Liberia, Africa. 16 days ago today we landed at Robertsfield International Airport just outside of Monrovia, Liberia. It was a familiar rush of hot, humid air greeting me at the top stairs of the exit ramp. I was about to make my 4th trip to Liberia a reality! Since my first trip with CHAP International in 2009 I have fallen in love with Liberia. This year was without a doubt going to be a new and exciting endeavor as my beautiful girlfriend embarked on this journey to Africa with me. Breathe it in, Welcome to Liberia!
Embrace: to take or receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly: to embrace an idea. While in Liberia I've felt like God has laid the word embrace on my heart. It's a scary but exciting thing to leave behind all of the comforts of home and come to another country to be thrown into a culture totally different from what you're used to. These last four days have been incredible, life changing, and very eye opening. I've had the privilege of loving on 60+ children here at the orphanage and let me tell you it's blessed me in ways I didn't even imagine were possible. Every single day that we've been here they've run up to us and grabbed for our hands and our arms, with big smiles and warm embraces. I love every single one of these children dearly but there are definitely ones that I've connected with more than others. And every day those few girls that have absolutely stolen my heart somehow manage to be the first ones to find me, begging for my full attention. And I'm never reluctant to give it to them, every bit of it. That's what I'm here for, to be the hands and feet of Jesus and we all know how much he loved children. During our time at the orphanage I've made their needs my priority even when it's been hard to. There were moments when I was tired and hot and quite frankly didn't want them hanging all over me, moments when I didn't want to stand up and go out into the heat but those moments were overtaken by moments of complete thankfulness and gratitude. Thankful that God has given me the chance to take this trip and to learn about a continent (Africa) that I've had a passion for since I was little and grateful for the opportunity to love on these beautiful children.
Our team has had a lot of great accomplishments while we were here. We've been able to help teach some of the older orphanage boys how to do certain construction projects. Some of the projects are to repair screens, repair plumbing and carpentry. By teaching them these skills that they would otherwise not learn we are helping to enable them to take initiative in the future to help out more around the orphanage and in the future. We've also been able to teach some of the older girls how to sew dresses so that in the future they will be able to make their own clothing and potentially sell some of it. We've played lots of great games of kickball and chase. I was able to bring my guitar out to the orphanage and we've enjoyed many moments of singing and learning new songs. I even let some of the children strum my guitar while I switched chords and sang, it was a beautiful experience for me and them. One of my absolute favorite children's songs is "My God is so Big" and I've had the chance to teach it to them. And although some of the words were hard to pronounce I've never heard that song sung more beautifully and I know that God was glorified through their worship.
Embrace. I'm embracing a whole new culture by trying new things. I'm embracing every moment with these precious children letting them know and feel how much they are loved by me and more importantly their Creator. I'm embracing every high and low that God has placed in my path. I'm embracing the differences between their culture and mine. I'm embracing the fact that I have a God who loves me so much that he's willing to bring me here to experience this and let me know that Africa is eventually where I'm called. I'm embracing every moment that this trip has had in store and every moment going forward. I'm embracing the crazy driving and pot hole filled roads. And I'm mostly just embracing life the way it was meant to be lived, pouring out your life for others because that's what Jesus did for you.
Another incredible day in Liberia. How do I feel after our second day with the kids? A lot of overflowing joy filled with hope, happiness, uneasiness, and anticipation of what lies ahead for the rest of this week. These kids are absolutely incredible!
As important as it is to come here and accomplish some tangible projects my true joy and heart is in the time I spend holding these kids and touching these kids and playing with these kids. We have an incredible team assembled and I am blessed and honored to be serving alongside every single one of them. We have a President who is hard-working, determined, and passionate about CHAP, these kids, and improving our orphanage. We want every single child to have a quality of life that they so greatly deserve to have. That is our goal this week to improve that and to continue to work hard at making it better each and every day whether it be here in Liberia or 7,000 miles away in the states.
We are back in Liberia!!!!!!! Oh, it seems SO surreal to be back here again. After about 27 hours of travel, we arrived here yesterday around 5pm. We showered, unpacked, and then hung around for a bit before going to bed. Today we were up at 6:30am (more like 7:10 for me since I woke up late) to eat breakfast and have devotionals. We left by 8:30 for the orphanage which is a good 45 minute drive from our compound. Once arriving there it didn't take but 5 steps before the children were gathered around all of us, smiling, touching our skin (which is so different from theirs), and saying hello.