I went on my fifth mission trip this summer. It was my first (and surely not last) trip to Africa. As usual, I fell in love with the people of Sierra Leone (or Salone in Krio), more specifically, the ones in Kathirie village just outside the city of Makeni near the center of the country. I always struggle with putting my experiences on missions trips into words. The vastness of the difference between what I am used to and what I experience on trips like this always renders me inept to describe what I saw. To use an Jr. English vocabulary word, it is an ineffable experience.
I’ll start with the most vivid images I can remember. The humanity that surrounded me each time we visited Kathirie—that I will never forget. Nine children standing around me, each one grasping one of my hands with his or her hand under the hot sun outside the village. Three children sitting on my lap at the Day Camp we facilitated, until only one two year old boy is left, sleeping on my chest. The ornery little boy whose big, bright, clear eyes crinkled with his huge smile, running from group to group of people, making mischief as he went. The 14-year-old girl unable to stay awake during the school lesson, and sighing in boredom as she waits for the teacher to dismiss them all. That is a familiar look I’ve seen, but I’m sure her reasons for being sleepy and “bored” are quite different from any of the freshman girls I teach. Who knows how far she may have walked to get to school this morning. The strident singing of the young women who led the march into church, dressed in their colorful dresses and head wrappings, moving to the rhythm of the song. And the beauty of the young girls at the school dedication, with their hair freshly coiffed, their deep brown complexions glowing atop the new white shirt of their school dress uniform.
These are just a few images that I will treasure forever.
When asked what we did on our trip, the best word that I can come up with is “represent.” Our church raised enough money during our Christmas offering in 2012 to build a church and a school for the village. Our team’s main purpose in going on this second of three trips was to celebrate with the village and represent our church at both dedications, which was a great honor to be a part of. I am so thankful for the many people from my church who sacrificially and lovingly gave money for the good of this village. I hope that I did a good job representing Grace Point’s love toward the people of Kathirie village. The villagers had been working hard, in conjunction with the contractors, to finish the school and church before we arrived, and we could see how proud they were to show the buildings to us.
One morning, carrying through on our plan to continue our support of Kathirie, we sat around a table with the Village Development Committee and a representative of World Hope International as the VDC came up with a list of needs they have. Our team represented our Church’s commitment to this village.
And now that I am back, I ask myself, what did I really DO for those people? I mean, I saw the great structures that my money helped pay for. I hugged kids and prayed with people and listened to their needs and handed out some medicine. But did I make any difference in going? Why go on trips like this? It comes back to that word—represent. I now represent Kathirie village in Sierra Leone and the people who work in Sierra Leone for World Hope International. I can share my experiences with other people and let others know about this organization who is doing great work in a country that is trying to climb out of a deep poverty-ridden, post-Civil War hole. I represent the people of Sierra Leone. I represent the work of World Hope International. I’d like to write a few more posts about what they need and how you could help.
To start, check out World Hope International. I’ve sponsored a child in Nepal for years, and I’ve always wondered what else I could help with. Now that I have seen WHI in action, I’m amazed at the work this organization is doing! Maybe you can find a place to share your wealth with others!