Sunday, 30 November 2008

The big week

It's crazy how fast these last few months have flown by. I met Gifty on September 23rd, and last Friday night, the 28th of November, her new mom arrived on a plane. Hopefully on Friday, after a week of final medical checks and legal hurdles, they'll board another plane together and fly back to the States. There are still a lot of doors that need to swing open for my little fighter, so please continue praying with me that everything will go well...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


It's been hectic around here. For weeks. Unrelenting. But it's had me digging deeper, for which I'm grateful. I've had to push myself, I've had to ask more difficult questions, I've had to admit failures. It's been wonderful.

I'm grateful for so much, this year. For early Christmas presents, yes. For a visit with my old friend from high school. For the chance to wear many hats in a 'typical day' (haha). For the sweet knowledge that my life is in hand, wherever it takes me and for however long. For the African dawn bursting through palm leaves and barbed wire, warming me each morning along with thick, dark coffee. For the innumerable people who've made this bizarre place home, full of love.

I just feel spoiled.

Over and over again as I open my journal to decompress, I just resort to that same word: spoiled. God's given me more than I knew how to ask for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Re-thinking the Figured Out

I'm reporting from Ganta, a small city five hours' drive (or, more accurately, slalom) from Monrovia. Today and yesterday we've been assessing orphanages up here, introducing ourselves to the people and the problems they're facing. 

Stone church in Nimba

We stayed the night at the Methodist compound, at a guesthouse tucked behind a beautiful, sleepy old stone church. Instantly you turn into the driveway, you feel the age of this place: the ancient palm trees in neat rows, the wide lawns, the sense of calm that comes of order not imposed but grown.

I woke up this morning feeling like I was back at camp, where I grew up: the stillness, the smell, thin pillows' happy ache. Only the dew was missing--despite the lovely chill that makes you want to journal in a big hoodie, it's never quite cold enough to produce dew.

I am truly blessed, and rarely have I been more keenly aware of it. Perhaps strangely to you, it's not working with destitution that reminds me of this--not nearly so much as the simpler things of the day, especially the sprawling quiet of an African dawn. The richness of experience even in routine--as long as I can keep my eyes open and my skin porous.

Because I'm with a short-term team from the States, I also have the benefit of seeing with fresh eyes things that have become normal for me. Last night after dinner we pushed our chairs back and got into hours of excellent dialogue about what we'd seen, about Liberia's outlook and the challenge of addressing not only the immediate physical needs of children, but the needs of the whole child. More and more it's not the poverty that breaks my heart -- mostly because 95% of people here are facing those biggest and most basic struggles -- but it's the de-individualization of children living in institutions; it's the lack of love and attention they receive; it's the lack of imagination and dreaming I see in them that hurts the most. And these things are infinitely more difficult to address than hunger, disease, education...

Young Richard, smiling

After you give a fish, teach fishing. Relief gives way to development. But after you hold a child, how do you leave him with love? How do we cultivate environments of love and holistic growth, throughout and after the emergencies? How do we encourage a mother of eighty children to raise up eighty individuals as she would in a family of five?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The Other Way

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
--"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, 1916

I often wonder about the other way, no more or less but altogether Other. We by nature long, I think, for that which we don't have--especially that, surely, which we've forfeit. I'm well aware and blisteringly grateful for what's in my hands, overflowing, and for the way I've chosen. (Well aware, that is, when grounded!) And I wonder too if the choice is permanent. I don't think it is, I think I could travel by that Other road, "Yet knowing how way leads on to way, / I doubt... if I should ever..."

I'm fascinated these days with images of walking through life and the choices in frame of mind that make the difference between hiking and trudging, strolling and marching the days. I've found, as I'm sure have you, the only real companionship on the road, on the highways and byways, is God. This stage of life, I'm hiking for the edge of loneliness: a purposeful, shall we say energetic stride, but trying not to stare too hard at my feet; trying to enjoy the journey as if, as in cliché, the journey itself were the first destination.