Kimmie's eJournal #10 (archived)

eJournal #10

March 22, 2009


Sometimes I am astounded by the fact that I am actually in Africa.  I have so many friends here now, that it seems like another home, but then I will be staring out at the St. Paul River flowing past Bromley, or talking in a classroom of students, or sitting in a packed church singing, dancing and clapping to the drums and sassas of the offertory praise and thanksgiving, and I will think, my gosh… I am in Africa!

I have returned to Liberia to assist Bromley, for a sad final journey for quite some time, as my contract through the Diocese will expire at the end of this trip.  Through my journeys to Liberia, however, I have learned that the great thing about life is that you never know what is around the bend and I must hang my hopes there.  The smiles on the faces of the Bromley girls, however, make me eager to live in the moment and simply enjoy them.

From the moment I descended the airplane steps to the tarmac and breathed the rich, earthy smell of Liberia, I couldn’t believe the wash of serenity.  How could I, in the midst of such abject poverty, in a tiny country that holds the largest UN deployment in the world, feel such peace?

After a week here, I am just beginning to settle back into “Liberian time,” and the slow, methodical, relaxed ways of conducting business. The wind has been blowing up to 25 knots since I have been here, which is typical preceding the rainy season, and offers a fabulous reprieve to the 90° heat.

It always takes a few days to adjust to the rhythms of generator power, like when we lose electricity from a summer storm at home and I still flip the light switch in every room I walk into.  Here, I come back at the end of the day and think I will get some computer work done, or charge my phone and make calls, but then remember that the generator will not be on until dark. 

Instead, I am forced out of my familiar routine.  I am forced to observe more, to walk outside of the compound gates and “sit and talk” with new friends.  Maybe this is what makes Liberia seem like home. Maybe home is not a computer, phone, iPod, appliance, house or car.  Maybe home is a place where we truly learn to enjoy each other.  The day is over.  The work is done.  Turn all gadgets off.  Turn the rest of life on.

I have only been gone for 4 months, but upon my return, I see that much has changed.  The road from the airport was actually smooth!  There are road crews out in abundance around Duala Market and cinderblock walls, the sounds of hammering and even new plantings of palm and cassava are immerging from the earth. There is a slightly altered morale…as if life itself is beginning again.

Even Bromley’s spirit is better.  They have a new principal giving new structure and the girls seem a little more hopeful.  The garden that was begun during my last trip now has corn, eggplant, cassava, potato greens and peppers growing and the bulletin board just inside of the school’s entrance brags of the developing agriculture program and shows pictures of the girls gardening.

In between business and meetings in Monrovia, I have been working with the students on art and writing projects.  It is incredible to witness their “ah-ha” moments, their discoveries of new perspectives.  I see why my teacher friends love it so much.

Today was Liberian Episcopalians’ Mother’s Day, “Mothering Sunday” or “Refreshment Sunday” at the Trinity Cathedral in Monrovia. The four and a half hour service was not cumbersome, even though we were, as is typical, drenched in sweat. This Sunday, marking the halfway point in lent, is a Sunday of celebration in Liberia.  It is a Sunday to honor mothers and the nourishment and care that they provide.  As Bishop Hart said, mothers are a light, a light in the darkness, a light home.

Even now, almost six years after the war’s end, I was shocked by the prayer just before communion, “Thank you for sparing our lives.” I forget sometimes, just what they all have suffered- in fact, I cannot, in my wildest nightmare, envision it.  But, here they are, celebrating mothers, coming together, buds in the cinders.

I am learning that we can do nothing on our own and that Jesus asks us to do a simple thing…shine our light.  Even if we all have the smallest light, together we are bright.  Hundreds of people in the congregation came to the front of the church to light a candle to honor their mother.  Hundreds of candles illuminated a handmade wooden stand and a beautiful alter.

Hundreds of people in a church following the day’s theme, as we all must…”Go Light the World.”

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