Sierra Leone 2014–Part One

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!



Este es una regala . . .

“This is a gift. . . ” That’s what I got to say to the house mothers at the orphanage on our last night there as I handed them some money from our group. Yet, as I handed them that gift, I was sure I felt more blessed than they did. One week working at the children’s home in Mexico gave me more joy and peace than I’ve felt in a long while. Kids who do not get quite enough individual attention will cling to you, and I was so happy to be able to provide them with some love, if only for a week! They are very well cared for at this orphanage, which has two floors of apartment style rooms, is safe from the often dangerous streets of Reynosa, and gives them opportunities for education and enrichment they wouldn’t have dreamed of if they were still out on the street or in the unfortunate family situations they came from.

This trip was unlike other trips I’ve been on because we stayed in the same place all week with the people we were serving, which provided many more opportunities for relationships to develop. I wished I could have packed up a set of 4-year old twins (if it were legal to adopt them) and brought them back to Kansas as well as a few teenage girls who have high hopes for their education. Never before have I connected so much with the people in a different country. Another reason why I loved this experience was that I got to use my Spanish. It’s amazing how much of it comes back to you when you haven’t used it in a while! I could communicate fairly well with the workers, but even better with the kids who knew quite a bit of English. Being the nerdy English major that I am, I suppose I got more joy out of this than most would. (I kept asking the kids grammatical questions: what is the difference between por and para? When do I need to use ser vs. estar?–stuff I had forgotten since my last Spanish class eight years ago!) I hope I can learn it better for the next time I travel down to Reynosa!!

Obviously, I want to go back. Perhaps this summer? Definitely next Spring. Maybe this Christmas? I would gladly give up part of my Christmas vacation to go see these wonderful kids and the workers at the orphanage again.Our church goes there every spring break, and we also have the opportunity to sponsor the children on a monthly basis. I can’t wait to find out who needs to be sponsored so that I can once again say, “Este es una regala para ti porque yo te ama.”

I Am Rich

Pastor Tim started a series at church called “How To Be Rich,” and during the first sermon he shared this website. It tells you how your income measures up compared to the rest of the world. When I enter how much I make per year, I am in the top 4% of richest people in the world. FOUR PERCENT.

You should check it out to see how rich you are. :)

The best thing about this site the social commentary it brings to mind. I mean, yes we are all rich compared to today’s world population, but we certainly don’t feel rich! If we compare ourselves to many of those around us, we could make the case that we aren’t rich. We are often just getting by month to month. But, step outside of that thinking for just a moment. What are we doing with our money? Are we spending it on things we truly need?

I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would say we are wasting our money on things we don’t need; however, those same people won’t take any steps to change their habit.

Just some thoughts about wealth, materialism, and simplicity.

From a rich person, mind you, so listen up! :)

What could you do with $40 per month? Sponsor a child through World Hope International!  I have a little girl named Prerana from Nepal.

My brother and sister-in-law donated money in my name to World Vision to provide educational supplies to children in poor countries. Best Christmas gift EVER! Thanks Dave and Whit!

In high school, I sponsored a child from Brazil through Compassion International, another great organization. It was $28 per month back then, but I’m sure it has gone up! Check it out!

Sharing to influence someone’s life in a more positive way is far better than spending my money on something I don’t really need.