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…