Monday, September 22, 2008

Leaving Liberia
Part One: Why?

The Reeds have known these days would come since we arrived thirty eight months ago, but we didn’t know the details. We didn't know when they would come. But they are upon us. For those of you who have faithfully joined us thus far, some of you may be surprised at the news. True, when we came we said we’d be here at least three years, so in a way there was advance notice. But there are a lot of good reasons to continue; why change scenery now? We agree with the spirit of the question. There is so much to do in Liberia. This country will be digging itself out of its post-war abyss for decades to come. It needs all the support it can get. The skills that Renita and I offer--psychosocial, educational, organizational, administrative-- have proven of value in a country where so much is being rebuilt from the ground up. In addition, we have adjusted to life here. We know how to be in this country and it has become familiar and often comfortable to us. To leave and go somewhere else would mean another possibly long and difficult period of adjustment.

We understand these facts very well, and while the thought of going leaves us emotionally ambivalent, we are convinced beyond doubt that it is the time to go. There are two reasons either of which alone would be enough to cause this move, and neither are reasons that look to change anytime soon.

Reason #1 Hannah and Noah need a healthier socio-educational environment. That sounds a little psycho-babble-ish, but what it means is our kids need to go to a good school where they can be seen as part of the crowd and make friends. Let’s parse that sentence out a bit. “Our kids need to go to a good school…” For three years, first Renita and then both of us have provided Hannah and Noah with the best home schooling we could. And we think we’ve done a good job. But home schooling is not an ideal choice for us or our kids any more. It keeps Renita and I away from other important work, and it locks Hannah and Noah into a very limited educational environment. “… where they can be seen as part of the crowd and make friends.” Those Liberian children who we think of as friends are atypical. Friendship requires a certain level of unspoken understanding, a connection that does not need explaining. That kind of connection is extraordinary even in a shared culture, how much more in two very different cultures? The most obvious solution of course, is to send our kids to a good school with kids from many cultures—including their own—here in Liberia. But none exist. There are no quality international high schools in Liberia. If we want our kids to enjoy a healthier “socio-educational environment,” we need to go where that environment is.

Reason #2 We need to free our family and friends from the burden of being our sole support. Some of you have been incredibly generous, giving thousands of dollars toward our efforts here. All of the support we have received for everything—food, housing, transportation, logistics, everything—has come from less than a hundred steadfast people who love us and love the people of Liberia. When we first told our family and friends about this work and asked them to join us, we promised them the financial sacrifice would be for a limited time. We need to honor that promise. If we could do that and stay in Liberia, we would (assuming Reason #1 was addressed). But the Liberian economy certainly cannot support us, and the organizations with which we work, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and Partners Worldwide, have no paid positions here. If we want to continue the kind of work we are doing and not rely solely on loved ones to do it, we need to leave Liberia.

Some of you are already asking, "What next?" "What is for Liberia, what next for the Reeds?" We have some answers for you, but we are still working on the details. Stay tuned, and we'll get them to you as fast as we can. In the meantime, enjoy these random shots from a place we have grown to love.

The lush vegetation of Liberia-- always green, but during the rainy season so lush you almost get drenched looking at it. September 2006
Among my most favorite pictures of Renita. I've probably posted it before. This on our first morning in Liberia, July 2005.
What can I say? Kids, everyday.
The countryside-- this a farm house in Kakata. April 2007

The city. Monrovia. April 2008
Another favorite shot. This of Trokon, on the left. What will I do without this young man and his brother, Eastman, in my life? February 2007

Max, this morning.
Sunset off the porch, September 2008