Friday, February 9, 2018

Personality Shines

When things get tough, the tough get positive.

Here are some beautiful ideas about each kid to help you see what a joy our life is despite the difficulties it can present.

Gifty: She loves to sing. She sings all the time...in the car, in the playroom, on her bike, at school, in the shower, at breakfast. She is sensitive to others in distress and I often see her trying to comfort Shiloh and is often holding Addison when she is crying. Gifty loves to be goofy and has a huge smile. She has made friends easily at school and has charmed her ELL teacher to bits. Gifty has discovered that she can ask to sit on my lap and loves it even though she is 11. She likes to play with hair and be creative. She is always drawing things for Addi and Shiloh. Even though she is far behind in school, she tries the hardest and doesn't give up when things get difficult. Gifty is confident.

Kai: He is infinitely curious and always asking questions. His kindness knows no bounds and he is tenderhearted especially towards Shiloh and Baxter. He shares anything and will often give up something he wants because Shiloh wants it, such as, computer time or time on his bike to instead push her on her tricycle. He has the best smile and he means it when he smiles. He absolutely loves to ride his bicycle. Kai is a bit of a perfectionist and does everything to his very best effort. Every night he wants to pray for the boys in the orphanage. He will try anything and hardly every complains about things that he doesn't like

Kumba: She is the goof of the group and the secretly loud one. She presents as shy and quiet but is boisterous and loud when she is comfortable. She is in the discovery and play stage of her life. Addi and her are often found sneaking in play time when every one else is asleep. Those two are becoming best of friends. This girl has the wiggles all day and sleeps like a rock at night. I just love the way deep, dark brown eyes find a sparkle when I look her in the eye. Kumba lacks any fashion sense but looks darn cute anyway and always wears one pair of knee high, sparkly boots.

Addison: She is full of love and can't wait to tell you. I hear her all day telling one of the girl's how much she loves them. She has always been a snuggly one and now has a bigger pool of snugglers to cozy up next to on the couch, and she frequently finds her way into our bed in the middle of the night. Addi is also in that play stage of her life and doesn't go anywhere without a toy of some sort. She is ever the princess and her fashion is a constant reflection of her flare. Her imagination is soaring and it is best expressed outside in the hot, cold, wet, or snowy. She loves to be on her bike, play in the mud, climb on rocks and go for walks. And, I just love that she still says "lello" instead of yellow.

Shiloh: She is a budding flower. While she was not at all cuddly as a child, she has turned into a first class snuggler. She wants to always be held, rocked, patted, hand held, back rubbed, etc... She still wants to be Baby Grace Doggie and even acts out the part. Shiloh has a huge heart and cries in sad parts of a movie and always asking the kids if they are okay if they are crying. She is uber polite always saying "Clease" and "Thank you" in a superficially high voice.  She copies everything her big sisters do and is heartbroken when she isn't big enough to do something they do. Maybe because Kai babies her, but she has a soft spot for him.

Baxter: My oldest "son" has gone deaf and loves it. He sleeps all day, gets back scratches, and is my ever present shadow. He has suddenly become obedient and easy going.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Noise

Baxter has gone deaf just in time. At nearly age 13, he has always been a nervous dog and definitely always a momma’s boy. He has never cared for people in general and now his house is full of banging drums, dancing children, and lots of running and yelling. This was some kind of divine gift to our dog to go deaf while I was in Africa and just before his house erupted in chaos. Now he can sleep peacefully while the children thunder around him. 

If only Jason and I had the same gift…kidding, of course. But in all honesty the gentle, quiet spirit that used to be a mark of our house has flipped upside down. Our new kids seem unsettled in the quiet and look for ways to create noise. Much of the noise is fun and beautiful: Gifty is always singing, Kai is always asking questions, Kumba is playing on some noise-maker, Addi is constantly laughing or demanding a sibling to see something, and even Shiloh has joined in with the pounding of her feet running up and down-up and down-up and down the hallways in play.

Truth be told, there is also much strain in this new noise. Even the good noises, the happy, joyful noises can be a strain. A level of stress that we have never met with. Wailing, pouting, crying, and fighting over adjusting to new rules and expectations or exhaustion from the constant learning and activity level or, with five kids, a battle for attention. Very literally, I hear the constant cadence of “mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…” in my restless sleep. Many moments I long for the deaf, gentle peace that Baxter attains amid the chaos.

Can I just say…yes, I think I will…this is HARD.

Adoption is made out to be some sort of glorified family with graceful and strong parents and brave, adaptive children. A perfect picture of God’s design for his family. There are lovely pictures with happy, well-adjusted children with their smiling parents and the bright sun shining on them creating the ideal of joy and hope. (Coming soon to a family near you…and I will say that are stunning pictures and it was joyful.) But, inside the house the kids aren’t the only ones crying and frustrated with all the newness. 

The hardest part for me, a quiet person by nature, is the noise. There is never a time to collect my thoughts before some noise, good or bad, is interrupting my thoughts.

Here is what I love, though. There really is hope. And when their is hope there is love, strength, patience, peace, joy, kindness…sound familiar?

And then there is that word “long-suffering”, or in some versions “patience”, stuck in there. And I wonder how long we need to strive. And he answers, “run as if you aim to win.” But that doesn’t seem like an answer because there is no finish line, no mark I see in the future with a ribbon to be cut and a medal to be won. I already feel out of breath and my legs are already aching and I don’t know how much further I have to go. So, then Jesus looks at me (I love that part because he doesn’t just say this but he looks at me when he says it!), “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then, I sigh, and get out of bed because today holds the promise that this adoption is good even when it is hard.


As I walk down the hallway to the beginnings of little and not-so-little noises coming from the kid’s room, I nudge Baxter from his silent sleep because, truthfully, I think he likes Kai more than me now and I know he wouldn’t want to miss a chance to get scratched. 

I've always thought I was

Dear Lord,

I’ve always thought I was patient, but thank you for teaching me more.
I’ve always thought I was empathetic, but thank you for teaching me how blind I am to suffering.
I’ve always thought I was joyful, but thank you for showing me that my joy was contingent on my ease.
I’ve always thought I was kind, but thank you that now I see my kindness was conditional upon their returned kindness or respect.
I’ve always thought I was loyal, but thank you for showing me how my loyalty has wavered in my stress.
I’ve always thought I was giving, but thank you for showing me that I have never given from my want.
I’ve always thought I was helpful, but thank you for showing me that was only true when it was convenient for me.
I’ve always thought I was self-sufficient, but thank you for showing me that I need the body of Christ.
I’ve always thought I was strong, but thank you for showing me the benefits of weakness.
I’ve always thought I was brave, but thank you for giving me a chance to know it.
I’ve always thought I was insignificant, but thank you for giving me a battle to champion.
I’ve always thought I was unimportant, but thank you for showing me where my importance actually lies.


Love you, Anna

Friday, December 22, 2017

First Time for Everything

We have been home for one week and this first week has been full of first time experiences.

In their orphanage they were literally within the four walls of the orphanage all the time. Until three or four years ago they were even tutored inside the walls. But as soon as ebola was cleared out they decided that sending them to school would broaden their experiences. The only outside the walls time they have had is time at school and time at church, so they didn't even have experiences in their own culture.

Firsts in Liberia:

First flush toilets...and why are there so many different types of flush toilet? Every new toilet was a learning experience. The automatic flush toilets in the U.S. Embassy almost caused a streaking incidence because they were so surprised and scared.

Working indoor plumbing. They didn't know how to turn on the faucets because the faucets in their orphanage hadn't worked since before the war and had been removed.

Showers. "Mom, it's raining inside!" They loved the shower because they bathe with a bucket pumped from their outside cistern and a wash cloth at the orphanage. Kumba giggled through the whole thing and refused to get out. Gifty, is my scaredy cat and she refused to put her face under the water and took a 30 second shower the first time. Now, of course, I can't get any of them out.

Their own market place. Not using street markets myself, it was a bit overwhelming, but for the kids who had never been in such a crowded area or seen so many items for sale it was a bit too much.

Grocery stores. They have grocery stores in Liberia but they are relatively new and mostly for foreigners and the wealthy. Just like my other daughters, they asked for everything on the shelves whether they knew what it was or not.


This was the girls' first time in a hair salon (Gifty getting her hair washed in a salon). We went in Liberia for the girls to have their washed and styled because I certainly can't do it yet.

Firsts in Travel:

Airplane ride, of course! They did such a great job with this. The weren't afraid of the plane at all and enjoyed the in-flight entertainment. Kumba called the flight-attendant several times. Again it was the toilet that was daunting...it is so loud and sudden that it frightened them. They were so afraid that they began hiding while I went in to flush it.

Airport. The airport in Amsterdam is like a giant mall and we were in a hurry. All decorated for Christmas and with shiny toys and things for sale they have never imagined, I literally had to drag Kumba through the airport. She was so overwhelmed by all there was to see that her legs just stopped moving.

Straight out of a scene in Elf, the escalators were an airport challenge. Kumba was immediately up for the challenge and loved it. Kai was nervous but made it happen. A flight attendant had to help with Gifty who refused to get on. From that point on we had to take the elevator (which was also a first but they found it amazing that the doors closed to one room and opened to another). Kumba kept begging to go on the moving sidewalks but Gifty flat out would not.

Traffic lights have a running status report. From the backseat we hear the constant, "Green light means go. Yellow means slow. Red light, MOM! Red light, MOM!" Even if it is two blocks away.

Firsts in Oregon (America as they call it):
First puzzles. This was an interesting educational experience. The kids had no idea about problem solving and pattern recognition skills. 

 Playdough! They loved play dough and spent a long time playing with it. They had seen advertisements for it on TV in Liberia but never touched it. We will do this again soon.

 Their first time in a restaurant went much smoother than I anticipated. We went to a local pizza place with an informal setting. They liked the elevated seating but not the pizza. This was also their first experience with cheese and with pizza. Kumba eats anything and ate it right up. Kai will eat anything if you add red pepper flakes to it but Gifty is a picky eater and went hungry for the night.

 This one was a bit of a surprise but it was their first use of scissors! Kai is a lefty and there were no left handed scissors at our craft event so it was a little rough for him. They attempted to make snowflakes but really we just had fun chopping things into bits.

 The much anticipated snow. Here are our first snow angels. They love the snow and have adjusted to the cold remarkably well. One day it was 40 degrees and I had to fight them to keep their coats on. We also had a first snowball fight, first teeny-tiny snowmen, and first snow eating.

 The wagon ride wasn't that big of a hit. This was their first time staying out in the cold for an extended length of time. The seats were cold and so were our bums.

 Craft time was fun and they acted like old pros. The glue stick posed a bit of a surprise for Gifty who thought it was chapstick and liberally applied it.

 Hot cocoa after the snow was a favorite.

 Bike riding was the first thing that they asked for. This is Kumba in the picture who thought it was just okay but Kai was an instant success. He literally could balance, peddle and turn his very first time out.
Four girls in a row with newly painted pink toenails.

Addi's first school performance. This was also our first time out of the house as a family of 7.

The were surprised that we could check out books at the library and take them home with us. We also let them use the computer with a mouse for the first time. They typed all their friends' names from the orphanage and pushed all kinds of random buttons. The mouse was definitely a challenge.

We had to take them to buy snow boots and it will be a long time before I take them all to the store again. They ran wild and took the little girls with them. Luckily there weren't many people in the store.

We saw Santa Claus at an event we attended and they were interested and surprised. They asked many, many questions about him. They are now firm believers and have already sworn they are not going to sleep on Christmas Eve. Gifty asked Santa for a gift. Kai asked for candy. Kumba was too afraid to ask. Addison wants a life-sized princess castle and a $400 princess carriage that she is not going to get. Shiloh wanted nothing to do with him whatsoever.

The bounce house was probably the biggest hit yet. Yesterday it was only 19 degrees at 10:30 am and we needed to get these kids out of the house. So, we braved the bounce house. Kai worked up a sweat and Gifty hasn't laughed so much. Kumba was the quietest of all and spent most of her time throwing balls with Addison. Shiloh was the bravest and we spent most of the time chasing her.

The bath tub is a new playground. If they get bored in the evening, I just run some water and they play in the bath until it is cold then they are clean too.

While a playground is not new, they had one at the orphanage, the twisty slide and the tire swing were. They thought the twisty slide was the best thing since sliced bread and kept trying to explain it to me. Then the saw the tire swing....it was the new sliced bread...Kumba went on it until she got sick to her stomach.

Coming up Next: We are waiting to try the movies and the ice cream parlor and I'm feeling a little anxious about Costco and iPads.

The kids in general are doing great. All the kids are getting along surprisingly well with a few basic sibling rivalries and territorial squabbles. They are used to having little kids around and are kind and helpful with the little girls. The older kids aren't used to being inside and we find that we have to keep them busy or they get hyper and loud. While it took me a long time to adjust to the time difference, the kids were so tired from the travel and new experiences they have slid right into our time.

Kai is getting lessons in wood working. Kumba has fallen in love with milk (only given to babies in Liberia). Gifty eats ice from the ice-maker like crazy (also a rarity because they don't have electricity to keep it frozen).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Liberia loves America

Liberia is a country born of America but I bet until we started this journey you didn't know even where it was. Some of you still don't. Even though you have read the blogs, you never looked. It is a history we should know because we created it and they feel we are still their bigger brother in a sense. I started this journey nearly two years ago it wasn't until we were actually ready to travel that I bothered to learn about where I was going and who I was adopting. I heard on the news a few years ago that Ebola was ravaging an African nation. I felt sad, but I never looked to see even where that was. We talked about it in the US only because we worried that it would travel there. But they are distant, and poor, and there is nothing I can do... Turns out God disagreed. I tell you, though, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be here myself.

Here it is a country about the size of Ohio in land mass with a population of 4.6 million. The next door neighbors are Sierra Leone and The Ivory Coast. You've heard of them. The coast is beautiful and the palm trees lovely.

A small history so that we all know. (This is the Anna Taylor boiled down version and I hope I get all the facts right.)

Liberia is called such because it means Liberty-an American Heritage. The capital city Monrovia is name after the American president  Monroe. Their flag is our flag with only one star. Their constitution is our constitution with the words Liberia substituted. The currency US in addition to their own. Their current laws-taken directly from US law. Why all this?

In the late 1810's the US had a growing number of freed slaves. Many Americans felt that integration of the two races was impossible and they were concerned about how to manage the growing numbers without discord. So, a group was put together to find a solution and that solution was to allow those who wanted to "return" to Africa (even though many of these were the US born children of slaves and their owners.) They decided to aim to "return" them to Sierra Leone, purchase some land, and allow the blacks to run their own state. The society sent 88 blacks and three white members of the society to establish a location. After meeting resistance from the local chiefs and the death of almost all of the original members from malaria, a new white leader was sent to coerce (by way of gun to the head) to force a chief to sell them the land. Not surprisingly they sold them Liberia. The tribes in the area rejected the "settlers" which they called Congo people not because they were from the Congo but because they landed at the Congo river aperture. To this day they are still called Congo and they are often identified by their lighter skin (mixed with white from America obviously.) The local tribes fought back but the settlers had brought guns and cannons and were able to fortify their city.  Other ships from America with American blacks arrived and the Congo people were able to establish and rule their own state. Around 20,000 came from the US but this was much smaller than the hoped for mass exodus they had anticipated. In order to protect itself from the British and the French who had providences nearby, the US allowed the state to be declared sovereign in the 1840s. They provided minimal support and expected the country to establish its own financial structure.

Until the 1980 the Congo people retained control over the government. In 1980, a military nobody named Samuel Doe from one of the tribes miraculously pulled off a coup and seized control of the government. It seems that Doe had no actual plan or experience and simply all the cards fell into his lap and he liked it. He was not a good leader and the country's financial stability immediately declined. He maintained control by cruelty and fear. So while the native Liberian people finally had control of their own country, it was not a beneficial move. Several years after seizing control, he decided to hold a public election to show he was working towards a democratic nation. He, of course, lost the election and rigged the results. But now his paranoia was more severe and he became worse. His rule was marked by rapes, violent murders, and misuse of government moneys and foreign aid (mostly American).

Several attempts at overthrowing his government failed. In 1989, Charles Taylor, a trained guerrilla, successfully entered Liberia to overthrow the government but succeeded mostly in causing civil war and extreme violence. He trained the infamous child soldiers that he kidnapped from foreign and Liberian families, heavily drugged them, forced them to rape and kill their own family members. In 1990, he killed Samuel Doe and took control of the country. But because the country is formed mostly by ethnic tribes, the country's civil war escalated as they all tried to gain or maintain control over the resources of rubber and diamonds mostly. Charles Taylor succeeded in ending the Civil War in 1997 when he won an election with the slogan, "He killed my ma. He killed my pa. I will vote for him." The idea behind the slogan was that he was the most powerful person in the country and he will kill you otherwise...Additionally, his strength in warfare made him the most capable of keeping the country from continuing the civil war.  But, in 1999 the civil war resumed. In 2003, Charles Taylor was finally put under extreme pressure to resign and fled to Nigeria as a political refuge. He was charged internationally with aiding civil war in Sierra Leon, illegally running arms, and selling blood diamonds. He was never charged with the crimes against humanity in his own country.

It is estimated that between 400,000 and 620,000 people, mostly civilians were killed during this time. The number of rapes, specifically gang rapes, is obviously not recorded but the women repeatedly report that it was common practice among the soldiers both child an not. The saying was women are for raping not killing, so much of that death toll above is men.

The Liberian people feel that their big brother America should have been helping them during this time, but America largely ignored it and even sent arms during some portions. It wasn't until Charles Taylor that they pulled out their arms donations and sent paltry air drops of rice that may have been intended for civilians but was taken by armed soldiers. The only consistent American presence was the presence of Firestone rubber plants who were not involved in aiding anyone. There has been some speculation as to how Firestone has been able to run consistent business in the country but I don't know much about it.

Furthermore, Liberia as well as other West African countries was struck by the ebola virus in 2014. It killed approx 4,500 people and infected around 10,000 in Liberia alone. Sierra Leon and Guinea suffered another approx 5,000 deaths. It cause wide spread fear and panic. Again, Liberia asked where is their best friend America? American did send aid but the Liberians felt it was too late. There was one great benefit of ebola...before the ebola virus there were reported only 50 trained doctors for the entire country of 4.6 million. I don't know the number of actual doctors now but there are many more trained healthcare nurses and workers.

My taxi driver says little babies are born looking at the US dollar and dreaming American dreams. It is my goal to make sure that American babies at least know of their Liberian brother.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Left Behind

You had to know it was coming. It is not possible in my heart of hearts to know that there are children in this orphanage who do not have a family and to not advocate or beg, really, that you take a second look at them and to share their stories so that one day they too go home. Many of the children, especially the babies, have families who are waiting to take them home. I thank God that he has provided for them. But the hearts of His people are closed to the older children and children with special needs. I would like you to see four children in particular. See them with your heart and pray for them, support them financially, and share their story so that near or far the right family will hear God's calling to take them in.

A note before you read, adoption research has repeatedly indicated that grown-up adopted children prefer that their adoptive story and history not be aired piublicly without their permission. This is a little bit of a catch-22 when you are trying to create sympathy but I want each of these kids to own their story and not feel violated when they find it on the internet when they are 20. Instead, I mostly will share who this child is that I met. 


Shadrach age 5 1/2
Shadrach groped his way towards me. As soon as he heard my name he would call out, "Aunty Anna. Aunty Anna," until he found my lap. The second time I came, he knew I was there before I spoke. "Aunty Anna, Aunty Anna" as he pushed his way past the other children to be near. When there was space to sit on my lap he would sit on my legs facing me so that he could feel me better and know my breath and movement. He would defend his position but otherwise seemed content to just listen and enjoy. Later a group of men from Nigeria had heard about Shadrach's stunning singing ability and came to visit the orphanage. Without the nervousness or anxiety that I would feel, he quickly found one man out of 10 that he felt comfortable with. He leaned against his leg and listened. He held his hand then refused to leave.  From what I understand he came from another orphanage who did not treat him well. But that doesn't keep Shadrach from opening up his heart to people. Shadrach is a smart cookie but there is not an available school of the blind for him here. With a little time and investment in his education, I think we would be looking at a future leader.

Emmanuel age 8 approx
It is impossible to miss Emmanuel when you enter the orphanage. He is always, I mean, always smiling and his smile is infectious. Emmanuel, God With Us, moves his chair next to me and asks for his picture to be taken. He was quick to pick up on the idea that the younger children could find a space in my lap, he could find a space in my camera lens. His smile moves from his lips to his mouth and it is clear that this boy really does feel joy deep down that transcends his physical limitations.  He wants to be near and engage with you. One Sunday I visited the orphanage to join them for church. For some reason, that Sunday they did not take Emmanuel and the minute he was aware he was being left behind, he cried. Then I cried. He loves deeply and wants to be loved and included in return. He is a kind, pure soul. The cause of his physical condition is unknown; they suspect a stroke in the womb. While he is leaning forward in this picture he has use of his upper body and arms on one side of his body. He cannot speak clearly with his words but he does speak loudly with his gorgeous eyes. I think (unprofessionally) that with a bit of training in sign language he would be able to communicate well. Emmanuel is also not educated as there are no schools for kids with special needs.

Success age 5 approx
I first encountered Success as he was being carried into physical therapy. At first I thought he was Emmanuel because of those amazing bright eyes and because of his wheel chair. But he quickly distinguished himself as I watched him suffer through physical therapy that clearly stretched his pain. He would grimace and then look to make sure that I was still there near by and just as quickly switch to a smile. He can speak well (in Liberian English) and loves to talk. He is sitting in a wheelchair here but he spends just as much time moving around on the floor. He is thought to have mild cerebral palsy but he does have some limited control over his legs and full upper body control. His neck is stiff but just look at the light in his eyes!! These kids with special needs have an incredible level of patience but need engagement with people and stimulation that just cannot be provided when you never get outside of the four walls of an orphanage. He is not be able to attend school because of his physical limitations but I assure you he is smart.  He has no opportunities here and leaving him in an orphanage with no education and no family to help him just ensures that this promising boy will be a beggar. I can't bear it.


I've seen Mokonjay's picture before. The shy 11 year old whose name appeared on the same list of kids that mine did nearly two years ago. She watches me with a mix of hope and grief. My own kids off playing with others in this awkwardly secure feeling knowing that they have been chosen and are leaving, but Mokonjay finds openings when I have a free hand or am not carrying a baby and she holds my hand leading me from place to place. At church they wanted to sit me in the front row, but I asked to sit with the children. Mokonjay asked me in disbelief if I wanted to stay with the kids...translation read in her eyes and emotions, "You find me worthwhile to sit with me?" If I could have brought home another child, I would have brought home Mokonjay. She is an only child and I don't know her history at all but when you meet her you don't care. She is seriously the kindest, sweetest, young lady I have ever met. It would break my heart to see such an amazing child left behind to age out of an orphanage.

This is a privately run orphanage and it receives no government assistance. Furthermore, the government knows that this orphanage takes good care of their kids with special needs and so places children here but they do not provide aid for them. Everything from the physical therapy to the rice to the security guards to the clothes are provided for by donors largely from America. Recently the main sponsor organization has withdrawn its support to open another orphanage in Liberia. While I commend what it is doing, there is a big gap to fill.

I feel as if this is the most important of all my blogs and yet I also feels that it conveys so little. God loves these children the same as he loves my children.  Please help these children know that they are not left behind!

Give a one time donation.
Sponsor a child for $40 a month
Pray for them.
Spread their news so that someone will take them home.
Visit them!
Go to: Americans for African Adoptions 

There are many others that I haven't mentioned. So if you know an interested family, have them get in touch with the agency and see the beautiful children I didn't mention.

**I KNOW this blog has major tense shifting issues. I am sorry all my writing and English friends.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Africa, I Carry You Back


For everything that seems out of the ordinary or snaps a heart string they say, "This is Africa." It is both an explanation and an excuse.

Every Liberian or Lebanese* that I get a chance to interact with asks me to carry them back to America. They will hide in my bag, but preferably carry their own. They will come be my nanny so they can send money back to their families. They will send their young children to me to go to school for the first time. They lecture my children to behave so that I won't send them back to hell after coming to heaven. (As a side note, after this lecture I reassured my kids that I would never send them back to Liberia for their behavior!) They ask for my Facebook so they can find me in America and introduce them to a good woman they can marry to make them a citizen...they will be good husbands.

And so, this is my way of carrying you back, Liberia.

She sleeps on a bamboo mat under a lean-to with pieces of aluminum patchworked to the top. Nine children huddle against the wall as the rain comes down. Their father has abandoned them again or at least the father of three of them. She knows that this child she carries will not survive in this house were there is no food. She is ill, nearing 40, and has lost her job. She gives birth that night alone on a mat with nine children watching unsure what this new child will mean for them. Who will have to make room for it? Who will give up their rice for it? Who will take care of it? In the morning, new baby boy in hand she takes him to an orphanage and begs for them to take him in. With praise on her lips, she is relieved and hopeful for him when they take him in. The orphanage comes to her lean-to to establish that she really cannot care for him and they are sickened by what they see. The director buys her a new mat and brings the family rice. She leaves the mother with money to buy meat for the night. Neighbors start shouting, "Why are you selling your baby? You are evil! How can you sell your child?" They shun her. They harass her. But her child lives with food and an education. This is Africa.

He is here from South African working with the fishing industry to stop human trafficking and the stealing of oil. The Liberian Coast Guard is only allowed to patrol 25 miles from the coast but the large fishing boats can go many miles with their permits and so they go out 30 miles off the coast. These are the former child soldiers displaced after their role in the vicious coups and civil war with no skills but death and left with drug addictions they were forced to take in order to be the dramatic killers the coup leaders needed for their child army. They arm themselves with semi-automatics and they raid oil boats for oil and people or other fishing boats. Chose death by gun, drowning at sea or be pressed into slavery for sex, for fishing, for sale. This is Africa.

She was taken in by a neighbor couple. Her biological family history not revealed from shame or mystery, I don't know. She was the 20th child and the last. The neighbors loved her as their own, fed her, and sent her to school (not free in Liberia so many don't go). She grew to be a woman of hope. A woman who understood the value of being cared for and who understood the costs of being without a family. She got a job working with the displaced children during the civil war. They stopped paying her but she loved the children and continued to work for seven years with the children for no pay. Risking her life in streets of machine guns and ebola to walk to the kids an hour each way. And then one day her boss "ran away" to become a refugee in another country and God blessed her with the paid position he left behind. Today she lives a nice life with a stable salary, a good education, a reputable position in the community and the joy of Jesus in her heart. She has travelled abroad many times and loves her country and her children. This too is Africa.

We drove through a crowded marketplace and she saw a man she knew. She waved to him and asked what he was doing but did not want to stop. As we drove away she told me her story with dry eyes as if stating facts.  Many days she begged for food. And then she met a man who always kept rice in his room. On days when she could not find food, she would go to his apartment and he would feed her. Then the bombing of her neighborhood began and she was displaced and scared. She went to his house for food that night and he told her it was time she stayed to sleep with him. She began to cry and he berated her for being too childish. "I may not be a child but I have never been asked to sleep with a man before." Thereafter she slept with him for food and a room. One day they were in the market when the soldiers shot a woman in the face. She watched as the bullet entered her eye and somehow exited her mouth leaving the woman alive. All the people were distracted by this woman and she saw her chance to run away. She ran away as far as she could. Were she went and how she managed to survive the war she never said. But she was adamant that she never crossed into that part of the city again until the war was over. This was the first she had seen the man who she slept with to save her life. Now, though, she is a successful business woman who manages a front office. This is Africa.

He went to church every Sunday. Two hours of hot and sweaty praise. Pressed tightly against one another with his children quietly in his lap or dancing by his side. Dripping in sweat and shouting words of praise to the mighty God. Worried, every second, that the ebola virus was among them and spreading through the sweat and touch. But there nonetheless because this God is worth the risk. This is Africa.

I carry you back, Liberia. Your stories of fear and survival a testament to your hope and strength.


*The Lebanese have been in Liberia and Sierra Leone for a long time. They came here as refugees starting in the 1930's and 40's. I'm not sure how they did it, but they bought up a lot of beach type resorts, expensive hotels, supermarkets, etc... and they have continued to increase as the wars in Lebanon and surrounding area increase. They establish themselves, buy up more property and send for their families to come work them. Most Lebanese are wealthy but not all. But, this is still a poverty country and they would rather be in the US.