Greetings from Sierra Leone! We hope this message finds everyone well and healthy, as we have been without communication for the past two weeks. Things are going very well here, and everyone is really enjoying themselves. It would be very hard to put everything in this update, as we have been kept quite busy, but we will do our best to write the best parts.
The Children’s Home that we are staying at is very nice. There are toilets, showers, and a few hours of electricity from the generator every night. All of these are blessings that we didn’t think we would have. There are about 20 kids that live here and we have been getting to know and building relationships with them since we arrived. Football is played almost every evening, and other fun games have been organised. There was a carnival the other day, which was a big hit, with balloons, face painting and popcorn!
The man who is in charge here, Eddie, has become an instant favourite. His caring heart for each of the kids has opened to us and we feel welcomed. Uncle Eddie is a man of great faith, and to see that first hand, and being able to be a part of what he is doing here is such a great opportunity. This place started when one man came from England and saw the great need that the street children were in. He had a dream, and a call from God, and it has blossomed since. Uncle Eddie takes care of things on this end, and lives here with the kids. They are an amazing group of children who have been brought of the street and are now going to school and church and have food to eat. Homes are trying to be found for each one, but while they are here this is their home. They are very much a family, and it’s great to see them interact with each other.
Another ministry that we have been able to get involved with is the King George Old People’s Home, which is a five minute walk away. They really enjoy it when we bring the guitar and just sit and sing with them. The culture here is one of relationships. Which has been a little hard getting used to. Most people just like to sit with us, even if nothing is said. Different things are priorities here, and getting to know people is one of those. As we build relationships with the older people that live there, they are continuing to open up. For instance today they joined in as we sang some old hymns, and they even sang one for us.
Another one of our ministry opportunities has been visiting a disabled children’s home, another place where the power of presence has been reiterated. So far we’ve visited just once but the one visit certainly made quite an impression on all parties involved. A small team of us went to the house where we met all 38 children there, looked after by one woman. Most of the kids there are physically handicapped as well as mentally and there are a multitude of different disabilities. Right as we arrived and sat down, we were introduced to all the children, not only by way of name but by way of background story as well. The woman, Melrose, told us the story of each child, almost all of them abandoned and rejected by their families due to their disabilities and unfortunately most of them abused in attempts to cast out the demons that they were believed to be afflicted with or to kill them. We heard about child after child and the heaviness of their stories was tangible in the room. Afterwards we sang worship songs and put on a short skit for them; the kids also sang a song for us to thank us for coming. For the rest of the time we sat on the floor playing with the kids and helping prepare dinner in true African fashion until it was time to head home. Although the heaviness and the pain that these kids had suffered was very real and visible, so was God’s provision for them. Melrose is unbelievably dedicated to the children and not only their physical well being but emotional as well. Some of the kids are attending school and all of them are slowly advancing in some way or another. Their joy was evident especially when they sang to us, they clapped and sang and those who couldn’t speak hummed along. God’s hope and goodness was obvious in each of these kids lives and we can’t wait to got back.
We have also visited two schools, which we plan to go back to. The team presented a drama at each assembly, and then we split into pairs and went into the classrooms, telling them about our homes and answering any questions that they had. They like to hear English, and to learn about different places. It was a stretch for some, and came easily to others, but we are all learning that outreach is a lot of that. It’s finding what works and what doesn’t that’s the tricky part.
The food has been interesting to say the least, but not in a bad way. Either fish or chicken is served, with rice and some kind of sauce. When we first arrived the spice level was so hot! We’re not sure whether we are getting used to the spice, or they’ve realised it’s a little hot for some of us, but for most it has gotten better as time goes on. It’s not what we’re used to, and we sometimes have to find creative ways to get the food that we need. They serve us well though. And for that we are very thankful.
It is now the dry season here, and so the dust is everywhere. The leaves on the trees have a layer of dust on them, and we have gotten used to being covered in the red stuff. All of the washing that we do is by hand, and surprisingly the dirt comes out relatively easy. Which is another blessing.
Speaking of blessings this past Thursday has been one of many blessings to say the least. The site we are staying at has picked up quite a few stray dogs. We had been greeted by four dogs when we first arrived, three small ones that seemed to always be tripping over each other and a larger dog who’s favourite pastime has become sitting outside of our doors and barking at night. We had all become quite used to the dogs laying by our feet as we ate or worked and they quickly became integrated into our day. We were sitting around the table preparing for the carnival and organising games when we heard Ally scream and leap out of her seat. After seeing a furry body streak by, we rushed over to see what the commotion was about. Turns out one of the dogs had randomly bitten her ankle. It was a very minor bite but had still broken the skin so we quickly cleaned it. After speaking with Uncle Eddie we soon realised that only the night before the same dog had aggressively bitten two other people, one being one of the boys that lives here. This behaviour was extremely odd and rabies was the concern. Knowing that Ally did not have the vaccination and that the first 24 hours after the bite are crucial, something needed to be done. As our leaders quickly made phone calls and organised transportation, Mr. Santus, a staff on the site mainly dealing with security, proceeded to take care of the dog, shall we say. As the vehicle pulled up we watched as Ally, the Greens, Patrick (the boy who had been bitten), and Uncle Eddie loaded up and drove off. We continued playing with the kids knowing that once at the hospital Ally and Patrick would receive the serum and make it home in time, hopefully, for the evening football game. After about two hours Jenny called the group together, visibly shaken and still clutching the team cell phone. She proceeded to tell us that the first hospital that Ally and the group had tried didn’t have the serum and the doctors had told them they wouldn’t find it anywhere. They decided to try a second hospital nearby but the reality that something more might have to be done slowly sank in. Jenny told us that if the second hospital didn’t have the serum Ally would be flown home that night for immediate treatment. One of our leaders in Harpenden had even begun to research flights. As we realised what that meant for Ally we also realised what that meant for Patrick, he had no other way of receiving the serum. Our team prayed, we sang worship songs, we spoke out in faith and we begged God for his provision. We recognised this as an attack from the enemy on our team and on Ally for the good works she was here to do. We prayed for about thirty minutes, but there was still a thick sense of fear over the group. As we began to sing another worship song I (Hannah) had a sudden sensing that we needed to gather the kids of St. Georges and intercede for Patrick and Ally as a family. We called the kids together and explained the situation and how serious it was. English being a second language I worried they didn’t understand the implications of the situation. We gathered in a circle and the kids began to sing a worship song, again I so ignorantly doubted the kids, wondering if they understood the words that they sang. Then they began to pray. All doubts were dispelled of what they understood. I knew that although they didn’t understand our fast paced English they understood God on such a level that it completely floored me. They stood there with eyes screwed shut and hands waving in the air as they called on the power of God. They thanked God for Ally and Patrick and the life he had given them and then asked God to rescue them. They asked God to rain down His Holy Spirit on both of them. They used the authority of Jesus’ name to bind the enemy and any evil at work. They prayed in a way that taught me more about the power of the name of Jesus and faith in God then any quiet time I’ve had here. As they came to a close one of the boys looked up and said “We’re done. You pray now.” I just quietly nodded as I cried into my shirt. We quickly closed in a short prayer and I could tell that the fear had been lifted off the group and I know for me after witnessing that I had no doubt that God would reward these kids faithfulness. The group continued on with our art project with the kids and not even ten minutes later Jenny ran out yelling the good news, they had found enough serum for both Ally and Patrick! A few of us raced over to tell the kids and as our group cheered, the kids nodded and continued painting. They seemed surprised that God had surprised us. They have such a powerful gift of faith that seeing God’s powerful provision in a huge way like that was commonplace for them. They stared at us as if to say “We prayed, so obviously God was going to answer.” I was so in awe of our mighty God and these incredibly faithful children. I was ashamed that I had ever doubted them and in the same way I was ashamed for my fear. I doubted God and His ability to miraculously provide for His children. Watching the way those kids prayed and recognised the power of our Father challenged me to truly have faith in God and His goodness not just speak it out. We all greeted Ally and Patrick as they drove up, with our completely paint covered faces (an art project gone wrong) and that night none of us forgot to thank God for His faithfulness or for the kids who so obviously display it.
After a stressful Thursday we all readily greeted Friday, our day off. We have one full day off a week, and both weeks we have spent that day at the beach. And what a beach it is! It’s definitely a highlight of every week, and something we look forward to. The sea is blue, the sand deserted of people, and the water isn’t freezing cold. When we went this week it had been arranged that we would have barracuda on the beach, prepared by locals. And that we did. With fresh pineapple, oranges, and coconut, fish, rice and caramelised onions. Coke has been the drink of everyone’s choice as well, which was served, semi-cold. It was a day off to be remembered.
This next week will be full of different outreach opportunities. One being going into Freetown at night to work with the street kids. We would appreciate prayer for that adventure. We are also going to going into some schools and teaching as well. It should be a very fun week!
God has been so good to us on this trip. Over and over again we see a different side to things and to what He is doing in this country. How we arrived to our destination is a story and a half about God’s faithfulness and protection, and even just going into Freetown for the day and nothing going wrong with so many people is a gift from God. We can always use prayer though, and there are several things that we would appreciate specific prayer for. One is that all of us would be able to sleep through the night. There are many sounds at night here; the barking of a dog and drums and singing in the distance. Our energy level isn’t what it could be. Especially for the Green family, as they are here with three young kids. Continued protection as we travel around to the different schools and more ministries that we hope to become involved with. God’s leading in what we should do every day. No two days look the same here, and knowing how to spend every hour is critical to making the most of our five weeks. Learning how this culture works was the focus of the last several weeks, now we are getting into some specific and direct outreach opportunities. Wisdom for the leaders as they deal with different situations that arise each and every day is very important. Health for the whole team. A few of us have been feeling a little sick with different things, and it’s not fun being sick here. Prayer for health would be appreciated.
We’ve attached a few photos which hopefully give you a flavour of our time here.
With love from the Sierra Leone outreach team.