The Ultimate Injustice

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I would describe the season I’m in right now as one where I am learning to embrace vulnerability and weakness. And it’s been a while since I have shared openly and honestly here. Part of that is because life is a whirlwind that never seems to slow. Part is because I haven’t known how to articulate what I have been learning and how I have been growing. This post won’t remedy that. Yet this is me opening my heart to you. I find that God meets us most beautifully in the rawness…

Death is so unfair.

Life is so unforgiving.

As I lie here on the floor, my makeup smeared and my face crusted in dried tears, I feel raw and human. I feel alive. And yet I feel incredibly small and aware of my own insignificance.

I am overcome by the realization that this life is just a passing wind, and I am swept up in it and gone in an instant. Eyes burning and body shaking, I am strangely aware of the realm of evil and the presence of God and my humble yet tenuously balanced place in between.

Jesus wept.

I weep.

Because death is not right. Something is fundamentally wrong with the idea of an end. Jesus came to give life. He weeps because He must go through death and His beloved must suffer through it as well. My comfort in moments like this is that Jesus was completely human and yet completely God. He knew the hope that His death would eventually bring and yet His heart still broke. I find comfort in caring so deeply because Jesus’s heart broke over and over at the injustice in this world.

And death is the ultimate injustice.

My roommate and I have both been faced with the reality of death in the past twenty-four hours. The reality stops everything. For her, a young man and friend she looked up to had his life taken away suddenly. For me, I watch a young boy, who is like a brother, slowly end his fight with cancer. We both weep.

Why does it seem like the young, loving, caring, generous people are taken so soon when they have so much to offer? I want to scream out in anger and shake my fist at a God who would allow this. Where is my faith now?

And then I remember that the whole Earth shook at the death of Jesus. The whole Earth responded physically to death. Because something is not right when life is stripped away. The whole Earth cried out in anger. The sky turned black. The curtain in the temple split in half.

There are no answers. There is only peace and reassurance and hope. I can go directly to God and cry out “why?” For He is not some higher being who is separate from my pain. He has felt the pain, dwelt in the suffering, and carried the injustice.

As I watch this young friend end his fight with cancer, and I cannot be there and am rendered helpless, the only thing I cling to is the fact that I can walk up to the throne of mercy and grace because my God understands. I cling to the fact that justice is coming and right will win. I do not cling to Him because I have faith. I cling to Him because I have nothing else.

And instead I shake my fist at death and declare, “Oh death, where is your sting? Oh hell, where is your victory?” 

Straight Outta Summer #2

Straight OuttaI said I would write about identity. I had words to share. And God used them differently than I thought. I had the opportunity to share those words with the Christian community on William & Mary’s campus at Intervarsity. I shared about my struggle with identity and what God has been doing in my life over last semester and the summer. He’s taught me things about who I am and where my worth lies. He’s been speaking truth into my life through the words of authors, artists, and friends. I had words planned out for this “part 2.” Yet as I’ve gotten caught up in the busyness of school, those words have become just typed key phrases and scribbled notes on a never ending to do list.

I’m not going to write those words. Maybe later they’ll come back in the form of a well-organized blog post. Not now.

So, identity. I am a child of God.

Fear not. For I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

~ Isaiah 43:1

Tonight I stood in a huge auditorium that felt like a homey living room and worshipped with hundreds of Christians that felt like family. And I saw my identity declared over and over again.

Forgiven. Redeemed. Blameless. No longer a slave. Free. Loved. Embraced. Child of God.

And words came to me. Words that expressed where I go from here—with the knowledge that I am known by name to a redeemer and savior and creator. So I’ll share those instead.

I want to wake up every morning and clothe myself in love. Choosing to love those who can offer me nothing or who might reject me. Choosing to care about people who may only be passing through my life and may leave me with a broken heart. I will clothe myself in love that people may know that they are special and worthy and enough. I will clothe myself in peace knowing that my God is for me. He has overcome. My future is secure. I have someone fighting for me and by my side. I am not alone. I will claim peace over my life that I may be a safe presence and a genuine soul. I will clothe myself in grace knowing that I am desperately in need of it but have also been given an abundance. I will choose to see humanity all around me—the people who pass me as God’s fingerprints and His workmanship—worthy, claimed, and deserving of respect. I will clothe myself in strength knowing that my foundation is solid. I will not be shaken. I will take risks. I will choose to trust instead of fear. I will persevere.

I will place “Jesus” as a banner over my soul. Because more than anything, when people look at me, I want them to see my Jesus.

Because if I am a child of the most high God, then why should I fear? Why should I worry about my future job opportunities or that exam tomorrow morning? Why should I be afraid of being uncomfortable or outside the lines? Why should I doubt my worth? And why should I doubt others’ value?

Because if the Gospel is real, then when will I stop caring about classes and grades, and start caring about the people sitting next to me in class or the people I pass in the hallway?

If the Gospel is real and I am a child of God, then I will hang everything on the line. Because the structures and systems that I am apart of don’t matter in the long haul. Only this relationship matters. Only the people around me matter. So I will risk it. I will give everything. I will love recklessly and unconditionally. I will wonder at the world around me. I will extend grace. I will trust deeply. And I will embrace the rough spots and the loneliness and the darkness knowing that my God meets me there. He pursued me. And He loves me. He extends grace. He provides safety. He risked it for me.

And He is leading me from glory to glory.

So I will wake

And spend my days

Loving the One who has raised me up

From death to life

From wrong to right

You’re making all things beautiful”

~ “Mercy,” Amanda Cook

This is my declaration of my identity. Phebe.

2015: a year to persist

Last year I chose “grace” as my word for 2014. My goal was to believe these words: “I don’t need to try to be good enough, because Jesus is enough.” Little did I know how that one word would define my year. Grace to get through the stress of senior year. Grace to hand over my fears about college to God. Grace to be humble when God did incredibly more than I could ever imagine. Grace to adjust to a new life at college. And grace in all of my raw and unglamorous moments.

Last year I was challenged by my youth pastor to pick a word to describe how I wanted to live that year. 2014 was all about learning to live gracefully in the midst of life’s ungraceful moments. It was a year for learning to laugh at myself, to find my identity in Jesus, and then to be more confident in who God created me to be. I’m still processing the year, but I do know that it was a year of discovery and transition. The past year was filled with the most change I’ve ever experienced. Looking back, it was one of the best years. In a way, I’m sad to see it go.

Yet today is January 1, 2015.

Time for a new word. This year I choose to persist. When I think of the word persist, I picture someone pushing through obstacles or holding on to a rope that is being pulled upward. I think of an end goal: getting through the obstacles or reaching solid ground. To me, persisting is not about sitting still waiting for the trials to end or waiting to withstand the pressures. Persisting is about actively fighting for something. “Persist” requires effort, work, and motivation. And to effectively persist, one must have hope for what one is fighting towards.Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

In all honesty, 2014 was an easy year. Yes, it was filled with stress, big decisions, goodbyes, occasional homesickness, and finals. But it was also filled with wonderful friends, good news, laughter, music, dancing—all leading to a happy heart.

Yet I also know what I struggled with last year and I can already feel the pressures of 2015. I am looking forward to new adventures and new challenges. At the same time, I know that nothing can equal the past semester. This next year, I need to work hard to achieve my goals. I need to persist.

Persist in school. I eased into college this past semester; now it’s time to buckle down. I’ve set some big challenges for myself. The goal is to not get caught up in the stress, but to instead work diligently knowing that the effort will pay off in the future.

Persist in friendships. First semester was about meeting lots of new people; now it’s time to develop those friendships. Deep and lasting friendships require intentionality. This semester will require me to determine who I should invest time in and how to strengthen those relationships.

Persist in prayer. Recently I have been challenged to pray with more intentionality. I want to pray with expectation. I want to start praying for things that I stopped praying for in the past because of forgetfulness or discouragement. I want to start praying for the requests that have felt too insignificant or even too huge. My single “New Year’s Resolution” for 2015 is to block out an hour each month to pray. It sounds like a little but will take effort to accomplish.

Persist in spiritual growth. I feel like I’ve reached a plateau in my faith, where I am doing the same routine and not stretching myself. I want to rediscover what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ, and like any other relationship, I need to put in work. As part of this exploration, I will be starting a new blog series with my friend Ellie. (More on that in the future…)

So here’s to a new year, no new starts, but simply pressing forward into God’s faithfulness.

– – Phebe

Saying Goodbye to Africa

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.

Adventures in Africa, Part 6

I’m sure that by now you’re beginning to wonder when these posts are going to end. Well, good news! After this, there’s only one more “part” left. The journey is drawing to a close…

November 30, 2013

This morning we woke up at 5:15am and arrived at the Militant Church at 6:15. When we arrived at the church, children and adults were already awake and waiting to wave goodbye. Last night we had a chance to thank everyone in Zorzor and say goodbye. We have all made many friends, so it was an emotional evening and morning.

The ride back to Monrovia was a lot easier than I had expected, and I was blessed to not get motion sickness. Thank you, Jesus! But it is a lot hotter back in Monrovia. We went to the market this afternoon, and I don’t think I’ve sweat that much my entire time in Liberia. It is so humid. There were so many people and shops that it was overwhelming. Thankfully, Famata helped us navigate our way. Without her we would have been utterly lost. We had to be careful to keep our belongings close so they wouldn’t get stolen. Not so different from any inner-city in the US… However, many of the guy shopkeepers / vending sellers approached us. Some every grabbed my arms as we tried to pass through. I had to keep my head down and avoid eye contact. Famata was pleased that many people stared at the white girl with corn rows (she did my hair earlier today). And she kept telling people how a few of the guys would call out, “I love you. You are beautiful. I like your country plaits (aka corn rows).”

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My favorite part of today was going down to the beach tonight. The ocean felt so refreshing. Most Liberians do not know how to swim and are scared of the ocean. But we managed to convince Gideon, David, and Willamina (Owen and Viola’s sons and niece) to come in deeper than they ever had. They loved it and wanted to learn how to swim. Everyone had so much fun. It was a beautiful closing night to our time here in Liberia!

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Adventures in Africa, Part 5

November 29, 2013

I think today has been one of the longest and best days so far, and it’s only 4pm. We went to bed past midnight, because Owen and Viola were recounting their experiences during the war. I woke up at 7:30am after a quick night of sleep. At 9:00 we headed over to the Militant Church. While Pastor Steve was doing his parenting session, us girls were playing with the kids. We played football, made ooblick, and painted nails. These kids are truly precious. I love each one so much! Around 11:00, Marisela and Dad spoke to the women and men separately. Then it was time for “The March”! We paraded down the street to the town square, singing worship and dancing. I had kids clinging to me as we made our way. In the town square, we prayed over the city and nation. Singing before Jesus with abandonment and shouting His name in the marketplace was a glimpse of what this world should look like and what Heaven will look like. Although our group was comparatively small, about 50 people, I believe God was right there with us, will hear our prayer, and show His power.

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We ate a delicious lunch of rice, potato leaves, and a soupy mix of chicken, fish, and beef. I felt a strange feeling of fullness after eating – yay! But being out in the sun for several hours was starting to get to me. I began to feel weak. We had our last children’s session after lunch. Our craft was to decorate crowns (a local Burger King in PA had donated 1000 paper crowns). The children and adults would hide the jewels we gave them and ask for more. The kids mobbed us, asking for jewels and memory verse cards. The poverty and survival mindset was never so evident to me as then. Today I started pouring water into the mouths of children who asked me for a drink. I can’t take it anymore. I want to build wells all over Liberia. 

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Later… Since we were all exhausted, Summer, Kaitlin, and I decided not to go to Guinea with the rest of the group. I had a difficult afternoon. Because of my exhaustion, I was having a lot of negative motions. And I was feeling irritable, because we lost our room key and missed the baptisms. Plus I was feeling down about my worth and affect here. Dad prayed with me, and I sat out on the back porch and cried. It was the first time I could strongly feel the Enemy’s attack on my body and mind during our time in Liberia. I could feel the battle between Satan and the angels over my attitude. Thankfully, after a brief nap, God blessed me with renewed peace and energy. 

Tonight we went to our last revival service. We sat with the children again. The African people worship like no one else. There was a time of celebration after Pastor Steve’s message. We made a conga line around the church, and then we danced on the stage until the sweat was literally dripping down my face and I was gasping for air. Despite the heat and stuffiness, it was one of those moments where you feel like you can keep going forever. Truly a glimpse of Heaven. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to be in God’s presence dancing and worshipping with all my Liberian friends!

At the end of the service, the Liberians blessed us. We each took the opportunity to thank the church and the people. I have never ever experienced such service. The Liberians’ hospitality and graciousness overwhelms me. They who have barely anything choose to bless us with everything. A picture of Jesus’s sacrifice. 

I shared how I had been dreaming about traveling to Africa since the age of 3. Now my dreams have been reached. Every morning during my time in Liberia, I woke up thinking, “I am in Africa. I am seriously in Africa.” There’s no way that I can complain when I am in the midst of a country I love with people I have fallen in love with. Our efforts have been so small compared to the need. But during my rest, I was given a vision that gave me hope and peace.

Our efforts feel like one drop in a bucket. Each one of us – one drop in a large bucket to satisfy the thirst of a nation. But together, the eight of us, our drops come together to make a sip. One sip to refresh Liberia.  

 

Thanksgiving in Africa, Part 4

November 28, 2013 – Thanksgiving

This morning about half of the team woke up with irritation from the food – stomach aches, head aches, diarrhea, vomiting – all that fun stuff. We’re not sure what exactly caused it, but it was probably either the fresh cucumbers or the mayonnaise from supper last night. Thankfully we are all feeling better, although we are weak (this is mid-morning).

11:50pm – Wow! It has been a good day! We had our first children’s session in Zorzor this afternoon. We started around 2:30pm, after a lunch of gibi (spelling?), which is pounded cassava root that is dipped in a fish sauce and swallowed (the sauce has an entire fish, eyeballs and all, mashed into it). The dish was a staple during the war, because cassava root expands in the stomach.

The accents of the children here in Zorzor are harder to understand, but I have found all of the children to be so friendly. I am trying to learn their names. We are encountering some more unusual names in the mountainous regions. We had a group of about 75 today, which made it easier to connect with each of the children. And we had enough supplies for everyone, including the parents and pastors! Here the children understand the message of identity in Jesus clearer. As Pastor Steve said about Zorzor, “There is a kingdom atmosphere.” I had the opportunity to speak for about 5 minutes during the session today about what it means to look like Jesus. (Based upon Genesis 1:27 – “God created man in His own image,” and 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “But we are all being changed to look just like Jesus, so that when we look in the mirror, we see the glory of God.”)

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All the pastors at the conference are strong but gentle men of God. You can see the love on their faces. They have all given so much thought into making us feel at home. We arrived at the church this morning to signs reading “Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends.” My heart was filled to overflowing at their thoughtfulness!

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Tonight at the revival service, us girls sat with the Liberian kids in the back of the room. The children here worship with their whole heart. We danced with many of them and also engaged in some African dance with Famata. Toward the end of the service, the little ones began falling asleep around us or on our laps. One of the girls, who had been diligently following me throughout the day, laid her head in my lap. The love and acceptance is such a gift. It was as if we were all family, which in Christ we are!

I could spend years here among the Liberians, if I could get used to the heat that is. These people have suffered so many atrocities, it brings me to tears. Tonight Owen and Viola were recounting the civil war from their perspectives. The cruelty and injustice committed by their leaders is heart wrenching and unimaginable for us as Americans. Even today, in relative peace, many do not have food to eat and water to drink. Tonight I was brought to tears as one of the sweet little boys, David, was crying because he was hungry. And on this day in the United States we stuff ourselves sick with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. We do not know what it feels like to be so hungry that all we can do is cry.

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(David is reaching out to see his reflection in our car windows)

Adventures in Africa, Part 3

Today will be my last post for the week. I’m going to take a hiatus during the weekend, to focus on spending time with family and completing an AP Lit essay. I have been blessed that the culture shock hasn’t been too intense returning home. However, I am still feeling the effects of jet lag and haven’t been able to get into the “Christmas spirit” yet. I would appreciate prayer for that!

November 27, 2013

It’s hump day! We have been here for 4 days and will be here for 4 more days. This morning, after waiting, we went to visit the J. Dunbar-Norris school, founded by Owen’s grandfather. The kids swarmed us and ran toward us as we exited the car. We toured the school, which contained all the grades in one building, with walls in between the classrooms but no doors. I talked to the kids about school and dancing, but many times I just stood there holding their hands with nothing to say. I began to feel useless. The discouragement increased when two children asked me for a sip of my water and I had to refuse.

The negative emotions lasted for a few hours. On the car ride, I was squashed with four people in the middle seat and couldn’t handle all the touch (note: physical touch is not my love language). I also got motion sickness – dizziness and nausea. I rarely get motion sick in the States, but these roads were really tough. Thankfully once we got out to walk for a bit and then turned on some worship music in the car, my spirits were uplifted. Just further proof that I need Jesus to survive!

We arrived in Zorzor to find that our rooms at the Salvation Army compound had been taken. After a half hour of waiting and searching, we ended up at the Come and Rest Guest House – with seven bedrooms! Kaitlin and I are sharing a room. When we arrived, we were greeted by a group of Liberians. Some such as Famata, Bernice, and Emmanuel, we had met before in Monrovia or Gbarnga. Others we met for the first time. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and love. Famata and I had a “real” conversation (meaning it was more than yes and no questions) about the weather, food, clothes, dancing, and my purity ring. It was the first time I had a back-and-forth conversation with a Liberian for longer than 5 minutes. So special and rewarding! For lunch we had our first taste of spicy Liberian food – not too spicy.

Then we went back to our house for about an hour and a half of rest (I slept soundly) before the revival meeting. The revival meeting was the first time this trip that I have felt poured into. Up until then I had felt like I was giving of myself with little return. The worship was powerful. Their songs repeat truth over and over. All the Liberians dance and sway to the music without any inhibition. Pastor Steve spoke about the prodigal sons from Luke 15, and we had the opportunity to pray over many people who came forward. About 15-20 people chose to accept Jesus for the first time or renewed their dedication to Him! My spirit was refreshed with the Holy Spirit. While we are here to serve the Liberians, I think they are serving us more than we ever could.

Afterward many came and introduced themselves to us, even some of the littlest ones. A little boy, about three, came up to each one of us to shake our hands. Such a gentleman 🙂 Later on I had a conversation with an 18 year old named Irene. We are both in the 12th grade, so we talked a lot about our classes. All of us team members have been amazed at how the Liberians are more advanced in their studies than any of us in America. Although the Liberians speak English, each of our accents often hinder us from fully understanding. Talking with Irene was such a God-thing, because I could relate with her and understand her clearly.

Adventures in Africa, Part 2

I want to introduce you all to a beautiful young woman named, Famata. I actually just received a phone call from her. Famata is a university student in Liberia, working towards her nursing degree. She is also the niece of Owen and Viola Dunbar, our host family for the week. Famata leads worship at her church and has a powerful voice to praise God. Although intimidating at first, once you get to know her, she is filled with kindness and generosity. During our time in Gbarnga and Zorzor, Famata helped us minister to the kids and cook for us. I am so blessed to call her friend.

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L to R: Marisela, Kaitlin, Famata, myself, Summer

November 26, 2013

Whew! It’s been a short but energy-packed day. We arrived at the local government building at 2:15 to be greeted by 500 kids, teens, and adults. Overwhelming? Absolutely. After 15-20 minutes of looking for the pastor (and waiting), we got started. Things did not go as planned. It took a long time to settle the kids and send out the adults, who were supposed to be attending a parents conference with Pastor Steve. Then the sound system could not reach the back of the room. Our intended groups of 25 became 35, and even more kids were standing around the chairs. We did not have enough crafts for everyone. I was heartbroken as I had to tell kids that we didn’t have enough. I gave one girl my bracelet to compensate. All the kids were able to participate in the memory verse and dance. All of the girls on our team said their favorite part was “Hello My Name Is”. I agree! Dance is a wonderful way to communicate the message of God’s love in a relatable way. What a blessing to look out and see hundreds of kids dancing along!

The dancers from last night also danced again. One of the songs said, “God is in Africa,” which made my heart fill with joy. After they danced, we were waiting for the food to be prepared to feed the crowd, so I suggested they teach us some African moves on stage to entertain the crowd. That was a blast! A little embarrassing, yes, but we were able to get the kids laughing.

After the session, we went outside to blow bubbles with the kids. The joy on their faces was astounding. Little do we realize how special bubbles are to kids who have never seen them. The most heartbreaking part was when we left. The kids grabbed on to the bubble wand and begged me for it. About 10 or 15 girls and boys surrounded me and pulled at my clothes and arms as I tried to make my way to the car. The desperation in their faces and voices was evident. I almost started crying as I pushed them off in order to open the door and climb in.

In the heat and exhaustion I’ve had a few moments where I’ve thought, “What am I doing here? What is God doing?” There are so many desperate people and we can only reach a few. Plus our plans have changed so much. Today we even heard a rumor that the Liberian president was dead and that we might not be able to go to Zorzor. (Thankfully, after calling the US Embassy, it was determined to be just that – a rumor.) But I think the physical discomfort is worth it. Today we were able to bring a little hope and joy to the people of Gbarnga. I am looking forward to seeing what God does next!

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Looking out on all the children in the room. By the end of the session, the room was even more full.

Adventures in Africa, Part 1

November 24, 2013

We are in Liberia!! The plane ride wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Turns out I can survive a 14 hour flight. I did experience some motion sickness in the night, because of extended turbulence, but nothing too bad. My brain is dead right now, so I can’t think enough to write. All I know is I am hot, lethargic, and exhausted. God sustain me!

November 25, 2013

This morning I woke up feeling very tired and weak. I barely slept because one of the team was sleep walking, our fan stopped working, and dogs were barking outside. I ate some plantains for breakfast, then after waiting (I’ve realized we’ll have to do a lot of that here), we got on the road. Because of the construction and rough roads, we decided to wait to travel to Gbarnga this morning. The ride started out smooth, but before long, we were bumping and swerving all over the place. I started getting dizzy but after we stopped for the bathroom and got rained on while waiting, I started feeling better. The ride was great because we were able to see a large part of Liberia. But 5 hours of bumpy roads does lead to nausea and stiffness.

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Stopping at a fruit stand to get fresh bananas and pineapples on our ride to Gbarnga

We arrived safely in Gbarnga at 2:30pm (Liberian time). Based on our arrival, we changed plans and ate a snack lunch and organized supplies. Our original hotel did not have A/C so we ended up at the Passion Hotel – with electricity from 6pm to 2am and then from 5am to 7am. At 4:30pm, we traveled to the school where our first meeting was to be held. As soon as we got there, we had to move to Plan, uh, D? About 300 kids and teens were packed into a tiny schoolhouse. With the body heat and no air movement, it was about 110 degrees.

We ended up introducing ourselves and doing the dance I choreographed to “Hello My Name Is”. The noise in the room was too loud for any of us to project our voices to the back of the room. A Liberian dance group did a dance for us as well. They were amazing. I don’t think they realized we weren’t trying to perform but to minister. Since there was no way for us to continue and even the Liberians were sweating in the heat, we all went outside. Some of the women had prepared a hot meal for the children. All of us had a chance to interact with the children and teens. Although we could not understand each other very well, we shared names and smiles. The little girls were so sweet and wanted to be hugged and held. Some of the young boys would run up to one of us white girls to quickly say, “You’re beautiful,” and then run away. A lot of the teen boys wanted to be introduced to us. One of them insisted on getting my contact info, and I had to patiently repeat my “no” over and over. Overall it was so honoring to see the interest and affection of the Liberians.

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With some of the African children; team members L to R – me, Kaitlin, Summer, Makailah