Monday, February 18, 2008

ReedNews Update: Fat February Edition

We are in the midst of one of our most active months, and to add crazy to hectic, US President Bush will drive by our house and be in Monrovia next Thursday. This is only the second time a US president has "officially" visited Liberia, the other time when Jimmy Carter paid a call in 1978. (FDR stopped over at Robertsfield Airport during WW2, but this was only to visit US troops.) President Bush appears to have a heart for Liberia, and he and President Johnson-Sirleaf seem to have a great relationship. The February 21 visit will completely disrupt normal life in the Capital; roads will be closed all day, and we are hearing even the cell phone network will be de-activated. This apparently is to thwart possible attack by cell phone operated bombs. I do not understand this. How many nations would allow its entire cellular communication system to be disabled due to a visit from US president? Oh well, in other news:

Item: LEAD conference, titled “The Way Forward: The Future of Small Business in Liberia,” hopes to host 300 business owners at the all day event February 23rd. Speakers include members of the legislature, the head of the Liberia Business Association, the Minister of Commerce and President Johnson-Sirleaf. Pray that the turn out matches the quality of the event.

Item: The Nehemiah Liberia Group— the US partner to LEAD birthed out of our home church—Madison Square Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan—will have representatives visiting us, as well as other Madison Square folks this week. They arrive mid-week, will visit businesses and attend the conference, and do some other hands-on kind of activities, the leave next Wednesday.

Item: I get to miss the Bush visit—I’m in Dakar Senegal from Sunday the 17th until Friday the 22nd attending meetings with the CRWRC West Africa Ministry Team. There, other members of the team from Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone will be getting together. A big part of our agenda will be a day-long discussion of the future of CRWRC’s role in Liberia. That discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, the 20th.

Item: We are any day expecting a very late container to come, loaded with books donated by many loving Canadians—including Renita’s family and packed and shipped by Active Kids Canada. We now are hoping it will be even later, until after I return from Senegal to help with the hundreds of boxes of books.

Item: So we got books coming, but what do we do with them? No problem, we identified five schools with the capacity to maintain libraries, and Active Kids funded the actual construction of library rooms. The books will have homes, and five schools will have hundreds of books that had none before. Please God, let the container come after this week!

Item: Thanks to gifts that came to us in memory of Norm Katerberg, we have been able to sponsor a project we think would have delighted our dear friend. In Monrovia, there is a girl’s school with 851 girls, but no playground. Inspired by Norm’s boundless love of children, we decided—in consultation with the Katerberg family, to use the money for a playground. It will have two slides, three swing sets, two marry-go-rounds, three teeter totters, and a jungle gym. That gets built this week as well. Norm’s son, Todd Flier, will be out with the Nehemiah group to aid in the construction.

Item: My Conflict Analysis and Peacebuilding class started last week. It is a class made up of the last twelve students in the “Associates” program in Social Work. We are working to smoothly integrate them into the BSW program.

Item: The Land cruiser may be fixed, but it has cost several thousand dollars to do it. First the crankshaft was mistakenly “repaired,” then the fuel filter pump (very expensive item on this vehicle), then we needed rotors and brake pads. But we can now drive to Gbarnga without it breaking down, so maybe the sacrifice of US dollars appeased the Bong County powers.

Item: Nikki is not pregnant.

Here are a few pics-- sorry about the small captions. Its a long story. The bottom two are of Monrovia, one looking from the north at the city, the other, same location, looking to the north at an area called West Point and the port beyond. The arrow identifies the Mercy Ship.