Thursday, October 13, 2011

Six Months...



My boys are cackling in laughter right now...



I really didn't know if that would ever happen.


There has been so much competition for a "place" in the last 6 months, that it has been difficult to know if the kids would ever get to the point where they could let down their guards and enjoy one another. We have a long way to go, but I am beyond thankful to be seeing God's faithfulness to begin to bind us together as a family. So, while I am really enjoying this moment, I know that tomorrow we will deal with new regular things like jealousy, resentment, and competition over just about anything you could possibly imagine.



Jason and I do not have to be on high alert at every moment of the day anymore... we have begun to earn the trust of our new children, and our consistency is finally believed. If we say there will be consequences for certain things, there will be. If we say that we will bless obedience, we do. We have established ourselves as the authority figures... and I know that all the adoption books say that the kids feel more safe as they start to trust that they do not have to take care of everything themselves anymore.



Yada, yada, yada.



It's all true, and it's all good stuff to work toward... but you know what? It's crazy hard. It's hard to watch your bio kids struggle as they feel small in importance when everybody centers the attention on the new arrivals, and they get left out of entire conversations while they are standing right there. It's hard to experience my newest children compete for attention, compete to be heard, compete to be loved... all because they are desperate for it, never really having felt those things solidly beneath them. It's hard to feel like an utter failure as a mother at times because I function to keep order right now... to run out of compassion... to run out of patience. I miss the days when I could just love on my kids because their hearts were already mine in full. It's hard to see my selfishness and yuck exposed.



The really neat thing is, that if I choose to see all the hard stuff from a different perspective (namely, NOT from my selfish one), I realize that this is an incredible opportunity to be refined. I am certainly more aware of my need to depend on the Lord. I need him to give me wisdom and insight every day. I need him to fill me with his Spirit so that I don't act om my own, but as He desires. I need him to show me how to forgive, when I don't think I can. I need him to pour patience, kindness, gentleness, and love all over me, every day, so that I can pour it back out again.



I fail so often. So very often. But He is faithful to show me where I fall short, and where he is strong... and he uses me despite myself. I love that about my God... he's so good. My weakness just shows off his strength.



I don't know how long it will be until my family feels totally settled and normal to me. We're certainly not there yet. But, I do have confidence that we'll get there one day. And it won't be because Jason and I are good parents (although, of course, we desire to be that)... it will be because God, who has called my family together from the ends of this earth, is faithful to complete was he has begun. He will refine each of us, he will use this for his unimaginable good... because that's what he does. He heals, he binds up, he forgives, he renews and refreshes. He overcomes.



"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!" John 16:33



Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Memory of Sarah~




My husband and I have sponsored kids before... kids we prayed for but never met. Kids whose names we knew, yet we had no knowledge of their lives. When we met Sarah, our perception of what a sponsorship relationship could look like changed forever. In June of 2010, we were part of the Liberia mission trip, and spent time at both Daniel Hoover Children's Village and at the Oscar and Viola Steward School for the Deaf.



Sarah was deaf. She did not demand attention, but simply stood back and watched us interact with others. It was obvious that she wanted to be a part but just wasn't asserting herself. We later found out that she had only been at the Mission for a short while and had very few sign language skills... so her communication was severely limited and had been for her entire 8 years of life. We knew no sign either, but we both fell in love with her and decided to sponsor her. Our time together was spent simply holding her, smiling and playing little hand games.




When our family spent a month in Liberia this past winter, we spent significantly more time with Sarah and the other children. She'd learned so much sign language, and we'd done our best to learn the alphabet and some basics... but still... pretty tough to communicate. She was THRILLED we were back, however. She'd spend all the time she could in our laps. We were able to bring a package and some pictures from our previous time with her as well. It was hard for all of us to say (sign) our goodbyes.









Sarah had to leave the mission several months ago, and return to whatever family claimed responsibilty for her, after she started to frequently faint or have seizures. (I'm unsure which is accurate.) This week, we learned that she died tragically while staying with her family, in circumstances that seem to have nothing to do with her medical concerns.



No, we didn't know her extremely well. We didn't know her hopes and dreams, or if she had any at all. We didn't know her history or the circumstances of her life before the mission. But, I have held her while she was sick with a high fever... and Jason gave her his big 'ol sandals to wear one day, which she thought was quite funny! My children have met her. We wrote her letters and picked out pretty dresses for her. We have a framed picture of her in our home.




My point is, we loved her. And we are extremely saddened that when we return to Liberia one day, we will not get to hold our Sarah.



I will never know what we meant to her, but I am confident that she knew we loved her. I have been thanking the Lord that we had a chance to love her in ways that were tangible to her in the short life she had. I am grateful to have had the privilege of showing her that somebody cared... that she was of great worth to Jesus... if only through a smile, a letter, or a hug.









Whether you realize it or not, your sponsorship of a child does the same thing... it shows them that they are worth something to Jesus, and that someone loves them. So, thank you, if that's something you do. The reality is that you cannot know what may be down the road for these children. When you pour into their lives, it is not in vain.



In Honor of Sarah,


Corrie




For information on how to sponsor a Liberian child like Sarah, visit http://www.africanchildsponsorship.com/


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Blessings" ~ a blog post I want to share

I wanted to share this link from a fellow adoptive mom that I know because it really expresses how I feel... without me having to take the time to write it all down! Sonya graciously gave me permission to share it with you. I have not had many of her experiences, but lots of the things she addresses I can relate to. And even the song she mentions is one I heard a month or so ago, and tears rolled down my cheeks as it resonated with the truth that God has set inside my heart; God uses hard things. Anyway... wanted to share it with you.

http://respondinginfaith.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/blessings/

Eleven Weeks and Counting

Here we are, just over 11 weeks since our family physically changed from 4 to 6. I just read my last post... and find myself encouraged at how different things are even just one month later. While many things remain the same, and quite challenging, there are MANY things that are being learned! For instance:

~Kelvin was SUPER pleasant and respectful and hard-working during his school time with me this morning.
~Hawa ate green beans without melting down or gagging last night. She even said, "I LOVE dem!" Well, we'll see what happens next time... :)
~ Asher (with real, not manufactured, kindness) allowed Kelvin and Hawa into his room to play this morning, and shared his things, without being terrified that they would be ruined for life.
~Anika volunteered to help Hawa with something instead of hiding in a book to avoid the chaos that is her little sister.
~ Less major behavior issues... and more ability to work through it with us instead.
~Less fighting between my Liberians... seriously, it was ridiculous before.
~ No one was outside my bathroom door this morning, looking under the crack at my feet as I got showered and ready... just waiting for Mom. Three kids actually were interacting (without disrespectfulness or fighting!!) and one snuggled in my bed.


I really have nothing to complain about. AT ALL. Many, many adoption transitions look much more difficult than this. It's hard. I'm exhausted mentally and emotionally from the energy and time things take... preventing problems, being vigilant to see the problems, dealing with the problems. BUT, God is so faithful each day. It's not supposed to be easy.


I am really focused on the core priorities... the Lord, Jason, and my kids. There's just not too much else that I have time for. I have no idea what's happening in the world. I have only read 2 short books in the last 3 months, which for me, is tragic. Never heard "Mr. Popper's Penguins" was being made into a movie until I saw a billboard in the cities last week (which better be good, cuz we love the book). Haven't talked to or spent time with most of my friends & family in many months. But you know what? I really am OK with that. This is where I'm supposed to be right now.


I can get selfish. It's not pretty. Last night, I was DONE. I wanted the kids in bed so I could not hear, "Moo-mah" or "Mama", or "Mom" one more time. Jason was joking about seeking shelter and hiring extra protection for himself... so I must have been a little too obvious with my feelings. Anyway, we're making it. And I'm TRYING to look for the moments that matter. The ones that make you smile in the midst of the insanity. Like when Anika tells me I'm beautiful and looks at me with eyes that seriously communicate how much she adores me... and I well up with thankfulness for this precious girl. Or like when Asher giggles uncontrollably when I zerbert his belly... and then begs for more. Or when I ask Kelvin to tell me some things that make him feel loved, and he whispers in my ear, "hugs and kisses." Or when I pick Hawa up and hold her, and she turns her huge eyes to me and says, "My Mama jus ree-lee love me so mush."


It helps erase the hard stuff. It makes it worth it. I know I'm totally doctrinally incorrect and ascribing humanness to the divine here, but maybe God feels the same way with me... exhausted from the stuff I try to pull, and the time and energy is takes to help me through my problems. But, maybe when I stop and fix my eyes on him, and tell him how much I need him and adore him, it makes it all worth it... and he sits back and smiles.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Project Hope Update!

Just wanted to update any of you who may be interested in what is happening with Project Hope!! Pretty exciting! Angel's last 3 posts explain...

http://www.rutledge6.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seven Weeks and a Day...

So, I've been MIA for quite some time. That is due to the fact that life is just plain busy with 4 children! It's been seven weeks and one day since our kiddos came home after many YEARS of waiting. There are more adjustments than I can possibly imagine listing that we've been working through as a family. I also have wanted to be careful about posting anything until I was given the go-ahead... for the sake of other adoptions still in progress.

So- this will not be an exhaustive update. I don't want to air all our "junk" on-line. Not because I want you to think we're fine and perfect, and oh-so-able to handle it all. We're not. We struggle everyday to be all that we need to be for our children right now. I just want to be really respectful of my Kelvin and Hawa's privacy as they learn and grow in how to be part of our family, and as we learn and grow in helping them.

I do want to update any of you interested in what's going on in life though... at least a little bit. So many of you have prayed faithfully, and I can only hope that you will continue to do so as the Lord brings us to your mind... it remains a firm lifeline ~ knowing that others are interceding for us.

So- The kids are amazing! Beautiful, happy, loving, affectionate, funny, energetic, and full of life.
It is so fun to hear their excitement over things that we are so used to... "OOOH! Mama! See the helicopter!! See the squirrel! See the BEEEEG (big) truck!" They absolutely love the tire swing, riding bikes, jumping rope, eating tuna or sardine rice, seeing the animals at the zoo, playing tag in the backyard, interacting with other children, and so on. They love Curious George stories, have learned their shapes, alphabet letter sounds, and some concrete math concepts.

With a few issues excepted, they are healthy (and brave! -They've had so many appointments, blood draws, shots, dental scrapings, etc!! Luckily, they get to go pick out a doughnut after each Doctor visit... so it's not ALL bad.) They sleep very well at night, and have adjusted to our cooler weather without batting an eye. They are both (overall) very respectful of their new home and others' belongings. We actually were quite surprised at this because after spending the month with them in Liberia, we assumed it would be otherwise.

They eat most of our food VERY well. Not because they are exceedingly grateful for any food they can get (they were pretty spoiled at Goergia's house in that regard), but because we have not given them reign to let have their own way. Kelvin is a champ, and eats with a great attitude. Hawa struggles sometimes, but is doing well. We eat a lot of rice dishes (some Liberian), tons of fruit, and more meat than we've EVER served before. They would live on meat (any kind), eggs, fish, and rice if we let them. We go through oranges (and clementines) like you wouldn't believe. :) They are not fans of baked sweets, which is just fine by me!! They like banana bread, so we make that a lot.. but cookies and cake simply do not impress them. They'd take an oily hand-ful of sardines over that stuff anytime. Yum, yum. Seriously though... they're not that bad... and they're supposed to be super good for you! I had sardine rice yesterday for lunch. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. :)

There are hard things. Things that take hours to work through sometimes... while three of the four children have to fend for themselves b/c there is only one of me. We pray constantly for wisdom and patience and perseverance... and God is always faithful to provide it. I wake up telling Jesus how much I need him... and I go to bed thanking him for getting me through another day. I suppose that's a good place to be... so very aware of how desperate I am for him in my life... so very aware that I am not able on my own. We are already seeing changes in life-long learned behaviors... not that we expect them to be eradicated anytime soon. We're brighter than that. But, we do find encouragement in the fact that strong, clear boundaries and expectations just work with Liberian children. We know from being in Liberia that it's simply what they will respect. Consistent consequences for poor choices, and lots of praise and encouragement seem to be effective. Now, on some days, I see no effect whatsoever... and it's on those days when I wonder how we're going to muddle through. But when I step away from being "in" it constantly, I can honestly say that I am encouraged.

Anika and Asher are so amazing. They have things they're working on too... things that are hard, things that take maturity and are a lot to ask of a 9 and 11 year old. But, they are incredible, and they encourage me so often in the way that they interact with their brother and sister. They certainly have struggles a lot. The hardest part, by far, is missing time with Jason and I. We have been so very divided in our attention because of the constant and immediate needs of Kelvin and Hawa, and it takes its toll on all of us. It is for a short season, and we can all feel it letting up a tiny bit already. For the first time since they've been home, we watched a movie where no one competed to be next to me... two were content on the ground, and two were by my sides. Little things like that have given me hope that the desperateness will slowly subside, and there will be an ability to spend one-on-one time with all my kids again, without World War III breaking out.

What else can I cover in the few precious moments I have between putting them all to bed and going to bed myself? Uh,let's see... hair!

OK, so the hair thing is not a big deal. I thought it would be. I actually really like doing Hawa's hair. It's soft and beautiful, and the artsy side of me enjoys making the fun little braid boxes or triangles, or whatever. Now, Hawa's hair is so short that I have few options. I cannot do the braids that I tried to learn in Liberia. It worked on the older girls' hair.. I was able to do those great braids b/c their hair was longer. Hawa's hair is so short, however, that it's just not possible for me. So, until we get some more length, I'll enjoy the ease of letting her hair be loose sometimes (it's so pretty just natural), or doing styles that work on short hair. Later, I'll have to do more research on styles for longer hair! I am getting through b/c I'm choosing easy stuff to do right now (time is an issue for me now too)... but I have a WORLD o things to learn! Kelvin's hair is a cinch. Whew.

Man, I've enjoyed sitting and writing a few things down. I forget how therapeutic this is for me. It just helps me process and think about things that I don't have any time to think about. I'd love to say that I'd write again soon, but that's just not realistic at this point, so I won't make "piecrust promises"... easily made, easily broken. (~Mary Poppins said that... and by the way, I just typed Mary Poopins. Yes, Poopins. Funny.)

Before I go, can I just say that my husband is incredible? I cannot imagine anyone more amazing, more full of insight and wisdom, more supportive, more patient and kind, more dependent upon the Lord and more perfect for me. Just had to brag for a moment because I'd never be able to do this without him. Seriously... never. We are so in this thing together, and I am so, so grateful.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jason and I are involved with Liberia for good now. We knew that a long time ago, but spending a month there this winter just solidified it. God has our hearts turned that direction, and we are way OK with that. :)

The following are 3 posts from our friend, Angel. It is all about a way for you to be involved in something cool called Project Hope. We are excited to be a part, and so we wanted to share the opportunity with you too! We can assure you from our time in Liberia that these needs are real... and that any funds collected will be used with integrity and as they should be. Thank you ahead of time to anyone who decides to be a part! You are supporting our friends and loved ones in Liberia... and we know you'll be blessed by it!
By the way, the story you'll read about Georgia is about "our" Georgia... the kids' foster mother in Liberia, and our incredible friend.

Project Hope: Watching Hope GrowThe significance of the name Project Hope runs even deeper than what I've already mentioned...




This is a photo of my dear friend, Georgia, and her little girl. Before Liberia's civil wars started in 1989, Georgia had a hopeful future. She had a home and a family, a mom and a dad and siblings. She worked hard in school and earned a medical scholarship, which she used to go to college to become a nurse's assistant.

Then, came the war, forcing her to flee. In the chaos that descended on her village, she was separated from her family and caught in the crossfires of a battle. She was shot in the hand and leg and left along the road with many others for dead. After a couple of days, her brother, who had been searching for her, came upon her and got her to a refugee camp to heal. For the next couple of years, Georgia would move from one displaced person's camp to another as rebels took over. She would lose her father who was beaten to death and later her mother.

But still, through all of the loss, God's grace would find her. In the camps, Georgia heard the gospel and accepted Christ. She began to work with children as a nurse's aid and then received training from African Christians Fellowship International (ACFI) to teach. When the fighting again approached their camp, Georgia worked with ACFI to rescue the orphaned children in the camp and brought them to Monrovia where ACFI began their first orphanage. She has faithfully served the ministry since the early 90's to care for orphaned and indigent children.

Today Georgia is a foster mom and the Children’s Ministry Director for ACFI. She creates beautiful handmade African quilts, which she sells to Americans to supplement her limited income and help other women in her community start small businesses to send their children to school.

Nine months ago, Georgia asked our last missions team to name her newborn baby. We prayed and chose the name Hope because we want to watch Hope grow in Liberia.

Project Hope is about equipping more men and women in Liberia who love the Lord to use their gifts for His glory. We want to see Hope grow in Liberia. We want to see other children like Hope grow up strong in Jesus.


Project Hope Begins
Over the past few years, we’ve been able to watch God impact many lives in Liberia. So many of you have been part of it. Thank you! Because of your prayers and sacrificial gifts, we’ve had the opportunity to serve alongside African Christians Fellowship International (ACFI) as they live out the gospel among their people.

Some of the highlights of these past three years have been leading missions teams to serve at ACFI’s two homes for children, overseeing a sponsorship program in which 55 children are now supported, and building relationships with some of our very dearest friends.

From a micro-loan program with a 100% repayment rate to an agricultural initiative that’s struggled to take root, we’ve partnered with ACFI to discover the best ways to help the ministry thrive. And thrive it has! At their annual conference in February, ACFI commissioned 180 indigenous missionaries to go out into the fifteen counties surrounding the capital of Monrovia and preach the gospel. God is good!

This year, we began preparing for our third annual missions trip when we sensed God had another plan. It's always been really important to me to be a good steward of the resources that God provides, so when it looked like our team this year might only be 7-8 people, I went back to review our objectives for the trip. No matter how much I wanted to go, it was obvious that in order to have a significant impact and justify the cost of the trip, our team needed to be larger. In the end, our team leaders prayed and were led to delay the trip until the spring of 2012.

In that amazing way that God has of turning discouragements into opportunities, we soon realized that not only would we have a lot of people available for a spring 2012 trip, but we would also have the opportunity to strengthen ACFI’s ministry in an even greater way in the interim. And so, the vision for Project Hope was born.

Since partnering with ACFI, we’ve learned that one of the greatest struggles for an indigenous ministry is retaining its valuable leaders. Without a consistent way to compensate its fulltime staff, the ministry runs into the challenge of training people up into positions of leadership and then losing them to other jobs or ministries that have more resources.

The goals of Project Hope are twofold:

1. To provide ACFI with the financial resources to retain godly leaders who are qualified and equipped to lead their outreach and children’s ministries for a minimum of one year.

2.To project a renewed hope into ACFI churches over God’s ability to transform lives through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.

The vision for Project Hope is a lofty one…to raise $35,000 by May 29, 2011.


While the amount seems great, we know we serve an even greater God who is able to take our individual loaves and fishes and multiply them exponentially. So instead of raising the same amount to send a team of 10 Americans on a weeklong missions trip, our little group is committed to raising the funds needed for one year in key areas.

Here is how the money will be used:

1. Two rounds of Micro–loans: These loans will be used by ACFI members to start small businesses. Loan members commit to meeting weekly for a business lesson, worship and repayment of the loan over a 20 week period.

20 loans at $200 are already funded
20 loans at $400 are partially funded

The need: $6800

(Remember that we already ran one round of loans and saw a 100% repayment rate! That means we already have one of the next rounds funded with the repaid loans from round one, and 20 people were able to start small businesses that are still bringing in income for their families.)

2. ACFI Missionary Staff Salaries: Funds will be pooled to provide partial monthly stipends to ACFI mission home staff, administrators, pastors and missionaries. Each sponsor will be paired with one of these Liberians and will receive a photo and letter from the supported staff member.

10 sponsors at $30 a month for one year
10 sponsors at $50 a month for one year
5 sponsors at $75 a month for one year

The need: $14,100

3. One Time Needs at the Children’s Homes

Maintenance (i.e. emptying septic tanks, roof repairs, vehicle maintenance)
Vocational school at the Deaf Mission (to equip deaf students with career skills)
Technology (an ongoing internet connection and maintenance of computers)

The need: $14,100

The great thing about Project Hope is that God is already doing amazing things to transform lives in Liberia. It’s our privilege to come and walk alongside as He continues.

Would you join us?

To give you can go to the sponsorship site at www.africanchildsponsorship.com and sponsor via Paypal, or you can send your donation directly to Christian Adoption Services with "Project Hope" in the memo line of your check (624 Matthews Mint Hill Rd, Ste 134, Matthews, NC 28105). You will receive a tax receipt for all donations.

Great ideas are coming in already for Project Hope! Here are a few:
1. Ami is selling beautiful handmade necklaces at great prices and donating the proceeds to Project Hope. She has a few up now on this site and will have more photos soon: (I already bought four of them for my daughters and their friends. So great for birthday party gifts!)

2. Matt and Tori are hosting a beach volleyball tournament and cook-out at a park near their house for their small-group and friends with a Project Hope entry fee.

3. Bob is donating what he would have spent on traveling to Liberia this year towards the micro-loan portion of Project Hope!

4. Our family is sponsoring at least one of the ACFI staff members, and we're raising support as if we were going to Liberia this year. I'm going to go through my jewelry and see what I can sell, too. We're still praying about what else God might have us do.

What relationships, talents, resources has God given you that can be used to bring Him glory through Project Hope?

I told Dan the other day that I love raising funds for Liberia. He looked at me like I might have forgotten for a moment how hard it is. "I know, I know," I said. "But overall, it's really fun to watch all the ways that God provides that I never would have imagined."

It's a fresh reminder to me that He is Yahweh Yireh "The Lord Provides." It's so interesting because there are several ways to translate Yahweh Yireh to fully understand what this name means. It means, "The Lord will see to it" or "In the mountain the Lord is seen." It was the name Abraham gave the mountain where God provided the ram instead of Isaac to be sacrificed. We have a God who sees all that we need ahead of time and provides.

So, yes, it's uncomfortable to be needy. It's uncomfortable to have to climb a tall mountain and see how tall it is without seeing God's provision until we're at the top. But what fun to stand on the summit and finally see how God has provided!

This is not a spectator sport! Won't you join us for the climb?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sponsorship Newsletter

Part of my involvement in Liberia is to help with the sponsorship program. The following is the March newsletter that I wrote about our time in Liberia. It's long, but I figure it may have some info that I've not yet written about here. Also- if you ever feel led to be involved in supporting the children that I love there, and you're interested in sponsorship, I'd love to help you get plugged in. There is a link on the right margin of this blog for www.africanchildsponsorship.com , with all the info about what the funds go to buy, and how to get involved. Otherwise, ask me! I'd be thrilled to point you in the right direction!

Wow. I really have a hard time knowing where to begin as I sit here and desire to share with you about our time in Liberia. My husband, our two kids, and I traveled to Liberia in January, and stayed for four weeks at Daniel Hoover Children's Village. We had the joy of also having our two Liberian children, who we've been in the process of adopting for several years now, stay with us the entire time. It was the first time all six of us had been together as a family! This was a huge part of why we decided to go in the first place... to be together. There was another main reason as well, however. We have been happy to be invested in the children of Liberia through sponosrship, the adoption process, and through last June's missions trip, but we sensed God just had more for us to be a part of. We really wanted to have more time to spend there, getting to know the staff and being a part of everyday life.

The trip was eye-opening in so many ways. It was challenging living among 200 children who are clamouring for your time and attention constantly. It was a joy to get to get to interact with them and let them know they are loved. It was a privilege to come to call the staff members our friends, to hear their hearts, their joys and their difficulties... and to become a part of their lives. We spent many days at the Deaf School loving on the kids there as well. We were able to experience a typical day in the children's lives; the good and the not-so-good.

The children were just beginning their second semester of school when we arrived. There were some children who went home and will now stay with family, as well as new children who came to enroll. Once the first week passed, things fell into more of a dependable routine; chores in the morning, school, change out of uniforms, eat the main meal, free time, gather for devotions, settle into the dorms for the evening. Though things are not at all “organized” as we think of it here in America, there is thought that goes into the events of the day, and this pattern is roughly followed each school day. Weekends are for chores, washing and braiding hair for the girls, football (soccer) for the boys, and for resting in any cool place you can find.

The children are in such good hands. I wish I had the time and space to tell you all about the dorm matrons we got to know, about the Sieh family who directs at DHCV, and about Pastor Harrington who is the head (and father figure) at the Deaf School. They are outstanding individuals. They care for the kids, have their best at heart, and are acting in obedience to the Lord as they do what he has called them to. It is utterly apparent to us, however, that there are just not enough care-givers to address the needs of so many children. Many kids are extremely helpful, but a good handful of them (at least at DHCV) are quite unruly at times, and that makes for a big challenge for their caregivers, as the ratio of matrons to kids is about 1:50. (This is not the case at the Deaf School, as the ratio is much more balanced.) As you can imagine, there is very little one-on-one time that can be given to the kids, which is not an optimal way to be raised into adulthood. We found ourselves wondering what could be done to try to help in these struggles, and to be honest, we just don't know. God will have to continue to strengthen the staff, and reveal his plans to us all. We are deeply grateful though, for the way that God's word is taught faithfully to the children, and that they are grounded in the most important things of all.

It was extremely encouraging to once again experience the affection and joy of the Liberian people. I am struck each time we are there, that despite the extreme poverty and tumultuous history of the country, the people are overwhelmingly full of joy and thankfulness. The kids are needy of attention, to be sure, but they are not neglected by any stretch, as you hear of accounts in orphanage settings in Russia and other countries. These children are full of life and happiness, creativity and a great capacity to extend and receive love. That, to me, is incredible... and a testimony of the relational focus within the Liberian culture. We spent many, many hours sitting and snuggling, braiding hair, playing soccer, talking and sharing, and listening to the kids' beautiful voices as they sang their many songs to us.

One highlight for me was having the honor of bringing packages to children whose sponsors sent something to them. They all were so excited to get these special parcels... just for them! Most end up sharing some of the the goodies inside with their friends. I want to say THANK YOU to those of you who were able to send something... it is an extremely impactful thing to connect to your child in this way. The sponsorship program continues to get more organized as we have more opportunities to work in Liberia and partner with the staff to get updates and pictures. The funds from this program are a blessing that I just can't do justice to describe. Without this outside help, the ACFI ministry would surely struggle to provide the most basic needs of the indigent and orphaned children. As it is, financial difficulties are the norm, and there is no end to the needs that are faced each day... but the sponsorship program is beginning to bridge that gap, and certainly has been a sweet way for people like you and me to start to see God's heart for his people in Liberia. Thank you for being a part.

I thought I'd end with something I did on my last day at DHCV. I was sitting on our little porch, on the rickety benches where all the kids would come and hang out with our family. A group of “my girls” was with me... these were some of the older girls, (Henrietta and Nowai among them ~ for the benefit of their sponsors!) and I was asking them about what they remembered of the civil war. All of them had stories.... all of them. They all had very vivid experiences to share with me, each had seen very horrible and gruesome and violent things. I couldn't fathom my own children, ages 5-11, having lived through the things that were being told to me. I couldn't imagine what impact that would have on them for the rest of their lives. And I certainly couldn't believe that I was sitting here with these girls hearing them talk of rape and beatings, mutilation and bloated bodies in the streets, as if it were something not-too-out-of-the-ordinary. It was their history. It was their childhood. It was unreal. I knew it all before. I've read lots of books on Liberia's history, but the reality of it all hit me when my sweet young friends, who I got to hug everyday for a month, were remembering it. What struck me most though, was that each one, with great conviction, told me that they and their loved ones would never have lived through it all except by God's grace and goodness to them. They praised him, and their thankfulness was deep and real.

That's what's amazing about Liberia. There are great heartaches and trials, but there is a deep dependence on the only one who can make a way through. Jesus, for those who know him, is their true anchor. They trust him for their food each day, for their health and very life, for peace in their land. These things are not taken for granted. So, while we Americans certainly have help to offer them, we have just as much to learn.

The verse I tried to hang on to while in Liberia was Nehemiah 8:10, but interestingly, it sums up quite well & simply, the way Liberian believers live their lives. I hope it encourages you today!

“The joy of the Lord is my strength” ~Nehemiah 8:10

With JOY,
Corrie
Sponsorship Coordinator

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Joy of the Lord

That was my verse going into our trip to Liberia.

"The joy of the Lord is my strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)



I knew it would be difficult. I knew we would all hit our limit in all sorts of ways. And I knew that we could not do it in our own strength.

I'm not always right, but this was not a hard one to predict. It was hard. We did all hit our limits in all sorts of ways. We could not have done it on our own.



We got through, and we made wonderful friends, and had such valuable time as a family of six. We didn't snap under pressure and flip out. We didn't fall apart, get nasty, or ruin our testimony. But to be quite honest, I was disappointed with how I felt some of the time during our trip. Maybe I'm being really hard on myself, but I just ceased being me about halfway through our 4 weeks. I just dried up and went into survival mode, and stopped being filled with joy. I did what had to be done. I met each crisis that came up and tried to do what I could to work through it. I dealt with the critters and the sickness, the sweat and the heat, the constant issues of all the children... but it wasn't fun to me. I didn't wake up each morning thinking, "Oh goody, another day!" Uh, no. I woke thinking, "God, if you don't strike that chicken dead, I will do it myself. ...and, Oh man, another day... get me through Lord."



We enjoyed SO much of our time, but I just cannot explain to you how different life is there, and how much of our time was spend dealing with some sort of chaos or crisis. Each day toward the end of our time felt like a week... each hour like a full day. I can't explain it. It just felt like that. I didn't think of it in terms of being homesick. I mean, I didn't miss my house or car, washing machine, or even my bed all that much. I could handle living in Liberia... God gave us the kind of personalities not to get too freaky about the basics. But I missed my routine, having some sort of say over what happens. I missed taking care of my own household and being able to play by my rules. Mostly, I missed peace and stillness. I desperately wanted a quiet room~ without the possibility of intruders of any kind. It just didn't exist there.



So, here it is, 3 weeks after getting home, and I'm finally ready to talk a bit about the hard stuff. It has taken me almost this long to get over the chaos, and by that, I mean that I am now able to think back on things and not feel stress. I let it all go once I was on the plane home, but I needed 2 full weeks to not think about it much at all. That must sound insane to most people. It would've sounded insane to me before this too. It's true though, only in the recent days have I been able to think back on things and find there were so many wonderful moments each day, not just moments to block out because they were filled with emotional or physical or spiritual stresses. Whether it was parenting some difficult behaviors (constantly), helping 2 American kids to cope with Africa, helping 2 Liberian kids to cope with America coming their way, becoming a family of 6 overnight, dealing with the joy/craziness of 200 children who observe you like you are in a zoo enclosure, being hot and sweaty all the time, trying to meet the needs of so many people, trying to accomplish something to help them, trying to listen carefully and understand others despite the language barriers... or whether it was another type of chaos like praying to stay alive in the van, whose brakes were not fully operational yesterday, and yet now are in the said van which is careening down the road with plenty of traffic which merges with the honking of horns, not traffic signs... it could be tense in moments, especially when you pick several of these things and deal with them at the same time... which was always the case.



I won't ramble on and on anymore. I just understand how it feels to go into the "just-get-through-it" mode. I am not proud of that. I wish that somehow, I could have truly shone with the joy of the Lord. I know he was my strength. There's just no question. But I wish I could have felt less robotic in the last weeks. It was a little like I was switched off... and the flow of compassion and patience dried up and fell off of me and rolled under the bed (with the dead mouse) and wasn't seen again until I sat down in the plane on the ride home.

It scared me a little. A lot, if I'm honest. Would I be this kind of mom to my 4 beautiful children one day? The kind of mom I don't want to be; who's always uptight and freaky about something? The kind who tells her kids what to do, but has stopped listening?

It took me a while for the Lord to convince me that if I let him carry me, things will be just fine. (Not easy... but fine.) The many chaotic things we dealt with constantly in Africa will not be there to deal with one day when the kids come home. I will need Jesus everyday. I do not doubt that for a moment. Even if I forget my desperate-ness for a minute, my need for Him will be quite as real as ever.

I just so want to do this mothering thing well. I have tasted the fruit of raising my kids to know Jesus and obey him... and I desire so much to show the same kind of life to Kelvin and Hawa one day. But that takes hard work, and constant awareness, and love, compassion, patience, and seeking to obey God in how to deal with each situation... and patience, and more patience. It's so not easy.
And, it will be a whole new kind of difficult to do these things with children who have been raised apart from me for almost 6 and 8 years.

Anyway, I rambled when I said I wouldn't. Sorry.

The point? The joy of the Lord was my strength in Liberia. Even when I didn't feel joyful, it was my joy to be his daughter that brought me there in the first place. It was his joy that filled my heart with love and passion for people a world away from myself. It was his joy in seeing our family altogether that bonded us and makes me smile as I sit here. And certainly, this joy that originated from him, and was passed onto me, was my strength each day, all day, every day... even when I didn't feel it anymore physically... it sustained my spirit and held me together. It must have... because I'm still standing. :)

Thank you, Jesus. You're so good to me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

People We Love

This might have to be a series of posts, depending on how long-winded I decide to be (and we all know that when I write, I can be quite long-winded indeed!). There are just so many people that we love in Liberia now. After our June trip, Jason and I fell in love with many children, our own included, of course. But spending a month, actually living with many of these children and the staff that cares for them, really allows you to see their true colors. It replaced our June-ish thoughts of love toward them with an actual relationship with them.

Kind of like thinking you have fallen in love with your spouse, and then really getting to know them, and deciding to love them... after seeing both the good and the bad. It's in the deciding that God's kind of love happens. You commit to sticking with someone, even when you don't always agree or see eye to eye. Even when you are stressed out and tired. Even when they're dirty and sweaty and the body odor is almost stifling at times. Even when it's hard. Why? Because what you see in them, and what they see in you, is so much more important. Their hearts, their joys, their stories, their needs, their hopes, their well-being. They are precious to you, and for some reason, you're precious to them too. That's the cool thing about God (one of many!). He can make unlovable people, like me, for instance, be loved by others... he can give His people HIS love for others, and that trumps the hard stuff, and makes it possible to stick by each other.

Now, I'm sure that sounds all nice and tidy, as if I have it all together. So, allow me to make sure you know that I can struggle with this SO much. There are just a small number of people in my life that I find difficult to love well. It's work. It's hard. I have to pray about it. I need God's help.

It was the same in Liberia. Most people are easy to love. But then there are the few kids who literally hang off of your arms... so that you almost lose your balance and bring down the entire entourage of other children who are holding onto you. You keep telling them that they cannot HANG... they need to walk with you. They still hang. There are those children who pout when they don't get their way. There are those kids who lie to you or skip school and hide behind the dorms. There are some whose noses are running profusely, who want to snuggle up to your face (and I don't know about you, but it's one thing when it's your own child, but it's entirely different when that substance is not "in the family."). There are just those children... the ones that are little harder to feel genuine love for. That's when love was a choice for me. When it takes a little sacrifice to get past the things in your way. Sometimes, I chose well. Sometimes, I took the easy way out and thought of a somewhere else I needed to be just then. Not proud of that... just being honest. But the majority of the kids we spent time with were just amazing. Busy& loud... but amazing. :) We are so grateful to know them.

Here are just a fraction of the people that God gave us a deep love for: (I'm not posting names with kids' pictures for privacy reasons... but we certainly know their names and cherish each one.)

The girls - This young woman helped us around our house each morning. What a beautiful heart she has... I can't wait to see what God does with her life.


Brenda with us the day after we arrived.




Pastor Harrington... he is the director of the Deaf Mission; a father-figure to them all, and a pastor of his own church, not to mention an amazing singer.



Uncle Jimmy and Asher playing Liberian checkers. Uncle Jimmy was our sweet driver... he was so fun to get into conversations with!

Ma Kema, the Dorm 2 matron. She was such a wonderful woman. She loved to explain what the songs meant that the girls always sang to us. She gave Anika a dress from the market before we left... a very kind and generous thing to do. She and Ma Emma would playfully argue about whose "daughter" Anika was; both claimed her as their own.


Ma Marie - she's got nerves of steel. I know, because she a boys' matron. Thus, nerves of steel are a requirement. Actually, they're required for the girls' dorm matrons too, now that I think about it. :)


The twins. Good friends to Asher, the only way you can tell them apart most of the time is by one of them having a chipped front tooth. Don't ask me which one, I always get it confused. :) They are great soccer players (as are most of the boys) and tremendous martial artists. Don't know where they learned, but they do multiple flips, gymnastic type moves,and even some break dancing. (Try that on dirt or rocks.)

Thanks to my friend, Kristi, the kids were given colorful beads. They love them! This boy is very new to the Deaf Home. He doesn't know sign yet, so he communicates very, very little. He is also quite thin, which I'm sure will improve once he's been there longer, and is cared for. He looks sad here, but he almost always had a serene glowing smile on his face. He'd just look in your eyes, and you'd want to melt.



This young woman was amazing at hand clapping games... you know, the kind we all did in grade school. We learned many of those from the children, and it was fun to do them with her b/c it broke the barriers between hearing and deaf... you don't need more than a smile and a pair of hands to have a load of fun together!


Our friend- isn't he just so cute?? He's a student at the Deaf Mission as well, and such a helpful and kind kid. You should see him in church keeping the kids in line! :)



Sweet girl...her smile lights up Dixville. She wanted to sing me some songs on the day we left. It was her gift to me. So, as a ton of noisy children milled around the church/school building, getting settled into their seats for our good-bye program, she laid her head on my shoulder and sang into my ear. During the second song, she broke down and sobbed. I just held her. We sat like that for a long time, until the tears stopped... then she began singing again.




This is a terrible picture, it doesn't really capture him in all his joy, just with his mouth full! ... but I had to include him on this list of people. He was a newer student at the Deaf Mission, and an EXCELLENT teacher to us all. He'd draw pictures in the dirt, and then show us the sign for that word... he was so patient! You could tell he LOVED helping us to learn! So did many others... so we usually had about 8 little teachers at one time wanting our undivided attention... but we did our best!

Asher with one of our sweet little friends... she's got the CUTEST giggle you've ever heard, and she uses it often! :)




The girl in the center lives at the Deaf Mission. She's actually the much younger sister of Pastor Harrington's wife. They have raised her like a daughter since she lost her parents. Until halfway through this visit, I assumed she was deaf. She never had spoken to me... and she'd even given me her beaded bracelet last June... without any words, so I thanked in sign language. At some point during this trip, Anika said, "Mom, I just heard her speak... I don't think she's deaf." What?? But sure enough, it was true. I told her that I was shocked... why hadn't she spoken to me before?
She just smiled.

Then she sang a song. Funny.



Ma Emma - oh, we miss Ma Emma and her morning hugs. She always playfully scolded Anika, "I didn't see you clean your dorm room this morning... no food for you today,"... because she told Anika that she was her dorm daughter, and dorm 3 was her home. :) I always picture her sitting outside of Dorm 3... stirring her huge pot of fufu, or cutting potato greens into the most microscopic pieces you've ever seen. She had two deaths in her family in the short time we were there. We had great conversations together, and one of my ultimate favorite memories of our entire trip is her booming voice belting out her favorite song... "Tank you Je-sus... tank you Yahweh..."

My sentiments exactly.


Jason with Theo (pronounced "Tee-oh" in Liberia). He is the father to several kids at the mission, and rides his bike for about 2 hours to get there to help out with maintenance at DHCV. He's a hard worker, and we owe the times that our toilet wasn't backed up to him. Jason hung out with Theo often as they'd work together to fix things.


Our sweet friend. Love her. Love her. Love her. We all love her.


Me with my Hawa-girl. :) Obviously... LOVE her.
Kelvin and his cousin (who he calls "brother"). He will be the new child we're sponsoring at DHCV since Rebeccah is back home with family now. It's a great way to support the needs of the children, plus it's a way to stay involved in the lives of Kelvin's family members. (We were SO sad not to be able to spend more time with her!!! But, we're happy she's with her family.)



Jason wasn't seen all that much without this little friend. They just clicked.


Jason with Elijah. He the guy who can preach!! He truly has a spiritual gifting of evangelism and teaching. It's amazing to witness. He's 25 and finishing 11th grade, after traveling and preaching for a number of years.


Tommy and Meggan ~ an amazing couple that we've been privileged to get to know over the last few years. Tommy came to Liberia with us last June, and we met Meggan for the first time (though I felt I already knew her from phone conversations and through Tommy), as they traveled to Liberia during the last week of our time there. We very much enjoyed their fellowship, encouragement, and friendship. We've been through some wild stuff together. W.I.L.D.



This lovely little lady was our "house helper" along with Sue. She was always ready with a smile and a hug. She really loved us all, but I think she especially loved her "sister" Anika!



This is our sponosred child at the Deaf Mission, so it was just delightful to get to visit her again! It was fun to see that she'd learned a lot of sign language skills since last June when she was new to the Mission. She obviously knew her way around now! It's always hard to leave her though... she was extremely sad to see us go. She, and many other children, asked if we would "carry them to America" (take them) and be their Mom and Dad. Kinda kills you to have to explain that you can't.

Our boy... :)


I LOVE this shot of him!! He just really enjoyed the ocean. He was worried about dying for a while (as they are often told that the sea will carry them away), but he warmed up very quickly to it as long as he had a firm grip on our hands! He hated the taste of the salty water though!


Brenda with Hawa, when she was still feeling sick with malaria. I cannot imagine a more perfect person to be with our family for the first week we were there. She was steady and calm, so helpful, not sqeamish or high-maintenance, and just ready and open for whatever came. I'm so thankful for the new friendship we have with her. The only bummer about all these great friendships we've made, with Liberian ties, is that NO ONE lives near us!



Opelo~ He lives and works at the guest house. We sat with Brenda and listened one night as he told us all about his life during the many years of war. It is truly incredible to know what some of our Liberian friends have endured through.

Jason took this picture of one of his favorite little buddies. Isn't she just beautiful??



Our Georgia~ How do you explain someone like Georgia?? She's spunky and stands up for justice in a place that desperately lacks it. She is confident and bold when she has the need to be, and often gets her way. She loves so many children, and fights ferociously for their well-being. She's funny and has a great sense of style. It was so fun really getting to know her.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Laundry



Getting some wash done.


Well, the smell of my little bottle of Tide detergent was my happy place in Liberia. Seriously, whenever I'd wash just a few of my own items or a towel in it, I'd make everyone smell it, and I'd exclaim, "Ohhhhh! Doesn't it smell SOOOO good?" Having said that though, I really enjoyed Liberian-style laundry.

Now, I didn't do it often. I intended to try to do it more, but with the constant-ness of need from my own four kids, school work, time we spent with the mission kids, and the trips to the Deaf Mission or into town, I just had extremely limited free time. I would have liked to do it more often because it was relaxing to me. Sue and Praise set up the three large plastic containers back behind the Sieh's house, right under the shade of a tree. I cannot for the life of me remember what kind of tree it was... some sort of nut. It was a cool place, with a breeze, and it was secluded from the majority of the activity, so it afforded a little break from the constant noise and chaos of our days. It was also just a lovely thing to have your hands in nice cool water for an hour; it was quite refreshing.
The first container is filled with water and a soap made from palm products, which has a very distinct smell... not bad at all... just different than laundry here. Sue washed each item on the washboard. OK, so it probably wasn't as relaxing to do her part... man, she worked hard, scrubbing each item again and again, as she stood and bent down over the tub, up and down, up and down, until they were clean. Then we'd wring them out and place them in the second container. This also had soapy water in it, and I would then hand scrub each item with a bar of soap, wring it out again, and place it in container number three. The third container had plain water in it, which got soapier and soapier as more laundry went through, but it was the rinse water, so each item was swished to rinse it, and wrung for a final time. Then the items were turned inside-out (to keep them from fading in the sun) and hung to dry on the line. (The staff had laundry lines, but the kids just laid things on the ground to dry.) If I happened to have the job of hanging the laundry, I had to keep reminding myself not to walk into the razor wire, which was underneath the clothesline, lining the security fence. That could have really been a problem. (Look closely in the picture below, and you'll spot it. It had extremely sharp razor edging.)

Sue working the washboard, Praise waiting to do the hand-scrubbing, and Anika
waiting to rinse and wring in tub number 3.


The hens, with their little chicks following, and the lizards would stroll by as we worked. Sue might sing a song. We could smell Mommy Siehs cooking wafting from her little kitchen door. Anika would be scrubbing away with her sister sitting next to her. Hawa would be trying hard to wring things out, which I would then re-wring because her little hands could not grasp them enough to drain the water out. She loved to help, and occasionally she'd look up, and with a dramatic sigh, she'd say, "Whew... I tire, Mama!" (I'm tired).
It was just quiet and sweet and cool.
But, believe me... I'm thankful for my Kenmore. Sue was asking about how we do laundry in America. I told her we had machines; one for washing and one for drying. Mommy Sieh piped in and said that if we hung our laundry outside to dry in the winter, we'd end up with stiff clothes... frozen like ice! Too true. :)

The laundry would dry in the sun for a day or two (depending on when it got done), and then we'd get it delivered in the big colorful tub. It felt a bit stiff from the soap residue that never gets fully rinsed, and retained that palm soap smell, but it was clean... which REALLY amazes me when you consider how EXTREMELY dirty my four kids' clothes got EVERY day. Poor Sue. She did some serious scrubbing on our behalf for a whole month. Don't worry, we made sure to give her a generous "thank-you tip" before we left!

So, you see... I love Liberian-style laundry. (And I also loved my little bottle of Tide: the reminder that one day I would feel clean again, and I might even smell good. :)




One of the girls from the Deaf Mission, doing wash. She crocheted that hat herself. It's a super-intricate pattern with very thin yarn. (Well, I'm sure it's not called yarn b/c it was more like thick waxy string, but you get the idea)




The Talent of Carrying Stuff on your Head...


Anika now puts her folded laundry on her head to take it back to her room. It's the African way... but she must need a little more practice because some of her clothes had to be re-folded after they fell off! It's super cute to see her incorporating some African ways into her life.

I wanted to post a few pix of the kids carrying things on their heads. Unfortunately, we didn't get any shots of people carrying 5-gallon buckets or any of the large loads. The most amazing is when you drive by women with huge plastic tubs full of wares to sell... it appears as if the study of physics could not prove how it stays upon their noggins. It does, however, and they walk so gracefully with it perched there, with their brightly-colored lappas swaying with each step, and their arms casually by their sides. Some even have a second piece of lappa fabric tied above their bust line that holds a baby on their back. Talk about multi-tasking. I mean, they also have to avoid being killed by the insane no-rules traffic. Anyway... in the midst of it all... these women are a picture of peace and balance and beauty to me. I feel like there's a spiritual parallel to be had, but I won't go there. :)




Then there are the men I saw carrying enormous bags of rice. I don't know how much they weigh (... think Costco-sized, fill-the-entire-bottom-of-your-cart-size bags of rice), but they are awkward and heavy, and these guys carry them who knows how far... on their heads.

Some people carry huge 5-foot long bundles of coal, wrapped tightly in palm leaves, to sell in the markets after it's divided up into little blue and white striped bags. Some people carry water, some carry buckets of fried donuts or food to sell, etc... etc. And there are also lots of people who carry nothing at all on their heads; they are just getting from one place to another.

I just love experiencing different cultures. I love seeing things that I don't get to see everyday. I appreciate the differences between my corner of the world and theirs. I am so glad that Anika and Asher have experienced it a little now too. What a privilege to be able to look at a textbook about Africa, and now be able to remember it... not just imagine it. And the best part? That the names and faces that go with our memories are our friends.

So, I will forever remember Sue carrying 5-gallon buckets full of water into our house from the well for us each morning, on her head, of course. (Jason helped her, but didn't even try to do it on his head... hmm, I wonder why.) She'd walk on over, walk up the steps, slip off her shoes, duck through the doorway, dodge the table and chairs, and empty it into our water barrel in the bathroom... all while gracefully balancing it... not spilling at all. Well, there was one time when she spilled a bit... and I teased her mercilessly. She laughed and smiled... knowing I could talk big, but I could never compete. :)

Ma Margaret with the clean dishes. She really is very sweet and friendly... she just didn't know what to do when I wanted her to be in a picture with me! :) I told her I would act like I was helping to carry her load.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Food

If you don't care for rice... maybe you shouldn't go to Liberia. (Or Africa in general, or Asia, or India...) Thankfully, we LOVE it... and the meals we had were scrumptious. Now, as I was talking to some girls about Liberian weddings one day, I asked what they might eat at a wedding, you know... as "special" food. They described what we ate everyday in Liberia... namely, dishes with chicken or fish in them. So, we literally ate a special feast each day compared to what is normal. We paid for it... I mean, we didn't expect to eat so well... but we were grateful. It was all so wonderful, and our bodies really needed the extra energy as they were so shocked going from the frigid north of America... to the hot, humid of Liberia.



SO good! Chicken, cabbage-type soup over rice, and the BEST pineapple on earth. NO, I've not tried it in every part of the earth... but really, I don't think you can top this.

I think this was one of my absolute favorites - though it's hard to pick. Cabbage and red palm oil soup for over our rice. DELISH!



A typical dinner scene... when Brenda was part of the fam. :)


Nope... not bananas... they're plantains. Boiled in this case. We almost always had them fried in oil, which makes them much darker orange and almost sticky like a yam might get it you fried it. They are very sweet, and quite good!


Asher posing with his plate.



A vegetable based soup over rice... again, very good!



...just kidding.


A typical lunch... regular or flat bread with a tuna/onion spread... or bread with peanut butter, and fruit. For the first week and a half, we had soda almost every day for lunch (and ice almost every night). Well, I know those things cost extra money, and they are a pain to bring home from the market on a motor bike! We told Mommy she was spoiling us... and then had to explain what we meant b/c "spoil" means to ruin or destroy something in Liberian english. So we told her that she was giving us more than we had at home in this way! We thanked her, but told her we were quite content without it as well. (My kids have never had so much soda in their lives! ~though I didn't care to deny it to them... they earned that and more each day!) Anyway, after that, we had less soda, and had juice or water instead. But she kept giving us ice most nights... she said, "But you are so HOT! We need to help you be comfortable and cool down!"



Small bananas... don't think they have a special name. Uncle Jimmy, one of the people that drove us around often, bought a whole bunch of them for 50 Liberian Dollars (LD). That's like 75 cents. They are SUPER sweet... better than regular bananas by a lot... and the skins are very, very thin. But, of course, you have to eat a lot of them to fill up!



Breakfast... bread, eggs, cream of wheat (or corn meal, or oatmeal)... all of which Anika RAVED over... and often there would be "sausages"... hot dogs cut up and fried. Someone must have told them that Americans need meat at every meal, which is funny, b/c we don't always even have meat with dinner, let alone lunch and breakfast too!

My creative boy was missing a good old American hot dog. So, he took his breakfast "sausages", split his bread the long way, and stuffed a bunch of them in a row.
... a little ketchup... and voila! The breakfast hot dog ~ Liberian style!


After each meal, we'd gather all the dishes to bring back to Mommy Sieh's house. Hawa always wanted to carry the big trays, full of heavy, unstable stuff, on her head. So, we'd try to swap out her load with one a little less precarious... and breakable.




Now onto the food that is more realistic for the children at the mission homes...
Donuts made often in the mornings for the kids. Four basic ingredients, fried up in oil, no sugar.





The cook... I think her name was Esther... showing me the huge pot of rice for the children. It is sitting on the cookstove. Yeah... incredible. It doesn't burn on the bottom. How??? I can manage to burn just about anything. That set-up would just about guarantee it every time!



On the left, you see the palm oil being boiled for the soup that will go over the rice. The orange color is just the foam from cooking it... there is actually not a whole lot there when you compare it to the amount of rice. All in all... not much true nutritional value in the kids' meals.



I know... it's an odd picture to have in here... but the kids (not just mine) all enjoyed a few lollipops thanks to my friends, Marshall and Lisa. In a God-kind-of-thing, He even provided them for free, and they were even organic!



At the Deaf Mission, the girls were getting their fire going. I don't know that they have a cookpot... so it looks like they just build a fire and use bricks from ruined buildings in the bush to set the pot onto.




One of the Deaf Mission students with the bucket of rice. It was passed around to different kids... there are usually not extra containers to be used... so the buckets serve that purpose.



A friend of ours enjoying his rice... and someone's little hand trying to catch what falls! I'll tell ya... food does NOT get wasted there. Other things might... but not food.