Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Reeds in Liberia

Ok Peoples, we have arrived. Got here Sunday night, with seven out of eight pieces of checked luggage. We are adjusting, and every day is a little better. Rains every day, have yet to see the sun. Learned to cook on a coal pot. We'll buy a car soon. Phones just arrived today. We'll call somebody and get you the numbers. Within a few days I hope to get you a full report. Its already been quite the adventure.

Teaser: saved an orphan girl named Naomi from drowning in a very high Atlantic surf Tuesday, almost went down myself. Noah had visions of his father being swept away.

Renita looking great beside an unruly Atlantic.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Day in Brussels

We spent our Saturday sleeping in, then exploring a marvelous and fascinating city. It would be great to come back.

Sunday we continue our journey, leaving at noon Brussels time and arriving in Liberia nine hours later at 7:15pm, Liberia time which os also 7:15 GMT. That would be 3:15 DST.

Hopefully, we'll find the net soon, but not sure when. Look for updates. See you in Africa.

Brussels-- just a couple miles from our hotel.

The exploring begins.

City Hall.

Everywhere there was this great architecture.


This was in a courtyard. City Hall I believe.

More of Brussels.

It was all great.

Dad shoots daughter on Brussels train.

Bob shoots wife and son.

Noah shoots his dad.

Eating-- what else in Belgium-- waffles.

JFK to Brussels-- A Better Second Leg

The delay doomed our itinerary. After a seven hour flight, we missed our connecting flight to Monrovia by about 40 minutes. Actually, we could've boarded the Liberia flight, but our 700 lbs of luggage would be on its own until Sunday-- unacceptable. The possiblity for losing our luggage in transit or at the Monrovia Roberts Field Airport, and the spectre of hassling forever with American Airlines and SN Brussels on poor phone connections was too great.

We told SN Brussels to fly away without us and we stayed with our luggage. The second leg in our journey had suffered a compound fracture.

Fortunately, we happen to know this Physician.

After an attempt to do a slight-of-hand which Renita caught and set straight, American Airlines took responsibility for the coffee maker glitch and offered to put us up in a nice Brussels hotel with new tickets to the next flight to Monrovia, Liberia-- two days hence. Suddenly, I was smelling a blessing. Instead of arriving in Liberia with no luggage, exhausted after being on two planes for twenty solid hours, we would be taking two evenings and a full day to rest, recover, refresh, in Belgium-- free. So, we'll take a couple days in this grand city before we leave for Liberia on Sunday morning. What a nice surprise gift from this Physician Guy. He told us, "What's the rush? You're in a great city. Enjoy! I insist!"

Saturday, we explore Brussels.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hmmm... a three hour delay, and our lay over in Brussels is three hours. I think we are in for a pleasant weekend in Belgium.

Noah snaps a shot at a tired Hannah from over his seat behind her. At this point, we've been in this plane eight hours with three to go, and only four of those hours were in the air.


The first leg of our journey was smooth, but navigating NYC was a bit taxing. We landed in LaGuardia, but would fly out of JFK across town. No problem, we had a ten hour layover. We rented a van, loaded up our fourteen pieces of luggage, and headed into NYC to see Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty. Traffic was normal for NYC, but it was all new to me. After getting lost more than once, we made it into Manhattan and saw the sights, had lunch, and headed to JFK for the second leg of our trip.

After an emotional day that started early, and included major goodbyes, cross country travel, NYC driving and three airports, we were a bit tired by the time we got to JFK. We boarded on time, and waited an hour due to heavy traffic. We were watching the clock, because we had only a three hour layover in Brussels, and really only a two hour layover for our baggage, which needs that time to be checked from one plane to another. As we finally prepared to take off-- I mean we had taxied to our take-off point on the runway--the captain informed us in his Capatainy way, "... Ah folks, ah, we have some bad news for ya there..." They had discovered an ominous leak of water coming from somewhere. So we headed back to the terminal for our second hour in the plane to learn the source of the trouble: a leaky coffee maker (Oh NO!). Of course, this instrument must be repaired, so after hour three, we were again ready for take-off. We suspected that unless God really wanted us in Liberia on Friday, we were not making the connecting flight to Monrovia. What was on His Mind?

4:30am Goodbye neighborhood! Goodbye old house!

TSA really rushed and hassled us at Grand Rapids Intnl. Renita got flagged and everything was searched. Her family could only watch from a distance. She couldn't say her goodbyes!

The journey begins. On the ground in Grand Rapids-- Renita sad especially because in the rush and craziness at Grand Rapids, she did not get to say goodbye to sister Janette, who has been such a pillar for her. The rest of us are oblivious and geeked.

During our ten hour layover bwteen Laguardia and JFK, we hang out in NYC. Lady Liberty has our back.

Waiting for our ill-fated flight to Brussels. We thought the next day would lead to Africa. Little did we know that a leaky coffee pot would lead to eleven hours in the plane and two extra days in Belguim.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Flight Info

Thursday July 21
Departing Grand Rapids/Ford International (GRR)
American Airlines #4922, 6:35 am
Arriving New York City/LaGuardia International (LGA)

Departing New York City/Kennedy International (JFK)
American Airlines #0172 6:35pm
Arriving Brussels, Belgium/Brussels National (BRU)
7:55am (local time, 1:55am DST)

Friday July 22
Departing Brussels Belgium/Brussels National (BRU)
SN Brussels Airlines # 0235 10:35am
Arriving Monrovia Liberia/ Roberts International (ROB)
5:50pm (local time, 1:50pm DST)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Luggage Juggle

Ok folks, time to get moving. We are packed up, and as I type, we have 14 hours before our flight. The house is empty, the bags are gone, and for the next few hours we'll be unable to send any pics because we won't have internet access. By tomorrow, we should be able to reconnect at JFK and give you an update. See you in a few!

Headin' out...

Renita and Janette trying to figure out which bag has the alarm going off.

Our worldly possesions reduced to 700lbs in eight suitcases.

Janette and Renita begin the relay.

Brother-in-law Dale and Bob hauling like the beasts of burden they are.

Noah lends a hand to Uncle Dale with a 70lb bag.

Just about... DONE!

Saying Goodbye, part two

We saying our final farewells, and it is getting to us. The emotional cost of leaving is becoming greater than we anticipated, and the price goes higher with each hug. Each of us is parting with best friends and so many lovely people; we are each grieving individually and as a family. Renita and I look into the eyes of the dearest people in our lives-- wondering who we will see again and who we won't, wondering if we haven't lost our minds-- and we are suddenly ambivalent. We eagerly desire to leave, to get started, get set up in our new home in Africa, and at the same moment we find ourselves wishing, wishing, oh, couldn't we stick around just a little longer? Could we not linger a while and savour the place and the people so dear-- just to make sure they are real? Like Noah, who asks with pained urgency if he can stay overnight at Matt, Sam and Ben's "just one more night," I find myself for the first time resisting the coming unknown, and for the first time, wanting to hold the familiar. I find myself not wanting to say goodbye.

In the midst of it, there are orientation meetings, planning groups, errands, loose ends, emergencies, and the ever-present awareness that there are some things that just won't get done. The following are images of our last few days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States, Developed World.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Saying farewell to my mentor and our dear friends Warren and Joanne. They stood by me through a lot, and remain champions on behalf of the Reeds.

A few of the folks gathered for our farewell. Thanks Norm and Mary!

With three more nights to sleep here, Noah shows off his newly emptied bedroom.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sixty hours before we leave. An almost empty house, and two children pass the time: Ten year old Noah constructs Star Wars Lego spacecraft and twelve year old Hannah blows bubbles while reading.

Last Friday: one last trip to Michigans' Adventure. Can you spot Hannah, Noah and Renita upsidedown on the Corkscrew? (Hint, Hannah is in the first car with Anneka, Noah in the second with Hope, and Renita all by herself in the last car.)

Last Thursday: A gathering of Liberians and North Americans discussing ways to collaborate in in peacebuilding efforts there.

The Executive Director of CRWRC, Andrew Ryskamp, makes a point at the Thursday meeting.

Renita and other members of the "Nehemiah-Liberia Group" plotting and planning after the meeting ended. From the left is Renita, Rev Sam, pastor of Liberia's oldest church, Theo, Justine, and Dr. Ron.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Saying Goodbye, part one

The goodbyes are beginning. With about ten days to go, we are finding ourselves saying goodbye to nearer and dearer people. Last Saturday, it was the Wilcox family. Dan, Beth, Hannah, David, Emily. My dearest friends, even though I hadn't seen Dan in fours years, and the rest of the family in eight. They drove to Grand Rapids from Manhattan Kansas to see us.

Sunday, it was most of my family, some who came in from Kentucky and Ohio. I try not to cry during these goodbyes; I just don't like losing it every time I turn around. But its getting tougher, and tears are starting to make it out of their safe little ducts. Here are some shots of the family, after that the Wilcox clan.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Our Family and available Spouses. The siblings are, from the left Steve with wife Patty above, then above is Don with wife Carolyn, Mom with husband Keith below, Sandy w/o husband Rick, Bryan standing, no longer married. From the right in front is me with Renita. Last we come to brother-in-law Dave, front in the gray shirt bewteen Steve and Keith. His wife, my sister Brenda, was killed in an auto accident in December. Much loved, her absence was painfully felt all day. Several times we wept with each other.

We were honored to be able to give a presentation of sorts to my family, to give them an overview of what we'll be doing there. Here is Renita taking a portion of it. She's a great speaker.

Hannah and cousin Emma explore the river Uncle Don enjoys as part of his back yard.

Hannah decides to fully immerse herself in the moment, with cousin Bailey looking on.

Of course, Bob must grok the river himself.

Renita, Noah and me resting near the end of a happy sad day.

Pre-flight family foto. Where did Noah get this need to clown around during pictures?

My Mother, Lucille and I. If you look close, you can see two things: The worried look of a mom in her eyes, and the completely full-of-life look in her grandaughter, my daughter Hannah, cutting up in the duistance.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Next is the whole Wilcox-Reed bunch from Saturday. Seated are The Blessed Children are from left: Noah, Emily, Hannah, Hannah, and David. Standing behind (A multi purpose metaphor) are the Saintly Parents: Renita, Bob, Dan, and Beth

Emily and Hannah the First (Their Hannah).

Dan, my friend of 22 years and son David. Note the respectful and expectant gaze in David's eyes. Note Dan drinking out of a two-leter bottle on Mountain Dew.

Beth Wilcox with Hannah the Second (Our Hannah)

At Noah's request, a non-posed shot as we normally look.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Renita in our former dining room, surrounded by boxes ready for shipment. Believe it or not, she's reading an old love letter she wrote me just a month after our first date-- fifteen years ago. Ahh, the Magic remains.

Renita decides it will be cheaper (and quieter) to ship him.