Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Reeds in Mali: Getting a Lay of the Land

Ok, thirty-six hours after leaving our house, we arrive in Bamako, Mali. Our main purpose for being here is to attend a week of meetings with the CRWRC West Africa Ministry Team. Renita and I are both working as volunteers with the CRWRC Service link program, thanks to the support of so many of you. Because we both need to be here, and because flights are infrequent out of Monrovia, we get to bring along Hannah and Noah and we will be here almost two weeks. So there will be some vacation-like days here.

We arrived Friday the 25th of august-- the meetings begin Monday the 28th. So our hosts, the Crickmores and the Bosches, decided to take us on a day trip to some of the sites a few miles out of Bamako. It was a day we will not forget. Here are just a few images.

Our Saturday trip begins. The road was good, and the views got better with every mile.

The rainy season creates temporary waterfalls along the sandstone cliffs. The rest of the year, this is brown and dry.

Heading into the bush. Here, negotiating around young gent with a cart and donkey.

Peace n' love from Yers Trooly, somewhere in Mali.

Very beautiful a natural sandstone bridge. Nice to look and take pict... Wha?? We are climbing that?!?

Just one of the inspiring formations in the area.

Time for some upward treading.

Under the natural bridge. We made it-- or so we thought. We have a bit more climbing to do. There is a slightly better view...

Mali from the top of the natural bridge. This is the easy side of His promise of "abundant life." We'll take it.

The group back on the road again... another hidden treasure-- a crystal rainy season pool...

...complete with waterfall...

...which the Reeds grokked. The lower right shot is Hannah jumping from a thirty feet cliff into the pool. Later, even Noah made the plunge.

Our daughter. Her approach to life.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Thought We Wuz Supposed to Be in Bamako

No such luck. The Reed family trip to Mali has been delayed just a tad. Due to bad night time weather, the pilot decided to pass over us on his way to Dakar Senegal, where we were supposed to catch a connecting flight to Bamako, Mali. So we waited a few hours at the airport, and then Air Senegal put us up in a downtown Monrovia airport at about 1:00am this morning. Its a bit surreal hotelling it in our home town, but it helps us feel like this "working vacation" has sorta begun. We hope to try again tonight (Thursday) and hopefully will get to Mali Friday morning at 10:00am. Looking forward to sharing Mali with you.

The Reeds passing time with a lil' Uno moment in our Monrovia hotel.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Great Souls

Sometimes I don’t think Liberians have any idea how strong they are. For over twenty five years, they have watched their homeland fall apart around them. Almost every Liberian over ten years old has lived through and remembers displacement, fear, violent and terrible things happening, horror, disruption, poverty, sickness, and hopelessness. Liberians are used to adapting, surviving, and making the most out of a bad situation. Yet so many—like the 25 in this workshop I’m leading--are actively working to build communities of compassion and justice.

The workshop participants are men and women of various ages from a variety of organizations. They want to improve their social work and counseling skills. Every work day for eight weeks they have been meeting in a classroom from 8:00am to 3:30pm. After the eight weeks, they will work on site with humanitarian organizations putting their learning into practice. The workshop I am leading is a two week section called “basic counseling skills." It’s the equivalent of a semester long upper level undergraduate course crammed into sixty hours over ten days. I’m having a great time with these truly world class heroes. There is much we are learning together—they about Western people-helping, me about West African people-helping. There is much laughter seasoned with a bit of hard brain work and a lot of practical activities. You ought to have been there when we discussed gender roles in Liberia. They could hear us in the next building with the air conditioning on.

Everyday I am awed by their resilience and strength. Everyday I feel humbled to serve them, and I never drift far from the awareness of the price so many have paid on their journey to our classroom.

In this course, we do a lot of group work. You cannot teach counseling skills by lecture.

Here participants sit back to back and focus on listening for feelings without non-verbal cues.

Yers Trooly in psychosocial action.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Reed News Update

Hello dear friends and family—time again for some news from our part of the planet. First, the weather: If you talk to ten Liberians, you will get ten different descriptions of when the rainy season is most rainy. Everybody we’ve talked with agrees that the worst of the wet stuff falls somewhere between June and the end of September, but I’ve heard people say each of those months is the wettest. International meteorologist say that there are actually two rainy seasons in this part of the world— the first roughly June and July, the second late August through mid October. We observed a couple weeks of dry weather last August, and it has been relatively dry here for about a week. Regardless, it is good to know we are more than halfway through it, even though the temperatures are more comfortable now than during the dry season.

Now for a bit of what else is happening:

Item: The reconstruction of Liberia continues, with most of the work happening in Monrovia. The streets of the city are lit at night for the first time in fifteen years, and current is being restored in more structures every day. Water pipes are being laid and clean water is beginning to flow again in parts of the city. One of the most important elements of the restructuring is the improvement of roads and the government tells us that that cannot begin until October, although workers are fixing potholes much more efficiently than last year at this time.

Item: Deacon Reeves has been in the hospital two times over the last couple of months. The complications surrounding his newly discovered diabetes have rendered him bedridden for almost the entire time. In the last couple of weeks he has seen some improvement following surgery to drain a very large abscess in his back. He is beginning to recover. His blood levels are better, although there are still dramatic spikes and drops, and he is outside more.

Item: The second LEAD business class has finished and the first loans for class number one were distributed. The business owners who received those loans are investing in their businesses and now the real test begins to see if the knowledge and capital their received will result in healthier businesses, more employment, and an increase in profit. Renita and James, the LEAD Coordinator, are preparing for the third class, which begins September 19.

Item: I am right in the middle of teaching a fifty hour seminar on what they call psycho-social skills. It amounts to an introduction to an introduction to counseling course. In attendance are about 25 Liberians involved in social work activities. I’m impressed with the dedication of these workers and the energy that they show in coming to a class every day from 8:30-3:30 pm.

Item: Our friends, the DeGraw family, through the United Methodist Church, were able to send seven rubbermaid tubs on a container that arrived on Wednesday. It is a real pleasure distribute Bibles, books, and clothing to our friends and neighbors. Bibles go the quickest - our neighbors just can't get enough.

Monday, August 07, 2006

One Year After: The Pictures

Sorry its taken so long, but the network has been taking a beating from West Africa.

We've published hundreds of pictures since we arrived in Liberia, and more than that if you count the months leading up to it. These are our ten best, we think. Look over the archives yourself. What would be your favorite?

Number 10-- Each face tells a different story as Liberians stand in line to vote, October 2005.

Number 9-- Traffic backs up on the way from Rivercess. Big hole in road. Car ahead stuck. Hands in pocket.

Our 8th most fave-- Noah on a Gambia beach at sunset. What else you want?

Lucky 7. Gbanga forest at dawn. Noah and I waiting to see what might emerge from the mist.

Favorite Image 6: Cheryl Brandsen of Calvin College and Enoch on a windy Atlantic beach. Who knows what may come from the meeting of these two minds?

What a beautiful pair. This is number 5.

Number 4 on our hit parade. Apple and Yers Trooly sharing a private moment. Hannah caught us.

Pic 3. An early water fight, with Renita doing some conflict transformation, and a tiny Nikki ready to defend the girls from an-up-to-no-good Lionel.

Photo number 2. Hannah and Betty-- not posed, I just snapped it. Love the hand dangling over Hannahs arm. And of course Betty's piercing eyes.

Still our favorite image, even after a year. Taken a few days after we got here-- Noah joined by new Liberian friends at the beach. Everywhere in the world, kids are kids.