Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The quiet

Hi folks. I missed you, so I thought I'd mosey on over here. 'Tis that time of year, that post holiday season when in Michigan the cold is almost unrelenting and its cloudy and the days are short. Everything seems to be in hibernation. I call this time the Dead of Winter.

A number of you have told me that we have become a part of your lives during the past four years. That is so kind, it's hard for me to believe it. It's an honor.

Around our new digs in Grand Rapids, our days have morphed from jumbled into a nice routine. Our adjustment to Michigan weather and culture has been quick. Hannah and Noah are doing great in school. Renita and I continue to visit with friends and family, and meet with folks about future vocational configurations. We remain uncertain about next steps, but we are seeing signs emerging from the fog. We are eager to pass any news on to you.

Thank you for paying attention to this blog these past 42 months. Thanks for sticking with us as we make our way through this time of transition.

Our quiet back yard in the Dead of Winter. Too cold to have coffee together on the deck.

Our trip to my parents' house Sunday. 100 miles in two hours, even with the storm. In Liberia, it might take three or four hours on a good day. The reason I show pictures like this is because some of you are not Michiganders, and don't see this much.

Back home, part of the routine is shovelin'. Hannah is a chip off her ol' dad, who's a chip off his ol' mom. We love the task. No humidity!

Inside, the Reeds are a bit subdued. Noah online.

Hannah, back inside, reads in our cozy living room.

My lovely betrothed at work completing today's emails from the bedroom.

And from a puffy but getting-it-together Yers Trooly... thanks for meeting me here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Preparing for The Blog Sleep

Weather: Moderate snowfall the past few days with temperatures in the mid 20'sF. Steady winds bring wind chills down to 7F. About four inches of snow currently on the ground. Wet roads turn to ice, making driving hazardous.

For the twelve of you who follow this blog regularly, it looks like our post day is becoming moree irregular. In Liberia, because there is a 4-5 hour time difference, I could get up on Monday, figure out what to write, put it together, and still post it by the time it was Monday morning in the US. Here, by the time I'm ready, the morning has passed and so I figure, "aw I'll let it go until tomorrow." I know a couple of our readers are in other countries, and the post time is different anyway, but I alwways thought of Monday morning EST as my posting deadline.
To be honest, I'm thinking it will be soon time to put this blog to rest. Its reason for existence was to invite you to join us on our journey to Liberia, to explore what happens when people of these two different cultures work together-- or not-- on following Christ. We certainly remain affected by Liberia, by the effects of our presence there. We are changed forever because of it-- but those changes are on the inside of us, and not all that apparent. I could continue writing regularly during this transition, but it seems I would be writing mostly about the activities of the Reed family: "We went to the store. We bought a TV. We got a Christmas tree. We went to school. We came home."
Or even worse, I could write about me: "My feet are cold. I programmed the new TV. I've gained 12 pounds in three weeks. I'd like to get a bird feeder. I'm a little depressed. I'm waiting on God. I cry occasionally when I think about some people I left behind. I cry occasionally when I think of the people who continue to support us. I win most inner battles with the temptation to be petty, childish, gluttonous, withdrawn-- but the battles I lose are the ones that do the damage." I say I could do that, but then I'd have to title it something else.
I do not believe this part of our journey, or my journey, is served well by the medium of a blog. This "limbo time" drives me inward for a time, not outward. As I figure out what I'm doing here, and pause in this waiting place, my day to day is spent internally, in places not accessable by camera. And words seem to trivialize the holiness of the trip, to make it about me, when it is actually about Him. Better not to write at all than to mislead anyone into thinking "The Reeds in Liberia" was actually about the Reeds.
And yet, the twelve of you who follow this blog regularly do so for a reason. I know you are there. I don't want to communicate to you that this part of our dance with Him-- the in-between time, the limbo time, the waiting time-- is less important or less valuable than other times. The fact is, this time is maybe the most important of all. The fact is it feels too raw, too vulnerable to display on schedule every week. Its not done yet. Its not ready for posting yet.

So, dear and loyal friends, we are not quite finished posting here, but we just may be a bit more irregular. When it is time, we'll let "The Reeds in Liberia" sleep. God willing, there will be another blog-- when invites us to the next dance hall.

Monday, December 08, 2008

When Change is Status Quo

Sorry this post is kinda late. Fact is, I'm still in a highly introspective condition these days. So introspective, in fact, I forgot what day it is. The Reeds are living a through paradoxical period with accompanying natural tension. We are in transition, yet in a holding pattern. We are waiting to move, yet we are moving while we wait. We are looking forward for the show to begin, fully aware that the show must go on. It is like rounding a gigantic corner with no definable corner; we just keep turning hoping our destination will emerge while in the meantime needing a sense of normalcy. Sometimes that paradox and tension and introspection gets me down.

And I'm really missing two thirteen year old boys who live a long way away. I can't even get in touch with 'em.
So let me just free associate and ramble.

The kids started school on Thursday. A great, urban, Christian, college prep school called The Potter's House. We're apparently eligible for the Free Lunch program. (Don't know if that is good or bad.)

We will be moving out of our friend's guest cottage soon, into a duplex which we'll be in until April.
After three and a half years, the dry air is reintroducing me to two old foes: cracked feet and boogers. ('Tis true: there are no boogers in Liberia.)

The night we left Liberia, armed rogues broke into the houses of two FACT members and stole the market money. About $200, all of which would have gone back into the market for improvements.
We got hold of Vera by cell phone a couple days ago. She sounded great. She says Niki is doing well, and adjusting to her new diet: less food, less protein, and plenty of Bulgar.

We are more used to the enormous wealth and privilege this nation, city and state enjoy. I know that compared to other times, people here are struggling. I understand that, like adjusting to the climate, "bad" or "good," "rich" or "poor" is determined by our point of reference. So relative to my Liberian friends, Michigan is more healthy than they can imagine. Relative to past glories, Michigan is in crisis. We are more able to sympathize with fellow Michiganders who are frightened about the future.
I'm thankful for Diet Mountain Dew, but I've still gained about ten pounds in the last two weeks.

Shoveling snow is still invigorating. Especially when your kids do it.

Noah, digging through a few inches of white stuff on a very cold evening.

Hannah says Hey!

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Reeds in Limbo

So Now What?
Ok, Renita told me it wasn't a dream after all. Maybe not, but this doesn't feel quite real either. Like "don't get too settled."
We've already adjusted to the cold and snow. It is not so bad and beats the hoo-ha out of the humidity of Liberia. Last week, I wore the same tee shirt for two days. That would have been two hours in West Africa.
The Reeds are in transition. We left Liberia and people we love because we are looking for a place where our kids can go to a good school and Renita and I can devote more daytime energy working with the people in a developing country. We do not know as of yet where that will be.
We want to keep those of you who are interested informed about what's happening in our lives as we follow this God of ours around His world. A blog is a good way to do that. But this blog is called "The Reeds in Liberia." The transition is out of Liberia, through Michigan USA, and into Someplace Else.
So regarding the blog, here's the deal. We'll use this blog as home base for the transition. There are still a lot of pieces of the Reeds in Liberia anyway. I'll still post regularly, because frankly, we are doing a lot of reflecting these days. So visit us here. When we know where we are going, a new blog will be born, and we'll get together over there. Ok? Ok.
Oh, and this PS: Some of you are suspicious that, because we did not mentioned what happened to the deer, that perhaps, well, er-- maybe we ate it. Not so! The deer found a nice fenced home, thanks to our LEAD friend, Allen Gweh. However, there seems to be a monkey in that yard, and judging by what happened last time the deer met our monk (the monkey tore the deer's tail half off), the deer will need some time to figure out friend from foe. But she's safe from the coal pots of men. Now a few pics.

This morning. Hangin' out at our lil' guest home away from wherever. Nate and Kris Vander Stelt are putting us up-- or putting up with us-- until the end of December.

Outside, it just ain't the same as what we've been used to...

...but its pretty... ...just the same.
Hannah and Noah tossing loosely packed frozen crystals of water.

Meanwhile, 5150 miles away, boys on the beach of Buchanan watch the fishermen...

...while FACT holds a community meeting, complete with a role play...

... and LEAD's James Hillary teaches another business class...

...and MPCHS's Grace Boiwu sits with a group of women in Johnson Town...

... and somewhere in Foster Town, Trokon, Enoch and Eastman are together, missing us maybe as much as we miss them.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Last Night I had the Strangest Dream

Hey you--

Gotta tell ya about this one. It was one of those real long dreams-- you know, that come from a deep sleep. In it, I was in Africa-- in Liberia I think-- I was part of a family and we were doing all sorts of things there. Strange images kept coming. There was this one part where this African kid just stared at us and sang to us from up a plum tree. And another part where I was doing some teaching or something to Africans and my clothes were soaking wet... and another part where it was dark and there were these three evil smelling dudes with machetes trying to rob me and this family I was with... the robbers kept "shushing" me....

I remember this family I was with even had a monkey and some sort of armadillo or something. And my wife was named Wanita or something, and she was like this super woman and I remember feeling guilty because I was just some middle aged fat bald guy who sweated all the time. I remember being by the ocean and some kid drowned... it was weird. They seemed to keep drowning at regular intervals right through the dream.

There was no TV or running water or Internet at our house. We had a generator or something we ran every night for lights. We lived behind this cement block wall with glass shards and razor wire on it. We ate this really strong tasting food with snails and some kind of raccoon meat. No Burger Kings, KFCs or even 7-11s in the neighborhood either. I couldn't even find Diet Mt Dew, even though I kept looking and looking... and this all white family I started off with kept getting bigger and bigger because now these Africans-- Liberians I think-- were joining the family. And then there were these babies named Wanita and Bob, just like me and this lady I was married to. That was creepy. But it was so honkin' real.

Ah but then I woke up, opened the shades and saw this:

... and I knew it was just a dream.

So I went back to bed. Write more later.

Yer Pal,


Friday, November 21, 2008

Leaving Liberia, Part Six

Our Last Day

Friday the 21st was our last day in Liberia. None of the four of us could really grasp the idea as we went through the parting activities. We did not know what leaving meant. Now, as I write from 40,000 feet in the air, we still don't. But we all feel different from when we visited North America a year and a half ago. This time we are leaving and, unless He does something completely unforeseen and miraculous, we are not returning anytime soon. All of us feel sad about saying goodbye-- especially to a handful of young people with whom we have bonded as family.

I'll have more to write soon about leaving Liberia, what it is meaning, how we will maintain our connection with you who read this faithfully, and what life is now like for us in this transition period. Look for another post in a few days. Right now, a few captured moments of a day filled with emotion-- our last day in Liberia.

The day started with final organizing details. We ended up carrying away 12-50lb suitcases. That was it. Everything else ways sold or given away or reserved in case CRCNA sends paid staff here.

By 9:00am we were checking in at the downtown Air Brussels office. Our flight would not leave until 9:30 pm GMT, but we wanted to dump those 12 suitcases ASAP.

For the rest of the day, we said goodbye as folks came and went.

Our next door neighbor children taking care of theirs and other people's kids. Sisters Odelle (left) and Patience Reeves, with Success "Bobby" Reeves in Odelle's arms and Patience holding her little Renita. Standing in front are more children dumped on the sisters, Kopo and Vera.

During the day, we said farewell to our stuff. I only felt sad when the fans went. I would not have been able to be in Liberia without those solar powered DC fans.

A quiet moment for Noah. One of many.

Hannah, being a bit pensive in the late afternoon with only a few hows left.

A few happy-sad moments. Vera, with her new adopted pet. Yes, she took Niki.

The night before Noah said goodbye to Max, who will live in a huge fenced yard with a great family of four kids and two dogs.

There goes the DC fridge.

The kids played and talked and sat with each other, visibly conscious that this was it.

Renita with Renita. Vera in background.

And so, the night came. We formed a circle, sang, prayed...

...and said our last goodbyes. Patience says a tearful goodbye to Renita. Note little Renita's fingers around big Renita's leg.

There are others who could join us, but this for sure is the new Reed family. We are so sad to leave Renita, Eastman, and Trokon.

As I write Saturday morning, the coast of England reminds me the parting is real.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Leaving Liberia, Part Five

We'll Miss You, We'll Miss You Not...
We'll Miss You

Today is Wednesday-- our last in Liberia. The goodbyes are frequent, and with a few, we are just not going there. Apparently, we will be getting an escort to the airport by many of our friends, and I'm sure that will be quite a scene. I know I'm going to lose it. Hannah and Noah too. Renita says she won't-- "she just doesn't cry at things like this." We'll see.

Leaving our people will be the hardest part of course. But there are some things-- Liberia things-- that we also will miss. And some, of course, that we won't. Let's examine a small list:

We Will Not Miss Daily Water Duty. About thirty gallons a day, pumped and lugged from next door.
"I can do it" I a professiona' mechanah!" Every guy that worked on our car was self taught, and more often than not we had to bring it back to somebody to fix what was fixed. A common practice is to remove good parts for sale, then when the bad part fails, work to fix that too, using whatever creative method could be rigged.

Jiggers. Dug out of many toes and other parts, including each of ours several times during three and a half years. Here Odelle assists Renita.

Monrovia Traffic. It is not that unusual from other African cities, but without traffic lights and so many "self taught" taxi drivers, it gets stupid. For thirty six years, I loved to drive. Now, I give the keys to Renita when I can.

The Humidity. The Sweating. This in Rivercess. Why do the other guys look so cool?

Being reminded everywhere we go that there was no "sanctuary" during the war. No place was safe. Most buildings were left in ruins. A church near Baye's Town.

Being daily reminded that those all around us, even our dearest friends, lived lives of hardship and deep poverty. Vera's home.

We Will Miss

The humidity-produced morning mists. This in Gbarnga.

Hanging out with jes' folks in the villages. Johnson Town.

"German Plums." (Small Liberian Mangoes. So good, it must be descended from the Forbidden Fruit.)

The Liberian Coast. Treacherous, non-negotiating, and inspiring.

Just hanging out in the yard in the late afternoon. This can be done anywhere, of course, but the contrast between the humidity of the day and the relative cool of the breezy late afternoon cannot be experienced in very many places.

Cooking huts. I love 'em. In every village. No two are alike, and every one is a place of communion, comfort, food and family.
"Dancin' with the ones He brung us to... "