Monday, June 26, 2006


I mentioned last week that we are getting busy, but Liberia is getting busier and it is exciting to watch. Partial electricity has been returned to parts of downtown Monrovia with more to come, and they are talking about running water as well. The UN just lifted timber sanctions against Liberia and it looks like diamond mining sanctions will be lifted shortly as well. This will pave the way for more economic development. The Truth and Reconciliation Comission was just launched to hopefully bring some measure of healing and justice to the country. Charles Taylor is in the Hague, getting ready to stand trial before the World Court. UN General Secretary Kofi Annan will be here next week to keep international attention on the country.

I don't have any pics of all that stuff, but I do have a few more of the Reeds being busy. Stay tuned!

Noah, with his bird buddy. He fed it for a few days until it could fly and then released it. He's got a few animal pals...

...and a few of his human buddies, Obadiah, Chokon and the ever-present Enoch.

Renita tutoring 17 year old Trokon, as he prepares to go back to school after not being able to for three years...

... and being entertained by Apple.

Hannah with two of her girl pals-- Rachel and Odelle.

...and with some boys pals-- here Geeba, Togar and Samson.

Yers Trooly directing Obadiah, Geeba and Enoch in something he's never done before-- build a dog house.

My Conflict, Trauma and Peacebuilding class-- I had a great time teaching these peacemakers.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Getting Busy

We are getting busy. Well, I'm getting busy. Renita was born busy. My class is finishing up this week; I have a final exam to produce. Renita just finished a two day business workshop a few hours away from here. I am still teaching reformed theology for various branches of the "Christian Reformed Church of Liberia." Renita is finishing up this year's home schooling while de facto managing the neighborhood soccer team. She is also halfway through her LEAD business class. I am gearing up for two big events: in July, faculty from Calvin College and Kuyper College in Michigan USA with be visiting MPCHS to figure out how to help us develop a social work program, and in August I am leading a two week, forty hour workshop on counseling and psychosocial skills for reps from about a dozen NGOs around the country. The kids are having a blast. Hannah is out every day chasing and being chased, teasing and being teased, laughing, crying and having the time of her life with the dozens of kids who live here. Noah now has chickens, dogs, pigeons, is hatching lizards and snakes, just released a baby bird he found back into the wild, and is bugging us to get a monkey. Here are a few shots that capture the activity.

The rainy season is upon us. Only half the days are like this at this point. The others are good enough to get out and do stuff...

Practice for the neighborhood soccer team-- they call themselves the "Eleven Dangerous Dwarves." We still don't know why.

While watching soccer practice, Victoria, Odelle and Rachel decide to plait Renita's hair. As you can see, she loves the attention.

The finished product. A work of art, heady to behold. She loved it so much,it stayed in her hair a full half hour.

The Disco Hil Christian Reformed Church. I was asked to do another one of my workshops on Christian theology. I never dreamed I'd be doing this stuff, but I enjoy hanging out with the Salt.

The Church elders. Rev Zar, denominational head of the CRCL, and a good friend, is second from left.

Inside the church, the workshop participants.

After the workshop, we visted the church parish, a lovely village. Here, some of the ladies prepare cassava.

Here are three shots of Renita's trip into the interior, about two hours drive for a two day micro business workshop. The country is hilly and, as you see, very green.

...and here is a shot of the road to the workshop site. Lots of these wooden plank bridges.

This panorama of Renita in action blends three pictures to give you an idea of what the teaching environment in the palaver hut was like. Kinda cool, I think.

One of our neigbors got a monkey, so Noah had to see it. It mostly lays around waiting for its tummy to be rubbed.

Oh, and here is that picture Renita told you about-- Enoch, Chokon and Yers Trooly doin' the "I Love the Generator" dance.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bob and the Kids

Hi folks. Renita here again. I wanted to share with you some pictures of Bob and the neighborhood kids. However, Blogspot is acting up and we can't seem to get pictures uploaded. So, the images will wait. (You'll love the one of Bob, Enoch and Chokon doing their "I Love the Generator" dance!

Anyway, Bob is really connecting to the kids, and especially the boys. Every day the boys flock to the gate, calling “Unca Ba!”, ‘Unca Ba!’. They love to spend time with him and he seems to delight being with them as well. They work together on various projects around the house or the neighborhood. They laugh and problem solve together, he bandages their wounds, sings and dances with them, works on projects with them and feeds them. In addition, he deals with them directly on character issues, making sure that dishonesty or other unethical behaviors are addressed eye-to-eye, making sure there is a process of asking and receiving forgiveness, talking with them about spiritual matters, encouraging them to listen to the Holy Spirit. It struck me the other day how much Bob is playing the role of a father to many of these young boys – many of them do not have a father in the home. It’s quite touching to overhear them in their various conversations during the course of the day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Making a Living in Liberia

Hi folks, this is Renita Reed online. Bob usually does this blog thing, but for the next couple entries, I thought I’d give you Liberia through my eyes. For several months I’ve been thinking about introducing you to people I serve in my work with LEAD, and today I decided to do it.

As some of you know, Liberia’ economy was virtually destroyed through twenty years of civil strife, corruption and war. Liberia is recovering, but unemployment is still around 85%, and most Liberians engage in a routine to make enough money for food for just that day. In the interior, away from populated areas, the daily activities are subsistence farming, fishing and hunting. In the cities, thousands set up roadside shops, selling canned goods, used tires, plantains, medicine, soap, soccer balls, fresh and dried fish, rice and beans by the cup, flip-flops, phone cards, and most anything else one might imagine. Children are enlisted by parents to roam their communities selling homemade food items. Bob has told you about little Ishmael and Sam. I'd like to introduce you to two business owners, both of whom are in our current LEAD business class.

The first is Beatrice, who owns a business called "Mother and Son". She ran a used clothing business which was destroyed in the 2003 war, and has since started a cold water business. Every day, she buys 50 containers of purified cold water, each container holding 30 half liter bags for a total of 1500 bags. These bags are purchased by smaller retailers who run up and down the road calling “co’ wa’ co’ wa' co’ wa’,” to passengers in cars or pedestrians. Each bag sells for 5 Liberian dollars (about 10 US cents). After President Sirleaf’s inauguration, the Liberian Government announced that markets were too close to the streets and had to be moved back at least six feet. Businesses were given three months to do this, although provisions for new market space were not readily provided. Those who did not comply had their structures torn down by the police. Beatrice lost her market space and has now set up an umbrella further back from the road, and further back from her primary client—thirsty taxi drivers. If she does not sell all of her bags of water she no longer has a shack to store her inventory, so she is borrowing space in the trunk of a broken down station wagon next door. Beatrice did not go very far in school and is working hard to learn what she can from LEAD; she is very positive about the future. She hopes to use the money from the loan of LEAD to build a permanent, safer structure for her inventory, as well as invest in additional capital for her business, including a freezer to keep the water cold.

Beatrice's current storage area.

Moses is a member of Providence Baptist Church and owns a charcoal business. The vast majority of Liberians cook with charcoal and so business is always booming. But the work is dirty, extremely labor intensive, and the profit margin is small. Moses goes into the bush to cut down trees, saw limbs, and pile the wood to burn to make his own charcoal, and then transports it back to the city to sell it. Transportation of charcoal is a challenge, as Moses does not own a vehicle and is therefore at the mercy of whatever truck he can hire (another booming but low profit business) to transport the charcoal back to his shack. In addition, his business is situated a mile away from the main road, serving a village away from bigger market areas; Moses has to hire young men with wheelbarrows to carry the bags of charcoal from the truck back to his business. A bigger challenge is keeping the charcoal dry; most of you know how frustrating it is to start wet charcoal, and Moses knows that if he sells wet charcoal, his customers will not come back. Days before we visited his business, a tropical storm came through Liberia and took the roof off of the mat structure where he was storing his charcoal. He now gives up a portion of his very small home to store his charcoal in order to keep it dry. Moses hopes his LEAD loan will help him put corrugated zinc on the roof of his business to keep his charcoal dry, open a second market place, and a future dream is to purchase a vehicle.

Beatrice and Moses are typical of thousands of Liberians attempting to put food on their families’ tables through their micro-businesses. With your help, LEAD is working with Beatrice and Moses to develop and expand their livelihood. Their dream—LEAD’s-- is that as their businesses grow, they will be able to employ other Liberians as well.

Moses' storage building-- roof torn off by one of Liberia's severe storms.

Here is a picture I happened to get in April-- Police tearing down a business shack too close to the road. The owner wept as the police moved in without a word and broke it down.