Thursday, May 15, 2008

Robertsport, Liberia aka Surfer's Paradise!

I shouldn’t be posting this online…Liberia’s best kept secret! The soon to be surf destination of the world…well, maybe once they renovate a hotel or two (but there’s plenty of beach to camp on). I have a feeling it won’t stay so secret for too much longer, thanks to the documentary “Sliding Liberia”. Where am I talking about you ask? Cassava Beach, Robertsport, Liberia.
I spent the weekend in Robertsport, shredding up the waves! Nah, just kidding. I did spend the weekend in Robertsport, but I wasn’t riding waves—they were too big for me. A group of us headed to Robertsport on Saturday at 6am, ready for a relaxing weekend of sun, sand and surf. To get there, you have to drive about an hour NW of Monrovia, and then go left at the Iron Gate (Pakistan checkpoint), and then just drive until you see the sign for Robertsport and hit the dirt road for 30km. I was expecting a horrible dusty road (as in, needing Dramamine), but thanks to the UN, the road was smooth…so smooth you could go 50mph on it! Just watch out for the occasional bridges that will send you flying if you hit those going fast. Anyway, we rendezvoused with about 12 other people for the weekend, but by the time all was said and done, there were about 25 of us camping together on the beach. The weather was awesome, the waves and water were beautiful and it didn’t rain! I sat on the beach, and remember thinking, “I could be in Hawaii or Fiji or something!”—it’s seriously that beautiful. I didn’t notice how good of an escape it was until we came home and we were sitting in traffic in Duola at 5pm on a Sunday! Anyway, it was a great weekend of relaxing on the beach with a good book and good friends, camping under tarps and mosquito nets, cooking rice and beans on a fire, staying up late sitting around the fire talking….yea, it was nice! I can’t wait to go back! I apologize for not fully documenting the adventure, but here’s a few pictures. Enjoy!

Cooking a tasty dinner of rice in beans!

And you can't beat an African sunset!

Rice is Life.

I’m honestly not sure how much the news at home is talking about the rise of food prices around the world, but I want to share with you how the rising food prices are affecting Liberia, and ORR’s work here. As they say in Liberia, “Rice is life”…and that statement is “for true”. Liberia imports 90% of its rice from China, so they are almost completely dependent on the staple food. With the rising food prices around the world, Liberia is already beginning to feel the impact. For example, last Thursday, I bought rice for $28-$29 a bag. By Friday, the price was $32.50 a bag, and on Monday the price was over $36! When we began to hear about the possibility of the price of rice increasing, we bought 60 bags (out of faith because it was not budgeted) for $27/bag. The 60 bags will get us through rainy season for our feeding programs, so we feel well prepared. The problem is that Liberians are not prepared—our staff and neighbors are struggling to buy rice…and some Liberians area already starting to eat alternatives like pasta! Needless to say, it’s not a good situation, and if things do not improve, and if the government doesn’t eventually step in and do something, things are not going to be peaceful. Pray for alternative food sources for the people of Liberia. Pray that the government will make the right decisions concerning food prices and stepping in; otherwise the people are going to suffer. Rainy season already makes it difficult on the country, but if food is going to be so expensive that nobody can afford it, then the situation is going to be bad…I’m not a fan of riots and things.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Donating for Mosquito Nets

For those of you who are interested in donating money for mosquito nets, click here: Project 23. Project 23 has zero overhead, so all $23 goes towards relief (mosquito nets and rice). If you can't donate $23, then click here: General Donation, and choose the proper dollar amount ($6USD will buy one treated mosquito net; today's rice price is $31/bag--yesterday it was $28/bag!); and then in the 'donation to' field put 'relief'.

Thank you for those who were interested in donating!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

God Lessons

I know I haven’t talked much about what God’s been teaching me while I’ve been in Liberia. I think part of the reason is because I’m not quite sure how to put it all into a nice, concise summary. I can say that God has been teaching me a lot! Sometimes I’m surprised at the lessons He’s been teaching me (the ‘topics’ aren’t what I was expecting), and the lessons are much different than what He taught me the last time I was here…well except for one.

I’m convinced that Liberia is the loneliest place on the planet. I came to that conclusion last time I was here, and I’m pretty confident in saying that it is still the case. I know it sounds crazy…I’ve got kids around me a lot of the time, and there are always people around, but it’s a different kind of lonely. I really think this place of loneliness is the way that God enables me to get alone, and be with Him, so that He can teach me these lessons.

The biggest thing God has been teaching me about is worship….and love and delighting in Him (see, no concise summary). My devotion on April 11th was focused on John 12:8 (“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”). I’m still thinking about this stuff, and the new things I’m learning seem to be building on to that.

The author had some really good things to say to go along with the verse that I want to share:

“We often raise our work for Jesus—like feeding the poor—above the person of Jesus…Our values are distorted, and our works become empty…Worship is to come first. It is paramount…Let your work flow out of a heat enamored with Him.”

Awesome huh!?

Then a few days ago, my devotion was about delighting yourself in the Lord. (Ps. 37:4 and Zeph. 3:17). I want to be so delighted in the Lord that everything in my life is an act of worship…and from that worship, love will naturally and effortlessly flow from my life.

THEN….as if you need anything else to think about….I’ve been reading a book that my dad sent me a few weeks ago. I’ll be honest and say, I’m not a die-hard John Piper fan or anything (a lot of times he’s over my head), but I’m reading “Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions”…and I have to say, it’s pretty good! Here’s so excerpts from it (all taken from the first chapter…this book has some meat!):

God is glorified precisely when we are satisfied in him—when we delight in his presence, when we like to be around him, when we treasure his fellowship. This is an utterly life-changing discovery. It frees us to pursue our joy in God and God to pursue his glory in us because they are not two different pursuits. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

“Love is helping people toward the greatest beauty and the highest value and the deepest satisfaction and the most lasting joy and the biggest reward and the most wonderful friendship and the most overwhelming worship—love is helping people toward God.”

“The enthusiasm of the kingdom is missing. And that is because there is so little enthusiasm for the King.” (ouch!)

The zeal of the church for the glory of her King will not rise until pastors and mission leaders and seminary teachers make much more of the King. When the glory of God himself saturates our preaching and teaching and conversation and writings, and when he predominates above our talk of methods and strategies and psychological buzzwords and cultural trends, then the people might begin to feel that he is the central reality of their lives and that the spread of his glory is more important than all their possessions and all their plans.”

“God is calling us above all else to be the kind of people whose theme and passion is the supremacy of God in all of life. No one will be able to rise to the magnificence of the missionary cause who does not feel the magnificence of Christ. There will be no big world vision without a big God. There will be no passion to draw others into our worship where there is no passion for worship.”

“The Great Commission is first to ‘delight yourself in the Lord (Ps. 37:4) and then to declare, ‘Let the nations be glad and sing for joy’ (Ps. 67:4). In this way, God will be glorified from beginning to end…”

Phew! So, I guess that’s what God’s been showing me this last month! I hope there’s something in all of that that might make you think….even if it’s just for a second.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Monrovia Christian Fellowship

I know what some of you are thinking….I finally made it to the ‘white church’. I have to admit, I was showing up with hesitations…I’ve never experienced non-Liberian church. And, when it’s affectionately called the ‘white church’, well, I wasn’t too sure. I have to admit, I enjoyed it. I think it was mostly because I’ve really been missing church….in the sense of there being familiar songs to sing and corporate worship and things. We were invited to MCF by a friend because the choir was having a gowning ceremony after the service, and she thought we’d enjoy it. There was an actual praise band….yea, with guitars, keyboards, a drum set and microphones?! My only complaints are that the sanctuary is full of light coming in from outside, and they were using a overhead projector… you can’t really read the words, so if you don’t know the song, then you just kind of clap along. And the wood benches are super uncomfortable (it made me realize how much weight I’ve lost). Anyway, the church was founded like 15+ years ago by an American pastor, and then there’s also a Liberian pastor. The Liberian pastor preached….and what he had to say was fairly decent. He also had his wife and the American pastor’s wife both share what God had been teaching them lately….and said for the next few weeks he’s going to call on people to share. It is true though, it is the ‘white church’—I’ve never seen so many white people in one place in Liberia. It’s mostly UN and NGO people, but there was also a good amount of Liberians. I think MCF is great when you really need a ‘familiar’ church experience, and I would like to go back. I’m interested in hearing the American pastor preach.

Ok, so the gowning ceremony….first of all, the choir sang two songs in the service as a preview for the ceremony. The best description would be to think Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, but Liberian style and with half the amount of people. It was awesome! They sang “He Knows My Name”….which has a special place in my heart…working with orphans and all. Their singing gave me goosebumps… I was sweating in the Liberian heat! The ceremony was after church, and we just expected it to be a concert and then present the new robes. Boy were we wrong….which should have been expected, since this is Liberia. The choir sang 5 songs, then there was 3 solo artists (2 singers, 1 guitar player) who each sang/played 2 songs. While they sang, if ‘your heart was blessed’, then you were supposed to go to the front and put your offering in the box. Then they started the gowning…..they would call a few people up on stage, present them with their gowns, and then their family and friends would come up and help them put the gown on and then they pinned pieces of metallic paper on their gowns (not sure what that was all about). This process went on for probably an hour (they ran out of papers), and after we realized they were still gowning the girls, we decided to duck out and go for some ice cream at Delish! Banana and chocolate ice cream—which was super good since we’d been sitting in the heat all afternoon! $1 a scoop, so it’s well worth it! It was a good Sunday!

My New Task

My new task as the relief manager is to make sure that the orphanages we work with are prepared for rainy season. Because we will be leaving for rainy season, we just want to make sure that everyone is well prepared, and hopefully everyone will be able to fend for themselves while we’re gone. I like the task because it involves making sure everyone has a new mosquito net! I’m starting with the 4 orphanages that we currently have feeding programs at, and then I will branch out to the other 16 from there. I’ve done one orphanage so far, and I used it as my practice run. I spent the day at the orphanage (which I haven’t done yet…usually I only drop in 15-30 minutes or so)….and I really enjoyed it! I am somewhat biased because I spent the day at my favorite orphanage, but I’ve been missing just being able to spend time with the kids…..learning names and laughing and playing.
I have to speak with the directors to find out how they’re preparing for rainy season. I also have to find out how they plan on making money during rainy season—which involves micro-enterprise talk. I also have to find out the condition of the roofs, and find out if there are leaks that we can patch easily with roof cement. I have to assess the sleeping arrangements to find out approximately how many mosquito nets are needed so that there’s (hopefully) 1 net per child. We’ve already decided to replace all nets with freshly treated nets; most nets that we provided last rainy season are full of holes anyway. A new, treated mosquito net costs us roughly $6USD…so with hundreds of kids, this adds up quickly. If you’re interested in donating money to purchase a mosquito net (or a few nets!) to protect a child against malaria, send me an email, or leave a comment.