Thursday, March 31, 2011

25 Kids in 25 Days!

Today I made a discovery. There are only 25 more children in our core orphanages that need sponsors. There are also only 25 more days until Easter. So, I had a great [crazy] idea--let's get 25 kids sponsored in 25 days.

Last week was letter-writing week here in Liberia. You would not believe how excited the kids were when they got the name of their sponsor, and realized that whatever they put on their piece of paper would make its way to Mr. & Mrs. So-And-So in just a few short weeks! However, there were 25 children who could only address their letter as "Dear Sponsor." A few kids checked the list over and over again, making sure that their friend's name really wasn't there. After seeing the disappointment on their faces, and having no way to immediately fix it, I decided that this is how I can help.

For $35 a month, you can change the life of a child here in Liberia! Your support will go directly to the needs of your sponsored child and his or her orphanage--daily food, routine healthcare, an education, after-school programs. Most importantly, that child will have the opportunity to learn about God and His life-changing love!

Please consider sponsoring a child during these next 25 days. Easter is a time to celebrate Christ's sacrifice and resurrection, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate than to bring His love and hope to orphans in Liberia.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hope for Patricia

It is always exciting and rewarding to see children’s lives drastically improve. Patricia is a child that was once malnourished, uneducated and living in horrible conditions. She has always been sweet and caring, but she has had more responsibilities than any young child should ever be subjected to. Instead of going to school, Patricia spent her days preparing all of the meals and washing the clothes for her orphanage of more than twenty children. Every week when I saw Patricia, I would always ask her what she was cooking that day. I spent alot of time in the kitchen with her--peeling eggplant or cutting greens-- and that is where my heart broke for Patricia.

Due to a series of events, Patricia was relocated to the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy--a boarding school outside of Monrovia. I went to visit her in her new home for the first time recently, and could not get over how healthy and happy she was! We spent many precious moments together, but the moment that meant the most to me was when I knelt down and asked Patricia what she was cooking that day. She looked at me and said, “Nothing.” I acted surprised and questioned her, “Nothing? You are not cooking today?” She smiled. I proceeded to tell her that I could no longer ask her what she was cooking, because she did not have to cook anymore. I asked if she could go to school and play with her friends and she joyfully said yes. Patricia is now living a life that a nine year old in Liberia deserves--she goes to school, cleans her room and jumps rope with her friends. Patricia is happy, healthy and now she smiles because she has hope.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rejoice In the Lord!

[I was able to get 6 of the 9 to pose for a picture]
This past Tuesday was a national holiday in Liberia (Happy Birthday J.J. Roberts!). Although we could have taken the day off, some of us decided to make it a jam-packed day of long car rides and kiddos! We set off for the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy (MCFA) in Charlesville. After more than a year of planning and talking about getting some of our kids moved to the school, I was able to visit the school for the first time. I wanted to see the place, but more importantly, I wanted to see the 9 kids who moved there! What a great reunion! The 9 kids used to live at the same orphanage as Koiboi, and were moved to one of our core homes after the fire. They moved out to MCFA after I left Liberia in July, so we haven't seen each other in 7+ months!

There were plenty of smiles, laughs, big hugs, jumping into arms and "Auntie Ashley, for longs". All of the kids looked SO happy and SO healthy! We toured the school and had lunch, but after lunch, we went into the dining hall and spent time with all of the children, who were drawing and coloring. It was SO much fun! I had the chance to sit down with each of the 9 kids and write them special little notes in their artist pads and then read them their note. We drew Spidermen, cows, bubble letters and wrote letters to Auntie Elena.

And then there was my conversation with Patricia. Patricia is 8 years old and used to do all of the cooking at the old orphanage (yes, this place really was horrible). I would always ask her what she was cooking that day. I used to sit with Patricia and talk as we sliced eggplant or peeled pumpkin. But on Tuesday, I said "Patricia, I can't ask you what you're cooking anymore because someone is cooking for you." She looked up at me and gave a huge smile. I said, "Patricia, now you can go to school and learn and play with your friends." Patricia gave another huge smile and grabbed my hand.

Before we left, I gave the kids stickers and showed them photos of their friends from their old orphanage. They were giggling and waving at the photos on my camera. Then we took some photos for me to show their friends who were moved to 3 orphanages around Monrovia--talk about virtual pen pals! We talked about how great their new home was. When I asked, the kids all told me that their favorite thing about their new home was "learning" or "going to school."

The stickers I gave them said 'Rejoice in the Lord' and as we were piling into the truck to leave, the 9 kids were singing "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." It was a beautiful picture of rejoicing...and rejoicing always. As we 4-wheeled it down the sandy road, I couldn't help but rejoice in such a huge answer to my longstanding prayers! And then I began to think about God's faithfulness--it took a long time to get those kids out of a horrible situation, but God never left them and never forgot about them. He is holding them in the palm of His hand. He has plans for those children--plans to prosper them and not to harm them, plans for a hope and a future.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Thinking about Worthlessnes this week.
Get your Lent Guide here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jumping for Joy!

Us girls had some fun jumping for joy on Tuesday.....

Can we say awesome lighting, beautiful smiles and super fun photos!?!

Lent 2011:Relentless Acts of Justice

Yesterday was the first day of Lent. Let's be honest, I've never participated in Lent, but I live with a house full of people who participate. We were challenged to think about Lent, and to be in dialogue with God about participating and, if so, if there's something we should give up. My first thought was, "Great, I don't want to do this just because I feel like I have to." But, in praying about it, God told me that it's about alot more than just giving something up. And, more importantly, it's more about how we spend our time. So instead of giving up something like chocolate or soft drinks, I'm giving up my time. My time is much better spent with God--in reading His Word, in prayer, in journaling, in worship, in listening to His voice. There's going to be alot less Facebook and time wasted sitting in front of this computer!

So, now I share the challenge with you. Maybe you have never participated in Lent. Maybe you don't even know what the purpose of Lent is. But I challenge you to get with God and ask Him to use the next 40 days leading up to Easter to reveal Himself to you in new and fresh ways, and to prepare your heart for the Easter season.

I am using the World Vision ACTS Lent 2011 Guide. You can go there and sign up and they will send the guide straight to your inbox each week. The above picture is what the guide is focusing on this year...and I think it's going to be eye-opening and heartbreaking. I'm also very curious to see how God uses the topics (worthlessness, carelessness, helplessness, godlessness, speechlessness, hopelessness) to speak to me (especially considering I'm surrounded by all of those things on a daily basis here in Liberia). And, I might just be sharing with you over the next 40 days too!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Reunion

[Koiboi back in 2008--skin crawling with fungus and very malnourished]
Most of you probably know about "my son." You've heard stories and seen photos of Koiboi. I am his Ma and he is my son. We have shared a long and difficult journey together over the past 3 years. There are many times when he serves as my reminder of why I am here, and why I must continue.

When I first met Koiboi, he had just been taken from the bush and plopped down into an orphanage. The orphanage was the worst--the worst of the worst, really. Koiboi was about 3 years old and he didn't even know English. He was confused, neglected and very sick. My heart broke for Koiboi, and for all of the children in that orphanage. I prayed, cried, argued, loved, worried and fought for those kids.

God answered those prayers last year, when there was a fire at the home, and all of the children were removed. Koiboi moved to a great new orphanage. After just one week there, he was already healthier and happier. When I left Liberia in July, I had to see Koiboi one last time. I had this feeling in my heart, and even said out loud, that I felt like I was never going to see Koiboi again. I remember driving away from the orphanage, watching him stand there and wave until we were completely out of sight. My heart broke, but at the same time, I had to trust God--that he would watch over and protect Koiboi--and I had to be ok with the possibility of never seeing him again. I left Liberia knowing I had loved him well, but wishing and hoping that I would have the chance to love him more.

Last week, I found myself on my way to see Koiboi. As we were bouncing down the dirt road, Deb turned around and said, "I wanted to come today because the last time you were here, you said you thought you would never see Koiboi again. I wanted to be here for the reunion." I had honestly forgotten that I had said that, but I had a deep sense of gratefulness and thanksgiving to God for keeping Koiboi safe and protected, and for giving me the soon-to-be sweet reunion.

Our reunions are always the same--Koiboi slowly walks towards me, while playing with his ear and looking at his feet. He usually waits until he's a few steps away before he begins to let on to anything close to a smile. And then there's the bend-over-scoop-up-big-hug-and-kiss Ma maneuver. That's when the reunion begins!
[The Koiboi walk]
[The Ma maneuver]
[Reunited again! Not a bad smile, considering he had malaria]