History of the SLM
The Sierra Leone Mission:
In September 1996, a plaque was dedicated in Westminster Abbey inscribed, 'Thomas Clarkson, a Friend of slaves.' At 150 years after his death this was a belated recognition of the prime-mover behind the abolition of slavery. Not Wiberforce, Macaulay or Granville Sharp: Thomas Clarkson was the biggest force and he devoted his life to the cause.
Of greater significance to the Connexion in his brother John, who assisted Thomas. John Clarkson worked for the rights of Black Loyalists who were settled in Nova Scotia at the end of the American War of Independence. They had fought with the British and were promised their freedom and lands. As John Clarkson campaigned for them, he attended their services: Methodist, Baptist and Humtingdonian.
The Huntingdonians were led by John Marrant, who was converted under George whitefield of Charleston, wounded in the American War and discharged in London. Hearing of the lack of Christian leaders in Nova Scotia he asked the Countess to arrange his ordination (Bath 1785) and ministered there.
The settlers were discontented with the lack of land, the climate and local discrimination, and John Clarkson arranged to escort a group of 1196 volunteers, one third of the black population, to a new life in Sierra Leone, where they arrived in March, 1792.
John Clarkson became the country's first Governor, and the Huntingdonians established churches and took root. fter 200 years of growth, the number of churches has risen from 12 to 18 in recent years. They are all situated in the penisula area near to the coast.
Sierra Leone’s terrain varies from the mangrove estuaries on the coast, to a wide belt of lowland stretching inland to a central, forested area that climbs to a highland plateau in the north and east. There are two fairly distinct seasons; the dry being from November to April, and the wet from May to October.
The population of Sierra Leone is estimated to be over 4 million. This includes more than 17 identifiable groups; the most numerous being the Mende and the Temne.
Creole people, the descendants of freed or escaped slaves from North America and the Caribbean, are fewer in number but the language they developed, 'Krio', is now understood throughout the country. English, however, is the official national language. Most people follow traditional African religions, often combining them with Islam, which is the largest religious group, or Christianity.
Sierra Leone is a country with valuable raw materials - diamonds, gold and rutile (titanium ore) - excellent hard wood forests and a potentially wealthy agricultural sector. Although Sierra Leone is exposed to some environmental excesses, the country is thankfully not prone to the devastating droughts and famines experienced in other parts of Africa. Despite all this, there is desperate poverty throughout the country, as a result of depressed commodity prices, smuggling, corruption and poor economic management. In the 1990’s, Sierra Leone sank to bottom of the 174 countries ranked in the United Nations Human Development Index. The lack of government finance has resulted in poor health care, education and agricultural support services throughout the country. In the early 1990’s, the civil war in neighbouring Liberia added to the strains imposed on the already devastated economy. In April 1992 a coup was followed by nearly four years of military rule, during which time fighting spread to most parts of the country and over a million people became displaced from their homes. In early 1996 a civilian government was elected, but was overthrown in May 1997. ECOMOG peace keeping troops forced the junta out of Freetown in February 1998, but atrocities continued as the rebels terrorised the population and the country plunged into even worse chaos and suffering.
The country’s infrastructure is very poor. The electricity supply in the capital city has been erratic. The roads are rutted and often impassable in the rainy season. Spares for vehicles are very expensive and usually difficult to obtain. Public transport is very limited, so the most common way to travel is by buying lifts on lorries and vans, although in the main towns shared taxis and 'poda-poda’s' (overcrowded minibuses) are also available. Education and health care facilities are extremely limited. The country has by far the highest infant mortality rate in the world, and one of the lowest adult literacy rates (less than 30%). It is estimated that only 20% of the rural population has access to health services, and over 60% of the people do not have access to a safe water supply.
The Sierra Leone Mission (S.L M.) is administered and supported by the churches of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion in England and other interested friends, Its aim is to assist in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Sierra Leone, and to help enrich the worship and fellowship of believers there. Most of this work is done through the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, Sierra Leone.
The war has hampered the Connexion’s plans at outreach into the largely Muslim dominated country further east, but with the return of stability to the country, attempts can recommence.
Other local evangelical organisations