Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sierra Leone Follow-up #9: Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts:

Pictures, no matter how good they are, will never tell the story of the relentless heat, the constant smell of trash piles every few yards in the city drenched with diesel fuel and set to burn 24/7, the feeling of 2 million people crowded together in a city built for less than 1 million, the sounds that never seem to stop, and children everywhere wanting to touch you. And yet, we would return in an instant given the opportunity. We hope with everything in us to be a part of a team in 2009.

The people we met are the greatest! In spite of illness and hardship they have such joy! They put us to shame!

What a privilege it was to work on each of the 2 construction projects – Hastings Ladies Polio House (Tom worked on this one), and the shower facility at King George Compound for the Elderly (Becky alternated between the two).

Lest we leave the impression that we worked every second, we did have the opportunity on Sunday afternoon to drive 45 minutes up the coast from Freetown to relax at Bureh Beach. WOW! Beautiful beyond description! Only one on our team thought to bring a swimsuit, but that didn’t stop most of us from getting in the water. It felt so good. We will always remember that respite.

We will be in prayer for Sierra Leone. We learned that there are still UN Peacekeeping Forces on the ground and there are rumblings of more war. We pray for the new president as he makes decisions on behalf of the people. We pray for the people to patiently give him the chance to make lasting changes. It will take time. We pray for Mission Direct and the amazing work they are doing. May it increase!

God bless you for your support of this effort! We love you!

This is the kind of thing Sierra Leone needs!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sierra Leone Follow-up #8: St George's Refuge for Street Kids

St George Refuge for Street Kids:

On the mountain side above the town of Grafton is a Boy Scout Camp that was thriving in the 1980s. Numerous cinder block cabins, kitchen facilities, trails, etc… are there. When the rebels made their way across the country toward the capital city of Freetown they stopped at the camp. The director (pictured above) and his family fled up the mountain and hid for 2 weeks. Once they were out of food he had no choice but to approach the rebels with an offer. He would provide medical attention to the wounded if they would spare his family. At first they were going to kill him, but some of the boy soldiers made an appeal. They had been scouts before the war and knew that he was a good man. He has stayed at the camp all these years, and one-by-one the buildings that were burned out are being remodeled. Mission Direct has helped with funds and former scouts have been hired to do the work.

For now, St George’s Foundation is using a few of the buildings as a refuge for kids that have been rescued from the streets of Freetown. Many children were separated from their families during the war. If they were too young to know their name or where they were from they have no alternative but to live on the streets. They do whatever it takes to survive. Even young girls at 7 or 8 years of age know they can get money or food by offering themselves. It is so sad! St George’s brings the kids to the camp for a year. During that time they help them to regain self-respect and try to locate family. If they are unable to determine who the child belongs to, there are foster homes in the countryside for the kids. Lives are being changed! What a work!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eye to Eye: Ishmael Beah (CBS News)

Sierra Leone Follow-up #7: King George Compound

King George Compound for the Elderly:

This compound made of barracks and a few other buildings was built by the English before WWII. The government has now set it aside for older adults who have no family to care for them. The average man in Sierra Leone will not live past 35, so it was surprising to see about 55 seniors. Some were blind, others not quite there mentally, and the saddest case was a woman that watched her children killed during the civil war and then had both arms cut off. As you can imagine she has never recovered from the trauma.

As teams come with Mission Direct they have taken the opportunity to remodel the restroom/shower facilities behind each barrack one at a time. Our team left a few workers there each day and was able to see one restroom finished. A dear lady from that barrack visited with us off and on during the week (older folks prefer not to have pictures taken, but this lady was all smiles).

There are a few others living in the compound. Solomon is a young man who was shot and left for dead in the war. We were able to see his x-rays. He still has 3 bullets lodged along his spine. He is confined to a wheelchair. One on our team who is a Parkland trauma nurse was able to take digital photos of the x-rays and plans to discuss the case with doctors at Parkland (doctors there said it is safer if Solomon does not have additional surgery).

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sierra Leone Follow-up #6: City of Rest

City of Rest:

Pastor Ngobeh of Sierra Leone (78 years old) and Heleen van den Brink from The Netherlands are giving their lives away for the 30 men and 10 women that currently reside at the of City of Rest. These are the mentally disturbed and drug addicts that have either come to the facility or been brought by family members that can no longer handle them. Many of the problems stem from the war as people witnessed loved ones murdered or were themselves the murderers after being abducted, drugged and brainwashed as boy soldiers. There are no medications to help them through the withdrawal process, so during the first phase, to keep them from hurting themselves or others, they are chained to beds or chairs. Our team met with the pastor and Heleen for an overview of the program. We divided into small groups and visited and prayed with residents room-by-room. One man that was new was quite agitated. We watched as the pastor calmly spoke with him and had some of the other men begin to sing. Within minutes the man was transformed. He was clapping with the others and smiling. Becky had the opportunity to pray for him. What a privilege! City of Rest will be relocated at some point in the future. Land has been donated in the town of Grafton about 15 minutes outside of Freetown. It is a beautiful location with amazing views. Mission Direct will be able to help with the building process as teams like ours continue to go to Sierra Leone and invest funds and manpower.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sierra Leone Follow-up #5: Men's Polio House

United Men’s Polio Brotherhood:

In the city of Freetown a group of men with polio have banned together to form a union. They have gained permission from the government to temporarily use an old slaughter house as a residence. As other men with polio began to hear about the “house” they started coming with their families so that now there are 90 people living together. In fact, all 90 sleep on the floor in one room. The floor has crumbled from use, and until now, a small type of worm has worked its way through the cracks at night and has caused sores on the people. Our team took supplies including 6 wheelchairs to be distributed. We were able to purchase some of their craft items to help with their income. We also had enough money left from the Hastings project that the floor is going to be chemically treated for immediate relief from the worms. When the Brotherhood gains long term use of the building (a meeting was scheduled for the week after our departure), we left the money with Mission Direct to have the floor resurfaced. There had been one toilet for all 90 people. Mission Direct has provided materials for the men to build a shower/restroom facility behind the slaughter house, as well as a ramp for the wheelchairs to enter the building. The needs there are tremendous. A next step will be to provide metal bunk frames and thin mattresses to get the people up off the floor. These folks are precious!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sierra Leone Follow-up #4: Hastings

Hastings Home for Women with Polio:

Our main building project for the week was in the town of Hastings about 20 minutes outside of the capital of Freetown. It is unbelievable how the scenery changes almost immediately upon leaving the city of 2 million people. The mountains in the background and the lush green landscape are breathtaking. It is all of the best that you can imagine Africa to be.

The Hastings ladies have banned together to work cooperatively to make a better life for themselves and their children. Their main source of income is sewing. They have several sewing machines and have gorgeous fabrics that they have made by a process of dying one color at a time – a 5 to 6 week process. The ladies currently live in an L-shaped building with four bedrooms. Our team sent money ahead to have the foundation laid for a matching L-shaped building that will give a horseshoe effect with a courtyard. We were able to raise the walls to a good stopping place and another team which arrived a week later has continued to build. It may be a few months before the house is ready to be occupied, but the ladies are excited and are waiting as patiently as possible (more pictures below).

More Hastings Photos

Sierra Leone Sites and Sounds