Glenns’ Ministry Celebration Night

Friends, we are HOME in the US for the next few weeks for our yearly visit!!

And we really want to see you guys while we are home this summer! Please come join us at our ministry celebration night at Epworth UMC on July 14th at 5:00pm. It will be a night of prayer, celebration, and thanksgiving for all that God has been doing in Liberia. We will also be sharing plans for where God is leading us these next couple of years in our ministry in Liberia. There will be plenty of photos and stories, some authentic Liberian soup and rice for tasting, decadent brownies made with Liberian chocolate and even a few Liberian arts and crafts for sale.

For more details and to RSVP, please click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSerE1S61ze0bfIJJDUMQysXkVxcDSUJyIP0KxPyr4f00FoqUg/viewform?usp=sf_link

We hope to see you there!

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The Process of Tempering: Good for Chocolate and Good for Our Souls

Tempering is one of the most important processes in chocolate making. It is a very technical chemical process, the heating and cooling and then heating again the cocoa liquor to very specific temperatures so that a specific type of crystals form, making the final chocolate product look shiny, taste silky, and also giving it a stiff and firm texture that “snaps” when you break it in your hands.

Beautiful well-tempered chocolate! Smooth, glossy, and stiff!

Today, we were pulling chocolate out of the molds and it looked stunning, smooth and shiny!! We were excited and ready to wrap them up and get them to the market. But then as we started packing the chocolates and handling them more, we saw that some of the chocolates had an outer layer flaking off and what we saw beneath was not so beautiful. So, we started cutting up the chocolate squares one by one and found that they ALL had this ugly, dry, grainy/powdery texture underneath the glossy smooth surface and that they were crumbling in our hands. Having been doing this now for at least a year, the students and I looked at each other and knew exactly what had happened as soon as we saw it: somewhere along the lines we had rushed the tempering process (or a drop of water had accidentally got mixed in) and the crystals had not formed as they should.

It reminded me instantly of the story of when Jesus called out the Pharisees out on their hypocrisy saying ” Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (Matthew 23:25-28).” There is no way we could sell this chocolate as it is…sure, it would have looked beautiful and perfect on the outside but as soon as the customer bit into it they would have known right away that something was wrong with it and spit it out and probably never bought from us again.

It reminded me of how so often we try and rush or even ignore our own spiritual growth and development, ignoring whatever is going on inside and just focusing our efforts on making sure that it all at least looks good on the outside, caring more about what other people think than what is actually real. Other people might not be able to see the problems going on inside our hearts immediately, but eventually those ugly things do get seen in the way that we treat people around us or respond to certain situations…. eventually it is known. And the truth is that God saw our ugly hearts the whole time anyways so what really was the point of painting ourselves as shiny and clean anyways? Who wants to drink from a cup that is clean on the outside but actually dirty on the inside?

It was tempting to want to wrap the rest of those pretty looking chocolates up, the ones we hadn’t yet cracked open, the ones that still looked beautiful and shiny. We had spent hours making them after all and a good bit of money too! But we knew it would not have been right for us to sell those chocolates, it would have been dishonest and in the long run it would have hurt our business a lot. We were marketing our chocolate as smooth, rich, and creamy but the product here was the exact opposite. Who would have wanted to buy that product again? Who would have been attracted to it again if the taste was not what was expected and marketed?

It’s tempting to want to rush the process of God working on our hearts, it’s a long and tedious process of continual growth, cleansing, and inner-reflection that sometimes has us digging deep into our hearts to places that we’d rather just cover up and ignore. It takes patience, it takes humility, it takes courage, it takes surrender. It takes ignoring our natural instinct to want to cover the ugly things up, it takes letting Him inside of us. If we truly want to live a changed life, one that reflects His beauty to the world and draws and points people toward Him, we have to allow for and desire change on the inside. The thing that draws us closer to Christ and other people to Christ is not us and our outward “perfect personas”, it is Him IN us. It’s what’s on the inside, the sweet, rich, silky, real taste of His love, grace, power, and majesty that makes people hunger for more of Him.  

There’s more than enough fakeness and hypocrisy in this world, so many people are desperately looking for something real, something bigger than themselves, something to fix, fill, wash, and heal the insides once and for all, something that will finally give them peace and rest and to help carry those burdens they will never be able to carry on their own, something that will stand firm when everything else seems to be falling apart. People don’t need more of our clever tricks of how to look like we’ve got it all together. People don’t need more of us or attempts at “shininess.” In fact, we ourselves don’t even need any more of that either. They and we ALL need more of Him…. to taste Him and know that He is real and that He is good. If our lives are not a reflection of His love, grace, and transforming power to change and renew something from the inside out as we so widely proclaim, who will ever come back for more? Who will ever want to taste Him and His Word again if once they bite down all they taste is crumbly, dry, fake, unpalatable, and dirty? If I were them, I would spit it right out, walk away, and never come back.

I’m not saying that our lives will ever be perfect, they surely won’t, nor do they need to be. But, when people see us and “bite into us” they should be able to see and taste Christ in us and that taste, that taste of something so real and potent, should leave them (and us) wanting more. It should make them realize that whatever they had before was fake, not good enough any longer. I remember the first time I bit into our Liberian-made chocolate for the first time, after 1.5 years of eating the really cheap stuff that the grocery stores here in Liberia label as “chocolate” here and convincing myself that it was just as good as the dark chocolate Lindt truffles that I used to buy for myself back in the US. Immediately, I knew that what I was tasting now was the real thing (better than Lindt even) and I never wanted to go back to that nasty stuff I had convinced myself was good for so long. Do you remember the first time that you tasted Jesus? The sweet taste of His grace and love? The potency of his power and might? The raw realness of His presence that could not be denied? When people taste us as Christians, there should be something different about us on the inside, different than what the rest of the world has been offering. Something sweet, something real, something that leaves them longing for another taste. Our lives should be a testimony and through us the world should be able to see that God is who He says He is ,”for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23). How will the world ever know the real thing if they never have a chance to taste the real thing?

The only way for us to taste Jesus is for us to experience Him for ourselves and the only way for people to taste Jesus in us, is for us to allow ourselves to be transformed and molded, heated and cooled, and shaped like pliable clay in the hands of a potter or silky chocolate liquor in the careful hands of a chocolatier. We must desire and allow for our souls to be tempered over and over again by our Creator. It is only by His guiding hands and our willing spirit that our insides can truly be made new and we can share His true goodness with the world. Likewise, it is only through the careful process of tempering, the intentional and precise rising and lowering of the chocolate liquor’s temperature, that high quality chocolate can be made, the kind of chocolate that makes you realize what you were missing out on all these years!

Students tempering the chocolate. Here they have taken 75% of the chocolate liquor and are spreading it out on the cold tile counter tops so they can drop the temperature from 120F to 80F. Then they will mix it back with the remaining 25% and raise the chocolate back up to 89F. Just a few degrees off and the whole batch spoils.

We ourselves don’t want to eat bad chocolate and we certainly don’t want to sell bad chocolate either. People need to taste our chocolate to know that it is good, that it is real, that it is exactly what we say it is on the wrapper. And so today, our plans have changed. We will now spend hours cutting these chocolate pieces down to smaller sizes, removing any impurities, gathering up what remains and throwing them back onto the stove, melting them back down to a liquor and starting the whole tempering process over again from the start, patiently heating the chocolate, cooling the chocolate, and then heating the chocolate back up again before we re-pour it into the molds. By God’s grace, when we pull them out of the molds this afternoon, they will be smooth, shiny, and stiff not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.

Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

#GivingTuesday and Gratitude

Over the past two years, Nathan Glenn and I have been blessed to have so many generous donors that have allowed us to be here in Liberia, working with some of my favorite people in the world- both students and farmers!! I love that this organization, Hope in the Harvest, allows us to work WITH people towards holistic and sustainable solutions toward development and eradication of poverty. To feed someone physically without offering them the Bread of Life is to leave them empty and hungry still…and to feed someone spiritually without offering them bread for their stomach is to ignore reality and the deep compassion and heart of our God who sees and cares for the needs of His people.

Every day I find more and more unique and beautifully woven connections between my faith and agriculture, the act of stewarding the land that He so graciously gave us in order to provide our daily bread. Every day I am thankful for all that He is teaching me about His goodness, faithfulness, creativity, and divine love through these experiences and every day I am thankful to be able to be a part of this work as God reveals to us all the many forgotten connections between the soil and the soul. Liberia has experienced great hardship and agricultural development alone will never be enough to heal some of the deep wounds that the country and the people have endured throughout their history. Agricultural transformation alongside of spiritual transformation are needed side-by-side in order to allow and foster true growth and lasting change. It’s messy, it’s long, and it’s complicated and at times it is incredibly heart-wrenching, but it is oh so miraculously humbling and rewarding to see God at work here, restoring what was once considered a barren and desolate land.

Today is #GivingTuesday, an intentional day of charitable giving around the globe, and so we are asking you to join us and be a part of the work that God is doing here in Liberia. Your support is essential and it is what allows us to be here, long-term, building relationships and investing in our community and community members. True and lasting change does not come through the one-time giving of food or one-time giving of seeds and not even through the one-time learning a new technique or concept; it comes through repeated learning opportunities, real hands-on experiences in the field, and trial and error.  By remaining here and living and working with our students and local farmers on a regular basis, the situation is allowing for continued learning to take place and also for us to build relationships. Through these relationships we have repeated opportunities to share the Word of God and experience and pursue Christ together as we learn more and more each day about His character and His purpose for our lives and for Creation.

Right now, we are still only about 85% of the way funded for this upcoming year.  If you want to be a part of this ministry that seeks to cultivate Christ’s hope around the world through both agricultural and personal transformation, would you prayerfully consider joining our sponsorship team in one of two ways?

  • Would you consider becoming a monthly partner with us at $25, $50, $100 or any other amount per month? We find that this type of partnership is easy for those who don’t want to commit a large amount all at once but can commit to smaller amounts each month.  Additionally, these recurring donations are helpful for us because it helps us to better plan out our monthly budgets. Once it’s set up (which takes about 5 minutes, instructions here), you don’t have to worry about it for the next year. To set up a recurring donation toward our account, just click here.
  • Alternatively, would you consider making a one-time donation? These donations can be done via checks or online (instructions here). These donations are great for people who can commit to a certain sum one time, but cannot commit monthly. These are also helpful for us because collectively they help us with covering large one-time expenses. To make a one-time donation toward our account, just go click here.

Thank you for your consideration and most importantly for your prayers….for us, for our students, for our colleagues, for our farmer friends, and for Liberia as a nation. We are confident that God hears the cries of those who call on His name and we are confident that He is and will continue to respond in ways that bring glory to His Name.

1 John 5:15 ~ And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

The Story of Chocolate at LICC

This is the story of how we began producing chocolate at LICC (and why you now see so many delicious chocolate pictures posted on my social media on a regular basis…….sorry-ooooooo)

If you know me well, then you know that there is no food that I value higher than chocolate. I am my mother’s daughter through and through when it comes to love of chocolate and all things cocoa. If I could eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day I probably would….

So you can imagine my delight when I realized that right here in this little town I now call home people are growing cocoa beans. I had heard someone mention cocoa beans in the midst of telling some other story (somehow the cocoa was not the main point of the story?!) and after tracing down this rumor a bit I was able to get some information on where I might be able to buy some cocoa for myself. Our driver Mark and I went out into town in search of it and were able to find the jackpot!!

I later found out that the place where we bought the cocoa beans was not actually technically supposed to be selling retail. They were actually a warehouse, a middleman, that acts as a storing facility. The farmers from the local villages bring their beans here for sale (or reps from the warehouse go out an purchase) and the beans are then kept in the warehouse in Ganta until they can be transported to Monrovia. Once in Monrovia, they head to the cargo ships and then most likely make their way to Europe for chocolate production. I was happy I was able to snag some before they made that long journey!

I ended up buying 2 kg (which ended up being closer to about 3 kg with how they “top things off” in Liberia) for 350 Liberian Dollars, which at that time was equivalent to about $2.80 USD. We got the cocoa beans home and really didn’t have any idea what to do with them. We quick hopped on youtube and found some videos and were able to concoct something that resembled the “taste” of chocolate, but was a far cry from the rich and creamy texture of chocolate that we are used to. The problem it turns out was that we could not get a smooth enough grind on the beans without some type of grinding machinery. If there’s anyone who knows how to roll full steam ahead on a good idea, it’s Bill lol. Within the next month my colleague Bill Sebald had ordered us a melanger on Amazon and had it in the suitcase of his nephew, due to arrive in Liberia the following month. Wait what?!!? That was fast!

In the meantime we continued watching youtube videos to try and learn everything we could about this chocolate making business (which FYI there is still soooo sooo much to learn). Some of the things we learned:

  • Our next door neighbor, Ivory Coast, is the #1 cocoa bean exporter in the WORLD and Ghana and Nigeria fall also within the top 10.  Liberia is nowhere on the list- for now!

Image result for cocoa production statistics west africa

  • Liberia imports a lot of chocolate products. There is chocolate sold in every single grocery store and also there is an abundance of hot cocoa mixes sold in even the smallest of tea shops on the street. And yet, NONE of this is produced in Liberia. It is all imported, even though Liberia produces an abundance of cocoa beans.
  • Water is the enemy of the cocoa grinding process! One drop of water in your beans can spoil the whole batch! Roast those beans well!
  • Peeling the shell off the cocoa beans by hand is one of the most tedious processes ever and leaves your fingers incredibly raw and dirty- worth it though!
  • One of our staff members, Konah, is just about as obsessed with chocolate as I am….when we told him we were going to start making chocolate he literally tried to lift Nathan up off the ground in excitement haha.
  • Many of my students know people who are producing cocoa beans—which means we could buy directly from the farmers themselves so this is a win-win situation. Win for them (fair price) and win for us (we know and get to interact with our suppliers).

Once we got the melanger, our experiments were taken to the next level. Our first batch was a beautifully dark and rich and creamy success! After that we continued to make a few more batches, even starting to sell some of the product on the local market (although to be fair Konah’s wife hardly made it off the campus before it all got bought up lol).  Next, we started making it in my Food Processing & Preservation class and we got ourselves even more hooked customers and a couple of chocolatiers we could call upon when it came time to increasing out production. So far I think we have made about 25 batches (so about 200+lbs of chocolate). We have sold it on the local market as well as to international guests when they visit  for tours here at the ARC. I also brought home about 20 lbs to the US when we visited over the summer and watching people’s reactions as they tried it was absolutely the best and reassuring to me…no I’m not crazy, this chocolate is some of the best stuff I have ever had in my life!

The popularity of our product continues to grow. Since we have been back to Liberia, we are trying to make about 2 batches (8-10lbs) every week. We hope to keep expanding in Ganta, but also to the capital city of Monrovia. As far as we know, there is no one else processing cocoa beans into chocolate in Liberia at this time on this scale. We are constantly looking for sustainable business opportunities to help the school have a more regular and stable source of revenue ( because as of right now the support we receive from donors, the government, and even school fees just isn’t enough nor is it terribly reliable). We are also looking for ways to ensure that local farmers are supported in terms of fair market prices when it comes time to sell their product. This could be a great opportunity for the school, for our students, for the farmers, and for the Liberian cocoa value chain and economy as a whole.

We are praying for God to direct our steps with this chocolate experiment turned small business. We are asking God to help this business keeps growing. We are networking and making connections with other people in the cocoa industry, both abroad and here in West Africa, to find out all that we can and make the right connections. We are writing comprehensive business plans, analyzing data, applying for grants, and seeking out investors. Pray that God would help guide us on the next steps. Please pray alongside of us in this venture! And if you have any ideas or connections, please reach out to us so we can brainstorm more together.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few photos of our chocolate-making process and you can see how the process has evolved from our first batch of chocolate (which basically looked like dirt but tasted great) to our latest creation (chocolate coconut clusters packaged in beautiful lappa pouches):

Chocolate Album

(hover of the picture to see the caption)

 

Bloom’s Taxonomy, Agriculture, and Faith

It’s not every day that you have a student that is even MORE excited about the day’s topic than the teacher. But that’s just what happened to me a couple weeks ago and what has transpired since then has been amazing.

A couple weeks ago, I was teaching a lesson on Bloom’s Taxonomy (where are all my teacher friends at?!). For those who might not know, Bloom’s taxonomy is a model that describes/outlines the various levels of learning. Teachers often use it as a guide to help structure their activities, lessons, and curriculum so that they can make a conscious effort to facilitate learning in such a way as to move their students up from one level to the next. According to this model, the ultimate goal for teachers should be to help students move up towards the level where they themselves are able to CREATE something new from all that they have learned. Learning is not passive, it is active, and the main goal should be to graduate students who are able to actually DO something with what they have learned. It is not enough to just produce students who can merely memorize and get good grades, we must also develop within them their critical thinking skills and creativity.

Before I go on, it’s important that we actually check out these six levels of learning in the model below:

In talking about this model during my Agriculture Education class, we naturally started talking about the education system in Liberia. Do we agree that this model of teaching is important in Liberia? Do we see it happening in Liberia? Where does Liberia do well and where does Liberia need to grow more? What happens if we fail to move our students past the lower levels of simple memorizing and understanding to the higher levels of applying, evaluating, and creating? As we were talking about this, one of my students slapped his hands down on the table and stood up and began an impassioned speech to the class (he’s a Liberian pastor, so it’s not 100% out of character lol). His speech went something like this:

Eyyyyyyyyy Liberia! Oh my God! What have I done? What have we done?! I was a teacher once and I know for a fact that I did nothing more than force my students to memorize and occasionally to understand. I know that this is still what my children’s teachers are doing today! This is what I am doing today with my own children. If they memorize something we give them an A, we never encourage them to think deeper. In Liberia, to learn is just to memorize. And we wonder why our youth are just sitting around and not doing anything after they graduate?! They don’t even understand what they have learned, they don’t know how to think, let alone do, anything for themselves. They are so used to having someone else think for them, we never push them up the ladder, we never push them to think deeper. We wonder why our country has such a problem with dependency?! It’s not only the foreign aid doing this to us, we are doing it to ourselves, to our children! We wonder why we have so many beggars rather than doers!  Eyyyyyyyyyy God, Ohhhhhhhh Liberia. When will we truly learn???

I wish I had recorded it, but I was too busy clapping under the desk and whispering “Amen” under my breath. I was simply captivated by this man and his passion and this new understanding that would eventually lead him (and later on myself) to action, far beyond the words spoken in our classroom that day.

After class, I didn’t think much of it again because I had to jump right into to teaching another class. I didn’t see Konah the rest of the day. The next morning, in the 2 minutes we had before devotion started, he starts peppering me with more questions about Bloom’s taxonomy and asking if he can find more online. I assumed he just wanted more information for himself in case he ever became a teacher again or maybe to help with tutoring his children after school in their homework assignments. He is also a board member for a local elementary school so I assumed he wanted more info so he could pass it along to them. Anyways, devotion started and the subject was dropped.

Two days later, Konah comes to me again and says that he did more research on Bloom’s taxonomy and I must do what I can to teach this to every single teacher in Liberia….”haha okay, Konah I will do my best” thinking that perhaps he was recruiting me to come teach the teachers at his school (something I’d done in the past and was more than willing to do again). It’s dropped again until a few days later until he comes to me telling me that I must come teach this at his church, they need to hear it! Wait, what? At the church, why at the church? Do you have a lot of teachers there? He tried to explain why the church needed this, but I still was so confused. Nonetheless, his eyes pleaded with me and I could see he was so serious about this and his passion was clearly evident and well, you just can’t say no to that level of passion! I said that “yea, sure I’ll teach it” but still we didn’t make a time to actually do it. I thought, I might somehow get out of it. Teaching this at a church? I still didn’t understand why or how this fit exactly….I’ve taught this dozens of times before, but never at a church. Alas, the day came when he approached me and we had to finalize a date for this supposed teaching. I didn’t think much of it until the night before it finally came and the reminder went off on my phone telling me I needed to prepare for tomorrow. Crappppp…. I was still confused as to what he wanted me to teach and from what angle I should approach this lesson….none of them were teachers, why did they need this lesson? How exactly was this going to help? I was getting frustrated….

Finally, Nathan had the idea that we should just check the internet and see if there was anyone else who had studied or written about Bloom’s Taxonomy and the church, and lo behold we found just what we were looking for and finally, just 14 hours until I was due to teach, the light bulbs started going off like crazy. I finally understood why Konah was so riled up about this topic as not only a teacher and a father, but as a pastor! I finally began to understand what Konah was trying to say as he explained to me the connection between this and faith. I finally began to see what Konah had seen all along.

Bloom’s taxonomy does not only need to be looked at as a hierarchy of learning, it can also be looked at as a hierarchy of faith.

What happens if we as the church, do not progress past the basic levels of simply remembering and understanding God’s word? What happens if we never learn to apply God’s word to our life? What happens if we never learn the art of analysis and evaluation (discernment)? How can we decipher and test the spirits to see if they are from God or from somewhere else? How will we be able to follow if we don’t know how to listen? What if we never allow our faith to mature past the infant stages on to the more developed stages where we can begin to think on our own, teach others, and ultimately bear fruit (ie create)??

Where am I on this taxonomy of faith? Where is my church on this taxonomy? Are we moving and growing or are we standing still? Are we going to remain as permanent followers within our churches or are we going to become leaders? Are we going to continue in dependency for the pastor to tell us what God is saying or are we going to find out on our own, taking ownership of our own faith? How long will we continue like newborn infants tossed about in the waves and wind (Ephesians 4:14) and crying for our mothers milk versus growing up in maturity to the point where we can stand our ground and eat, chew, and digest our own solid foods (Hebrews 5:12-14) ? What are we doing to dig our roots deeper and push each other upwards in growth? Are we making disciples and sharing God’s word with others? Are we bearing fruit or are we like the fig tree (Mark 11:12-25), bearing plenty of leaves, but no actual fruit?

The connections between this taxonomy of learning and faith were endless!! Rather than dreading the next day, I was getting so excited for it! The church did need to hear this and Konah was giving me a chance to share it!!

My version of Bloom’s Taxonomy with a little agricultural visual representation on the side.

I started my lesson (sermon?) out with the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13: 1-23) which is about a farmer who scattered his seeds. Some fell on the path, where the birds quickly snatched them up and ate them before they took root. Other seeds fell on the rocks, they grew a little bit but when the sun came they withered away because their roots were not deep. Other seeds fell among the thorns, they grew well until the fast growing thorns ultimately choked them out and they died as well. Lastly, some fell on good soil and eventually matured to the point where they bore seeds a produced a crop- a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown! I asked for five volunteers, four to be the seeds and one to be the farmer. We acted it out as I read the verses to give a visual representation of what this parable meant. One of Liberia’s foundations in their culture is story-telling and drama so they absolutely loved it! They literally cheered when it came time for the last seed to finally bear fruit and to show his excitement, the guy acting out the farmer came and gave the classic Liberian handshake to the guy playing the seed lol. It was hilarious.

This then led us into thinking about which example represents us best? When God places a seed of truth in our lives, what do we do with it? Is the soil of our hearts soft (humble) enough to hear what He is saying to us and allow it to take root? What happens when it does take root? Do we allow the roots to grow deep so that we can survive difficult times and false teachings (ie, the sun or thorns) when they come? Are we bearing 30, 60, or 100x the seeds that God has planted in us or are we just growing leaves and bearing 1 or 2 seeds our entire life. If you were a farmer and you planted a corn seed and then wen back to harvest that corn and opened it up and only found 1 seed, how would you feel??? Most of them were farmers so they really related to this one and started groaning out in agony….”Eyyyyy we would not feel fine—oooooo!”

The big question for the day was “Where are we on this pyramid of our faith journeys and what can we do as a church and as individuals to make sure than we are climbing up and maturing in our faith and not just staying stagnant at the lower levels?”

We defined each of the words on the pyramid, we studied scripture that related to each of the levels of the pyramid, and we talked about practical things that we can do at each step along the way of the pyramid to grow deeper in our faith and encourage others to do the same. We especially emphasized that we cannot move from level one up to level five by skipping steps, we must go through each step along the way and we compared this a plant as it grows too….can a plant bear fruit if it has never grown roots, or a stem or leaves, or let alone flowers?? No, of course not! Neither, can we in our faith journeys, we must take each step one at a time and we must never stop growing in our relationship with Christ.

Overall, it was an awesome experience to get to share this message with Konah’s church. I think it really resonated with a lot of people, including myself. (PS. If you’re interested, you can check out the list of scriptures that I used below as they relate to each level of the pyramid.) Ultimately, though my favorite part about this whole thing was how it all started with a student and something he learned in class (a seed that was sown), which he then recalled and remembered days later, chewing on it day after day until he got a deeper understanding. It quickly took root and then he then took what he had learned and applied it to another area of his life where he started analyzing and evaluating the connections and applications. His understanding continued to deepen, grow, and mature.  Lastly, he created a new idea and then he used that idea to sow a seed within his teacher which ultimately resulted in him teaching his teacher something new and then that teacher working together with that student to share that new idea with a whole new group of people. IT ALL CAME FULL CIRCLE!!!

This is why I love teaching ❤ This is why I love agriculture and the endless analogies that exist between it and teaching and it and faith ❤ These are the things that help me to grow in my own understanding and love of God and therefore in my own faith ❤

teaching  alongside Konah as he helped serve as translator (and teacher, his translations definitely went on far too long sometimes lol)

Just a couple of education, Bloom’s taxonomy, agriculture-loving Christian nerds hanging out together after church ❤

If this picture doesn’t tell you what kind of man Konah is, I don’t know what else will! When he smiles, you can’t help but smile. If he gets riled up about something, you can’t help but join in too!

Key Scriptures for Each Level of the Taxonomy

REMEMBER
Psalms 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalms 119:!6 I will delight in your statutes. I will not forget your word.
Jeremiah 15:16 Your words were found and I are them and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.

UNDERSTAND
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding…
Hosea 4:6 My people perish (are destroyed) by their lack of knowledge
Hosea 6:6 I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings
James 1:5 If anyone lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and He will give it to you
Proverbs 15:4 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of the fool feeds on folly.

APPLY
James 1:22 Be doers of the word, not hearers only.
James 2:20 Faith apart from words is useless.
Proverbs 22:17 Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise and apply them to your heart and to your knowledge.
Matthew 7:26 Anyone who hears but does not do then will be like a foolish man building his house on the sand.
2 Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.

ANALYZE
1 John 4:1 Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God or from false prophets.
1 King 3:9 So give your servant a heart to govern your people to distinguish between right and wrong.
1 Kin 3:16-28…the story of how Solomon uses wisdom/discernment to solve a debate about two mothers fighting over a baby

EVALUATE
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful! Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

CREATE
Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…
Colossi ans 1:10 So that you might live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
John 15:5 Whoever remains in me and I in him, will bear much fruit….

A FEW MORE GENERAL SCRIPTURES USED THROUGHOUT THE LESSON
Proverbs 1:5-7 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning of these proverbs and parables. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any doubled-edged sword, it penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of hearts.

 

Praise the Lord! Release!

As some of you might know from Facebook, we have been dealing with a very difficult and heavy situation here in Nimba County Liberia regarding a local Christian man being kidnapped by the Poro secret society and having likely undergone initiation by force. He has been in captivity for 2 weeks and the church has been doing everything possible to secure his release along with being in constant prayer with people all over the country and world.

Good news! Last night that man was released after nearly 2 weeks in captivity! The Lord has heard our cries! Praise the Lord for His goodness and grace and hand of protection that we have seen Joseph Saye alive and free a gain! 

In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me.- Psalm 120:1

“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”- Duet. 20:4

Prayers continue though as Joseph recovers in the hospital in Monrovia (it is evident that his body was scared and marked as a part of the forced initiation into the society). Prayers also continue as this remains and open investigation and this kidnapping is in no way an isolated incident here in Liberia.  Please pray for the family of Joseph Saye and their continued safety. Pray that the government would take action to more meaningfully address these secret societies and that the church would have the courage to continue to speak out in truth and love. Pray for the members of the secret societies, that the Lord would break any chains of oppression and remove the yoke to sin and allow them to experience true freedom, grace, love, and forgiveness at the throne of Jesus. Pray for Liberia that there would be healing and transformation of mind, body, and soul for the entire country.

For more information on the Poro Secret Society and further details about this incident, please visit my previous post (which didn’t even have a chance to be sent out to the listserv followers yet):  https://glennsgoglobal.wordpress.com/2018/08/23/devil-business-in-liberia/ or see the article link below.

“Devil Business” in Liberia

As some of you might know from Facebook, we are dealing with a very difficult and heavy situation here in Nimba County Liberia regarding a man being kidnapped by the Poro secret society.  The Christian community is doing everything they can to ensure his safe release. Some of you may be thinking what on earth is the Poro society? Why does there seem to be disagreements between Christians and the Poro? What does this incident mean for Christians all throughout Liberia? These questions are relevant and I will attempt to address some of those questions here so that you can better understand the gravity of this situation and better know how to be in prayer alongside our fellow members of the Body of Christ here in Liberia.

*Note: Please understand that these traditional bush societies, such as those of the Poro,  are complex and confusing  entities to understand, partially due to their highly secretive nature, sometimes making it tricky to sift out the truth from the rumors. They are difficult for many local Liberians to fully comprehend, let alone someone like myself, coming from a vastly different cultural context. I have tried to present an accurate representation of these societies based on accounts that I have read regarding their existence and practices alongside of those firsthand accounts that I have experienced and conversations with my trusted Liberian friends.

Recap of the incident: A little over one week ago, a Christian man (Joseph Saye) was kidnapped by members of the Poro on his walk home from the farm in the evening.  The man was a member of the United Inland Liberian Church (ULIC), which is a regional denomination here in Liberia (they are the ones responsible governing and supporting LICC- the school at which Nathan and I teach). The Poro society members claim that they are forcing or have already forced initiation (a process which often involves painful markings on the body and ritualistic sacrifices). The Christian community has done everything they can in the past week to plead for the release of the man. When they took the case originally to local government authorities, they were denied and the local village government ruled in favor of the Poro people (it is said because many of the government officials are themselves involved in the Poro society). The Christian community then pleaded to higher levels of government for the release of the man. The higher up county government authorities have dismissed those local government authorities in the village who had ruled in favor of the Poro people saying that their ruling was incorrect. And yet, even now the county level government authorities have not been able to secure the release of the man.

What’s Next: There have been press releases put out all throughout the country of Liberia to gather attention to what is going on in this small village in Nimba County (as this is NOT a new nor isolated incident). The Christian community throughout the entire country has been coming together for meetings and prayer and recently made a few resolutions at their last meeting: 1. continue holding press releases and raising awareness, 2. secure a meeting with George Weah, president of Liberia, in order to address this issue of secret societies and 3. all schools and clinics operated by the ULIC denomination will remain closed until the live body of Joseph Saye is produced.

Some background on these societies: The Poro society is just one of the secret societies that exists in the country of Liberia. There is also the Sande society, which is the secret society for women (as the Poro society is reserved for men only). These secret societies have existed for generations and generations all throughout this part of West Africa and they are steeped deeply in the value of tradition; however their role within society and some of their beliefs may have evolved in some ways since their inception. Traditionally, the members of these societies were seen as the keepers of tradition or of culture and they typically served as governing authorities (both officially and unofficially) within rural villages. There are chairmen (or Zo- “the high priests”) who serve as leaders/counselors within these societies on a local village level, district level, county level, and country level. Some Zos are known publicly, but most are not known by name because they conceal their identities through costume and other practices. The same goes for members of these secret societies as well, it can be presumed that someone is a member but it is never spoken about or confirmed.

Many times, it is youth that are recruited into these societies, just as they are about to begin the passage into manhood or womanhood. These children are recruited willingly in part but there are also incidents of them being forcibly sent by their parents, fearfully coerced by neighbors, or kidnapped into attending what is referred to as “bush school” which can last anywhere from months to years, depending on the status level of that particular family or district. It is said that during this time in the bush school, the girls are being prepared for womanhood and marriage. They are said to learn everything from etiquette, to household chores, to medicine, to traditions, and they are prepared “sexually” (which means amongst other things that they undergo Female Genital Mutation (FGM), which is done in order to supposedly increase fertility and so that the woman should not be tempted to seek pleasure anywhere outside her husband). The boys undergo training as well in wilderness skills (hunting, camping, survival) as well as in history, leadership, traditions, etc. It is said that both males and females, as they advance in ranks, also undergo training in demonic practices and witchcraft so that they will be able to utilize their power/control over society. The situations in the bush school are often unsanitary and can be very harsh (especially when it comes to the process of hazing and initiation) and it is not uncommon for youth to die during the process. It is unknown how many people are really involved in these societies but the national statistics show that approximately 70% of females in Liberia have undergone FGM, so that may be an indication as to just how prevalent and wide-reaching these societies and the bush schools really are.

These societies are extremely powerful on the local and national level. If they are practicing any of their rituals or if the Zo needs to move from one secret area of the bush to another, entire regions are shut down and people outside of the society are not allowed to enter. It is not uncommon during certain times of the year (like now) for road blocks to be up in rural areas preventing people from entering certain villages or areas of the bush.  If you are to accidentally stumble upon these activities, your life is seriously endangered. You are seen as a threat, someone who could uncover their veil of secrecy and expose them. This issue of Poro activities disrupting and threatening day-to-day life of the public got to be such an issue that a law was made that the Poro must restrict their activities to the hours between midnight and 4am  (this law is not really very frequently honored though, especially in rural areas where there are few people to enforce it).

Their power extends to far more than just roadblocks though. It is said that if you are not a member then you are not permitted to be involved in the community decision-making processes and you will frequently be ridiculed or persecuted and treated as an outcast and therefore could easily suffer greatly when it comes time for land or food distribution on a village level. It is rumored and believed by many in the country that for anyone to make real money or to gain a position of authority within Liberia, they must be involved in these secret societies. They are believed to act somewhat like a puppet master, pulling the strings behind the scenes and manipulating situations to maintain control or produce results that benefit them. Once you are an initiated member, you cannot reveal yourself nor escape nor can you reveal the secretes of the society because the threat is that someone in your family will die if you do.

These secret societies are a religion in themselves in a way (they worship and honor the “bush devil” and spirits), but they also are frequently blended into both the Christian and Muslim practices and beliefs on account of their “cultural” significance. In the Liberian context, the bush devil is not necessarily regarded as “evil” as most of us would think when we hear the word devil. The bush devil is a costumed figure (underneath it is said to be high ranking person in the secret society…however once in costume their human identity disappears and they become the essence of the bush devil). The bush devil is seen as an authoritative figure that is used to govern society and bring about order and is even brought out into public for times of celebration and festivals as well. When the bush devil is out and about though, women and children and non-members are not permitted to go outside the home as they cannot be allowed to witness this “devil business.” The bush devil can be out in public for days at a time so this can prove to be quite a challenge for locals in that community. I have heard accounts from other expats as well as from my Liberian colleagues who have had their entire trips to the bush interrupted because of this “devil business.” I myself have seen these “bush devil” figures twice- but, it turns out that they were not the ‘real’ bush devils, the kind women have to hide from. They  were apparently the ‘fun’ bush devils that are go out into towns and dance and perform like street artists.

On the surface in some ways, these bush societies and their ‘fun’ dancing devils and fraternity/sorority-like cliques may not seem “that bad” and maybe hundreds of years ago they were nothing more than a way of celebrating the passage into manhood and womanhood and keeping culture and tradition alive (I really don’t know here, it’s hard for any of us alive today to say the original intentions). This along with the fact that they do contribute to educating youth in some practical skills (hunting, fishing, cooking, dance, art etc) is most likely the reason why they have so easily blended themselves into the wider culture here in Liberia.  However, the darker reality of these societies today is that they are also used to manipulate, intimidate, and coerce individuals and communities with violence and fear in efforts to secure power and control.

It is known that these societies kidnap and initiate individuals through violent acts of hazing, unspeakable acts, and part of the reason they do it is simply because it was done to them, an eye for an eye. They are said to be involved in practices that entail burying virgins alive at the base of the cottonwood trees as an offer up of a “clean” sacrifice for new beginnings. These societies physically endanger the lives of thousands of young women each year through widespread FGM. They have even been associated with cannibalism, believing that drinking the blood or consuming certain organs of another will bring power to he who does it. Members of these societies openly proclaim that they and/or their people are able perform curses, poison, torment, and murder their enemies with juju.  These are evil things that are happening still today in the Poro societies and other secret societies in Liberia.  And no matter what level or scale these things are happening on, these actions and the societies that carry them out cannot be ignored because every single human life is of great value to He who created it. Likewise, neither can these evils be blindly swept under the rug as merely “cultural activities” that should just be let alone for the sake of “tradition” (not all traditions are worth keeping) or even more alarming, blended in and accepted without reserve within other religions.

In Liberia, there are religious leaders from both the Christian and Muslim faiths alike who are themselves personally involved in the secret societies, seemingly unencumbered by the dichotomy that exists between these two worlds. There are also religious leaders who though they may inwardly disagree with the practices of the secret societies, silently observe as their members engage in these practices, citing that they believe it is not really “that bad” or that it is just merely an aspect of the Liberian culture.  They may believe that these activities are bad but they don’t speak up against them for fear of their life and for fear of upsetting or losing their congregations. Lastly, there is a small but growing group of religious leaders who stand up against the activities of the Poro and Sande and boldly proclaim the truth, that some of these things are of the devil himself. Their lives and the lives of their families are continually threatened for this and yet they continue to speak out against such indisputable evils.

This kidnapping and forced initiation is nothing particularly new, these types of things and other mysterious disappearances and attacks on church members have been happening for years. For years, the Christian community has spoken out against this violence and for years, nothing of substance has occurred as a result. The government seems to continually sit idly by, either due to fear, ignorance, or their own personal involvement in the societies. Nonetheless, the church needs to continue to speak up against this in a visible manner. When I was talking with my friend and colleague a couple of days ago, he said something that reminded me of the real gravity of this situation:

“If the church does not speak up, we are putting the life of hundreds of thousands of people living in the bush areas further at risk.” By remaining silent, we are giving the devil a foothold and before we know it we will be seeing more and more kidnappings and more and more people falling prey to the lies and evil that these secret societies perpetuate. It could be my own child or family member one day. We have to act now and we have to act in so that the government and the wider Christian community cannot ignore it anymore.

The realization of just how many people are at risk and that it could be someone I know and love next, hit me hard and reminded me just how diligent we must be in our efforts to resist the evil around us. James 4:7 reminds us that we must be proactive in this: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Just to be clear, I do not believe that the people in these societies are inherently evil people. I do believe though that some their actions are evil and that they as people are being used for evil, some willingly and some unwillingly. More importantly though, I believe that there is grace abounding and salvation available for everyone when they repent and come to the throne, no matter where they have been or what they have done. I believe that there is real power and true freedom in faith in Jesus, which is in stark contrast to the power and freedom that the devil tempts us human beings with, whether that temptation be in the form of the Poro society or in the form of something else perhaps more familiar to us from our own Western culture.

The prayer of the Christian community here in Liberia is not only for the government to see and to stand up against this persecution of their people, but it is also ultimately to see the individuals from these societies come to know Christ in such as way that their hearts, attitudes, and actions are radically transformed and they are freed from bondage. It is to see change for their entire country, from the inside out. It is their prayer that everyone in Liberia come to know the love, grace, mercy, and power of Christ our Savior. This should be our prayer as well as the wider Body of Christ.

Could you please be in prayer with us for the following things?

  • Pray for the safe release of Joseph Saye. Pray for him as he is being kept in captivity and pray for his family members as well.
  • Pray for the protection of other vocal Christians (we have heard of another attempted abduction that occurred 3 days ago- the man escaped but was shot in the process and is now in the hospital)
  • Pray for wisdom for the church leaders as they make decisions about how best to get the government’s attention in regards to these issues.
  • Pray that this is the beginning of something much bigger, the beginning of change regarding the government and much of the religious communities lackadaisical outlook of these societies and their activities.
  • Pray for God’s presence to be known and for His name to be praised among all the nations and tribes of the world. Pray for His redeeming grace to step in and change hearts in Liberia.

Thank you so much for continued support and prayers for this situation in particular and for Liberia as a whole. God bless.

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hope Does Not Disappoint

Some of you heard me share this message at our Ministry Update Night on July 22nd while we were home but I just felt like I also needed to put it down on paper, for myself and maybe for someone else out there who needs to hear this message too. Also, coming back to Liberia has already proved challenging with one of our friends and colleagues (John, who works in the greenhouses) having had a debilitating stroke the day before we flew back and I know that my faith is being tested yet again in this same area….please pray that God’s hope may be known and His presence felt as He continues to carry us through.

Liberia is an extravagantly beautiful place, full of shades of green more vibrant than I have ever seen before and people with smiles larger than I’ve ever been able to produce myself. But, Liberia is also a hard place….hard on the mind, hard on the body, and hard on the soul.

In Liberia, we experience so much death, so much more than I was ever used to in the US.  From the time that we arrived in Liberia, it seems that we hear of death every week and disease/illness every single day multiple times a day. Sometimes we’ve never met the people, sometimes we’ve met them causally, sometimes they are loved ones of our close friends and colleagues, and sometimes we know them and we know them well. In the few months since arriving back to Liberia again in August 2017, we had one of our staff members loose her teenage son to a senseless and brutal ritualistic killing, we’d had our carpenter friend loose his two year old baby girl to malaria, we’d had a neighbor loose his wife and one of his twin girls in a motorcycle incident on the highway, we’d lost many leaders from the church for which we were working with in Liberia, and the list went on. But then in one single week of January, the second week of the new year, a time of supposed new beginnings, we experienced three major events- two deaths and one terrifying near-death experience of people whom we loved and cared for deeply and it just about broke me.

The first was the death of a close family friend froPamela Brigham Spencerm back home. Her name was Pam Spencer, I had known her since I was probably 10 years old. She was a neighbor and it was from her and her husband that we had purchased our first goat. Over the years she and her husband became part of our family, and to me she was also a mentor, both personally and professionally. She worked hard at whatever she set her mind to and she did so with such grace and gentleness that I often tried to mimic but rarely came close to. She had cancer and I knew the possibility of her losing this battle existed, but I prayed for the opposite, I held onto hope she would get better and I’d see her again. And when I left for Liberia, she was better, she was in remission. For anyone who has ever lost a family member or friend while they are living abroad, you know how it feels to be told the news from 3,000 miles away via text and know that while everyone else is united together back home, grieving alongside of one another, you are here on the other side of the world, seemingly alone with nothing but your memories and tears.

Just a couple days later, we saw the death of one of my students, Eleazar. Eleazar was a kind, funny, smart, hard-working young man who was just one semester away from graduating with his Associates degree in agriculture. He worked in the library at the school on a work-grant program and he was constantly helping me to keep my assignments/books in order so that my students could easily access them. Just the week before he died, we had heard there were elephants that had come to Nimba County (first time in years any have been spotted in Liberia) and when he saw my crazy excitement at this news he promised me he would find a way to take me to the elephants, no matter how far in the bush they were haha. I thought he was joking, but it turned out he was quite serious and had already started making calls. The next thing I knew, he was gone. I had heard he was sick a couple days before, but again everyone is sick all the time. People get malaria/typhoid literally every other month and so it wasn’t anything I was too worried about. He was not part of a vulnerable population group and I heard he was already getting treatment. We prayed for him in devotions and a couple people even went and visited him. I wish I had visited him too….

Then, it was Mother Eleanor. Actually, I had been heading up to visit her in her office that very morning and had called her phone to let her know I was on my way. Someone else answered the phone and was screaming in a thick Liberian accident about Mother Eleanor having “fallen off.” I had no idea what that meant and I think the person on the other end was getting frustrated with me but eventually I understood that I should find Mark,our driver, and send him up with the car. Mother Eleanor had had a stroke and fainted….that’s what “fallen off” means in Liberia. Mother Eleanor laid in the local hospital bed for 1 week hooked up to nothing other than a little saline drip bag, waking up for just a few minutes each day, barely able to eat or speak and unable to move her left side. Because there was no doctor present at the hospital that entire week (the sad reality of Liberia’s health care system), we had no idea what her condition meant, was she even going to live?? If she did, was this what it would look like? Mother Eleanor had been the life-blood of this campus. Serving as the Dean of Academic Affairs and Students, she made sure to engage with her students, bringing song and story into class, bringing decorations all over campus, and bringing light and the love of Christ with her wherever she went. We all loved her, I myself looked up to her, a powerful strong confident woman of faith who was a definite change-maker, yet also possessed such grace. And now, here she was lying on the hospital bed, fighting for life.

It was too much for me that week, way too much. I still am welling up with tears right now even as I try to write this as I think back on that week. On the outside, I think I tried to put on like everything was normal, but on the inside and in the private of my own room, I cried and I questioned and yelled at God…..WHY WHY WHY?!? Don’t you love these people? Don’t you see how this is going to push Liberia even further back? Have you forgotten about Liberia?? We needed Eleazar! He was the only one from his family who was getting an education, think of what he could have done to help his family and his entire village when he had graduated and returned to the farm?! Hasn’t this family lost enough? (I knew they had lost two brothers in the past, his mother to disease, and his father was now contemplating suicide). And Mother Eleanor, don’t you see that we needed Mother Eleanor!? Don’t you see all that she does for this school? She is one of a kind with a force like no other woman I know, how could you take her away from us when we need her so much right now?! Your children are hurting! Do you even see us?! Do you even care?! What are any of us even doing here at this school if you are going to continue to let us keep falling backwards like this? What is the point?

And then, one of the most untimely of things (or so I thought) happened. I was asked to speak at Eleazar’s funeral. I scoffed…Are you kidding me, God? I have nothing to say to you right now and certainly nothing to say to all those people! I am literally hopeless and I have nothing left to give, ask someone else. And then…

“Hope does not disappoint.” These four little words had somehow wandered into my mind and taken root. At first when I recognized it floating around somewhere up there, I laughed out loud. Are you kidding me, God? Hope does not disappoint? Look at me right now, you promise that hope does not disappoint…I’m pretty disappointed if you hadn’t noticed! Let’s look and see at how hope has disappointed me…and then I proceeded to lay out my case before God as perhaps a lawyer might lay out their case in court: 1) I had hoped Ms. Pam would get better and I had hoped that modern medicine would win in this case….that didn’t happen. 2) I had hoped Eleazar’s education and sacrifice would save him, I had hoped he would be the answer to his village’s problem of lack of food security….that’s not going to happen. 3) I had hoped Mother Eleanor was going to be just what these students needed and just what this school needed to move forward, I had hoped I would see her talk again… but as of now that still had not yet happened.

And yet, even as I was spouting off my defense towards God about why his little phrase “hope does not disappoint” was just a bunch of empty nonsense, I felt Him telling me that perhaps I needed to actually open up my Bible and read His words again to see what He really meant by those seemingly false and pesky little words, repeating itself in my head over and over again.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5

I read the words and then I just sat still, starring at the verses before me. I realized where I’d gone wrong. I realized that perhaps I’d misunderstood the meaning of hope and where it came from and the type of hope, the depth of hope, that God was calling me to, a hope that He had already given me.

His hope is nothing like the hope of this world. He calls us to hope in Him and His glory and His glory alone. I had placed my hope in something much smaller- in the results, in the tangible things before me, the things of this world that I thought could solve the problems of this world….medicine, healing, education, status, money, development, people….and so of course, of course these things would disappoint, these things are not God Himself.  They may reflect Him in some ways and may be given by Him, but they are not Him. They are temporary, things of this world, and they will break or drift away and so they will all disappoint eventually. Anybody can hope in these things and so anybody can easily be disappointed and sadly, for many, this is all they know to hope in. But for those that have placed their faith in Jesus, there is a hope given unlike any other hope imaginable because the one who gives it is everlasting and not of this world.

And all of a sudden I realized something, I realized that all three of these people whom I had been mourning knew Jesus- so why am I crying?! This is not the end of their story! How could I forget? Ms. Pam, just weeks before her passing had committed her life to Christ and asked to be baptized as an outward sign of her faith. Eleazar knew Christ too and was active in sharing his faith with his peers at the school and no doubt served as an example for many as to what it meant to be a humble servant of Christ.  They both knew the King and they were dancing with Him now and I would see them again one day and dance too! As for Eleanor, I was assured that as a beloved daughter of God she knew her Father intimately and should she ever speak again she would wake up praising the name of Jesus. And a  week later so she did and her life continues to be a testimony to the goodness of God!

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

This hope, this hope in the splendid glory of God, is the kind of hope that changes everything- hearts, people, nations, and even history. It is a brilliant and glorious hope that rises out of the depths of that empty tomb and that declares the wonder of God and His good and perfect will to redeem the world from the pits of despair, to bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  It is an expectant hope that sees life and breath among a valley of dry and cracked bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) simply because God said it would be so. It is an assured hope that reaches out for and desperately clings to things unseen, things that have not yet come (Hebrews 11:1). It is a confident and loud hope that shouts I know who He is and that He is coming again! He has already won the victory! (John 16:33).  It is a hope that remembers His promise to us that in all things we have a God who is working things together for our good (Romans 8:28). It is a hope that says “even if I do not see you in this mess, I know that you are here and who you are and so I trust you, and therefore I will rejoice in your name.” 

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights

Habakkuk 3:17-19

While on Earth, I may never know why then was the exact time for Ms. Pam to be called home, or why Eleazar was taken from this world so soon, or why Mother Eleanor had to suffer from the stroke which still affects her to this day, but I do know that God hears our cries, that He is here, and that He is moving and using this for His glory, ALL of it. That is what He promises and that is what He does. When all I see is brokenness and despair and death, God sees a chance for healing, for tender intimacy, for new life. God beckons me to trust Him, to be patient, to be expectant, and He says to me “look among the nations and watch- be utterly astounded! For I will work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told to you”  just as said to Habakkuk (1:5) the prophet as He was doubting the Lord’s goodness and plans amongst the misery of his people all around him.

And so, I too will choose to trust Him, cling to, and even boast in His hope, a hope that could never disappoint, because He is a God that could never disappoint, a God who will never leave nor forsake me, even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. In Him, I will find comfort and peace.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God[a];
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

Psalm 65:5-8

One last update from the Glenns before we head back to Liberia TONIGHT!!

We are heading back to Liberia today (July 31st)! I can’t believe how fast the month home flew by but we are so thankful we got to rest a little and see so many of you over these past couple weeks. A special thanks to everyone  who came out to one of our mission night updates (link to video below if you missed it) or stopped by and chatted with us at church to learn more about this ministry. It was a pleasure to be able to talk to so many of you about our other home, Mama Liberia, and to share with you in all the joys, sorrows, victories, and struggles that is this crazy beautiful life.  I hope you all know how grateful we are for you as our partners and friends of Hope in the Harvest! None of this would be possible without your prayers or financial support and we thank God for your love, vision, and commitment always.

At this point in time as we get ready to head back we are almost at 90% of the way toward our fundraising goal for this upcoming year and are in need of additional financial partnerships. If you feel God leading you to join with us through a financial partnership in this work of seeking both agricultural and personal transformation in Liberia, would you prayerfully consider joining us in one of two ways?

  • Would you consider becoming a monthly partner with us at $25, $50, $100 or any other amount per month? We find that this type of partnership is easy for those who don’t want to commit a large amount all at once but can commit to smaller amounts each month.  Additionally, these recurring donations are helpful for us because it helps us to better plan out our monthly budgets. Once it’s set up (which takes about 5 minutes, instructions here), you don’t have to worry about it for the next year. To set up a recurring donation toward our account, just click here.
  • Alternatively, would you consider making a one-time donation? These donations can be done via checks or online (instructions here). These donations are great for people who can commit to a certain sum one time, but cannot commit monthly. These are also helpful for us because collectively they help us with covering large one-time expenses. To make a one-time donation toward our account, just go click here.

Thank you for you prayerful consideration and continued support. We look forward to being in ministry alongside all of you and seeing all that God has planned for this upcoming year. We are praying and trusting for big things at the ARC and most importantly for transformed hearts, our own included!

We love you guys and will miss you dearly ❤

-Anna & Nathan

Below is a link to Part 1 of our ministry update at Epworth UMC on July 22nd. The following parts should appear on the right hand side of the video once you open it in youtube or they are easily searchable.

Here are a few pictures from the evening too:

Glenn Ministry Update Tonight!

Don’t forget to come to Epworth UMC (600 Warren Rd, Cockeysville, MD 21030) tonight at 5:00pm to join with us in prayer and celebration for all that God is doing in Liberia. There will be lots of lappa, photos, stories, beautiful Liberian crafts for sale (baskets, purses, jewelry, etc) and lots of tasty food (feel free to bring some food to share well!) We look forward to seeing you tonight!