People are asking us if it was a good trip? If you call being ashamed of my own shallow faith and being convicted of complaining about my really trivial life-challenges being good…then…yes, it was good. I was struck once again, as I was last year, by the depth of faith that our Liberian brothers and sisters possess, despite the fact that they often face the day with less than the– “basic needs of life.” Keep in mind, that the American Christian’s definition of “basic needs of life” and the Liberian Christian’s definition of “basic needs of life” differ greatly. We Christians are so spoiled, wasteful, and take so much for granted here in the US. I wonder what would happen to our faith if suddenly all we have were taken from us?!?! What foundation is my life and your life truly built on?
The Liberian faith is not one that is developed by years of contemplating/studying the true meaning of the Word of God, but by years of God faithfully caring for them in the midst of their suffering and pain. The Liberian faith is true “child-like” faith where they really believe their Abba is going to care for them–today–and that often means they will suffer in the midst of His providential care. Why is it that we American Christians believe that suffering is from the Enemy? It is obvious from scripture that God, most often, allows suffering for His plan to be accomplished and for Him to be most glorified. Yes, suffering can be the consequences for our own sin, but God can use even those consequences for His glory. Do we really believe, “ALL things work together for good, according to His purpose…” or not? Go back and read the stories of Joseph (“you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”), Job, Paul–and Jesus. One woman told us with complete trust in her voice, “Whatever happens today, it is by the grace of God!” And her “whatever” included living or dying or suffering pain! She called death and pain….His grace!
We had no idea we would be living with a godly Liberian family on this trip, but God did. We were granted bedrooms and a private bathroom in the home of the Sieh family. Just a reminder, there is still no electricity and no running water in this suburb of the capitol city of Monrovia. Randolph Sieh is the Director at the Daniel Hoover Children’s Village (caring for more than 250 children during the school year and the facilities year round) and the pastor of the church that meets there. What a blessing and humbling experience it was to allow the mother, Frances Sieh, (or as we quickly began calling her “Mommy” Sieh), as well as several of the children, to cook, clean, and do our laundry for almost two weeks. Mommy Sieh–a most gracious woman–always had a smile on her face and a hug for each of us every morning. She worked almost non-stop providing for us from daylight until after dark every day. We learned much from her daily service and from her stories of God’s provision in the midst of horrific circumstances during the civil wars over the years. Honestly, the entire Sieh family served us constantly. There are six children in the Sieh family (3 biological children and 3 foster children) and we displaced 3 of them while we were there. We wanted to be a blessing to them and to serve them, but receiving this special treatment well was, by far, the best way for us to bless them. We truly felt like royalty in their home.
There was much activity in Liberia while we were there. Two huge celebrations took place during our stay at the Daniel Hoover Children’s Village and many preparations were going on for both. The first Tuesday we were there was Liberia’s National Independence Day and the 2nd Tuesday we were there was the 8th Anniversary of the Daniel Hoover Children’s Village. What an inspiration it was to join with our Liberian brothers and sisters and be a part of these two celebrations of worship to God for all He has done and is continuing to do!
Our Liberian experiences are vast and I could write for several hours and still not share all that we experienced, learned, or are still trying to analyze for better understanding God’s purposes. But allow me to at least give you some of the answers God provided for the specific requests I sent you before we left on August 23rd. While some of my responses may not seem to you as God answering our prayers, please remember that God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.
Flexibility was vitally important for this trip and God did grant us much flexibility as it was greatly needed!
2) for His wisdom and discernment in dealing with our Liberian brothers and sisters while honoring their culture and our Lord
3) my patience with my husband to be the same patience I grant others
4) for our families as we are away
Our first real call back to the states was on Monday, August 25th. We had borrowed a phone to make a call on Sunday to let family know that we had arrived in Liberia safely. But Charles called Rachel to check in on Monday and found that Rachel had been in excruciating pain on Sunday evening and was still in intense pain when he called. Long story short, after almost a week of unrelenting pain (back, pelvic, leg) it was decided that she had an ovarian cyst to rupture. It was a week before she could get in to see her gynecologist. I cannot answer for Rachel, but at least for us we knew God was with her and we trusted her to His care. Yes, we called almost daily to check on her, but God gave us a peace that I cannot explain as I think back about it.
5) the cost for checking 3 additional bags (9 bags total weighing 450#’s; not including our carry-on’s) of supplies will be minimal and that all of them and all of their contents will make it through.
The cost for the extra 3 bags was $600. All bags and contents made it through! We will evaluate which is better in the future…to carry all the supplies with us or to carry some supplies from the states and purchase other items when we arrive in the country; whereby investing in the Liberian economy and being better stewards of our monies God provides.
6) for the ability to bridge the communication gap with all Liberians (Liberian English is strongly accented), but especially with the Deaf as their sign system (I do not believe is it is a sign language) is different from ASL.
This was still a challenge, but we did begin to understand more and more as we talked with our Liberian brothers and sisters verbally. For some Liberians, their speaking was relatively easy to understand, but of course, when they speak to each other, especially the children, it goes back to sounding like a completely different language and we are clueless once again. For our communication with the Deaf, I was able to confirm that much of their signing is based on matching signs to English words in English word order or a form of Signing Exact English (SEE). Probably about 75% – 80% of the Liberian signs are the same as or very similar to ASL signs. The older Deaf children at the Deaf Mission are eager to learn ASL, but I want to be sure that the greater Deaf Community in Liberia will be accepting of this before eagerly pushing forward with their desire. Ongoing communication with Liberian Deaf teachers and hearing teachers of the Deaf will give me the ability to ascertain how best to proceed with this. I am thankful that technology is available for us to continue to communicate with at least one of the Deaf teachers in Liberia even though we are half way around the world.
7) our Story 1 (Bible storying in the heart language of Deaf peoples) stories will be shared clearly with the Deaf and the message of Christ will be easily understood and accepted
This was truly challenging since the sign system used by the Deaf is based on English and not a manual language. Many signs/gestures used by Story 1 that would readily be understood by Deaf in many parts of the world were not understood by the Liberian Deaf since their communication is based on English and its grammar and syntax. Flexibility was key and I did my best to learn their signs and use SEE when communicating to them. Honestly, SEE was something I had adamantly avoided over the years, while learning ASL, as I did not ever want to learn it or have it influence my signing. Here in the states the heart language of the Deaf Community is ASL and I desired to become skilled in that and not SEE. I have to marvel at God’s sense of humor and response to MY plan. Again, His ways are not our ways, for sure! After Vandora shared her Story 1 story several times (The healing of the woman with the issue of blood), I decided to switch to SEE and tell it again. While the Deaf children are fascinated by ASL, I wanted to make sure they were getting the meaning and not just fascinated with the language. I also used SEE and ASL to share the Wordless Book with the children. They loved learning what color matched which truth of God and practiced sharing with each other with their “gospel bracelets.”
8) that God would continue to touch hearts to join us in support of this trip, as we have received just less than half of our travel costs so far.
Only God knows the answer to this request and we trust Him wholeheartedly whatever His answer might be.
Well, I will leave you with three prayer requests:
1) Pray fervently for Randolph Sieh (Director for the Daniel Hoover Children’s Village) and his family and Harrington Jududoe (Director for the Deaf Mission) and his family. These men work & minister almost 24/7 7 days a week without any vacation or break. Honestly, I do not know how they continue to do this day-in and day-out 365 days a year, year after year…aside from God’s grace and our prayers! They are tired and desperately need our prayers to sustain them in there continual service to care for others for His glory. If God could provide some type of “recess” for these men from His work, please pray for Him to do so.
2) Pray for each of us, Charles, Vandora, and myself to be able to continue to learn from our experiences over the past two weeks. Our desire is to make use of those things we have experienced and learned to better serve our brothers and sisters in Christ in Liberia.
3) Charles and I are mildly suffering from intestinal issues, please pray these will be resolved soon and pray that this experience will help us identify with our Liberian brothers and sisters as they deal with these type of issues daily due to their poor water and living conditions.
The needs of the Deaf children in Liberia are great! I will share some of those needs with you as I write my Summer 2011 Signs for Hope Newsletter in the next few weeks.
If you want to be challenged in your walk with Christ, I read the book “Radical Together” written by David Platt on the plane returning home; this is his sequel to “Radical”. It was so applicable to our past two weeks. The only way we can accomplish God’s will His way…is living “radically” together. I believe God’s plan is for many of you to join with us as we endeavor to do what we believe God has called us to do in Liberia…”point every one of the [Deaf] children to the Father of the fatherless and the defender of the weak, who cares for them.” That is the true meaning of adoption!
An opportunity for you to become more involved with us is coming up this coming Sunday, August 14. We will be hosting a Signs for Hope Team meeting in our home at 4:00. This is the deacon ministry set up by our church since we are now operating as a ministry of Merrimon Ave. Baptist Church. Charles and I are the deacon couple assigned to Signs for Hope. Team members can be our own church members and/or non-church members. Signs for Hope team members will be involved in prayer, discussions, decision-making, and whatever God plans…for all aspects that Signs for Hope encompasses…ministering to the needs of Deaf children and those who care for them, here in Asheville and around the world. All I ask of you, is that you ask God to show you how He wants you to be involved with this ministry we call Signs for Hope.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18
Until He comes or calls us home,
Becky (and Charles and Vandora),