Monday, May 26, 2014

A Birthday Party for Ibrahim Jr.

Sunday night we were invited to a birthday party for the son of our good friend Abraham. 
His little guy is adorable!! 

We got home well after dark and the kids were worn out! 
Now, I enjoy planning a birthday party but whoa!!! 
I've never been to a party with so many children! (and they told me it was a small party!!)
Sierra Leoneans celebrate! 
I asked the kids to tell you about the party. So much fun! We were thankful we were able to be there. 

Gideon "There were A LOT of kids! There was loud music and people dancing and orange soda!!!
There was really spicy rice and I liked it! We got a juice drink, cookies, a sucker and popcorn in a treat bag!!"

Levi "I liked the food. We ate rice, chicken and meat pies and a crisp thing.  I kind of liked the music but didn't dance. But Jedi was dancing." 

Zeke "It was really fun but noisy. I liked the orange soda. We tried the food and I was the only one who didn't like it. Everyone was very friendly and asked me my name."

Isabel "They had a pretty cake for Junior with a candle. He is 3 years old.
I gave him glow sticks for a present. I helped him cut his cake. Everybody clapped. 

A post by Isabel

Saturday daddy was fixing auntie margerets roof because there were lots of holes and it would rain on them when they tried to sleep. 

They boys were playing football with Baka & John. John likes to hold my hand and take of me. We played duck duck goose and had fun. 
Duck duck Goose 

The girls don't have a shower they had to wash behind the kitchen with a bucket. They are building a bathroom but it's not done yet. We have two bathrooms in our Africa house. It makes me happy that they will have a bathroom. 

Yeama wants to braid my hair. 
We had to walk a long way to find a taxi to get home. We saw lots of people and motorcycles. 
It was Margaret's Birthday, I told her happy birthday and gave her a hug.
4 years old 

Friday, May 23, 2014

What is it like?

Today we went into Freetown to run a few errands including picking up our missing bag from the airline. (Yay!) It was dark when we arrived last weekend so this was first time the kids would see the city. 

We bought groundnuts through the car window for a snack, shopped for bowls & rice plates in the street side markets, as well as mangos, pineapples and vegetables.  We had (really good) pizza at a nice restaurant for lunch. 

We went grocery shopping for eggs, butter, etc and my cereal loving Gideon pleaded for a box in vain. 

This is was a $39,900 box of a Honeycombs looks like! (Well...$9 US but still....) Whoa. 
We had two car sick kiddos today so now we know who to give the anti-motion sickness meds to next time! (Poor Gid & Levi).
So, What does everyday life look like here for the Durens? Well, in some ways life looks a lot like it does for us in the states. Every morning my awesome husband gets up early and heads out to work. 

Instead of working is normal construction job, he has been working construction at a school for special needs children and on a toilet system for Margaret's kids. After a long hard day of work he returns home for dinner and to a house full of people ready for his attention and love. My job is the same as at home- our crazy crew! The kids and I are starting to get into a regular routine. They do their reading, activities and school work everyday. They write and draw in their journals. We clean, cook, do laundry, and clean some more. The apartment where we are staying has solar power so we are able to have electricity during the day, an amazing blessing! I look forward to our kids getting to know Margaret's kids well. I am thankful and humbled that we are being allowed this opportunity. We are blessed with much! Many friends and loved ones have given to help us be here. 
We are safe and well taken care of. Thank you! 
We have been very comfortable eating the American food we are used to but next week our Auntie Doris will cook a couple local meals for us. (I'll let you know how that goes!) Justin is the most excited about that. If you know us well you know that I'm NOT an adventurous eater, but I do love that groundnut stew!! 
The kids have all been happy and well. They each have their comfort items and were loved on by notes from some wonderful people who are very important to them at home. **Huge thank you!!! You know who you are :)
They play ball outside, get excited when they see lizards, and get to watch movies on the tv that is in the apartment. Our home is the second floor of a center where people come for community development and educational classes. There are plenty of new people to meet and their starting to learn a few Krio words. The kids miss their little dog Sally who is at home being cared for by Aunt Jessica but there is a dog here named Dennis, Isabel loves him.
It's hot during the day and has been raining at night, every time I hear the thunder I can't help think about our Waterloo street boys and others who don't have a roof to sleep under or a bed for that matter.
It's hard to believe we just arrived on Saturday night, it feels like we have been here so much longer and yet time feels like it is flying- how can that be? 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Our kids meet Margaret

This is my friend Margaret snuggling my little Jedidiah as he napped. She was overjoyed to see us approach her home and took every opportunity to love on him from the moment we arrived.  I first met Margaret back in 2011 during my first Sierra Leone trip. Many things have changed and The Lord continues to bless as she cares for her wonderful group of orphans. If you are a new reader or do not know about Margaret, here is a link to an older post about her story.
Watching my crew run and play with the children felt like a dream. 

What a joy is was to hear Isabel talk about John holding her hand, knowing that in her short 4 years I have left her 4 times to be here and this time we were able to all love on these children together. 

This is Abubakar, this guy reminds me the most of my Gideon. I adore him! I laughed when I told him to keep Gideon out of trouble when they ran off to play. 

The kids visited, and pumped water from the well. Isabel & I sat in the older girls room as they showed her where the slept and how the 6 of them share it.
I imagine what will remain closest to my heart about their first encounters at Margaret's would be watching two neighbors of Margaret, both widows themselves at the well with Levi & Isabel. The kids had been playing hard and were sweaty & dirty. These two women took my children to the well and washed their hands and feet. On the way home Isabel said to me "Mommy, the lady washed my feet! She was nice." So, not wanting them to miss this teaching moment- this teary eyed mom started to say... "Yes! I saw, just like..." And Levi interrupted me with one sweet quiet word. "Jesus," 
(He hadn't missed a thing.)
Praying we all seek more and more to be like Jesus.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A note from Levi

A note from Levi: 
My favorite parts of traveling to Africa were--
Eating a donut in Paris! 
Flying through the clouds. 
The kids meals on the plane, they gave me a special kid pack with toys and finger puppets! 
Ms. Kari made me a journey to write in!
I love it! 
I drew pictures of what I packed for my trip, my monkey and froggy and my Brianna pillow & blanket. 
This is the Airplane we flew through the clouds on.  
I like my house here in Africa, we have a tv and mom brought all our favorite movies. I share a room with Zeke. It rained hard today! I like it, it sounds like a waterfall. 
Levi (5 yrs old)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gideon's first day!

The last thing I remember was I fell asleep on the airplane, then I woke up this morning in my new bed. I must have sleep walked though the airport!! Today mommy unpacked all our bags and got the house ready. 
I rode my first motorcycle today! They call it an okata- it is kind of like a taxi. Dad and I got on one today! We went to Mr. Tom's house and saw our friend Bo! We also went to Auntie Margaret house and met her kids. I was a little nervous but they were super friendly and smiley. On our ride back I saw lots of chickens and dogs. Tonight I prayed and thanked God for getting us here to Africa safely. And mom made spaghetti for dinner and it was delicious!!!   
7 years

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Over the ocean

This is what most of our flight to Paris looked like...
And the happy morning smiles at wake up time! 

Then after riding two buses to get to our terminal (wow- good job kids) we found this awesome kids play place outside our gate! 

Just awesome!!! We'll board our last plane for Sierra Leone in a few hours!! We are looking forward to seeing Justin tonight!!! Yay!

Friday, May 16, 2014

First plane ride!

Thumbs up! First plane ride was awesome and exciting! I am having so much fun. We are in Chicago. Isabel thought people spoke a different language here, but I told her we are just in another state! Silly girl--

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We will wait!

We will wait...
Levi was just practicing his writing, how appropriate! 

As many of you know, our journey was supposed to start yesterday but because of some complications and a fire in the airport in Chicago our flight was cancelled. 
What a lesson in patience and waiting! 
We had an amazingly good day!
I can't remember the amount of people who said to me "your children are so good!".
And they were! 
The Lord was watching over us!
We had terrific friends helping us!
We had all kinds of activities and snacks with us because of the generosity and graciousness of loved ones. 
We all came home disappointed but ultimately know that yesterday was a good lesson in the question of "why?"
Life gives us lots of why's ...
Why do hard things happen?
Why do people get grumpy when things don't go their way? 
(We saw A LOT of that!)
Why did hundreds of people die in a mine explosion in Turkey yesterday? 
Why do some people go hungry? 
Some die of sickness? 
Why did those poor nigerian girls get kidnapped? 
The good lesson to all of us that maybe we don't need to know the answers to all our questions sometimes we just need to know we are loved, we are not alone and we are blessed! 
Crazy blessed!! 
We can always look for ways to be a blessing to others! 

Take two early Friday morning! We are anxious to reunite with Justin and get to our friends in Sierra Leone!! 
We are thankful! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

10 days! God is Good!

I have been in Sierra Leone for ten days now and I am sending the team I arrived with home today. Looking back on our time here together many things come to mind. It feels like the week has flown by and at the very same time it is hard to remember what life was like before. I would like to choose one experience to share but instead I will give a trip overview. We arrived late on Friday night settled ourselves in and went to bed. When we woke up the work commenced. Amazement is what we were filled with at the progress that had happened over the last six months. After a wonderful time of reunion ( it is always so cool that the kids remember our names and our families) we got to work, cutting and tying  steel. The day as full of hard work, laughing, hot sunshine, great conversation, and friendships formed. Sunday we had the pleasure of gathering with the local church,our hosts, Tom and Becky attend. What a refreshing time that was!  Monday through Friday we woke early and went to work. Some of the best and most rewarding times were the periodical breaks spent sitting with the kids at Margaret's asking and answering questions, learning who they are and their individual interests and lives. I have found that investment in people is so rewarding and lasting. I find it hard to walk away from those times. 
So, this team will go back and tell stories trying to put things into language that just can't be shared with words and pictures and the next team ( my family ) will come. I am bursting with joy and anticipation for the journey that is before us. 
This has been a fantastic beginning to my time in the wonderful country of Sierra Leone!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Children!

It's always such an emotional thing for me to communicate with Justin when we are continents apart. But when he sent me this picture yesterday morning I couldn't hold back the tears! 

Margaret's kids say "Thank you, Memorial!" 
They are so thankful for the hard work & funds Memorial has put into this latrine. Our third latrine construction team will be sweating drops of love this week. Have you ever seen children this happy about a toilet? This bathroom building will also have wash stations so they can clean themselves in private. 
Picture for a moment taking your shower from a bucket in front of your house has all your neighbors walk by or not having a place to "go" do your business.
Praying this toilet can help to keep the orphans & the community's well water safe in a place where sanitation and clean water are luxuries. Please remember our team and Margaret's Orphans in your prayers this week! 
What an amazing thing it is that God has allowed us to be apart of this! 
Thank you Memorial for loving these children!
The Lord is so Good!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Journey Begins

Today started with 
"Morning Daddy! Have fun going to Africa!"
It was a great morning preparing to leave the house.  Our kids were so excited! 
Saying goodbye with smiles and 
"we'll meet you in Africa!"
That really made my day!

Today our journey begins! 

I'm flying to Sierra Leone with my friend Catherine, again! 
My beautiful wife Chris and our children will join me in 13 days! Our family will be in Sierra Leone for almost two months! 
Blessings overflow!

Also thankful this morning with news regarding my job! 
God came to the rescue again with a last-minute reconsideration and approval for my request for leave without pay!!
So after being out of the country for the next two months I will be able to return work immediately! All glory to Mighty God! 
Please continue to remember us in prayers. Our journey starts today as a group of strangers come together to form a team of 6 to serve one purpose- to love God by loving the least of these. 
Please remember my wife and children in your prayers as they continue to prepare, gather supplies and travel across the world to join me! There is much yet to do.
We will keep you updated the best we can about our Journey and what our awesome God is doing!
Thank you to all those who continue to support us with love, prayers and donations! We are blessed.

See you in July!