We are the Cokers: Fred and Isatta, along with our lovely children. Eldest son Fred Jr. is 26, Emmanuel is 19, Patricia is 16 and Florence is 13. In mid-2021, we returned to Sierra Leone to serve the Kono people of our country at the request of the Sierra Leone SDA Mission and with the blessings of AFM. We are in the initial start-up phase of the Kono project, and bring with us many years of successful church planting among the Susu of Guinea.
The Kono have been a high-priority, unreached people group for the Sierra Leone SDA Mission for many years, but there has been a lack of gospel workers and finances to initiate new gospel outreach work among the Kono. This is due to a variety of factors, including the Ebola outbreak and civil war.
Like in Fria Guinea, where we served the Susu people, sharing the gospel will not be very easy. Even though we can speak the Lingua Franca (Krio) and English, the dominant languages among the Kono, we will also diligently study the Kono language. And although the Kono worldview is very close to that of my people group, there are a few things that we must learn from theirs, and we are trying to adapt to the Kono culture, traditions and way of doing things.
Unlike in Fria, Guinea, the area where we live in the Kono District has no running water and the house has no electricity. Yet, this is what missions are all about.
The model of every missionary is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He left His home (Heaven), with all of its comforts, to come to this dark, sinful world to share with us a knowledge of the Father so that we might grasp the love of God. For thirty-three years, he worked the length and breadth of Israel teaching and showing the love and mercy of his Heavenly Father in a way that was never done before.
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me” (MH 143.2-3).
Please join us in praying for God to direct us as we reach out, minister and make disciples for the coming King here in the Kono district.
The Kono District
The Kono district, in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, borders Kenema district to the southwest, the Republic of Guinea to the east, Koinadugu district to the northeast, and Kailahun district to the southeast. The Kono district is divided into fourteen chiefdoms, with its capital and largest city being Koidu town.
According to the 2015 population census, the district has a total population of 505,767. Its total area is 2,178 square miles (5,641 km²), with a density of 203 people per square mile (90/km²). The census indicates that 53 percent of the residents are among the active workforce (age 15-64), while 26 percent are between 5-14 years old, and 17 percent are under the age of 5 years. Nearly 67 percent of the district population resides in rural areas. The typical family has six to seven people.
In Fria Guinea, among the Susu, everyone worked in the aluminum factories. In Kono, Sierra Leone, everyone wants money the quickest way—either working for the diamond mining companies or operating as private miners. In either case, the workers leave their homes very early in the morning to head out to the minefields.
The Kono district is the largest diamond producer in Sierra Leone and became the country’s diamond mining capital due, in large part, to the discovery in 1972 of the fourth-largest gem-quality and largest alluvial diamond ever discovered. Called the Star of Sierra Leone, it is a massive 968.9 carats (193.78 g). Miners discovered the diamond in the Diminco alluvial mines in the Koidu area of Sierra Leone. The rich reserves of diamonds in this area were one of the main reasons for the decade-long civil war of 1991-2002 when heavy fighting led many people to flee their homes and widespread looting resulted.
Although gold and alluvial diamond mining are important economic activities of the residents, approximately 30 percent of the population relies on agriculture—including rice, cassava, corn, beans, coffee, cacao and palm oil—for their livelihood.
The Kono district is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse districts in the country, with no single group forming a majority. Muslims make up most of the population in the Kono District, but there are many Christians, too. The Kono people are deeply entrenched in their traditional animistic beliefs, carrying them into the various faiths they profess.
Here is where we will make our home for the next ten years.
Our family began serving the Susu people in 2002, and from 2012-2020 we continued our service to the Susu as AFM career missionaries. The Susu Project was comprised of two phases. Phase one began with the project’s first missionaries, the Coleman family. Our family had the privilege of joining the project in 2002 as Bible workers. Together with the Coleman family, we planted a church group with about seven local members during phase one. We also started a school with five students. This phase ended in 2010 with 15 baptized members and the school serving about 100 students.
The second phase started in 2012 under our leadership as AFM career missionaries. As we forged friendships with our Muslim Susu neighbors, we had meaningful theological discussions with people who had never considered Christ’s salvation. We also built our school’s ministry. The church group grew to become an organized church with 50 baptized members and 60-70 people attending each Sabbath. We also formed two daughter church groups in two surrounding villages. In each, we groomed church members for leadership positions and now lead all the church activities. We also taught sanctuary doctrine and basic Bible prophesies.
Beginning in mid-2020, we provided coaching and nurturing for the national leadership team of the Susu Project as it entered its transition phase. A full hand-over of the Susu Project is anticipated by mid-2023.