Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I don't think I've talked about Michael on the blog, but he's been in my newsletters and on the ORR blog. You can read more about Michael on the ORR blog--here and here. First of all, thank you to everyone who was praying for him! When I woke up on Wednesday, I was greeted with, "did you hear about Michael?" I said no, and then was told that he had passed away in his sleep in the early morning hours. He died from complications from Hepatitis B--his liver was failing, and he probably lost too much blood. Michael was 18 years old, but he had more faith than me. I visited him in the hospital on Tuesday and he told me that he was praying to walk out of the hospital on Sunday. He also told me that if God calls him Home, then that's fine too. He had peace with life or death; he fully trusted in God. Michael had so much courage and strength. He was an example to us all. We will miss his smile and laugh, but I know that he is in a much better place and his body is whole again!

Nearly two years ago, we lost Massaly. Two children from the orphanage that I was at when I first came to Liberia have been killed. That's 4 children. Dead. Gone. There are so many stages to grief--shock, sadness, guilt, confusion, frustration, anger-- and so many times when all that you can do is ask why. I don't understand how someone can be so faithful, and yet God can still choose to take him away. I really hoped and believed that Michael would walk out of the hospital on Sunday, but he left the hospital early. He went Home. Michael's body was buried on Thursday night, but Michael's smile and faith and courage will continue to inspire and challenge.

I had a peace about Michael's death on Thursday night, as I was in church singing "God of Wonders." It hit me. I was singing about the universe declaring His majesty, and realized that Michael was in the presence of God! And I thought I was the one worshipping, HA! Michael was having a party! I could only smile.

You give and take away, blessed be your name!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today's Declaration

Keep your foot [give your mind to what you are doing].
Ecclesiastes 5:1

"In spiritual warfare, the mind is the battlefield. That is where the enemy makes his attack. Satan wants you to think that you are mentally deficient--that something is wrong with you. The truth is that you just need to discipline your mind. Don't let it run all over town, doing whatever it pleases. Begin today to "keep your foot," to keep your mind on what you're doing." (New Day, New You)

The Battle
Today is a battle. Everyday is a battle.
The battle has been raging and the trenches have been dark, deep and lonely.
I have been trying to move; to climb out.
I have been stuck; held down.
I have felt heavy; too heavy to lift my eyes.
There has been a thick swarm, buzzing all around me. Spewing lies.
Pecking away at my weary armor.
Beaten, broken and tired; I gave up.
I laid down--looking for rest.
The swarm trapped me on the ground.
There was no escape--or at least, that is how it appeared.
The burden was too heavy; it was all too much.
I was defeated.
The heaviness grew and weighed me down even more.
The lies grew louder--deafening.
I wanted relief, but felt paralyzed.
Paralyzed by lies, fear, doubt, exhaustion...
the enemy was at war.
I couldn't lift my eyes, much less manage to lift my weapon.
I felt alone and unable to fight.
I was drowning.
Everywhere I looked, I could only see the swarm.
I was disoriented--blinded.
Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, I was rescued.
Rescued by my Savior.
I was scooped up out of the trenches, and taken away from it all.
The swarm was left all alone, to spew lies to each other.
They tried to follow, but my Protector, commanded them to stay away.
My eyes could finally see and my ears were opened.
The darkness and heaviness no longer surrounds me.
The Light has come.
My armor was gently placed back on my body by my Commander.
Whispers of love.
Fills the air.
My Lord is here; ready to fight against the enemy for me.
I cannot fight this battle; it's too complicated and ugly.
My King has sent guards to surround and protect me.
This battle belong to my Lord.
He is victorious.
He has overcome.

I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Acts 2:25-28

Hmm...yea. That's my declaration for this Monday. Let's just say, things have not been easy. But, things are looking up! Thank you all for your love, prayers and support!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Momo's Wedding

[The Passewe family--Soko, Momo, Yatta & Marthalyn]

Preface: For those of you who don't know, Momo is my favorite Liberian. I know, that's saying something, right? But it's true. Momo is my Chief Security Guard, constant source of laughter and entertainment, and the person I miss the most whenever I'm home. As we say, "everyone needs alittle Momo in their life." And, all is well in the world when Momo's around. According to Momo, we're best friends.

Last weekend, most of the ORR gang, along with a flatbed truck full of Liberians, set off for Gbarnga (pronounced Bonga) for Momo and Marthalyn's country wedding. We weren't really sure where we were going, other than 'past Gbarnga and then turn so on the dusty road and it is far small,' but 5.5 hours later, we arrived at the village of the bride-to-be. Let's just say, we were a site to behold!

Now, if you've never experienced a 'country wedding'...well, you haven't had a true Liberian cultural experience; but in most cases, one country wedding is enough to last awhile. But, since this was Momo's (my best friend) big day, I added another country wedding to my Liberian resume. Hmm...there's alot of meeting, negotiating, dowery presenting, rice, and townspeople. Oh yea, and music, livestock, popcorn and waiting around. But, the Passewe wedding was not nearly as painful as the last country wedding I went to.

Ok, back on track. Once we arrived, we weren't really sure what to do. I asked Ma Mary to give us a signal when we should change into our wedding clothes. We decided that when the bride and groom went to change, that would be our cue. But in the mean time, we made friends with the neighborhood kids, enjoyed the shade, visited with the bride's family and watched Ma Mary get right to work in the kitchen (she was supposed to only be a guest).

Once everybody changed, we all gathered under the thatched awning (complete with hanging pink flowers) to settle in for the actual ceremony. This involved alot of introductions, talking, presenting of gifts (wood carvings, glass bowl, kola nuts) and then the money exchange (apparently, $48 plus some small LD is the going rate). This all sounds nice, but if only you could have seen everything else that was going on--the drunk woman yelling at the white people, goats pooping, women popping popcorn, dogs eating popcorn, women chopping chickens into get the idea.

Hysterical. Memorable. So Liberian. Loved it. Wish you were there.

After the ceremony, which never included vows, a kiss, a minister, looking into each other's eyes, "I do's"...none of that stuff...the feast began. Rice with bitter ball soup, along with soft drinks, but those were only for the white people. It was good! After that we quickly changed out of our wedding clothes (I couldn't wait because the zipper on my skirt broke as soon as I put it on, which made for awkwardness) and graciously talked our way out of the village and into town to find a guest house. The village party was going to go all night...or at least until the fuel ran out from the generator that was brought in the back of the truck from town.

We decided to try out the United Methodist Guest House in Gbarnga. After we finally found someone on the property, and negotiated the rate ($15/single, $20/double), we claimed rooms and had a delicious dinner of leftovers--boiled eggs, flat bread, trail mix, chips, salsa, guacamole, baked beans and hummus. Ma Mary was loving all of the 'American food.' The guest house was decent, but I picked the wrong bed and had a pretty miserable time until about 3am. We woke up, took our time and headed back to the village to pick up the wedding guests to bring them back to Monrovia with us. Let's just say, the party continued in the back of the flatbed truck, and every now and then, we thought we might have a man overboard. It was a celebration, all 5.5 hours back to Monrovia...until we happened across a fresh motorbike accident, which provided for some excitement and emergency response action for the ORR gang. After unloading the contents of the flatbed truck into the pickup and stabilizing the patient and moving him with a tarp into the back of the flatbed truck, the flatbed set out for the hospital while the rest of us headed home.

It was, for sure, a weekend to remember. Here are a few photos.
[The ORR convoy. The wedding site (Marthalyn's family's home). Making friends with the village children. The wedding caterers (Ma Mary took charge!). Momo's son, Soko, wondered off with my camera (during the ceremony) and took this great self-portrait. The party continues in the back of the flatbed truck.]