Monday, May 30, 2011

Sinoe Trip-Heart of God Refuge

[Sorry for the delay in posting.]
The main purpose of our trip to Sinoe was to visit PCC's Heart of God Refuge orphanage home. The orphanage is located just outside of Greenville and is home to 12 children. Because the home is in an extremely rural area, they really have to be self-sufficient. The orphanage has a huge farm and piggery. This orphanage really does survive off of the land. The people don't have hardly anything, but the children are well loved and taken care of.

Our friend, Pastor Wleh, has God-sized dreams for the orphanage, farm and two schools. He wants to eventually move from Monrovia to Sinoe so that he and his wife can be at the mission full-time. He wants to continue the orphanage home, but also have a boarding school on the property. The current living conditions are simple and modest--a four-roomed grass mat house with a thatch roof (complete with rats, chickens and plenty of bugs). There is no proper bathroom and the children have to walk a good distance for clean water.
The school at the orphanage has more than 50 students from the surrounding villages, but the building is pretty terrible. Pastor wants to move the school building further inside the property and has already constructed the sticks (posts) and the zinc roof.
After traveling to Sinoe, meeting the children and caretakers, and seeing the current conditions, it is my hope (as well as my teammates) that we will somehow be able to help Pastor and the children at Heart of God Refuge in the very near future! I really can't wait to see how God uses Pastor Wleh in the lives of the children in Sinoe too!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sinoe Road Trip

Last week, we set off for quite the adventure! We headed to Sinoe County to visit a good friend's mission--an orphanage, farm, piggery and two schools. The drive took 10 hours, but was just 200 miles! This wasn't my first trip to Sinoe, but it was my first visit to Greenville. The drive is beautifully bumpy--a red dirt road meets lush jungle with small villages nestled inside--and can be a challenge for those of us who get carsick easily. And, it's always great to get out of the city!
[Our quick decline in road quality...and the end result. We were SO happy to reach the paved road when we were coming home!]
Life in Sinoe is much different. The pace is slow and relaxed. It's beautiful, peaceful and quiet. Life is hard and the people work very hard. You live off the land and you learn how to be very resourceful. Life is simple, full of joy and laughter. You know your village and the jungle trails that lead elsewhere very well, and you have no concept of Monrovia, Liberia, Africa or the rest of the world. It's actually pretty nice to escape for awhile!

[Our home in Sinoe--also an orphanage home.]
I'm going to stretch the trip out into multiple posts, just because I have over 800 photos from the three days! And because I wrote a huge post yesterday and Blogger and all it her problems left me a draft with one sentence....well, I just don't feel like writing it all over again.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Last week, we enjoyed a much-needed staycation. I've never had a whole week in Liberia to just relax, curl up with a book or two, sleep and explore. On Wednesday, we made plans to go play golf at Firestone...which usually happens about once a year. Despite the heat, sweat and multiple sunscreen applications, we had a blast! I really enjoy golf, and I think all or most of us decided that we should play more regularly. By the time you rent clubs and pay a caddy, green keeper and ball-spotter, it ends up being about $15 (Green fees: weekday $5, weekend $10. Closed on Mondays.). The best part is that you can be absolutely horrible and wear whatever you want (ever golfed in Chacos in the States?! I think not!) and you're still allowed on the course! We played 9 holes in about 3 hours and 15 minutes...which is much better than the last time, which took more than 5 hours! This was only my 3rd time playing golf and I shot 69 on a par 34 course (9 holes), haha. My strategy included hitting the ball in the trees so that you could play in the shade! My strength getting distance and height, and I really should work on my putting! Anyway, here are a few photos from our golfing day at Firestone.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Camping in Buchanan [for the last time]

After canoeing across rivers and exploring Edina, we set out for our favorite camping spot in Buchanan. We have camped in this spot multiple times, and we absolutely love it! It's beautiful, secluded and just a great escape from our normal routine.
We had a few hours before the sun went down, so we did alittle swimming, enjoyed a long walk on the beach to collect shells (I've never seen so many shells in one place in Liberia) and did some rock climbing. As daylight faded, we set up camp and collected firewood. We started our fire, started making our dinner (Denty Moore stew on top of mashed potatoes) and settled in for an enjoyable night around the fire. We talked and laughed, had a visitor that we gave our leftovers to, laughed some more, enjoyed the stars and then began to settle in the sand for the night.
I think we all drifted off to sleep around midnight. But less than an hour later, Deb popped up saying, "Josh, Josh...did you hear that?! It sounded like an explosion." I was still half out of it, but rolled over to figure out what was going on. Deb thought she heard something near the truck, so she clicked the remote so the light would flash and the alarm would beep. As soon as she hit the remote, you could hear someone running off into the bush.

CRAP! Someone WAS around the truck...and were there more people?! We waited a few minutes because we didn't know what we would find, and then we all approached the truck. The driver's side window was completely gone and there was glass all over the sand and on the seat. We all started shinning our lights around the beach and the treeline, wondering if we were being watched. We walked around the truck, and realized that there were multiple attempts to break the passenger window, but they were unsuccessful.

Amazingly enough, we called the Emergency Response Unit in Monrovia to ask for a contact in Buchanan. We were give a number, spoke with a very helpful police officer who told us they were on their way to us. We waited for awhile, but still aware that someone could still be around, so we jumped in the truck and just wanted to get to the road. We ended up meeting the police on the road, and they wanted to see the crime scene. We went back to our beloved camping spot to show them the glass in the sand, and then began to follow them to the police station. We were alittle spooked, and when the police headed away from town and into darkness, we decided to head to town to get friends, and then we'd find the police station. We called the police officer and told him that they were driving too fast, so we lost them, and would be at the station soon. We went to wake up Cramer and Alvina and Alvina's dad and then went to the depot. It was literally 100 yards around the corner from where we decided to turn around...but you can never be too safe.

We figured out that the things stolen were: the cooler, a refugee bag with minimal cooking supplies and Josh's backpack with his clothes, Bible, phone and camera in it. We had to fill out a report, drive our truck to another place to leave it for the night (since there was no window) and then ended up invading the Smith house, where six of us piled onto two mattresses on the floor that Alvina's family members had given up for us. We got a few hours of sleep, but then had to be back at the police station at 8am to give our statements. Deb and Josh went to the station--Deb was the one dealing with the police officer on the phone, and Josh because his things were stolen. They came back later and said that me and Davy had to go and give our statements too. It was pretty funny--a handwritten 'form' where I had to put my name, DOB, tribe, mother and father'snames, and the time, location and scene of the crime and the police report. Then we waited around for the UNMIL Police to show up with a digital camera so that they could take photos of thetruck for evidence. After the photos were done, we went back to the Smith's house for lunch (potato greens and red oil), went on a driving tour of Buchanan and then headed back to Monrovia.
The police told us the following morning that they probably knew who took our things, but that they couldn't go investigate because there was no fuel in the pickup truck. We realize that we will most likely never get our things back, but we were so grateful that nobody was hurt and that there was no altercation on the beach! Everybody is safe...and things are just that, things. We joked that whoever got Josh's backpack now has a Bible, and the police will probably go looking for our things (since there's a few valuables) and they won't have to wait on UNMIL anymore because they'll have their own digital camera, haha.
Needless to say, it was a memorable weekend. We are mostly bummed that we will no longer be camping in Buchanan...and that was our favorite getaway. I guess we can still take day trips there...or stay at the Smith house!

Celebrating Easter

[Massah takes communion and Georgie decorates his Easter backpack]

The past few weeks have been an exciting time for our Child Development Program (CDP). We were working our way to the Easter story, so two weeks ago the children learned about The Last Supper. To make the story come alive for the kids, we took communion--sharing bread and juice together. For most of the children, this was their first time to have communion. This past week, we read the Easter story from the Bible, and then used Resurrection Eggs and the story, “Benjamin’s Box” to make the Easter story more personal to the kids. We also had plenty of great crafts--scratch off crosses to represent our sins being washed away, and some children enjoyed decorating 'He Lives!' Easter backpacks that were donated. We reflected on Jesus’ death and sacrifice, but then it was time to celebrate! The highlight of our CDP time was celebrating the resurrection with the children through music. We danced, clapped, sang, beat drums, and made as much noise as possible. We wanted the children to know that we have reason to celebrate Easter, and everyday, because Jesus is alive!

As for me, I celebrated by Easter by enjoying a serious Sunday morning downpour. I snuggled under my blanket and enjoyed time with my Bible, journal and Easter playlist. We went to church at PCC (where a majority of our Liberian staff attends)--this was my first time to church since I've been back in Liberia. Although I enjoyed it, I was alittle disappointed that we didn't sing any "Easter songs". After church, we loaded up the truck to go and visit the newest Kollie baby. His name is Daniel Moses, he's so cute and tiny! Then we came home, packed up everything, and headed to the Chapman's for the start of our staycation! I spent most of my time in the kitchen preparing our Easter dinner. I LOVE being in a kitchen here--it makes me feel normal! Our special Easter meal was garlic chicken, scalloped potatoes, veggies, bread, fresh watermelon and papaya and an AWESOME sour cream lemon cake (that I might just share the recipe with you) for dessert. We had a great time sitting around the table sharing Easter memories and devouring the delicious food! Then we moved into the air-conditioning to watch Home Alone. And I ended my night with a hot shower (my first since February 19th), and it felt awesome! It was a really great day!

I hope that you were able to take time to reflect on Christ's death and resurrection and that you were able to truly celebrate that He is alive--He's living, moving and working all around us! I also hope that you don't only celebrate at Easter, but that you're able to reflect on His sacrifice and life every day. Happy Easter!