Sis Rosie (far left) with her family at ELWA.
When we first arrived in Liberia in 2005-the office was in our house, and we had a small staff-maybe 3 or 4. SP was only implementing a few projects. One of those staff members was Rosanna Schaack -Sis Rosie-and one of those programs was the THINK home. It is 2012-Rosie still is with SP and the THINK home is still one of our flagship programs. I remember sitting with Rosie-asking her about her life-she would give a little laugh and reply "Oh, well...it's a long story..." Then she would begin-being 'adopted' by a missionary family, a Liberian girl going through school, the experience of heartache when she lost a sister in a drowning accident, going to the U.S. for the first time and experiencing life as a young colored woman in a nation that still was growing through the growing pains of the civil rights movement. This is just the beginning...
Sis Rosie (far right) with her sister Becky
Meeting her husband Kaye Schaak while she was a nurse in Yekepa-getting married, loosing a child to disease, fleeing with her young family from a war, being separated from her husband at a rebel checkpoint..."They took Pa Schaak and one of the teachers from a school we had worked at. They told me and the children to keep walking, I heard gun shots and thought that is it-they have been killed." Some time later they were reunited.
This was just the beginning...fleeing with her family to a refugee camp in Ivory Coast, Sis Rosie found herself working and ministering to young women. "I prayed 'God I never want to go back to Liberia!'. She laughs when she tells me this-as He had bigger plans for her, God usually works like that.
She did come back. Working hard to establish THINK (Touching Humanity in Need of Kindness)-she and her friends (the Rescue mothers) defied rebel and government commanders who didn't want 'their' girls to be part of a rehabilitation program. She defied the young women soldiers, scared and rough from years of killing. She defied the challenges of a post-war country-with no infrastructure, corruption and non-existent law. She pushed on. Someone had to help these girls, someone had to tell them that they were loved, that God loved them, that He loved them so much He sent His son Jesus to pay for whatever sin they had done-no matter how horrific it was.
Sis Rosie singing with some of the THINK home girls
Today Sis Rosie is an advisor to SP child protection programs. She is the CEO of THINK and an advocate for passing the Liberian Children's Law. Her persistence and perseverance for the past two years (even longer!) paid off in January of this year, when the law protecting children from such things as early forced marriage was ratified and signed by the president. Danielle Carpenter is now the Child Protection Project Manager for SP and works closely with Rosie. "Rosie takes care of the little things, whether it is making sure the THINK home children have birth certificates, or visiting a little boy that is being moved to the safe home (another project she oversees) she takes time to make sure these things get done," Danielle told me. "She is so humble, her knowledge in the area of child protection is amazing, her ability to work with Government and she works so hard."
Sis Rosie speaking to President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Some of my most treasured memories with Sis Rosie are when we are in the field together. Sharing a tent, laughing at things and her telling me more stories about her life. I love going to the THINK home when she is there-usually a baby on her lap, a smile on her face, she knows every girl by name and her passion for what she is doing oozes out of her. We sit talking about the girls (225 girls have gone through THINK over the years), laughing at my recent cultural mishap, we get serious when we start talking about the strains of mothering, being a wife, and a professional, we talk about schooling (Sis Rosie has her Masters in Nursing and has studied abroad)-I know I am sitting and conversing with someone special. Every piece of advice, insight or wisdom I cling to and treasure.
Speaking to the THINK home girls at their graduation
This week Sis Rosie will be given an award from Vital Voices for her work in human rights. It is awarded by the U.S. government and the awards ceremony is held at the JFK Center for preforming arts. Rumour has it that a celebrity will be presenting the award to Rosie. She will accept it humbly, graciously and thankfully. She will come back to Liberia and continue to speak for those who can't and fight for those who are being abused. She doesn't do it to be recognized (we had to find out from someone else that she was even getting the award!), she does it because she is full of a love that only God can give-it overflows in Sis Rosie.
Kendell and I have been blessed to have someone like Rosie to come to for advice and guidance. We are indebted to her for her role in establishing SP Liberia. But more than that-I know that when I look back on my life, and think about the people who have impacted me, Sis Rosie will be on that list. Not because what she has done, or even said-but because of who she is. She radiates Christ-full of passion, love, grace, truth and beauty-she is an example of what it means to truly serve, even when life is hard.
One of my favorite pictures-Sis Rosie dancing at the THINK home for guests!
She is the only woman I know and have met thus far that reminds me of my Grandmother. For anyone who really knows me - you know the depth of what that means. Humbly, they pushed forward not immune to tragedy-allowing God to use them where He wants. Graciously, they touch lives with love not by force- all the way giving thanks to God for everyone and every opportunity He has placed in their life. I wish they could have met-but alas, not until heaven! I want to be a woman like this-I know it is not an easy life-but it is a beautiful one.
Thank you Sis Rosie for so much...