From Liberia to Las Vegas and back again

Isaac David has not had an easy life. In fact, at one point, he was so disappointed in God, he stopped going to church. Now, however, he is looking for every opportunity he can to share the message of salvation—whether to legal immigrants in his home city of Las Vegas or to the people of his homeland in Liberia. “I know God has been faithful and he has been carrying me through,” he says. “What I am today is not by my strength but because God has a plan for my life.

David was born and raised as a Christian in Liberia. But with the eruption of a civil war in 1989, his life changed dramatically. In 1990, at the age of 10, he witnessed his parents being murdered. He escaped and traveled to Nigeria by boat—along with 30,000 other refugees. There he grew up as an orphan in a refugee camp, often with little food or medication. “I slept on the ground for eight years,” he says.

He was mad at God. “Church was not my priority because I was going to church in Liberia and now I lost my parents—both of them in the war,” he says. “So I felt that God had let me down.”

In time he returned to church and even agreed to study to be a church leader. He went to high school and college to study to be a teacher. In 2003, he immigrated to America and was among the first Liberian refugees to settle in Las Vegas, Nev.

After settling in, he became concerned about the faith of his people—and that of other immigrants flooding into the area. He says that the immigrants were not going to church, probably due to cultural and language differences. He decided to open a church—the Chapel of Improvement Christian Fellowship—to reach these immigrants. “My goal was to reach African refugees that come to Las Vegas with the gospel of Christ and to remind them of the promises that were made before coming to America,” he says.

He began studying at a Lutheran seminary but found it was too liberal for him. After an Internet search for conservative Christian church bodies, he discovered WELS. Now David is studying to be a pastor through the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, with plans to graduate in May 2017.

Part of David’s ministry is providing material items to new refugees to help them get started in America. Along with the pots and pans, the soap and detergent, is information about the church and an invitation to worship. He is also working with Water of Life, Las Vegas, to set up a first friends program, in which volunteers establish relationships with the refugees. “They minister the Word of God to them but also help them out in American society,” says David.

The congregation recently has started a second site that is closer to where the refugees are settling down. More than 100 people from 13 different nationalities are being served.

David, however, doesn’t just want to help refugees to America. He also wants to share the gospel in Liberia. When he traveled there in 2014 to see family members, he started five churches and began training more than 30 leaders.

In March 2016, David returned to register these congregations with the government as the Confessional Lutheran Church of Liberia. John Vogt, one of David’s PSI professors, and Matt Vogt, pastor at Water of Life, met him there in April to attend the first convention of the new church as well as to teach courses to the leaders. John Vogt writes, “The convention’s worship services—unlike anything we experience in the U.S.—were filled with a joy, enthusiasm and volume. The reports indicated that worship attendance and congregational membership are about 900, and 18 men are serving as pastors. On Saturday we taught a day-long course on law and gospel—57 people attended the full course and received a certificate of attendance.” He reports that 62 students—pastors plus other leaders and teachers—then attended two weeks more of full-day classes for ministerial training.

“The Lord is providing WELS with a world mission field right at our door,” says Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “New immigrants arrive in our cities and towns looking for a place to belong. When the love of our members reaches out with the gospel, the Holy Spirit goes to work. These new, God-planned connections are helping our synod reach with the message of Jesus’ love far beyond what where we could ever go on our own.”

Both the WELS Joint Mission Council and WELS Christian Aid and Relief are providing funding for David’s work in Las Vegas. Learn more about Christian Aid and Relief’s work in Las Vegas in the July WELS Connection.



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Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

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