Pastors Richard Wesley Sr., left, of Liberia, and Rob Patterson stand in front of Galt First Baptist Church.
(Photo: Jerry Tyson News-Sentinel)


African Baptist Pastor finds Galt on Internet

Ross Farrow
News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Saturday, March 15, 2003



African minister Richard Wesley Sr. needed someone to speak at the National Pastors Fellowship Conference in western Africa, so he searched "First Baptist Church" on the Internet.


A search engine here, a few clicks there and Wesley found Galt. For reasons perhaps only God and Al Gore can explain, Wesley found Rob Patterson, pastor of Galt First Baptist Church, in cyberspace. He was intrigued by Patterson's slogan for his church, "From Galt to the end of the Earth," emphasizing Galt's need to reach out throughout the world.


Wesley lives in third-world conditions in a country torn by civil war strife and operating without electricity and running water. Inhabited by freed slaves after the American Civil War, Liberia was in its own civil war from 1989 until democracy was restored in 1996.


Although Liberians generally go without electrical power, some locations have portable generators. One such place is an Internet cafe where Wesley communicates by e-mail and surfs the Internet.


It was at the Internet cafe in Monrovia, Liberia's capital city, that he discovered Galt. Without any previous communication with Patterson, Wesley asked him to come to Liberia in June and speak at his conference.

Not only that, but Wesley came to Galt and collected more than $10,000 to build a church in Monrovia.


Patterson and Wesley, senior pastor of Greater Love Bible Baptist Church in Liberia, became fast friends online. They e-mailed almost daily, and in February, Wesley visited Galt to meet Patterson for the first time.


"It's by God's providence that I came in contact with Pastor Rob by way of the Internet," Wesley said.


Patterson said he was careful after being approached by Wesley for the first time. After all, even among churches, people can be dishonest and threaten harm, he said.


"I had people in my church who were very leery," Patterson said. "I checked out for Internet scam possibilities." Patterson scoured the Internet to find out if there was any negative information about Wesley or his church, but he couldn't find Wesley anywhere in cyberspace.


However, Patterson found other individuals in Monrovia through the Internet. He e-mailed one, explained the purpose of his correspondence and asked if he knew anyone named Richard Wesley or Greater Love Bible Baptist Church.


As it turned out, the person Patterson e-mailed happened to be at Internet cafe at the time. The man asked aloud if anyone knows Richard Wesley. It turned out that Wesley was at an adjoining table that very moment.


Patterson had no doubt that Wesley is an honest man, honest enough to invite him to Galt and stay for a month at his house.


"When we met, it was like we knew each other a long time," Patterson said. "His heart came through in his e-mail messages."


Two weeks ago, Wesley told the Galt First Baptist congregation about life in his country. Patterson, a long-time believer that people should look globally rather than just their own community, emphasized the importance of understanding how the United States could fall victim in war time of services we take for granted, like electricity and running water.


During the two services at Galt Baptist on March 1, the congregation contributed $4,500 in offerings toward a new church in Liberia, and Galt Bible Church added another $1,600 in offerings.


And through Patterson's next-door neighbor, Mattie Shepherd, Wesley was invited to tell his story at a recent Galt Sunrise Rotary Club meeting. Rotary member Al Luna contributed another $1,000 to Wesley's cause on Friday.


Wesley, who conducts services in his living room home, has collected about two-thirds of the $15,000 he needs to build a church in his town. He will speak at Sunday's 6 p.m. service at First Baptist, 653 A St., Galt. He will head to New York to visit another church aiding his cause before returning to his homeland.


Patterson will visit Wesley in late June and speak at the National Pastors Fellowship Conference, which Wesley chairs. Wesley's goal is that the conference will be held at the new church -- the dream started in Galt.



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