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!
The airport in Liberia is simply chaotic. We breezed through immigration and attempted to retrieve our 16 bags of luggage in the small and overcrowded baggage claim area. Stepping foot outside of the airport you get your first taste of Liberia. I can still remember my very first experience in 2009 as we made our way out into a dark and crazy new world. There were people everywhere, some waiting for expectant arrivals and many others trying carry your bags to make a little extra money. The first guy I spotted as I walked out was, my dear brother, Pastor Aaron Paul. Aaron is one of a kind. Always joyful, always smiling, full of wisdom and a godly man. A man who has been an incredible encouragement and mentor in my life. He is a part of our CHAP Liberian staff and we would not be a successful ngo in Liberia without him. The drive from the airport to the guesthouse, in Monrovia, is a beautiful drive. Liberia is so green and rich, so vibrant, full of life and wonder. As you drive through the countryside you can’t help but be gripped by the scenery. As we get closer to Monrovia the towns become bigger, the people become more numerous and the quiet countryside turns into a jam-packed city. People, cars, trucks, motorbikes-everywhere.
The Baptist Missionary guest-house, which we call home while in Liberia , is situated amongst the chaos in Fishmarket Sinkor. On the corner of Airfield Dr is "Old Folks Restaurant" which transforms into a bass-booming night club in the wee early hours of the day. Finding solitude in Monrovia requires a trip to the beach or some noise canceling headphones. This is Liberia.
Experiencing culture is adventurous. It requires of you to step outside of your comfortable, mundane life and to see what the world has to offer. To eat foods you've never heard of, to talk with a person who is difficult to understand, to step foot on a land that doesn't look like home, to hear the testimony of a man who suffered through 14 years of civil wars and survived by digging for food in heaps of trash. Liberians are joyful, resilient, humble, God-fearing, hopeful, accepting, easy going, and full of pride for Mama Liberia! Something I would have never learned from my comfy confines of Lancaster, PA. With my comfortable bed, my 3 meals a day, clean water and indoor plumbing. I'm living large and it makes me very uncomfortable.
What is stirring in my heart and how can I adequately express it? Why do I love Liberia? What keeps me going back? Why am I so involved? To put it as simple as possible: the people, the kids, the country. The screams of "Steve, Steve" as I jump out of the car for the first time in 16 months and see my kids faces grinning from ear to ear with an overflowing of joy exuding from them. The touch of kids so fascinated with my soft hair and long beard. The feeling of holding Angel for hours as she falls asleep in my arms, as she relishes in the opportunity for a soft and comfortable sleep. Being invited into Aaron Paul's house to meet his wife and kids, honored to be a part of his life. The outpouring of gratitude from all Liberians towards our team for traveling 7,000 miles across the Atlantic to show we care, we love you, we love Liberia and we want to do be a part of bringing restoration. Amidst the rubble, the trash, the pain and the hurt, we see beauty. Spending every waking moment of 24 hours of travel, and a week in a distant country with a team of 8 individuals who share the same heart and passion. That is what keeps me going back!
Tim Kreider working on the new gutters
In such a short time at the orphanage we were able to accomplish so much! We installed new mesh and mosquito netting around all the windows to fix the gaping holes. We built awnings over every window to keep the rain from pouring into the bedrooms during the current rainy season. We fixed the leaky roof, fixed the plumbing in the outhouses, built a new gutter system that enables them to catch large amounts of rain water, replaced all of the broken and rotted bathroom doors, had 26 wooden bunk beds built for the kids so that they are not sleeping on bare concrete any longer. We purchased 46 new mattresses, sheets, and mosquito nets for each bed and bought some kitchen supplies.
Thank you so much to our team. To our fearless, passionate, and driven leaders! President Brian Deamer, Holly Gilmore and Brian Kurtz! Thank you to each and every person who prayed for us and continues to pray for CHAP, who gave supplies, donations, and their love as we embarked on this 10-day journey to see our kids! Most importantly thank you to our Liberian staff: Pastor Ramsey Keita, Pastor Aaron Paul, Pastor Sackie, Pee Wee, Martha. It was incredible to build new beginnings as a staff and to continue to grow as an organization. We cannot do this without you! Tank you O!!