About Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast and Guinea to the northeast. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savanna to rainforests, and a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 square miles). Sierra Leone is divided into five administrative regions, which are further subdivided into sixteen districts. Freetown is the capital and largest city. Bo is the second-largest city in the country and is located 150 miles from Freetown. According to the 2015 census Sierra Leone has a population of 7.4 million. Life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 51 years (men) and 52 years (women). According to the nation’s infant mortality statistics, there are 66.7 deaths/1,000 live births in 2018.
Sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and Mende. The Temne are predominantly found in the northwest of the country, and the Mende in the southeast. Although English is the official language, used in schools and government administration, Krio, an English-based creole, is the most widely spoken language across Sierra Leone. Spoken by 98% of the population, Krio unites all the ethnic groups in the country, especially in their trade and social interaction. Krio is mainly derived from English but has influences from other African languages, e.g. Yuroba and from French.
Sierra Leone is a Muslim-majority country 77%, with an influential Christian minority at 22%. Sierra Leone is regarded as one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other very peacefully, and religious violence is very rare.
About the People
Numbering almost half a million, the Kono are primarily farmers, spread across eastern and northern Sierra Leone. Children are expected to help with a large amount of the work. Extended family is important to the Susu. Polygamy is allowed under Islamic law, but only some can afford to practice it. Although the Kono value good relationships, they tend to squabble with their neighbors, especially over money or property. Therefore, each village usually has a “wise man” as well as an elected or appointed leader to help resolve conflicts.
Friday meetings at the mosques are important social events for most Kono. The Kono are 85 percent Muslim, and Islam dominates their religious culture and practices. There is a small Christian (Evangelical) community within the Kono people, and there are <15 Adventists among the Kono. The New Testament is available in their language, but the full Bible is as yet unavailable.
Kono houses are generally quite large in order to accommodate extended families. They are built of either mud or cement blocks, depending on what’s available. In the rural areas, roofs are usually still made of thatch. Most cooking is done over open fires.
About the Project
The Coker family have been very successful AFM career missionaries at the AFM Susu Project in Guinea. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been in Sierra Leone since mid-2020 providing coaching and nurturing for the national leadership team of the Susu Project. The AFM Susu Project is now in its transition phase, during which time the Cokers provide mentoring and coaching for the national leadership team. A full hand-over of the Susu Project is anticipated by mid-2023.
Meanwhile, the Cokers (who are originally from Sierra Leone) have transitioned to the initial start-up phase of the Kono Project. The Kono have been a high priority unreached people group for the Sierra Leone SDA Mission for many years, but there has been an absolute lack of Gospel workers and finances to initiate new Gospel outreach work among the Kono due to a variety of factors, e.g. the Ebola outbreak and the civil war in Sierra Leone etc. After repeated requests from the Sierra Leone SDA Mission, AFM has agreed to assign the Cokers to lead the new Kono Project. The Cokers speak Krio and English, the dominant languages among the Kono, and bring many years of successful church planting among the Susu of Guinea to the new Kono Project.