There were no schools in his village, Seeyah, in Liberia. As a boy, he worked on the family rice farm. When he grew older, he married and had nine children and still worked on the farm. He had no reason to read.
One day, a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist, Willie Helbig, arrived in the village. Joe was interested to learn from the Bible, and he and other villagers asked the evangelist to study with them. Willie agreed and, a month later, all 50 adults in Seeyah and a neighboring village, Dehyu, were baptized.
Willie, the first ordained Liberian pastor in the Adventist Church, told the new church members that it was their turn to spread the gospel message. Joe didn’t know what to think. He loved Jesus and wanted to share the gospel. But he was 45 years old and couldn’t read.
“I can’t open the Bible and teach from it,” he said.
Willie wasn’t worried. He invited Joe and five other newly baptized church members to attend a Bible training school in Dehyu. On the first day of classes, Joe looked at the other five men in Willie’s classroom. None of them had gone to school. None of them could read. He was in good company.
Willie prayed and gave a new Bible to each man. Then he opened his own Bible and showed the men how to find important verses. He read each verse out loud and explained the meaning of every word.
Joe prayed earnestly. He didn’t know how he would remember all the verses. He wanted to speak to others about Jesus’ soon coming, but he didn’t know how he would ever be able to do that.
Every day, Joe and the other men met with Willie to learn from the Bible. Every day, Joe prayed for the Holy Spirit to bless their classes.