Greetings from Monrovia, Liberia!
Our team arrived safe and sound last night around suppertime. Getting through customs was a zoo, and Todd (our intrepid filmmaker) attracted the attention of airport police by filming the chaos that was the baggage claim. They made him delete the footage, but thankfully they did not seize his camera! We are also thankful that we have all of our luggage. All in all, the trip was a blessing (though long and exhausting), and we are so happy to be here!
This morning we were able to sleep in a bit and enjoy a morning walk on the beach (coffee in hand, of course). Then a few of us ventured to the market for a few supplies, while the rest of us plugged our disposable cell phones with minutes and strolled around the neighborhood a bit. Emmanuel and Fatu happened across us at a market stall, and picked us up to go to the rice farm.
CHAP (Community of Hope Agricultural Project) is an ag project that some members of Abide in the Vine have been championing for the past several years. It has received attention from the government, and they recently secured a US Aid grant. Basically, the farm is a pilot project for seed rice, and it seems to be going extremely well. We all hiked out to the rice paddies, and were given small knives and taught how to harvest rice the Liberian way (cut the stalk with one hand, and sweep the head of rice into your other hand). We harvested for a while, and enjoyed meeting the workers, especially the men and children who have been hired to keep the birds out of the fields. Armed with slingshots and nets, they catch or kill as many birds as they can to stop them from eating the rice. We were charmed by the brightly colored little birds (they looked like something North Americans would put on display in an aviary!), but we were assured that they are a terrible nuisance. We also saw how the rice is threshed and dried, and were interviewed by a national television team who is doing a special on agriculture in Liberia.
As fun as it is to simply be here and experience such a different world, I won’t lie... This afternoon was the highlight of the trip so far. After a quick lunch, we headed out to Christ Our Hope orphanage. Most of the team (Brent, Nick, Tim, and Aaron) have already visited Liberia, but for Todd, Julie, and me, this was our first ever glimpse of the place we have prayed for and ministered to for the past five years. The children were singing as we drove up, and they pulled us out of the car with hugs and kisses. We spent the rest of the day simply enjoying their company. We flooded the beach and made sand castles, played games, and hunted for seashells. The ocean was crashing behind us and the children were exuberant as we held races and played “This Little Piggy.” It was beyond amazing. Hours later, sunburnt and exhausted, we kissed them goodbye and promised even more hugs and affection when we go back there this evening for a “Watch” service (New Year’s Eve).
Yikes. I’m really not the sort to write such a factual account of such an emotional journey. I would much more like to wax poetic about the way I held the hands of ten little girls at once (they all grabbed a different finger in their hands), or how my heart was both filled to overflowing and broken to pieces as I cupped the faces of children I’ve loved long distance for so many years. They are indescribable. Beautiful and joyful and so sweet. I want to take them all home, and yet I know that they are home, that Christ Our Hope is so very much more than an orphanage. They are a family. They call each other “brother” and “sister,” and they call Julie and me “mother.” It fits. I feel like their mother.
It’s pretty amazing to have such a big, breathtaking family.
Sending love and hugs from Liberia,