Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Er, the view out of our hotel window in The Gambia. No cracks about "suffering for the Lord," please! Remember, I'm a sick man!

And Now for This Commercial Message

Some of you have asked about supporting us financially, and we are humbled by your responsiveness and generosity. We now have a link to a page that allows you to use a credit card to give online. Here's how: Click on the link to the right that says "contribute to this work online" and you will be redirected to a secure page. Scroll to near the bottom of the page where you'll see "Missionary Donation." Under that you'll see "Select Missionary from this Menu." If you open it, you will see all the CRWRC missionaries, and at the bottom under "volunteers," there we are! Click on us, then fill out the form and you're all set.

We will now resume our regular program, Blog Update, already in progress:

Item: I am sick again, this time with a strep/staph infection that has me down with strep throat and nasty sores on my right hand. No pictures this time, my mom reads this thing. But I'm on an antibiotic so I hope that will do the trick.

Item: Our friend Henry Tredah died suddenly last week, and his wife Mary Joyce is near death with a completely different illness. Henry was the man who managed the orphanage on the beach. A large but very quiet, soft spoken man, he cared about the kids-- he just did not know how to care for them. He did not have the skills to run an orphanage, so we worked together to make a better home for the children. Henry supported the closure, supported the transfer of the children to Mother Wleh. We are unsure of the cause of death. Mary is in the hospital near death, and likely will die soon. Liver failure. We visited her, and then the family at their home. They have four young children.

Item: The Reeds are in The Gambia! CRWRC sent the whole family to The Gambia for a week of R&R from other CRWRC and World Mission folks, so even though I feel lousy, its a nice place to be sick.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What Are We Doing Here? Part 4

Hello folks. We are told the rainy season is just around the corner, and we know its true, but the weather has been great. Relatively cooler weather, sunny days and best of all, relatively low humidity. We got a gully washer last night, but the plants needed it. If it was like this all year round we’d feel guilty being here.

Our work has taken definite shape. When we say “our work”, we are not including than home life—which includes important activities like home schooling, fixing things, and all chore-type duties. Home life work is important, but the main beneficiaries are the Reeds. “Our Work” is the work we do with and for the people of Liberia—the reason we came. Here is an update, just so you know we are not merely soaking up the sunshine, basking in the ocean breezes, and munching ripe mangoes off the tree.

We divide our work into three categories: 1) Business and entrepreneurial development, 2) Education/curriculum development and 3) Community development.

Business Development— This is Renita’s work. She is the consultant to LEAD, Inc. which offers business training and matching loans to Liberians with view to creating new jobs. Lead has just successfully completed its very first class, with about 22 business men and women in attendance. The most successful students will receive three-to-one matching loans, thanks in part to Partners Worldwide and the Nehemiah-Liberia Group, in order to expand their businesses. With the Liberia economy hobbled by 85% unemployment, LEAD’s efforts to get Liberians back to work are a great gift to this nation. Class number two begins in May, so Renita and her Liberian co-worker are out, meeting business people throughout the greater Monrovia area.
Education/curriculum development— This is my work. Liberia has very few professionals trained in social work or mental health, yet the foundational structure of the culture, the Liberian family, has experienced significant trauma because of the war and because of the clash of traditional and Western values. I am a consultant and guest instructor at Mother Patern College of Health Sciences. It is my honor to be working with MPCHS to develop Liberia’s first professional Social Work program, which we hope to launch fall 2007. The exciting recent development is that faculty members from two US colleges—Calvin College and Kuyper College, will be visiting MPCHS in July to help with curriculum development and consider ways to partner in the future. International NGOs, National NGOs, and the Liberian Government are making psychosocial support of families a high priority for strategic planning. Future social work graduates of MPCHS will be the leaders of these efforts. I feel privileged to be a part of this effort.
Community development-- For a long time now, Renita and I have believed in helping communities organize themselves to meet their needs and realize their dreams. In this community, we have started as slow as we could, getting to know people and first simply trying to be good neighbors. Over the nine months we have been here, we have seen two Liberian elementary schools embark on partnerships with two American schools, worked with a local school in getting tuition waivers for about fifty area children so they could attend classes, and been active in offering some training to a few area churches. Also, a few weeks ago we hosted a community meeting with a few folks which has developed into a Liberian led series of large meetings. Last week, about sixty neighbors were in attendance, and this week, they expect to elect a “community leader” and officers to further organize activities. Some of the dreams in the works are a marketplace and a playground.

So there you have it as of today. I brought along a few photos of us at work and a map of where we are.

Get your maps out people-- here is our world. The Reeds live in a little village officially called Foster Town, though everyone here uses "Thinkers Village."

Renita, at the LEAD class graduation.

Most of the LEAD graduating class. Renita and LEAD will continue to work with these grads while teaching a new class.

Here is Yers Trooly with the legendary Sr. Barbara Brillant. Dean of Mother Patern College of Health Sciences. An amazing woman of God.

This is Joseph Kpukuyou, the director of the Social Work program at MPCHS. He and I will be working closely together over the next couple years.

About half of the folks who attended the latest community organization meeting. Next time, we'll get the rest.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Back to Barclayville

Last August-- maybe it was September-- the family drove forty miles into the interior (two hour drive) to attend the opening of a church, affiliated with our local community church and part of the new "Christian Reformed Church in Liberia." Last Tuesday, I drove out there again to visit with church leaders and answer their call to do some teaching on reformed doctrine like I and Renita's father did for the local branch. I had a great time, and afterword enjoyed dumboy with bene seed soup and boneys, as well as palm butter and boneys over rice. Yum!

This was how the Barclayville "CRC" church looked in August when we first visited. A brand new place of worship for the community.

And how it looks today. A mud structure with hard mud floors. Love the paint job!

Another view-- the palm leaf structure in August...

And today. I love this building.

The interior of the church, with our Barclayville friends attending the workshop.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Photo Essay: People and Dogs in My Life By Noah Reed

My Dad said I could take some pictures, so I did. I hope you like them. Noah.

My Oma and Opa are here-- that's grandmother and grandfather in Dutch. Here they are with African clothes Deacon Reeves gave them.

Oma is helping Mom paint the porch.

UN gunships flying over our house. They fly over every day.

Here is Dad and Mom putting up the solar flood lights Oma and Opa brought. Dad would kill me if he knew I took a picture of him without his shirt. So don't tell him.

These are the three dogs in my life. This is Survivor, Pinky's sister. She is Deacon Reeves' dog, but she's always at our house.

Pinky. The barker. She is fearless and will go after anyone who comes in our yard she doesn't know.

Nikki. Mom and Dad say she's worthless, but I thinks she's cute. Isn't cute worth something?

Hannah chasing Andrew. The whole neighborhood can hear her sceechy squeal.

I love trying to catch kids in mid air. I don't know why. This is Enoch.

I did not like this picture of Austin (too blurry), but Dad said it looked like the football was coming right at you so I put it in.

Another mid air shot-- Enoch jumnping into our dead garden. You can see a pinapple plant on the lower right, and a young banana tree on the lower left.

This is a really great picture of Chokon. Hannah thinks it is gross, but I like it. It shows what this fellow is like all the time.

Thank you for your kind attention. Your internet reporter, Noah Reed

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

On a Happier Note

Renita's folks-- Hannah and Noah's Opa and Oma-- are here and having the time of their lives. They are serving, playing, preaching, helping, and being great guests. They are drinking the place in. Here are a few pictures of their time thus far.

The morning after the folks arrived, joining us at our morning coffee porch ritual.

This was at Christ Friend Children Academy. Renita's dad telling the kids a story.

Peter Kranenburg preaching Sunday morning, Paynesville Liberia.

Oma with the usual suspects.

Opa yucking it up with Majua.

Enjoying a moment at the beach.

Renita burning the 9pm oil, getting ready for the next LEAD class.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Gunfire in the Night

Renita’s folks are here and are experiencing all of Liberia. I’ll give a full report of their visit with images in a few days, and it has been going very well, but Sunday the 2nd we were all reminded of how bad things can go very quickly.

We were awakened at 1:30am Sunday with a series of perhaps seven or more gunshots in rapid succession, followed two or three more, followed by a single shot a few minutes later. The gunfire was coming from our neighbor’s house, a businessman with the largest house in the area. We have heard shooting coming from his house before, when rogues were attempting to enter his property, and he would fire a pistol a few times to scare them off. It worked in the past.

This time was different. Apparently nine men entered the property, one armed with a powerful assault-type weapon, and gained access into the house. Our neighbor’s wife was cut with a machete, and our neighbor went into action. He wrestled the gun away from the leader and began firing. In the space of ten seconds, two intruders were dead, another seriously wounded and later captured by police, and the rest vanished into the night.

Within a half hour, UNMIL and Liberian police were on the scene and secured the area. By 9:00am, there was a large crowd gathered around the property. They were waiting for information, and waiting to see the bodies of the rogues still inside the walled house. They wanted to know if these were men from the community or from elsewhere. At around 10:00am the police brought the bodies out in the bed of a pickup truck. They allowed every person in the crowd to look at the two dead men. As I watched our neighbors slowly make their way single file around the pickup, I had a viewpoint that allowed me to see our neighbor’s faces, each as they viewed the dead men. Many appeared initially excited about viewing the bodies, laughing and chatting, but as they rounded the bed of the truck, and looked at the two lifeless faces, their manner changed. Some looked visibly surprised, some looked repelled, some troubled, but everyone that looked was changed. For that moment, it was no longer a “We Gotcha” party.

After everyone had viewed the dead men, Deacon Reeves and I were still standing a few yards in from of the truck when a couple policemen invited me—actually urged me with a smile--to take my turn and view the bodies. I asked Deacon Reeves if he wanted to, and he said yes. So we did. It was as unsettling and sad as I thought it would be. I looked into the faces of these men, displayed like trophy objects on the bed of this pickup. Both had terrible wounds. I found, as everyone else had, that there was no joy, no victory in the bed of this truck. These were two men whose lives were forever over, violently, without dignity. I know these men were responsible for the events that led to their deaths. I know they preyed upon innocent people, and left fear and grief in their wake. I know my neighbors thought the rogues got what they deserved, and I can even appreciate the sentiment. Maybe they did. But it made me sick just the same.

I wonder about the meaninglessness of their deaths, and the legacy they leave. I wonder about the people of this community, what hearing automatic gunfire again in their neighborhood does to their souls. I wonder about my neighbor, how his life may be forever changed by this. It is ironic that he attended a community meeting we hosted just last week and he told us how he believed these rogues were just “youth from the neighborhood that just needed something to do.” Now he has killed two of them. In a conversation with Renita later Sunday, he said he felt completely fine about it, but that he might not sleep too well for a while. Really.

His wife was not seriously wounded, and will recover quickly from her wounds. Our community has a new hero. The neighborhood will likely not be bothered for a little while now. The wounded rogue is in a hospital, naming names and preparing to face the Liberian criminal justice system. The newspapers this morning featured grisly photos of the two dead men on their front pages. And for everyone else, life goes on.

UPDATE April 5: The third shot man, a man who actually worked for our neighbor, died of his wounds on Tuesday. This brings the total fatalities in the incident to three.

About a hundred yards away.