Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the ORR Field Team

Possibly the funniest JibJab ever (thanks Tim for the laugh)!

Merry Christmas from the ORR field Liberia and America.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giving Gifts That Matter

Are you are running around like a crazy person, trying to buy last minute Christmas gifts? I thought I wouldn't bring this up again, but I just watched the ORR video of the gang delivering Christmas bundles...and I couldn't not talk about it and share it with you. Not only did it make me really miss being in Liberia, but it made me almost cry [almost Cramer] to see how incredibly happy the kids were to open up their bundles! So, if you're still looking for that perfect Christmas gift for a loved one, I encourage you to take a look at the video below...notice the smiles, laughs and sheer joy. I immediately thought about how there's no gift I can give a loved one to evoke that same amount of joy...and it will be sitting on the shelf in a what's the point?

Buy a gift that matters, that will make a difference in the life of an orphan in Liberia! These gifts are not wants, but needs. You can give a gift in a loved ones name, or just give a gift to give. It is better to give than to recieve.


Christmas in Liberia

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Baily

I wasn't able to take very many pictures yesterday, but the photographer has already posted one picture on his website...and it looks awesome!

My sister, best friend and the person who makes me laugh the hardest is a married woman now! The ceremony was beautiful, there were lots of laughs (ring bearer busting it down the aisle, aisle runner not cooperating, etc.) and lots of tears--of joy, and alot of celebrating!

The happy couple is enjoying the surf, sand and sun of Jamaica.

I love you so much Juju and Daniel!

Thanks to Michael Schneider Photography for the pic.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Since I've Been Home

Sorry things have been so quiet on this end. Some of you have been wondering where I've been and what I've been up to. Let me show you.

I've been spending time with these people:

[My family, Leslie, my sisters, Juju--my sister, best friend and Bride-to-Be (I've been waiting for the perfect time to use this makes me laugh everytime! I think Juju was being a turtle??), and the soon-to-be Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Baily]

And then there's the wedding junk:

[cupcakes, showers, ice skating, bachelorette party, belly dancing, making over 600 truffles, centerpieces, altering dresses, cleaning, packing, moving, organizing, making to-do lists, running errands, making airport runs, laundry.....]
The rehersal and rehersal dinner are tonight, and tomorrow's the big day!! I'll post pictures from the wedding as soon as I recover. And after I recover, I'll also get out my November newsletter (oops!). And tell you some stories about Liberia...and give you some of my reflections and thoughts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quick Gifty Update

[Gifty and her mom]

Today was the day! Gifty and her new mom boarded a plane and left Liberia! Thank you all so much for your prayers! She'll meet her new family sometime tomorrow...and I'm fairly certain that it will be love at first site! The thought of Gifty on her way home makes me excited (and thankful), but it also means that it's time to start praying for all things medical. The hurdles don't end with Gifty coming to America. She needs a new liver.

Gifty holds a special place in my heart. Today I realized that I missed her...I haven't seen her since I kissed her goodbye on Monday. When I think about her future, I know that she still has a long and difficult road ahead. But I also know that she is a fighter. I've thought about how special Gifty is, and how much joy she has brought into so many people's lives. She truly is a special girl, and I really believe that God has great things in store for her.

Gifty's story and journey has opened my eyes to the power of God's healing hand and I have seen the power of prayer. Gifty is a miracle.To God be the glory!


[I feel like this is all going to be very random]

I'm finally home! This morning when I woke up (at 6:45am?!), I woke up in another world. It felt strange to wake up in my American bed, under my blankets, next to a closed window, where I felt carpet under my feet, and turned on a light, and I pushed a button to flush the toilet, then I came downstairs, opened the fridge and poured a glass of oj and sat down in front of the tv with my parents. Talk about strange!

I have eaten 4 salads and had probably too much milk in less than 24 hours.

My sister is getting married in 9 days...which is crazy! And, it's unbelievable that it's almost Christmas; I never entertained the idea until I landed in Brussels and there were Christmas lights around the airport. And, Brussels was miserably freezing!! It was 32 degrees when I landed.

This morning, I've had the house to myself. I don't know why, but I have gone into every room and just looked around at all of the stuff. I even stood at the pantry for a few minutes, just surveying everything on the shelves. It's crazy! We have too much stuff. I feel like I am too blessed, but I also feel very wasteful. America is the land of plenty and want.

My brain has been running at a million miles a minute this morning. I've had so many thoughts, too many to write down. One minute I'm thinking about how fabulous it is to eat a bowl of cereal with real milk, and the next minute I'm thinking about what the children at Childcare Foundation are doing right now...and about how they are probably hungry.

One thing I'm sure of is that our God is good. Even as my plane was descending into Atlanta, I couldn't help but look out over my familiar city that's a world away from Liberia and sing "How Great is Our God".

Just from the last 24 hours, I think there are going to be alot of quiet times where I just need to listen and respond. I think God has alot to say, and I have plenty to learn. I pray that these next few months at home are fruitful and that I use my time wisely. I miss Liberia. Even though I'm home with my family (and all of my family's shenanigans), I'm happy but I miss Liberia. More than anything, I think that I am grateful. Grateful for everything.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gifty Update

First of all, thank you all for all of your prayers!

I feel like an update is I'll catch you up. Gifty's mom has been in Liberia for more than a week. The past week has been full of running back and forth between the Temple of Justice and the Embassy. We were hoping that Gifty would be able to leave on Friday, but the Embassy still isn't convinced that Gifty is an orphan and doesn't think we have done enough to track down her family members. It's frustrating because of Gifty's medical condition--she's healthy enough today to fly, but who knows when the next respitory infection will creep back into her tiny body. She's looking so's great seeing her out of the hospital, living in a house, taking a bath, eating ALOT, sitting on the floor playing with all just feels so normal.

The good news is that on the Liberian side of things, Gifty has a new mom! So we just need to keep praying for the US Embassy side of things! And, we need to be praying for all of the medical things once Gifty gets stateside. She can't even be added to the transplant list until she's on US soil. Time is of the essence, but I have to keep reminding myself that it's not about our time, but it's about His time.

I will keep you all updated and let you know when Gifty is finally on her way home!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Calling All Prayer Warriors

[this is going to be short and sweet, I'll give a more detailed update when I'm not so sleepy]

Please pray for Gifty. I know I haven't been updating you all, but tomorrow's the BIG day! Tomorrow is the day that Gifty is supposed to leave Liberia to head home to America with her Ma. All of the legal hurdles and paperwork are not completed yet, and we're just praying for a miracle tomorrow. Pray that all of the paperwork would be completed in time for the flight. Pray that Gifty would be healthy enough to travel...she's been coughing alot. Gifty's been home from the hospital since Monday, and we've been loving all of the Gifty time! It's going to be hard to say goodbye to Gifty, but we are grateful for the time we've gotten to spend with her. God is so good and He's already worked so many miracles in Gifty's situation...keep praying for more miracles!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ The setting: Firestone. The player: me. The turkey day teams: dark meat (L) vs. light meat (R)]

If you're wondering what we're doing in Liberia to celebrate Thanksgiving...well, here's a recap of the day.

We took today off, and we decided to do something alittle different. We decided to go play 9 holes of golf at Firestone. Granted, most of us have only played a round of golf once or twice, but, it makes for a full day of priceless entertainment. We played a best-ball scramble, and made 2 teams--in honor of the Thanksgiving turkey that we wouldn't be eating, our teams were 'light meat' and 'dark meat'--based on the unplanned color of our trousers. [We're really scientific around here!] And, 5 hours later, we were still [almost] having fun! In all fairness, 'light meat' won by 4 strokes. After we finished, we sat down to our Thanksgiving meal of cheeseburgers and french fries in the clubhouse...which were pretty tasty!

On a more serious note, when you live in Liberia, and are surrounded by poverty, it's easier to grasp the concept of being thankful. I am SO thankful for SO many things! Actually, when I was in the shower thinking about what I'm thankful for, things didn't come to mind first, it was people. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for my ORR family. I am thankful for my church family. I am thankful for all of the people who have walked beside me--whether it's been with prayer, finances, a word of encouragement, or just listening to my stories about Liberia. I am most thankful for a God who knows me and loves me, who will never leave me and always provides for me. I am thankful for all of the wonderful people in Liberia that I've grown to love...especially all of the children that make my days full of joy. After all of the people, then I moved onto the things. I am thankful for a roof over my head, food in my stomach and a safe place to sleep at night. I am thankful for clothes and shoes. I am thankful for my house and car. I am thankful for the opportunity to go to school and receive good healthcare. I could go on and on, but I just wanted to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, and let you know that I am thankful for all of you!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

[ok, so i lied. it's over 80 degrees and i'm sweating. there are no trees, wreaths or candy canes. and it for sure doesn't smell like pine, snow or cinnamon.]

I'm challenging you all to give better gifts this Christmas. Partner with Orphan Relief and Rescue to give meaningful, live-changing gifts to orphans in Liberia this holiday season! There are six gift options, big and small, that you can give for Christmas. You can also give a gift on someone's behalf. Just think, do you really need another 'thing' for Christmas? (God's been teaching me alot about need versus want.) What about giving a hungry child food for Christmas? Or how about giving children, like Joeline (above) the gift of not having to sleep on a concrete floor or moldy foam pad?
I don't want to guilt you into buying a meaningful gift, but I encourage you to check out the Christmas gifts available on our website.

Give a gift that will change a life!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

There Once Was A Boy...

...named Omito. He is quite possibly the cutest kid ever! I met him almost 3 weeks ago at Benson Hospital. He looked horrible...his entire was body was swollen and his skin was falling off. He and his mom shared a bed next to Gifty. The first time he saw us he was scarred, but then he started to warm up to the white people. Anyway, I have truly enjoyed seeing him every time I've gone to the hospital to visit Gifty. To watch his health improve, and to watch the kid inside slowly come out has been wonderful. He never says a word, but always responds by looking up at you with his big eyes, raising his eyebrows and does an 'I Dream of Jeanie' head boing (if that makes sense, haha). Now he smiles and laughs when we visit him.

Omito was discharged today!! I stopped by to say goodbye to him and his mom and spent some time playing. His mom gave us her phone number, and told us that they live by 15-Gate in Firestone...which is a good distance from here. I could tell that Omito knew what was going on, and so when it was time for me to leave, I shook his hand and said 'later on'. Man, I'm going to miss that kid!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Day at FG

This morning I decided that I would walk from the house to FG orphanage. It was my first attempt to explore the 'short cut' from our house to FG, and I made the wise choice of setting out just when it started to get hot! Up the hill, through the block-making site, down the hill, through lots of people's yards, through the creek, up the steel door and over the culverts I went [seriously, I need to video the trek next time]. There was a nice man on the road who helped me find my way...but 30 minutes, and lots of sweat later I made it to FG! I spent the whole day there...and it was fabulous! Here are some pictures from the day.

(Top L clockwise: sewing with the girls, getting my hair done, playing a mean game of kickball, kids with Piko-my monitor, Jeremiah's shades, making funny faces.)

And Lucky's pic was too cute to not include! She's the same girl that makes you all smile everytime you visit my blog--she's the cutie laughing in my header!

Friday, November 7, 2008

My New Friend

[Blogger hasn't let me upload pictures for a very long time--so that's why now all that I'm posting is pictures.]

I want to introduce you to my friend Jessie. Jessie lives in the neighborhood, and I always stop by to visit whenever I take a walk to the beach. When I was little, I saw some movie where a girl had a pet chimp. Ever since then I've wanted a pet chimp. Although Jessie's not my pet, it's close enough. She's about 1 year old and she's super sweet! And, in true ORR fashion, Jessie is an orphan. Her mom was shot and killed while Jessie was riding on her back. Jessie's hand was shot and a few of her fingers on her left hand are disfigured because of the gunshot wound.

The first time I met her she started scooting towards me because she wanted me to pick her up. I was pretty freaked out because there are alot of mean monkeys in Liberia! But the kids who own her said she was friendly, so then I picked her up. She usually just wants you to pick her up and she will wrap her arms around you, and alot of times she falls asleep. She's pretty cute...but she also looks like a little old man, haha. I've slowly been introducing Jessie to the rest of the team...some of us are wanting our very own chimp. We're not quite sure how One Love would get along with a chimp, and we're pretty unsure about the whole potty training thing. Regardless, I enjoy visiting Jessie, and I think she likes it when the weird white people come for a visit.

Friday, October 31, 2008

What's Going Down

A few photo happenings from around the house this week....

[My friend, waiting on me]

[One Love has discovered a new window to the outside world]

[I designed, explained, negociated and paid to have a carpenter make me a blackboard for my workshop. It was an ordeal, but it looks pretty stinkin great!]

[Cynthia, our laundry lady, brought her twins to work with her on Wednesday. We were invaded by cute babies...looks like Cramer can't handle the cuteness.]

[And finally, Momo proudly displays the bird he killed with a rock. When asked what he was going to do with it, he replied, "I weh ea eh. I weh geh dah womah to rous eh." An hour later, he was complaining of a stomach ache. I say (in true Momo fashion), "small, helpless baby bird, not good for black man."]

Tune in for next week for What's Going Down.

P.S. After much exposure, crazy Liberia things cease to amaze you.

Turn That Frown Upside Down

Whenever I'm in Liberia, I always wonder what the temperature really is. I've never known how hot it's actually gotten...and I've always been curious (Read: What's the hottest temp that I've ever experienced....because I'm sure it's been here in Liberia). So, before I came back, I bought a thermometor/barometer on clearance for about $5.

Now, the best part about the thing is the little man's face...he's either happy or sad, depending on the temp and humidity. I'm unsure what the qualifications are for being happy or sad, but I know that when I was at home, he was always happy...and he's been sad ever since he arrived in Liberia.

I took this pic almost a week was probably 10am. I've come to the conclusion that as soon as the temp is below 81, it's chilly! If it's below 80, the fleece blanket is almost always required.

And, in case you're wondering, it's been raining all day, and it's 80.1 degrees with 78% relative humidity. No shower and fleece blanket tonight!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gifty Discharged!

Gifty is home from the hospital!

I apologize for not telling you all sooner, but I've been busy, and blogger hasn't been very cooperative as of late. But in keeping with Gifty updates, and since I know so many of you are following her journey, I thought tonight would be a good time to share.

Gifty was actually discharged on Wednesday morning! Elana, the pediatrician, actually left Liberia on Wednesday to go back to Spain after being in Liberia for 10 months with MSF. I think it was her personal mission to see that Gifty was discharged before she left! So Elana showed up at the hospital, a few hours before her flight, and in jeans, to say goodbye to us and to Gifty.

The discharge process took about 2 hours, but it was cool. We chatted with Elana about her time in Liberia and about how much she's going to miss it here. We visited with the other paitents in Gifty's room. We met with the new peditrician who's taking over...let's just say, he's overwhelmed!

We finally got the papers, and out the door I carried Gifty! Gifty was known around the hospital as 'Grandma' because so many paitents came and went this past month, but Gifty remained. Alot of people were saying their good-byes to 'Grandma'...I think Gifty won over that hospital!

We went straight from the hospital to the feeding program at ACF (Action Against Hunger). I held Gifty for the car ride and at first I don't think she was liking it....but then the cool breeze came, and then there was the music! She was tapping her foot and dancing! I even saw a smile or two. Her and I play this game where I kiss her hands....she holds them up to my face and I try to kiss them. She finally gave up on the dancing and the hand games and fell asleep.

The road the the feeding program was pretty muddy, so we had to get out and walk for the last part. At the clinic, Gifty got weighed and looked at by a nurse. Gifty's weight was the same as last week, but we all have noticed that she's fatter. The nurse said something about remembering Gifty's face, but she didn't know her by that name. Debbie and I looked at each other, and then explained to the 3 staff in the room about Gifty's situation and how we're desperately trying to find her Aunt. I called Andrew to get the spelling of her real name and as soon as I showed the name to the staff they all said it was the same child! It was alittle burst of excitement, and they told us we could check their old records at the Action FAIM offices in town; then they changed their minds and said they'd do it for us. We'll check back with them next week.

So, Gifty got her Plumpy Nut, bulgarwheat (which we won't feed her) and split peas, and then we took her to her new orphanage home! It was so great to settle her and her caretaker into their own room at Fatu's! Gifty was curious about all of the children, and I could tell she was watching everyone. Debbie and I stayed and played for awhile...and then Andrew and Cramer showed up for playtime too, haha. We visited for awhile longer, and then figured we'd let Gifty get some rest--she had a big day!

Please keep praying for Gifty! Pray that she would stay healthy...we don't want anymore trips back to the hospital. Pray for us, as we try to find her relatives, which is needed for the adoption process. We've had a few announcements run on the radio, we've got people searching for people who might know her Aunt, but all we have is a name and a general area of where she might be. Pretty much we're looking for a needle in a haystack! But we're praying hard for a miracle!

Anyway, this is a really long update, but I wanted to fill you all in. I leave you with a picture of Gifty and her Plumpy Nut self.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bad Weekend

This weekend has been pretty miserable for me. It all started on Friday night, and by Saturday morning, I was completely out of commission. The first time I checked my temp, it was 102.2, and it went up all maxed out at 103.3! By this time, we're all thinking malaria, so I took the test and was negative. So I'm not sure what's been going on inside my body, but my body did not like it one bit! I'm feeling alot better today--I made it to the couch, I had a shower and I've even had some food! I'm sure it will take another day or two to fully recover (talk about the Liberian weight-loss plan), but some Gatorade and spaghetti has never tasted so good! I'm thankful for my team...taking temps, popping pills, pricking fingers, wetting towels, making me drink water, turning on fans, and most of all getting around my bed to pray for me!

Please pray for a speedy recovery. Also pray for Andrew...he just announced, "I seriously feel like I have mono." And you can pray for Debbie, Jen and Cramer too!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Love Delta!

Yesterday I got a heads-up email from my dad that Delta was going to make a big announcement today. I knew a route from Atlanta to Monrovia has been in the works for some time now, and because Ma Ellen is currently in the States, Delta took the opportunity to announce that they will begin service to Monrovia in June 2009 via Sal Island, Cape Verde!

SOOO...for those of you who've been wanting to come and visit me, now is your chance! Especially all of you with Delta connections--hello, good use of a buddy pass?! And, for those of you who say you can't handle the heat...June has the coolest temps!

Anyway, just wanted to let you all know that you have another flight option to Liberia. Delta is finally coming to L.I.B.! I'm hoping they'll run some deals when they open the route, so keep your eyes peeled.

This is a big praise for me, because the biggest expense with me coming to Liberia is the plane ticket. Now I can travel standby with a buddy pass...which will save me more than $1500 for a round-trip! Praise the Lord!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Celebration Post... kind of like a celebration breakfast. Or maybe not.

First of all...I've been in Liberia for 1 month?! The past month has gone by so fast! I can't believe I'm already talking about having to book a plane ticket home.

Secondly, this is post #101! I can't believe I've been so talkative!

Third, let me tell you about yesterday's adventure to VOA.

You see, every month when I have to go to VOA to deliver food, it's always an adventure. You might remember the video from last month about the road conditions to VOA. Well, yesterday's adventure could fall into the 'Liberia ridiculous' category. But, it really was a good day, and we finally made it to VOA with the food. Let's just say, picture our Tata barreling down Somalia the front is Cramer and Ma Mary, and riding like Miss America in the back are Debbie and I...along with about 600 pounds of food! We were sitting pretty on top of 4 bags of rice, 1 bag of bulgarwheat, 1 bag of flour, 4 tins of milk and 1 tin of oil--which make for a pretty good seat. If you could only see the commotion 2 white chics riding in the back of a pickup truck cause around's pretty funny! So, we're headed down Somalia Drive and Cramer starts braking really hard and fast, over and over again. We thought he was just messing with us because we were trying to drink our water. We get to Freeport and he turns into the port where MercyShips is docked. This wasn't in the plan, so we knew something was wrong. As things go around here (and since we're 0 for 4 in the vehicle department), our brakes went out (we just had them fixed 2 days ago because they went out last Saturday), and we defiantly couldn't go any farther without brakes. So we stopped at the ship to try to figure out Plan B. Thankfully, they loaned us a driver and a car from the ship to take us the rest of the way to VOA (thank you Olly!). When we got to VOA, I realized that even though the brakes going out was completely annoying and frustrating, God was totally watching out for us because there's no way our truck would have made it. Check out the road conditions....
It's like a road full of super thick and slimy chocolate milk. And when you're vehicle is low to the ground, full of food and without 4-wheel drive, it's an impossible task.

The moral of the story is: going to VOA is never boring!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gifty, Gifty

(For some reason, when we’re at the hospital, we all say “Gifty, Gifty”. I think we’re in love…or at least I am!)

I want to give you all a Gifty update since I spent some time at the hospital with her today. But first, I want to address everyone who’s been contacting me and asking how you can help.

At this point in time, I am asking for you all to be in prayer for Gifty and her situation. As far as her adoption process goes, God has linked us with a family who not only feels like God is calling them to adopt, but they also live near a transplant center and their paperwork is up-to-date! Honestly, the biggest obstacle in all of this is getting through all of the red tape in such a short amount of time. You can be in prayer for things on the US Embassy side of things!

For those of you who contacted me because you were interested in more information on Gifty, I want to say thank you for your eager interest. I admire you for being ready and willing to have your life turned upside down for a little girl who’s on the other side of the world. We have all been really amazed at everyone’s interest and support.

Now for the hospital update. I spent about 45 minutes or so at the hospital today with Gifty and Piko. Gifty’s eating is getting back to normal, and she is still fever-free. She was very alert today, but the pneumonia has made her breathing more laborious. Piko said she was playing and laughing this morning, but after her injection, she began coughing a lot—hopefully just from being upset and crying. I held Gifty for a good 15 minutes or so…she was just starring at me, trying to stay awake. I need to take a picture of the girl’s eyelashes—they are killer—and you easily get lost in her big black eyes!

Please continue to pray for Gifty’s medical condition. Pray for healing. Pray that she would be comfortable, and pray that she wouldn’t pick up any new things while she’s in the hospital this time! Pray that God would provide a way for Gifty to receive a new, healthy liver. Pray for a speedy adoption process.

I know that God has a great plan for Gifty! Whether it involves her being here in Liberia, or living in the States, Gifty is a gift! I know Gifty has touched the hearts of so many of you and I look forward to continuing to keep you all updated on her story. I also look forward to being able to look back on all of this and see how God worked in amazing ways! Thank you for your continued prayers, and thank you for giving up a little sliver of your heart to a pint-sized, strong-willed peanut in Liberia—Gifty, Gifty!