My heart is saddened and in shock after yesterday’s events at the Boston Marathon.  To hear the stories, see the pictures, and read the posts makes that sadness deepen.  It feels somewhat surreal as I think about an event that is known to be so pure, unifying, and encouraging is now filled with death, injury, pain, hurt, fear, and anger.  My heart aches for the families and friends of those who died and/or were injured but also for all those who were affected in anyway from this tragedy.

So how do we respond to this? What do we do from here? When I started praying for all those involved I thought on the many things that my mind had heard, seen, or read.  DEATH.  INJURY. PAIN. HURT. FEAR. ANGER.  My sadness quickly turned to anger (the righteous/justice filled kind) as I saw the devil’s name printed all over this.  Who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10)? Who desires to make us fearful?  Who thrives off of building up anger and hatred? 

I am reminded once again that we are in a daily battle.  That everything that is pure, holy, noble, good the devil wants to destroy.  I am also reminded that this battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers of this dark world.  It can be so tempting to respond to this tragedy with fear and hate but that is exactly what he (the devil) wants.   I encourage you (me) instead to respond with love. 

Sadly I know this isn’t the last time we’ll hear of a tragedy and/or terrorist attack but I know that Jesus has given us the greatest armor to fight against whatever the devil may throw at us.  We are in a daily spiritual war built on things that we can not see but that affects us deeply.  So stand on the Truth that holds tight around your waist, keep righteousness against your chest, and be ready at all times with the gospel of peace.  Hold your shield of faith to block whatever the devil may try to shoot at you, and know that you have the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit (the Word of God) to fight.  (Ephesians 6:10- 18)

So what are we going to do?  We need to pour out love to all those around us.  We need to pray, pray and pray some more.  And we need to stay alert that whenever we see 'works of the devil'  that we don't let him win but instead but on our armor and fight back.

I have already been so encouraged as I read posts by the many friends who were along that 26.2 mile stretch talking about the outpouring of love and concern they have received.  I am also inspired by the emergency responders and good Samaritans that helped amidst all the chaos around them.  Most importantly I am thankful that we serve a GREAT God that is bigger than any tragedy, that can conquer ANY fear, and that loves us with an unconditional love.


Babies WITH milk

Now a days I don't get off the ship much (or ever) unless it is for a weekly trip to the market to stock up on fresh fruits.  But last Tuesday I had the amazing opportunity of going to see an organization in town that provides formula for babies whose mothers have passed away.   I truly felt blessed to be a part of this day and to be able to meet so many amazing men and women who have stepped up and stepped into to take on the care of these little ones lives.   It was also amazing to see how a program like this was started and how it continues to run.  This program runs out of one woman’s home and provides formula for babies within the Conakry area.  They currently have over 200 babies and have an additional 200 babies (over 1 year) who have graduated to rice.   Every 2 weeks these babies with their caregivers show up to Dania's doorstep (Guinean woman) and hand out whatever formula they have.  The second woman that founded this group is named Estel.  She has been living in Guinea for over 25 years doing an array of jobs but most recently has poured herself into "Babies without milk".
Top:Me, Tracey, Cora, Estel, Dania, Dania's son, Hailey
Bottom: Ali, Zoe, Dania's daughter

One of my friends onboard, Tracey, has an amazing testimony of how God connected her with this group and with a little baby in need. Please check out her blog: Tracey's blog
Ali also wrote about our little adventure out and amongst such an amazing group of men and women: Ali's blog

Babies without milk is a great example of God providing their daily bread.  Sometimes the funds don't meet the need, so they dig deeper.  Sometimes they go into debt, but they keep going and each time God provides.  What an amazing example of trust and dependence on our loving Father.

As we drove away from this amazing group my heart leaped with joy with all they had done and were doing.  In the same beat I was saddened thinking about the all those babies without caregivers or without a program like this.  The statistics of babies, children under 5, and mothers dying in West Africa are overwhelming but when you hold a baby that could have been part of that statistic you cant help but praise God for the faithfulness of his children.

This group is an example of what can happen when you ignore the tsunami of hopeless statistics and instead to reach out and help those within your grasp. This group and all those involved should challenge and encourage us to never give up, to keep our hope in and on Jesus at all times, and to do the best we can with what God has given us.

“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” - Mother Teresa

Please be praying for this group, the babies with their caregivers, and the many other motherless babies that are unable to be part of a group like this. 

*Thanks to Michelle Murray for her amazing navigation skills and photography skills ;0)


Lovin' L-I-B

What a trip!  This is my 5th time to Liberia and each time I go back I find my heart falling more in love with the country but mainly the people.  Slowly the country is making improvements and the broken pieces from 12 years of war are getting glued back together.  

The main reasons for us taking this trip was for Greg's family to finally meet Hailey and also for us to see everyone once more before our longer than normal stay in America due to visa and schooling issues.  We had made plans to go to Liberia when Greg's sister Grace could get time off from her work in the Sudan but 2 weeks before our trip she emailed saying that sadly she would not be able to get time off.  Greg and I were both disappointed but knew she couldn't do anything about it.  

As our flight landed in Monrovia we were swept through customs due to friends of friends working at immigration (I love Africa!) and then were told we had a car waiting for us outside. As we walked outside I saw Greg run and hug someone (not a usual Greg thang) and then heard him yell "Gracie!"  Praise God!  Long story short the day before we left she was able to push her work through faster than normal and then was put on a special UN plane and arrived 2 hours before us.  God is soooo good!
During our week in Liberia we stayed with Gracie and Petro and their 3 adorable little girls Gifty (9), Peace (7), and Precious (5).  We also were blessed to spend a full two days with Michelle, Greg's 7 year old daughter.  They all LOVED having Hailey around and pretty much carried her everywhere and fed her pretty much everything (when Mom wasn't around).  I am pretty sure that Hailey is not allergic to cream salt crackers, Coke, cherry lollipops, cheese puffs, oh yeah and blue M & M's.

Petro and Gracie on their 10 year anniversary!

The girls! The matching girls are the nieces, Michelle is in the blue dress, and Lela a friend of the girls.
We also had the huge blessing of seeing Greg's family from Nimba (6 hours north). His Mom Ruth and his sister Francis came down with their newest member Bradley.  He is exactly one month older than Hailey and just like Zoe was very interested in Hailey's hair.  Greg's stepdad and two other sisters weren't able to come down to Monrovia due to work and school but we were able to talk with them and send our greetings along.  
Bradley eyeing Hailey's hair.

Francis and Bradley with Grandma Ruth and Hailey.
 We all met up at Kebbeh's house for this get together.  On my first visit to Liberia in 2010 Kebbeh opened up her home to me and has continued to pour herself out to those she loves.  She is currently 7 months pregnant.  Be praying for a safe and healthy delivery.  Also during their visit we had our Aunty Martha come down from Bong (4 hours away) and Benetta come from Yikipa (8 hours away) for the weekend.  We also were able to meet up with some other good friends and cousins during out time there.  I was humbled by all of these groups willingness and love to take the time to visit us.  We all had a great time just hanging out and catching up.
From L to R: Benetta, Greg, Me, Hailey, Bradley, Francis, Ruth, and Martha.

Grandpa with all of his granddaughters! Sadly his wife
wasn't able to come with us but she sent her love.

Hailey and Greg playing with Michelle!

Hanging out at Petro and Gracie's house.
Besides being with family I also was able to continue to learn about Africa and why certain things are the way they are.  This week was a big learning curve in regards to having a baby and raising a family in Africa.  Hailey's time IN Africa started off pretty rough due to the heat.   Throughout the day she wasn't able to nap due to the heat that surrounded her at all times.  She also didn't want to be held because of the heat but in the same moment wanted to be held since she was uncomfortable with the heat.  Nights were rough since we didn't want to put her directly under the fan knowing it would give her a cold but after the first sleepless night that plan changed.  We also started giving her about 3 baths a day.  One to cool her down and two to get all the dirt and ants off of her.  When you have a crawling baby it is pretty much inevitable.  Besides the heat there were many other learning experiences.
*Trying to store milk or food when you don't have electricity.
*Keeping babies healthy with them surrounded by dirt when all they want to do is put everything in their mouths.
*The amount of water needed to keep up with a family especially a baby who takes multiple baths a and dirties 2-3 outfits a day.  #I usually would just let her stay in the dirty outfit but when I did the ants were attracted to her sweetness
These experiences and many others helped me to see even more why certain things happen or why people do the things the way they do.
Hailey enjoying the cool water.
 One day we also had the blessing of meeting up with a Liberian/Dutch couple who have been working in Liberia for the past 10 years.  She does children's ministry and he does well projects.  I had a great time talking with Annika about her work in Liberia but also the struggles she's dealt with since coming.  I deeply appreciated her insights.  During this time Greg also learned more details about this amazing work that Mamoh is doing in villages around Liberia.  These water-wheels are made with all local resources and are maintained by locals.  Mamoh goes and checks on them to make sure things are going well.  On our drive home that day Greg and I excitedly went back and forth about the different things learned and the different ideas for the future.
Greg and Mamoh with the hand well made with local resources.

Mamoh and Annika with us. ;0)
Our time in Liberia was amazing filled with lots of conversations, laughter, and photos.  As we boarded the plane I couldn't help but cry with having to say bye to so many amazing people on top of the uncertainty of when we would see them again.  

Prior to taking this trip Greg and I were pretty sure that this is where we would end up living and working but after this trip we are beyond certain that this is where God wants us.  There are still many many uncertainties ahead but we are putting it all in God's hands knowing that he knows what's best.