Today, Jen Green, an incredible teacher from California, and I (Sharon Gardner) finished our last day of collaboration with 8 inspiring teacher-leaders from Sierra Leone. This relationship and collaboration began last summer when these teachers and I were part of a group of 30 Sierra Leonian and 5 American teachers learning together and sharing our teaching lives with each other over 5 days. This summer, these 8 were invited to participate in a 4 day trainer-of-trainers professional development where, in partnership, we deepened our understanding of children and learning and developed a curriculum for these teacher-leaders to use with other teachers in Sierra Leone. Our time together was filled with laughter, strong opinions, serious conversations, respect, years of experience, a deep love for children and education and great joy!
The last couple of days have been busy and fun filled with time spent directly interacting with children. Saturday was family fun day at the CRC and 70 children from the community and their parents attended the event. The team and children played “football”, volleyball, games like musical chairs, and even had an impromptu beauty parlor where the girls plaited some of the team member's hair. Many of the sponsored children were at the event which was especially great as we had the opportunity for extended time to interact with our sponsor kids. In the afternoon, part of the team traveled 2 hours to the village of Pujehun to visit a sponsored child and bring the family rice and gifts. The rest of the team bought fabric in town and visited the local tailor laden with colorful fabrics for pants, skirts and accessories. Dinner on Saturday was a special treat as we shared a delicious meal of sweet roasted chicken and yummy rice Jallop with German Missionaries who have been serving in Bo for the past 3 years. The evening ended with a movie night- Indiana Jones and fresh roasted popcorn.
Thursday - July 18, 2019
Everyone has been working hard with the CRC and Mercy Hospital!
Julie and Jess worked with the CRC case workers on interviewing techniques and ways to gather information more efficiently.
Sharon and Jen continued with TLC (Teacher Learning Collaborative) with nine Bo teachers discussing topics to cover when they teach next summer.
Gary has been working on the donated medical equipment to get it all up and running. Gary, Misti , Beth and Mary Ann attended an Outreach Clinic where over 130 patients were seen and tested for diabetes and HIV. Patients received prenatal care and babies were weighed and measured for the malnourishment program.
On Friday we all attended the wonderful celebration in honor of Mohamed (Nabs) and Kim Nabieu - Nabs for his work as the CRC Director and Kim for her work as the Mercy Hospital liaison.
Several team members were able to visit their sponsor children.
The July team has been busy in the last few days! From arriving in Freetown and traveling to Bo, to tie-dying team shirts with Fudia, the team has kept busy and Nabs has kept everyone positive!
Today was a productive and positive day for all of the team. Our team dietitian is starting a program to educate the hospital staff on diabetes care which once formalized, will allow for funding through insulin for life. Both the teachers and social workers started their discussions and collaboration with the community teachers and case managers and all reported positive responses. Nabs continues to work tirelessly with the leaders at CRC while always having time to encourage the team here and visit people in the community. It has been such a wonderful experience seeing Bo with someone who loves the country and knows it so well! Having Sam Rich, a professional photographer here doing a story on Nabs, has also been a great additional bonus! Not only is Sam a delightful person but he is a great photographer and is sharing all his photos with the team. Here are a few of them below.
Our first full day in Bo started with devotions with the Mercy Hospital Staff. The staff was eager to learn that one of our team members would be educating the nurses on diabetes care. A second team member, who is visiting for the first time, was also put to work immediately by the Hospital staff and was instrumental in helping in a crisis birth situation.
The rest of the team spent most of the day meeting staff and preparing for the projects and activities planned for the week ahead. The team then toured Mercy Hospital and the Child Rescue Center. Our next adventure took a group of us out in the pouring rain to buy rice and gifts for our sponsored children. Although the rain limited our picture taking, the rain ended up being a nice relief from the humidity and everyone was thankful for a relatively cool afternoon.
More news tomorrow- But we are all doing well and easing into life here in Sierra Leone and as Sharon says - becoming free to be “our best selves”.
“For, ‘everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved.’ But how are they to call on the one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’” (Romans 10:13-15 NRSV).
Her name was Madam Letitia Hawa Logan and she lived to be 100 years old. That’s twice the average lifespan of a typical Sierra Leonean. Due to the harsh environment, limited access to clean water, a lack of food, and minimal medical care, on average a Sierra Leonean lives between 48-52 years. And, yet, Madam Letitia lived to be 100.
I know this because the worship service our mission team attended on our Sabbath was Madam Letitia’s funeral service. As in a typical American funeral service, family and friends were called upon to give a witness to this woman’s life. The consistent witness offered by each person was that Madam Letitia lived well and walked with God all of her days. What a beautiful legacy to leave to the generations who follow: “Lived well and walked with God.”
Isn’t that truly what we all want out of life? I would articulate living well in this way: loving others without condition. I would describe walking with God in this way: clinging to Christ as the Lord.
We are nearing the end of our trip to Sierra Leone and I am here to tell you we have sought to love others without condition and cling to Christ in the midst of this experience. We were task with breaking ground and erecting concrete walls that will serve as three observation rooms for Mercy Hospital. That work has been completed and, hopefully, within the next several weeks those rooms will be completely finished and ready for use.
In addition, we served the medical outreach team on a visit to the Gbongboma village by assisting with various tasks, such as prenatal evaluation, HIV screening, Malaria testing and treatment, nutrition screening, and giving away medicine as needed. That worked was successfully accomplished.
In the midst of the workload we carried, we had other meaningful (and fun) moments as we learned some African dances, interacted with dozens and dozens of children while playing soccer and ultimate frisbee, and toured Njala University. We sat down at the Children Rescue Center (CRC) one day and helped children in the sponsorship program write letters to their sponsors. Afterwards, they even taught us a new game, stoneball.
On one night we even heard a lecture on the Ebola crisis that hit this country hard not that long ago (December 2013 - June 2016), claiming the lives of more than 11,000 people. Another example of the harsh realities that our Sierra Leone brothers and sisters face on the consistent and regular bases.
There is no doubt in my mind, that experiences like this leave magnificent impressions on the soul. Many of us are left wondering, “What’s next? What do we do now?” Mission trips our wonderful opportunities to muster up these types of questions. One could say that they provide the right ingredients to cultivate a “lifestyle of service.”
Thinking of Madame Letitia, mission trips have the ability to position people to set (or reset) in order to “live well and walk with God.”
“What next? What do we do now?” I, personally, say, we go back into our homes, our churches, and our communities and keep loving without condition and keep clinging to Christ.”
After all, there is need all around us. The hungry need food, the parched need a drink, and those in hospitals and prisons need to be visited. Also, there are people who don’t yet know Christ in real and personal ways. Anywhere we go, I am confident that there are people whose souls’ are thirsting for a relationship with Jesus; we have a responsibility to tell them. We have to keep on keeping on. As one team member (Sam Bundren) liked to say, “all gas, no brakes.”
So, where do we find the strength to live a “lifestyle of service?” Where did Madame Letitia find the strength to “live well and walk with God all of her days? First and foremost, we find our strength in the Lord. We also find replenishment in community, in worship, and at the Table.
In a few days time we will be on a plane heading home. We look forward to embracing our loved ones, sharing our stories, and together making God’s kingdom that is in heaven more of a reality here on earth. And, we long to do that alongside of each of you, whether that place be in our homes, our communities, back in Sierra Leone, or anywhere else our great God calls us to go.
Reverend Jared D. Priset
By Graham Horvath
So it is day 7, and today the team went out on an outreach mission with Mercy Hospital’s Outreach team to the village of Gbongboma. Only one of our team members had been on an outreach before so the rest of us had no idea what to expect. Upon getting there, we were immediately faced with a large group of future and current mothers varying in ages ranging from 16-45 years old.
Soon after arriving, we were greeted by Mohammed Khadar, the Mercy Outreach Coordinator and our main point of contact for the mission we were on. After meeting the nurse in charge and getting an in-depth tour of the facility, we quickly ran across the nearby street to go meet with the village chief. We sat down with the very grateful chief to ask him two questions; (1) how had Mercy’s Outreach impacted his village and people, and (2) what his largest ongoing concerns for his village are. Quickly answering that he blesses Mercy because the children and parents in his village are healthier, he then went into talking about his village’s need for decent toilet facilities, and his desire for a covered space where the people can meet to talk.
We then thanked the chief for his time and quickly made our way back to the clinic where we were going to begin the project. After both a Muslim and Christian prayer, the women began singing a song in their native language, which was soon revealed to us as a song of thanksgiving meant for us. We then were quickly thrust into various jobs tasked with assisting the clinic workers with their jobs. I originally was incharge of taking down the information of the babies brought to the clinic, taking down information including weight, height, and arm circumference in order to determine the severity of their malnourishment or how they were progressing through the nutrition program.
Quickly into the project I was relieved in order to get footage of an interview; in which Mohammed was telling me/ the camera about a child that they had an abscess on her leg which they treated at the clinic. She was then followed by a infant boy who had been born with two hernias one of which was the size of his fist. Mohammed continued on to explain that even though Mercy hospital just opened a surgical wing, the mother would be unable to afford the surgery for her suffering child.** It is important to note that these hernias are making him so uncomfortable that at 12 months old he looks like a newborn child due to his lack of eating regularly.
Following those humbling and heartbreaking moments we were joined by the local school children who where out on their lunch break. Quickly sensing their curiosity in the team and in what was going on in the clinic a fellow missioner and I quickly leapt into action, taking on the role of entertaining the children for the next 30 minutes to an hour. We started by teaching them every dance move we could come up with ranging from the classics like the sprinkler to more recent and silly ones like The Dab (ask your kids). After quickly burning through that content, we began scrambling to think of fun things we did as children and began doing everything imaginable going as far as to teach them the baby shark song shortly after pretending we were airplanes and elephants. Pretty soon we were basically like celebrities walking around the clinic, not being able to walk anywhere without being followed by some kind of crowd waiting for the next silly thing we were going to do.
After the kids returned begrudgingly to school, we began to pass out the nutrition packets to the families on the nutrition plan, giving them their rations for the month. Shortly afterwards, we thanked the staff for their hospitality and climbed back into the ambulance that brought us and began our journey back to Mercy Hospital.
**Please know that HCW is actively working with Mercy Hospital to ensure this child will receive the surgery he needs to resolve his hernias. Mercy Hospital continues to provide care to the destitute and all patients regardless of their ability to pay.
By Stacy George
An American Woman
Being raised in the States, I was fed images of the strong Rosie the Riveter as a role model. My family and community encouraged me to be a confident, independent woman. From this environment, I was able to graduate with a college degree in Public Affairs and Economics within three years from a well known state university and a job waiting for me in the consulting industry. I am passionate about equality, care deeply about empowering voices, and painstakingly crave to be taken seriously.
An American Woman in Sierra Leone
Being on day three in Sierra Leone, the mission team coated their bodies in sunscreen, sprayed themselves with Deet, and headed over to build the foundation of an observation room for potential Mercy medical patients. While my teammates equipped themselves with hats, speakers, and water bottles, I brought my full-fledged spirit of American womanhood: a strong, independent woman. Sierra Leone is a patriarchal society which meet my zeal with resistance, confusion, and curiosity.
In the early morning, as I glanced at a shovel to break ground, the local men would rush over to the tool as they saw my thought forming. My waiting and silent observation tolled on my nerves.
As the day progressed, more roles were needed to move pans full of wet concrete from the sidelines to the foundation. I waited my turn just in a line of workers to be told that I would need another to help me carry the pan. But before someone could step up, I dropped down, lifted the pan, and carried the basin to the designated spot. I could sense the eyes track my every step, I dodged several male’s open arms signaling assistance, and caught wind of the statement “be careful.”
The day was long. The tasks included removing two large tree stumps, digging a trench on three sides of the future structure, mixing and moving concrete, carrying cinder blocks, and filling water buckets throughout the process. Because of my supportive teammates from the States and my desire to serve through manual labor, the local men begrudgingly welcomed me into the process with increasing responsibilities as I continued to prove my capabilities.
The highlight of my day came from this lesson in womanhood. I loved the instances where I could feel the trust of each male in various circumstances give me their trust and respect. However, alongside the gift of their trust, came a more sensitive nature within me to the males’ interest in my movements. Therefore, my low was that alongside trust, came their intrigue and an interest that, at times, surpassed innocent friendship.
An American Women of God in Sierra Leone
Since my mind spent the day comparing and contrasting who I am in various countries, reflecting on my identity in Christ demands equal discussion. Being a female has its ups and downs as seen through my high and low of the day. Yet a more important takeaway hit me as I read over the team’s devotional passage.
Romans 14:7-8 states “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
God designed me as a woman with a determined, independent spirit. Today, there were moments my womanhood had to die in order to respect a beautiful and different culture. In other moments, I was able to live into who I want to be as a capable woman. The importance is that both actions were done under a life claimed by the Lord.
I'm going to let the 6.5 hour event at King Memorial UMC in Freetown, S.L. speak for itself.
HCW is one of many partners working with the Sierra Leone Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to serve the needs of vulnerable children and adults.
On Saturday, January 26, Kim Nabieu and I represented Helping Children Worldwide during mission presentations in Freetown, S.L. We were able to continue our fellowship with other supporting partners from the United States, Africa, Norway and Germany, and to share with the delegates of the UMC SLAC conference the vital work we all do in collaboration with their employees. Even after two days of conference with the other international partners, we learned more about the work they were doing in their presentations.
When it was our turn to share, we joined with Mohamed Nabieu, Olivia Fonnie, Catherine Norman, and Jinnah Lahai of UMC SLAC to speak about Mercy Hospital and the Child Rescue Centre's accomplishments over the ten years of Bishop Yambasu's tenure, and the twenty years of our partnership and joint efforts to overcome the barriers to sustainable futures and transform the lives of vulnerable children through education, healthcare and spiritual mentoring.
Of course, no celebration at a Methodist Church goes without music - and we had quite a treat in the gospel praise band. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed the live performances!
Perhaps the most exciting moment of all was when Olivia Fonnie and Mohamed Nabieu introduced the new Sierra Leone local sponsorship program to benefit the Child Rescue Centre - and the Bishop began raising funds on the spot, securing sponsorships for 50 children!