“On The Road to Zwedru”
Sorry for the delay in these postings. We have been extremely busy and getting access has not been easy.
This is Saturday, July 3rd, our second day of work. Things are moving along very well, the walls of the foundation are rising and we have set the rebar for the columns. The work site is a very interesting place and the locals love to come out and see us and they thank us constantly for our work. The wife of a Pastor made us lunch, a very typical Liberian meal. Rice with fish and a sauce made of palm butter and peppers, it was extremely hot. Most of us could not finish it. However, Geoff and John F not only finished it but they ate the fish eyeballs.
Probably the highlight of this work day or really the most excitement of the day was made when several local kids ran to the site looking for Ann to show them their catch. Ann had said she wanted to see a monkey. Well, a local hunter shot and killed a monkey (for food) and they brought it to show Ann and the rest of us. We were not sure of the kind of monkey but it was small. What made it more unusual was the way they presented it. The tail was passed through the back of the head and knotted through the front of the throat. The appearance at first was that it was a stuffed monkey as the tail was stiff and they carried like a purse.
Our transportation back and forth from the hotel to the job site has a been a 4-door Ford truck. However, it is out of commission. The bearings in the front wheel are shot, probably from the incredibly smooth road we took from Monrovia to Zwedru. Therefore, we hired motorcycle taxis to take us to the hotel. That was a sight, we had to pack up all our gear and we strapped 2-3 large duffle bags with 50 lbs of tools on the back and one passenger aside from the driver. The real challenge is what to do with our generator. For Liberians this is no problem at all, as they manage to pack whole families onto one bike, drag iron rebar or carry lumber and everything else. So they just strapped the generator to the back of it as well as a passenger.
What we have learned about Liberians is that they are very ingenious and they make do with whatever they have. They don’t complain, they just do. It really is incredible to watch. They live so differently than us with so much less but you would hardly know it watching them. You only notice it when you come from our background and know how much easier things are back in the USA.
We stand impressed, inspired, and humbled by their constant display of joy in having us working alongside them. Also, many of the people of Zwedru will come to the site just to see us and thank us for our hard work. They are truly appreciative of us being there and caring enough to help them. They have been extremely welcoming and gracious in their hospitality.
“IN A SHEPHERD’S WORD: LIBERIA EDITION”
Living in a Colorblind World
I was a young boy when I was diagnosed with colorblindness. My brother George and I compete for the worst case, but I think I won that competition. But, unfortunately, we do not live in a color blind world much of the time. Martin Luther King had it right (and I paraphrase) when he expressed his heart’s longing: “I have a dream when one day my children and grandchildren will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.” Somehow, I think we have landed in that place. No, Liberia itself is not that place. There is race and ethnic struggles. But let me tell you about what it is like in the place where colorblindness lives.
It is on a work site where men and women are doing “good work” as our Liberian friends say. Before our very eyes, a building in being erected as walls that separate many are being torn down. Together, we are building the possibility of a better world of education, leadership development and spiritual life among these people who one day were the center of the fiercest war. In this place the swords and guns are being beaten into plowshares, hammers and mason trowels.
Colorblindness lives in the churches across Zwedru. Sent out to four congregations, our team preached, testified, sang and even did push-ups. Joy! Joy! Joy! Mama Saddie dances with joy. Pastor Shirley preaches at a brand new church. Pastor Daniel Johnson, who kept the churches together during the war, declares the Gospel. Pastor Geoff speaks of hope that is larger than war, even the war within us. Drums keep the beat; smiles lighten darkened, thatch roof sanctuaries, small ebony hands touch with joy soft, white skin. Joy! Joy! Joy!
On a field they line up. It is the first and only Liberian World Cup of Soccer. The Liberian Church Youth Team against the American/Liberian Pastors and Missionaries Team. As they line up, the Americans sing the Star Spangled Banner. The Liberians sing they anthem as well. It’s the Fourth of July. Soccer. Sweat. Men and boys falling to ground. Score! You would think this was being broadcast around the world. Score! The sweat of one who is white blends with the sweat of one who is black, Score! Handshakes that end with a snap of the finger and hugs! Score! The whistle blows. 2-2 tie! All standing equal. I think I understand why soccer is the world’s game now. But wait. The ball we used is an E-Ball from the Church of the Nazarene. Its colors represent the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And missionary Tim Eby uses the ball to explain the joy and love and eternal life that is only found in Jesus. Soccer balls purchased with the funds of our church and supporters supplied. And colors are not evident on the skin of the people as he uses the colors on the skin of the ball to explain how Jesus can fill the God shaped hole within all of us, regardless of color.
Yes, we have found the place where color-blindness lives with passion. It is the place where people and Jesus meet. Individually and collectively. May it be for us all wherever we are.
In HIS Adventure,
On The Road To Zwedru:
“I’ve got shoes on my feet….it’s all right, all right””
We arrived early on the work site hoping to complete the entire foundation of blocks, build forms for the concrete support columns, prepare the roof trusses with anti-termite juice (nasty chemicals with oil added to cut the cost), and build a 15’ tall tripod ladder to use to pour the concrete into the forms ---- an ambitious day. Geoff and Tim were not with us as they were off providing leadership instruction to a group of about 30 pastors.
We broke out the power tools today – which brought much excitement; not only because they made the work quicker – but because many of them had never used them before. John Ferreira provided training on how to use them properly. Penny and Shirley, equipped with aprons made from cut garbage bags and masking tape – coated our wood with the noxious homemade creosote – a messy job that we were all very thankful that they so joyfully accepted.
I began moving concrete blocks, hauling wood, moving more blocks, and finally laying blocks. Laying blocks is not as easy as it seems. Augustine – our “master-builder” set out all the guide lines for us – even with this it can be tedious and a bit frustrating – but we all persevered and continued. John and I were a team, and Ann and Daniel also a team – blocks blocks and more blocks
The sun was scorching hot today. My feet were aching – I took a break. As I sat on a block to remove my new $100 boots and rub my aching feet – Toobah (he is about 19 years old, weighing maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, with a serious look, but a wonderful bright friendly smile – a great kid) passed by with a wheelbarrow full to the top with mortar. I was looking right as his feet – his feet – protected only by his flip-flop sandals with a piece of plastic shopping bag used as a string to replace the broken strap…the broken strap on his flimsy drug store flip-flops….working hauling heavy block, wheelbarrows, clearing fields,…working construction in flops. Did I say my feet hurt? This was just another of many humbling moments in Liberia. Darious Rucker’s song entitled “ it’s all right” has a verse about having simple things like shoes on my feet, and a roof over my head and everything is all right. Even as simple as that sounds, the Liberians like Toobah have even less yet I got the impression that, at least with Toobah – “it’s all right, all right now”.
John completed the ladder, several of the forms, and the rest of us completed most of the foundation. Tim and Jeff arrived around 3pm – a late lunch with the team and the pastors from the leadership class. After lunch – we focused on preparing the forms for concrete – however leveling and securing 14ft plus tall forms made of waa-waa board (boards cut by chain saw) proved to be troublesome – we poured none of the support columns today – but a very productive day nonetheless.
Good news – our driver Moosa returned from Monrovia late Sunday evening with the part for the truck – and this morning driver and truck were back in business. Penny has spent much time talking with Moosa (he is not very comfortable with us yet and says very little) – and today she heard his story. This young man lost his parents in the war and has had no education. He would love to learn to read. Penny has invited him to join us for service on Sunday in Monrovia. God willing – he’ll be there. Penny’s heart continues to be poured out and into everyone she meets – she spent time with the young well digger this morning encouraging him to meet pastor Augustine and petitioning Augustine to make a space in his next class on cement work and building. That’s church building.
For a change, we had dinner at the “Florida” tonight – yes the same restaurant again. Rain showers again tonight. Tired again tonight, dirty and dusty again tonight. But – looking forward to tomorrow again tonight.
Let the adventure continue.