Posted on 10/15/12.
“The journey begins months before you leave.” A wise friend told me this would be the case when I signed up for a mission trip to Sierra Leone, and I had no idea how true it would be. The journey started months before I left, and is still happening today. (Most of this is adapted from the journal I kept.)
- The fellowship created by involving others and having them invested and praying.
- Sharing my faith with others. This lead to so many talks with friends before the trip. God did some amazing things with this.
- My attitude of service on the trip – much stronger than if it were only my money.
- Trusting God to pull through and provide. I almost wrote a check myself… and then I got an amazing email from a company called Threadflip who not only sponsored a clothing sale I did (100% of proceeds went to Sierra Leone), but they also offered to make up whatever money I didn’t raise! I just love that story.
- Learning to work through opposition, and to press into it and learn from it rather than shying away.
- Spreading awareness of volunteerism and of hardships in third world countries.
|Where we stopped and ate lunch|
We were greeted by Uncle Magnus and his team loaded the 19 of us, our luggage and our donation bags (details on the 1,000+ flip flops we donated here) into puta putas. The hour drive to the ferry was like most of what we saw in Sierra Leone – families living in mud and straw huts, along the side of the road, very similar to many of the Caribbean islands I’ve visited. We took a ferry ride which I loved, the view from the roof deck was gorgeous, and then we were in Freetown (pictures of Freetown and the ferry are below, and were taken by teammate and professional photographer Ethan).
We stayed in a hotel in Freetown, and the next day we traveled to Banta, where we would stay in the COTN (Children of the Nations) camp with the children. The camp is only about 80 miles away, but it took us 10 hours to get there. This is due to the conditions of the road, since most of it is not paved and we also kept stopping (I think we were saying hello to a few families, picking up supplies, and we stopped for lunch). You couldn’t sit up straight in the van, and the seats are small metal benches. We played 20 questions and mafia to pass the time.
It was late at night and dark when we arrived at the COTN camp in Banta. We stayed in the brand-new guest house that they just built. No running water or electricity of course, but there was a living space in the middle with a girls room off to the left, and boys room off to the right. We stayed in bunk beds with mosquito nets around them (everyone was on malaria medication and the 98% DEET I brought ate my watch, flip flops, and anything plastic it touched). Our bathrooms looked just like an American bathroom with shower faucets and all, but without the running water. To bathe, we filled up buckets with rainwater and used a ladle to pour the water over ourselves. To “flush” the toilet, you throw a bucket of water in it. I was surprised at how easy it was to live without running water!
|A mountain in the distance was visible from our front porch on this rare, sunny moment!|
|Where the children live|
|The back porches where the kids hang out and cook dinner (and plant hair)|
|Nail polish painting parties in the dark|
|Me and Agnes painting nails|
|The kids also loved playing Uno|
What We Ate
I also have to mention what we ate. The food was absolutely delicious, there just often wasn’t enough of it. (Not unlike the people around us in Sierra Leone, so I’m definitely not complaining.) I was starving almost the entire trip (one meatball per person one night for dinner, for example). I don’t know how the guys were holding up, because even with the huge amounts of snacks and tuna fish I brought, it was tough. Another learnable moment here – eat what you are given with no complaining, and be super-thankful for every last bite. I certainly was.
My stomach shrank, my body shrank, I was like a different person food-wise when I got back. But then I got some interesting news. I went to the doctor for a severe throat infection and they found I had Type 2 Diabetes. I have been hypoglycemic my whole life, but essentially the eating conditions were so bad that my pancreas had completely given out. Things are back to normal now, and I will still say that every moment was still worth it. Just a crazy side effect I never thought would happen.
|Our beautiful cook rolls out dough with a glass bottle|
|Making fresh peanut butter with some of the kids and teammate Scot|
|The path to Ngolala|
|The path to Ngolala|
|Team lunch while in Ngolala|
|With teammate Steph|
|Putting on a (hilarious) skit for the kids|
|With our group leader, Daisy|
|With Jebeh, who lives in a neighboring village|
|Giving my speech with help from interpreter (and local legend) Father Abraham|
|The main "room" where we held praise and worship and sermons|
|Playing in the soccer tournament|
I remember my own personal experiences with camp growing up so fondly - both VBS as a little kid and youth camp as a teenager. I was so happy to be able to give these kids the same types of experiences. They spend so much of their time doing chores and going to school and it was great giving them the chance to just be kids for a few days. They wouldn't have been able to put on such a camp for the kids without the 19 of us to run it (we planned out the activities in advance and brought the supplies with us). It was an awesome experience!
|This school in Mokpangumba needs help! Find out how you can help here.|
|Birthday cake! So yummy|
On the last day, we also spent as much time as possible with the kids. Marie, a sponsor child to a friend back home in the states, was always glued to my side, and on the last day she got really quiet and I could tell she was upset that we were leaving, which totally slayed me. The kids also performed a goodbye song/receital for us and I was a basketcase crying through the whole thing. I wrote this in my diary that day:
|Africa BFFs, love these girls|
|My beautiful sponsor child, Tenneh|
- Sponsor a child. I’m happy to talk with you personally about any of the children I met who need sponsors. The camp in Banta is a very happy place, but at the end of the day these children do not have parents. And they never will, as adoption is not something that happens in Sierra Leone. Pledge to help financially and spiritually take care of them by sending money and writing them letters!
- Donate to COTN. If you prefer to not commit to one child, then consider donating to COTN directly. I can say with absolute resolve that this is a great organization to donate. They are doing great things in Sierra Leone. Check out this inspiring recap of the more than 1,000 flip flops our team brought with us and how they used them.
- Go on a mission trip. Consider visiting Sierra Leone and give the gift of time, and of building relationships with the children and staff. Having visitors lifts their spirits and provides much needed resources and manpower.
- Help out locally. There are plenty of kids who need our help here in the U.S., too, so consider volunteering your time or money to a local charity!
ps. For further reading, check out this amazing documentary on another Sierra Leone orphanage, and watch the "Won't You Be My Love" music video below!
Matthew 28. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”