Final Sunday

We spent our last Sunday in Harbel. It was a bitter sweet time saying our farewells to people that we have grown to love over the past couple of years. We are grateful for the time we have had to serve in Liberia. It has been challenging and rewarding. It has been wonderful to have played a small part in the growth of individuals. We have not said “good bye”, rather “we will see you again”, whether in this life or after death.

Life is full of beginnings and endings. In 2015 we looked at this time in Liberia as the beginning of a great opportunity to serve. Now in 2017 we look back at what has happened and truly it has been a great opportunity to serve. But leaving Liberia physically does not bring an end to our service, nor to the fact that a part of our hearts and lives will remain here.

The Saviour said that when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are really providing service to Him. That really then is our life-long mission, providing service to others, be it family, friends, strangers, those that are close and those that are far away. We can’t think of a better way to use our time here on earth, can you? All the best until we see you again.

We thought it would be good to share a few photos from our final Sunday in Harbel.

O Be Wise…

As we were travelling with President and Sister Clark today, we were asked to take some time during meetings with all of the missionaries later this week to share some thoughts with them as we approach the end of our time in Liberia. As you can imagine, many things could be said to encourage and counsel those that are continuing to serve here. The words that the prophet Jacob shared as he concluded his record have come to mind: “O be wise, what can I say more?” Translating that into today’s language, our bishop put it this way many years ago as he was speaking to the youth: “Don’t do dumb things!” Those two phrases summarize succinctly what a lifetime of experience taught these good leaders.

While certain courses of action should be obvious, people sometimes are not wise enough to follow the counsel and learn from the experience of others. For example, it is well known that malaria is very prevalent in Liberia. It would seem to be wise, prudent, obvious to take measures to avoid contracting it, especially if you are provided with the means to do so (using mosquito nets, taking anti-malarial medicine, going indoors when it is dark, etc). Yet there are some that chose to not use what has been provided and as a result, end up with malaria. Similarly at home, there are areas that are designated as “out of bounds” for skiing, hiking, swimming, etc but many ignore these warnings and end up needing rescue, putting themselves and others at risk as a result.

One of the things that we were counselled before we came to Liberia was to not step in and be the expert telling people how things need to be done. We have tried to follow that counsel each day and time after time have seen the wisdom in it. We have enjoyed sitting back and watching as people approached things differently than we would in North America, but at the end of the day, had the outcome that was needed.

The Saviour said “Come, follow me”. That is an invitation and a commandment. He has tread the path that we must walk. He knows where the dangers are, He knows what our weaknesses are, He knows what each of us need to learn to become more like Him. How are we doing with this invitation? If you are anything like us, some days you do well and others not so much. How grateful we are that when we have made a mistake, developed a poor habit, went off on our own path, that we can still accept the invitation to “Come, follow me”, and He will show us what we need to do to make things right and get ourselves back on track. It would be wise to follow the counsel, example and footsteps of Him that marked the path for us…

Before The Rubber Hits The Road

Some time ago we noticed that a collection of rubber trees we pass from time to time were being tapped to obtain the latex sap from them. To give you an idea of what this sap is like, according to Wikipedia, it is the same milky substance we see in dandelions. We stopped to watch and take a few pictures. It is quite a procedure. A tapper uses a couple of sharp instruments on the end of long poles to strip away a layer of bark on a tree. This is done is such a way that the sap will flow down the tree to be collected in a small cup. After a number of days, the tapper will come and empty the cup into a large metal bucket. The bucket is carried to a collection point where they are emptied into larger plastic containers. An acid is added to the sap and the mixture is stirred well. The acid causes the latex to congeal in the container and once this occurs, the containers are put on the back of a trailer and driven to the “factory” on the plantation for further processing. Up until the latex is driven to the factory, everything is done by hand, so there is a lot of walking and carrying heavy loads for the tappers. Something to think about the next time you use a product containing natural latex.

The Merry Month of May O

In the Liberian usage of the English language, the letter “o” is frequently added at the end of a sentence to add emphasis to what has been said. John-Mark Sheppard, author of Cracking the Code: The Confused Traveler’s Guide to Liberian English, calls it a “verbal exclamation mark”. Incorporating this use into the title of the post seemed most appropriate.

Last weekend was tough on the body. On Friday (being May 5) one of the couples hosted a Cinco de Mayo celebration for the other senior couples, tenants in the apartment and a few others. It was a great time to socialize, but unfortunately there was a fair amount of food involved and not wanting to disappoint anyone, we had to do our part to make sure that it was consumed… Needless to say, doing our exercises the next morning was a little bit harder than it should have been.

DSCN1866-1

On our way back to the apartment after exercising last Saturday, we visited with one of the other tenants in the building and he invited us to a birthday gathering for their daughter later that evening. We had a very enjoyable time with his family, some of his co-workers and associates. One of the games they like to play is musical chairs and it was quite fun to watch the children really get into it. It was even more fun to watch the adults (first the ladies and then the men) take their turns to participate in it. Sadly though, there was another encounter with a great deal of delicious food and well let’s just say we  needed to spend extra time exercising Monday morning (all week for Elder Allen!).

 

 

Road Trip

We recently went on a bit of a road trip to participate in a “hand over” ceremony following the completion of a new water well that was funded by through the humanitarian funds of the church. The well followed the construction and donation of sturdy student desks also funded by the church. It was a four hour drive each way, about half on asphalt and the rest on dirt tracks. It was a nice change to be outside the city for the day and see some of the beauty in the countryside. Some of the roads were a bit rough so it was slow going, but all made it there and back again in safety.

The well was built for the Francis S Keleekai Technical Institute, a school developed and built by an amazing woman named Esther. Her and her husband returned to their native Liberia after living in the US for about 20 years. They purchased some land in a remote area that had no school and started to build. A few months after returning to Liberia, Esther’s husband died but she has carried on in his absence. She returns to the US to work for a few months each year and with the money earned, continues to fund the school.

The program was led by one of the senior students and included some singing/dancing, a few speeches, a celebration of excellence for students having achieved honors in the recent marking period and lunch. As is typical at school assemblies anywhere, there were proud parents to celebrate the academic successes of their children. Unlike any ceremony we have attended, a rooster and a chicken were handed to Esther as thank you gifts (unfortunately they were a bit camera shy so we were not able to include pictures of the special gifts).

April Arrives

Sometimes in the hustle of daily living it is hard to take the time to recognize and celebrate remarkable events. We were reminded of this today as we made the long drive to the church branch in Harbel. As we came into Unification Town (or Smell No Taste as it is known to the locals), there was a procession walking on the other side of the road. As we came closer we recognized it as a church group that were carrying palm fronds to reenact and remember the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago.

“…when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:11-12).

Hosanna has its roots as a plea for help or to be saved. Thus in the context of the New Testament, quite an appropriate plea to him who is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).

I couldn’t help but recall a painting by Harry Anderson as we drove past a second procession on the plantation.

We hope you will take some time during this Easter week to reflect, celebrate and give thanks for the “Prince of Peace” who has ”borne our griefs… was wounded for our transgressions… [and] brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:4-7).

Prince of Peace

We’re Back…

To state the obvious, it has been a long time since we posted something on our blog. We have been keeping well and busy. It seems that our days quickly flow into months. We continue to provide help and support to the Harbel branch on the weekends and keep the office running during the rest of the week.

In some ways a lot has happened since last August, but in other ways much remains the same. Two couples have joined us and two couples have returned home since that time. A Stake (similar to a Diocese) and several Wards (local congregations), a District (the forerunner of a Stake in developing areas) and several Branches (local congregations that in time will become Wards) have been created. A hydroelectric power project has been put back into operation after lying in ruin for more than 25 years. While it will take quite some time to get the transmission and distribution infrastructure in place, the availability of power has the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of people in Liberia. A few street lights have even been installed along the main road we frequently use. The rainy season has come and gone, the pineapples are as sweet as ever and we have a new concrete road leading to the mission office. The couple responsible for leading our Humanitarian work have been very busy obtaining approval for and providing oversight on several projects (water wells, latrines, refurbishing a maternity hospital, etc). On a personal note, we have had a number of new grandchildren arrive or that are soon to arrive and we are into our second winter without having to shovel any snow!!!! Trudy also helped to make someone’s day recently when she literally bought a U2 shirt off of their back and paid a premium for the privilege.

A few pictures follow. We hope that as you face the daily challenges of life, you will be able to reflect and realize that we have it very good in so many ways. While we may have a hard time trying to decide what to make for supper, others are wondering if they will have anything to eat today or tomorrow. Living here brings quite a new perspective and world view to these eyes. Take care.

New latrine for a fishing village

 

A bit of Christmas Day Style!

dsc00952

 

Liberian Ladies Fashion

 

Bath time and having a “wheely good time”