Hope

I feel like I’ve been out of touch for awhile…It’s been a rough few weeks. Yesterday was the icing on the cake, so I figured the best thing for me to do was to eat leftover chocolate cake for breakfast this morning. It helped some.

Which by the way, I need to clear something up in my story telling of yesterday’s incident. Apparently, the issue is not the government’s inability or unwillingness to pay the students. The issue is that the students hired were given forms to fill out in order to receive their pay. However, some troublemakers in the group made thousands of photocopies of the form and passed them out to other youth who are now demanding to be paid even though they were not apart of the original program…What a mess.

It’s been a hard week, a hard month actually. Liberia just is one of those places that seems to loiter in crisis. You get used to it some, but on a certain level, it’s impossible to really adjust to that lifestyle coming from a high-efficiency country like the US.  I was talking with an expat who has lived here nearly 10 years and he said that you never really get used to it. But you do learn to function within and respond to the perpetual chaos.

The weight of Liberia’s paralyzing issues seems to be pressing down more than usual. So, in this season, I am making a conscious effort to set my mind on things beyond my personal experiences and circumstances…things that surpass my understanding. It’s so easy to spiral down into hopelessness when my eyes are fixed on my rather precarious surroundings. Rather, I want to set my eyes toward the author and perfector of my faith. Not because I have it all figured out, but because I don’t.

The world, as I see it, gives me little hope. But, this Christmas I choose the hope we have in Christ Jesus. It’s all I have.

Anyway while on a positive note, we had our staff Christmas luncheon on Tuesday.

I made lasagna, which obviously was a brand new experience for all of the Liberians.

After they figured out how to eat it, they loved it!

The super serious shot…Back Row from left to right: George, Francis, Tim, Big D (aka Dwayne). Front Row from left to right: Paul, Maconta, Megan, Victoria, Floyd

Love these lovely Liberian ladies!

We’ll be spending Christmas Eve at the beach and Christmas Day at a wedding for an SFL staff member. We’d love to hear how you all are celebrating this Christmas!!

Just another Day

This story is going to be a little hard to explain. Liberians tend to deal with conflict and make a point by creating as much chaos as possible. The streets are in havoc.

So, last week the government of Liberia hired 10,000 high school students who are on break for the Christmas holidays. It’s a good idea, in theory. The teenagers were hired to “clean” the city…pick up trash, trim trees, cut grass (by hand), sweep dirt from one side of the road, etc…The idea, from what I understand, was to provide some small income and to keep the students out of trouble. “Trouble” being robbery, sex, dancing and so on.

The plan seemed to be working…until today. Today is payday and the Liberian Government was unable to hold up their end of the bargain and pay the students what they were promised (which by the way was $40 US dollars for a week of labor).

As a result, there are 10,000 Liberian teenagers raiding the streets of Monrovia throwing trash, yelling and screaming…they are tearing down tree branches, dragging them into the streets and blocking traffic.

After unsuccessfully trying to maneuver our car through the mayhem, we returned to the Monrovia office where we were sure we’d have to spend the night. It’s a odd predicament to be sitting in a dark office with no electricity, no clean drinking water and no way of knowing how long we’d be there. I got goose bumps as I heard the screaming, sirens blaring and occasional gunfire…police firing blanks, we’re hoping. It’s a scary place.

After several hours, the President took to the streets herself and appealed to the youngsters to stop their “misbehaving” and promised payment to every worker by tomorrow. We’ll see

20 minutes later, the blockades were removed and traffic resumed. I’m so thankful to be typing this from my room and not the dark office.

Just another day in Africa, folks…

Back

It didn’t take long for the neighbor kids to discover that Tim was back in town. They came piling into our yard for a game of football (soccer) shortly after we arrived home. I wanted to condense my photo selection to only 5 pictures, but of course these kids are way too cute.

Unfortunately, I’m still learning the settings on my camera so they didn’t all turn out the best, but you’ll get the idea.

Warming-up or "training" as they call it, is very important before beginning any strenuous exercise

This kid is my favorite. I mean, if I had favorites…

Kede is very small for his age, but has got more nerve than a fox in a henhouse. The “big boys” push him down, block him out and flat-out refuse to pass to him, but Kede has a will of his own. He picks himself up off the ground, swallows the tears and charges back into the game.

Hit the rock! And EXPLODE!

I love this kid. He belongs to our daytime security guard, Francis. Kede’s mom and Francis separated after Kede was born 5 years ago. She took custody of Kede and Francis took their older son, Small Francis with him.

Soon after we moved to Liberia, Kede’s mother dropped him with Francis for one week while she went to visit family in the interior. She never returned to claim him.  We are proud of the way Francis has taken care of his boys all on his own. He has them both enrolled in school, despite Liberia having no public school system. Both boys are doing great, although I can’t help feeling sad when I see small Kede growing up without a mom.

Doesn’t he just have sweetest eyes you’ve ever seen?

Vienna

Nothing short of fantabulous.

The streets of Vienna welcomed us with all the holiday cheer there is to offer. 

Tinsel and Christmas markets.

Gluhwein (mulled wine) and roasting chestnuts.

Weiner Schnitzel and beer.

But best of all, good friends who took us in, gave warm clothes (which we were severely lacking coming from the equator), good eats and refreshing conversation. Jason and Lorraine moved to Vienna last summer and are ministering to victims of human trafficking, a massive problem in this area. We are so proud of their perseverance and commitment to this undertaking.

We spent our last day in Europe traveling with them to Budapest to pick up their long awaited visas so that they may stay in Austria. The day was a success. We were able to acquire the visas, eat amazing Hungarian goulash and get a quick, nickel tour of another beautiful European city.

When I asked 2-year old, Andreas what he was going to do now that he had his visa, he replied without hesitation “POP the champagne!”

And that is just what we did!!

Thanks, you guys!

I have so many more pictures and I may have to post them in the days ahead. It was a trip I’ll never forget!!

Praha

What a fantastic and unexpected surprise

I mean, you always hear that Prague is one the most beautiful and well-preserved cities in Europe, but I was truly taken aback.

It was breathtaking.

Each time I visit a new city in Europe, it becomes my new favorite, but I think I actually mean it this time.

It wasn’t merely the magnificent castles, the stone statues or ancient church steeples lining the horizon.  I don’ think it was the famous Charles Bridge, the Jewish synagogues and the ongoing blocks of old cobblestone streets. It was more than the impressive and well-deserved tourist attractions.

Eastern Europe has a certain mysteriousness to it that is difficult to put into words, I find. The people are beautiful, yet austere. Something in their stone cold eyes makes me nervous and intrigued at the same time.  There is a depth to their history that I cannot begin to comprehend. I wish I could stay a while longer and be able to hear the stories of those occupying this enchanting place.

But alas, Liberia is calling us home. We are off to Paris and if all goes well should arrive in Monrovia tomorrow evening.

This trip has been a timely gift. I am thankful that we were able to get in on the Christmas season since Liberia doesn’t have much to show for it.

Happy Holidays!