December 1, 2013
First day of December… and we spent the morning sweating. This morning we went to the Militant Church of Monrovia, which is held in a school after their building was destroyed in a storm. On this Sunday, there were only about 20 people there. Not sure what their usual numbers are. Hazel (Owen’s daughter) and Famata led worship. Their voices are so strong and powerful that you can almost envision the angels singing. Pastor Steve spoke a message of hope and prophecy over the church, declaring that they have a chance to change the course of the nation for Christ. I was so inspired; I was in the presence of people who have influence in and hope for their government and citizens.
The church presented us with African dresses after the service. Now we can represent Liberia in the USA with authenticity! 🙂 Sylvester gave each of us a handwritten card and jewelry. He is so sweet and thoughtful. After the service, we said our second goodbyes. It was so painful to say goodbye to the pastors who were with us in Zorzor – Emanuel, Sylvester, Michael, and Marcus. It was so sweet how all of them wanted us to meet their children and families. We are trusting that this is not a “goodbye” but rather a “see you later”. Their love and encouragement was unexpected and much appreciated.
We had out last Liberian meal at the Dunbar’s house and then traveled to the airport. On the way we saw a horrific car crash where at least one person had died. In the US, the EMS would have kept people from stopping and viewing the wreck. But there were about 50 people surrounding the wreck, picking up scrap metal, and watching the scene. We also toured through the largest rubber plantation and processing plant in the world, part of Firestone’s corporation. There is a whole town inside the plant. I cannot imagine spending my entire life within the confines of a rubber plant. I was overwhelmed that this wealthy business allows people to live in poverty.
Famata invited me to ride in the Dunbar’s car, so I got to have one last conversation with her, Hazel, Bernice, and Williamina. Our final goodbyes at the airport were the most painful of all. There were hugs all around. All of the Dunbar family came to see us off. Words could not even express our thanks. I started getting emotional to the point that I couldn’t even talk in order to keep myself from bursting into tears. When we got out of the car it hit me: we were leaving. The long awaited journey to Africa was coming to a close.
After waving goodbye, we checked in at the airport and met up with the building team. I am so thankful that the entire Hillside team has welcomed and accepted us so well. We exchanged stories in the departure area. But God wasn’t finished. He chose to bless us one more time before we left Monrovia. Pastor Steve was sharing with one of the security about Owen and the Militant churches. Turns out this man also has a heart for the children of Liberia and for building a generational vision. He said that he had some land outside of Gbarnga that he would like to donate for the Dunbar’s to build a church. Steve got his contact information to pass along to Owen. God is so good!
We just took off from Ghana, headed to JFK. Eleven hours to go until we reach American soil. Tears actually slipped down my cheeks as we took off from Liberia. I think I am leaving part of my heart. During the “lay over” in Ghana, I was talking with Summer, Arriana, and Makailah. We were laughing, teasing, and reminiscing. I am so thankful for these girls. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to go with. I love each of them very much. It will be difficult to leave them in PA to go home to VA.
December 2, 2013
We are in the US! We arrived at JFK at 4:15am EST. After customs and baggage claim, we climbed inside the two vans to take us back to Hillside. It is freezing here – only 40 degrees, but it feels much colder to us “Liberian-Americans”. Our team sat in the same van to ride together one last time. On the way back to Hillside, we stopped in a diner for some good ole American breakfast. Our meal and van ride was filled with stories and laughter. I wasn’t sure how the team dynamics would work out, but I have grown to love this team dearly.
During our breakfast, Arriana made us feel guilty by reminding us that many of the children we met would be waking up this morning without food. But guilt is from the Enemy (and in her defense, she didn’t mean to make us feel guilty, but we did). I do not hate what I have been given. God has placed me in this country, in this state, in this city for a reason. I can use what I have learned in Liberia to serve others. I can choose to live on less, make sacrifices, be thankful, not complain, and love my family. And I can choose to live each day with joy and worship Jesus with abandonment just as my Liberian friends.