Photo Source: Caleb Rodewald - Lutheran Bible Translators Used with permission
Map Source: Bethany World Prayer Center
|Christian Adherents:||3.00 %|
|Online Audio NT:||No|
|Affinity Bloc:||Sub-Saharan Peoples|
The Gola speak a Niger-Congo language, also called Gola, which is closely related to the language of the Kissi people. Combined, the two groups are known as the Mel group, and they are among the oldest in Sierra Leone. Gola and Kissi migrations into western Liberia began as early as the 1300s, when they left their homes in Cote d'Ivoire and beyond. During that time, much of what is now Sierra Leone and Liberia was uninhabited, tropical rain forests. Since that time a large portion of the land has been cleared for cultivation. Today, the Gola people in both Liberia and Sierra Leone are skilled farmers.
They are known as a very proud people. They are organized into clans, which tend to be more like territorial units rather than kinship groups.
Most of the Gola live in western Liberia, primarily in the districts of Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, and Montserrando. Nearly 13,000 others live in the neighboring country of Sierra Leone, where they are concentrated in the small provinces of Kenema and Pujehun.
Most of the Gola are farmers who rely solely on farming for their livelihood. Rice is their principal crop. Because of their highly developed farming techniques, the Gola tend to produce more than they can consume. Since the 1950s and 60s, transportation has improved, and major roadways have been built in Liberia and Sierra Leone. As a result of the recent accessibility to outside regions, increasing numbers of Gola are leaving their farms in search of work in the cities.
The Gola live in villages that are scattered throughout the forests of the area. They live in round huts that have mud walls and thatched roofs. Family ties are strong, and all of the family members work together to cultivate and harvest their crops. The men's duties include clearing the fields and cultivating the land. The women and children help by planting the rice and other crops such as yams, groundnuts, and taro (a tropical plant having a large, starchy, edible root). One of the boys' responsibilities is to guard the crops by chasing birds and animals away from the fields. Women harvest the crops, and the girls winnow the rice.
Since life for the Gola people revolves around farming it is no wonder that their main ceremonies and initiation rites are associated with agriculture. No one is permitted to harvest his crops until they carry out the offerings of the first fruits to the gods. Each year they celebrate their yam and groundnut harvests. During times of drought, a village elder (acting on behalf of the entire community) offers a prayer for rain to a god known as Da. The elder prays while holding the skull of an ancestor. Afterwards, he sacrifices an animal to Da, usually a chicken, and pours its blood over the skull.
Among the Gola, circumcision is the most important initiation rite for a boy. It is regarded as a time of cleansing and putting away of the "filth" of life. Circumcision is considered a type of rebirth, and death to one's former self. It is also a form of affiliation with the gods. For a month after circumcision, the boy is secluded and can talk to no one. Afterwards, he is showered with gifts of chickens, beer, and arrows. He is then considered a man, a responsible person who must show respect to his family members and elders. As a man, he can become a member of various religious cults.
The Gola are largely Muslim. Theirs is a religion of works based on five basic "pillars." Muslims must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." They are also required to pray five times a day, give alms to the poor, fast during the month of Ramadan, and try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.
Many of the Gola still adhere to their traditional religious or animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects and animals have spirits). Usually they also practice ancestor worship. The Gola believe that the spirits of their deceased ancestors are alive and need to be fed and cared for. These spirits are said to become hungry and dissatisfied when they are not properly appeased. They can then turn into evil spirits that can harm those who should have cared for them.
Tied closely to their worship of ancestral spirits is their belief in reincarnation (continuous cycles of death and rebirth). When someone dies, he is believed to be reborn into the family of either his father or his mother. For this reason, the names of ancestors are used over and over again.
Several Christian resources are now available to the Gola. Mission agencies have worked with the Gola people, and there are some believers. Yet there is not yet a movement to Christ. Discipleship training is desperately needed for the small number of Gola believers. Bible teachings via Christian radio and television broadcasts, additional long-term missionaries, and evangelistic materials are needed to effectively reach this group with the message of salvation. Above all, there needs to be faithful intercessors to stand in the gap for the Gola, tearing down strongholds that are keeping them away from the only Savior.
Pray for the Lord to thrust out Holy Spirit anointed workers to the Gola people.
Pray for Gola hearts to be receptive to the life-transforming gospel.
Pray for a Disciple Making Movement among the Gola people this decade.