Here’s To The Process!

A reflection from Nathan from the end of our AgriCorps experience, June 2017:

Standing there in a group of Booker Washington Institute (BWI) FFA leaders and alumni, I looked off in the distance in the direction of our FFA students who were laughing, yelling, and running around while playing ultimate frisbee on the football field. It was after our FFA End of the Year Program and the sun was setting just behind where the students were playing. It was beautiful. However, that’s not what I thought was beautiful at that moment. What caught my eye and my interest was the situation in which after the completion of a positive youth development program the adults conversed while the kids played and had fun. It occurred to me that this situation was eerily similar to situations that I was very familiar with growing up. Without fail, after the many sports game or practices, this strangely identical situation would slowly construct itself. To those who have not experienced these situations, or even to those who have, I may seem crazy; what’s so interesting and beautiful about a seemingly normal situation in life? Well, in a positive youth development process that can be very difficult, it was one of those few moments for reflection on accomplishment. Here are my reflections:

1. First and foremost I was in awe of the friendship that was being practiced in front of me by the students and the adults. We were smiling and taking pictures while you could hear the hysterical laughter and yelling of the students in the background. FFA really has successfully unified people on the basis of a passion for leadership and agriculture.

2. This moment was a milestone because before this moment FFA at BWI seemed to live by the motto “work hard, work harder”. Throughout our time with the BWI FFA, we had trouble organizing events and activities that would be fun because the students weren’t at that level yet. They weren’t able to do it and to be honest, we were hesitant to help too much. We didn’t know whether we were doing it the right way, but we wanted these fun times to come after the students and alumni had done the majority of the work to organize it. Helping out too much too early would have only lowered the bar; a bar that we wanted to raise so that they had to reach out of their comfort zones. Flash forward to this moment and it felt natural and it was because the students deserved it. They worked hard and now they got to play hard.

3. Adults in Liberia don’t have the same relationship with their children as adults in the United States do. In the learning process, it seems like a lot of the time that adults are taking over the hands-on experiential learning activities for themselves, leaving menial tasks to the students. To a degree, that sense of “I have done it, but I want them to do it”, or that sense of “whatever is good for the children” is usually missing. But, not in this situation…not after the ‘End of the Year’ FFA event that was completely organized by the student! This was a moment where the Alumni and other adult leaders of the BWI FFA felt accomplished for what the students had done, not for what they had done. You could sense the pride that the BWI FFA adult leaders had for their student FFA members.

4. At this moment, the BWI FFA is not where I had hoped they would be when I started this journey, but the process itself was a huge success. My goals for the FFA were higher. I had hoped to do so many more social activities, leadership workshops, educational competitions, and community service events. Many of the goals I set for the club were not met. However, if you were to describe the process that we went through together and the meaningful growth that I witnessed in these students, alumni, and this chapter as a whole, I would not have believed it. The students went from not knowing what FFA is to organizing an end of the year party to celebrate their accomplishments and playing ultimate frisbee like best friends, unified by their passion for leadership and agriculture. The FFA alumni went from being in control of the organizing to giving ownership of the FFA to the students while separating themselves into the BWI FFA Alumni Volunteer Network. I went from focusing on MY goals and vision to focusing on OUR goals by getting to know the people of the BWI FFA and nurturing my relationships with them. Vision and goals are necessary for motivation and perseverance, but in the game of life, I think I’ve figured out that it’s all about the process.

I’m so proud of these students and this FFA! The students have taken ownership of their education and their futures. The adults have taken ownership for the FFA and the success of the student members. Here’s to many more years of hard work, growth, and fun celebrations for the BWI FFA in the future! Here’s to the process!

 

BECOME A HOPE CULTIVATOR

This morning a special verse came up on my Facebook memories and i wanted to share with you all since I think it is really applicable to my thoughts today.

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all of creation together.” Col 1:16-17″ 

Our world today is filled with so much poverty, brokenness, illness, and sin, and when I shared this verse 4 years ago on Facebook I was living in Guatemala and feeling overwhelmed by all the suffering and injustices around me. How can God let this happen, does He even see this, does He care? Does my work even matter? Where are you in all of this, God? I’m sure you have had the same feeling no matter where in the world you live, because whether it is the US, Guatemala, or Liberia, this world is full of so much evil, suffering, injustice, poverty, and more.  And yet, as a believer I know that I can still have a rich HOPE and my work and daily actions is not for loss because I know that God created every little thing and He sees every little thing…every abandoned or forgotten child, every hungry farmer, every beggar, every mother and every father, every little fight and every abuse, every person who has ever been cheated, everyone….and still He holds it all together in His hands, NOBODY is forgotten, no matter if it looks like they have been by the world. He knows and cares for everyone, even if they don’t know or care for Him. He cannot hate or abandon anything or anyone that He created. He knows and He cares and He is working all things together for His good, even if I can’t see it yet, I trust in that truth. I honestly don’t think I could do this work or even live this life if I didn’t have this hope and knowledge that He really does care and see and He holds it all together in His hands. We have a God that is so much stronger and so much more powerful than any circumstance of this world, any power of Hell, or any scheme of man. It is this HOPE that we should mediate on and trust in daily for all of creation’s redemption and healing.

It is that same HOPE that I trust in and motivates me as we continue working in Liberia. Though the problems are many and the situation can at times feel very overwhelming, I know that God is there and He cares and is looking to rescue each and every one of us and draw us in close with love and restore our hope. Through our work in teaching agriculture and helping to meet earthly needs as well as sharing the gospel and connecting people with their Creator on a deeper level, we are looking to spread that same HOPE and you too can be a part of it!

In order for us to continue our work next year, we are looking for a group of ministry partners (or as we like to call them HOPE CULTIVATORS) who can first commit to supporting us through prayer as this is the most important way of supporting our ministry. In addition, we are looking for people to join us as monthly givers or one-time donors in helping to spread this hope that we have. Are you able to give $25, $50, $100 or $200 or any amount other amount per month? There is also the opportunity to support us through one-time donations if that works better for your and every amount helps. If you are interested/able to support us, you can visit  our blog (https://glennsgoglobal.wordpress.com/how-can-you-help/donate/) and click the “how can you help?” page or visit Hope in the Harvest’s website (http://www.hopeintheharvest.org/?page_id=247) and click “Donate.” All donations are tax-deductible.  If you are unable to support us financially at this time we completely understand and still we ask for your prayers and help spreading the word about this work.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about our work, we would love to sit down and talk with you more and share our heart for what God is doing in Liberia. We have HOPE and can see such a bright future for our friends there and for Liberia as a country and we are so lucky to be a part of it  and hope you can too.

 

Home <3

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, we are home!

The last week at site in Kakata was a whirlwind that I barely remember but it started out with an awesome field trip (see previous post) and ended with loading all our things up into a van and then trying to squeeze ourselves in between the luggage. In between, we also gave 3 final exams, graded 130 final exams and hundreds of other assignments we left until the last minute (ooops), a goodbye lunch, goodbye photos shoots, and a year end party and game night for the FFA…and then of course packing up all of our belongings! It felt weird to say goodbye to all our friends, students, and coworkers but it was made easier by knowing that we are coming back in 2 months to Liberia!

After we moved out, we spent a few days in Monrovia doing paperwork and reports for AgriCorps and processing the past 10 months in a new country. We also attempted to hit up the beach and enjoy a little relaxation but by mid-June rainy season had already set in and there’s not a day that does by without rain now 😦

Before heading back to the US, we were lucky enough to spend a few days in Belgium on an extended layover. This was our first time in Europe for both of us so it was exciting to be able to explore yet another place together again! We did one day in Brussels, one day in Bruges, and then one day in Ghent and really enjoyed seeing all the old architecture and sampling beer, waffles, and chocolates!

We landed back in the US on June 25th but we weren’t home yet. We were in Dallas, TX for the annual AgriCorps Fellows Welcome Home Luncheon. At the luncheon, we had the opportunity to meet members of the board and supporters of AgriCorps as well as share stories about what this year meant to us. It was so good to see all the Fellows from Ghana again and a great way to wrap up our time with AgriCorps!

And on June 27th at around 12:30am we were finally home! Since then, we’ve been resting (and trying to figure out which time zone we are in), hanging out with family, seeing friends, and enjoying everything that America has to offer…more specifically hot showers and a variety of yummy foods. For the most part it’s been a smooth transition back to the US, but there has been a little bit of reverse culture shock adjusting to the pace of life in America again, we forgot how fast life was here!

Soon we will be updating everyone with more information about the work that we will be doing next year with Hope in the Harvest and sharing more specifics about how YOU can be involved too! Stay tuned!

Thanks as always for all the prayers and support, we couldn’t have made it through this past year without you! We are so glad to be home this summer and hope we get to see as many of you as possible!

Anna & Nathan

Field Trip!

Usually the night before a big event with my students, like most teachers or FFA advisors, I am up worrying and worrying…hoping that the next day will go well. Hoping that I remembered to do everything, call this person, remind this person, print that, or purchase this….hoping that people actually show up. I can make myself so anxious I barely sleep sometimes. But this evening was different. I had a big event tomorrow, a field trip with the FFA! We were taking 20 students off campus to a place called Wulki’s farm which was about 45 minutes away. But, I didn’t have the bus driver’s number, I hadn’t purchased any food for the trip tomorrow, I didn’t have the list of the names of students who were going, I didn’t even have the name of the tour guide who was supposedly taking us around the farm. How could I not be panicking??? What kind of advisor was i?! I had done nothing, absolutely nothing! Ahhhh but that was the beauty of it….because you see this time, I wasn’t the one in charge….they were.

For the past few months the students had been begging me to go on a field trip. I tried planning one (mostly on my own) the previous month and let’s just say the results were not too good. I did all the planning, all the organizing, and lined them up with all sorts of activities I thought they would enjoy…but when it came time to commit and pay for the field trip….crickets….only 1 person signed up and paid. I was definitely a little bit hurt and offended that I had worked so hard to put this together for them….something that they said they wanted! So when the idea came up again that they wanted to try planning another field trip, I was a little less than thrilled to be a part of it all over again. I told them I didn’t think we had time to plan another one (which was true knowing how long things take to plan in Liberia) but also I really just didn’t want the stress or to be responsible for another failed event and I was tired from trying so hard the last time (and all the other times we had tried things and failed…the FFA was taking a long time to pick up speed and popularity on campus despite our best efforts). I only had one more month left, I could see the end in sight and I could see the possibility of a free Saturday lounging around Kakata in my future. But the students insisted, we had to do a field trip they said and sensing my hesitation, they said they would plan the whole thing. Plan the whole thing? Hmmmmm…..let me think about this….

On one hand, this could be really good….really give them an opportunity use their leadership skills, work together as a team for one common goal, practice responsibility, and put into practice a lot of the things we have been talking about all year. This could be a great last project for them, an amazing way to end the year! But on the other hand, I’m tired….and what if I give up complete control (yikes!) and it doesn’t happen at all or it’s a complete disaster?? What am I worrying about…it probably won’t happen. Just say “yes” we can do it and see what happens. When you think about it, you have nothing to lose and they have everything to gain if this works out…. Give them a chance, Anna! Believe in them!

Right away they assigned two people to be on the planning committee. The next week, Amos gave a report on how the field trip planning was coming. He said he had paid his own way in a taxi on his free Saturday to go to the farm, talk with the tour guide about dates and negotiate price. Wowza, a sophomore in high school taking that kind of initiative! That’s awesome! The next thing I knew the treasurer, Joseph, said he had spoken with the owner’s wife at church and was working on negotiating an even lower price for our FFA group. Even better! The club members were impressed too and visibly getting excited. Being around their energy, I myself couldn’t resist getting excited too and found myself thinking “this could actually work out” but I had my reservations still because I knew there was still so much to do in 3 short weeks….

The following week Amos and Harris came to me after school and we sat and crafted our letters to the administration asking for permission to go and possibly use the school bus. When I got word that our request to use the bus had been rejected, I got discouraged….knowing that to rent a bus would double our price making it hard for members to pay their way. I was ready to quit, but luckily they weren’t ready to quit so easily. The leadership already had a back-up plan and they quick got Josephus, the president, to start working on talking to local bus companies and negotiating prices. This task is “no small thing-ooo” as we say in Liberia and requires walking around to different taxi stations in the city, lots of back and forth dialog/debate about prices, and finally staying on top of drivers to make sure that they don’t accept any other offers for that day and end up leaving you high and dry. Josephus worked tirelessly and each time we spoke over the next few weeks he always had a new lead or update he was following. Meanwhile, Harris and Amos were also busy writing/delivering letters asking teachers and community members for donations to help fund the trip. Sounds easy enough…but in Liberia where hardly anyone has a computer (or fast typing skills for that matter) and where most printers within a 1 mile radius always seem to be out of ink and/or paper this is no easy thing! Then there’s trying to track down everyone you want to give a letter to…there’s no email or postal system, you have to do it in person! Well they did it, they delivered 17 letters!

While the planning committee was out chasing money, the publicity chair Patience and her group were out advertising the event…making signs, speaking in classrooms, and standing outside the dining hall. Their publicity worked and soon the treasurer started collecting the funds from people. Before I knew it, we had at least 14 people signed up, just like that! And the treasurer had detailed records for everything, neat and organized. In a country where corruption and thievery is rampant, (even among student groups) and where organization skills are not always highly valued…his perfect little entries in his notebook were such a beautiful thing to see! People trusted Joseph, people trusted the FFA and it was becoming more and clearer to me each day why. These students were different, these students had pride in their work, these students had integrity, these students had ambition, these students were honest and sincere, these students cared, these students were real leaders… a real embodiment of everything that the values and mission of the FFA. I don’t know how they ended up with me here in the FFA but I’m sure glad I was getting the change to work with them.

The trip ended up being a great success and I really didn’t have anything to worry about, they had thought of and taken care of everything! We played games, sang songs, and even got to see tons of things they had never seen before including horses (some even tried riding them), donkeys, crocodiles, turkeys, geese, ostrich, and a swimming pool! Everyone had such a great time! I will always remember that trip as one of the best days of my AgriCorps service. Not just because of seeing the animals (although it was super fun to get to see my students approach a horse for the first time), but because it was visible to see how proud our FFA members were of themselves for organizing this trip entirely on their own. That really warms a teacher’s heart anywhere in the world ❤

It was also a humble reminder for me how important it is to build up and encourage others around you, to believe in people. I know I’ve said this before in one of my past blogs but I think it’s been a theme for me this year:  It’s amazing what people can do if you just believe in them.

I’m so excited to see where these students go and everything that they will do with the FFA in the future!

“Be an encourager, the world has enough critics already”

“Encouragement is free, and beyond measurement in value”