Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!!

On Sunday, Marie had her Christmas play at church.  It. Was. Awesome.  After living here for so long, there are few things that make me stop and say, “Wow! That’s different.”  I’ve gotten used to a lot of things.  However. This is my first Christmas in Sierra Leone! This was my first Christmas play in Sierra Leone.

The director of the play was so sweet and wanted to make sure that Marie had a part so that she could mingle with the other kids and make some friends.  Thus, she became “Innkeeper #1.”  We were a little nervous about it because her lines were in Krio and she while she is improving, her Krio sounds…..well, like my Krio.  We practiced her lines at home though (all 3 of them) and during the first practice, when she NAILED her lines, everyone erupted into cheering and started dancing around.  So sweet. J

Practices were a bit of a challenge because “4 O’clock” doesn’t really mean “4 O’clock” as much as it means “sometime in the evening.”  Half of the practices we ended up leaving because none of the other kids showed up.  The assistant director explained that you have to go house to house to collect them, otherwise they will just be “playing too much.”

My biggest shock came during the dress rehearsal.  They went through the entire play but instead of ending in the traditional way, they decided to go out with a bang with the ending scene being when King Herod  ordered all children under 2 to be murdered.  They had 4 older girls with young children in their laps.  The soldiers burst onto the scene and ripped the young children from their laps, laid them on the ground and slit their throats.  The mothers started wailing.  End Play.  Gives you that feel good Christmas feeling doesn't it?

I couldn’t believe what I was watching and Marie, who was sitting on my lap, turned around and asked why my mouth was open like that.  Fortunately a discussion ensued and they decided that maybe they should cut it short because it was horrifying (my contribution) it was too long and the kids would get dirty if they laid on the ground while their throats were being cut (the assistant director’s contribution). 

My favorite part was the awesome 3 person donkey they made. It was hilarious!  “Mary” was an average sized girl but was tall and the rear 1/3 of the donkey (where she was sitting) yelled during every practice that “she’s big! She’s big!”  Just what every teenage girl wants to hear.                           

While there were some differences, I was chuckling to myself on performance day when I saw all the phones come out to record the performance and all the proud parents getting up from their seats to get the perfect shot.  Some things are the same in every culture.   Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ebola Casualties.....

I’ve written before about seeing the remnants of Ebola all around us.   The signs, the empty treatment units, etc.  Yesterday I felt the effect in yet another way.  During the peak of the crisis, several people from the States decided to help sponsor some kids who were orphaned by Ebola.  In an effort to keep them out of an orphanage, they were helping support the “foster families” that they were living with.  Yesterday Nicole (a girl from my home church who’s here for a year) and I went to go see how these kiddos were doing.

The first girl we met was 12 years old and was staying with a woman who used to be her neighbor.  We talked to the woman who explained that this little girl used to play with her children.  When the girls’ parents died, the girl was just walking around, didn’t have anywhere to go.  “I didn’t want to her straining, so I invited her to stay with us," she said.  The woman lives in house made from mud bricks.  There is no man in the home to help support she and the kiddos so she sells what she can to try and eek by.  

James is another boy that we met who lost both of his parents to Ebola.  He is an only child and actually had Ebola himself, but survived.  He is currently staying with his aunt and uncle, although the auntie is very sick. She miscarried and after the miscarriage she became very sick.  They eventually took her to a different province because “it wasn’t a hospital sick.”  (This means that they believe the sickness is from some kind of curse or witchcraft).  

Another boy that we went to visit wasn’t in the house because he was out selling cassava that his auntie had grown.  He needed Le5,000 (about $1) to get his report card from school and they didn’t have it.  He is one of seven children that his parents left behind when they both died of Ebola.  His older brothers have stopped going to school in an effort to work to help support the younger siblings.  The kids are all living with different relatives.

I knew the stories. I’ve read all the articles about the orphan crisis and I’ve even seen these kids’ particular photos and heard about their struggles.  But there was something in me that just broke when I came face to face with the devastation that Ebola caused.  Forever.  These kids’ lives are changed. Forever.  Even as I write this, I know that my words will fall short and there’s no way that I can communicate the pain that I saw yesterday.  

I know that pain during this holiday season is not relegated to Sierra Leone.  It's everywhere.  Every year it feels like I see more and more of how broken our world is.  In the same vein, I think this year, more than maybe any other in my life, I am thankful for the hope that we have in Christ.  This life isn't the end.  Thank you God, for Christmas!!

P.S.  If any of you are interested in helping one of these kiddos, we have four more in homes that are struggling to feed all the mouths.  If you'd be interested in making a one year commitment of $25 a month, we'd love to hear from you!  This money will help with school fees, food, and some other necessities.  You can FB message me or e-mail at   Thanks!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

First Thanksgiving

Yesterday a pastor from my home church returned home to the States with his family.  They were here for about a week and a half and the pastor taught at the Bible Institute that recently launched.  We have a group of 15 Sierra Leonean pastors, primarily from the provinces (far away from the capital city)   who come here for a week at a time to have their lectures.  This month the teacher was the pastor who married Peter and I.  He’s been coming to Sierra Leone for years and has such a passion for this place, particularly the pastors.  The stories that he would come back and tell were just so encouraging!  

This year  he brought his wife and two daughters which was awesome for our family!  There’s something refreshing about being in a foreign place but talking about familiar places with familiar people.  Their girls loved on my kids so well and Marie was OBSESSED with them!  The first thing she did when she woke up was to ask if she could go “see if they were awake.”  If left to her own devices, I would not have seen her the entire week.  So blessed when others pour into my kiddos!

Pastors at the seminar
This is my first "holiday season" I've spent in Sierra Leone so I was a little nervous about how I would do.  But we got to spend Thanksgiving with this family and about 30 other Americans at the beach.  So....I can't really complain. :)  (Although Marie still doesn't' think it can be close to Christmas because 'it's not even cold, Mom!)  

Mostly I was excited that I got to show off my mad cooking skills.  My personal favorite was on their last night when I decided to whip up a delicious peanut butter bar treat.  I was carrying it to the house for dinner when I realized that I forgot half of the recipe.  I had cooked brown sugar, white sugar, an egg and peanut butter in a 9x12 pan for 40 minutes (20 minutes longer than the recipe said because it just "kept looking mushy").  Oops. Forgot the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Yes. I did. But no big deal. I only had 20ish people waiting for it.  So......after I did my walk of shame and admitted what happened I put in all the missing ingredients, cooked it for ANOTHER 15 minutes was edible. Not great. But edible.  
The older "kids" playing a rousing card game after disastrous dessert!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!!! :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Homeschooling and Puppy Poop

I wrote this blog several days ago but I've delayed in posting it.  This is partly due to my contemplation over the events that occurred as well as....well, it's humbling.  Bordering on humiliating.  But here goes.  Be gentle. 

Yesterday Marie and I were doing our homeschooling and she became utterly frustrated by….something. I don’t even remember what it was right now.  She was in tears and at one point stomped her foot, and threw herself back in her chair because it was Just. So. Hard!!!  We took a little time out and talked about hard things.  We talked about rejoicing always and being thankful for things that are hard.  We talked about pressing on, not giving up when things are hard. And we talked about how important our attitudes are, especially when things are hard.  We prayed and thanked Jesus for hard things and asked that he would help Marie to have a good attitude, even when things are hard and that Jesus would give her a “happy heart.”  About 15 min. later Marie looked up and said, “Hey!!!  Look how happy I am now! Jesus changed my heart!!”

Today I literally banged my head against our white board during homeschooling.  Literally.  

There, I admitted it.

I did it. 

I'm not proud of it.  

It was a new homeschooling low.  Maybe a new life low.  

It all happened because I was at my WITS END about how to explain which number is “greatest.”  We’ve been working on it for weeks.  We've played games, used the white board, used animals, beans, dice, etc.  I gave up.  And to make it worse, Marie didn’t seem to really CARE about knowing which one was greatest.  She was more concerned about the owie on her foot, where the dog was, what was for lunch, and about 50 other things that had nothing to do with understanding that 34 is greater than 26. 

Well, shortly after the head banging incident (which still caught her off guard, even though she’s somewhat used to her Mama’s dramatics), Marie quietly looked up and said,

“Mama, are you frustrated?” 

“Yes Sweetie, I am.  I’m having a hard time teaching you this.”

 “Do you want me to pray for you that you won’t be frustrated and that God will give you a happy heart?”

Stunned pause.

“Yes, please.” 

So Marie prayed and then I prayed and thanked God for this “hard thing” that for me, is homeschooling.  In that moment I realized that this was the same thing that I had prayed for countless times while I was working at the hospital.  Thanking God for the “hard thing” of fighting what seemed to be a never ending uphill battle to save little kids’ lives.

My life is different than it once was.  Instead of spending my days trying to beat back the sting of death that seemed to hover over every bed in the hospital, I spend my days making sure my hubby and kiddos have clean clothes and nutritious meals and poop…..I seem to clean up a lot of poop.  (Not my hubby’s poop…..the smallest child and our new puppy).  The “hard” is different.   I send Peter out into the world and I stay home to keep the “home fires burning.”  It’s a new kind of hard for me.  But my daughter reminded me yesterday that the calling is the same.  To rejoice.  Always.  For everything.  Even puppy poop. Homeschooling is a "small, hard."  I've had "bigger hards."  Those are even harder to rejoice in.  One day maybe I'll have the "biggest hard."  But my prayer is that I will learn to say "thank you" in the "small, hards" so I will be ready when the "bigger hards" come.  

Yes the dog is wearing clothes.  That is my daughter.  With her daughter. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Road Trip!!

Last week Peter and I took our little fam on a whirlwind tour of Sierra Leone to meet and greet our friends and relatives.  Ok…worldwind might be a stretch.  We went to a couple different places.  But it felt like a whirlwind!! J

We started out by going to visit one of Peter’s sisters.  Marie was really shy because she’s forgotten her Krio so she couldn’t communicate.  She was afraid to say anything.  (This was something she’d been nervous about before we even got back to Sierra Leone).  We talked about the fact that it’s hard, but you just have to try.  Peter and I were chatting with his sister and Marie went to play with a bunch of the kids that were around.  I noticed that throughout our travelling, when she couldn’t communicate she would just initiate a game of tag. No words needed. J

Ben meeting some of his cousins
At one point I went to check on her and noticed that some of the bigger boys were pushing her around. She was trying to get away from them but they kept pushing her and she started swinging back at them.  The Mama Bear in me might have come out.  I yelled “Hey!  Stop that!”  They stopped immediately and I went to see what was going on.  When I got there the boys started complaining to me that Marie was “refusing” to speak Krio.  I deduced that they didn’t understand that she had forgotten the Krio.  They thought that she was just refusing to speak it because she’d just come from America and thought she was too good to speak it.  Poor kid!  I explained to them that it wasn’t that she didn’t WANT to speak it, but that she COULDN’T speak it and I needed them to help her learn again!  They seemed satisfied with that and Marie whispered a “thanks Mom” before she skipped off with some of the girls.  As she left I turned to the bigger boys and with a big smile on my face said that if I ever saw them pushing her around like that again I would “beat them a good good one.”  I laughed…..they laughed….but they got the point.  (Of course I wouldn’t really beat them, but that is the only punishment they know here and I wanted them to understand how serious I was).  It might not have been my best moment but….apparently I’m a little protective of this little girl. 

Peter found a guesthouse for us for the night with electricity, WARM showers and AC.  For 20 bucks!!  (We usually try to leave me at home when we’re going to talk price about anything.  Peter gets better deals.  And yes, hotel prices here are negotiable).  After getting to the room, the first thing I noticed was that Marie’s suitcase wasn’t there.  I knew exactly where it was.  Sitting in the doorway of her bedroom.  We were planning on being gone for a week!! Oops!  I washed the clothes she’d worn that day for tomorrow, gave her one of my shirts to sleep in and we adjusted our plans for the next day to include some shopping for “junks” (used clothing) before we headed farther up country.

That night we went to sleep to the sweet hum of the air conditioner.  At about 10pm the electricity turned off and so did our air conditioner.  When the electricity came back on, our air conditioner didn't.  We couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on so Peter went and asked the manager.  They came and turned it back on.  At about 2 am the electricity went off again and by 3 we were awake and sweltering.  The AC never came back on and when Peter went to talk to the manager he came back with the fans we’d brought instead of the manager.  Apparently there was no remote to our AC unit so the last time they’d borrowed our neighbor’s remote. But now  it was 3am and she was sleeping so they didn’t want to wake her up to ask to borrow her remote.  On our way back down we stayed in the same hotel but made sure to ask for a room that had an AC remote.  J

Marie and her new sister
The next day we headed up country to go visit the village that I used to work in.  I was really excited! On our way we stopped by Marie’s old village so she could see her biological family.  Marie’s Mom had a baby a couple months after I did so Marie’s been picking out things to bring for her new little sister. She was really excited to see her! 

Spending time with Marie’s biological family is always bittersweet for me.  It reminds me that while adoption is beautiful, it’s also born out of heartbreak. 
There’s just no way around it.  While I can’t imagine Marie not being a part of my life, I also recognize that ideally, she should still be living with her biological family.  It’s just hard.  This time was particularly hard because Marie couldn’t communicate with them.  They assumed that even if she couldn’t speak Krio she should at least be able to speak Temne (their tribal language) but she couldn’t.  They were frustrated. She was frustrated.  I felt horrible that I wasn’t more diligent about speaking Krio while we were in the States. I'd wanted her to work on her English and I knew she’d pick up the Krio again once we got back here but I didn’t think about the painful interim period.  Making sure she gets time with Sierra Leonean kiddos has become a HUGE priority to me now. Fortunately, Peter and I find it much more natural for the two of us to speak it in the house too.  Praying for quick language acquisition for my little one!

We continued on to our village and were so excited to get to spend time with so many of our friends.  I was really thankful that although Marie still couldn’t communicate well, she picked right up playing with the girls she used to play with in the village.  I’d been nervous about that, so it was a real blessing. 

After some of her friends went to school, Marie dolled herself up......with grapefruit peels
In a culture where giving birth is EXTREMELY important, people were thrilled to see that Peter and I  had procreated.  Our friend that introduced us was particularly excited to see Ben because apparently people had been giving her a hard time about setting us up.  Didn’t she know that there was something wrong with Peter because he was so old and had never had a child??? (I did get a couple anonymous texts about that while we were dating.  Talk about weird.)  And didn’t she know that white women don’t like to give birth!??!?!  We would be a disaster!!!  So…..people were very interested to see this impossible baby! J 

At one point I went to the hospital to see the people who were working.  It was fun to see the familiar faces, but it was also sad.  We are currently on day 25 of our 42 day countdown to being declared “Ebola Free.”  Aside from the markets still being  shut down on Sundays and the signposts everywhere talking about Ebola, life has, for the most part returned to normal here. 
As I walked around the hospital in which I’d spent countless hours and saw the Ebola isolation tent set up and signs all over discussing Ebola, my thoughts went to a movie series that I’ve watched many times called “Band of Brothers.” It’s about the 101st Airborne “Easy Company” in WWII.  There’s a part of the movie called “Bastogne” where the company is entrenched in this tree line waiting to take the next village. It’s freezing cold and they are constantly being bombarded by the enemy.  Men were dying from enemy fire or the various ailments and diseases that come from sleeping outside in freezing weather night after night.  After it was over one of the men in the company discussed the bond that these “brothers” had after going through that horrible experience together.  Men who had been wounded and in the hospital during that operation, or new recruits that came later were outsiders because they had missed that battle. That’s how I felt.  Like I wasn’t there for this important battle.  That the men and women I’d served alongside for years and had come to love had fought this Ebola battle….and I’d stayed away.  It was sobering. And it was sad.   
Ebola Isolation tent (empty now)

We spent a couple nights in the village and then headed to another area to visit some of Peter’s family. We had a good time with them and it was fun to see Marie playing with her cousins.   

Peter ended the trip with a great prize.  He hit a “bush fowl” while he was driving home and as soon as he did yelled, “I’m eating it!!!!”  He was very excited.  I was laughing as my hubby pulled over and scoured the nearby bush for his kill.  He was vicorious!  Never a dull moment on road trips in Salone!
Delicious Roadkill