Saturday, November 26, 2011

St. George

St. George is a refuge for orphans and street children. When we arrived at St. George we were greeted by 12 beautiful smiling faces.  In June a mission team from our church had spend some time here doing bible studies and at that time there were quite a few more kids.  We found out that just a few weeks before our arrival in Sierra Leone most of these children had been placed in homes of family members or foster care. We hope and pray that this will bring the stability and security of a family that will mold them into the leaders their country needs.

While there the June team left funds that would supply rice until the end of this year, we got to deliver the November parcel.  We also brought t-shirts for these kids made by the children from our church, Memorial Baptist in Jefferson City, Missouri. 

These shirts said LOVED on the front, and on the back a hand print with different scriptures on them that teach us about love.  We pray that these children come to know they are loved!  Loved by a God who is the Father to the Fatherless and loved by a group of people from the other side of the world. They were so excited to have the hugs and greetings we brought with us. We also were able to leave some clothes, shoes and toys for these sweet children. They gathered together to share some of their heart breaking stories with us and sang for us with pure joy.  Their voices and smiles will be in our hearts for a long time to come.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Margaret's Kids

Chris had a list of people she had met and grown to love on her trip in May and through her I had grown anxious to meet all of them. Some of these people were Margret and her kids. The first time we went to the small house that they all call home Margret wasn’t there but most of the kids were. They were so excited to see that Chris had come back, and that I wanted to come and meet them.  Okay, these kids have got to be the best group around. The way they, work together, live together, take care of one another is beyond any group of siblings I have ever encountered.  When we arrived several kids were on the porch of the little house and upon hearing the commotion more appeared.  I was quickly embraced as an old friend and ushered into the home for a tour.  People so proud of the little they have and excited to invite me to see and experience it with them. Shortly after introductions and the tour of the area I was whisked away by some of the boys beckoning me to play football with them.  It sure didn’t take long for them to latch onto me like we had met many times before.  So there I am, first day in Africa, playing football (soccer) with a group of half barefoot boys on a rocky patch of ground.  Boys filled with so much joy as they play together one would never guess or imagine what they have been through and what their eyes have seen.  These kids live with greater hope and joy than most of the people I will ever meet.  We sometimes hesitate to share their hard stories, please don't focus on where they came from, but the Hope of Jesus that lives in their hearts and smiles.

Peter was also with the kids
found in 2004 first taken in
by Margaret.
His favorite football team is

Hawa was small when rebels invaded
and killed her mother, In 2004 she
was among the 15 children found in
an old building that Margaret took in.

Martin was found in a trash heap.
He has multiple disabilities and cannot speak.
He unfortunately has been in alot of pain
and suffering lately, but this letter
from a little girl named Abigail,
It made him so happy! He was smiling!

Issac's parents were killed in the war
He was abandoned by an aunt
at a junction in the road.
He loves math & soccer!

Chris and I had brought letters for these orphans from the Children’s ministry at Memorial.  We were also able to give some clothes and shoes that were sent with us. The next day we returned and delivered these simple letters and gifts, they brought so much joy and appreciation to these kids who were excited to hear that someone on the other side of the world was thinking about and praying for them. The truth is these children are the ones who can share with all of us lessons of God’s love, goodness, peace and faithfulness. Chris and I have resolved to get to know these kids, their faces and names. So that next time we see them, when Peter or Joseph run up to me with a ball asking to play, I will be able to call them by name.   

Mariama was so proud of
these new cute shoes!

All these boys are wonderful. Omaru in the middle
is amazing,  it is his main responsibility
to care for Martin!

To be known and loved! Yeama

Picking teams for football,
I'm Justin, the one with the nice shoes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks for Margaret!

In this week of Thanksgiving, we remember and thank the Lord for the things we are grateful for. Justin and I would like to give thanks for Sweet Margaret Tucker and would like to tell you why. So many of us in the same situation may have hardened our hearts and turned our back on a God who may seem to take away the things and people we love the most.  Margaret will tell you that she gives thanks to and serves an almighty God that provides for her every need and loves without limits. 
In 1992 Margaret and her husband were living in the Kono District, in eastern Sierra Leone when rebels invaded the area.  They fled and settled in Freetown, living life with their 4 children until everything changed January 10, 1999.  Rebels stormed the city that day leaving hundreds dead.  One of Margaret’s neighbors ran to find her during the attack to say that Margaret’s husband had been killed.  Margaret gathered her children and ran into the bush to hide.  Unfortunately Margaret never got to say good-bye to her husband or even see his body.  She and many others made their way to Grafton Village outside of Freetown where hundreds of people were being set up in displaced camps.
Margaret was approached by an old priest Reverend Father Berton in 2004 about taking in 15 children that were alone sleeping in an old building.  He offered to raise funds to help feed and house them.  In 2005, the Father brought a severely handicapped boy to Margaret, they named him Martin. He had been discarded in a heap of trash. Father Berton passed away leaving Margaret with no official or consistent funding since. Margaret has continued serving the Lord by loving on His children with open arms to this day. One of her youngest girls was found wandering the streets just this year.
In addition to protecting and caring for these precious children, Margaret leads a large group of fellow war widows.  There are 85 families that have joined together, hand in hand in support and love.  She leads a bible study with these ladies weekly and together they work a farm and participate in skills workshops that provide some amount of food and money for their families. Projects including sewing, soap making, and jewelry production.   
Margaret and her Widows
For the last year Margaret and her widow families have been receiving food parcels with the Restore Hope Project, these food distributions will come to an end after November 2011.  Margaret will be forced to once again beg for help in caring for the children.
In an earlier post, I shared about Margaret.  In May of this year I was introduced to Margaret and her children by Tom and Becky Brockelman, (see their blog listing on the right) missionaries from Texas, that live walking distance from her, in this case loving their neighbor is easy.  While I was with her in May, on Mother’s Day Margaret took in a newborn baby whose teen mother died from childbirth complications.  A short time after our June team returned home, this sweet baby passed away.  Here is a link to those blog entries, if you want to read them.

With the gracious donations of the Sierra Leone Association of Jefferson City, Missouri (a local group of Sierra Leoneans who have a heart to help people in their country thrive) and a family from our church, Memorial Baptist.  All of the fees for these children to attend school, and even skills training & continuing college education for the oldest of Margaret’s crew have been provided for this year. Praise the Lord! These children are bright, driven and have hearts that seek after the Lord.  Investing in the education of these and other children will shape the future leaders and the direction of the entire country.
Also through 2011 mission teams from McKinney, Texas and Jefferson City, Missouri this year we have been able to provide among other things roof repairs, medical attention, beds, clothes, love and support for Margaret’s group.  We join Tom and Becky with hearts to walk along side Margaret and her children and see them prosper and grow in both physical and spiritual health.

In our next blog we will tell you about these wonderful children! Would you like to meet Margaret or help her is some way? You can! Our church will be taking two teams to Sierra Leone this year, April & June.  Ask me about details, but the truth is God has all the details worked out for His own Glory, we just need to surrender a willing heart.
Thank you to our friend Michelle & her girls,
who made these head bands for these beautiful ladies,
each one handmade, loved on and prayed for.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hand & Hand Two Views on the Same Road

Quite an interesting adventure to be able to share together! Day one was a different day for the two of us, I had been anticipating my reunion with these people I had grown to love and adore. It almost felt like I was packing for home when packing for this journey but, this was Justin's first day in a new place absorbing all that was going on around us. I completely forgot that it took me days, weeks, months to process my thoughts and feeling about my first experiences here.  Honestly and selfishly, I was frustrated when he simply seemed to have nothing to say. I felt the urge to start pointing out things around us, do you see that? do you know how they survive? I wanted to pick his brain, what was he thinking? How did he feel? Does this wife -husband conversation sound familiar to anyone else? Seemed like I started to forget who he was and how God designed him. (on day 1! Funny thing is- if you know Justin, he is slow to speak and really works through his thoughts before he shares them. And then when his heart is on fire about something, he has no problem letting you know about it! I realized quickly that he needed time before he could talk to me about it and I needed more of his "slow to speak" qualities.) Truly, what I wanted was for Justin to have his own experiences with God here and I needed to let him be and not start bombarding him to talk about this thoughts or feelings.

Chris Journal entry day one:
Woke up to the sound of Africa today! Chickens, people walking and talking on the road and children hurrying off to school.  At the first sound of his voice I ran down to greet and hug the neck of Hassan, one of the guards for Tom and Becky! I love that sweet man! Justin went with Tom to work at the Hope Center while I stayed home with Becky and we visited.  I so enjoyed my time with her, getting all caught up on what was going on in the different ministries here and talking about possibilities for what our mission teams could be doing while here next year. I also got to spend all day with her little Mohamed who is currently their official foster child.  The June team from our church nicknamed him Bobo, which means boy in Creole. After they left he wasn't sure if he liked that name but agreed that it was ok, and Becky now calls him Bo. He refers to himself as Mohamed the bobo, Mohamed the boy and how quickly you can fall in love with him.  He was a street child living alone on the Streets of Waterloo when Tom and Becky met him and in July of this year he came to live with them.  I adore him, he decided that he wanted to call me Auntie Christine.  His smile brings pure joy to my heart. After Justin and Tom returned we walked down to Margaret's House.  (Margaret is amazing and cares for 27 orphans, we will share more about her and her kids heartbreaking, HOPE filled story in the next blog entry) I sat on Margaret's porch just loving on those sweet children, I'm so glad I'm here. I'm so glad they have a home and are able to attend school! I told them that I had gifts for them that I would bring back tomorrow but they seemed just as grateful to see me and meet Justin as any gift. One of the girls said to me "I am so happy you remember us and came back" I pray that I don't forget! How easy it is to "live" life and go on as if these children and thousands just like them aren't suffering. The boys (including Mohamed) grabbed Justin and ran off to play football, he was covered in sweat and smiling boys by the time we walked back to the house. Justin was very quiet today, I struggle to remember my first day here back in May. He's not ready to talk about it yet, (be still Chris, it's only the first day.)

Football time!

Justin Journal entry day one:
 So, today was the first full day of this journey. This morning i got a glimpse of the amount of people living in conditions that seem cruel and i find it is unable to be captured by my words.  So many things going in my head and I don't know what to write.  Like children being abandon on the corner, children sleeping in the street and the rain pouring down, us living in excess while others must struggle to survive. Then there are my selfish thoughts like I miss my kids, and why don't I instantly feel as crushed as Chris did when she first came, what is wrong with me.  So I pray and I pray and I pray...

 then I read the stories of the orphans at Margaret's and realize that when the war was going on most of the kids were the ages of mine when their parents died and they were left to fend for themselves. Kids 2,3,4,5,6 years old with no one to care for them, no one to answer their cries in a place that is inhospitable to begin with! then war and death are all around them, then I relate that to my kids and how they would respond to those situations and how that would effect them and then, I start to feel. 
 I am reminded that we share an image. The image of a mighty creator who has a way of living that is best  (live a life of love, eph 5:2)  and if we were to live in that way, life for all would be full.  So I pray and I pray not always knowing what to say buy understanding that, God is.
It is one thing to view a life, even to be told about their story. But a whole other thing to walk hand in hand with that life and become a part of their story and have them become part of yours. It changes you, your perception of what is important and changes how you love.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Our crazy journey continues...

My husband and I just returned from an amazing trip to the Continent of Africa! We have some incredible stories to share with you! Hopefully, over the next weeks we will be able to get most of these stories into words on my blog! So, hold on tight for a glimpse into what we experienced God doing in and around the people of Africa and how that has changed us.  Justin will be joining me on my blog for a while to help share our stories.

We set out for our adventure Nov. 1st, with this picture of our four kids fresh in our minds from the night before. 

(Our kids with Chris's mom, trick-or-treating)
We have some awesome children! (but, we're a little partial)
We sent 2 hesitant boys on their way to school and a wonderful friend came to pick up our 3 year old son Levi for the day.  Then off we went (we thought) as quick as we could to Jeremy & Erin’s house close to the St. Louis airport. Our brother and sister-in-law were willing to not only take us to the airport but also adopt our precious Baby Bel for the next few weeks.

A slowing lesson for Chris:
“Off we went” didn’t quite happen quickly… all morning the Lord was reminding me that my timeline plans and His timeline plans sometimes are not the same.  We left the house about 3 times, each time forgetting to leave or take something. My "quick" run into walmart was thwarted by a number of incidents including, a older gentleman playing for his newspaper and donut in nickles.  I stood behind him outwardly looking pleasant and quiet but on the inside I was screaming "Ahhh! Really?"  I felt a quiet ah... come over me as the Lord whispered "Calm down, Chris, no hurry."  and I actually laughed at my self realization that I'm on a mission to love where ever I am at, even the walmart checkout line and this sweet man, was a blessing. I smiled at the gentlemen as he turned and gave me a funny look after he heard me giggle. We got on the road with Ms. Bel headed to StL and Justin laughed out loud, loudly! at my walmart story.
Erin and her girls greeted us at the curb and rushed us off to the Airport. With hugs and kisses from my baby (& a 'Be Love' from Erin) we were off. Peace is such a wonderful gift! The Lord granted His gift of peace in my heart and our first flight seemed quick and quiet. I am so grateful for the friends and family that the Lord provided to care for our children while we were going to be gone. I spent the first flight reflecting on and reading my journal from my May Trip to Sierra Leone. The page where I wrote this scripture speaks straight to my heart again and again.
Luke 10:42 Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.

We flew from London to Sierra Leone. We landed in Sierra Leone about 8pm.  After we got our bags we headed out the door to the water taxi unfortunately things took a strange turn. I walked up to the counter and a man stopped me at the curb, kind of swindled us on to the wrong water taxi.  What an ordeal.  Long story short after things got worked out we ended up missing our water taxi and had to charter a boat to come pick us up. 
So...paid the extra $$$, hopped in a 'tiny' boat across the bay in the dark!
(Did I tell you it was raining?) phew... finally got picked up by our wonderful missionary friends and tucked into bed! Thank you Lord!
Breathe... He has a plan, and we are along for a delightful crazy ride…

Monday, August 22, 2011

Exciting News!

Have you ever experienced something so great, so incredible that one of the first things you think to yourself is "I've got to share this with someone!"

I just asked my husband this question and his reply was:
"The meatloaf at Farmer's Gastropub! in Springfield, MO. It's FANTASTIC!"
and "Oh yes, my first espresso at Coffee Ethic, also in Springfield. It's divine, you need to try it!
and Skydiving!"

Well that crazy husband of mine is one of kind. I adore him, in all his strangeness. This November 8th will be our 9th Wedding anniversary. It seems like I've been in love with him for so long that I can't remember what life was like without him & that is a blessing!

Well, I'm so excited to say that during our anniversary this year we will be in
... Africa, ... together!
I knew after my first day in Sierra Leone that I wanted to someday be able to share it with him: this amazing country and its beautiful people. God has crazy blessed my life! I feel humbled by the outpouring of grace and love the Lord lavishes on me.

Please be in prayer for this trip, that the Lord would bless it and our time there. That every detail will be taken care of and our four young children would be safe and well loved while we are gone. I will be sharing more details soon. I can't wait to get back to Africa and love on those people! and to be able to be there with my best friend!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sierra Dolls

Before I left for Sierra Leone I made a few dolls
for some beloved people who helped send me on this life changing trip.  For some of their young daughters I made a doll named Sierra, as a reminder to pray for the little girls of this country.  And for the little girls of Sierra Leone, I made dolls who were named for the wonderful families and generous friends who gave me the chance to meet and love on these precious little girls. When I tuck my daughter Isabel in at night and see her hug her doll named Sierra, I think about these sweet faces.  I wasn't able to get a picture of every little girl who I have a doll to, but I pray for all of them, that they would receive a loving hug when they need comfort even if its only from a doll. I pray they will know someone loves them and cares for them.  And that one day they will come to the knowledge that there is only one we can truly hold on to.
One who will never leave or turn their back on them, it is the Lord. 

Reality in Sierra Leone may mean that only some of the girls got to keep their doll.  It could have been stolen, taken and sold for food or lost.  Funny thing about gifts, once you gift it... it's no longer yours.  Actually, when you consider that everything is the Lord's, it wasn't even yours in the first place, you were just caring for it, for a time. You don't get to be the boss of how it is accepted, loved, used or kept.  The Lord knows the answers to all of our how's, where's and why's, all we need to do is trust, be obedient and give when He says to. And if these little dolls fulfilled their purpose in being placed in the hands of these little girls (no matter what the bigger plan was) I am so grateful for the chance I was given to give them. My heart does hope, that most of the girls get to have her to hug on when they need one. I can't imagine life for a little girl living in the hardest parts of this country. 

 I made a video dedicated to the lovely little girls and women of Sierra Leone. If you haven't seen it yet, and would like to, it is in my video tab or you can click this link: (if you can find the time to watch and listen please do, I feel it says what my words cannot)
Life is a gift.    
I gave baby doll Shelby to precious baby Rebecca.  Baby Rebecca was born and orphaned while I was in Sierra Leone.  I held this sweet gift on Mothers Day this year. And she returned to the Lord a few weeks ago. My heart broke when I heard the news.  I remember holding her, laying my hand on her sweet little head whispering a prayer over her. I thanked the Lord for her sweet life.  And I still do.  Sweet baby Rebecca had a short but loved life here on earth. Her story has impacted mine and now, she has impacted yours. 

I haven't been able to watch the video I had made since her death, until today. My heart longs for hope for these beautiful children.

My husband & I were talking about death this weekend and he said this to me:

"We are all just a pile of dry bones without the breath of God."

I feel like I take so much for granted, forgetting to thank Him for His Breath.

Everyday, every person, every moment is a gift.
(I'll leave you with my thought from above)

Funny thing about gifts, once you gift it... it's no longer yours.  Actually, when you consider that everything is the Lord's, it wasn't even yours in the first place, you were just caring for it, for a time. You don't get to be the boss of how it is accepted, loved, used or kept.  The Lord knows the answers to all of our how's, where's and why's, all we need to do is trust, be obedient and give when He says to.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Meeting Mohamed

They tell you that you can change the life of a child by sponsoring them with just your pocket change, but the truth is sponsoring this child has changed mine. When I received my packet of information about this child, it came with a picture of him with a very serious face. I like this one a lot better! My paper work told me his name, how he became orphaned and that for just a $1.23 a day I could provide sufficient food and medical care needed for survival and clothing & everything he needs to attend school. Hard to believe isn't it! I was excited about helping this child and that he would become important to my family, but the words on that sheet of paper didn't have any reality or breath to me, until May 10, 2011 when I met this sweet child for the first time.

Becky (one of the amazing Missionaries we came to serve along side-her blog is listed my blog list on the right) informed me that my sponsored child lived quite a distance from where we were located and how much it would cost for the Pastor to bring him to meet me. I instantly I felt guilty about having him come, my first thought was to just send the family pictures and few gifts I had brought for him with the money we would spend on travel so that it could bless the family taking care of him. After some prayer and heart searching I just felt like the Lord said "Relationship" relationships are what its all about. Becky graciously made the plans for him to come and met us. I am SO grateful! and SO glad we got the chance to meet. What a wonderful opportunity it was to meet this wonderful child!

Little Mohamed and Pastor Sahr came late that Tuesday morning after traveling almost 5 hours one way, public transport. Wow! I still can't believe it. He was wearing the same shirt he had on, in the picture that was sent to me with his packet, no doubt the best shirt he had. As I hugged his neck for the first time I could see all the holes and tears on the collar that you can't see from the front. I wonder what that poor child was thinking with this crazy woman hugging him to death! (Have I mentioned that 'crazy' in creole sounds like Chris). We sat down at the table and fed them, after all they had been on the road a very long time. At first I spoke mostly to Pastor, asking him questions while they both ate. When he was almost done eating I gave him a couple cookies for dessert, but he was more interested in the fresh pineapple. Pastor told me that further in country were they live Pineapple is expensive and more of a luxury, that it was maybe only the 4th or 5th time all year that he himself has had some, so little Mohamed might have not had any at all. Well, he ate every bite and pocketed the cookies for later!

His parents died in an accident over two years ago, he and his little brother live together with his Auntie (a friend of their mother's). She has two of her own children but somehow cares for two more. They all live in one room, of a 7 room house with 6 other families. There is a well they get to share, and his auntie sells water for money for them to survive.

He showed me how he could write by copying an information sheet about himself that the pastor had. He enjoyed writing for me, although he couldn't read all of what he was writing. He said math was his favorite in school and he then started writing out some math problems for me to solve (now, I'm sure all my close friends are wondering if I could do them, HA!) I did, and he checked my work with a check mark & a "very good" just like the teacher does at his school, so funny! I asked "what else he liked?" I wanted to get as much info as I could about who he was and what he like to do-- as much as I could learn. Pastor asked him and he said he liked motorbikes, I was so excited. Little did this child know that my boys had picked out and sent two little motorcycle toys for him to take home. I said "Oh, I have something for you!" and went into the other room to get them. As I type this, I can't stop crying! How amazing it is, that the Lord had that little blessing in His plans.

His smile is amazing and he would answer my questions with the raise of his eyebrows, so cute! He had no problem learning how to use my itouch and take pictures with my camera. He loved taking his own pictures! He took these below.

Pastor Sahr & his wife care for over 20 orphans in their own home awaiting caretaker families.

I showed him where Missouri was on this globe, Jefferson City was even marked on it! And I drew a line with my finger to show him how I traveled to come see him.

We went outside to visit & play. I told him each of our names, pointing to our family pictures that I brought for him and that we think of him as family, pray for him everyday, that we love him and that God loves him more! Before he left, he called me Mama Chris which is how I introduced us in the pictures - Mama Chris, Papa Justin, Zeke, Gideon, Levi, & little sister Isabel (now that could translate to Crazy Mama I guess, and he probably thought I was crazy -I'm sure he hadn't been hugged on so much in years!) I don't know who may be reading this, but if you know me at all; you know I would bring this precious boy (and his little brother) home with me in a heartbeat. As of right now, I can't but I can help him this way. For the cost of eating out at our favorite restaurant on a Sunday afternoon we can make sure that this boy is given the chance to have a bright future. Now, for us is that even a sacrifice? It is so WORTH it! Every penny, even if it was my last one.

We were able to send home with him and Pastor snacks for their long journey home and a small bag of goodies (clothes, underwear, socks, jump rope & frisbee) for him, his brother and the giving family who cares for them both. He instantly took off his "nice" tennis shoes and put on the flip flops I gave him. I was also able to send money so that Pastor could buy the family a bag of rice (that will help feed them for a month).

Mohamed was so happy that I came all the way to Sierra Leone and wanted to meet him and so am I. We hope and pray that he will know that he is treasured by our family. I feel so very blessed to be allowed to be a part of his life :)
Before leaving for Africa my awesome husband helped our children put their hand prints in my journal. This is where I kept my thoughts, happenings and prayers during my trip. I showed Mohamed all four of my children's hand prints and then we added his hand to the page where I wrote about our day together. He wrote his name at the top. I might not have had pretty paints like my husband did, but Mohamed's page is just as beautiful to me as the rest.

If you have ever considered orphan sponsorship, or feel like its something you might be interested in, I encourage you to check into it. You don't have to fly across the world to change the life of a child. With what we consider a very small amount of money you can make a huge difference in the life of someone who desperately needs it. A letter and a picture of a person who wants to help them thrive, will leave an amazing smile on the face of a child and a lasting knowledge in their heart that they have value and that there is someone out who cares.

There are children right now waiting for a sponsor.
Maybe one is waiting ... for you.

Mohamed waving Hi!
Funny story: Right before he left that day, Ms. Becky gave him something and he didn't say anything in return, I tapped him on the shoulder and said "you say tankee" (which is how they say thank you). Pastor Sahr thought that was so funny. I told him, "Sorry, I can't help it. I'm a Mama".

I started the post on the date at the top, and just finished it today July 12th, 2011. I can't figure out how to change the date (sorry this took me so long to finish! Bless you for reading!)