Best Version Liberia

The hard part about saying goodbye…

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Zach asked me a couple days before my mom arrived if I thought it would be harder saying goodbye to her from her short trip here in Liberia compared to when we said goodbye under our carport back in Cartersville in January. I had to think on it for a second and I stated that the goodbye in January was much worse because we didn’t think we would see any family until June. Maybe it was all the emotions of a pretty emotional week for the Orphan Aid team with the passing of little Theresa, maybe it was the amazing experiences and time we had with Grammy while she was here, and maybe it was my kids waking up to her mattress propped against the wall that she had used while she was here in the living room realizing that she really was gone. Whatever it was, this goodbye was equally as hard when I wish it wouldn’t have been.

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We all miss our family. We miss being walking distance from my parents and sister, Uncle TJ, and our two little cousins who just celebrated their 2nd birthday on the 28th. We miss seeing auntie Shawna and uncle Tim. We miss seeing our Eman bounce on his ball and light up when Zach walks into a room. We miss our Grandpa and doing dolphin shows for him in the hot tub, getting special rides on the lawn mower, and make shift obstacle courses in the garage. We miss Bay Bay and auntie Zoe and all her cool friends that surprise us with visits. It’s just plain hard being away from a family that you are very close with. 

The tears have flowed since mom departed, but they are subsiding now. Through all my tears and the heartache I feel about being so far away it doesn’t make us want to throw in the towel. We were given this task for a reason. No matter how hard. God gives us the strength to make it through the days, even when we feel like we just can’t, even when we feel like a FaceTime call would actually make us feel worse, or a scroll on our Facebook pages will make us feel empty and sad. 

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I always go back to the disciples leaving everything behind to follow Jesus. Everything. Families, jobs, homes, boats, fishing nets, probably an animal or two, EVERYTHING. If they could do it, so can we. I am by no way comparing our lives to the lives of the disciples, I am 100% sure they had it much harder than we do. The main factor being we know we will go back, we know we will go back to our first world, our comfy little house nestled on our quiet little street. We know we will see our trampoline and playground in our backyard again and be able to stick our toes into green grass. We know this because all of those things aren’t going anywhere, and for now we have to make sure we are present in Liberia, serving these children who need us to be present. 

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Mom arrived late last Friday evening, the boys were already asleep. We unpacked all the goodies she brought for us! It was like Christmas morning but so much better because when you receive a suitcase full of snacks and items you cannot buy here you just get stinking excited. We didn’t tell the boys she was coming, so they had an awesome surprise when they awoke to their beloved Grammy on a mattress in their living room! Isaac just stood and stared for a second and Brady immediately started blabbering away. Someone asked where Murph was and why did she not bring him??? Max just jumped and climbed all over her. It was a wonderful surprise. 

After everyone was settled and we had everything packed we headed to Gbarnga (pronounced Bonga). Children’s Ministry orphanage is about 20 minutes down a dusty road to get to from Gbarnga, located in Balamah. Gbarnga is about a 3 hour drive from Monrovia. Our kiddos are becoming quite good at car travel, dry erase marker books for the win! We stayed at the Passion Hotel. Which again, for Liberia and being out in the bush was SUPER nice! We wanted to bring mom to the orphanage that was the home of Orphan Aid, Liberia’s birth. It was the first orphanage Daryl came upon on a mission trip 10 years ago, he wasn’t even here to do work with orphaned children but his team was down the road from this orphanage and someone told him he needed to go have a look. The rest is history. I had never been either so it was exciting for all of us. 

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We stopped by the dormitory that is being built for the high school and college aged kids aging out of the orphanage. It is going to be really great for them. It allows them to attend school while offering some support. Cuttington University is close by which makes it convenient to attend class without having to pay for transportation. Form the dormitory we planned for mom to get a real Liberian experience and two motorbikes were waiting to take us to the orphanage which is just down the road. Brady, Isaac, mom, and me all piled onto two motor bikes and were able to see the villages as we passed without the tint from a window of a car hindering our view. The boys want to take motor bikes everywhere now. Max even got to ride on the way back to the dormitory, he insisted.

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Mother Elizabeth greeted us with warm embraces. I had heard so much about her from everyone that had met her before me I felt like I knew her! She was exactly as I envisioned. The kids were excited to see Zach and of course they all asked about Lindsay (my sister). They remembered her from her trip in 2015. My kiddos played, got pushed on a swing, kicked the soccer ball, and shot the rocket! They are so obsessed with all the animal life in Liberia. They love trying to catch chickens, they act like they have never seen a chicken before! We got to hear some of their worship service, which was truly moving. The children get very involved which is so wonderful to see. The children at Children’s Ministry are thriving. It is such a refresher to visit this orphanage because it has been with OAL team for 10 years. They are well taken care of by all of the supporters of OAL and you can see it in every smile, laugh, and twinkling eye. We said our goodbyes and began our trek back to Monrovia. 

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We got the news about Theresa early in the morning on Monday. My first thoughts were how thankful I was mom was here so that Zach could give himself fully to this little girl and do things properly for her. We stayed busy by taking a keke to market with Max and doing some grocery shopping downtown. The amount of sweat that pours through your skin here I’m pretty sure could fill buckets. But I look around and the Liberian people that have done this everyday of their life don’t have a single drop! It amazes me. 

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On Tuesday morning we went to the Ducor Palace Hotel to walk the ruins of one of the grandest hotels I have ever laid eyes on. Liberia was once a very prosperous country. Before the two Civil Wars that happened from 1989-1997 and then the second from 1999-2003. Each war was devastating to the entire country and to Monrovia which was and still is the capital city. I shared a brief blog about it this week attached wit pictures of what the Ducor looked like pre-Civil Wars and what it looks like now. When Ebola struck in 2014 the epidemic lasted until 2015 claiming the lives of 4800+ Liberians. Leaving more children orphaned, and a country that just continues to get hit with devastating blows. I am making it a goal to learn more about Liberia and it’s rich history. Stay tuned. 

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Every afternoon we’d do our regular things with the boys so that mom could have time with them. We picked them up from school Wednesday and headed to Careysburg to Hope in Christ orphanage. This is our second time back since we have been here and we read more Bible stories and played games. They wanted me to read and read and read. When we had read a few stories I let some of the children flip through the pages of the children’s Bible under the shade of a tree. There they were all smooshed together on a bench studying each picture and looking at every word. It just makes your heart full. Mom really enjoyed her time here and it’s definitely a favorite spot of the boys. This orphanage in particular has many children their age. It’s also a plus that they have farm animals here complete with ducks, pigs, lots of chickens, a few dogs, and a kitten! 

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We let the boys miss school on Thursday and brought mom to one of our favorite beach spots. It was an awesome full last day with her. 

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We enjoyed her so much and she enjoyed her visit here. It’s a different world, and it’s eye opening, even for someone that has traveled all over the world like she has. You see things that will stick with you forever. Things that we don’t ever see in our little town back in Georgia. 

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I am really terrible about asking for prayers. I know we are on the receiving end of many, and we feel them daily. Thank you all for that. Sometimes I think why should I ask for prayers when the people on the streets below our apartment need them so much more than we do. But I read a devotional last week that helped me tremendously with this issue. Asking for prayers means we are asking you all to come along this journey with us, not just reading our blogs or social media posts, but actually seeing our sorrows and heartaches and helping us bare them. Just because we have God in our lives doesn’t mean we have to be invulnerable, or try not to show our emotions. So please, continue to pray for our family, specifically for our strength and our hearts. We love you all. 

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