Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reflections and Deep thoughts...

I should be studying or getting ready for bed-but my mind won't shut-off.  I find when I leave Liberia and have time alone ( I have barely talked to anyone for about 2 days!) I start to reflect and my head gets full.  I call it "being in my head"- for those who know me you know what that is let me share a few of nuggets (isn't that big of me?).

Most of my reflection has been on the amazing, crazy, busy, fun, hard year that we have had at SP Liberia.  Let's give a quick picture re-cap and trust me when I say that this is just a snap shot of all that went on!
Early in the year we had some SP UK staff come and see us...

Just before the Festival we had a SP media crew come out to film some of our projects...CLP!

Some guests had too much fun with the bunnies! :)

In the fall we had another UK team come out to see our water/sanitation projects-they were real troopers in the bush!

The boys got to meet daddy's "bossman" :)

We had a kids camp team from our own Salmon Arm Broadview church come-we had so much fun!

Those are just a few of the visitors we had-and what they did.  I am so thankful for every single one for taking the time to come and see what SP Liberia is doing and what they are a part of.  I hope and pray that their visits changed them-and that they can share the story of what God is doing in Liberia with their friends and families.  I know that everyone who came impacted our staff and the Liberian people they met-so thank you!

Then there were the projects...we were busy-oh!

Anita-part of our HIV/OVC program-her and her mom were one of the highlites of my year...

Bunnies were born!!!

This day was a hard day-but one that I will never forget-being able to spend time with on of our beneficiaries at the foya hospital

Latrines were built...

This is the house that recently burnt-I was able to go there last week to take some pictures and see the brother of the house owner.

Goats were born!

We didn't let anything stop us from getting to our project sites!

Christmas came early for some special kids...

Fish was harvested!

This is seriously just a drop in a bucket of all that was accomplished in 2011.  As I reflected on the year (as I was daydreaming at the Library!) I remembered many moments that really impacted me-both happy and some tough ones.  Like the story that Joni posted on her blog about a young girl given infected blood at a hospital and is now dying of HIV-she is 16 years old-loosing 4 our our Liberian staff members in the first few months of the year to sickness...but you know what-God saw us through and continues to also shower us with moments of joy.  When a CLP lady first learns how to write her name, the smile and laughter of a child receiving a shoe box, people running to receive God's amazing grace, the excitement of a fish harvest and so many more.

Coupled with all of this- I ran.  I ran a lot. Our staff ran with me too! It was worth every painful, joyful, sweaty step!  Running-yes, running often got me through many of the hard days-I vividly remember the run after meeting and hearing Anita's story-how I cried through that whole run. I started this blog (painfully, but still did) because I was running with a purpose-a purpose that I wanted to share with you.  All of you were a huge part of 2011-your support and encouragement throughout the year was so inspiring-I was overwhelmed by your words and responses-thank you!

Team SP!

2011 was a big year.  For me personally it was a huge year (hello 40!).  I ran the London marathon-not very well but I ran it-it was amazing.  Tomorrow I defend my PhD-a journey that has helped be better at my job and strive to never forget of being a good steward in what I do.  As many of you know-I don't do things just to do them-I don't run a marathon to just to run, I didn't undertake a PhD just because I want people to call me Dr. Bev (Please don't!).  Everything that I did this year and in my life really, I do because I want to be a good steward with what God has given to me.  To use my running and my PhD to do the best I can in my job/life-for all of those who because of circumstances out of their control are suffering physically and spiritually.  As I have said about my running before-I run, not for me-but for everyone that you have met on this blog this year and many more. 

On my own I can't do these things.  With God -He can, I just have to trust and serve. When I am running I have a little motto/mantra that I say "Not me but HIM in me" (will be saying it my head tomorrow morning too!)... I leave you with this verse-one of my faves as we end 2011...and get ready for 2012-the adventure continues!

"For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He has panned for us long ago"- Ephesians 2:10 NLT

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Animal Life!!!

One of the perks of the job over here is the I am not talking about lions, elephants or giraffes (we don't have giraffes in Liberia!).  I am talking about our small ruminants, livestock, livelihoods and fishponds.  When I am in Foya and go for an early morning run, the goats and sheep are often still slumbering on the road, the roosters are crowing, chickens are scratching-their morning in their little world has started! Sometimes I feel like Dr. Doolittle, holding bunnies, chasing down goats, getting muddy in a fish harvest-it is so much fun!  Here are some pictures of what I mean...(pictures by joni.)

I took this picture-love the self portraits with the bunny!

Second year students for CLP are given chickens to raise.

Goats!  (picture by Loretta :)

Fish harvest-this guy is headed to market!

On a more serious side-these projects have a huge impact on our beneficiaries.  As you have already read-our livelihood and literacy women receive rabbits their first year and chickens their second year to raise for food or to sell.  This brings in another income that can help with school fees or to provide much needed protein to their diet.  Fishponds are managed by community leaders, mostly pastors, and a fish pond (that has 6 ponds in total) can be harvested once a month.  Money raised from fishpond harvests' have helped build new community buildings, churches and have helped vulnerable widows with much needed food.  The SP goat, sheep, pigs and cattle program has also had great success with beneficiaries able to use the meat for food-or to sell  (after they have had offspring) using the money to purchase land, pay for school fees or help re-build their homes.

This man helps his wife take care of the rabbits, this was the first time he had held a rabbit!  He said that he is very proud of his wife for learning and that because of it he also is learning.

One of our woman goat farmers.  They each have to build their own shelter before receiving a goat.

One of the little kids helping with his church's fish harvest.

This year we also have pigs!!! Thanks to our women's empowerment agricultural program.

After the war there was no cattle in Liberia, SP was the first to introduce cattle back into the country.

Animal/Livelihood projects can be difficult to do, animals get sick, or are stolen-BUT they also have great reward for the beneficiary.  One of the programs that I am running for is our livelihood programs such as these-all maintained and run by community farmers/caretakers, who have been trained by our amazing SP staff.  Here are a couple more photos of our cute little animals (don't think about that they may be eaten...think that they will be sold!)

Our Church mobilization program manager Eleanor-with her little baby goat.  Eleanor goes crazy over the baby animals!  She also is helping churches with livelihood programs that will help their communities.

Seriously...can something get any cuter!

The majority of rural Liberians are farmers.  Yes, they grow rice and other veggies, but many of them are also animal farmers.  During the war their animals were taken from them -killed and eaten by soldiers.  When I ask many of the farmers if they had goats or sheep before the war, they all adamantly reply "Yes, but the war came!" 

As I have said before-the projects that I am running for are just small steps to re-building a broken nation and restoring broken lives.  All of these smelly, cute, bleeting, running in the middle of the road, mooing, clucking, snorting animals and fish are playing a HUGE role in doing both. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bouncing back...

Much of life here in Liberia is about 'bouncing back' from something-destruction, suffering, loss, sickness-just to name a few.  All of us can think of a time in our life when something happened to us-knocked us off track, or right down in the dirt-and as you sat there you may have mumbled 'how am I going to bounce back from this!'  But we do.  We have family to help us, social systems and safety nets in our country to help us. We have organizations and support groups for every kind of fall or set back-we have firetrucks...

Last week while in Foya-on a nice warm late Saturday afternoon a few of us decided to hop on a couple of dirtbikes and go visit one of our community development staff members.  It would be a good 45 min ride-especially since we (Joni and I) were doubling the other two!  Ten minutes into our journey we entered a village-and saw a big group of people gathered-some wailing and yelling-right away I tensed and got into my 'robot' response-assessing everything that was around me-was there danger-is someone sick or injured and needs care...and then I saw and smelled the smoke.

As we drove to the last few mud houses at the end of the village we saw a home with smoke flooding through the windows, women running with bucket on their heads, men grabbing the buckets to through on the flames...there is no 911 in Foya.  There are no firetrucks in Foya.  Right away we asked if anyone was in the house-thank goodness there wasn't.  However, the rice that the family had harvested was in the house, the money from the ladies savings club was in the house...their clothes, their home all being destroyed before them.

When the men pushed in one of the mud walls the oxygen rich air flooded in causing the flames to shoot higher.  All we could do is stand there-even the people gathering water slowed as they too understood that it was too late-it just had to burn itself out.  Family members were crying-as they know the implications of loosing a home-there is no "Extreme makeover" to come and re-build their home, no food bank to help them out for a few days...

Before we drove off I asked Eleanor our CMP manager if we have pastors or projects in the village.  Much to my relief we do and together we wanted to make sure that this family got help.  SP is going to help this family with some blankets, help replace the savings money that was lost and help with their home.  I look forward to being in Foya next week and checking out how the family is doing-I have no doubt they are 'bouncing back'.  It is at times like this that I am so thankful we work where we do-yes the roads are rough, the work days are long-but through our community development programs we can be that safety net when disaster strikes!  We can truly carry out our name and be the Good Samaritan and extend our hand and help someone bounce back.

Joni and Eleanor on the bike that day...

As for training...well-it seems that a stomach parasite decided to hitch a ride back with me to Monrovia-mister gastrokillus...mercy I was sick!  Without going into great detail-I spent much of one night on the bathroom floor-and I will not be able to eat a hamburger anytime soon :(!!!  As I lay in a nice soft bed-with medicine to kill mister gastrokillus and people to check in on me to make sure I am still alive-I realized how blessed I am to be taken care of.  I have 'bounced back' went for a 5km run yesterday and will keep going on my training as I gain my strength back. 

Yes, we help of a lot of people through our programs, but it is the times in your life when you need help that you realize how important helping really is. Being there to help people 'bounce back' from disasters like a fire-is also part of what we do here at SP Liberia-it was not in our plan that day as we left the office on our bikes- but God had a plan.  I am glad He does and that we can be part of it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Protect my Child...

"Mama Bev" and the kids running club
(photo by: Joni)

Don't mess.  Anyone who is a mom or has/had a mom (that would be everyone...) knows how we feel about protecting our children.  It's that maternal instinct like when you come between a mama Grizzly and her cub...DON'T MESS with my KID!  It's the mama bear in us that kicks in and becomes this  "I can take you and whoever else on right now, right here-and trust me you will be sorry!" 

It's not only when our children are threatened-the same passion turns into the caring nurse who goes without sleep when her kidlets are sick.  This mama bear trait is wired in us-I get very protective and care for my boys (and staff!) and don't like to see any of them be scared, sick, or uncared for...but what about those kids who are not protected?

The not-so serious picture!

Whenever we go out to a community we are surrounded by kids-as their parents work on the farm they are free to roam around anywhere.  However, sometimes we find that kids are sick-with parents unable to provide the care needed for them-sometimes we come across kids being abused. In the city of Monrovia kids are on the streets trying to sell small items and fruit to make money-and again in the worse cases young girls with no parents (or no parents that care) are left to roam the streets at night trying to make enough money to for a meal...

This is the reality of not only Liberia but in many places around the world.  We are very blessed to have a whole sector devoted to child protection-and we also have a children's ministry program that caters to kids in the rural areas we are working in.  Our Child protection program manager is Danielle Carpenter.  Hailing from the wide open skies of Montana-Danielle started as a SP intern working with our VBS program and moved to the program manager position last June.  Another cool fact about Danielle is that she is training for a marathon in Jan!  It has been awesome to train with Danielle when I get the chance and when I can keep up! I am super proud of her discipline and perseverance to get out there and do the hard training it takes to run a marathon. Here is Danielle in action teaching children in one of the rural communities where we have projects.

I love this picture of Danielle teaching from the Word!

Part of our community development includes children and giving parents the tools to protect their kids.  This may mean helping them earn incomes to send their kids to school or to pay for any type of medicine that they need-it may mean a week long kids club teaching kids about a God that loves them so much.  We don't want to leave kids behind in our programming-they are the future of Liberia! 

Staff -Justin playing with some kids in a community.

Whenever we are in communities we usually end up holding a baby or a little child will come along side of us and gently slip their hand into ours..looking for a little love and a little protection.

Friday, November 11, 2011

One step at a time-part 2!

For the past month Liberia has been in the thick of elections. Yes, elections plural as in this country if a candidate does not with 50% +1 of the vote there has to be a run-off between the top two presidential and VP candidates.  I am not going to go into detail about the the parties or the presidential candidates-what I want to reflect on is how one step at a time, through the elections, even when its painful, the journey and reward is so worth it!

There are many people, myself included, that get frustrated with the corruption, the bureaucracy, the amount of time it takes to get things done, not being able to know if people are trying to take advantage of you and steal or if they are genuine-that takes place in Liberia...if you ask ANYONE who has worked and lived here they would say the same thing. Everyday I find myself praying for wisdom and discernment to make the right decisions, to be patient, slow to anger...sigh.  This happens in my own country of Canada too!  However, Liberia, a country re-building after a terrible war-is moving forward one step at a time.

What I am constantly reminding myself is, much like marathon training, it takes time!  You cannot just hop off the couch, without any training and expect to run a painless marathon and feel fine the next day!  (If you can you are lying :).  It is the same for Liberia-roads can't be built overnight, government capacity can't be instantly perfect-you have to go through the sometimes painful steps of starting over, rebuilding, sometimes falling down-but getting back up.  In marathon training-you have good days and bad days, injuries come and then are healed, sometimes you have to push through pain-but step by step we all continue.

SP is part of this journey-in rural areas of Lofa, Gbarpolo, Nimba and River Ghee counties we are walking along with our Liberian brothers and sisters one step at a time to re-build this beautiful country that we love.  Is it hard and frustrating at times?  Yes, yes it is-and is it worth it?  These pictures are my answer...(all pictures by Joni Byker).

I could post hundreds of pictures that would illustrate the reason I run-the reason SP is here!  Again, if I am being honest (wow-being vulnerable today!) My 7 years in Liberia have been some of the hardest, frustrating and exhausting times of my life-BUT it has also been one of the most joyous, fulfilling, pure awesomeness (yes that is a word)!! Taking one step at a time - with great friends, co-workers-and with every Liberian that we have had an opportunity to walk with has been such a privilege.  I have no doubt when I am old (way off in the future) I will look back at this time in my life as one of the peaks, not valley, of my life. 

Being here for two elections, seeing the steps that Mama Liberia has made since 2005-one step at a time-has made me certain that the journey although long has been worth it. As I train-I am reminded that I am also a 'work in progress' -making changes every step of the way to be better-me and Mama Liberia taking one step at a time!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One step at a time-part 1

Running is all about putting one foot in front of the other-one step at a time towards a goal.  I am constantly reminded of this as I increase my miles and try and get back into the routine of training for the London marathon.  You would think I would get used to the training-but some days it's very hard-and I have to simplify it down to one-step-at-a-time, knowing there is a destination and purpose to what I am doing.

The projects I am running for this year are our 'community development' projects-these projects take time and lead communities through specific training one step at a time.  Here is an example/story of two communities that are taking part in this program.

Last Friday I was invited to speak at a Community Health Education graduation in Karpi and Kimbolou.  These two villages are very close to each other and share a school (a new one is being built by SP), a well (our WASH peeps did this!) and a small mud thatched church.  If you were to visit these two communities today you would be warmly welcomed and see a very harmonious, clean village.  But it wasn't always like this...

Just over two years ago-these two villages were very different places.  Human and animal feces littered the village-to the extent that people would take bush trails around the two villages due to the stench and filth.  People were unwelcoming, no missionary or NGO had lasted very long in Karpi or Kimbolou-all had been chased out or frustrated by the people's lack of desire to help themselves. People in the communities were always fighting sickness and many died. It was just not a very nice place.  But, it was the perfect place for us-it was the perfect place to go and see what God could do through us and to love these communities regardless of their reputation.  It would take a lot of time-so we started the journey-one step at a time.

So there I was last Friday almost 2 years later-watching the community members of Karpi and Kimbolou walking/dancing, singing, celebrating their recent achievement.  These members went through an intensive 9-11 months of training on Community health/development.  Led by two of our Liberian staff members James and Joseph (who live in these villages) the community members were led through training - on when and how to wash your hands, how to pen your animals, how to build dish racks to keep clean dishes off the ground-putting up clothes lines (no more drying clean clothes on the dirty ground!), building their own latrines, sweeping their yards, building garbage pits and much more!  And guess what?  Step by step the people of Karpi and Kimbolou changed...

The CHE grads of Karpi and Kimbolou

As I sat and listened to many of the testimonies by the grads I was incredibly encouraged.  One lady said that in the past when the Government sanitation officer would come to assess their villages everyone would be afraid and go out to their farm so they were not around when he came.  But this year when he came -he was shocked-he couldn't believe that these were the same villages!  He was so impressed to see that the villages were clean, animals were in their pens, houses were fashioned with dish racks and clothes lines...Pride oozed from this women as she told us this story-and once again I was amazed at what God can do when we decide to take one step at a time in His power.

The Cheif from Karpi receiving his certificate

It was not easy to make these changes-James and Joseph have lived and been part of these villages and have worked incredibly hard.  They have been an example of God's love, mercy and grace all the while teaching the people the amazing story of God's grace.  They believed in the people of Karpi and Kimbolou-we at SP trusted and empowered them to go out take time and do their job.  The people saw this. No other NGO or mission organization had done it like this-no one was so willing to just 'be' with them and walk with them one step at a time.

Surrounded by my people!  (left) is Joseph (not in a white t-shirt) and James is on the right.  The country cloth dress was a gift for me-I know you all want one! :)

Reaching a goal, helping people change for the better, training for a marathon-these things take time.  However, we are asked to just take that step of faith, and keep walking one step at a time-reaching little goals along the way, working through the hardships and frustrations (the blog entry "longest day of  my life" was on a trip to Karpi and Kimbolou-the road is not easy-oh!), knowing that a bigger reward lays ahead.  For the people of Karpi and Kimblou that reward has come in the transformation of their communities-the transformation of their hearts-and you can see it! 

A while ago the people of Karpi and Kimbolou gave Taya, Joni, and I village names.  Taya is 'Tawa' -Joni is 'Kumba Karpi' (second born girl of Karpi) and I am 'Siah Kimbolou' (First born girl of Kimbolou).  I am so proud of these communities, my people, and the steps they took to improve their lives and their community.  I, Siah Kimbolou, run for these people, my people, one step at a time.

PS-I want to thank all of those in Salmon Arm who have supported our work in Karpi and Kimbolou and to those who have come to spend time with the people-they still talk about you and the huge blessing you were and are to them.  Shout out to the hometown!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On the same page...

Have you ever been part of a team where not everyone is "on the same page"?  Someone is going left -when they should be going right-others don't even know where they are going or why...It can be very frustrating!  It can be even more frustrating if this happens at work-no one knows really where the company is going-or no one has explained to them how they fit into the bigger picture.  Being on "the same page" is vital in our work-although this blog entry may not be as exciting or have my usual nuggets of motivation (I like to think I have nuggets in my blog:), I feel it is very important to explain what being "on the same page" means in our work.

If we are not on the same page-things can get messy!

Last week Jodi Blackham-from our SP Uganda office came to help us improve our project planning to be sure we are on the same page.  Jodi (from the UK) and her husband Chris (CD of SP Uganda) have been with SP for 6 years.  Jodi is the technical advisor for our project management-and did a great job of guiding us through the process of project planning.  She goes to different SP field offices making sure that what we say we want to do, we are doing, how we are doing it and in the end we can see what we done...makes sense right?!

Let me give you a small small example.  Here in Liberia there is a need for sanitation facilities (aka latrines), statistics tell us that disease is spreading because there are no latrines.  So- Taya puts together a proposal to a donor and receives money (resources) to build 50 latrines (activities) and then 50 latrines are built (activities completed). Sounds simple right, BUT-what impact are these 50 latrines making in the community?  How do we measure that impact?  Ahhhhhh yes, this is where the rubber meets the road my people-this is where you as a donor have the right to ask -"so you built 50 latrines-so what?"

Sam, our Latrine technician-lining things up for a new latrine.

Now- for us in the field the "so what?" is answered in many different ways-here are a few: people have been using the latrines and we have seen a decrease in open defecation (basically, no more poop on the ground in the community), we have seen a decrease in sickness caused by open defecation, we have seen more people washing their hands after using the latrine, we have seen people's behavior CHANGE with the introduction to latrines and health education.  Lives are being saved. Those are the answers to the "so what".

This is very important to me-and it should be to you as a supporter of any organization, not just SP.  If I am a donor-I want to know how my gift is being used-I want to know that activities are taking place to help with the change.  As a donor I want to know the impact that is being made.  As a donor I don't need to know the nitty gritty of the everyday work-however, if a donor wanted to know we at SP Liberia would be able to tell them. How?  By our staff all being on the same page.  Taya and the WASH staff know what they have to do -right down to the supplies to purchase, the staff to be hired, the communities to work in, the target group-everything.  We want to be good stewards with what God has given us-and having a plan and being on the same page does this.

SP WASH staff-meeting with community members-making sure we are all on the same page!

But it's more than that-we are here for the people of Liberia.  They deserve projects that are well thought out-that include them in the planning process and in every step along the way. They deserve projects that are accountable to them-after all it is their lives that we are helping.  I love being able to sit and talk with community members about the dreams they have for their community or for their families-I love seeing our staff out in villages living with people we are working with-helping us plan better for future projects.  Even as I type this-Alisa and Taya are back in Foya working with their staff to make sure we are on the same page and using the resources to get done what we said we would.  Joni is in Bokomu visiting our new CLP  literacy programs to make sure that what has been planned for the women in this area is taking place-one important step at a time.

It is my commitment to everyone who has and will support me during the London 2012 marathon -you will be on the 'same page' as us here on the ground, making sure that we are being good stewards, working hard, supporting our staff and most of all transforming the lives of those Liberians who have suffered so much.  They, most of all, deserve that ALL of us are on the 'same page'...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Content Joy...

I just finished reading a book by the world class runner/marathoner Ryan Hall. Some of you may recognize the name-he is the American half-marathon record holder with a time of 59:43...amazing-13.1 miles in under an hour!!  His book is called "Running with Joy" and follows his daily journal of the 14 weeks before the Boston marathon in 2010.  Ryan is a believer in Jesus Christ-and it was encouraging to read his world view and how he finds joy in the competitive arena of professional running.  What stood out the most in his book was this never ending quest for being content with the amazing talent God has given him-instead of being a slave to it-and not content if things did not go as he would have liked, like winning every race!  He struggled to not get caught up in his times or what other racers were doing-comparing himself-or if he had a bad training run...I can't even imagine how hard that is when your job is running!

In our projects we meet people in both camps-those who amazingly are content despite suffering, loss and living in poverty.  We also meet people that are never content with what has been given them-they want more and at times are even rude about it!  If we were honest we would have to say that when things are going well and we have everything we want- we are content-but what about those times when nothing seems to be going right?  When you are sick? When it seems like your project is going backwards instead of forward!  Or...

you are stuck!

Twice in the same day!

Yes, these two pictures are from the same day-not to mention I had some sort of stomach bug doing the backstroke in my gut which sent me into the bush on numerous occasions-and a spiking fever with chills...I was NOT content.  Our contentment usually correlates with what is happening around us, or what we are experiencing at that moment, or what we have.  Sad really-that our contentment would be all about us. 

I was reading the other day in Philippians 4 when Paul is talking about being content no matter if he has a lot or very little -whether his stomach is full or empty.  So what was his secret? Well, much like Ryan Hall-Paul found his strength and joy in Christ.  Instead of seeing a stuck truck and getting upset-being thankful that someone gave money to get us a truck so that we could reach the kids in Porkpata with a very important message:  God Loves You. 

If I am honest I find it hard to be content.  I either let things bother me and steal my joy or I put to much pressure on myself to do more and don't just enjoy the moments I have been given to just be content in what I have done.  In Ryan Hall's book - he really wanted to win the 2010 Boston marathon-but he didn't.  He finished fourth-outside the medals-but he was content in his performance-actually he was more than that-he experienced pure joy running regardless of his finish-it was more about the journey and realizing that whether you win or loose-God created him to have a personal relationship with him that was more important than the race.

As I head further into my training-I have not been content...I have  nagging back pain that is bothering me.  I am worried about it getting worse and turning into a full blown-'cannot run'- injury.  I am concerned about raising enough money for our projects-that I will disappoint everyone-I am trying really hard not to concern myself with nailing a certain time-or improving from last year.  I must admit at times it has taken the 'joy' out of training!  However, after I read "Running with Joy"-I was reminded that no matter what happens-God has created me to do what I am doing right now-run and support the amazing people and our projects in Liberia.  Not only am I content knowing this-I consider pure joy to do so!  I have met so many people in our projects that have found the secret of being content-whether they lost everything and now are struggling to get back on their feet or if they have HIV/AIDS or if they are 76 and learning to spell their name for the first time-they are content in God's love-and what a joy they possess.  Another good reminder for me to be content in ALL circumstances. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Time waits for no one...

Time. We can't avoid its march forward.  No matter how much we wish it would stop or that we could go back in 'time'-we can't-It is part of life that moves at all times-not caring what we do with it-not stopping to wait for us-it just keeps on going.  How many times have you said, "where did time go?" or "Well, that was a waste of time!"  Time and I have a love/hate relationship...I wear a watch all the TIME-I arrive to things on TIME-I hand in reports, PhD whatever it may be, on TIME.  When I run I always watch my TIME (see past blog on 'all about the numbers').  This aspect of time I like...

Time is not my friend when I wake up one morning and realize that I am 40.  Yes, two weeks ago along with the rest of the class of '89, I turned 40-I could have swore just yesterday I was walking from my house in Dawson City, YT to my Grandma's store on front street for some chocolate cake.  Or that I was just lacing up my skates to play hockey on Askews Shopping hockey team...or in the BC triple A basketball finals...Where did time go?  And how can I get it back! 

As I thought of this blog I started to think about the 14 years of war that robbed all Liberians of precious time in their lives.  Time that they could have been going to is Hauwa, also 40 in a CLP class learning to read and write-for the first TIME:

Hauwa reading out the lesson

My favorite part of the lesson-when she read the bottom line...

I am the same age as Hauwa-40, she is learning how to read and write for the first time, I just handed in my PhD thesis...I complain about time making me older-Hauwa lost 14 years...14 YEARS! To a war that she did not start, 14 years lost with no opportunity for learning...I need to stop complaining...

Time was lost on farms-for 14 years people were forced to abandon their farms and flee for their lives.  Their livelihood lost.  No rice to eat or sell...

Making up for lost time! (photo -joni byker)

But-the worst part of loosing 14 years to war was the time families lost with each other.  Husbands and wives separated not knowing if one or the other was even alive.  Children separated from their parents-time lost being loved, taught, cared for by their mother and father.  I can't imagine Isaac and Felix being taken away from me for 14 years-or having to spend 14 years in an IDP camp with my 2 small boys-with no opportunity to go to school, nevermind not knowing where my husband was, my family or friends...

Living life together for the rest of time! (photo joni byker)

I wish that I could give the people of Liberia 14 free years-no one would age-everyone would have the opportunity to make up for lost time during the war. But it's not possible.  In Liberia there is a saying "God's timing is best"-and I believe that with all my heart-even though I don't know why God allowed Liberia and it's people to loose 14 years to war and suffering-I know His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts-He is God!

I do believe that God has allowed SP to be here for this critical time in Liberian history.  Although we started small -God's timing has been best-and SP has had the opportunity to 'make up for lost time' for many Liberians involved in our projects.  We can't give them back 14 years of their lives, but we can help them now, at this moment to make the most of their time, to make the most of their lives.  Over time we have seen women learn to read and write, fish ponds being built, rice planted, access to clean water and sanitation, people suffering from HIV/AIDS getting help, health lessons taught and we have seen people know the amazingness of God's love that knows no time-it has always been and always will be.

Time.  You can't escape it. So the questions remains-what do you do with your time?  Here is a great quote I found on time and how when not used for a purpose can rob us of opportunities.

" There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: TIME."-Napoleon I-1815

People often ask me how I find time (which is funny as time can not be "found"-it's always there!) to work, mother, run, study, cook, blah, blah...I tell them I manage my time very carefully!  If I have free time I make sure I am making good use of it-even if that means going to bed a little earlier and spending more time resting so I can face the next day ready for all that it will throw at me.  I can't imagine loosing 14 years of time to something I had no control over...something that robbed me of my safety, my job, my education, my family...

I am thankful that God has chosen this time for me to be in Liberia-once again this has forced me to take my eyes off myself-and not worry about the time I loose or that fact that I am 40...ugh.  Instead it has forced me to look around at those who lost so much-but most of all who lost so much time to live a normal life.  As my training increases I am more and more aware of time-not so much on the time of my runs-but the time I have here in Liberia- to spend time with those that time did not wait for- for 14 long, terrible years...