Simply Love

My life has been turned upside down…

A few weeks ago 16 of us arrived in Lungi, Sierra Leone immediately hit with the moist African air.  The phrase “culture shock” doesn’t even do justice to the feelings I had walking off of the stairs of that plane.  Jet lagged, scared, walking onto a new continent with 14 strangers I didn’t have any idea that this third world chaos of a country would change my life.

I had meant to blog a while back and give details about the trip.  But honestly, details are just fillers and will come up without trying.  I want to focus on what needs to be said about this trip: Life is much less complicated than we make it out to be, simply love with all your heart.  We walked through villages where houses were huts, floors were dirt, bathrooms were holes, food was scarce, health was uncertain, children roamed, parents were sparse, and electricity was unfathomable.  A country where death is so close while just coming out of war and movies like Blood Diamond based off of their tragedies.  A country where the life expectancy is 41 and one in four women dies from giving birth.  A place where getting malaria is like catching a cold and it can be arduous to find a paved road.  On paper this sounds like a tragedy, but I’m here to tell you my friends, this place is a little piece of heaven.

Everywhere you go you are greeted with a handshake and a smile from ear to ear.  Life for them is simple and with that they focus on the important things; the things that come freely.  Here in America we find happiness in the amount of friends we have, the relationship we are in, the family we came from, the career we achieve, and most importantly the possessions we hold.  In a country like Sierra Leone, in order to be happy all they need is love.  They find happiness in the little things that we look over.  Although there’s nothing wrong with finding happiness with the friends we have, in their country they treat everyone like friends.  They welcomed us Americans with open arms and open hearts.

Yet again, it is important to find happiness in your relationship or your family, but there it is very common to be stripped away from all your loved ones.  We spent the week at a Child Rescue Center and ran a vacation bible school for the kids.  The children were placed here because they are orphans either by sickness, the war, or some other circumstance.  This place was a snip bit of the kingdom of heaven.  We arrived with children clinging to our sides, holding our hands, and embracing our hearts.  They gave all of their souls to us and opened up to us about their lives.  It was the seven most amazing days I’ve spent in regards to getting to know people.  Everything was pure and everything was genuine.  The “white people” (Americans) were stripped away of our cell phones, our laptops, clean water, HOT water for that matter, electricity, large meals, expensive clothes, and make up.  I don’t think I have ever felt more like myself than those two weeks.

I’m writing this in hopes that you feel as inspired as I do by the people we met in this tiny country.  I believe that these people live by the saying “What would Jesus do?”  They don’t care what you look like or where you came from they just want to love you and share with you their hearts.  I’ve never had so many hugs in my life and it is also normal to be holding hands while talking to someone.  As unusual as this may sound, I wish these were things that occurred here.  Also, even in the absence of owning any possessions, they always think about other people’s happiness before their own. Here are a few stories that may warm your heart:

During our first day of vacation bible school the morning started and all we wanted to do was herd the kids into their seats.  A few of our leaders found there weren’t enough seats so they decided to just stand by their group of kids.  During our morning one of the kids named Kemoh age 12 got up out of his chair and started to walk towards the stage.  Our instinct was that he was being incredibly rude by interrupting our lesson because not only did he get up, he hopped on the stage!  We looked around confused about what to do until three seconds later he was lugging two chairs in his hands with a grin from ear to ear.  We were floored by his sense of selflessness and I find myself wondering if I would ever think to do that especially as a kid!  This same child led prayers that brought me to tears because he thanked God for us.  Also at church we all remember him getting up to help guide a blind man to his seat.  These acts were a common thing, and I thank God that I got to witness them.

On New Year’s Eve our group attended the Methodist church that was right next to the Child Rescue Center.  We were greeted with warm handshakes and smiles and dancing and singing like you would never believe.  Church for them is almost like a party by praising God through their musical instincts.  I recommend ANYONE that is at all musically inclined to please visit an African country.  Their ability to naturally make beautiful music through their voices and drums is uncanny.  Anyways it was ten minutes until midnight and the minister asked us to bow our heads to pray.  The first thing he said was “Thank you Lord for bringing us from January 1st 2011 to January 1st 2012.” That line cut me real deep because it made us realize how close to death they really are.  Another year of life is precious and should be thanked.  After this the prayer was opened up to the people.  From all around I heard murmurs of people praying.  Some were loud and some were whispers but they all had the same meaning.  Thanks. They thanked God for everything in their life, for the love they had, and for a new year.  As my head was down I began to sob thinking about how many times I have complained about the most miniscule things.  And even when I did pray a lot of it was to ask God to help me in some sort of situation.  Yet for them in a life where it seems they have nothing, all they have is thanks. 

The next day we took a hike around Bo, where we stayed the whole week and a half, and took a tour of the “city.”  We saw all kinds of things and walked through the slums that were their normal streets.  Per usual we were hand in hand with our kids.  My tour guide in particular was Momoh, 11 years old with the most pure heart you have ever met.  He is a very quiet boy and he does not even live at the CRC, he just loves to come and hang out with all of us.  He was my tour guide and I loved holding his hand and sharing his home with him.  It was a walk that took a few hours and in the middle of African heat it was not easy.  I remember at one point he took my satchel with my camera out of my hands and at first I was a little caught off guard because I didn’t want him to take my camera.  Then he took my water, and I was incredibly thirsty from the hike so again I was a little set back.  He looked me in the eyes and said “I want to carry these for you so you can enjoy the walk.”By the way he was FASCINATED   with our cameras because they are very high tech in their eyes and I know he was probably thirstier than me, yet all he wanted to do was provide me with more enjoyment.  I drank some of the water but ended up giving him the rest and gave him some free range with my camera.  Momoh taught me what it really looks like to be humble, loving, and selfless.  I think about you every day Momoh, I love you.

To big Kemoh, Mariama, Cecilia, Abdulai, Ganda, my little kids: Joseph, Julie, and little Kemoh, Kabela, Idirissa, Rebecca, Mamie, the Mohammads, Johanese, Momoh, Saffe, Tikoh, Coi, Olsen, Ella, Aminata, all the Aunties, Hassan, Lansana, Alieu, and all the wonderful children I personally did not get enough time to spend with.  I love you to all the partners from the US that I traveled with and mis syou very much.  Thank you for changing our lives.  I hope that we can pass on the love and try to live more like you.

“Brethen let’s love one another for this is the commandment God gave us.” – The Reconciliation Song

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