I’m not sure where these next 12 days are going to take me...or better yet, where it will take us. I’ve had some ideas of things I’ve wanted to share with you. There are stories, reflections, thoughts and photos that I’ve wanted to post. This whole thing started off with wanting to share a photo and story of a child with you every day leading up to Christmas. I sat down to write about the first child, and I wrote 7 pages! To say that the kids in Liberia are special to me is a total understatement!
I have had the privilege of crossing paths with thousands of Liberians over the past five years. Yes, it will be five years in February! I cannot imagine life without Liberia, but even more so, without the people of Liberia. From the children that I love and serve and know very well, to the stranger that I pass on my walk to the beach, I am constantly reminded that life is about others. It’s about sending a smile or saying a hello. It’s about jumping in and helping someone out when you see a need. It’s about taking the time to slow down, take a seat and listen. It’s about living in community and having sweet fellowship. It’s about living life with others--sharing in the highs and the lows, the joy and the pain. If life was about ‘me’, then wouldn’t God have put me on this planet by myself?
Liberia, and especially the people there, have taught me that life is not about me. God picked me up and carried me half way around the world to teach me that. Oh, but He’s taught me SO MUCH more! He’s taken me half way around the world to make me uncomfortable, to open my eyes, to stretch and grow me and to make me understand what true poverty and sacrifice look like. More than anything, He has taught me about love. About His love for me, about my love for Him, and about how to love others.
There are plenty of days in Liberia when I just wish I was at home--comfortable, clean, quiet, easy and enjoyable. But then I finally get home, and I’m reminded that life in Liberia is sweet, rich, full, loud, difficult, beautiful, hot and fulfilling. So many people hear my stories or know what I’ve been doing for the past few years and they have this ‘hero’ or ‘awe’ or ‘wow’ attitude. But it’s funny, because I feel like what I do, my life, is just different.
God has put me in Liberia and called me to love. God has put you in your school, place of work, neighborhood, city, etc. and called you to love too. God has called me to see things that nobody should ever have to witness--children dying, women loosing their babies, people sick and suffering, the evil of poverty, the desperation of people who live with a survival mentality and have suffered greatly--but He has also called me to tell their stories. Life outside of my picture-perfect and comfortable Fayetteville, Georgia is hard. Life in Liberia is more difficult than you can probably imagine, but at the same time, life in Liberia is frequently full of hope, love and joy.
I can sit in Ma Tete’s two room shack just outside of Monrovia, surrounded by 8 or 10 of her grandchildren, and she tells me that she has no money. In almost the same breath, she is laughing and full of gratitude for all that God has given her.
I have personally experienced great loss in Liberia, and I’m surrounded by a nation of people who have been through more than you or I can even begin to image--war, disease, famine, unemployment, violence, greed, injustice, spiritual stronghold, desperation. At the same time, I have never seen so much joy and thanksgiving. Sometimes I feel like God is more alive and vibrant in Liberia than at home. I feel like people in Liberia truly understand things like need vs. want, sacrifice, thankfulness, joy and being desperate for God.
My struggle right now is that I feel like I live in a world where I don’t have to be desperate for God. If there’s a problem, or if I need something, I simply go buy something to fix it. People around me aren’t dying or living with terrible and untreatable diseases. People aren’t literally starving to death. People have their basic needs met....and so much more!
I guess I just want to challenge you, myself included, to take a step back this holiday season. Take notice of how much you already have, and then thank God for all of it. Be thankful--thankfulness brings joy. Don’t complain when you don’t get that gift that you really wanted. Ask yourself what you really need. And then be aware of the people around you--do they need anything? Can you help meet those needs? If you can’t find someone around you who has a need, then I’ll challenge you to go to where the needs are. Contact a local church, ministry, shelter, school or food bank. Find out what they need and figure out how you can help. That’s part of the spirit of this time of year anyway, right? If you can’t step out and help those around you during the Christmas season then when will you?
If you’re just stuck or you don’t see any needs around you, then I encourage you to help meet the needs of children in Liberia by making a donation to Orphan Relief and Rescue. We are surrounded, and sometimes overwhelmed, by needs in Liberia. Your donation will greatly impact the lives of some pretty amazing children; children that I will be sharing with you during this little journey.
What a better way to celebrate the birth of our Savior--a man who suffered and sacrificed for you and I--than to reach out to those in need. Remember, this life is not about you (or me).