Saturday, June 27, 2015

Praying for Freedom!

I've been reading a book called "The Color of Grace" by Bethany Haley Williams. I'm not very far into it, but I have throughly enjoyed it. I'm enjoying it enough that it's getting precious real estate in my carryon bag to Liberia on Monday! That's saying something!

When I read the quote above, I thought about myself. I thought about how I don't want to go limping or hobbling back to Liberia, but that I want to go back dancing!

I also immediately thought about the people of Liberia. They really are wounded warriors. They are some of the strongest, most resilient people that I have ever met. As a matter of fact, that's one of the things that draws me to the people of Liberia time and time again. I honestly think that if I had to go through what most Liberians have gone through, well....I would have given up a long time ago! I honestly don't think I would have survived the war, and if I did, I don't know how I would survive the aftermath. Top that with poverty, sickness, corruption and oppression. And then throw in Ebola. I don't think I could do it. I'm amazed at how my Liberian friends press on. And they press on with incredible faith and a hope for things yet to come. Liberians belong on the hero list.

Would you join me in praying for the people of Liberia? That they wouldn't walk around as wounded warriors, but that they would rise above their current circumstance and dance! Dancing and freedom is wonderful, but even more so, I want to see them dancing in the freedom that only comes from Christ! And I feel called to play a tiny role in helping people find that freedom through Biblical counseling. 

I will be using the Restoring Your Heart (RYH) curriculum to facilitate RYH groups. These groups will be powerful times to share life and talk about past hurt and trauma. Pray for healing and freedom for the women that will participate in the RYH groups. I will also be using some materials from The American Bible Society (ABS) called "Healing the Wounds of Trauma." This will be used with both adults and children. Would you also pray about what counseling will look like in Liberia? 

During these next 10 weeks, I will be 'testing' both curriculums. I have been translating the RYH curriculum into Liberian English, so I will be sitting down with Liberians to get their feedback on the current draft. This material is much more in-depth, so I will also be figuring out how much of the material Liberians grasp. I will use the ABS books to work with children, and will use the adult book as "lighter material" and then will direct people to RYH groups afterwards. Or at least this is all my initial plan.

So you can also be praying for God's wisdom, guidance and discernment for really planning and implementing the counseling aspect of The Green House. I truly believe in the healing power of both curriculums! RYH helped me in my own journey, and I have supported, watched and facilitated others through their own healing journeys. I believe that things like forgiveness and healing are desperately needed in Liberia, and that by walking others through the process of forgiveness, freedom and dancing will come!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Liberia Update--Leaving June 29th!

It's been a very long time! And things are getting very exciting around here. So I'm breaking the silence. I'm leaving for Liberia one week from tomorrow!!!!! It's been a long time coming. There's so much to say and do and plan for and pray for. But I'll begin with a short update and some prayer requests. Thank you all for being a part of the journey! Greater things have yet to come!

A Long Overdue Update

Dear Friend,

It is with gratitude and great excitement that I write you today. After being in the States for 14 months because of the Ebola outbreak, I am finally returning to Liberia! I am leaving for Liberia on Monday, June 29th. I will be in Liberia for 10 weeks, and will return to the States on September 9th.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support during this difficult time of waiting. God has truly answered our prayers--Liberia is Ebola free!

I look forward to sharing the next chapter with you. The task feels overwhelming, but I am so excited to get back to Liberia among my neighbors and friends. And I truly believe that God has amazing things in store for the people of Cooper Beach!

Please connect on social media to stay the most up-to-date while I'm in Liberia. I will be posting photos, prayer requests and giving you glimpses of what life in Liberia is really like.

More than anything, I need your prayers! You will find specific prayer requests below. Thank you for your prayers, love, financial support and encouragement!

With gratitude,

How You Can Pray

Join us in praying for BIG things!

  • Travel logistics: I'm flying standby to Brussels. My mom (coming with me for one week) is flying standby all the way to Monrovia. Pray for empty seats!- Easy adjustment to all things Liberia--jet lag, heat, rain, water, food, chaos, etc.
  •  Good health: Rainy season means malaria season...and I don't want to go there agin!
  • Transportation: I will be at the mercy of taxis, motorbikes, friends and the kindness of strangers. This is not ideal, especially during rainy season. Pray for provision for daily needs, but also provision for the long-term need of having my own vehicle.
  •  Leaving: I've been home for more than a year. I've been enjoying my family. I've been comfortable. Now I'm leaving 3 nephews behind. It's going to be harder than usual.
  • Loneliness: That's my biggest fear...being in Liberia by myself. Pray that God would provide community, friends and people to connect with. I have many Liberian friends, but most of my American friends are no longer in Liberia, or have left for rainy season. Sometimes you just want to speak English and talk about things you miss from home!
  • Safety and Protection: Physical safety. Protection against the enemy. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Heart in the Hot Zone

I haven’t seen this place in six months. A lot has happened during my silence. I have two new[ish] nephews! Red Meets Green is officially a 501(c)3 charity! And there’s an Ebola crisis in West Africa.

I have tried too many times to put things into words for you to read, but I have been unsuccessful. That is why I have been quiet. My head, heart and body have felt very heavy over the last few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, there has also been a lot of good mixed in. But lately I’ve found myself in a place where my brain will not turn off, and it is exhausting. Some nights I have just tossed and turned.

Last night I had a dream. In my dream, there was a woman wrapped in a dusty, maroon and beige lappa. Her lips were cracked and dry. Her eyes were empty. Her feet were caked in the red dirt of Mama Liberia. She was laying helpless in the middle of the road, just over the crest of a hill. Upon reaching her, I made note of the evidence of help strewn around her—wrappers of medical supplies, empty water satchels. I couldn’t help but question why so many people had tried to help her, but they tried without ever moving her from out of the middle of the road. Traffic was whizzing by and whoever it was that was with me was standing at the top of the hill trying to send cars around to the sides. I was kneeling down beside her, with little help to offer. I was crying and she was doing her best to let a whimper escape. I looked up at the cars passing by and then I continued my gaze upward to the big, beautiful blue sky. I asked God why. My eyes settled on a group of all-black chickens walking in the tall weeds along the side of the road. I had never seen such a thing—crow-like, evil-looking chickens. And all of a sudden the black chickens flew straight towards my face; turning white once airborne. I woke up from my dream with my body physically trying to dodge the white birds. I laid in bed, thinking and praying for Liberia, until sleep came. [i'm not sure what any of that means...but I can find some metaphors, for sure. maybe those are the kinds of dreams you have when you watch The Good Lie?]

I feel like my heart is in a tug-of-war. My heart has been divided between Atlanta and Monrovia for the last seven years. It’s nothing new for me. When Ebola really started to spiral out of control, my heart longed for Liberia. It took awhile, but I was finally able to reach a place where I am ok with being here. I know the best thing I can do is pray, and that’s something I can do from this side of the ocean. 

The problem is that half of my heart, my family and my other home are an ocean away. The problem is that I begin and end my day by looking at news articles, thinking about and praying for Liberia. The problem is that whenever I see pictures or watch news reels, I am constantly scanning faces and landscapes—looking for people I know and love, and praying that a familiar face won’t appear in a photo of a dead body laying in the street or waiting in agony outside of an ebola treatment center. The problem is that I think about how far Liberia has come since civil war, and how many steps back she’s taking every day. The problem is that many times I feel so helpless and I grieve for the people of Liberia. The problem is that Liberia has been called hell on earth.

I don’t know why Ebola is happening to Liberia. There are days when it seems overwhelming, and it’s more difficult for me to find hope. There is not an easy answer. Things are not in black and white. Economies and healthcare systems are breaking under the insurmountable weight. Mothers and fathers are dying and leaving children behind. Fear has gripped our own country and created ugly hearts. It has become an issue of black and white, wealthy and poor, privileged and not.

Countless times a day, I wonder what in the heck I’m doing, and I try to better understand even a portion of God and His perfect timing. I cannot see His bigger picture, but I am trying my best to trust in the unknown masterpiece. I truly believe that God is in Liberia and that He is moving and working. I know that Ebola in Liberia is God’s story, and that His name will be known throughout the world because of a terribly ugly virus that divides countries, communities and families. 

Please, I’m asking you to pray for the people of West Africa. Pray that help would come swiftly and that supplies would be in abundance. Pray for miracles—in ebola treatment centers, in provision and in the lives of those who are living in fear. Pray for those who are grieving and are unable to find a glimmer of hope to cling to. Pray for me and for Red Meets Green and The Green House and the people of Cooper Beach. 

I really don’t know where to go from here, and I have no idea when I will be able to return to Liberia. But, I know that there’s a house in Liberia that’s waiting on me, or that could potentially be used by someone who is already on the ground. I know that there is an army of people who love Liberia, and who support the dreams that God has given me. I know that I am supposed to be here, now and for this. I truly believe that God already has, and will continue to, work Ebola for Liberia’s good.

The question is, will you join me? Although so many things seem like big question marks, the truth is that I also believe that when the time comes to safely return to Liberia, I have to be ready. Part of being ready is having enough finances to go back and get The Green House open! Things are going to look a little different than I had originally planned, but that is ok. I know that there will be different needs, and that the people of Cooper Beach are going to need things that God has been putting on my heart over the last few months. I am simply making myself available to return to Liberia with the hope of Christ on the tip of my tongue and an overflow from my heart and hands. I need all of you to join me on the journey!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Birds, Barbed Wire & God

I woke up sometime before 6am this morning. It was still dark outside, and it was quiet. I pulled my blanket up over me and tried to go back to sleep. My mind started running away from me, and sleep wouldn’t come. I finally checked my clock at 5:58am. At some point I fell back asleep, and woke up around 7:30am when the fan went off and the singing outside my window began.

This morning, I filled a page of my gratitude journal. It’s easy to do that in Liberia—there is so much to be thankful for. I’ve jotted down hundreds of things in my journal over the past 17 days. I stopped writing this morning at #655.

#655: beauty in the pain, ugliness, poverty, hardships, darkness, hopelessness…He is here!

And that’s when it dawned on me.

That one statement is the essence of Liberia.

When you look around, if you’re blinded, all that you see is dirt, garbage, heat, poverty, disease, injustice and corruption. Darkness and oppression are heavy, evident and tangible. How can there be any hope in that?

Somehow, some way—if you’re able—when you can see past those things, God allows you glimpses of Him. 

As my feet walk over a garbage-littered, red dirt road, I am able to see beauty and life. As my eyes survey a tiny community of poor fishermen and their families living in utter poverty and filth, I see simplicity and unbreakable bonds. As I walk through the community, I sense an immense amount of pain, even though women are plaiting hair and laughing and children run up to say hello and shake my hand. As I sit in the yard at a friend’s house—a yard I haven’t stepped foot in since the night her baby died—I talk and laugh with her and her three young sons. Her oldest son Moses writes his name for me in the sand, and I wonder how often she thinks about her fourth son. There is a group of children in the yard next door—a “crazy man” with hundreds of pieces of rope and string draped over his head is interacting with them. He looks like a Raggedy-Anne doll, and he has them all laughing. The children lead him over to the white woman, and he asks what state I’m from. He lights up when I say Georgia, and immediately references Atlanta. He meekly smiles, puts his hands together and tells me that he’s from Maryland Georgia too. He tells me to have a nice day, and continues walking. I wish I had a photo of that man because he was beautiful. I saw Jesus right then and there.

And then I woke up this morning to birds singing loud and beautiful songs while sitting on the barbed wire outside of my window. The sun rises and the heat of the day begins. I breathe in deep when a cool breeze blows through the open window. I am a little sticky, but another cool breeze comes. 

That is Liberia. 

Singing amongst the barbed wire; sticky but a cool breeze will always come.

And through it all, God is here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Love Blooms

There is another story unfolding in Liberia; a story that I can’t not share with you. This is a story about calling and obedience, deep love and sacrifice. It’s about a yellow and burgundy house nestled down a sandy road, surrounded by a tall wall with barbed wire. It’s about a house of love and grace. Laughter arises above the tall walls. Love blooms in the yard and in the living room. Fierce love—the love of a mother, fueled by the love of her Father—is the heartbeat.

God has given me the privilege to sit back and watch, but also to participate. And the things I have seen and heard and felt are just too beautiful not to share. One thing that has resonated is that God can use anyone to do anything, and when we are obedient, our lives and testimony serve as incense of praise rising to the heavens.

When I was planning my trip back to Liberia, I wasn’t sure where I would be staying. My plan was to email the family I stayed with last year and see if I could crash with them for a few weeks, and then perhaps share the mooching love with someone else. But let’s go back to a few years ago. Somehow, a random pastor [hi Jeff!] in New Jersey came across my blog. His church was doing ministry in Liberia, so I guess that’s how we got linked together. I would get random donations and emails of encouragement from “some pastor in New Jersey”. When I came to Liberia last year, I got an email letting me know that his church in New Jersey has just sent three people to live in Liberia long-term, and that we should get connected. That’s how God connected Sue and I. We were able to meet up a few times during my three week stay, and we talked a lot about our hearts for Liberia. I was excited to meet a new friend who had such a deep love for Liberia and a desire to help the people here. I was even more excited that she didn’t live too far from my new home.

A few months ago, I kept thinking about Sue and praying for her. Finally, I sent her an email to let her know that I had been thinking about her, and asked if there were specific things I could pray for. In her response, she told me that she had been back in the States for months, but was making plans to return to Liberia in January. We continued to exchange emails—catching up and hearing about the new directions God was leading both of us in. Sue was returning to Liberia to open a home for girls…and she was going to be their mother. Once I started to make plans for my own trip, Sue extended a gracious offer to stay with her and her girls in their home. I said yes—I knew I would love spending time with the girls, and I would also enjoy the fellowship with Sue!

I knew it was going to be a fun time when I gave them frisbees, coloring books and jump ropes on my first night here, and we were throwing frisbees and jumping rope in the middle of the living room. So, I have been living in a girls home…and it has been incredible! Right now, there are six beautiful, hilarious girls that call Sue their mom. Sometimes I find myself just sitting back and watching this unique family operate, while other times, I jump right in and join the craziness!

About four nights into my stay, Sue and I were sitting at the dining table at about 10:30pm. The three younger girls were already in bed, but the three older girl were still awake. We were talking about our days, while helping with homework. I will admit, I was tired and more than ready for bed. One of the girls brought her school uniform out for Sue to mend. She admitted that she didn’t really know what she was doing, but that she would do her best. Princess was protesting that she couldn’t draw for her homework assignment, and Sue immediately said, “I’m not a tailor, and maybe you’re not an artist, but we can both try.” After some creative stitching, another skirt arrived to be taken in. And so Sue picked up her needled and thread and tried again. By this time it was after 11pm…and these girls wake up between 4-5am, depending on their morning chores.

Princess continued to struggle through her assignment to draw and label the parts of a computer, and Sue kept sewing. I finally spoke up and began to tell Sue how she was a great mother, and how she was doing such a good job with the girls. I also told her that I don’t know how she does it—she just keeps giving and loving, even when she’s tired and sweating and perhaps sometimes wondering why she’s even here.

But the love is evident.

They snuggle up on the couch and sing along to “Annie” and laugh until their bellies ache. Sue wraps her arms around a little one with a tough exterior, but soft interior, and kisses her over and over again until a smile breaks through. They are still trying to figure out exactly how this little family should operate, and there is a steep learning curve, but the home and the hearts are full of love. There are tears and discipline and consequences and broken hearts, and there are also late night or early morning prayers of a mother who loves the children that God has entrusted to her.

Again, I don’t know how she does it.

But it is a beautiful thing to watch.

And it’s humbling and encouraging and challenging. It’s something that I know God is using to stir and stretch my own heart. It’s also a rich opportunity to give and love and learn and grow. And that’s what I want—to be changed from the inside out because I’m alive and present and here.

Would you pray for Sue and the girls? Pray for strength, energy and wisdom for Sue. Pray that her deep love would continue to break down the walls around the hearts of the girls. Pray for unity, cooperation, grace and flexibility for the family. Pray that God would continue to renew Sue’s heart, and that the Holy Spirit would be her help. Pray for the girls—Grace, Beatrice, Naomi, Monica, Princess and Kona—that they would receive the love of Sue, but more importantly, the love of their heavenly Father. Pray that their lives would be radically changed, and that they would become strong, Godly women who will change their country. Pray that praise and prayer would continue to rise from the home. Pray against the work of the enemy—he has no place here! Pray for provision—financially, but also through other resources and opportunities. 

[Update: You can really be lifting Sue up to the throne! She has been struggling with her health over the last few weeks and has decided to get away to a friend’s apartment for the weekend. Pray that the sleep, air-conditioning, rest, uninterrupted time in prayer and modern comforts would restore her]

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Today's Construction Update

Things continue to move forward on The Green House! Two nights ago, we had an all-out Liberians thunderstorm. I laid in bed praying at 2am that it would stop, because half of the house didn’t have zinc on it. I was scared to arrive yesterday, as I didn’t want to see the damage. The guys had poked holes in the soggy wood ceiling tiles to let the water drain out into buckets and there were puddles everywhere. The carpenter roofed that half of the house yesterday, just in case there were any more surprise showers. He also completed the clear, plastic zinc that goes above the outdoor kitchen on the back of the house.
Today's progress!
Things on the fence are progressing nicely. All trenches are dug, and they did the foundation and began laying cement block on the front portion. There are about five guys doing all of the work…plus a woman named Remember. When I saw her yesterday, she was drawing water from the well, so I thought that was her job (it’s common for women to draw water for mixing the cement). Then last night, I was informed that she was a mason, and she was laying block. She told me that, “woman can do anything man can do.” All that I could say was, “You go girl!”

Today, the carpenter is working on the other half of the roof, while the rest of the guys and Remember are working on the fence. Once the carpenter is finished with the roof, he will move on to the roof on the palava hut. The guys will continue to work on the fence until it is complete, which should hopefully be sometime late this week or early next week. Then it will be time to paint the exterior, and move inside to do the paint, floors, window screens, light fixtures, etc.
Old zinc in foreground, new zinc in background.
Like I mentioned before, a huge blessing is that electricity poles are one block from the house! This means I will be able to have 24/7 electricity, and for a fraction of the price of buying, fueling and maintaining a generator for only very limited electricity. Uncle Sam and I sat down this morning to fill out the application form, so we will see how long it takes for them to get back to me. Apparently, they will come out to do an assessment, I will go buy a breaker, they will install a meter and then poles and wires will be run. This is such a HUGE answer to prayer!
Trokon laying block.
Foundation and casting of steel rods.
I still have to pinch myself when I step back and look at how quickly things are progressing! We are not on African time! The ease and quickness are both an answer many prayers! Working with Uncle Sam has been great, and the construction guys are starting to warm up to me. Whenever I go there now, they each want their photo taken while they’re working. They also think it’s pretty funny when I climb up on the roof in a skirt. 
Community children drawing their evening water.

One thing you can pray about is how to best capture the stories of the people in Cooper Beach. My plan was to walk around the community and talk to people, and then document their stories. Because I have to walk back to where I’m staying before dark, really the only time to do this is in the heat of the day. Thankfully there has been a cool breeze every day, but I don’t want to look like a lobster and be miserable either. I’ve also continued to pray for divine appointments with people in the community, as well as with potential partners or people who can contribute their time or skills at the community center.

Monday, March 31, 2014


The internet has been down yesterday and today, but I have been so excited to share the progress on The Green House with you! I’m writing this Monday afternoon, however, I’m not sure when I will have internet and be able to post the update.
It has been a very busy weekend around The Green House! The yard and the house are transforming before my eyes! This weekend, the landlord (Uncle Sam), really rallied his guys to get things moving. He had two dump truck loads of sand, along with one dump truck load of crushed rock, delivered for the foundation for the fence. Building a fence is back-breaking work here in Liberia! They had to cut down all of the bamboo that fenced in the property, dig up the roots and then dig the 3-4 foot deep trenches that will be the foundation for the fence. Uncle Sam also had the cement blocks, steel rod and bundles of zinc delivered.

On Sunday, the guys dug the trench for the front fence, and they’ve been working hard today on digging the trench on the side of the house. Let me tell you, the sun is hot today…and they’re moving hundreds of pounds of sand one shovel full at a time. The carpenter also came today and has already removed the old zinc off of half of the house. He is fixing beams, setting lines and getting things ready to put the new zinc on over the next few days.

The plan is to work simultaneously on the roof and the fence. After all of the cement dust settles, they will move inside and start the painting, laying tile and all of the other small tasks. The roof should be finished by the end of the week, and the fence will probably take 1-2 weeks. The welder is also working on the steel gate for the fence so that it will be ready to hang once the fence is finished.

A very exciting discovery is that LEC (Liberian electricity) has poles along the main highway, so I will be able to have electricity at the house! This is HUGE! I have been debating about what to do for electricity, and this is the best, easiest and most cost efficient option. We haven’t had electricity in this area the entire time I’ve been in Liberia, so the timing is absolutely perfect! Once I have internet again, I will fill out a hook-up request form online and submit it to start the process of getting electricity!

I have been surprised at how fast things are moving—talk about an answer to prayer! All of my dealings with Uncle Sam have been easy, and we’ve sat around the palava hut in the heat of the day just talking. One of my prayers has been that he would really catch the vision and get behind the dream, and I hope that in sharing my story with him, he has been able to see how God has been moving, working, answering prayers and providing to make this a reality.