Monday, September 15, 2008

ReedNews Update: September Edition

Weather: Overcast most days, with moderate rains almost every night, averaging just under an inch a day. Light and variable winds from the south or west, with temps in the upper 60sF at night to upper 70s in the day. Much hotter and very humid when the sun makes an appearance.

As we round another rainy season, we are enjoying “Liberian Normal.” Even things that used to rattle us, like the car blowing a radiator out in the bush (last week), or the generator going on the fritz (this week) or getting the Pathfinder stuck in the mud (three days ago) are taken in stride. Stuff happens in Liberia, and you just work the problem ‘til its fixed. But that’s on a micro level. On a macro level, “fixing the problem” or “problems” in Liberia is not as simple. There are many mechanics in the garage, and not all agree on the diagnosis or the appropriate tools. But the country remains at peace and stable. Here are some news tidbits:

Item: Food prices have climbed to record levels. Almost everything has tripled in price. From potato greens in the market to apples in the grocery store, the prices are making life very difficult for the average Liberian. The cost of transportation, of course, has tripled as well, since it is the price of fuel which lies at the heart of the overall price hike. We find it merely frustrating; our neighbors find they must go hungry some days.

Item: The controversial Truth and Reconciliation Commission continues. Following the model of South Africa and Sierra Leone, the Liberian TRC is intended to provide a forum for victims of the civil war to tell their stories, and for perpetrators to confess their crimes in a safe environment leading to forgiveness, restitution, and restoration. This is how it is supposed to work. Lately though, the process has been somewhat politicized, with some grandstanding and finger pointing as some well known figures take the stand. The TRC proceedings are broadcast on the radio, so everybody hears the testimony.

Item: The Sirleaf-Johnson administration is cracking down on the rogues who plague this country, most often at night: the legislature has passed the death penalty for certain crimes related to armed robbery. Amnesty International and the UN have opposed the move, but Liberians are wholeheartedly behind it. Several rogues were burned alive in Red Light the other day, and we’ve heard rumors that three rogues were shot to death and secretly buried just down the road from here while we were in Nigeria.

Item: LEAD just graduated its 11th and 12th class, with its 13th starting tomorrow in Buchanan. Total in loans disbursed to date US$159,000. Repayment rate: above 90%.

Item: In Reed news, Renita and I are preparing for two October gatherings. She’s getting ready to leave us for the States to attend a Partners Worldwide conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, while I am getting ready for an important one day meeting with several Liberian NGOs and Joel Huyser, who’ll be representing the Christian Reformed Church in North America to discuss the future of organizations like Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM), and Partners Worldwide (PW) in Liberia.

Item: FACT marches on. The Fostertown Association for Community Transformation is looking to the future. Knowing the Reeds will not be around after November, and thus a key conduit of support will be gone, the board is developing partnerships with Liberians of means and government reps to join them in upcoming activities. In the meantime, the FACT market continues to provide for the community, although in the present economy, it has taken a hit like everyone else. There is room for a hundred market tables, currently only 40 are filled.

Here are a few pictures of contemporary LiL. (Life in Liberia)

Sometimes teaching a LEAD staffer how to drive has its consequences-- "Watch out for the porch-o!" This was the Buchanan office porch.
Now a few faces: Garmi, seller of red oil and other goods at the FACT market.
Hannah and Noah, performing Abbot and Costello's "Who's of First" for our Gambia friends last May.

Dene'. One of my alltime favorite liberian images. I think Hannah took it.
Apple mugging while Renita enjoys.
My Mom and Step-Dad back in Michigan-- celebrating her 80th birthday September 13 at a Detroit Tigers baseball game. Go lady! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!