Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 3--The Backbone

Lately you've been hearing about kids, orphanage directors, orphanages and my I thought I'd switch it up. I wanted to introduce you to the ORR field team backbone--our Liberian staff! They work hard, keep us going, sacrifice for us, put their lives on the line, cook, clean, do laundry, go on bread runs, act as a gatekeeper, get sent on crazy errands, love on kids and deal with endless strange 'white man' things (Legos, Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, baseball, composting, American chocolate, rice krispie treats, blueberries, pancake breakfasts, fried okra, ping-pong, surfing, rollerblading, computers, Skyping with someone in the States...I could go on and on). If it weren't for these amazing people, we would not be able to function! They mean so much to our team and the kids, but they really are my second family, my home away from home, my Liberia mother, brothers and friends--best friends. So without further adieu, here are a few beautiful, Liberian souls that bring joy to my day, make life in Liberia alittle easier and who truly are family.
I feel obligated to start the list with my best friend, Momo. If you've spent anytime with me, listening to my forever-long stories about Liberia, then you've heard plenty of Momo stories. I could seriously write a book just about Momo. I am also telling the truth when I say that he is my most favorite person in the world. I have never met anyone so full of life and laughter, innocence and wisdom, and he just makes me laugh...constantly! Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of frustrations that come along with Momo, but it's also pretty hard to get upset at the guy. Momo goes above and beyond on a daily basis; unless he's decided to just relax and think for the day. Momo is our Chief of Security and literally puts his life on the line for us and our safety. But Momo does so many other things! He gets bread and eggs or soft drinks, he helps me garden, he cuts the grass, he paints things, he fixes things, he breaks the things he's trying to fix, he pumps water, he negotiates deals, he finds parts, he sweeps the yard, he cuts down trees, he plants trees, he takes care of chickens, he's the dog whisperer, he sings and dances, he rollerblades, he's been known to use break fluid as lotion, he has an amazing fashion sense, he enjoys talking to my family on Skype, he takes care of visitors, he gets vexed if I'm still out in the neighborhood when it gets dark, he wakes me up just about every morning, he washes cars, he takes out the compost, he carries heavy bags of rice, he loads trucks, he unloads trucks, he translates, he loves giving guests a hard time, he loves telling guests about Liberia, he bathes in the ocean, he removes bottle caps with his teeth, he's a mean bamboo cutter, he can out garden anyone, he can eat 6+ mangoes in one sitting...I think you get the idea! Like I always say, "everyone needs a Momo in their life."
{Momo and Marthalyn's wedding day, with Momo's children}
Momo's sweet and beautiful wife, Marthalyn, is also a part of our Liberian family. Not only is she an amazing woman because she puts up with Momo, but she's pretty amazing because she washes our clothes and helps clean our house. This girl has some serious muscle! She is so giving and humble and hospitable. She works hard; she hardly makes a sound when she's cleaning, but she laughs alot. Some of my favorite times with Marthalyn are when I just go over to their house and sit on the front porch with her as the sun sets. We can spend hours talking and laughing, talking and laughing. We're the tag-team that keeps Momo in line. Marthalyn also takes care of two children (Momo's son and her younger sister), and she also has a small market table where she sells cookies, peanuts, and other snacks (which she somehow finds the time to make--I've seen her roasting peanuts over a fire at 11pm with a headlamp!). Marthalyn is a good friend, and I've really enjoyed watching her loosen up over the past few years. 
The true backbone of our house is Ma Mary! She is one of the most humble, Godly, sincere, hardworking and honest women I know! Ma Mary is just that--she's my Liberian Ma! She also keeps the ORR team running by filling our food baskets. She cooks dinner for us during the week--every single meal is cooked full of love, pepper and amazingness! She works her magic in the kitchen, but she also helps me run the relief program. She keeps up with the feeding schedule, buys the food in the market, counts cups and cups of rice and beans, and sneezes away as she counts. She also LOVES the children! We finally figured out a way to get her out of the kitchen and with the kids, so she helps me with the CDP program too. She is a woman so full of God! While she's slicing onions, pounding cassava leaf or slicing pumpkin she is usually praying or singing hymns. It makes my day to hear her praying for the children or humming 'How Great Thou Art'. She has endured and survived the war and loosing her husband, but because of her determination and business sense, she runs multiple businesses so she can put her two sons through college! Pretty much if you have a question or need advice, you ask Ma Mary. I LOVE this amazing woman!
Ma Mary's partner in prayer is Piko! These two women have been friends since they were children, and I always love to hear their stories from growing up together. Piko is a firecracker and so full of laughter!  We spent alot of time laughing together. Piko has worked for me every since I started with ORR, and has done an excellent job monitoring our orphanages. She is basically our eyes and ears in the orphanages on a consistent basis. She can tell you who's sick, who's misbehaving, the meals that were cooked, the whereabouts of the children or orphanage staff--she knows it all! Piko also helps with the CDP program. Like Ma Mary, Piko is a Godly woman who enters her prayer closet, for ORR and the children we serve, on a daily basis. On Friday mornings, I make her tea (unless it's just too stinkin hot), we talk about the kids and then we pray. Piko is a giver, and she's been through alot in her life, but she has joy in Christ. She is such a great friend and an amazing woman of God.
Amma is a newer member of the ORR family. He's our weekend daytime security guard. When he was first hired, he was always very serious. We also had some difficulty communicating, because his English isn't the best. But, now we communicate much better and Amma has really blossomed into a very funny person! He laughs and jokes and is quite the character. He discovered rice krispie treats and absolutely loves them! Amma is also a serious gardener, but he doesn't quite get the science behind it all. He frequently dumps entire seed packets into one small pot or covers plants up to protect them from the rain but doesn't uncover them to get some sun, but it's so cute, so I just leave it that way. He loves to just help out in the yard and to learn new things about gardening. I also had the hilarious privilege of introducing Amma to American baseball--the baseball eventually turned into a soccer ball and the car tires became his goal--but he's a die-hard Braves fan (aka he's always wearing the Braves hat that I gave him!). Amma has a sweet daughter, Sinoe, who comes to visit sometimes, and that's when we pull out the coloring books. Amma colors with us too. Amma works hard to try to provide what he can for his daughter, and he was so proud when he was able to register her for school this year--she's 12 years old and it was her first time going to school! Amma's got a big heart and plenty of laughter to go around!
And finally, our driver Joseph. Like Amma, Joseph took awhile to come out of his shell. But once he came out, there was no stopping this guy! He's a true comedian. So much so, that you start to get confused if he's still joking because he thinks it's so funny or because he's actually serious. Not only does Joseph drive us around and take care of our vehicles, but he runs errands, he negotiates for us, he sometimes is like an ambulance driver, he hauls construction supplies, he mentors the older boys and he helps out with the CDP program. If you can't find Joseph, you can usually find him in the garage with his headphones in trying to catch some quick zzz's. He also loves to eat! Whenever I bake with the girls, he always tries to get an entire pan for himself. Joseph enjoys alittle friendly competition, but I've only lost 100 LD (about $1.38) to him. He's a pretty amazing man--he's got three daughter, but has a house full of children that he takes care of by himself. He's a deacon at his church and has a heart to work with the older boys in the orphanages, but he doesn't mind playing Chutes and Ladders or football with the smaller kids. He gets us where we need to be, and provides laughter along the way.

All of these people are integral to ORR's work in Liberia, but more importantly, they are my family. Please pray for our Liberian staff members--that God would bless them and that He would keep them healthy and safe. Pray that God would provide for their families and that He will meet their needs. Pray that God would strengthen them so that they can press on and continue the work that He's called them to. Pray that they would come to know Him in new and fresh ways. Pray that they would be blessed for all of the sacrifices that they make, and that their hearts would continue to be burdened for their fellow Liberians. Pray that they would know Him and make Him known.

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