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This Place Called Liberia

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THIS PLACE CALLED LIBERIA

It was everything I expected it to be, and nothing I could have ever been prepared for.

As the pilot announced our descent into Monrovia, I honestly felt as if I would burst with excitement. I glanced around our plane to see if anyone noticed the silly grin I couldnʼt wipe off my face, when I remembered that nearly everyone on our flight had exited at Freetown. Comments from friends and family came flooding back…

“Liberia? Liberia, Costa Rica? That sounds fabulous!” “Liberia, Africa?! Where is that?”

“Why would you go there?”

“Why not South Africa, or Kenya, or Morocco?”

My friend and I looked at each other; she was sitting by the window. “Where exactly is Monrovia?”

We both stared hard out the window, all we could see was water, and lush green, but not any buildings, skyscrapers, or highways that one would normally expect to see when flying into a capital city. I felt and heard the landing gear come down, glancing out the window again, I wondered, “forget the buildings, where is the runway?!”

Somewhere in the midst of all the green, the pilot found the runway and landed our nearly empty plane.

Should I have been surprised by all of the UN helicopters and vehicles? Was their presence still needed in a country so recently ripped apart by war? Should I have maybe read that travel warning a little more carefully?

The first impression as the door opened and we few began to file out, was the heat. The soaking, melting heat that causes your limbs to move so slowly, that drenches your clothes whilst standing in the shade, the heat that remained with you every moment of every day. There was nothing to do but embrace it, and go for nightly dips in the ocean. God bless that startling, crashing beauty of the ocean.

Our friend met us at the entrance to the airport, this friend who has given the last five years of her life to this marvelous country. With her I would see Liberia. It would be with her and her husband that I would witness a land still so vulnerable, so needy – a land with hope for better days to come.

I would meet adults determined to finish junior high school, women dancing with joy over a new bee hive completed with their own hands, men proudly displaying their ability to reassemble a well, a well that would bring clean water from the earth for an entire community. I would shake hands with teachers, lovingly and creatively sharing their knowledge in bare classrooms, fitted with singular wooden desks. I would listen to small, small children singing at the top of their lungs about what to do when you are happy. I would hold a precious little one in my arms as she burned with fever, praying fervently to the One who created her and loves her to save her little life.

I was in Liberia for seven days. A lot can happen in seven days, not enough can be seen in seven days. I took them, these days, for with them my vision would be changed. Would they be enough? How long does a person need to be shaken, shaken to their very being, to never be the same, to lose a bit of their heart, never to be returned. How soon after returning to my country of plenty would I forget?

We rode in the back of a white Land Crusier. My travel friend firing questions to my Liberian friend, I must now call her this, for she has taken the good from Liberia and made it part of herself. I tried to listen to all that they were saying but there was so much to see. Life seems to creep right up to the edge of the road, everywhere I looked, there was action.

Pulling up to the large metal gate, topped with barbed wire, was a reminder that danger was always lurking, not to be completely feared, but to be aware. Meeting the recently named guard puppy, Coco, was a reminder that life is joy.

Sitting on the steps of a so recently renovated school, laughing joy with children as we wrote our names in the sand. Promising the kids in the back alley, who were giving each other rides in a rusty wheelbarrow, that I would dance if they would sing. They laughed so long and loud that I honestly would have danced all day. Throwing heads back in relentless, sincere laughter with seamstresses trying to teach me how to speak Liberian English. Having the small, small girl at the end of the street throw her arms around my legs every night on our journey to the ocean. This was Liberia; this was the joy that is Liberia.

Now that I am home, every time I flip a light on in my house, I realize that this is something I have so often taken for granted. When my Internet connection is not as responsive as I would like it to be, I remind myself that this is a gift, not a right.

I think how do I become a radical follower of Christ?

What am I, as a North American, a homeowner, a car owner to do?

What am I, as a mother of four, to do?

What do I do with the knowledge that if only 8 percent of Christians would care for just one more child, there wouldnʼt be any orphans or needy children left?

“When someone stops doing nothing- and starts doing something – this is what starts to change everything. Do something. LOVE! Love has no limits and love canʼt be contained and when we have a radical love for God. God takes care of the location of where that love goes!” Ann Voscamp

“One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.” Amy Carmichael

So I have returned to my tiny Canadian community to do just that, love. Thanks, Liberia!