at ABC University in Yekepa just how rapid, responsive, and efficient communications can be in the digital age.

The Liberian government granted the license request just three weeks after the university had filed it, assisted by Joseph Kebbie from the HCJB Global Sub-Saharan Africa Region Office in Acra, Ghana. The licensing process can take months, or even years, in some African countries.

"One advantage is that ABC has a great reputation with the Liberian government," says Curt Cole, one of HCJB Global's vice presidents of international ministries. The mission's normal procedure leaves license requests up to local partners hoping to establish Christian stations. But he and Kebbie were at Yekepa, six hours northeast of Monrovia, teaching the course, "New and Emerging Media." They focused their talks on the practical aspects of using social networking and cell phones for ministry and kingdom impact.

"University-level courses are strenuous for some of these students," Cole says. "But these younger guys are passionate about using new media, even with Liberia's very limited resources and information technology infrastructure."

Acknowledging the devastation of Liberia's 14-year civil war, Cole says that the West African nation now "seems to be coming out of that shadow." In November 2005 Liberians elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as president. Upon taking office, she became the first female elected head of state in Africa.

Kebbie was among the refugees who fled Liberia as a refugee during the country's civil war. Cole and his wife, Karen, both grew up in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) where their parents served as missionaries.

Many ABC University students were Liberian refugees in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea or Ghana for years during the wars (1989-2003). Some lost fathers, brothers, or even children in the fighting. "It is heartbreaking," Cole reflects, "but they are trying hard to focus on today, to focus on being a part of change and hope in this amazing, beautiful country."

What ABC University (formerly African Bible College in Liberia) lost was its Yekepa campus, established by Dr. Jack Chinchen in 1976. Every inch of wire was ripped out of the school buildings, according to the U.S.-based ministry, Samaritan's Purse, whose efforts helped to renovate gutted buildings. In late 2008, the school was reopened, and about 100 students are enrolled.

Karen Cole taught an education seminar, "Learning Differences in Children." Students with learning issues are often forgotten or left behind in African school systems, she explains and offered an alternative. "It was a joy to teach this course and also present an in-service to 48 teachers from the Yekepa region," Karen says. "How rich to see teachers wanting to know how to make a difference in their students' lives."

Eventually, the radio station is to be located in the university's communications building, where renovation is expected to be completed by this summer. HCJB Global plans to install equipment and put in acoustical treatments for the recording studio. The mission will also conduct training for the radio staff in the hopes of going on the air next fall in the following languages: Gio (Dan), Mano, English, French and a dialect spoken in the neighboring country of Guinea.

Yekepa has no radio stations, and the neighboring cities have no evangelical Christian stations. The broadcasts will reach across Nimba county, including an area where there are refugee camps, and even across the borders into neighboring Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire.

Cole tells of some 500,000 refugees living in Liberia who have fled from Côte d'Ivoire. "ABC University has a heart to reach them," he says. "We have a unique opportunity to partner with ABC in a ministry to the refugees."


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