“Really, God?”

I am in a very interesting place right now, and when I say “place”, I mean spiritually.  A little over a month ago, I moved to Texas for some Advanced Missionary Training.  To be honest, I truly thought I would be in Liberia by now.  I was sitting on a ticket that was to carry me over June 30, but due to a number of reasons, that didn’t happen.  So I decided, although not really enthusiastically, to take advantage of this opportunity that lay before me, to attend this Missionary training where I would learn about cultures, culture shock, languages, literacy, we even have a “jungle camp” in the spring.  There were no smoke clouds in the sky saying “Go to the training, Julie!”, but I had so many good reports and recommendations, I decided to come.

I knew that it was going to have its challenges.  When I was trying to “logic” my way through it (don’t judge, just counting the cost), I did one of my Mom’s infamous “Positive side, Negative side” Lists.  There were really only 2 on the “negative” side, and my Pastor agreed, it would not be an “out of God’s will” decision to go.  It would provide some excellent training, it is line with the burdens that I have for Liberia, it would be 9 months of Bible immersion and fellowship with other Missionaries.  What a great “send-off” to the Mission field, right?  Right.  All these expectations have come to fruition, and I am not sorry I came.

BUT….little did I know or expect the time of testing it has become!  First of all, it has been a very, very difficult but necessary separation from my family.  I feel the separation from my daughter and grandchildren most keenly, but away from my Mom, my sister and her family.  I am not going to lie, it has been TOUGH with a capital “T”.  By the way, “Separation from my family” was one of the 2 negatives, but “Separation from my family” was also on the positive side.  A necessary evil, if you would like to put it that way.  This test, I expected, even welcomed.

BUT…the week I was to move, I started having issues with my low back and knees.  Some last minute trips to the Chiropractor did not prove helpful, and they were so irritated and inflamed by the time I completed a week of packing and then drove 18 hours, the very first evening I arrived, I took one of my first steps into my duplex and SNAP, I felt this unwelcome pop.  That injury has not gotten much better.  I have been very blessed to have a local Chiropractor go above and beyond to get me “back on my feet”, but it has limited my mobility in a way that I have never experienced.  It has isolated me, ruined my sleep, slowed me down, stopped my basket sales.  OK. “Really, God?  God, remember me, I am that woman who is trying to get to Liberia and help women and children?  Please don’t forget that!”

Then, there are the classes themselves.  Fascinating, interesting, engaging but SO FAR OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE my brain literally throbs after a day of classes.  I blame my age and the fact I have never been a “language, english, sociology” type person.  I am a numbers person, a logic person, an audit person, a check-list person.  Ok.  “Really, God?  Do you really think I can learn this stuff, retain this stuff, actually USE this stuff in Africa?  God, remember me, I am that woman, that 51 year old woman, with an old brain, who is trying to get to Liberia and help women and children?  Please don’t forget that!”

Then, there are people that I know and love back home that are hurting, and I want to run to them.  I want to “fix” things.  I am a “fixer”.  I want to be there. I want to hug them, tell them I love them, that God loves them, that it will be alright!  But I can’t.  I can’t be there.  And it stinks.  Then it hit me.  This is what it will be like when you are in Africa.  When you can no longer touch, no longer hug, no longer look them in the eye and tell them, “What God says is true!  You can TRUST him! (and as you preach to them you preach to yourself)”  OK. “Really, God?  I came down to Texas to get ready to go to Liberia, and then people I care about start hurting, and I can’t be there.  I want to be there.  God, remember me, I am that woman who wants to get to Liberia and help women and children, and I would appreciate it if you would keep all harm from those I love when I can’t be there to get control of the situation?  Please don’t forget that!”

Then, I got the shingles.  Yep, my good friends, come back to visit.  I am one of those people living a “medically impossible” situation.  If you read up on shingles, they always claim you can’t get it twice and not in the same place and blah, blah, blah.  But yep.  I am the exception.  They are an outward manifestation of internalized stress.  Funny thing is, I don’t really feel “worried” or “anxious” or “stressed”.  I usually feel tired, very tired.  And then I get achy, very achy.  Then I get this pain in my shoulder.  Then I get this itchy, burning sensation.  Then I get the shingles.  This is probably the 5th or 6th time that I have had them.  These are even hanging in there, about 2 weeks now.  OK.  “Really, God?  I am already dealing with homesickness, classes, bad knees and hurting people, and now I have to get the shingles?  God, remember me, I am that woman who wants to get to Liberia and help women and children?  Please, don’t forget that!”

As I pray and discuss the situation with God, one very bright spot occurred to me, and He put it into words for me just yesterday.  I am troubled on every side, yet not distressed; I am perplexed, but not in despair…(personalized paraphrase from 2 Cor. 4:8).  I am kind of waiting to “lose it”.  The “old” Julie would definitely have lost it by now.  Maybe even the Julie of 5 or 6 years ago.  I would possibly at least have had a very large pity party, or thrown some things.  But, no.  Not only had I not done that.  I didn’t feel the need to do that.  I truly and honestly and sincerely believe, that God is in control.  This is His work.  I am His vessel, and he gets to manage the situation in any manner that He sees fit.  Whether it is me, my ministry, my baskets, my loved ones, my health.  Even as I type this, He has brought to mind the song:

Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be:
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

Smooth let it be, or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight it leads,
Right onward to Thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might:
Choose Thou for me, my God,
So I shall walk aright. 

Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health.
Choose Thou my cares for me,
My poverty or wealth.

Not mine, not mine the chose,
In things both great and small;
Be Thou my guide, my strength,
My wisdom and my all.

God has been showing me repeatedly over the last couple of weeks, that it is not for healing, or protection, or changes in circumstances that I must be praying, but for strength.  His strength.  We can do nothing in our strength or our understanding, it is only in His strength and by His grace.  Hard lessons to learn, but oh so true and worthy to be trusted!  As my dear friend Miss Jean used to say to me, “Julie, if you don’t learn that lesson, God will take you back to the classroom.”

So, God has me in a classroom.  One that I do no necessarily like or understand, and quite frankly, if my knee wasn’t so bad and I had the physical strength I probably would have packed up and gone home by now.  Even this morning I was reading a devotional on the times when we are asking, “Really, God?”  It pointed out the lives of David, Jimagesoseph and Job.  David, killer of Goliath and the anointed of Israel, living in caves and on the run for up to 13 years, hiding from the jealous Saul.  Joseph, favored of his father and dreamer of dreams, prophesying that not only his jealous brothers but his mother and father would all bow down to him one day, sold into slavery and languishing in prison.  Job, a righteous and upright man, loses all his possessions, his children and his health.  Don’t you think they were all tempted to say, “Really, God?  Remember me?  I am your friend, your servant, your helper, don’t you remember that?”  But they were all rewarded for their faithfulness to God, despite what seemed impossible circumstances in light of the call they had on their lives.

God doesn’t change His mind.  He has given me a calling.  I am in the wilderness of preparation with a lot of questions running through my mind right now.  But I am troubled on every side, yet not distressed; I am perplexed, but not in despair.  I need your prayers, I covet your prayers, I appreciate your prayers!

Look unto ME, and be ye SAVED, all the ends of the earth: For I AM GOD, and there is none else.  Isaiah 45:22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 5 – A Day of Firsts (aka Termites, Honey & Malaria)

It is our first work day in BOMI.  We get up early.  The women are there early to make our breakfast.  They feed us well.  They don’t necessarily have breakfast food.  It is the same as the other meals.  I love the cassava and the plantains.  Then there is some variety of “soup” or sauce with gravy to go over the top.  We are eating a lot of fish.

 

DSCF1263Jesse and the men start the morning on the roof putting up the solar panels.  They have to finish quickly before the roof gets hot.  Jesse is young but a natural born leader.  He leads and instructs the men.  The panels will recharge the batteries that can then run the light bulbs and the fans.

Later, the men start laying brick at the rescue village.  The women go down to “help” but it is fairly futile.  We carry 3 or 4 bricks to the site but they are so heavy that was about all we could manage!  Jessica is taking pictures and we are looking for something to do.  There are 4 little boys from the village sitting with Pastor David.  We find out that if the kids are late to school they are sent home.  These boys were late but instead of heading straight home, they play along the way.  Pastor David scolds them for not going straight home.

We spend time with the women.  Bendu is doing the laundry and she gives Jesse and I lessons.  It is mind boggling how hard these women work.  There is a large tub of water and a wash board.  The bar soap is rubbed over the clothes and you scrub “Hard!”  Bendu keeps telling us.  Their arms and shoulders are powerful.  We can’t match Bendu.  Not even close.  So scrub the outside hem, knees, etc.

Then turn it inside out.  Scrub the waistband, the “seat” or crotch, the legs.  Then wring out the soap.  For the very dirty clothes this is repeated.  Then into a rinse and wring them again.  Then hang on the line to dry.  They are scrubbed and hung inside out to preserve the fabric and color which would fade in the sun.  Shirts – scrub collars and arm pits.  My perception of these people as dirty is way off.  They live in a dusty place.  Some have few clothes but they bathe and wash constantly.

The women make brushes and beautiful brooms by stripping down palm leaves and tying them together.  The broom has a beautiful smooth wooden handle.  The brooms can be made and sold at market for 20 LD, the brushes for 5 LD.  This is next to nothing in US dollars, close to $.25 and $.05 respectively.  They use the brushes and brooms to sweep the hearth and the area around the yard.  It is much cleaner here than in Monrovia.  They take trash to the woods.  Peels and organic material are tossed out and the herd of sheep that wanders through from Gbalagba eat them during the day.

 I am smarming on 100 SPF sun screen, but still getting a good tan.  Not worrying too much about deet since the mosquitoes aren’t too bad.  I have to have a bandanna in my hand every second to wipe the sweat off my face.  I am not wearing any undershirts or extra under clothing like I would in the U.S.  It is just too hot.  I will never again buy anything but cotton underwear.

 Jesse is becoming fast friends with the men.  In the evening, they get on the subject of honey.  The men (and Jesse) go looking for honey in the woods (or the bush as the villagers call it) in the dark.  The bees are asleep.  They take Jesse but won’t let him come into the bush.  They find a bee’s nest.  They leave most of the comb for the bees to find but bring the rest back in a huge bucket.  We taste the sweet, warm African honey and I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever tasted anything like it.  A couple of bottles are filled and cleaned well so the bees won’t come to “find” their honey.  We use it throughout the week in tea and on oat meal.  It is awesome.

On our first night with solar power, when Jesse first turned on the lights, we were inundated with these flying creatures.  There are ant like with 4 long wings similar to a dragonfly.  Turns out they are termites.  Their huge mound is in the front yard.  I also later learn these mounds are what the bricks are made from.  The termites ingest and work the clay for the mounds and that makes good bricks.  They explain they are only out the month of April.  They grow wings, fly around till they find a mate, breed and die.  The cycle only takes a couple of days.  Well, the villagers are pretty excited by this because they like to catch them, pull off the wings and eat them.  Ben is persuaded to eat one.  The Liberian people say, “try it, it’s sweet”.  What I learn is “sweet” is not like we think of but means it is “good”.  I tell them and won’t eat one raw but I would eat them cooked.  They started collecting them by holding a torch over the bucket of water.  The villagers grab them and throw them in the bucket.  That night as we went to bed, I found the bucked of dead termites in our bathroom.  Oh no!  I moved it to the pantry.  Pauline hated these things flying around so we turned our lights off and turned on the light in the men’s bathroom.  LOL.  I told them if they had any problem they could eat them.  The next day, sure enough a bowl of dark brown little bits turn up, the termites have been roasted.  No turning back now so I try a small handful.  They taste kind of nutty.  Kind of like burnt popcorn hulls.  The villagers love it.

During the day, there is a woman who brings her young daughter here to our camp.  Her name is Mahmae.  Her daughter is Hawa.   Hawa’s eyes were tired and sore.  I washed her eyes out and we gave her a Benadryl.  Her mother stayed throughout the day.  Later I asked if she had a fever.  I took it under her arm.  It was 100.4 degrees, which meant 101.4 degrees. DSCF1306 It was suspected she had malaria.  Her mother lacked the money to take the little girl to the hospital.  Brother Hal gave her $15.  This got her a motorcycle taxi to town, allowed her to see the doctor, get a test (it was malaria), a shot and her quinine. The $15 was the difference between life and death for Hawa.  On Tuesday morning she returned smiling and giggling.  She laid against me.  I hugged her and patted her back.  She patted in return.  She inspected my white hands and arms, my ears and rubbed my hair.  Praise God!  Her mother communicated to me that she does not go to school.  6 children and she cannot afford it.  I told her we are here to help.  We must

Day 4 – Village Life

DAY 4 – SUNDAY

We awaken on Sunday morning, our first full day in the bush.  Breakfast is the same type of food as dinner.  Typically the Liberians prepare and eat one meal a day. Leftovers are kept in bowls in the house, and served later in the day.  We are used to everything being refrigerated.  Nothing is refrigerated here.  You try not to dwell on this, but I am concerned about any meat that is standing in the heat.  I am just not sure our systems can handle it.  The village women are there to help, to cook and do laundry.  A young girl named Nancy will do the washing.  This is done daily with a team this size.  Everything you are wearing is wringing wet with sweat by the end of every day.

We leave for the village of Gbugba where we will be attending church this morning.  It is about a 2 mile walk through the bush to the village, down a “road” that is essentially two wheel ruts through the bush.  My system is “off” this morning.  I feel dizzy and out of sorts.  Probably jet lag, exhaustion and the HEAT.  I think of returning to camp, but know I can not miss.  The scenery on the walk is breathtakingly beautiful.

We go to the town square where the children and most of the town’s people have gathered.  DSCF1201The village is primitive but pretty and clean.  The houses are “painted” a kind of stucco orange.  There are chickens and sheep wandering around.  As we arrive, some children are getting their Sunday morning baths.  They are standing in a shallow tub and their mothers are lathering them up with soap and rinsing them off before they are changed into their best clothes for church.  One terrible misconception I came with was that the people were dirty.  What I found is that this could not be further from the truth.  They live in a very dusty environment, but I found the people, children and adults, are frequently bathing, usually morning and night and sometimes even more frequently as they change clothes or get ready to go anywhere.  In the end, I imagine they found us “dirty” as we only bathed at night before going to bed, typically.

We split up to teach Sunday School.  I stay with Jessica and Jess with the children in the pavilion, which they call a palava hut.  We sing Zacheus and Father Abraham.  The children stare wide eyed as I tromp around in my floppy hat.  I am not a hat person, but very quickly learn that this close to the equator, you want to keep your head covered.  Jesse has his djembe and plays along.   I realize that Liberians, children and adults, will reply with “yeah” whether they understand you or not. You can ask them a question and they say “yeah” but they have no idea what you are saying.

DSCF1163Jesse then tells them the story of Noah.  These villages are of the Gola tribe and they speak Gola.  (Eric later tells me later there are 16 tribes in Liberia and about 26 political parties.)  Pastor Willy has stayed with us and “interprets”.  The funny thing is he is speaking English.  They just can’t understand our American dialect.  We ask the children, what kind of animals did Noah load on his ark?  I think, being from Africa, they will have some exotic suggestions.  I laugh to myself as they say “deer”, “river deer” and “bush deer”.  DSCF1168We make suggestions of the chickens and sheep that are in their village to which they agree, also elephants, lions and giraffes.  They seem less convinced.

I can hear the lively music starting in the main church.  We take the children with us and make our way to the worship service.  They give us an honored place to sit at the front.  The church building is beautiful.  It has a thatched porch with stucco and cement walls and an altar.  Their music is beautiful.  One man hits 2 pipes together.  Several women play the “Sa-sa”, which is a gourd with a hole in the bottom covered with a woven string covering and beads. Jesse DSCF1184has his djembe and one of the villagers has one as well.  The women sit on one side of the church and men on the other.  The children sit on the floor, down the aisle and out the door.

The Pastor is Moses.  He has each of us give a welcome and say a few words.  I say how appreciative I am of their warm welcome and of what good care they are taking of us.  There are 2 older women with long sticks.  If any of the children misbehave they get a poke or a flick with the stick.  The congregation sings and praises God.  The words are all difficult to understand.  I am not sure if it is in Gola or English.  It is beautiful and heartfelt.

Pastor Hal is preaching and he gives one of the best salvation messages I have ever heard.  He uses a couple of unique illustrations.  At one point he offers Pastor Moses a gift (which he has prompted him to say “no” to).  He says please take the gift.  Pastor Moses says NO.  He gets on one knee and says, “please take the gift”.  Pastor Moses says no, Pastor Hal stretches his arms out like Jesus on the cross and says , “Please take the gift”.  He also explains that sin has a price.  He uses the illustration of going into a store and wanting a dress but you can’t pay the price.  Salvation has a price that only Jesus can pay.  At the invitation most of the church comes forward for salvation. IMG_3654 A great deal of the message emphasized how there are no works that can save you.  Pastor Hal has the team go forward and pray.  I pray twice with at least a dozen women.  I just pray that one day I may be able to disciple some of these women, even befriend them.

Several of us (especially me) had a hard time walking the ½ hour 2 mile trip to the village, so we wait for the truck to return to pick us up.  While we are waiting we play and talk to the children.  They love to have their picture taken.  They especially love to look at the pictures you have taken of them.  Apparently having any photos of the children is a rare thing for the parents.  DSCF1213On a future trip I would hope to be able to bring a printer of some sorts to print the pictures for them to have.  I attempt to teach them “Miss Mary Mack”.  They don’t seem to mind me not remembering all the words.  I also play “walkie round the garden” and get the same reaction I always get.  Little hands thrust at me from every direction.

As I wait, I think about their life in the village.  The village is clean and beautiful.  DSCF1215They have a breed of sheep, black and white spotted with no wool, that are grazing around the village.  There are chickens and roosters.  Many of the parents were bathing their children.  Little brown bodies in front of the house with a bucket of water and a lot of soap and they get a good scrub down.  Then they were sent to church in their best clothes all shiny and clean.  These people are just like us.  They are clean, they are generous, they love the Lord, they love their children.  Some of them have things that are a little nicer and clothes that are a little nicer while others have less, just like us.  I love these people.

Eric arrives with the truck.  Time to leave Gbugba.  I am sorry to go.  On the way back we see new construction.  It is a large nice home.  Apparently a government official is building a place in the area.  Eric points out the kasava farm.  Apparently this provides and income to the village.  DSCF1230He explains that the potato crop was bad.  Too much rain and the potatoes had black spots, but the greens can be salvaged (we later get to watch them prepare the greens which was amazing).  We have a short time to rest or arrange.  We were constantly trying to organize which was a lot of fun with 4 women and about 10 large cases in one room.  So far, the mosquitoes have not been too bad at all.

On Sunday it is Benu who shows up to do our laundry.  I assume Nancy found it all a little too much.  The day before (Saturday) I helped Nancy to hang the laundry.  She “sacked” me because I did a lousy job of pinning up the clothes – I managed to drop several pieces in the dirt.  The Liberians tease and joke around with us.  They are friendly and so easy to like.  Nancy had asked for my red bandanna and I let her keep it.  I thought nothing would dry here but the laundry dries very quickly in this sun.

There are a few thDSCF1249ings you are constantly looking for.  Your sunscreen, your deet, and your water!!  The empty water bottles disappear quickly.  They are a hot commodity and the villagers collect any they see lying around.  We have told the children of Gbugba to come back around 4 pm.  They show up late, Liberian time, but ready to play.  We teach them “baseball”.  Some play volleyball and of course soccer.  We gather for a Bible story and a sucker.  DSCF1253We continue to emphasize to everyone that we are showing the Jesus film in Gola on Friday and they should all come.

The Liberian men who are staying here with us are all strong Christian men.  I feel safe and protected under their care.  They are great men of God.  Ben is developing great relations with them  Everyone loves “Brudder Ben”!  He is wonderful with the children and adults alike.  Oh God!  Call him!  Help him to answer in accordance with your will.

I forgot to mention that when we were in church, Pastor Moses asked if anyone had anything to share.  I told them how blessed I was by their music.  This gained me an invitation to play the ‘Sa-Sa’.  Pauline got up with me.  DSCF1199It is very rhythmic.  Pastor Moses says we must lead them in song, so the people can dance.  Rich African voices lift in song and the people step back and forth.  Praising God.  He is good.

 

 

DAY 3 Epilogue

I forgot about the termites.  On our first night, when Jesse first turned on the lights we were inundated with these flying creatures.  There are ant like with 4 long wings similar to a dragonfly.  Turns out they are termites.  Their huge mound is in the front yard.  I also later learn these mounds are what the bricks are made from.  The termites ingest and work the clay for the mounds and that makes good bricks.  They explain they are only out the month of April.  They grow wings, fly around till they find a mate, breed and die.  The cycle only takes a couple of days.  Well, the villagers are pretty excited by this because they like to catch them, pull off the wings and eat them.  Ben is persuaded to eat one.  The Liberian people say, “try it, it’s sweet”.  What I learn is “sweet” is not like we think of but means it is “good”.  I tell them I won’t eat one raw but I would eat them cooked.  They started collecting them by holding a torch (flashlight) over the bucket of water.  The villagers grab them and throw them in the bucket.  That night as we went to bed, I found the bucket of dead termites in our bathroom.  Oh no!  I moved it to the pantry.  Pauline hated these things flying around so we turned our lights off and turned on the light in the men’s bathroom.  I told them if they had any problem they could eat them.  The next day, sure enough a bowl of dark brown little bits turn up, the termites have been roasted.  No turning back now so I try a small handful.  They taste kind of nutty.  Kind of like burnt popcorn hulls.  The villagers love it.

DAY 3 – Fire, Funerals, Fish and New Friends

I wake up very early, way before daybreak.   I watch Adeline make the days fire from the previous day’s embers. She has small piles of curly dry grass she puts on the embers and covers with small sticks which she blows on. There are 3 or 4 large stones around the campfire that are adjusted to hold the 2 or 3 pots that are cooking there. Work starts with flashlights in the dark. They are pealing kasava with a large machete shaped knife. I tell Bessie I would like to help but I would cut my hand off and they laugh. Adeline gives me a hard time for always standing. She is always getting me a chair. I tell her I want to stand. She says she hopes I am standing on the promises of God. The women are sitting on short legged cane chairs that allow them to work around the campfire and over the bowls they are prepping the meals in.

This morning Eleanor is baking yeast rolls. She doesn’t fire the big oven because she is low on wood and it costs a great deal. She said she needs about $400 – $500 in capital up front to get her bread baking business up and running. She is using a small round cast iron oven. It is about 4”-6” tall and about 18” round. It has a metal lid. She puts the pan on the rocks over embers & piles more embers on top. Out comes the most delicious yeast rolls. People from the neighborhood come to buy her bread. She says they see her smoke and come to buy, but she has made these for us, for our trip. Again, I am struck by how hard she, everyone, has to work.

We are up early to leave for BOMI, but we wait. Pauline tells us about “Liberian time”. There is seldom a time when anything starts as it should. We are supposed to leave by 8 AM. Pastor David comes around 10 AM. There is a Nissan truck with a tall metal rack or cage that is common in Liberia. There are 4 men on the back of the truck. They load all the luggage and water and the men all climb on top. DSCF1071The rest of us are in a Toyota minivan rented for the day. 4 in the back, 2 in the middle, Cindy up front. Almost right away there are problems with the truck. Apparently most men in Liberia are mechanics. They have parts and tools with them and they stop and fix it by the side of the road. At one point when we were waiting, there were laborers working with hard hats and shovels, breaking up the earth along the shoulder. We find out they are paid $6 USD a day…a day. The amount of manual labor that must be done is amazing. DSCF1080We finally have to give up and go to Pastor David’s to swap trucks. The new truck does not have nearly as good a suspension but we go with it anyway. I later find out we are “test-driving” this truck. We stop by a Chinese fish market to buy fish. There are people making huge blocks of ice 2’ x 4’. People are buying them and carrying them off on motorcycles.  They see the rolls Eleanor made for us in the morning and try to buy them off us.

DSCF1115While we are waiting, we hear singing and shouting and drumming. A large group of people are working their way up the street. I ask our driver, Romeo, what is going on. He explains a young person has died, and these are the mourners.  He goes on to say that if we give them a 5-10 LD (Liberian Dollars) they will show us a picture.  None of us have LD, so Romeo gives us 5 LD to drop in their box and they surround us. They are shouting and beating on gas cans and drums. Their faces are covered with blue paint. They are DSCF1119inches from us. Someone comes up shouting, “Show them the picture!” A handsome young man’s picture is on the box. Jessie puts the money in and they leave. Romeo (the driver) explains this is common when a young person dies. The money will go to his family. The young boy died of sickle cell anemia, which would be serious but treatable in the U.S.

We are now off. Jesse rides on the back with the men and the luggage. We stop to fill the gas cans for the generators (which eventually leaks onto the tent). Duala is a town we passed through. The road was paved and good initially, but before long we were on a paved road covered with pot holes. The driver swayed back and forth, sometimes even with oncoming traffic. Sometimes the potholes were too big to go around. We were constantly hitting bottom. DSCF1131By the time we made the turn to BOMI the brakes were grinding. The dirt road to BOMI was an adventure. There were pot holes and ravines like you wouldn’t believe. We kept offering to get out and walk to give Romeo clearance. He laughed and said “no worries”. The brakes are now smoking and he is pumping them. We drive over about 6 or 7 log bridges. Romeo just kept laughing. We finally insisted (or Pauline did) that we get out at one bridge that was so bad we had to walk over while he drove down the side through the river. Quite an adventure.

We finally grinded into BOMI at what the locals call “The Junction”. The rescue village sits at this junction. There was a slight rain and a complete rainbow as we arrived.  DSCF1136Down one “road” is the village of Gbugbae (“G” is silent), down the other Gbalakba and the other Gbamore. The people of the villages are there to meet us. Morris, the chief of Gbugbae is not there but his wife, Hawa, is there. They all greet us warmly. DSCF1151The children from all the villages are gathering. I am still working on the Liberian hand shake, which includes a “snap” at the end. The men who accompanied us on the truck will be staying all week. Pastor David, Pastor Steve, Pastor Willy, Eric (from Pastor David’s church), Phillip (Pastor David’s son) and a few others. Pastor Joppa (who is a nurse) is also along. We all pack into the house – 4 men in one room and 4 women in the other. First order of business is beds (foam mattresses on cement floor).  The mosquito nets cover the mattress and keep out not only mosquitoes but all the other creepy crawlies except for the smallest gnats and the dust. The cement and bricks are crumbly and my bed is full of it all the time. Nice exfoliating Pauline says.   I am thankful the DSCF1247floors are cement. The walls are up and a tin roof on. Women and men’s bathrooms with a toilet. There are quite a few bugs including huge spiders about 4”, centipedes about 6” long and ¼” around and these huge ants. Pauline gets bit that first night and she gets this huge purplish gooey knot on her knuckle. The Africans just laugh and say they will not harm you. Especially when a huge spider sent us all screaming through the room. The building is beautiful. Pastor David bought beautiful hand crafted Rattan chairs and stools.DSCF1240 As we travel through the villages I realize many have these in their home. (I wish there were a way to get these to America).

We turn our groceries over to Hawa (which means princess, many girls here are named this). The women are busy cooking our supper. They start cleaning the fish. The fish to be cooked go into the pan heads and all. There is normally a base of rice, plantain or kasava that is served with a “soup”. This can be any sort of saucy concoction with greens, or fish. DSCF1132Everything is heavily “oiled” with Red Palm oil which is abundant. (I later learn it is made from the red palm nut. The palm trees are enormous, about 50’ in the air. There are huge “cones” about the size of a large watermelon that are full of the red seeds. Hawa shows us a huge pile of the cones and seeds. She explains the seeds are boiled, mashed and boiled again and the red grease rises to the top.  This is palm oil. They use it to cook everything, and most of the “soups” are swimming in it.

The women finish our supper very late – 2 on 1 – we have to share plates. The fish is DSCF1265delicious. What remains they must “preserve”. They do this the next day by making a platform (it never ceased to amaze me how they could quickly put up a structure with small trees and palm branches). The left over fish is wrapped in palm leaves and cardboard. A fire is started under the platform and the fish is smoked. Also on the camp site is a beautiful outdoor shower. It too is made of sticks and palm branches. The palm isDSCF1266 woven so tight you cannot see through. The ground is covered with round, smooth red stones and sheet of plastic serves as the door. Throughout the week we 4 women enjoy cool showers under the stars and palm tree.

We play with the children. We try to learn as many names as we can. They are all excited but I am sure they have come to expect something when the white people come. Jesse and the men get busy with the wiring. With the batteries and solar panels we soon have light. Not enough volts to run the fans, but the generators can run them at night. We shower and fall into bed exhausted. I feel perfectly safe. God, you are so good! That evening we ministered to the children, sang songs with them and Ryan tells them the story of David and Goliath. He pulls a little African boy to illustrate David and Ben as Goliath. The kids love it.

The chief of Gbamore, a woman, comes to greet us. We will go to church in Gbugbae tomorrow and visit the other villages in the middle of the week. Church is at 10, give or take 20 minutes!   Oh – and the pump that was built at the junction is broken – mud has gotten into the shaft. Water must be hauled from the villages.

(NOTE: The women taught us phrases in Gola, the tribal language spoken in this area:  Good morning: “Makay”, Good PM = “Co-mee-ai Kala-fi-diya”, Thank you = “Baka”)

Day 2 – Learning How One Lives in Liberia

After a fitful night’s sleep we were up early preparing for the day.  Brother Hal attempted coffee in a tin percolator.  A little weak but not bad for a first try.  DSCF0471We visit with the women who are busily preparing the days meal, peeling edo which is a large potato like vegetable, slicing plantains and peeling kasava, which is shaped like a potato but similar in color to a turnip on the inside.  The kasava, edo, and potatoes are boiled.  The kasava greens and fish oil are made into a rich gravy.  There is also dried smoked fish, bones and all.  Pauline explains that when the Liberians find bones in their food, they eat or chew most of them.  She said jokingly, “maybe that is why their teeth are so good” (they do have the most beautiful straight, white teeth).  DSCF0909The greens and gravy are very tasty but very salty from the fish and very oily.  Pauline says they cook with a great deal of oil, different varieties of palm oil mostly.

After the mid-morning meal we have a planning meeting to discuss the future of the orphanage.  It still feels surreal that I am in Africa and discussing these plans as a member of this team.  Eleanor’s most immediate need is a good well.  One of the sights of the dayDSCF0468 was a line of Eleanor’s children coming up the path with large gallon buckets of water carefully balanced on their heads, making sure our water bucket was full for us.  After that we took a walk through the neighborhood.  We met two young women.  DSCF0914One had a huge board of perfectly arranged dried fish on her head, another had a huge bucket of sugary donuts.  We bought donuts from her and Ben distributed them to some children who were outside with their mothers, who were washing their laundry in large plastic buckets, scrubbing them on the washboard.  Just the task of day to day living is so great here.  Further up the “road” which was really more of a trail (which had taxi motorcycles coming and going) we came across 2 young women beating large slate stones into smaller rocks.  These are sold for building and landscaping.  It is all about micro-business.  Anything they can do to eek a living. DSCF0934 I notice there are a lot of women on their own with several children.  A few men who are noticeably home in the middle of the day.  Some of the children are so dirty and their clothes so tattered it is unreal.

Along the way we ran into 2 schools.  The children were surprised to see white people wandering around.  They waved to us from the large porch.  They were so cute in their clean school uniforms.  One school was letting out and the children happily posed for us.  They were overjoyed when we let them look at the pictures!!  There was a dapper old gentleman walking along.  He said his name was John.  I asked if I could take his picture.  He asked if he could have a copy!  I was sorry I couldn’t print it for him.DSCF0937

There were many, many children not in school.  I know from research and Pauline confirmed that the parents must pay a fee, which they cannot afford.  I so want to include school sponsorship in our program to get as many of these kids in school as possible.  Another very noticeable issue – Trash, Trash, Trash.  Everywhere every home has a pile.  Some are burning.  Some are putrid.  It is a strewn along the road.  No pick up.  No attempt to bury.  Everywhere.

When we return the children have been gathering who attend Eleanor’s little school.  They have their little back packs and are eager to begin.  (Note to self, the children want and need BACK PACKS WITH SCHOOL SUPPLIES.)  They line up boys and girls by height and say their allegiance to Liberia (which sounds exactly like our pledge), they sing their national anthem, all saluting so straight and tall.  DSCF0477They then sing a little marching song as they go happily in.   I was feeling tired and out of sorts so I laid down for a time.  As I laid there I listened to the recitation and laughter of the children.  It was a joy listening to children sound like children.  A universal sound and despite deplorable conditions.

The primary task of the day was to get any supplies needed for BOMI.  This involved the men heading to get lumber, wiring, the generators and the women buying groceries.  Two cars had been rented for the day at $60 each.  The women drove to the Super Market with Pauline as our guide.  This was the side of town opposite the airport.  Our driver was Abie (Abraham).  We saw the Liberian Capital and Presidential mansion and other government sites.  We saw buildings that were completely shot up during the war with brand new beautiful construction right next to it. DSCF0503 The streets are absolutely teaming with people, and I mean teaming.  Small mini vans have been converted to “buses” and they are stuffed full of people.  There are taxis stuffed full of people.  In Liberia you use certain hand signals to certify where you want to be taken.  One taxi was a hatch back and there were arms and legs hanging out the back.  There are still absolutely no driving rules.  You just start honking and nose out into the intersection until someone has to let you in or hit you.  While all this is going on there are motorcycle taxis weaving in and out of traffic.  The motorcycle taxis can be loaded down with several people as well as groceries, furniture, building supplies, you name it (whole families with small children too).  We weave in and out of traffic.

There are 6 of us including the driver in a Toyota SUV.  I am in the front (only one allowed).  The other 4 (Hannah, Pastor David’s daughter, Pastor Willie, Pauline, Cindy and Jessica).  Hannah has to sit across everyone’s lap.  This is not unusual at all.  Whether a car has air conditioning or not, I was never in one where it was on.  It is always windows down.  The heat is sweltering and this is aggravated by the concrete of the city.  There are a few stoplights (brand new according to Pauline) in down town.  At every street corner, whether there is a light or not, there are people peddling everything under the sun.  Most of them are small children who don’t go to school because their parents have them peddling to make money.  They are selling sticks of gum, bags of water, donuts, eggs, brushes, jewelry.  It is crazy.  (Oh, many have medicine of some sort.  You don’t need a prescription to get a lot of meds.  You just go to the medicine store.)   Along every street there are markets.  People under umbrellas selling everything under the sun, including cooking oils and gasoline in old plastic water bottles.  With 85% unemployment  everything is about micro-businesses and the Liberians are very ingenious.  There are also dozens of little 10 x 10 food stands.

Finally we arrive at this fortress that turns out to be the Supermarket.  It has closed iron gates and about ½ dozen guards.  You have to be allowed into the parking lot.  We walked in and the first thing I notice is air conditioning!!  Ahh…it felt so good!  There before my eyes was a completely western grocery store. IMG_0065 I could have been in America.  Prices were in American dollars.  Some items were quite expensive ($14.95 for Sunscreen).  But a lot of other items were the same as America, maybe a little cheaper.  There were a number of white people there but none of them even seemed interested in what we were doing there.  We had to buy supplies for our trip to BOMI.  We all agreed we would eat Liberian with one “American” night.  We had kasava, plantain, rice, potato, fish and some Liberian spices and peppers on our list and of course 5 cases of bottled water.

We got in line and I purchased, of all things, rubbing alcohol.  We had to leave ours at home due to weight and Ben had managed to cut his finger jumping down from a ledge at Eleanor’s.    Eleanor’s roof is caving in on one side and they were looking at how they might reinforce it as one of the projects for when we return from BOMI.  We finished at the grocery store which is just like checking out in the U.S. except you pay in American and get change in Liberian dollars.  There are no coins, only very rough looking paper money.  The current exchange rate is 73 LD = 1 USD.

We then moved on to the market.  (I want to back up and say that Liberian discussions are especially straight forward.  Pastor Willie and Pauline were discussing with the driver whether we should go to the Supermarket or the Market first.  They got into a quite animated discussion that would be considered an argument in the U.S., but they were just going at it and then it was done and the driver did as Pauline wanted.)  The market was incredible.  Booth after booth after booth of produce, groceries and all sorts of meat.  Fresh fish, smoked (dried) fish, chicken parts including feet.  The odor was overwhelming.  People were pouring buckets of water onto the filthy floors in some attempt to sanitize them.  The dirt is incredible and it was as though they were scrubbing the floors with mud.  Right amidst this filthy mud fish water there were babies walking around sitting and playing on the floor.  One little boy was on his stomach grabbing our feet as we came in.

Everything was in tiny little baggies.  Everything from peanut butter to pasta had been put in plastic and sold in tiny little quantities for 5 Liberian dollars, which is less than ten cents.  This is how people earn and how they can pay.  There is a little girl trying to sell me a metal scrubbing pad.  I regretted not giving her a dollar for one, but I probably would have been stampeded.  The women and children there are staring at us.  Obviously there are not too many white people around.  We weave through tiny corridors.  I smile and greet everyone and I am typically greeted with a smile.  We get the spicy little red green and yellow peppers we will need as well as other ingredients.  We buy cubes similar to OXO in chicken and beef.  We buy a 100# bag of rice, plantain and onions.  Pastor Steve does most of the negotiating.  Hannah was a big help too as Pauline would ask her about quantities.

Finally it is time to go.  As we leave the market there is an older gentleman with a wheel barrow.  Pauline explains we are buying rice.  The groceries all go into the wheel barrow and we get the rice.  At the last minute Pauline remembers something which we go back for as the old man and Abie wait. (Abie went through the market with us.)  He wheeled the groceries to the car and unloaded them for about 50 LD, that is less than .50 cents.  Pauline gives him 100 LD.  He tries to offer her change.  On the way home Pauline explains she has no running water in her flat.  She pays people to fill a huge drum in her house a couple times a week.  Small children haul buckets of water up and down apartment stairs for 25 LD.  We get back with the groceries.

On the way back there is a debate on whether or not Pauline as to fill the vehicle with gas.  A heated discussion ensues.  The driver seems satisfied with a one gallon scratch-off ticket that came with the cell phone minute cards.  At the gas station, nicely dressed, attendants pump your gas.  I am sure this is a coveted job.  He buys his 1 gallon of gas.

We arrive back at the orphanage.  The men are already back.  The new generator is set up and the battery lights a bulb (it will be several after Jesse is done next week).  It also powers a couple of fans which is amazing, although we can’t run it too long on the gas we have.  We will run the fans as we go to bed in the evening.  It will have to be shut off at 1:00 AM so Jus, who is up watching the generator to keep it from being stolen, can get some sleep.  Jus, Eleanor’s son, sleeps in our living room for our protection.  DSCF0522When we return, the neighborhood kids are waiting on us.  There are about 60 kids.  Ben is teaching them duck duck goose, which they love.  I tell them the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers.  I have them repeat after me…how many men?  “10”  Say leprosy… “leprosy”.  Ben then tells them about Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego.  He has the kids play the parts.  Jesse plays a drum called a “djembe”.  He beats the drum and the kids drop to the ground all the way and put their heads on their hands on the ground.  They get this motion.

We spend time arranging and organizing suitcases to go to BOMI.  We don’t want to take all 21.  It is hard to be and stay organized.  Each night after supper is devotion.  Eleanor, Adeline and all the children sing.  The sound must float to heaven and straight into God’s ears.  Earlier in the day as we are walking around, I realize Eleanor only has ½ a foot.  She said she would tell me what happened.  Adeline promised she would help me write her songs on paper.  I am going to try and record them.  Cindy shared a devotion and more singing.  We sang “Thank you Lord” and “I Love You Lord”.  They want us to write it down.

Eleanor then shared a tearful testimony of how it felt when she saw the generator.  She said she has been all alone.  She is from Nimba County Liberia.  She said for many years she felt so alone but she said now, she had a family she did not feel so alone.  She spoke of how long she had prayed that God would send someone, and how in His time He answered her prayer in a way she never expected.  It was so beautiful.  We take turns “showering” which is essentially a bucket of water.  Tomorrow we leave for BOMI.

Day 1 – I AM IN AFRICA

DEAR GOD April 4, 2013 (Sometime in the middle of the night)

I am here. I am in Africa. In Liberia. It is beautiful. It is terrifying. It is overwhelming. The flight was long, the trip itself miserable but even in that process your gospel was shared. IMG_0007I thank you for Ben and his example. How moved as I watched him witness to person after person. An orthodox Jew, old men, injured people, 2 brothers from Ghana who heard and called on you. Led by his example I also tried to share. David, the 7th day Adventist who told me there are no morals in this world, Evangelina, a Liberian American travelling to Liberia for a funeral, and Cat, the stewardess who still had bitterness from the accidental death of her husband, Abu, the drunk, high man travelling to Liberia to bury his mother, and finally Barry, a Muslim. What an amazing opportunity to hear this man go from saying it was “almost the same” to trusting Christ as his savior. I pray that he was sincere but at least a seed has been planted. He promised to email.

DSCF0432Landing at Monrovia was amazing. There, and at our lay-over stop in Ghana (where you sit on the plane with no A/C for a couple of hours while they inspect and spray some mystery “harmless” bug spray), everyone cheered when the plane landed. Many raised their hands and shouted praise Jesus. The people have a natural exuberance about them.

The baggage claim was an experience in and of itself. Hundreds of people clamoring for their luggage with locals offering to carry the bags for a few dollars. A man, David, a Pastor, and employee at the airport was able to get our baggage steered through domestic customs so our bags weren’t searched. We had some contraband tuna but it would have taken forever to get 21 huge bags and 7 carry-ons checked.DSCF0437

You step outside into a fairly hot but very humid climate. Our bags were counted and recounted. I seemed to remember that one of mine was not accounted for. Sure enough, the bag with all the presents was missing. (Praise God, it was later found in Atlanta after travelling to Paris and back). It also contained my sheets.

The luggage (30+ bags) was thrown in the back of a Toyota truck. Everyone else climbed into a rented minivan taxi. It was jam packed so Pastor Willie offered to drive me. It was actually his sister-in-law, Olive, who drove me. I enjoyed the ride with her. She told me all about Liberia. How she had fled to the U.S. 20 years ago to escape the war. She worked taking care of old people and was able to buy a house in New Jersey, and had returned to her homeland to buy more land and build a house because it is so much cheaper.

The traffic is amazing. There are no rules, no speed limits, no road signs, no traffic lights, no stop signs. Honk, honk, honk, people honk at each other constantly. They weave in and out and around each other. There are tons of people crammed into tiny cars. I even saw a taxi with a goat in the hatch. (Pastor Hal and Pauline later explained that in order to hail a DSCF0457cab you have to use a different signals signifying where you want to go and the taxis pretty much just travel back and forth between two points.) Add to this dozens of motorcycles weaving in and around traffic. They are a popular form of taxi transportation. They also honk and dodge in and out of the lanes. Olive said that if you have a fender bender no one cares. The police won’t come unless you are dead. The road was a nice paved road. Olive lost the caravan so I just prayed she knew the way. She also only drove about 50 mph so everyone was passing us and honking hysterically.

The Liberian countryside is beautiful. The African jungle looks pretty much as you would expect, but both roadsides are littered with dilapidated shacks, most of them with a family outside of it. DSCF0455Usually a couple of women with several small and very dirty children. Usually squatting, cooking over open fire coals or washing dishes or laundry by hand. There are a few “nice” houses but they usually have 10 foot walls with razor wire around the top. (Olive had bought some land and was building a new home – 3 BR, 2 bath – $20,000. Her mortgage is $200 a month.) There is still plenteous evidence of the war. Buildings shot up, shot down or half-finished construction sitting and rotting. The houses are all brick, usually mud, sometimes cement and sometimes covered with cement or “stucco”.

After what seemed like a very long time, we turned off the paved road onto a very red dirt and gravel road. All along this road and the highway before, taxis are randomly dropping off their passengers. They also bob into and out of traffic, honking and nosing in until you have no choice but to let them in. Then we turn off that dirt road onto what was no more than a couple of red ruts in the grass. There are large puddles from the night before and deep rivets where the rain has washed them out. Outside are beautiful brown faces, some of them stern but most of them beaming. I wave and they wave back, especially the children. We keep winding around houses and huts cut into the side of the hill. At one point a group of children spot us. DSCF0458They begin to gleefully run after our slow moving caravan. It is like something out of a movie. They are screaming and laughing and running dangerously close to the cars. We finally turn in under a beautifully woven arch of palm branches and hibiscus. They grow wild and are everywhere. We arrive at the orphanage DSCF0461to a great fan fare. A woman is walking towards me and I know it must be Eleanor. She pulls me into a weeping embrace like we have known each other for years. I already feel at home. The entire area is teeming with children. I have no idea who are orphans and who are neighborhood kids. Ben makes the mistake of pulling out a bag of candy and stickers and he almost starts a riot! There is a lot of shouting and activity trying to get everyone lined up for a piece of candy!

Eleanor takes us into our room in the orphanage where we will be staying. Two bedrooms, both with screen doors. Two bunkbeds in each. Women in one and men in the other. They proudly tell us that Eleanor had just had installed and had allowed no one to use before we arrived a washroom. The floor was tiled light blue and white. A beautiful shower curtain was hung and there was a toilet! It could not flush but must be on a septic system as you could “flush” by getting a large bucket of water and pouring it into the bowl (w/ “force” they tell us). Eleanor had made flower arrangements of the hibiscus and big beautiful red leaves, carefully arranged.DSCF0478 The new mattresses had arrived and the bunk beds fitted with clean sheets and mosquito netting (the mosquitoes were not bad at all at the orphanage when we initially arrived).

The orphanage is a large brick and cement building with a large school room, and 2 large rooms for the kids. There are cement floors and so much red dust. I left my Bible out for a few hours and it was covered with dust. The school room is completely dilapidated. The desks are dusty and broken and there are stacks of torn and dusty school books. There are 12 orphans living here right now and Eleanor and her son Jus run a school for around 35 kids. We are royally welcomed with every resource they have. Eleanor has prepared a massive bowl of rice, kasava greens, kasava and fish and fried plantains. We eat off small colorful plastic plates, with some mismatched forks and a few mismatched glasses carefully preserved. The kitchen is a large open air pavilion. The huge mud oven has been completed for baking bread. The smell of coal smoke and wood smoke linger. Chickens and dogs wander around where the food is prepared. Well, I should say one little chicken with no feathers on his head. There are several dogs and a litter of puppies on the way. There are little (well up to about 12”) lizards running up and down the brick buildings. Supposedly they are poisonous. There are broken down foundations which, with God’s help, will soon be a new kitchen, classrooms, and bedrooms.

The best part of the day was the evening devotion. We all sat outside, gathered around a few lanterns. Adeline, Eleanor, and the children lift their voices in song to the Lord. It is that beautiful rich African sound. This beautiful family of orphans and widows in their dilapidated surroundings and their state of poverty raising their voices in praise to a mighty God that has carried us across the ocean and made us a family. We all shared the best and worst part of the day. My best was Eleanor’s hug and the welcome we received. Worst, not sleeping during the 10 ½ hour flight. Best – leading a Muslim man to the Lord. The power and beauty of this place is undeniable. The poverty and desperation of its people, undeniable.

Sleeping was difficult. I brought a battery operated fan which helped. But the stillness was stifling, along with the humidity. The mosquito nets make it difficult for any air to get through. I tossed and turned most of the night.

Pauline, who works with Pastor David stayed with us…oh! Almost forgot shower time! You are so hot, dusty and sticky you must take a bath. What that consists of is drawing a large bucket of water and standing in the “tub” which is cement with a tile floor and now a drain. You wet yourself with water dipped from the bucket, soap up, rinse. The water is from a 50 gallon drum of water that sits in our common room (which has a comfy vinyl living room suite in it). The water in the drum is gray and drawn from a local well.

As I tried to sleep, I opened my Bible to read. I just flipped it open and it fell to Hosea 6:1-3 “Come and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten and He will bring us up…” Liberia has been smitten, it has been afflicted, but there is a remnant here who are still seeking God…”and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” Showers of blessings on Eleanor Wuo Orphanage, dear God.

Your servant,
Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparations

DEAR GOD                                                                                                          3-19-2013

Thank you for working out all the little details in your perfect timing.  Week before last we got news that the well is in at BOMI!  Clean water!  We received pictures of the buildings going up.  The women will not sleep in hammocks or tents, but in the buildings.  Then we find out that mattresses are available and we will be purchasing them for the orphanage, but will be able to sleep on them while we are there.  Last night, I hear that we will each be able to take 3 big suitcases so much more supplies can go.  I also hear that the first building is up and drying and that it has a toilet!!  Praise God.  Lord, thank you for anticipating every need and calming every unspoken anxiety.  I know we are in your hands and under your protection.

3-19-2013

Thank you for impressing on me today that it is not about me or any work that I do that renders me acceptable in your sight.  Thank you for reminding me that Christ came to fulfill the law so that I don’t have to.  He has fulfilled your requirements and it is finished.  Thank you for reminding me that I submit and then you transform.  Thank you that by living God, mind, body and spirit (which is essentially acknowledging His authority and ownership over my mind, body, and soul and an acquiescence to His more perfect will over mine) and my neighbor as myself (which is essentially putting the needs of others above your own or at least on a plane equal with your own), I can fulfill and know your will, and that you in turn renew my mind (Change the way I think and feel about everything into the mind of Christ) and you produce the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, temperance, goodness, gentleness, kindness, and faith) in me.  Thank you for reminding me that this is not some sort of a checklist that I have to work at.  You are brilliant.  Your are good.  I think Jesus came as an example, not of the “keeping the rules” part, but of the loving God and others part.

April 2, 2013

It’s here.  Tomorrow is the day.  We leave for Liberia.  Ben Shuler, my traveling partner, and I arose early and drove to Sycamore, SC to meet and pack.  0401131201The packing has been an experience in and of itself.  It is like packing for primitive camping in a country worlds away from anything you have ever known.  I caught myself worrying about all the little details, trying to anticipate every need.  But God, I just have to remember the Tabasco sauce.  Days before I was to leave I was in Target exchanging some surplus supplies for little boxes of crayons.  As I checked out the cashier asked me if I was making up Easter baskets.  I explained, no, I am taking a trip to Africa to work with orphans.  Her eyes lit up and she informed me that her husband had been deployed and that she had a bunch of supplies that she didn’t know what to do with.  Would I like them?  I said of course and she asked for my phone #.  I really didn’t expect her to call me back but she did.  In the meantime, I had gone to Wal-Mart for final supplies.  I thought about buying Tabasco sauce.  I love Tabasco on rice.  (It is funny how just over the last couple of years, God has given me such a taste for spicy.)  I plinked each bottle hoping to find plastic, but no luck.  It seemed foolish to drag a glass jar of Tabasco all the way to Africa so I decided to return the bottle I had purchased.

The next day I received the call from Shawnee telling me she had the supplies (Another thing God has shown me is that it is the simplest humblest and “least able” people who give.)  I picked up a large green trash bag full of stuff Shawnee shared with me that she herself had grown up in Jamaica, dirt poor and that there were many times she could only hope that someone would care about her.  She said she would like to be involved with our church if we supported those types of ministries. 0330131654 Anyway, the bag was full of Army provisions.  Started sorting through the bag and to my amazement, there were dozens of little mini bottles of Tabasco.  I feel this was just God’s way of reminding me that He was in control of every detail and that I could place my life in His hands because He loved me enough to even arrange some Tabasco for me!  What a God we serve!

April 3, 2013

This morning you took me to Isaiah 43:10 “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after.”  Today is the day Lord, in a couple of hours we leave for Charleston and tomorrow we step foot on African soil.  You have chosen each member of this team for a specific purpose.  We each have a specific role to play.  You are already there in Africa.  You have paved the way and have made our way straight.  You are in every detail and you see each soul searching for hope that we can reach and touch for your glory.  Never has it been more evident to me how important our testimony is before these lost people.  What damage we could do if we are unkind or irritated or angry or uncooperative before these people.  Jesus, live through us over the next couple of weeks.  Let us be your arms, holding and loving these children.  Let us be your hands, building and serving them and each other.  Romans 10:13-15:  “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach except they be sent?  As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”  O God, let our feet be swift and beautiful for thee!

Your Humble Servant,                                                                                                               Julie