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Monday, October 20, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “The Faces of Sierra Leone”

E-Vangel Newsletter
October 20, 2014

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center

“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205
Pastorgraphs: “The Faces of Sierra Leone”

Although I have never been to Sierra Leone, it holds a special place in my heart and mind. That is because of Helen Trebes (pronounced TREE-biss) and Joseph Moseray, both of whom I had the honor serving as pastor during my early years at Christ United Methodist. Their Christian testimony and love, in the midst of obstacles and great personal sacrifice, remains among the most genuine and powerful in my experience.

Helen and Stan Trebes were missionaries to Sierra Leone. Joseph Moseray was one of the orphan children under their ministry they came to love so much that they “adopted” him. By the time I arrived in San Diego, Stan had already passed away, Helen was retired and the faithful matriarch of Christ Church, her home church. Joseph, then a young man, had arrived in San Diego, serving as an African aid worker, and diligently trying to get his wife and daughters to join him.

Their story would make a great movie.

Stan and Helen sacrificed much in leaving San Diego to share God’s love in one of the poorest, and according to Helen, most beautiful places on earth. The Sierra Leone Christians recognized their devotion by creating the Trebes Memorial United Methodist Church in Bo, Sierra Leone (see picture above). It was there they served and touched thousands of lives, including Joseph. To this day, Methodists make up the largest Christian group in Sierra Leone.

Joseph felt amazingly blessed to have become as one of the Trebes’ own family. When Stan and Helen retired and returned to San Diego, they went to great personal expense to bring their “son” to the US. 
Joseph, whose faith was as large as his adopted parents’, began working to help others back in Africa, including his own family.
I remember Joseph’s faithfulness and love. One of the most joyful events in my ministry was the day we welcomed Joseph’s wife, Stella, and their daughters into Christ Church and to their new life in the United States.

The very first Pastorgraph I wrote in January 2004 was to note the passing of Helen Trebes, who lived well into her 90s and attended worship until shortly before her home-going. She was a living inspiration to everyone, including her pastor. Christ Church dedicated the beautiful garden between the Chapel and Sanctuary as the Stan and Helen Trebes Meditation Garden. Many of us find it a very special place to quiet our souls and pray.

All of these memories come back to me now because Sierra Leone is the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

In our hysteria and fear over Ebola, the last person most Americans would want to find sitting next to them on an airplane is someone from Sierra Leone. As long as that is a nameless, faceless person, fear rules. But if that person is Joseph Moseray, I would resound with joy! You see, when we put a real face and name on Sierra Leone’s wonderful people, we take a whole different view upon the suffering they are undergoing. They do not need our disdain. They need our help and our prayers. I understand fear, but to dehumanize all the people of Sierra Leone or West Africa is just wrong. Stan and Helen would remind us every person impacted by this awful disease is a son or daughter, brother or sister, and most importantly, a child of God.

The news from Dallas today is encouraging. Dozens of people have now gone 21 days without coming down with Ebola, including the fiancé and close family of Mr. Duncan (who died of this awful disease) who lived with him inside a small apartment when he became ill. The two nurses who became ill caring for him are reported to be doing well as they fight their infection. So far, no American has died from Ebola on USA soil. Thank you, Lord!

On the other hand, tragically, Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) cases have been found in 46 states, infected thousands – mostly our children, and tragically taken the lives of at least five children. EV-D68 is having a much more profound impact upon American’s public health than Ebola. There is no drug to cure EV-D68. It is killing and crippling our children. It is a much greater clear and present danger. Yet I do not hear the call for an “EV-D68 Czar”.
Why is that? Really! Why is that?

It has so much to do with where the Ebola cases are coming from. No doubt this fear combines racial stereotypes, anti-immigration sentiment, and just plain ignorance of how the disease is spread.

How we react to the current Ebola crisis has the potential to expose some ugly things about ourselves. When we put a face upon each person impacted, whether in Sierra Leone or Dallas, and see them as our brothers and sisters, we begin to win the war of fear and behave as Christ would want us in treating “the least of these”.

“I was sick, and you cared for me.” (Matthew 25).
My Morning Prayer

Lord, today I pray for healing and a quick end to the Ebola outbreak among my sisters and brothers in West Africa.

Lord, today I pray for healing and an end to the Enterovirus epidemic that threatens our most vulnerable precious children.

Lord, today I pray for healing in my soul and forgiveness when I allow fear to de-humanize any of your children, created in your image, and loved with your unconditional, everlasting love. Lord, forgive us our prejudices.


In Christ’s Service,
Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
“Maybe one day history will tell us that Ebola never won, but rather Government's failed to act, and that Ebola just simply walked in and met NO resistance, barring a few brave souls that fought the virus on their own and never relied on the Government Coming to Help. The victor always writes the history: what will Ebola write about mankind.?
~ Paul Gilbert ~

Photo credits: Helen Trebes and Trebes Memorial United Methodist Church of Bo, Sierra Leone from the Christ UMC 50th anniversary history book by David Stump and Joseph Moseray from his Facebook photo.

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