News Archives

United Methodist prays for family, U.S. help in Liberia

7/11/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

A head and shoulders photo of Abbie Kla-Williams is available at For related coverage, see UMNS story #360.

By United Methodist News Service

As war and starvation ravage her native Liberia, Abbie Kla-Williams prays for U.S. intervention and worries about the family she left behind several years ago.

Liberia is a long way from Rockville, Md., where the United Methodist woman has lived since coming to America in 1996. The pain is evident in her voice as she talks about her family - five children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild. She fears for their safety and worries about whether they have enough food. Two grandchildren, ages 18 months and 7 years old, died of starvation in 1990.

"Sometimes I cry for my children," she says. "… I don't know whether my children eat or not. I miss my children a whole lot."

She hopes the United States will help restore peace and order in her country, which has been wracked by civil wars since the 1980s. Rebel factions are seeking to depose President Charles Taylor, a former warlord under indictment for war crimes by an international court in Sierra Leone. A team of U.S. military experts arrived in Liberia July 8 to assess the country's needs.

"I want America to do more," Kla-Williams says. "I want her to come to our aid and to help us. They need to do more to help us, to get our country in order."

One of her sons, Edwin Clarke Jr., had to flee with his family when rebel forces struck a suburb of Monrovia, the Liberian capital. Clarke, an assistant to United Methodist Bishop John Innis, was returning home from work with his wife, Lorraine, on June 5 when he learned of the attack.

"By 7 p.m., heavy artillery sounds could be heard around our neighborhood," he says in an e-mail note. "We could actually see the bullets flying through the night skies."

The Clarkes began packing as the firing drew closer. Their 4-year-old daughter, Edraine, screamed, "Daddy, I am scared! Mommy, please hold me!"

"Lorraine tied Edraine to her back and picked up a small mattress as I was trying to throw clothes in a bag," Clarke says.

The family fled on foot, returning later to find that they had lost everything. "This means that when peace finally comes, I will have to start rebuilding my entire life and home," Clarke says.

Faith is a sustaining force for the family, which is active in United Methodist congregations in Monrovia and Rockville. "Without faith, I don't think I would be able to go about," says Kla-Williams, who attends Grace United Methodist Church. She prays each day for her children, and she believes she will see them again.

Kla-Williams was suffering from malnutrition when she came to America with the help of a brother, Saba Kla-Williams, a U.S. citizen in Rockville. After regaining her health, she found work as a caregiver for elderly people and began sending money back home to her family. Though her children - ranging in age from mid-30s to 40 - have jobs, their income is sporadic.

The money doesn't come easily for Kla-Williams, who sometimes goes for a month or longer before getting an assignment from a health care agency. "It is very hard to pay my utility bills and my rent," she says.

She wants to bring her family to the United States, but visas are hard to obtain. Kla-Williams herself must apply each September for permission to remain in the United States. Since leaving Liberia, she has seen only one of her children - Edwin, who visited the United States earlier this year on business.

This is a critical time for the church in Liberia, Bishop Innis says in a letter on behalf of the Liberia United Methodist Empowerment Foundation. The church is growing there "because for many, the church is their hope," he writes. U.S. and European congregations have been generous - and Liberians are learning to help themselves - but the church needs money for its hospital, orphanage, schools and other ministries, the bishop says.

Like its members, First United Methodist Church in Monrovia is struggling and depends on money from outside the country. "The people … do not have the means to keep the church going," Saba says.

Saba, who belongs to Millian United Methodist Church in Rockville, is a businessman and part-time teacher. He welcomes the news that a coalition of West African nations is sending a peacekeeping force to Liberia but insists that U.S. intervention is crucial. Without it, he doubts Taylor will fulfill his promise to leave office or that the country will return to peace. "The people of Liberia want American intervention," he says.

"Everything has been destroyed," he adds. "The only thing we have is people - suffering people. … We are at the bottom. The very bottom."

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to the crisis in Liberia. Donations can be designated for Liberia Emergency, Advance #150300, and dropped in church offering plates or sent to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.

Support for the Liberia foundation can be sent to General Board of Global Ministries-General Council on Finance and Administration, United Methodist Church, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, 10115; Code: LUMEF-014368-8AT.

Back : News Archives 2003 Main

Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add to your list of approved senders.