The Sierra Leone Chronicles (Part 2)

slums.jpg February 12 (Sierra Leone, Day 2)

It is 1 a.m. Saturday morning in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Rick and I have arrived at the guest house after a very, very long and tiring series of flights, an unsettling ferry ride across the bay (a ferry the U.S. State Department insists that foreigners not use because it is unsafe, but which our host insisted was safe!), and a taxi cab ride to the east side of Freetown.  Cab rides in developing countries are always… exciting.

I am both physically shredded from the trip, as well as emotionally exhausted after talking with Leslie and Owen on the satellite phone for a few minutes.  I have only 50 minutes worth of talk-time that needs to be spread over 18 days.  The first few days are always the worst on trips like this.  The days move slowly because everything is new and there is no routine, and the heartbreak of being away from my family is so fresh.

But I’ve also felt a homesickness from the Lord lately, and am very hopeful that this time will be used to draw me back to him.  I am so thankful for safe travel, for a competent travel partner, for kind hosts (Simon is terrific) and for our faithful God.

February 13 (Sierra Leone, Day 3)

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I am ready for our first day in Freetown.  The rooms we have are very hot and the town is unbelievably noisy, but we’ll make do.  Hopefully we’ll be tired enough that we’ll continue to sleep soundly despite the heat and noise.  The showers don’t really work, however, so things may get ripe fairly quickly!

A granola bar and 1 Timothy 1 are powering me into the morning.  I have re-memorized 1 Tim. 1:12-17 this morning:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is so true of me.  I need to get back into the habit of reciting this every morning before I get out of bed.  May God be glorified as he sets his example in me!

It is now just after 5pm and our day in Sierra Leone is over.  Not having things happening in the evening makes this very different from any mission experience I’ve had before.  It’s both a blessing and a curse: The blessing is that I never have this kind of time to rest and read and pray in my daily routine back home. The curse is that these hours feel lonely.  My family is a quarter of the way around the world.  Rick is in another room, and our host is home with his family.  But I need to keep things in perspective.  This time to rest and read is a gift.  The fact that I rarely have to be without my family is a gift.  That we have a safe place to stay with water and food and clean beds is an unspeakable gift amidst the abject poverty we have seen today.  When the power is on (from about 8pm to 2am) we even have sporadic air conditioning or a fan! An amazing gift!  The shower doesn’t work.  So what?!  I get to take a shower every day at home. Sometimes twice or three times a day!  My comparative wealth, I hope, is not lost on me here.

We drove clear across the city today and ended up at the Evangelical College of Theology, where our host, Simon, went to school.  We ate fried chicken with the principal, Rev. Conteh, saw the classrooms and library, and heard their vision for the school.  It is a wonderful school, with 250 students and 25 part- and full-time faculty who struggle to do their best with no IT and a very small (but solid!) library.

In some ways it’s disheartening to know how comparatively small their needs really are and how easily they could be met by people in my church.  Simon can’t work on his master’s degree yet because he needs $3,000.  The school is looking for $12,000 for an IT building and 50 computers.  People at NHC could write those checks in their sleep.  How can people be awakened to the reality of the need and the reality of our incredible abundance?  How can I seriously think about home improvements back home when I weigh building a new deck against aiding a Bible College in Africa that has a wonderful vision, but vastly insufficient funds?

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2 thoughts on “The Sierra Leone Chronicles (Part 2)”

  1. I’m looking forward to the rest of this “series.”

    “People at NHC could write those checks in their sleep. How can people be awakened to the reality of the need and the reality of our incredible abundance? How can I seriously think about home improvements back home when I weigh building a new deck against aiding a Bible College in Africa that has a wonderful vision, but vastly insufficient funds?”

    Along these lines, have you had a chance to read When Helping Hurts yet? Both that book and the above excerpt make me wonder (actually, more like conclude) if the American Church needs to deeply rethink the short-term mission (STM) model. As you just made clear here, the cost of sending a team of, say, a dozen people overseas for a week would do wonders for providing the very real and immediate needs of the local churches and ministries in the third world to which we send those STM teams. Even the generally useful, well-thought out, and purposed STMs could be better invested as money sent directly to a needy church or mission organization overseas. Of course, just sending money doesn’t help us pat ourselves on the back as much as going and seeing the poverty firsthand and getting our hands dirty. What we (the American church) probably need to do is limit STM trips to those like you took, ones that require direct personal involvement and not just funding. As the authors of When Helping Hurts say, we should be willing to ask if our presence is helpful and if there are local Christians who would be better at serving the needs in question.

    On the flip side, just sending money indiscriminately can also be detrimental, as it can undermine the responsibility and Biblical right for a local community of believers to provide for felt needs before an outside group does.

  2. Friend,

    Welcome home. It has been a gift to read of your journey, thank you for sharing.

    Some very dear friends of mine (aka – “The Great Upset”) are performing March 24 and 25. If you’d like to pass an invite to any peeps you think might be interested, all the support would be warmly welcomed. And if you have not yet checked out their stuff you should, it’s pretty rad to say the least.

    All details can be found at http://www.thegreatupset.com

    Again, thank you for sharing your series with us. We are blessed.

    Your friend,
    Brianna.

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