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Columbia Union Officers Discuss a Better Future With Liberian President

Interview by Celeste Ryan Blyden
Published 12/14/2011

Dave Weigley (second from left) and Seth Bardu (fourth) meet with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. 

Dave Weigley, Columbia Union Conference president, and Seth Bardu, the union’s chief financial officer, just returned from Liberia where they met Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was recently re-elected as president. Sirleaf is Africa’s first and only female president and was named as a joint winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in stabilizing a country torn by more than a decade of civil war. Weigley talked with Celeste Ryan Blyden, Visitor editor and publisher, about his impressions of the visit with Liberia’s 24th president.
Celeste Ryan Blyden: What did the president of Liberia say to you about Seventh-day Adventists?
Dave Weigley: She thanked us for our initiatives in healthcare and education. She stated how appreciative she (and Liberia) is to foreign humanitarian efforts. She said, “We as a government do not have the capability to do it all. We need your assistance.” She especially thanked us for the assistance we are giving at Cooper Adventist Hospital there in Monrovia, the capital city.
CRB: Why was it important to you to make that connection on behalf of the Adventist Church?
DW: We as Adventists believe we are instruments of God’s love and care. We need to be where the needs are great—well, that’s Liberia. It’s a country just emerging from years of civil war, where malaria still is a problem, where most people do not have any type of healthcare and where, because of war, education is lacking. As Adventists first of all, and as part of the Columbia Union, it is our mission to share God’s love here locally and globally. But we must remember two things: we have been blessed to be a blessing and the work of God will not be finished until it is finished everywhere.
CRB: What was your impression of your visit with Sirleaf and your trip to Liberia?
DW: Sirleaf, the president (at 73), is a grandmother figure to many in that country and with that analogy, she is leading as an ethical and moral, caring grandmother. Her initiatives are re-building the country, improving the financial situation, restoring law and order and advocating for things we believe important, such as healthcare and education. When I spoke with her, I told her we were happy to partner with her because some of her focus was ours as well.
My impression of the country is that it has some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. The church appears to be very motivated to share the gospel and actually grew in membership during the civil war, from about 3,000-4,000 members to approximately 26,000 today. I am hopeful we will be able to assist them in additional ways, such as with evangelistic meetings, pastoral and lay training and leadership development. Liberia has great potential. As a union and Seventh-day Adventist Church in general, we need to assist in filling their needs and moving God’s work forward there!