KNOWN IN HEAVEN | A Tribute to Aiah Abu


Jesus gave us much needed perspective to live by when he said:

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
— Luke 10:20

In the end, it doesn’t matter how known or accomplished we may be on earth, but whether or not we are “known in heaven.”

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The name Aiah Abu is completely unknown to most of you, but he was someone worth knowing.  I first met him on one of my early missionary trips to Freetown, Sierra Leone where Pastor Alvin Smith and his wife Rene were pioneering a church in that country.  My fondest memories surround that group of early disciples who had been saved and coming to The Door in Sierra Leone.  They were so eager to serve God.  There was a hunger to know Him and to do his will, helping to build the church in that nation.

I can remember the early but distinct personalities of each of them.  Edward Saffa, Peter Dore, Desmond Bell and others.  Each stood out to me in their particular ways.  One of the young men that made an impression on me was Aiah Abu.  Although he had not served in the military (his brothers and tribe were soldiers) he had the demeanor of a soldier.  I’ve remarked of this fact to Pastor Smith for years.  Aiah possessed a spirit of steadfastness, a delight in duty, a servant heart for the weak.  I never remember him being too high, or too low. He was just...steady.

I never remember him being too high, or too low. He was just...steady.

On my numerous trips to Sierra Leone I was always especially glad to see him.  With that sober attitude he possessed he would kindly respond to me, “Yes, Sir.”  Aiah and his wife Mariama have served for the past 15 years pastoring in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.  They weren’t easy years.  They faced and persevered through much hardship.  Life and ministry was not a piece of cake, but there was never a word of complaint from Aiah.  He truly put Christ and his kingdom first as he served his church and the baby churches sent out from there.  I always got the sense that he was at his post, not matter what.

Every June we try to bring many of our foreign missionaries to our annual Bible Conference.  If they are Africans the challenge for them is receiving a visa to travel to the U.S.  You never know how it will turn out at the embassy, whether they will be allowed to travel or not.  It was Aiah Abu who kept being denied year after a travel visa.  I’ve got to be honest, this bothered me.  We sent accompanying letters vouching for his character and our desire to simply minister to these couples so they could return to their countries better equipped.  Denied. Denied!  OK, I’ve had enough, I thought, and told Pastor Smith the same.  I investigated ways (not very successful) to leverage things in Aiah’s favor.  Then I hit on my grand scheme.  I was goiing to get a bunch of our people and we’re going to go to the Federal building in downtown Tucson, and we’re going to picket the State Department!  Yeah, the unrighteous government who is trying to block and hinder the kingdom of God!  Well, of course, I cooled down, but at least I was motivated by a sincere desire for Aiah to see the church and people that had invested in him and his pastor and his nation.

In June of last year, 2017, Aiah Abu finally got his visa to travel to the U.S. and our conference!

In June of last year, 2017, Aiah Abu finally got his visa to travel to the U.S. and our conference!  We spend tens of thousands of dollars in missionary air fares every year, and, trust me, it is a heavy burden.  But last year it was with great delight that we paid for Aiah and Mariama’s air fare.  He had finally obtained a visa and they were going to be able to be with us and experience “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”  It made the whole conference week for me.

All of this rushed home to me when I received the news that Pastor Aiah Abu had passed away in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa on May 18, 2018, after spending two days in the hospital and then being released.  Some of the ailments he was battling overcame him.  A true soldier had gone home to be with the “captain of our salvation.”  Tempering my sadness was the fact that he had made it to Conference last year.  I couldn’t help but imagine, “Now we is enjoying the ultimate and soul-fulfilling ‘conference’ (gathering) for “to be absent from the body is to be present (at home) with the Lord.”  

The Bible says in (1Cor.8:3) “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”  Eternal life is to know the Lord (Jn.17:3) but eternal significance is to be known by Him.  Aiah Abu may have been largely unknown on this earth, but he was most certainly known in heaven!  This is why Jesus said our source for continual rejoicing is the fact our name is registered in heaven.  This is why we have confidence in this comforting thought “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  I couldn’t let Aiah’s passing go without saying “I see you, brother!”

*My thoughts don’t count nearly as much as Pastor Alvin Smith’s firsthand recognition.  This is why I’ve asked him to partner with me in this blog posting.


Ps. Alvin Smith

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You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.
— Hebrews 1:9

The year would be 1989 and the month December, in the nation of Sierra Leone, West Africa, that I would meet a young man who would literally embody the word disciple. His name is Aiah Aaron Abu.

My fondest memories of Aiah are of his ability to encourage people from all walks of life to serve God amid the most difficult circumstances. Aiah’s unique anointing and gifting for ministry was to those who had not only given up on life, but it seemed that life had given up on them. 


With the skill of a surgeon, Aiah would move to bring hope and direction to those who were lost and broken. Like the captain of a battleship under attack, Aiah’s demeanor was always calm, composed, and hopeful! He instilled this same spirit in those around him, giving them a sense that everything would be alright. 

Aiah was one of the elders among the disciples in the earlier days of the Church in Sierra Leone. His leadership among those younger disciples has continued to influence many now-seasoned pastors.

The joy of any leader is the ability to call one of his pastors for advice, suggestions, and insight when dealing with various issues. The Apostle Paul had a young disciple by the name of Timothy, and here’s the statement that he made about him: 

For I have no one else like-minded, who will truly care about you
— Philippians 2:20

Paul refers to Timothy, whose service to the kingdom is seen in his love for others, and that speaks to the life of Aiah Aaron Abu. Much like Timothy, Abu’s willingness to go the extra mile, his resolve to not give up, his mature behavior to serve others without murmuring or complaining, even at great personal sacrifice and cost, speaks to the heart of a servant.

One of my fondest memories of Aiah is that he would come by my house early, before the evening services, to help me load the generator in my Jeep. Aiah would help me and then, on many occasions, walk to the church that was 8 miles away!  He could have easily come back to my house before I left for prayer in order to ride with me, but he wanted to get there early enough to prepare – and he also wanted to minister to people along the way, telling them about the power and love of Jesus!

The following quote captures what I believe God performed in and through the life of Aiah Aaron Abu:

I think He intends to try you like gold in the crucible, so as to number you amongst His most faithful servants. Therefore, you must lovingly embrace all occasions of suffering, considering them as precious tokens of His love. To suffer in silence and without complaint is what He asks of you.
— Unknown