Football (soccer) is huge in Sierra Leone, as it is in most of the world. Tejan loved to play, and even with his leg, could run circles around the rest of us when we'd walk over to the field by our house to play as a family.
Saturday afternoon the COTN team played against a team of surrounding villagers. The women played first, then the men.
Some observations: whenever a goal was made, EVERYONE supporting that team ran out onto the field to celebrate. It was mayhem.
A couple of times, there were disagreements about calls made by the officials... the people on the sidelines would yell at him, or at each other with such anger, I was sure a couple of times it would come to blows. But then, the yelling would stop and the people involved would smile and laugh. This was the first time I saw this 'playful' anger, but not the last. There were numerous times I found myself just drinking in the surroundings... palm trees, dirt field, babies strapped onto their mother's backs... a soccer tournament in Sierra Leone. I was still feeling the need to pinch myself.While the soccer game was interesting (from a cultural perspective more than an athletic one for me personally, although I was amazed at the athletic talent I saw as well) I was just as intruiged by the people, and found myself turning my camera off the field and onto the faces of the children around me. I just couldn't resist.Tejan wasn't there for about the first 45 minutes after we got there - I asked around and found out he was in his house, writing letters for me to bring back to friends. He showed up right after the men's game started though, and we sat together the whole time.
After awhile, we pulled away from the crowd and went to sit on a bench a short distance from the backs of those watching the game. There, we were able to talk in depth about his transition back to Sierra Leone, his struggles and frustrations, and his successes. We talked about his friends in Spokane, our summer at home after he left, school, and a little bit about the future. This was the first chance I'd had to really build into him and continue to reassure him about the continuation of our relationship with him.
I told him how blessed I feel to have a son who lives in Africa. And how special and unique he is because he has a family in America. There were a few tears. And a lot of pausing on my part as I gathered my thoughts... I wanted to be careful to use words that encouraged him - and not say things that would make him miss his life in America. I do believe he has had a very special and unique set of circumstances in his short life and that God is going to use that to do great things. Things we have yet to realize...
After the soccer game, Tejan went back to his house for his dinner, and we went back to the office complex to have ours. This was my favorite meal the whole time we were there. We had chicken, fried plantain, some sort of fritter that tasted like plantain, cold pasta salad and gingerbread. I found myself starting to crave something really cold around this time... like a popsicle or an icy drink. Nothing is ever cold in Sierra Leone. Even the 'cold' drinks are more lukewarm than anything. Everything is relative, of course, so a 'sort of cold' drink is better than a warm drink when you've been sweating ALL day... but I'd have paid $10 for an icy anything right about then...
That evening there was a youth gathering... Children from the home and surrounding villages that are 13 or older are welcome at the youth meetings. There is an intern on staff with COTN who runs these meetings. It was very well attended - with probably 100 to 150 kids there. We headed over to watch a video Chris had brought of some of the kids from the first years COTN was in Sierra Leone - baby pictures, if you will. Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties and he wasn't able to show it. We stayed to watch some of the meeting, however, and were again amazed by the length and breadth of the Sierra Leonean style of meeting. These people really like being on stage. And they like watching other people on stage. And it's not uncommon for just about anyone to be allowed to 'make a contribution' to the event at hand.
I think the long day and the long skits and the huge moth-like bugs that were flying everywhere started to wear on me, and I got a little giddy under the pressure. I felt the need to just get back to my room and process and pray and rest.
Eventually, I did. And that evening, I found these verses in my bible and wrote in my journal:
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights."
These verses remind me of these people... these people who wake up before daybreak to start their chores and play soccer in worn out jelly shoes... who have no electricity or running water and who own, maybe, three changes of clothes. Who do not have the luxury of distraction or the extravagance of silly entertainment... and yet they are so strong. And happy. And content.
I admire them so."