The West African nation of Liberia is the continent’s oldest republic and was founded by freed slaves as a land of hope. But in 1989, civil war broke out and ravaged the country for fourteen years. Vulnerable communities were attacked. Child soldiers were recruited and forced to commit unspeakable atrocities. Poverty, famine, and sickness blanketed the country.

To escape these horrors, tens of thousands of Liberians fled to the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana. Gabriel Cole was one of these refugees. Born on the Firestone Rubber plantation in Harbel, Liberia, and raised by a single mother, he was no stranger to adversity. But heartache and hopelessness were the constant companions of Buduburam residents. The vacant stares of his new neighbors echoed the unimaginable horrors they’d witnessed back home.

Fighting his own despair, Gabriel resolved to bring hope to his people. His desire to encourage these sufferers and to help them heal from their pain and loss led him to become a preacher. But Gabriel, like so many others desperately longing for hope, fell prey to the prosperity gospel.

Preaching the Prosperity Gospel

This deceptive heresy teaches that God blesses those he most favors with good health and material wealth. It deceives people into believing their faith will be rewarded with good fortune, and that God’s favor must be earned.

As part of this teaching, Gabriel guided others in the practice of drinking anointing oils, rubbing them on their bodies, and sprinkling them around their homes for breakthroughs in circumstances. He sold handkerchiefs that people believed held the power of miracles. He deceived others because he was deceived.

Despite meeting and marrying his wife, Kolu, at the refugee camp, life became increasingly unbearable. The war in Liberia was over, so Gabriel moved his family there in 2010 and continued preaching the prosperity gospel. Eight years later, while browsing the internet, Gabriel came across Acts 29. He connected with Matthew-Spandler Davison, director of Acts 29’s Church in Hard Places (CiHP), and eventually began his two-year apprenticeship through CiHP.

Transformed by the True Gospel

During this training, he realized the prosperity gospel he’d been preaching was deceptive and false. He was convicted of his own deception by Satan. God opened his eyes to see and his heart to believe the only true gospel is the Christ-centered one. Freed from the clutches of a false gospel, he learned to preach the Scriptures to exalt Jesus, our only hope.

Trying to reach people with the true gospel that he spent years (unintentionally) leading astray isn’t easy, but Gabriel patiently goes through the Bible with Liberians afraid to release their grip on false hopes. Many shun him, but some believe. 

Trying to reach people with the true gospel that he spent years (unintentionally) leading astray isn’t easy, but Gabriel patiently goes through the Bible with Liberians afraid to release their grip on false hopes. Many shun him, but some believe. 

Gabriel’s church continues to plant more healthy churches, including two during the pandemic. They’re reaching the poorest among them through gospel proclamation and mercy ministry.

Planting Gospel-Centered Churches 

The gospel is advancing across Liberia, but not without difficulty for the bringers of good news. Gabriel says they need more Bibles to share with church members and new converts. Traveling to remote areas is often hindered by a lack of transportation. The extreme poverty of their church makes planting new churches very slow work. And theological training for aspiring pastors and planters is rare.

Despite many challenges, Gabriel dreams big for his country to know and worship Jesus. His church longs to expand into more remote places where Jesus’s name has never been heard. They desire to conduct pastor training for aspiring planters. They want to establish empowerment programs for single mothers, widows, teen girls, and drug-addicted youth. Lastly, they hope to build a school where pastors and church leaders can come and be trained to plant healthy churches throughout Liberia.

Gabriel is one of the many church planters applying for Acts 29 membership. Born into hardship, he’s become a bringer of hope to the people of Liberia. They already know heartache and loss, but he introduces them to Jesus, who causes us to be “born again to a living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3). Let’s pray for Gabriel and the many church planters like him tirelessly laboring to make disciples in theologically impoverished areas.

Acts 29 believes the church is God’s primary mission strategy on earth. Therefore, being faithful to the Great Commission means being passionate about church planting. We partner with men like Gabriel to plant healthy, multiplying churches in the most difficult places. Together, we’re bringing hope to hurting people for God’s great glory over all the earth.

Christy Britton
Written by: Christy Britton on February 9, 2021

Christy Britton is the content and publishing manager for Acts 29. She’s a member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and serves as the discipleship classes coordinator. She’s married to Stephen, and they’re raising four boys together. You can follow her on Twitter.