The Rev. James Nyemah stands at the pulpit, eyelids squeezed together as his parishioners begin to chant.
“Dear God!” he slowly says into a microphone. Each word thunders from the speakers at the back of the church, each word a separate explosion.
“Make a way,” he says, “make a way, make a way for the people dying from Ebola!”
Nyemah, a native of Liberia, leads this ritual each week at Africa Faith Expressions in Phoenix. Since July, some of the 150 church members have devoted their regular 6 p.m. Sunday service to a single cause: “Prayer Against Ebola.”
Most of the members are Liberian. Many have hosted refugees from West Africa. Many have lost friends and loved ones in Africa to the deadly virus.
So, each Sunday night, they gather in the glass-and-stucco office building that is home to their congregation.
Tobey Togba pleads to God for mercy. Theresa Wento begs for healing. William Fannoh asks for peace.
There is no money collection, no music, just the spoken word.
No one will give a sermon. No one must wait for silence before they begin to speak. In this service, all speak openly, in the moment, to share pain and frustration over the illness that is crushing the lives of a country they hold dear.
Although Nyemah has one microphone, two men and two women grab their own. The voices tumble over one another until they become a wall of sound.
The pastor’s voice, once the loudest of all, folds into the cascade.
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SOURCE: USA Today / The Arizona Republic – Connie Cone Sexton