Saturday, August 02, 2014

I Stand with You, Liberia

Even though I feel such an exhilarating buzz about the new school year, it is also a very somber time for me. In 2011, I completed my practicum in Liberia. Some days, I still pinch myself. I am so grateful to Mercer University's Mercer on Mission that gave us this opportunity. I learned so much, met great people, and experienced a culture that would never have been possible otherwise. I became familiar with a people that overcame so much in their very recent history. A history that I was embarrassed to have had so much ignorance. What I learned is that these resilient people represented just how the world was to me. We seem to think that the miles between us as countries and cultures make us different. Untrue. We're not very unlike at all. If anything, I don't know if I could forgive and forget as well as they had. I don't know if I could cope and move on as well as they had. Knowing them gave me strength, their relationships made me full.

We taught at Rick's Institute near Monrovia, Liberia for three weeks. My teaching partner, William, and I had 40 students in a tee-niny classroom. No electricity, no running water, no supplies like pencils and papers, much less Ipads, activeboards, and internet access. What an experience we shared! The most memorable was making a venn diagram about what ants would rather eat, a salty cracker or a sweet piece of chocolate. With magnifying classes and recording sheets, we put the the food on one of the MANY ant beds and let the kids poke the ant beds to a chorus of laughter and squeals. Yes, there was supervision and just enough of a safe distance! Come on, these kids had way more know-how around their jungle environment than I did. Let's not speak about the coconut tree snakes!!

I want to honor some of my former students as a way to pray for them and keep them close in thought. My hope is that they are all safe with their loved ones and are unaffected by this very scary virus, Ebola. Please let me introduce a few of my students. Some days, more than others, I realize what a gift photography is to my life. Some days, I feel that my introverted nature tricks me into thinking that I am in the mist of it all, though I hide behind a camera. These days, I don't feel this way. I may never see Liberia and her people again, but I have these rich, magnificent memories of them through my photos. I captured them. Please let me welcome you to my journey as I remember those in West Africa as they suffer the effects of Ebola, an awful and scary virus.

Meet Armstrong. He was our quiet charmer. When our time to teach them had ended, he snuck over to our house to tell my teaching partner and me goodbye and to play us a song on his ukulele. What a surprise to have this meek hardworker let us into his world and share his talent. We decided no other name would be so suited to him. Armstrong, we're thinking about you.

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