Monday, May 25, 2009

Memories of Home

Liberia, 1983

We’ve had a visitor staying with us for a few days. Not unusual for us, but this time it wasn’t a student or a short-term team.

This time it was a school administrator from Liberia. Our mission has connections with her church in Liberia, and when her pastor was visiting Tanzania in February, he visited HOPAC and wanted to send this lady so that she could learn and be mentored by teachers at HOPAC. Hence her visit.

But for me, this was pretty significant.

Because I grew up in Liberia. I spent five years there between the ages of 6 and 12. When I was 13, my family was on home assignment in the States. We had planned to return for all of my high school years. But while we were in the States, war broke out in Liberia and all the missionaries were evacuated.

The war lasted 15 years.

It took me a long time to mourn the loss of the country that I called home for most of my childhood. For the last 20 years, I have had no face-to-face contact with any Liberians, except for the pastor whom I briefly met in February.

So having this lady in our home for 5 days was surreal to me. I heard Liberian English spoken again, a sound I had not heard since I was a little girl. (It’s more like a dialect than an accent). She cooked me greens and rice. And she told me about the war.

We hear about wars all the time, on the news. Somalia and Congo and Sudan….all are experiencing war. And I have read much about what happened in Liberia. But it’s different when you hear about someone telling you about things that happened in the country where you spent your childhood. This lady lives just a couple miles away from where I grew up. She is very familiar with my childhood mission compound. She even attended the same mission school in the 70’s that I attended in the 80’s.

So when she told me about the fighting near her house, I knew the places she was talking about. When she talked about how many people in her family died, I saw faces of other Liberians I knew. When she talked about how there was one week when the fighting was so bad, that no one could find food anywhere, in the entire city, I cried.

Can you imagine telling your children that you have no food for them? Not, “No, we can’t have tuna today; mama needs to go to the store.” But looking at your hungry child in the eyes and having to tell her, “Sweetheart, we can’t find any food.”

People ate leaves and dirt to survive.

No schools. No hospitals. Fighting for the lives of your children, for 15 years.

For almost 20 years now, the entire country has been without electricity or running water.

Such a strange thought, to imagine someone coming to Tanzania and seeing it as progressive! But Tanzania is indeed blessed among African countries to have peace for so many years.

She spent three weeks at HOPAC and said she learned a lot. Her school is growing in leaps and bounds, of course. The country is trying to get back on its feet and people are eager to try. But perhaps most exciting, is that God’s church is growing in leaps and bounds. Churches by the dozen being planted, every year. And for that, I weep as well.
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