It’s Sunday morning. I stayed in my bed until nearly 10:00! I could hear the bustle on the road of people trying to make their way to church. There’s also the constant buzz of the cricket that’s been hiding out in my closet for the last few days…and I cannot for the life of me find him! The church next door starts, and it’s actually not as annoying as I feared it would be. I finally emerged from my mosquito net box. The breeze has been fairly constant. I wake up almost every night cold. My curtain is blown nearly up to the ceiling by the wind. The sun is shining and I have found my pause.
Typical sounds of Sunday continue. The church just down the road begins. They’re louder than the church just on the other side of my wall. I pull eggs out of the freezer so they can thaw. I want to bake something this morning—a box of Jiffy blueberry mix, or perhaps banana bread. I crawl back into bed and start to read Hebrews 12. I turn on some music, open up my prayer journal and settle in. After adding to my gratitude journal, I look for a banana bread recipe on Pinterest, because it seems as if I’ve left my go-to recipe at home. I have the entire place to myself—a first in over a week! The sky turns gray and a slow rain begins to fall. The cricket hasn’t let up, and the music continues. The ping of the rain hits the zinc roof.
I cherish this time of being alone and finding the pause because it is very rare. I’m also storing up energy and sanity, as I’m set to be the guest speaker at a school’s closing ceremony this afternoon. I’m supposed to speak on “the important of elementary education as a foundation for every child”—or at least that was what the handwritten note that was delivered to me said.
Last night was the first chance I’ve had to walk around the neighborhood. First of all, I was looking forward to getting some alone time, but Momo wasn't having it. He told Abraham to go with me since it was getting late. I asked why I used to be able to walk to the beach every evening by myself, and Momo said “it’s different now.” I think he’s taking his vow to my mom very seriously! There goes a favorite “alone” activity!
My walk was actually strange. My usual route to the beach has been blocked off by a new cement wall and steel gate, so I take a less familiar path. None of the usual children were around. Liberians kept their distance, and mostly just starred. That’s one the weirdest things about being back post-Ebola—people keep their distance. Even more weird is that the Liberian handshake has become extinct. An old acquaintance did find me as I was walking along the beach, and after an awkward moment, we did a half handshake.
When we headed back to the house, we passed an older man walking through the weeds in a red choir robe. I said the usual greeting, “y’ello” and as he passed by, he said, “we thank God for life.” To which I replied, “tha’ true-o.” As soon as we passed on the dirt path, Abraham told me that the man was a pastor. He then began to explain that people go to him for healing, prayer, etc. and he makes them spend money of things—special water, animal sacrifices, or to hear from the Holy Spirit. Abraham told me that he remembers going with his mom to that man’s church (his house). I started to tell Abraham about how that wasn’t a pastor, and that the Holy Spirit is free! I fumbled over my words and tried to explain darkness and true evil. Prayers filled my spirit.
This is the darkness that Liberia holds. Twisted, false, cunning, impostors. It’s the battle. The battle against the unseen. The battle against darkness that is deeply entrenched into an entire culture. It is part of the fabric of this country.
The Good news is that Light overcomes darkness. The Good news is that this isn’t a battle that I’m left to fight alone or in my own strength. But the reality is that when you know the Truth, you are a potential weapon. And the darkness hates to be attacked.
I’ve been thinking about how I’ve settled in well to my new home. It’s mostly comfortable. There are still headaches (like the plumber fixing my kitchen sink yesterday, only to wash my hands this morning and now it leaks more than it did before!). I have had good health thus far. I could use a little more rest—a full night’s sleep would be awesome! But I’ve also been thinking about how the enemy is lying in wait. He’s waiting for the real stuff to begin, and that’s when he will make himself known. Instinctually, I want to hunker down. I’m waiting for the first blow to my gut—the one that knocks the wind out of you. But I also find myself gearing up, whispering little prayers throughout the day and writing words of power in my prayer journal in the mornings. I’m clinging to promises and truths. I’m counting mosquito bites and praying against malaria. I’m trying to learn the balance of give and take; creating boundaries and doing things that I know that I need for my own health.
So much of these last three weeks has been different. There is a lot of new, but there is also a lot of familiar. I’m looking forward to this next week—I will be attending trauma counseling training hosted by SIM, and it is specifically geared towards training Liberians to work with people affected by Ebola. It’s based off of the curriculum that I have from the American Bible Society, and the training will also include how to train others.
I most excited about how God continues to connect the dots when it comes to my counseling ministry here in Liberia. I’m praying for divine appointments and connections at the training—with SIM staff, but also with Liberians at the training. He continues to put people in my path with the same passion and vision for spiritual and emotional health in Liberia, and I cannot wait to see what He has in store! I already feel like I will be holding another training workshop for other Western friends who have shown interest in wanting to go through the training. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens!
I have managed to keep my bubble of peace and rest until after 1pm! The rain is still slowing trickling off the roof, but the cricket has stopped! Cool breezes blow through my window and I hear chickens and horns honking. It’s time to eat some cucumber salad, throw on a fancy skirt and hop on a motorbike to go deliver my speech that I’ve thought about for approximately two minutes. It’s the Liberian way!
Thank you all for your prayers! Your prayers have seen me through these first few weeks. It’s been a relatively easy adjustment. I miss my family and the ease and comforts of home. I want the biggest salad ever, and I don’t want anymore bread or noodles. But thankfully I’m not homesick. And God has surrounded me with so many old and new friends! I have Liberian friends showing up at my gate every day asking if there’s anything that they can help me do, and not one has asked for anything in return. It’s really made me feel at home and I offer a bowl of rice or a dollar or two for being down on their hands and knees scrubbing my floor. They decline the money, but will take the rice offer.
I see the future. Despite frustrations and leaky sinks, I can see how this home will be a place of laughter, joy and dreams coming true. I’ve found myself saying it more than once, “inside this fence is about dreams. dreams coming true. whether they’re God’s dreams, my dreams or your own dreams, dreams are going to come true here!” And I believe that!