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    March 2011 Newsletter

    Four Weeks in Liberia
    03/22/2011


     


    Wow. I really have a hard time knowing where to begin as I sit here and desire to share with you about our time in Liberia. My husband, our two kids, and I traveled to Liberia in January and stayed for four weeks at Daniel Hoover Children's Village. We had the joy of also having our two Liberian children, who we've been in the process of adopting for several years now, stay with us the entire time. It was the first time all six of us had been together as a family! This was a huge part of why we decided to go in the first place... to be together. There was another main reason as well, however. We have been happy to be invested in the children of Liberia through sponosrship, the adoption process, and through last June's missions trip, but we sensed God just had more for us to be a part of. We really wanted to have more time to spend there, getting to know the staff and being a part of everyday life.

    The trip was eye-opening in so many ways. It was challenging living among 200 children who are clamouring for your time and attention constantly. It was a joy to get to get to interact with them and let them know they are loved. It was a privilege to come to call the staff members our friends, to hear their hearts, their joys and their difficulties... and to become a part of their lives. We spent many days at the Deaf School loving on the kids there as well. We were able to experience a typical day in the children's lives; the good and the not-so-good.

    The children were just beginning their second semester of school when we arrived. There were some children who went home and will now stay with family, as well as new children who came to enroll. Once the first week passed, things fell into more of a dependable routine; chores in the morning, school, change out of uniforms, eat the main meal, free time, gather for devotions, settle into the dorms for the evening. Though things are not at all "organized" as we think of it here in America, there is thought that goes into the events of the day, and this pattern is roughly followed each school day. Weekends are for chores, washing and braiding hair for the girls, football (soccer) for the boys, and for resting in any cool place you can find.



    The children are in such good hands. I wish I had the time and space to tell you all about the dorm matrons we got to know, about the Sieh family who directs at DHCV, and about Pastor Harrington who is the head (and father figure) at the Deaf School. They are outstanding individuals. They care for the kids, have their best at heart, and are acting in obedience to the Lord as they do what He has called them to. It is utterly apparent to us, however, that there are just not enough care-givers to address the needs of so many children. Many kids are extremely helpful, but a good handful of them (at least at DHCV) are quite unruly at times, and that makes for a big challenge for their caregivers, as the ratio of matrons to kids is about 1:50. (This is not the case at the Deaf School, as the ratio is much more balanced.) As you can imagine, there is very little one-on-one time that can be given to the kids, which is not an optimal way to be raised into adulthood. We found ourselves wondering what could be done to try to help in these struggles, and to be honest, we just don't know. God will have to continue to strengthen the staff, and reveal his plans to us all. We are deeply grateful though, for the way that God's word is taught faithfully to the children, and that they are grounded in the most important things of all.

    It was extremely encouraging to once again experience the affection and joy of the Liberian people. I am struck each time we are there, that despite the extreme poverty and tumultuous history of the country, the people are overwhelmingly full of joy and thankfulness. The kids are needy of attention, to be sure, but they are not neglected by any stretch, as you hear of accounts in orphanage settings in Russia and other countries. These children are full of life and happiness, creativity and a great capacity to extend and receive love. That, to me, is incredible... and a testimony of the relational focus within the Liberian culture. We spent many, many hours sitting and snuggling, braiding hair, playing soccer, talking and sharing, and listening to the kids' beautiful voices as they sang their many songs to us.

    One highlight for me was having the honor of bringing packages to children whose sponsors sent something to them. They all were so excited to get these special parcels... just for them! Most end up sharing some of the the goodies inside with their friends. I want to say THANK YOU to those of you who were able to send something... it is an extremely impactful thing to connect to your child in this way. The sponsorship program continues to get more organized as we have more opportunities to work in Liberia and partner with the staff to get updates and pictures. The funds from this program are a blessing that I just can't do justice to describe. Without this outside help, the ACFI ministry would surely struggle to provide the most basic needs of the indigent and orphaned children. As it is, financial difficulties are the norm, and there is no end to the needs that are faced each day... but the sponsorship program is beginning to bridge that gap, and certainly has been a sweet way for people like you and me to start to see God's heart for his people in Liberia. Thank you for being a part.


    Jason with some of the Deaf Mission students in their uniforms 

     I thought I'd end with something I did on my last day at DHCV. I was sitting on our little porch, on the rickety benches where all the kids would come and hang out with our family. A group of "my girls" was with me... these were some of the older girls, (Henrietta and Nowai among them ~ for the benefit of their sponsors!) and I was asking them about what they remembered of the civil war. All of them had stories.... all of them. They all had very vivid experiences to share with me, each had seen very horrible and gruesome and violent things. I couldn't fathom my own children, ages 5-11, having lived through the things that were being told to me. I couldn't imagine what impact that would have on them for the rest of their lives. And I certainly couldn't believe that I was sitting here with these girls hearing them talk of rape and beatings, mutilation and bloated bodies in the streets, as if it were something not-too-out-of-the-ordinary. It was their history. It was their childhood. It was unreal. I knew it all before. I've read lots of books on Liberia's history, but the reality of it all hit me when my sweet young friends, who I got to hug everyday for a month, were remembering it. What struck me most though, was that each one, with great conviction, told me that they and their loved ones would never have lived through it all except by God's grace and goodness to them. They praised Him, and their thankfulness was deep and real.

    That's what's amazing about Liberia. There are great heartaches and trials, but there is a deep dependence on the only one who can make a way through. Jesus, for those who know Him, is their true anchor. They trust Him for their food each day, for their health and very life, for peace in their land. These things are not taken for granted. So, while we Americans certainly have help to offer them, we have at least as much to learn.

    The verse I tried to hang on to while in Liberia was Nehemiah 8:10, but interestingly, it sums up quite well and simply the way Liberian believers live their lives. I hope it encourages you today!

    "The joy of the Lord is my strength" Nehemiah 8:10

    With JOY,
    Corrie Luebke
    Sponsorship Coordinator

    [Posted: 03/22/2011]


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