Since he was a young man, Momo Gborkowkollie Douwee has been a faithful Salvationist, serving as a missionary in Liberia for many years and helping to expand The Salvation Army across the country. But his life of service was almost cut short when rebels captured him during one of his missions.

“I was nearly killed,” says Douwee. “They saw me in a Salvation Army uniform and asked if I was a general. I said, ‘No, I’m a soldier for Jesus.’ ”

Humble Beginnings

Today, Douwee is the social-medical and public relations secretary of The Salvation Army’s Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Territory, as well as a Liberian diplomat and commissioned Ambassador of Peace and Goodwill.

“I have a unique background,” says Douwee, who was born in White Plains, Liberia, to parents from two different classes—his father a countryman and his mother, the great-granddaughter of American free slaves and part of a group referred to as the Congo people.

During the civil war, his family moved to Monrovia, Liberia, where Douwee sold doughnuts at the seaport. One day, he saw a British man with a cornet playing What a Friend We Have in Jesus. His name was Captain Brian Knightley, a Salvation Army missionary who arrived in Liberia in 1991 with his wife, Dorothy. During his time in Liberia, Captain Brian Knightley— who retired with the rank of lt-colonel and was admitted to the Order of the Founder in 2004—became a valued mentor to Douwee.

Spreading Salvation

At Bushrod Island Corps, Douwee became a soldier and later a recruiting sergeant. Having promising leadership skills, Douwee joined Captain Knightley’s mission team.

The team travelled Liberia’s counties, conducting open-air services, evangelical meetings and Sunday services. “And that is how The Salvation Army rapidly spread,” Douwee says.

In the years that followed, Douwee took on greater leadership roles within the Army, and began working with a rehabilitation program for child soldiers and ex-combatants. “Our role was to spread the message to the world that not all kids in Liberia are child soldiers; there are some who know God and those few could be used to help change the lives of others,” explains Douwee.

“The Monrovia Chapel Corps was full of young people, including many excombatants,” he says. “God being on my side, a lot of them were converted.”

A Life-Changing Testimony

Bomi County, Liberia, had established a Salvation Army corps and there was good prospect for growth there, but no officers had been assigned to lead it. So, Lt-Colonel Knightley asked Douwee to go there.

However, it was in Tubmanburg City, Bomi County, that he was captured by rebels.

Tied up by the rebels, Douwee prepared to say his final prayers, thinking of his family and how they might never forgive Lt-Colonel Knightley or The Salvation Army for sending him there. “I said, ‘God, let this be a testimony that will inspire someone tomorrow,’ ” he remembers.

Then, a young man named Prince Padmore came up to the rebels and said, “The Salvation Army is a church. They don’t hold guns. They just believe that they are soldiers of God.”

“Confusion broke out among them. Finally, their commander came over and the young man said to them, ‘Before you kill this man, you have to kill me first.’ And because of that, he was wounded on his legs,” explains Douwee, who pledged to stay with the man at the hospital. But as Padmore healed, some rebels planned to attack the hospital. “So overnight, we escaped and walked four hours to get to Lt-Colonel Knightley. He paid money to the soldiers and they were able to cross us overnight through the border of two different rebel groups.”

The Salvation Army came to their aid, admitting Padmore to the William Booth Boys Hostel where he was enrolled in the William Booth Junior and Senior High School and graduated. He became a member of the Paynesville Corps, Liberia, and served with Douwee on the command mission team. He remains an active member of the Army and considers Douwee as a father.

“That is the man God used to save my life,” says Douwee fondly.

Today, Douwee has earned numerous professional certificates, degrees, various awards and honours, including valedictorian of the University of Liberia and the Ambassador of Peace Award from the United Nations International Association of World Peace Advocates—a testament of hope and goodwill within the Army.

Photo: Mark Yan

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