Monday, July 14, 2014

Off we go...



Alhassan, one of the boys we sponsor - he
was 8 in this picture - now he will be 11!
A week from today Asia and I will be back in this beautiful place. The village of Banta. Sierra Leone. West Africa.

My to-do list this week is quite long... lots of last minute shopping, laundry, organizing, packing.

I am SO excited to be going back.

I've shared with so many people about my heart for this place... that I am blessed to have children on the other side of the globe... a beloved family of lovely people who live out their days on this red earth.

But some of you do not know the story. And so I offer it to you here.

You can click HERE to get the whole back story to my love affair with this beautiful country and it's people...

This trip was originally scheduled so we could be there for Tejan's graduation from high school. Unfortunately, the government of Sierra Leone changed the exam dates for seniors this year, so instead of taking the exams that qualify them for graduation in April and May like they have done every other year, now the exams will be held in November. So no graduation. The team of people we are going with will be hosting an 'encouragement retreat' for the students instead of a graduation party as originally planned. We are just happy to be going to see our 'kids' there.

Spengy, another boy we sponsor
In addition to Tejan, we also sponsor two other boys - Alhassan and Spengy. They are SUCH great kids. If we had the money, we could easily sponsor 10 or more other kids who have won our hearts. I'm always advocating for people to sponsor them... because they are real people who get real benefits (like school! and clean water! and clothes! and a home!) from an organization that in my opinion does an incredible job of empowering people in one of the world's most impoverished nations. Your money is well-spent sponsoring these beautiful children. If you're at all interested, you can go to the Children of the Nations website and get involved.

Asia will also be doing some training with the social workers who are on staff with Children of the Nations. Not only does COTN operate a children's home, they run a school for over 700 children from surrounding villages. Many of these children come from homes with lots of needs - and the social workers spend time identifying those needs and working with the families to provide assistance. Asia gets to bring his expertise on child welfare and trauma to those workers while we are there.

Our visit in 2011 was an incredible opportunity to show our kids the reality of poverty in the third world. This time, Asia and I are going alone. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime trip for our family and frankly, very, very expensive to take everyone. We had many people who came alongside us and helped with expenses for that trip. This time, we chose to pay for the trip ourselves. It is a personal value we hold to continue to return to Sierra Leone, and we feel strongly that our values need to play out in the way we spend and save our money. So we go without financial backing this time. However, we still covet your prayers as we head there.

If you would like to pray for us, here are some specific needs:
  • our kids will be home alone together for the duration of our trip - we have pretty awesome kids, but we'd appreciate your prayers that no one gets sick or hurt and that there aren't any household catastrophes in our absence
  • you may have heard about the ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The CDC has issued a stage 2 warning, which does not prohibit travel to the country. We (obviously) would like to avoid the disease and have some anxiety about entering a country with an outbreak of such a deadly disease. While you're praying that we can avoid contact with ebola, please pray for the country at large, as they have a lot of suspicion of doctors and access to medical care in general is limited - this outbreak really does have the potential to become an epidemic in a country that is already one of the lowest on the Human Development Index and only recently recovered from a 10 year civil war.
  • pray for our travel - it takes 27 hours to get to Freetown, the capitol of Sierra Leone, from Seattle. We will spend the night there and then have an 8 hour drive out to the village. It's a LOOOOOONG haul. I already suffer from insomnia and am seeking grace in the area of good rest and high energy while we are there. The trip home has typically been even harder on my body - pray for endurance.
  • please pray for Tejan specifically - having lived with us in the US for 8 months, he always struggles with the reality of his home being Sierra Leone. I'm sure when we come to visit it reignites that struggle. He has suffered from depression in the past. We are unsure what the plans are for his future now that he will be graduating from secondary school. We want him to go to university and continue his education but are always aware of his desire to come back to the States. We need to make it clear to Tejan on this trip especially that we love him, but that we will not 'sponsor' his return to the US, or support him if he chooses to move here on his own. It's a tough call, but we support COTN's vision and desire to raise strong leaders who will stay in their country of origin. Obviously, we cannot stop T. from coming here if he has the ability to get here somehow on his own. And we would love on him if he chooses someday to move here. But we need to be clear that he will have to have the ability to support himself if that's what he decides to do. That won't be an easy conversation to have, but I suspect we may need to have it on this visit. Just as we expect our adult children to be self-supporting, we will encourage T. to also do what is necessary to be a productive, contributing member of society, whichever society that is.
I cannot tell you how eager I am to be there again... to walk the red earth and smell that familiar, sweet smell I've only experienced in beautiful Salone. It's a dream that I've had the privilege of traveling there three times now... I wish I could take you all with you and introduce you to the beautiful people and land that is Sierra Leone.

We will be completely 'off the grid' while we are there... there will be no way to update you on the trip as it is happening. (Which I'm actually thankful for... it's a blessing to be fully immersed in the culture without the draw of technology and any 'connection' to American culture.) I will write when we return. I will tell you stories. I will show you pictures. I will share my love of this amazing place. I will ask you to sponsor children unapologetically. I will return again changed by this beautiful country I call my second home and the incredible people who are my family there.

Thanks for coming along with us... we leave Friday night for Seattle and our international flight leaves Saturday morning at 7:00 am... that's when we go off the grid. I can't wait to tell you all about it.
Our family with Tejan in 2011. Yes, my hair is 'planted.' (As well as Kyler and Savannah's)
Not my best look!




1 comment:

  1. Dee Carson12:52 PM

    We're so happy for you to be able to go back. Give Tejan and Isatu hugs for us.
    We will be praying for your trip.................We shared about your trip with our Small Group Bible Study last night and we will all be holding you up in prayer.

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