“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