Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wouldn't Ya Know It?

Yesterday, March 29 was quite a day for the Reeds and quite a day for Liberia. Charles Taylor, former president and charged by the UN for war crimes and crimes against humanity, was flown to Robertsfield Airport by the Nigerian government to touch down on Liberian soil, then be arrested by UN troops, and immediately coptered off to Sierra Leone (and later the Hague, it looks like) for trial. At the same time, Renita was on her way to the airport to pick up her mom and dad, flying in from Canada via Brussels. The airport was flooded with elite UN troops and international media. We were worried for a moment that the Brussels flight might not be allowed to land. Fortunately, Mr. Taylor was off the ground just before Renita's folks landed. Renita claimed her parents without a hitch and they are safely at our place.

A shot of Charles Taylor from AP, coming off the plane at Robertsfield International Airport. Renita's mom and dad arrived minutes after he departed for Sierra Leone.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hannah and Odelle at the new pump. Life just got a tad easier.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Eight Month Update

We arrived at Robertsfield Airport July 24, 2005. It seems like another age ago. The adjustment continues for us, some have further to go than others—but the progress is now three steps forward, one back. Here’s some news:

Item: As you know and may have seen, President Sirleaf addressed a joint session of the US Congress. This rare honor was a tremendous boost to her already high standing in Liberia, and gives her much political leverage to accomplish the rebuilding of Liberia over the course of time the job will require. I think her international popularity helps Liberians be more patient with her. They may believe she is competent, so when she says, “the job will take years,” they are more likely to believe her.

Item: They say Monrovia will have limited electricity by this August. No, the Reeds will not benefit from this, although they say street lights will be operating within a 12 mile radius of the city, which could affect us depending on from where the twelve miles is measured.

Item: The well now has a pump. This is a great advancement and means two things: clean water coming out of the well, and much less toil in collecting our 30-50 gallons of water a day. Hannah or Noah do the pumping, Renita and I the hauling. The pump is a gift from a group of committed Madison Square Church folks who love this neighborhood from thousands of miles away. From about a hundred Liberians and four North Americans, thank you.

Item: Renita’s mother Marrie and father Peter will be here next week. The family is excited and eagerly anticipating their arrival. Not to mention the 150lbs of stuff they are bringing. Marrie will be active doing nurse things with dying AIDS patients, teaching nursing students at Mother Patern College, and assisting the medical team at ELWA hospital. Peter will be teaching for several of the area churches, and preaching on Sunday.

Item: Both Renita and I are teaching each week. Renita is teaching and coordinating the LEAD class of 20 business people, and I am teaching the Conflict, Trauma and Peacebuilding course to 19 college students at MPCHS.

Item: Progress is being made on the US college- MPCHS connection toward creating a Bachelor of Social Work program here. Too early for an announcement, but keep yer eyeballs peeled.

Item: Unfortunately, the rogues are still active in our area. While they have not bothered us since we completed our wall and got a barking dog, the other night they broke into our dear friend Deacon Reeves shed and stole his generator. Now he is completely without power except for the three hours we run the generator from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. (We run a line from our house to his.)

Sorry, no pictures today—more soon. Thank you for your attention, and your support. You are the vessels through which good stuff is moving here. Thanks for LEAD, thanks for the BSW program, thanks for the well pump—thanks for everything.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Just a Couple of Neighbor Kids

Ishmael and Sam live not too far from us. Their families are not able to send them to school. Instead, Ishmael and Sam work, most of the day, every day, selling food and snacks created by the ladies in charge of their house. They sell to make a few dollars the families need to eat, for just that day.

Ishmael and Sam are not alone. Every day, little children are everywhere around us missing school, selling homemade treats to other children and adults to provide for their families. They are as young as four or five. These two are nine and seven. They visit us almost every day.

Every evening, they are out selling what their mothers or aunts make. Here Sam offers bananas and Ishmael is selling plantain chips.

Here they are the next morning, Ishmael selling donuts and Sam selling banana fritters.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The West Africa Team Meeting, Part 2

I was away from the family for seven days to meet the WAMT and participate it its regular meeting-- this time outside of Dakar, Senegal. I must say, the environment and climate we delightful. Sometimes, it felt like I was on a very nice vacation. Mostly though, it was a priviledge to meet the members of the team. They have been on the front lines for years fighting against hunger, poverty, and the systems of that perpetuate hunger and poverty.

Senegal was a very comfortable place for me. It was mostly dusty and arrid, but I will take the desert conditions over Liberia's humidity anytime. It was remarkable feeling the difference. In the evenings, the air was actually cool and dry-- a sensation I have not felt for eight months.

Enjoy the images. And thanks for paying attention. You would be surprised if you knew how much it matters.

On my way to Senegal. Overlooking Liberia, not far from our home.

My hotel room. The ocean beyond. Climate cool and dry. I could think of worse places to be.

Another view from outside my hotel room, Early morning. Fishermen in the bay.

On the road from the hotel to the retreat center. Horse and carts were everywhere,

On top of a taxi. Notice anything unusual in the baggage net? (Hint: Baaaa! Baaaaa!)

Almost at the retreat center. Typical of the beautiful architecture in Dakar.

There were some great birds on the retreat compound. This, I believe is a Rueppell's glossy starling, but not sure.

This is a red billed hornbill.

During the workshop: Mary Crickmore, Team Leader(Mali), facilitates.

During our supper break: Fishermen on their way home.

Early moring at the retreat center-- enjoying a quiet moment in the dry and cool air.

Most of the Team: representing Mali, Sierra Leone, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Liberia.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The West Africa Ministry team Meeting, Part 1

Hello folks, the Blogger Bot that post pictures acting up, so I will write more and post some more images from Senegal, including the WAMT members, when it calms down. Here are a few I could post.

By the way, for those of you who have asked, there will soon be a link to a place where you can make contributions to our work. Coming soon-- as soon as we get the blogger kinks worked out.

After the workshop, some of us left for Goree' Island. This is the infamous slave house, where so many Africans said goodbye forever to their homeland.

The sign reads, "Here, they embarked on a trip of no return, to a place of eternal suffering." Hundreds of thousands of slaves passed through this door to the US or to death on the trip.

John from Nigeria, and me from the United Staes, at the Door. We have made progress toward reconciliation and justice. But we have a long way to go.

A little shot o' Yers Trooly, on a high point at Goree' Island, overlooking the ocean. I loved the climate. Cool and dry.

Here is an example of the dust storms that come to Senegal. This is our first morning, looking west toward Dakar. It was our only clear day...

...and here is the same view a couple days later after the Sahara dust came.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Visitors from Grand Rapids, a Walk in the Bomi Bush, a Flight to Dakar

We are in the midst of busy-ness, dear friends. Renita has her arms full with LEAD activities and the visit from Partners Worldwide and five brothers and sisters from Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids. As for me, my peacebuilding class has started, and Sunday I fly to Senegal for a week of meetings with other West Africa CRWRC folks.

I’ll have some shots of my trip to Senegal if I find internet access when I get there, and I might get a shot or two of my class.

In the meantime, enjoy a few shots of the Madison group visit.

Here some of the Madison Group meets with some of the Board members of LEAD.

Some shots of the trip to Bomi County. Here the Madison group navigates a shallow river. It was an hour trek into the bush.

Almost there, passing travelers on the trail.

Justin Behm at the site of the soon-to-be clinic and school, a DeVos/Providence project.

Norm Katerberg and Friends in the Bomi County bush.

The Madison Group visiting the Mother Wleh orphanage, where the "beach kids" are living. Somebody tell Dick and Kathleen Ammons to stop fooling with the camera and watch the kids!