Each afternoon that I am able to go pick up the boys from their school I try and take things in. Because I pick them up 2-3 times a week I have become more cognizant of the things I see. On most trips I have noticed a man that sits on the side of the road, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, and in the bright and beating equatorial sun, he sits on the side of the road on the ground in the dirt using a tool to bang metal scraps. He is shirtless, with raggedy pants and no shoes. His skin looks as if it was leather, like he has been enduring this hot West African sun directly for a very long time. He sits there, and just beats the metal. I am not quite sure what he’s doing. Maybe making pieces to sell for roofing or building, but it looks like extremely hard labor to make maybe $100 LD (160 LD=$1 USD) off of a scrap of metal that all morning was spent banging the dents out of. It’s one of the many faces we see day in and day out on our trips to and from places. The many faces of poverty. When you lock eyes with theirs it’s almost as if you have seen everything they have, as if you can tell the pain they hold but don’t speak of because that’s just the way it is here. Even briefly, as brief as a drive by in a car and a look up from the work being done on a piece of metal that doesn’t even look like it can be salvaged, that look is enough to know that the understanding only goes so far, you see the pain but you have never ever felt ANYTHING close to it besides what you have seen on a documentary, movie, or sometimes in-person. I will never have to live a day in those shoes. I will never know what it feels like to live without. I will never have to wonder if I will eat today, if my children will eat today. I am so grateful for that but it also has become a hard thing to understand during the time we’ve been here.
Like the children who play in our back alley way behind our building with a soccer ball that won’t hold air anymore, it’s dirty, and the hexagons have almost been worn away from so much play, but yet they play. You can hear their laughter and the ball being kicked from person to person but never going too far because it is in need of some serious repair. But yet that occupies them for hours. Or the countless amounts of children and people we see walking on heaping piles of trash and sifting through it to salvage anything that can be sold to make a little money. I have never seen poverty like I have seen here. I know it exists, I know it exists where I’m from, I know it exists in places I have visited, it’s everywhere. But here it stares you in the face around every corner and back alley. Here it is across from you, behind you, and all around. I wish we had the answers. I wish we could end it all with a snap of a finger. The questions have filled my brain this week as I look around. It’s never ending. Why them and not me?
As we ride around in our car, with the air conditioner on, as we pull into our apartment complex and the gates close behind us it’s almost as if we are shutting that world out. It has been a feeling of guilt. To live like an American in Liberia means you are living much better than most here. Is that how it is supposed to be? It’s been a hard pill to swallow this week. But Zach referenced me to another blog, a missionary who also lives in a part of Africa with her family. I am in a constant struggle right now with my children and them being 3, wondering where there snack is 2 minutes after they’ve awoken from their nap. Or asking for new crayons because the ones we have brought have seen better days. I want to ask them if they’ve seen outside? Have you seen the children on the street that would die for a broken crayon, the very orphans that they have spent time with that have no crayons, no toys, no physical item to occupy their time? But then I stop myself. I think about where we’ve come from. Where they have lived the majority of their life. They’ve been raised in a place where things are so much easier. Things are right at your fingertips. You can to go to one store to get all of your things. You can walk down the street to the nearest playground. Crayola crayons aren’t $12 dollars for a small pack. Each day we learn more about living in “the middle”. The middle of a life of poverty and a life of abundance. It can be a hard middle to be in between sometimes, but we are grateful. Grateful for the position. Grateful for our health. Grateful for a deeper understanding of why we were sent here.
Have you ever seen the Disney movie “Hercules”? You know the Titans at the end that are like messing up Greece, crushing buildings, and just making a huge mess of things. Those are my kids some days. Some days Zach and I feel like our wheels are spinning but we are not moving. They are still as full of energy as they were in Georgia which I am truly thankful for. We have not seen any signs that these guys are not happy. We go to bed tired, just like we always have. It’s a sign to us that we are doing something right. Even through the exhaustion we fall asleep most nights with smiles on our faces, reassurance that they are happy with our African life.
This week has been full, some things were scheduled, some were not. Last week I wrote about a boy from the Margibi orphanage who needs surgery on his eyes, it has been moved to Tuesday of this upcoming week. Pray for him. He has been such a trooper as his appointments have been moved and rescheduled many times. It is all going to be worth it when he can open his eyes fully and see more clearly. This week we have a full week ahead, Zach will be going to Margibi a few times to continue his work with the kids there, and we actually have a trip to the field as a family planned for this weekend. We will be taking the boys along with the Hentschls and their girls to the field to spend time with some orphans and see an orphanage in Ghanta get to use their brand new well after drinking from a dirty hole in the ground for far too long. We cannot wait to see this and bring it to you all!
Thank you all for coming alongside on this journey. You all fill our cup with your comments and encouragement.