(RNS) — Two months in the past, I stood in Windfall Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia, listening to the tales of Africans and People — the latter free of slavery in the US — who had banded collectively to ascertain the primary republic on the continent of Africa two centuries earlier than.
Windfall, the oldest Baptist church within the West African nation and the second oldest on the continent, was based in 1822 by the Rev. Lott Carey, who had come as a missionary to the fledgling nation and had introduced a group of African American settlers residence. Now, 200 years later, the Rev. Emmett L. Dunn, CEO of the Lott Carey International Mission Conference, had introduced a group of African People residence.
I’ve traveled to a number of international locations in Africa, and every one is imprinted on my coronary heart in a particular method. However listening to the tales of the African American settlers was trigger to pause. I linked with the historical past of Liberia in a method I didn’t anticipate. I felt blessed past measure.
Touchdown in Liberia my spirit leaped just like the child in Elizabeth’s stomach when greeting Mary, the mom of Jesus. The sights and sounds of Liberia greeted my senses, sending my head and my coronary heart into overwhelming pleasure.
In Liberia, I used to be at residence. Dwelling within the land of my ancestors on World Communion Sunday. Dwelling, the place a way of “double consciousness” — an idea coined by W.E.B. DuBois to explain African People’ sense of dislocation from Africa and ourselves — liberated my ideas and linked them to my theology in a free-spirited dance of deliverance.
It’s typically stated we should step again earlier than we step ahead. Strolling within the footsteps of Lott Carey within the motherland afforded us the chance to just do that.
Born enslaved in 1780 in Charles Metropolis County, Virginia, Carey turned a disciple of Jesus in 1807, bought his freedom in 1813, and led the primary Baptist missionaries to Africa from the US in 1821.
After settling in Liberia, Carey and his pioneering missionary group engaged in evangelism, training and well being care. He served as a missional and civic chief till his dying in 1828.
Our pilgrimage relived elements of this journey and the experiences of his group. We explored Windfall Island, the place Carey landed in Liberia in early 1822. Earlier than we landed in Liberia, Dunn informed us, “We anticipate that this journey into the previous will convey residence to us the love and sacrifice of those that walked this journey earlier than us.”
Our subsequent cease in Africa took us almost 1,000 miles east alongside the coast of the Assin Manso Slave River and the Cape Coast fort in Ghana, unofficially dubbed “the Door of No Return” by our Ghanian sisters and brothers, via which so lots of our ancestors have been shackled and shipped into the slave commerce within the New World. It has develop into a portal for African People, pulling us again to Ghana.
Earlier than strolling to the Slave River, the place my ancestors acquired their first bathtub after being captured and their final bathtub earlier than being carted off to the Americas, we held a ceremony of safety over Lott Carey’s life. In my sanctified creativeness, my African ancestors’ prayers got here to fruition within the proclamation made that day. What was meant for evil, God had used for good some 400 years later.
How ironic is it? In a whitewashed slave fort used to destroy the African spirit, a gaggle of spirited African People reconnected with a long-lost historical past, traditionally whitewashed in American tradition and the church common.
My Bible says, “Be steadfast and persevering, my beloved sisters and brothers, absolutely engaged within the work of Jesus. You recognize that your work isn’t in useless when it’s accomplished in Jesus’ identify.”
It was in that spirit that the final leg of our journey in homage to Lott Carey ended with saluting our ancestors on the identical shores the place they handed, returning the place no return was promised. Within the Twi language of Ghana, “sankofa” is a phrase that means “return and get it.” We did.
(The Rev. Angelita Clifton is president of Girls in Service In every single place and an affiliate minister at Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, New Jersey. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.)