Saturday, September 30, 2006

Soggy View from the Porch

I mentioned a while back that international meteorologists tell us that Liberia is technically blessed with two rainy seasons, that June and July are the first, followed by what Liberians call “the Dries,” roughly falling for a brief period sometime in August. In September, the second wet period begins, and sometimes lasts through October.

Well, folks, it’s true. Last September was abnormally dry, so I thought the wet season would really be over by now. Wishful thinking, my dear net readers. After a brief reprieve in early August, the showers of blessing returned with an agenda. This September has been the wettest month since we’ve been here, with many days of constant or near constant rain. Yesterday it rained about seven inches and so far today—it is 11:00am as I write—we’ve seen three inches. There is very little thunder, but we are told October is the thunderstorm month. We can hardly wait.

But thanks in part to your emails and calls, we feel buoyed in the deluge. Our spirits are high and dry, and we are active enough without feeling overwhelmed. The kids are back in school with their great teacher, and this term they are also learning carving from Michael, a craftsman graduate from LEAD who makes his living selling Mahogany and Ironwood masks, elephants, Nativity scenes, and other assorted wood creations.

Renita just got through yet another workshop, this one for a local school on classroom management. I mentioned before that her LEAD class is going strong with 35 students, and that I am teaching the social work students at MPCHS.

And the rains continue.

Michael teaching Hannah and Noah the art and craft of African wood carving.

Noah hammering out a mahogany mask, while Eastman assists.

Pretty much what life looks like these days from our front porch.

The same view, twenty four hours later. Yawn.

On this particular day-- I think it was September 28 (Happy B-Day, Don!), we got 4 inches of rain in one hour. So for a brief bit, the boys enjoyed an in-ground pool.

That day, our back yard flooded, so Noah, Trokon and Eastman stocked the new pond and then fished it.

No, these are not icicles, just the rain pouring off our corrugated zinc roof.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thinkers Village Neighbors

We live in an area that goes by at least three names. Traditionally, it was called Borbor Town, after an influential family living on the other side of Robertsfield Highway. On some maps, it is called Foster Town, after the family that lives on this side of the road and owns much of the land. Lately, almost everyone refers to it as Thinkers Village, because of the popular bar and restaurant bearing the same name located on the beach. It is a dubious honor to live in a community named for a bar, but I’ve always liked the idea of the name. I live in a village of thinkers. Maybe people will view me as a thinker too.

When the Reeds came to Liberia, we came believing and still believe our most important task has to do with the way we live with our neighbors. While our work tasks include curriculum development, business and organizational consulting and teaching, we believe our primary vocation is to simply be good neighbors.
We are grateful to be able to work along side Liberians as they heal and rebuild, so the work at Mother Patern College and Lead are terrific ways to have a wider impact. But in our neighborhood, we can go deeper. We laugh and weep and worship and sweat and josh and argue and confront and eat with our neighbors. We are able to get close, to touch and change one another. With the adults, we are able to participate in organizing this community in ways that will make it safer, healthier, and more interdependent. We try to listen long and speak short. With the children, we find joy and delight in connecting soul to soul. With the children, Hannah provides leadership, teases and gets teased, Noah fishes and plays legos, Renita loans books and reads, I pinch cheeks and dance.

When the Reeds part from Liberia, if we have done nothing except shared love with the men and women, boys and girls of this ‘village of thinkers,” we will be confident that we did what we came here to do, and grateful that He gave us the strength and vision to do it. The rest of the work is overflow.

Sounds like life, doesn’t it. If at our parting, at the end of our journey, we have done nothing but laughed, wept, worshipped, sweated, argued, teased, read, pinched and danced with our neighbors in His name, we will have done well. Everything else will be overflow.

Renita has been working hard with community leaders and now they have their own community development organization. They are now launching a series of community awareness workshops.

The safety and security worshop was attended by almost a hundred neighbors. A great and exciting launch.

Noah and his dear friends Trokon (Not "Chokon" as we had been calling him for months) and Eastman go fishing in the local pond. They catch and eat catfish, crawfish and other little panfish. Noah learned to love fishing from his uncle Dale. Now he's hooked. (get it?)

Here is the trio working on their other project-- a Lego zoo.

Hannah is involved in a lot-- including a community play sponsored by Save the Children warning the kids about the dangers of premarital sex. Hannah is the narrator of the story.

Another scene from the play. Mother Garmi cannot believe that her daughter Patience is pregnant. "How could you have been so foolish?" she asks.

Finally, Dad Andrew tells begging daughter that she must leave the house. A sad ending to a sad story.

On to another neighborhood sport-- coconut pilfering. actually, the kids had been begging me to give them some of the large ripe nuts on one of our two trees, so I called a coconut party. Here's Trokon hacking away.

The little dears display a few of the twenty coconuts they brought down.

Monday, September 11, 2006

ReedNews Update: Sometimes God Says No

The rainy season is still upon us in force, with rain nearly every day and some days (like today) seeing rain all day. We are getting used to it, but we miss the sun. We got over six inches yesterday. Here is the rest of the news:

Item- We buried our dear friend Deacon Reeves Saturday. The service was sad but good. The Reeds were asked to offer a brief tribute, but the highlight was the message given by his son Rev Samuel Reeves of Providence Baptist Church. The message was titled “When God Says ‘No’,” and it was a wise reminder that for the faithful, He always answers prayers—but He answers according His agenda, not ours. Sometimes the word is no. So we need to stop resisting, which goes against much of what we are taught. You know:“Never take 'no' for an answer.” The thing is, His “no” ends up strengthening us and glorifying Him. Even today’s “no” is ultimately and forever transformed into YES.

Item- Obviously, we have returned from Mali. The country and society is noticeably more stable and feels safer than Liberia; it was nice to actually be able to walk at night. We had four days of meetings with the CRWRC West Africa Ministry Team and enjoyed reconnecting with our friends from Senegal, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. I enjoyed another bout of amebic dysentery and Renita and Hannah are still waiting for their intestinal adventures to pass. Er, my grandma Cain used to call it the “trots.”

Item- Back here, work responsibilities are loomin’ large. I am mostly involved in two activities for Mother Patern College—teaching a 3 credit course on human behavior for the social work students and working with the staff of the college and the folks at Calvin and Kuyper Colleges on the exciting but daunting task of developing this nations first professional social work program.

Item- Renita is about to begin her third LEAD class—already about 45 folks have graduated and some are receiving loans to enhance their businesses and employ more Liberians. She is also about to begin her second year of home schooling. Hannah and Noah are getting the best education in their lives.

Item- Around home, the 14 chicks that hatched a month ago are doing fine, although the two roosters are driving us crazy in the morning with their constant crowing. I’d like to eat one of them, but the kids won’t have it so we’ll likely give him away—to another family who will eat him.

Item: Regarding electricity, some of you have asked how we are doing. We still have some solar power during daylight hours, even with the rain. The solar panels are great and always supply enough amperes to run our refrigerator, two dc lights, our dc fans, and on good days, both of our laptops via our small 80watt inverter. We never were able get the big inverter fixed, so our bigger power needs wait until 7:00pm, when we fire up the generator for three hours.

A few photos of the funeral and the last part of our trip to Mali follow.

Sam Reeves preaches his father's funeral. The casket is covered in flowers behind him.

The mourners approach the oceanside grave site.

Sam Reeves says goodbye to his father, as the Deacon's casket slides into its crypt.

On to a few images of Mali. We were there for meetings with WAMT. Here is photographic evidence that we actually met.

The Selingue River from atop the Selingue Dam. Renita and Noah investigating cows, with fishermen in the background.

A close up of a fisherman and fisherboy casting their nets.

Another shot of a fisherman, this looking down from the top of the Selingue Dam.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Passing of a Friend

Deacon Reeves has died.

We are currently still in Mali, and have been away from internet access for five days. Upon returning to Bamako, we received an email from Pastor Sam Reeves that his father, our next door neighbor, our oldest and dearest friend in Liberia, died from complications related to his diabetes on Tuesday, August 29. His funeral will be next week Saturday.

Deacon Reeves had been quite sick for several months, and even though he was receiving good medical care, the diabetes was very aggressive and because of his small frame he experienced wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels. He continually battled serious infections, another diabetes-related complication. Apparently the infections spread to internal organs, causing his death. Although in a good deal of pain these past few weeks, he remained dignified, polite and warm.

Our lives here will not be the same without him, but we trust we will see him again.