In November of 2006, myself and Dr. Edward Bolen visited Commission Baptist Church, located just outside the city of Monrovia, Liberia. Pastor Bolen visited Commission Baptist Church again in 2009. The following was written by Pastor Bolen this past Thursday and I wanted to share it with my friends and family outside of Athens.
Late this evening, I received word from Rev. Augstine S. Weah, Sr., the Pastor of Commission Baptist Church in Gardnersville, Liberia (on the out-skirts of Monrovia) that their beloved associate pastor, Rev. Mangoe Baye, died suddenly this afternoon as he taught a middle school class. 36 years old, Rev. Baye has served Commission Baptist for almost a dozen years, since he graduated from the Liberian Baptist Seminary. He leaves behind a beautiful wife–Selina G. Baye–and two young sons: Whonselea Baye (age 10) and Yarlee Baye (age 7).
Rev. Baye works as a middle school teacher at two schools (to make ends-meet) and serves the congregation of Commission Baptist Church–the sister church of my parish (Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, GA.)
From early reports, he collapsed today (Thursday) while teaching and died before reaching the hospital. The only details available to me at this time are that doctors reported that he was extremely anemic. I can’t begin to imagine the medical problems he faced from malaria, malnutrition and lack of basic medical care. He leaves behind a beautiful wife, two amazing young boys and a grieving congregation.
I remember a story reported of President James Garfield, an itinerant Disciples of Christ preacher in Ohio before being elected President of the United States. At one of his earliest interviews in the White House, a reporter asked: “It must be some change to move from small congregations in Ohio to the White House!” President Garfield responded: “Any step down from the Pulpit of Christ is a demotion.”
Rev. Baye was a faithful servant of Christ, who completed his seminary training during Liberia’s “First Civil War.” During the Second Civil War,” which lasted through the early 2000’s, he hid in the bush with his wife and children to escape marauding gangs of “boy soldiers” and armed insurgents. He was a good teacher, a faithful minister of Christ and a loving father to his children.
My last conversation with him, in his small one-bedroom Mangoe Family apartment (in 2009) ended with this request: “Would you and your wife be willing to adopt our two sons and bring them to the US so that they can have a future?” I didn’t then, nor do I now, know how to respond to such a request. It was the most humbling experience in my life.
On this Friday before Good Friday, we remember that the world is full of pain, anguish, death and sorrow. Across our globe today, suffering and pain immeasurable inserts itself into thousands–maybe millions of lives. Across our congregations, our brothers and sister struggle with depression, deep grief, fear of losing their jobs or their house, caring for aging parents, the demise of their bodies. The list is exhaustive.
But this evening, my heart breaks for Rev. Mangoe Baye, a minister called by God, schooled in the midst of civil war, never living in anything more than a one-room rented room. And now dead. Words escape me.
Ours is a Good Friday world.
And yet we are an Easter people, a resurrection people, living Mangoe’s wife and youngest son by faith and believing that our lives are God-filled, God-purposed, God-saturated. Believing that the power of the resurrected Lord is greater than our pain of Good Friday: I believe it. Yet my faith wavers.
This Friday, I covet your prayers for Selina and her handsome young sons. I covet your prayers for Commission Baptist Church of Monrovia. To God be the glory, for this courageous man who lived, taught, preached and believed the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“And Jesus wept.”