Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe that we have only been in country for two and a half days. In some ways I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime here, and yet not an hour goes by that I am shocked by something so outside of my comfort zone it makes me catch my breath. Today we went to church in Jacobtown and worshipped with Christians who welcomed us with arms (and hearts) wide open, and we also drove through Red Light (the shopping district) where I was overwhelmed by the garbage, the press of people, the sight of UN trucks and Liberian police in full riot gear.

Liberia is a study in contradictions. It’s beautiful here... Warm and sunny, overflowing with tropical flowers and joy and hospitality, but every so often we uncover an edge that surprises us--and we are reminded that this is a country that is still experiencing the effects of war.

But I’m babbling. It’s been another very full day, and we’re all trying to unwind a bit. We swam in the ocean tonight and bodysurfed until we were kicked out of the water by the ELWA security guard, and then played bocce by the light of our headlamps. (My poor dad doesn’t even know that we stole his bocce set for use in Liberia! Thanks, dad!) Now I think we’re all about ready for bed, and it’s only 8:20. But that’s okay. The days have been full... and emotional.

Today we went to Robert’s church. (Robert is Emmanuel’s brother, the man who Aaron and I met in Ethiopia and who sparked the first flame of One Body One Hope.) The service was beautiful and we particularly enjoyed the children’s program. Church services are long here, with lots of singing and prayer. We were also blessed to participate in communion with our Liberian brothers and sisters--something I didn’t anticipate and really cherished.

Afterwards, we were invited to Robert’s house where his wife, Lucia, laid out a feast for us. Lucia is trained as a chef, and her cooking is beyond amazing. We all ate until we couldn’t hold another bite, and then enjoyed great conversation with our friends.

On the way home, Emmanuel took us through Red Light. The guys who have been here before said that the market district was dead compared to what it normally is (considering that today was Sunday and a holiday), but I was transfixed. The traffic was insane... People flood the streets and wait for the warning honk of cars to step onto the shoulder, but in the midst of all that traffic I felt like we were just waiting for an accident to happen. (And we did actually see a motorcycle accident later in the day.) Craziness. It also struck me as we were driving through that there wasn’t another white person as far as the eye could see. It gave me great empathy for people who live most of their lives as minorities. It’s a bit of an unnerving place to be.

I hope I don’t sound melancholy. It’s been an awesome trip so far. Beyond awesome. I’ve made more life-long memories--and been more deeply, personally challenged--in the last few days than in the last several months combined. It’s unreal. And the team is doing great. We’re having so much fun together--there’s lots of laughter and great conversations happening nonstop.

Please keep praying for us! Tomorrow the children from Christ Our Hope are coming to our beach for a party. We’re going to host a beach picnic, make some sand castles, and maybe even teach them how to swim. Or at least try! We will also be meeting with the pastors of the satellite churches of Abide in the Vine (the churches from up-country). We can feel your prayers and support, and it’s making all the difference!

Love and hugs from Liberia,