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!

Undies4Liberia Update

The underwear fairy has been at work here in Liberia! Some of you might remember the pledge I made back in January on PledgeBank. The pledge surpassed my expectations, and some pretty amazing people donated over 750 pairs of new undies for orphans in Liberia!

Yesterday, I distributed brand new, clean undies to the 28 children living at Childcare Foundation. The kids were so excited...they were dancing around in their new undies! Thanks to everyone who donated undies! I know it's been awhile, but please know that the children in Liberia are receiving your undies! I also probably forgot to mention that I distributed over 100 pairs of undies to 3 different orphanages before I left Liberia in June. Anyway, here are a few pictures from yesterday.

[the underwear fairy at work]

[some of the boys. new undies and scabies & ringworm medicine]

[dancing with new undies!]

[alittle too big, but too cute!]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gifty Update

Debbie and I went to the hospital this morning to deliver all of Gifty's medicines to her caretakers. There are so many medications, all with different instructions, so we spent some time explaining everything to Piko and Martha, and then made sure they understood. Debbie will go back on Wednesday to followup and make sure everything's ok with the meds.

When we got to the hospital, we spoke with the pediatrician and went over all of the meds. First of all, Elana from Spain (the peditrician) is a God-send! She has helped us out so much and she's so willing to help and answer questions. Debbie and I went to Gifty's room to visit and to go over all the meds with the caretakers. Elana told us that she would meet us in there and look at Gifty. She confirmed that Gifty has pneumonia--super boo! Piko also said that she hasn't been eating as much, so they will be watching that too. Gifty seemed much more alert today, but you could tell that breathing wasn't easy. Breathing is already difficult because her belly is so big--she ususally sits very reclined, and will put her arms up above her head--so we think she's figured out how to be the most comfortable, despite her big belly. And, when she looks at you with the 'do something for me because I'm miserable, please' look then you wish you could do something to make her more comfortable.

I will say, that she totally wanted to be my friend today--finally! She played hard to get for awhile, but when I finally picked her up, she took hold of my finger and held on. It was also good to see that she got fussy when she saw them bringing the milk. Thank you to everyone who's been praying for Gifty! Continue to keep Gifty in your prayers! Pray for comfort and healing for her body. Pray for her adoption process. Pray for all things medical--especially for all of the logistics concening a liver transplant. Pray that God's hand would be on Gifty and her situation, and that when we look back, we would see God's power and love through all of this.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Courtesy of some children at Frances Gaskins, I lost half a head of hair today. The final result, you ask? A full head of plaits. And way too long of pulling and tugging to do, and then way longer to undo. I've learned that it hurts less if you close your eyes, so usually I just try to take a nap while the tear-causing twisting is happening.

In celebration of the beauty pageant practices that have happened the past 3 nights at the nightclub next door, I thought it would be appropriate to pose in front of the Liberian flag. Tonight I was informed that the pageant was not until Nov. 29th, but for some reason these girls need to start practicing their walks in front of a full-length mirror now...with loud music, a big crowd and lots of microphone feedback involved. Oh, and we can't forget hearing the same 4 songs over and over again! We started to spy on the competition by jumping up on the well and our wall to peek over (we needed some form of entertainment other than setting ant hills on fire). But apparently we caused too much commotion and people started to gather on the road to watch us watch the pageant practice. Needless to say, there's no shortage of nightly entertainment around here. I'll share more pics of our nightly entertainment when my connection is better.

Gifty Update

(Our internet was down last night, so this is what I was hoping to post last night. Thank you all for your prayers for Gifty! We're about to go to the hospital and check on her.)

Gifty was discharged from the hospital this morning. Debbie and Andrew got her all settled in at her new home this afternoon. Unfortunately, the orphanage director (Fatu) called Debbie a few hours later and said she was very worried about Gifty because she couldn’t stop coughing, and she had a very high fever. We gobbled down some cassava and headed to Fatu’s to find Gifty coughing like crazy and burning hot!

After about 5 minutes, it was clear that Gifty needed to go back to the hospital. Because Gifty was technically discharged yesterday, they did not do a final checkup this morning when she was discharged. She developed the cough overnight, and the fever came along with it. Thankfully, the pediatrician told us that if anything were to happen, that we should bring her back. So, back to the hospital we went.

We went in the regular entrance, and we just told the security guy that the doctor told us we could come back. He sent us to the nurse’s station, and thankfully we saw the pediatrician at the end of the hall (she was already off duty). She came over, and couldn’t believe we were back so soon. Anyway, she escorted us to the ER and they immediately went to work. Poor Gifty, they had to try in both hands to get an IV going, and neither worked. She was still her feisty self—when she sensed a needle coming she would quickly shake her head back and forth in a ‘no’ protest. Gifty got a malaria test, which was negative, and then we were sent to the lab for blood work. We went back into the ER to wait for the results, and then the nurse tried again on the IV. It wasn’t taking so then she told us she would have to shave the side of her head and put the IV in her head…and we told her she could do whatever she needed to do.

This whole time Gifty is either coughing, crying, screaming, shaking her head no in protest or trying to sleep—she was exhausted! And then you’ve got people walking through to stop and look at what’s going on, and people peeking in wondering why a tiny little girl has got a white entourage with her. The IV in the head worked, and they gave her a few meds. We were then sent back to the nurse’s station, and they assigned Gifty a bed.

Now, to explain the bed situation.

Every room has anywhere from 5-10 beds in it. And when I say bed, it’s basically a step above a cot. Each patient has a caretaker who stays with them…they are fully responsible for cooking the patient meals, washing their clothes, etc. So each small room has got 10-20 people living in it. There’s no TV or magician walking around for entertainment. These people sit in these small rooms, being sick next to another sick person, all day long. So, Gifty was in a room with someone who had a bronchial infection…and apparently she picked it up the night before. And it’s more difficult for Gifty to fight the infection because of her condition.

Please be in prayer for Gifty. We will be going to the hospital in the morning to check on her. We are grateful to God that she has gained 20% of her body weight over the last 2 weeks! So now we can pray for Gifty’s health. Pray that she would get some sleep. Pray that the medicines would work. Pray for the doctors. Pray that she would recover quickly and fully. Pray for her adoption process. Pray also that God would provide a liver match for Gifty.

I’m exausted, so until next time…

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Typical Day With ORR-Part 2

STOP! Read and watch the previous post first!

(5 seconds after the previous video...)

We went through a puddle and hit a small boulder. It was jammed under the truck, and we ended up dragging it out of the puddle with us! Andrew had to jack up the truck and pull the rock out.

The best part is that we have watched the videos over and over again, and we laugh until we're in tears everytime!

And yes, I went flying to the floor!

Another funny thing is that right before we left the house, I was reading Messy Spirituality. The lasting thought from the read was "getting stuck has to come before getting unstuck." We're all felt alittle stuck lately, so maybe God was trying to tell us something?

A Typical Day With ORR-Part 1

I wanted to share yesterday's adventure with you all. We were going to visit one of our orphanages off of Rehab Road. It's right down the street from our house, but its a ways off the main road. It was raining lightly when we left the house, so we thought the road wouldn't be too bad. set the videos up...(I feel like I'm on Leno)

Debbie and I are riding in the back of our pickup truck. It has a shell on it, so we can't see the road ahead. This video was taken as we're leaving the orphanage, and just after we got stuck in a huge puddle! Like, the tires were almost fully under water/mud. Andrew and about 10 Liberian guys dug us out in the pouring down rain. I took the first video about a minute after we got unstuck. (I would have video taped the getting stuck incident, but I figured that would be insulting)

Field Team Complete!

The field team in Liberia is finally complete! We are so excited for Debbie to join the team! Debbie will be serving as our Healthcare Coordinator. We have had some medical challenges and now we have a knowledgeable nurse! Not only does Debbie have over 8 years of nursing experience, but with Debbie around, our team is full of joy and laughter.

We welcomed Debbie to Liberia on Friday night. In celebration of Debbie’s arrival, Friday was known around our house as Debbie Day. We wished each other ‘Happy Debbie Day’ all day long.

Debbie's feeling a bit overwhelmed, as we all do when we first arrive; so I know Debbie would appreciate your prayers. Pray for Debbie as she adjusts to life in Liberia. Please keep the rest of the field team in your prayers, along with all of the orphanages that we are working with. Pray for God’s provision—for the orphanages, the children and our ministry. Pray that OR&R’s ministry in Liberia would continue to touch the lives of Liberia’s orphans.

[L to R: Jennifer, Ashley, Matthew, Andrew, Debbie]

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gifty Update

Today we went to Benson Hospital, with hopes that Gifty would be discharged. Unfortunately, Gifty has come down with a fever, so she will not be discharged until she has been fever-free for 48 hours. Fortunately, she will continue to receive some of the best healthcare that Liberia has to offer, thanks to MSF (Doctors Without Borders). Gifty is looking bigger and stronger, and her eyes are no longer dark yellow.

When we arrived today, she was very quiet. She looked somewhat sleepy, but as soon as the warm milk was passed out she turned feisty. She wanted her milk, she wanted it now and she wanted to make sure we heard her opinion. She gulped her milk like there was no turning back! As she gulped, her belly grew…and grew…

Please continue to pray for Gifty and her situation. We will be placing her at one of the best orphanages in Liberia, and an orphanage that we’ve had a relationship with for a few years now, when she is discharged. We will continue to provide a caretaker as well. You can pray for Fatu (the director of the home Gifty will move to), who will be Gifty’s nighttime caretaker. Gifty’s daytime caretaker will either be Piko or Martha, so you can pray for them as well. Both Piko and Martha have endured long, hot days and sleepless nights at the hospital, so they deserve an extra jewel on their crown!

You can also pray for a girl named Sarah that we met at the hospital today. She’s in the same room as Gifty, and the pediatrician wanted us to take a look at her, in hopes of finding her a better place to live. We were told that Sarah’s about 10 years old—but let me just say that if you thought Gifty looked thin, Sarah is literally just skin and bones. As soon as we saw her, we all looked at each other, and our lack of words said it all—our hearts were broken for this little girl.