You Learn Something New…

We left Ganta on Wednesday, July 3rd and drove to Monrovia. It was a long day in the bus, about seven and a half hours. After our arrival, a few of us went for a walk on the beach. It was so much fun! Because we were so close to the equator, the water was the warmest I’ve ever felt in the ocean. I hadn’t planned on getting more than my feel wet, but well…let’s just say things didn’t go according to plan. The current was strong and the waves were big! I enjoyed myself, nonetheless. 

“I’m feeling solitary, which is hard after hours on a bus and being in a few rooms. It’s raining, so outside isn’t even an option….My introverted self is in shock. Two weeks with the same people nonstop with essentially no time by myself to unwind or decompress is really starting to get to me.”

A word of warning to anyone going on a missions trip, especially introverts; you get very little alone time. Chances are the quarters you live in will be close and cramped. There will be little time and few opportunities for you to have time to yourself. You will be surrounded by the same people day in and day out. 

I don’t mean to make it sound miserable. I ended up really enjoying being forced to be social. I got to know so many incredible people and I found out that talking to people for extended periods of time won’t actually kill me. Surprising, huh?

It’s Not What You See

Tuesday, July 2 was our last day in Ganta. I helped Kathy with a watercolor color class in the morning and the afternoon was busy. Kathy, Gina, and I went to the leper colony for souvenirs. Then, we were graciously invited to lunch by the Bangladesh UN engineer base. It was so cool to meet them and eat with them. After that, we toured the local hospital, which was absolutely heartbreaking. It was the most primitive conditions I had ever seen, with so many people crowded with very little privacy. The doctors did what they could, but they have very limited resources. After dinner, we attended a chapel with the college staff and administration, where we were gowned, or presented with traditional shirts for the men and dresses for the women. It was an incredible honor.  After we arrived back at the guest house, Pastor John, a local pastor, came to see us again and presented each of our team with gifts. Again, it touched my heart to realize how generous and thankful the Liberian people were.

“The corn is growing so quickly! It’s already about 2 inches high. When we got here, it wasn’t even a field yet! It’s so awesome to see the fruits of our labor in person before we leave.”

It’s always neat to see the product of your work. I was a little discouraged when we left though; while for the most part there were physical improvements, like the corn growing and the greenhouse that was built, I felt like it hadn’t been obvious that I had been there. Despite the amount of books I cataloged, there were probably hundreds more I hadn’t gotten to. But I had to remember that not all growth can be seen or measured. It’s something that I think we all need to remember at times. It’s not what you see that matters. It’s what you do.

This is How I Write

That second Monday was the first day of July. The men worked on their projects in the morning as much as they could, although it was very wet. After lunch, they went to the leprosy and tuberculosis rehabilitation colony to shop for souvenirs. I helped Kathy with a watercolor paint class in the morning and a Bible study for women in the afternoon.

The quote I’m going to share isn’t actually about the trip; it’s about my writing process.

“I’m not speaking to Oliver (one of my characters). The idiot won’t listen to me and we’ve been arguing all day. Stupid boy.”

I’ll be the first to admit it; it’s a little embarrassing. But I talk to my characters, even argue with them. More often than not, I lose those arguments. Fortunately, I can claim I’m a writer rather than crazy. It usually works. 😉

I’m not saying that I actually think any of my characters are real; I just have to get to know them so intimately as their creator that they take on unique and intricate personalities. Arguing with them actually helps me build their character; if I know how they’ll react and what they’ll say to me, it makes it easier to figure out how they will react to situations I put them in.

With every story I want to write, every idea I come up with, I reach a point of decision. Do I keep developing the idea or scrap is as not enough to actually spend time with? I’ll think about the story and there is one way to tell. When the story starts playing like a movie in my head, when the story tells itself  to me and I no longer decide what happens, that’s when I know I have something worth pursuing.

So there ya go folks! A peek into my creative process, confusing as it may be.

So Sorry!!

I know. This is long overdue. I’ve been home almost a week, and I’m finally getting back to this. I’d say I’ve been busy and stuff, but let’s face. I’m just lazy. Can you all forgive me? I hope so! Anyway, the most recent post is up! Enjoy! And comment. That way I know what you think. Also, that way I know people actually read this stuff. I’d hate to think I’m just rambling on the internet. Thanks for your patience!

Out, Up, and Open

Sunday, June 30th was a very interesting and special day. Our group split up and attended five different churches in Ganta and surrounding villages. We spent a leisurely afternoon chatting together and simply relaxing after a week of hard work. On the way back to the guest house, we stopped at Liberia’s northern border with Guinea and walked across for a few minutes. While there, I received a marriage proposal that I’m sure was only a little bit serious. It was a slightly unsettling experience, but I can laugh about it now. Mostly.

I don’t have a quote for this day, just a phrase that I wrote at one point during the sermon. It had to do with my attitude as I walk through life. I’ll ask you the same question I asked myself: Do you walk with your hands out, up and open? I’ll walk through each option.

As we walk through life, we can keep our hands and arms close to our bodies or extended out in front of us. The first is easier, safer. The second is more risky, but it allows us to reach out to others around us.

We also have the choice of which way we point and push ourselves and those around. We can point and encourage either upwards or downwards. Often, if we find our hands facing down, it’s unintentional. That doesn’t make it any less hurtful to us and others, though.

Finally, we have to choose whether to open or close our hands. Again, keeping them closed is easier and safer. But unless we open our hands to catch the things that God rains down on us, we will miss incredible blessings. Granted, we will get cuts and bruises from the pain we will also catch. But we have to choose to catch the bad with the good, or neither at all. We can be exclusive.

I promise I’ll keep doing this daily until the trip is over. So, until tomorrow!

More of the Same

Our first Saturday was pretty busy. We got to sleep in a little, then boarded the bus to go visit another college about two hours away. We returned, ate a quick lunch, and had our last VBS. It was a smaller one, with only 40 kids attending. We had 80 come the night before, which was quite chaotic. Unfortunately, I didn’t journal much that day. Nothing noteworthy to quote, but overall, it was a good day. Busy, but fun.

What Do You Thirst For?

The weather in Africa the first week we were there was dry and hot. But on Thursday night it rained. It rained and it rained. I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever heard it rain so much.

Here’s what I noticed Friday, June 28:

“The rain gauges say we got five inches of rain last night (most of it in about two hours). And there weren’t even very many puddles this morning. The mud is almost dry.”

I thought that this was also a really good representation of the people I saw in Liberia. They are so thirsty for knowledge, both practical and spiritual. They eagerly soak up any chance to learn.

So what do you thirst for? Do you soak up opportunities to learn and grow? Or do you let the chances slide by you?

Fun with the Kids!

Our first day of VBS was on Thursday, June 27. We had 60 kids attend. We had three classes, where the kids made salvation bracelets, a mural with painted hand prints, and tambourines. Afterwards, we came back together for a skit, a lesson, worship, games, and refreshments. I was in charge of the tambourine station, and it was a blast! We sang songs together and made music.

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“VBS is over and what a success it was! The kids started with some sort of meeting. It was surprisingly official. The tambourine making went well. Worship was amazing and the games a hit.”

It was so much fun to interact with the kids of the community. They had never been to a Vacation Bible School before and it was so neat to see the wonder and excitement on their faces. It was a joy and a privilege. 

Dealing With Doubt

Wednesday, June 26 continued in the same fashion. Breakfast, work in the library, lunch, work in the library, dinner, and back to the guest house. I cataloged roughly 130 books.

I had a big epiphany that day. I was reading Psalm 56 and verses 3 and 4 caught my attention. Here was my thought process.

“(Verses 3&4) When I am afraid I put my trust in you, in God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? (End verses) I’ve definitely been clinging to that. I don’t fear physical harm; I doubt myself. And that doubting God, in a sense.  After all, He made me the way I am. Doubting myself is like questioning that He knows what He’s doing. And He does. He always does.”

I’m not going to lie. Like most people, I have to deal with insecurities. And I struggle with how to defeat them. It hit me while in Liberia. I am exactly who God intended me to be. That is an eye-opening thought. Because if I believe that God is sovereign and all-powerful, which I do, then I have to believe He didn’t make a mistake with me.

I don’t know about you, but I find that extremely comforting.