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”

Welcome to Liberia- My dad visits Liberia!

My dad came and visited us last month! Here he shares his thoughts about coming to Liberia for the first time, hope you enjoy!

Welcome to Liberia

By Scott Glenn

“Welcome! Welcome to Liberia!” This is a greeting that I heard many times during my five-day stay in Liberia to visit my son, Nathan, and his wife Anna. This was inevitably followed by a Liberian hand shake; which involves a normal handshake, followed by a thumb grip, and ending with our two hands clasping with fingers cupped and our thumbs firmly behind the other’s middle finger. When the hands pull away quickly, the thumb and middle finger come together and snap. That is if you do it right. It took many practice attempts for me to get it right. But they patiently worked with me and smiled. They were always smiling. The greeting would almost always end with, “You are very welcome.” This was genuine. Nathan and Anna have made so many friends in Liberia that I must have gone through this routine 100 times. And each time they made me feel like they were happy that I was there. They made me feel welcome.

On my 24-hour trip home, I decided to write down a list of unique things about Liberia that I did not want to forget. My list grew to over 200 memories before I finally dozed off. Obviously, I cannot cover my entire list in this blog, so I have decided to concentrate on what impressed me the most; the people. I was told by a few Liberians that I met at the school that the people of Liberia were lazy. However, I did not find that to be the case, just the opposite. Everybody I saw was working hard to survive. Many people were selling something; fabric, toothbrushes, flip-flops, fresh meat, or vegetables. Families would walk miles to get to the markets with the products that they wanted to sell in baskets balanced on their head. I saw men standing on the side of the tar road (the only paved road through Liberia) dangling fish or a civet that they caught, hoping someone would stop and buy it.

Those that weren’t selling something were often in the transportation business. Taxies were old, manual-shift cars. Unless you are willing to buy out the other seats, if you hail a taxi they will have you wait until the car is filled. Filled, typically means seven to eight passengers in a five-passenger car. Sometimes passengers ride on the back of the car or the roof. Liberians call these the VIP seats. Some cars are used to haul products to the market. They will be packed to the ceiling with produce and there will be a four-foot stack of materials tied to the roof. Occasionally, you will see passengers riding on top of the stack. Then there are the motorcycles. They are everywhere. They dart in and out of traffic, often with two or three passengers behind the driver, or sometimes they will be carrying something like a mattress wedged between the driver and the passenger. This is a typical business day in Liberia.

The heat and humidity in Liberia that I was warned about lived up to its billing. We have days like that in Maryland, but when I get too hot I just find air conditioning. You don’t have that luxury in Liberia. The combination of sweat, dirt from the dirt roads, and only a daily bucket bath, often left me feeling like the character Pig Pen in the Charley Brown comic strip. Yet, the Liberians always seemed fresh and clean. I think I figured out their secret. While driving down the tar road I saw numerous Liberians in the waterways along the road all day long, bathing, washing clothes, and washing their motorcycles. Some even hauling water on their heads back to their house which could be several km away. These are not lazy people. These are people that are finding a way to make it work under difficult circumstances. Liberia suffered through two horrific civil wars. As the second war ended and the country began to recover an Ebola epidemic broke out. These events not only caused many deaths, it isolated Liberia from the rest of the world. This has significantly stymied recovery.

As an agriculturalist, I see Liberia as a fertile country that woefully under produces. Much of the food sold at markets is shipped in from neighboring countries. Many of the youth that I met strive to be politicians, preachers, or in the military; not farmers. Yet, only through improved food production can Liberia break the bonds of poverty. It will take volunteers, like Nathan and Anna, and organizations like AgriCorps to turn this around and get Liberia on the path toward sustainability.

When travelling through Liberia we would weave in and out of heavy traffic, avoiding people darting across the street with carts full of wares to sell and the large holes that peppered the roads. All this with no traffic lights, stop signs, or crosswalks. I felt a sense of accomplishment, and frankly relief, when we made it safely from point A to point B. But the Liberians have developed a strong sense of self-reliance and cooperation so they make it work. I met an outgoing, young man who was a student at Booker Washington Institute, where Nathan and Anna teach. Almost immediately after finishing our Liberian greeting, he told me that he was going to become President of Liberia one day. Imagine that, a society that allows an average citizen to realistically dream of becoming President. That sounds to me like the makings of a great nation.

fresh juice

500 Liberian Dollars = 5 US Dollars

learning how to drink from a water sachet

Gifts from the Maryland FFA program

learning the Liberian hand shake/snap

Hope in the Harvest

Back in October as part of our monthly in-service training with AgriCorps, Nathan and I visited this place called “Liberia International Christian College (LICC).” Partnering with the school was an international NGO mission called “Hope in the Harvest” whose mission is to “cultivate Christ’s hope in underdeveloped and impoverished areas of the world through agricultural and personal transformation.” Their vision is simply “generating Christ-centered economic growth.” The NGO and its amazing founders, Gina and Travis Sheets, have been partnering with the school since 2011 by helping to run the agriculture department and demonstration farm. The work that they have done in this short amount of time is unbelievable and unlike any other organization I have seen in Liberia; that is of course why we were brought to visit them in the first place!

The ARC (Agricultural Resource Center). This is where the agriculture classrooms are, the agriculture lab, agriculture demo sites, and our apartment is up on the top floor!

As we got a tour of the agriculture department and the agriculture practical site, we kept getting blown away by all that we were seeing. There were so many things we had never seen in Liberia before, things we didn’t even know existed because they are so rare here. For example, there were fields full of pineapple, peppers, and corn, cages filled with chickens, turkeys, pigeons, quail, rabbits, geese, and dairy goats (the only herd in the country so I’m told!) There was also a miniature zoo to educate students and community members about species that were native to Liberia’s habitat but that hardly anyone knew about or cared about after the war destroyed so much of their habitat. I saw monkeys, crocodiles, civets, pottos, parrots, iguanas, deer, and more. In addition, we met staff who were knowledgeable about so much and clearly eager to teach and to learn more themselves. We also met students who were equally as eager to teach and to learn.

We were in awe of everyone there and everything that the mission was doing. And when we heard the story about how it all began and their vision for how they saw this place growing and continuing to make an impact in Liberia our hearts were stirring because we could see it too! As we went through the weekend, I secretly dreamed about being able to work here next year, or maybe somewhere like this place in the future. Working at a place like this would give the opportunity to work in agriculture internationally and use that as a venue to share my faith…something I have always dreamed about and felt led to do. I let the thought cross my mind, but I was cautious not to let it grow into anything too big…besides, in my mind we weren’t nearly qualified to work at a place like this. I also couldn’t imagine being able to try and fill the shoes left behind by Gina and Travis, even though Travis once said in a casual conversation “you know you could work here, you guys would be great.” I shrugged and said the place was amazing and chalked the offer up to just him being friendly, but not serious.

Well after the weekend trip up to LICC, Nathan and I got to talking. He too thought the place was amazing and when I told him I dreamed of working at a place like that he agreed that he felt there was definitely a God-sized reason we had visited but what that was we still weren’t too sure. We thought that maybe God had brought us there just to meet the Sheets, or maybe just so that we could see Him visibly at work in Liberia, or maybe so that we could become donor/advocates for the mission, or maybe it was in order to give Nathan a vision of what he hoped to accomplish one day himself (he has spent a lot of time these past few years thinking about business/NGO ideas that would allow both of us to work in agriculture and share our faith through that venue). As we were contemplating these things, we received an email from the Sheets asking us if we had ever thought about mission work and if so what about working with Hope in the Harvest?

Well that was all it took and our minds were racing with excitement thinking about all the different ways we could use our own experiences, passions, and skills to help further the work of Hope in the Harvest in Liberia. We could teach, train teachers, train extension agents, help students do research projects, help share agricultural information with the government’s Ministry of Agriculture from our own experiments, help preserve unique species, learn about new areas of agriculture ourselves, lead bible studies, disciple students, work with youth development programs like 4-H and FFA and help their impact spread even further, and work with local farmers in conducting Farming Gods Way trainings. This felt like the natural next step for us and it was so clear. We were only 3 months into living in Liberia and already it felt like we knew what we were supposed to do after our time with AgriCorps was finished, it was so exciting! But then, a few weeks after the initial excitement though doubts started to set in fast. Can we handle being away from our friends and family again? Do we really want to stay in Liberia for 2 more years? Are we wasting our “youth” by not chasing after a “normal career job”? How will we raise the money needed for our combined salaries? Do we really have any skills/experience that are useful to the mission there? Do we have what it takes to be a “missionary”? What are our motives for wanting to do this, to try and earn the favor of God, to be admired by others, to further our careers, or to really work alongside our friends here for the good of Liberia? Is this what God wants us to do? Is this where He is leading us?

And so we’ve spent the past 6 months talking with each other, talking with family and friends and most importantly talking with God in prayer. And the more we tried to debate with each other and play devil’s advocate and come up with reasons for why we shouldn’t stay, the more reasons God showed us for why we should stay, why this is exactly where He wants us. We knew it from the beginning, the first time we visited there was something drawing us to this place and to this work. And so now here we are feeling so at peace, ready and excited to commit another 2 years to living in Liberia! Ready to move north to a new town, meet new people, work with new students, encounter new challenges, and stretch our minds and hearts even further in our pursuit to see His kingdom come to earth. We couldn’t be more excited to share the news with you! We cannot do this alone though and so we ask that you please join us in prayer for the following things:

  • Prayers for Gina and Travis as they wrap up their time with the mission in Liberia. They have dedicated an incredible 5 years to the mission and their vision is what started this whole thing!
  • Please pray for us as we wrap up our time in Kakata with AgriCorps, that we would continue to work hard and not grow weary; continue to challenge and encourage the students and the FFA.
  • Prayers for us and the Seebalds (another couple also joining the mission in September) as we all make preparations for this next big life change.
  • Prayers for the students, workers, teachers, and staff at LICC that they will stay strong in their faith and hold fast to the mission of the school.
  • Prayers for Nathan and I as we set out to start fundraising the money needed for our salaries (more updates on how you can help in the next blog post, for now all we ask is for your prayerful consideration).
  • Prayers for our trip back to the US in July and August that it would be restful as well as productive.

Bill and Holy Seebald (the other family coming) and us! This is the team for next year!

Africa Doesn’t Matter

I was sitting in the soil science lab grading papers when one of my Liberian colleagues struck up a conversation with me. It started out with him noticing that I was once again wearing a lappa outfit (lappa is the African fabric) and him teasing me and saying how much of a Liberian I have become. I dress like a Liberian, I can cook like a Liberian, I understand the Liberians when they talk, and I can even talk like a Liberian small small (Liberian for “a little bit”). He said when people see you wearing these clothes and talking like you do now they will ask “why have you changed? Where is it that this woman has come from? Then he asked me “when you go back to America, what will you tell the people about what you have seen here? What news will you share? What is your favorite thing about this place that you will carry back?”

There are so many things I love, but the first thing that I thought of naturally was how generous everyone is and how welcoming people are, I mean strangers will offer you food if you happen to walk by and they are eating. My colleague agreed with me and then went on to keep giving examples of how generous and caring people are here. If you are about to leave a taxi and then realize you forgot to bring enough money with you to pay, someone else in the car will step in and pay. If you see someone on the side of the road crying, a Liberian will stop and see if they are ok and do anything to help them get back on their feet again. If someone asks you for food, you will not think twice about sharing. I agreed of course with everything he was saying and I continued to list off more things that I love…the clothes, the music, the food, the street vendors, the scenery, the jokes, the traditions, little Liberian sayings, and so much more. It was a jovial conversation, he and I were just laughing about all the beautiful things in Liberia and how he could see I had slowly grown accustomed to his way of life. He didn’t say it, but all throughout the conversation it was easy to see how proud he was of his country and perhaps how glad he was that I saw it too.

But then he got serious and he asked me in a very slow and thought out way “Fefe (my Liberian name meaning “breeze”), why don’t people in your country know about Africa? Why don’t you learn about Africa in your schools growing up? Does the news not cover Africa in your country? We in Liberia learn all about your country, your history, and your traditions and we always know the news going on in the US, so why don’t U.S.-Americans know anything about Liberia? It was clear that to him, the idea of how a continent with a culture, tradition, history, landscape, and people as beautiful and as rich as this could be unknown or ignored, is simply and honesty incomprehensible, inconceivable

Taken aback by the directness and frankly the rawness of his questions, my confident little self just wanted to fill the silence with words and so I just started mumbling out a series of half-truths that I thought might be able to reasonably explain why the United States seemingly doesn’t have interest or doesn’t know about Africa.  Sure we all know about one part of Africa- the poverty part- from all the iconic photos/commercials of starving babies with swollen bellies covered in flies lying in a mud huts. But that’s not all Africa is, that’s not the whole story. What about the other parts of Africa? The good parts, the beautiful things, the rich culture, the music, the fashion, the art, the science, the businesses, the life-changing ideas, the creativity, the boldness, the kindness, the deep love, the unbelievable faith, the beautiful traditions. I tried to explain myself, I tried to defend my country and the fact that I didn’t learn about any of these things with just a series of excuses… “Oh, we just don’t have time to learn all that, we just have so many things to learn about” and “and “it’s not that we are purposely leaving Africa out, it’s just that we don’t spend a lot of time…..” And then I just had to stop myself and say “I don’t know” as if I was just as confused myself why a lot of the world didn’t know about Africa. But the truth is I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe I did know…

I sat there and a flood of guilt washed over my consciousness as I realized that the only answer that kept coming to my mind was “because Africa doesn’t matter.” I was shocked when I heard myself think those words.  I cringed as those words kept creeping up in the back of my mind and like a person who had just had all their intimate belongings accidentally spilled out on the floor of a public place awkwardly rushes to pack everything back up before someone sees it, so I too hurriedly and awkwardly tried to shove those words “because Africa doesn’t matter” back down into the depths of my subconsciousness and run away as fast as I could from my own mind.  Where did those thoughts even come from? How did they get there? How long had they been there? Did I put them there? Do I really believe that? How long did it take for those words “because Africa doesn’t matter” to form in the back of my mind? Less than a millisecond! It was already there somewhere inside me, ingrained in me despite the fact that I’d been talking about the importance of Africa for years in school and at church, despite the fact that I thought I was just talking about how much I supposedly loved Africa, despite the fact that I live in Africa….What?? How?? Why???  But, back to the real problem at hand, how do I answer that question now? How do you tell someone to their face it’s because they don’t matter?

You don’t, obviously and it’s not true, obviously. But it got me thinking…is it that Africa really doesn’t matter or is that many of us just don’t know about Africa and therefore it seems that Africa doesn’t matter? Should we be expected to know (or even desire to know) everything about every country in Africa, or even the world? Surely, it’s not possible! I know that! And is the fact that we don’t know much about a continent saying that we don’t care? Because if that’s true, then that is saying that I don’t care about a lot of people in a lot places because there is ohhh so much about this big big world that I don’t know! What is it then? Why did those thoughts “Africa doesn’t matter” even appear in my brain? Is there a part of me that believes that Africa doesn’t matter? Why?

It was at that moment that I realized that just because it might have been an answer- “because Africa doesn’t matter”- doesn’t mean it was necessarily true. Plenty of people know that Africa matters, I know that Africa matters and I know that if you are reading this blog that you think that Africa matters too. But unfortunately,  it is my belief that there are other forces telling us that Africa doesn’t matter and sometimes we can be tricked into believing the lie, a lie that part of me still maybe believes to some small extent. This lie doesn’t just come from one source and this lie isn’t something that is always obvious to see, but nonetheless, it is my belief (maybe I’m wrong) that it is still there like an undercurrent steadily beating beneath the surface of our society, unrecognized and unknown…this lie that “Africa doesn’t matter.” A lie that we have been told subtly by the media who never really spend any time covering African news (no it’s not entirely the media’s fault…I wish it were that easy to explain); by our education systems that are often lacking when it comes to teaching us about countries other than our own (the world has only recently begun this rapid globalization phenomenon and so can they really be blamed? Besides, I think that this is already changing in schools now); by the economic systems that always seem to inadvertently oppress and forget about Africa’s needs; by our international policies that say “America first,” which, perhaps driven by our own fears of the unknown, might lead us to conclude that one person’s life and well-being is more valuable then another person’s just because of where they were born; by our our own shame used to hide/cover up our complicated history with Africa;  by our trade policies that exclude rather than include; our aid/charity agendas that sometimes are manipulated to serve our own needs rather than build-up the people with whom we are working with; by our ethnocentric culture that tends to think our way of doing things is the best/only way, etc, etc. Not one of these is any more or less responsible or dangerous than the others and certainly there are plenty other things that contribute to us buying into the lie (maybe lie is too strong, misunderstanding, shaded truth, half-truth, false truth? I don’t know). But regardless, all of this combined together with our own sinful human nature (with its naturally self-seeking with self-prioritizing motives) has led us to believing a lie, a lie that we have accepted as fact, a lie that I didn’t even realize I still believed until the moment when my colleague’s seemingly innocent question basically asked me to my face why he and his people don’t matter or aren’t known (other than as charity cases) to the rest of the world. Again, maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’m being way too hard on myself (happens a lot), but it’s still something to think about…

So back to his question, “Why don’t people in the United States know about us in Africa?”  What I probably should have done rather than be embarrassed or overwhelmed with guilt, spewing out a mixture of lame, but seemingly plausible excuses to explain it all away and sweep it under the rug, was to just stop talking and say “I’m sorry.” And then, like a surgeon with her scalpel removing an infectious tumor, get to work on digging out and removing that lie that “Africa doesn’t matter” from the depths of my consciousness because with that lie, or anything resembling that lie still in my brain, I cannot, in good consciousness, truly appreciate, work efficiently with, or claim to really love all of these things and people in Africa that do matter. 

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I thought I had gotten rid of that belief a long time ago when I first visited Africa and decided to dedicate my career to working with the people of this continent, but it turns out I still have a lot of work to do and though overwhelming and hard to recognize this in myself, I’m so thankful that God in His grace continues to open my eyes to the ways in which my thinking is still a bit flawed and areas where I still need to grow in order to honor Him more.

This blog was really hard for me to share, I debated posting it every day for about 2 weeks and I’m still debating it now just minutes before I post because 1) I didn’t want anyone to think that I was judging them and 2) I didn’t want anyone to judge me either! Please know that I’m not saying that everyone has to know as much or dedicate their lives to Africa in order to say that you care about Africa, because I know that you do care (none of you are monsters!) and I know that we each have our own unique purpose/calling in this world, many of which are far from Africa and that’s OK. But I shared this blog because I wanted to be honest in sharing my short-comings and struggles in case there is anyone else out there who might struggle with these same types of thoughts. Is there any small part of you that might also believe this lie? If so, I understand, I understand completely. But rather than letting yourself feel guilty and burying those feelings deep down so you don’t have to deal with them, I encourage you too to try, alongside of me, to do everything you can to dig out this infectious belief from your subconscious, if it is even there at all. Some ideas: really get to know someone from Africa living in the US, learn about a new country each week with your family by watching the news or a documentary, read a biography of one of the amazing men and women from this continent (I am adding a list of good reads to a different page on this blog), make an effort to purchase African-made goods, double check your motives/heart when donating to charities, don’t be afraid to explore the deep parts of your consciousness and re-evaluate if needed, examine stories about Africa with a critical eye asking yourself “is this the whole story or only half the story?,” pray for God to change your heart and open your eyes wider to the real vision He has for humanity, and pray for the people here to be seen and to be known by more of the world. And if at any time you feel overwhelmed by all that there is to know and understand and decipher in this world, know that I am right there with you in all the confusion, but trust that God has it all under control and all you can do is what He has called you individually to do.

From my first trip to Africa in 2011. I went to Botwana with Cru and worked in an orphanage and doing evangelism on a college campus. This little girl Kebuele was quiet and reserved when I first met her but later became a little ball of energy and smiles!

Tanzania, 2016. Being presented with a kitenge by one of the village elders after working with farmers on sustainable agricultural practices for 3 weeks.

Now, living in Liberia I have had the opportunity to form truly lasting relationships with some pretty amazing people. Ma Daisy is one of the hardest working, most determined, strongest women I have ever met in my life!

Just Believe

If you know me really well, you probably know that I tend to do this thingggg where I come up with an idea or I decide to do something and I’m all psyched about it for like an hour or maybe a day or a month and then when a few little things goes wrong, I immediately let my doubts overcome me, start freakinggggg out, and begin questioning everything, everything I tell you! I’m not the only one who does this, right?? It’s completely normal…totally healthy…

Well that’s how it was with this whole “Agriculture Extension Workshop” idea. About 6 months ago I signed up to teach a class called “Agriculture Extension and Rural Sociology” for the post-secondary students in the National Diploma in Agriculture (NDA) program. This program is a 2-year program and it is for high school graduates wanting to pursue further education in a specific trade area(for example, agriculture). As I was going through the curriculum for the course, I saw that I was to assign 50% of their grade to “practical experiences.” Sure, that makes sense, this is a vocational program anyways and so of course 50% of their time should be spent doing hands-on things. For the swine class that means taking them down to the piggery and practicing giving shots and for the aquaculture class this means digging a new pond and filling it with fish. But what exactly should the practical look like for an Agriculture Extension class? The curriculum gave me no indication as to the types of projects/activities that my students should do and so I started trying to come up with some ideas. I thought maybe I will have them go out and interview farmers one day to practice talking with farmers, but then what, what to do after you’ve interviewed them? Just say thanks for your time and then never get back to them with any useful information? Just use them for a class project? No, that didn’t seem quite right…so I kept thinking. And then it hit me, my big idea: the students should go interview farmers and then based on those interviews they should put on an agricultural extension workshop for local farmers where they (the students) were the organizers, facilitators, and teachers for the event. Yes, I admitted to myself, it would be hard, but we could do this!

And so naturally I started running full speed ahead with the idea, making sure to plan the semester out in such a way that I would be able to prepare the students for the big task ahead. Some topics that we covered throughout the year included history of agricultural extension, importance of agricultural extension, extension models, communication strategies, learning styles, the experiential learning model, the “5 E method” of lesson planning, how to conduct farmer surveys,diffusion of innovations, program development models and steps, writing objectives, and more. Throughout the course, students knew that their final project would be to put on an agricultural extension workshop where they themselves would conduct the farmer surveys, create the program objectives, do the program planning and implementation, facilitate the teaching of lessons, and lastly complete an evaluation of the program. Students worked on different parts of the program throughout the entire semester as group projects, individual assignments, classwork, and homework.

Sometimes things went great, and sometimes things didn’t go so great….sometimes everyone did their assignments and seemed to have understood the concept of the week and sometimes the whole class would show up having completely forgotten about their homework. Some days the class was quiet and respectful and eager to learn and sometimes I questioned whether or not I was teaching middle schoolers because the talking was just out of control. Sometimes I had class on time as scheduled and sometimes I would show up to class and find 3 students because the rest of the class had decided since there was a football (soccer) game later that day that they did not have to attend classes in the morning. Some days they understood my American English accent and I understood their Liberian English way of saying things and then some days it was as if neither of us could understand a thing the other person was trying to say. Some days you could tell that they had put effort into practicing their lesson plans and public speaking techniques and some days it was clear to see that they weren’t taking any of this seriously at all.

Every week for the duration of the semester my emotions were up and down and up and down, a wild roller coaster ride. This workshop was a great idea, the students are going to do great….this workshop was a terrible idea, the worst idea I have ever had (dramatic much?)….this workshop will be such a good use of the school’s money and I’m glad I asked them to support this program financially, this workshop will be such a waste of the school’s money and I regret asking for money….this workshop is going to really help the students feel confident in their knowledge and teaching skills, this workshop is going to embarrass us all, it will be so bad AgriCorps will probably fire me (again with the drama, Anna). They can totally do this, they can’t do this at all…I can do this, I can’t do this.

Nonetheless, I’m sure you can image how I was feeling in those last couple weeks leading up to the workshop. It was getting down to the wire, and just like all of the extension workshops that I had planned back home, there was always a million little details to stay on top of and complete. Only, this time, I wasn’t the one in control. I had given control over to the students, this was their workshop, their responsibility to complete. Giving up control like that, especially for a self-diagnosed control-freak like me, was no easy thing. I was constantly battling in my mind the degree to which I should step in and help complete tasks, the degree to which I should let them learn from their mistakes versus stepping in early enough to prevent any problems. I wanted them to feel the weight of the responsibility they had to complete this task, but I also didn’t want them to think that I was absolving myself of all responsibility in case things went south because we were in this together. I wanted to see them come up with creative ideas, take risks, and find ownership of the program, rather than having to rely on me for all the ideas, to-do lists, and next steps. I wanted to step back and show them that I believed in them by letting them do it all themselves, but I also didn’t want to stand so far away from it that I couldn’t actually do any teaching, nudging, encouraging, motivating, reminding, correcting, guiding, or facilitating. Learning how to give constructive criticism while still being encouraging. Finding that balance is hardddd and I struggled almost daily throughout the entire process, but I hear that’s a thing that all good teachers, parents, bosses, leaders, etc struggle with, so I hope that means I’m doing at least something right!

The morning of the event came, and as you can probably tell from my Snapchat video (link below), I was still a taddddd nervous. Students started arriving and I could tell that they were a bit nervous themselves, but also excited. They were all dressed up in their finest lappa or suits, dancing around, and snapping a million Facebook-worthy pictures of each other posing as teachers, pen in hand in front of the dry erase board with their notes. Despite the jovial attitude, I could definitely tell they were taking this seriously, that they were proud of what they had put together, and that they couldn’t wait to show off to the farmers, administrators, other students, and members of the press. I finally started to relax and sat back and got ready to enjoy the day. There was no going back now, was there?

The day turned out to be a great success! Students presented their lessons professionally and confidently and came well prepared with all their notes and diagrams clearly written on flip chart paper, farmers were engaged and asking questions, the press was taking lots of pictures and doing interviews, and members from the administration of the school came and stayed the entire time even though they definitely did not have to!

On Monday in class after the workshop, I did a little reflection activity to help students think about what they did well and what they or the school could improve on for next year. I think it is clear to see from the compilation of student quotes below, how proud they were of themselves, how much they learned from the activity, how thankful they were to have been given the chance to showcase their knowledge, and that the administration (and Nathan and I, their teachers) had shown that we believed in them. And as I sat there smiling and feeling proud as I read their reflections to myself, I started to feel guilty and ashamed as it occurred to me that I had almost given up on them. Partly because I didn’t think they could do it, but mainly because I didn’t think I could do it, too much stress and too many unknowns! The mind is a tricky tricky place, but I am so glad that for this time at least I didn’t let my crazy anxious, overly critical, sometimes pessimistic, control-freak, flip-floppy mind bail on this whole idea. Because if I had actually thrown my hands up, given up on them, caved into my doubts and stopped believing in them, and just walked away (like I swore to Nathan I would do after I had just had another rough day of teaching) they might not have ever gotten this experience to truly shine, to fly, and to prove to themselves and to each other just how great they are and all that they can accomplish if they just put their minds to it.   I can’t wait to see where these talented students go from here! They are the future agriculturalists, extension agents, and agricultural teachers of Liberia and I’m so honored to have had a chance to work with each of them!

You’ll never know what someone is capable of if you never give them the chance and believe in them. Don’t let your own broken wings keep someone else from using their own wings to fly.

Me, Mr. Wowah (NDA program coordinator), and my students after the workshop 🙂 Super proud!

Student quotes from their reflection activity (be still my heart…<3)

  • “I felt encouraged when my Extension and Beef and Dairy Instructors (Mrs. and Mr. Glenn) smile at the facilitators while they were teaching”
  • “I was encouraged when I saw one of my teachers looking at me during the presentation and was happy with my presentation”
  • “I felt encouraged when I saw the farmers smiling at me”
  • “ I did well because I really studied my lesson notes ahead of time”
  • “I was encouraged when I saw the farmers accepting my new ideas. I was encouraged to want to teach the farmers more and more”
  • “I felt encouraged when I saw members of the administration, the department chair, and representatives from AgriCorps in attendance”
  • “I did well because my Extension Class taught me those techniques in presentation”
  • “I was encouraged when people praised me and told me that I did well in my presentation”
  • “I am very proud of myself and the class”
  • “I am very proud of myself on Saturday for standing among many people from different backgrounds and talking and telling them about the importance of agriculture.”
  • “I was encouraged when the farmers were asking me questions and my teacher told me that my answer was correct”
  • “I am very proud of myself when I saw myself presenting to such people on my knowledge that I have in agriculture. I described that day as a memorable day in life and a gateway to my academic journey”
  • “This program showed me that I am a good teacher if I will focus and commit myself”
  • “This program showed me that I am capable of teaching local farmers about what we have learned in the field of agriculture”
  • “This program showed me the skills I have and this program also gave me the motivation I need in presentation (public speaking)”
  • “This program showed me that after my graduation, I need to teach more farmers on how to grow their crops well, to be self-sufficient in terms of long-term food security.
  • “This program showed me about public speaking and that I want to work as an Extension Agent in the near future”
  • “This program showed me the best way to present in the midst of different people from different levels of understanding”
  • “This program showed me how do to a presentation, how to conduct a workshop, and how to improve my speaking ability.”
  • “This program showed me how important facilitators and extension agents are to the communities, societies, and nation.”
  • “This program showed me that I am good at teaching”
  • “This program showed me the value that is already within me”
  • “This program showed me that I have something inside me that is about to come out.”
  • “Next time I want to put away fear- which caused me to talk less”
  • “Some things I want to improve next time are spending more time researching the topic better so that I can answer questions better”
  • “I wish I had more time to conduct another workshop that will enable us to do more than the first”

“Let’s Eat-Oooo”

“Let’s Eat-Oooo.” I’ve heard it said so many times since I’ve been here. I heard it from my neighbors as they ate breakfast out on the porch and they ripped some bread off for me to eat; I heard it from my friend Comfort as I passed by her stand and she was eating palm butter with her daughter Angel; I heard it as I walked by a woman in the market as she was eating with her friends (I had purchased a knife from her stand in the market about 5 months ago and she says hi every time I pass through and she told me her name once but I can’t remember and am too embarrassed to ask for it again); I heard it as I walked by the house of one of our FFA members and his little two-year old boy waves frantically at me as I walk away; and I heard it at night as I walked into our house and saw my Nigerian neighbors cooking their dinner meal downstairs in the shared kitchen. “Let’s Eat-Oooo.”

Here in West Africa, and many parts of the world for that matter, community is valued above all else and sharing meals together is a big part of experiencing and living within a community. Above money, above time, above schedules….if you are eating and you see one of your friends walk by, you invite them to eat with you “Let’s Eat-Oooo.” It doesn’t matter if perhaps that means you yourself eat a little less than expected, it doesn’t matter that perhaps you didn’t have money in your budget this week to be sharing your food, it doesn’t matter if inviting them to eat means that lunch will now take 30 minutes longer than you had expected. If you are eating, and you see a friend walk by, you cannot let them pass by without inviting them to share in your meal. It might even be seen as downright rude, actually.

“Let’s Eat-Oooo” is such a simple yet beautiful phrase. It’s not a question, it’s a statement, an invitation that is not often rejected.  Even though it is such a beautiful gesture and I admire this aspect of the Liberia culture so very very much, the phrase sometimes causes me and my American Type A self an internal battle, so much stress. Each time someone says “Let’s Eat-Oooo”, these are just a few of the thoughts that run through my mind…..

  • “If I stop and eat, will I have time to make it back to the house and do all the grading, lesson planning, cleaning, organizing that I had on my to-do list today? It will through off my perfectly outlined schedule for the day entirely!”
  • “What if I’m eating and the food hasn’t been prepared safely and I end up getting sick?”
  • “What if the people I’m eating with are sick and we are all dipping our spoons into the same bowl? I don’t want to get sick!” (BTW yes, I am a germophobe)
  • “I’m not really particularly hungry…I shouldn’t eat if I’m not hungry…isn’t that what they tell you? I will ruin my appetite for the delicious thing I had planned for dinner later”
  • “I don’t deserve this, I have done nothing for you but smile and say hi everyday….and for goodness sakes I can’t even remember your name! I definitely don’t deserve this generosity”
  • “Will they think I’m being rude if I decline their offer? Will they stop offering if I say no too many times? What is the limit? I don’t want them to stop offering…”
  • “I want them to stop offering…it makes me feel pressured to stop what I’m doing…mess up my schedule…I wish they wouldn’t ask”
  • “Do they actually want me to come and join them or are they just being friendly? What if I sit down and they don’t actually want me there? Won’t it be awkward?”
  • “I can’t take their food, they are too “poor” to be sharing their food with me…it would be wrong for me to accept”
  • Is this person only giving because they are hoping to receive something later from me? What’s the catch?

And lastly the thoughts “I owe this person, I owe this person, I owe this person” run frantically through my mind. Each time I lift the spoon of rice filled with oily and spicy goodness to my mouth a tally is made in my mind, keeping track of who I owe what…a weight is dropped on my shoulders, burdening me with the feeling that I need to repay this favor back as soon as possible… to even out the scales. Naturally the first thing I would think of is to cook meals for everybody that has offered me meals but the trouble is 1) the number of people who had fed me is too high and some live just too far away to make it feasible and 2) well, I’ve found that they aren’t quite as in love with American dishes as I am.  Agggggg so much, stress! “How can I let this happen, that my friends, people who have much less material wealth than me, are the ones to whom I am indebted? I need to fix this right away!” I thought. After all, wouldn’t we all much rather be the one to whom things are owed rather than the one who owes? One is a position of power and control and confidence and the other is a position of weakness, of dependence….

Last week I was reading a book called “Assimilate or Go Home: Stories from a Failed Missionary” by D.L. Mayfield who describes her experiences working with Somalian Bantu refugees in the United States and she talks about the exact same feeling that I was experiencing as it relates to all the free meals and the inability to pay them back and the guilt that it was causing her. But then she writes that it was only when she was able to step back and embrace the inequality of the situation [herself being the one that was indebted to her friends in such a way that she could never pay back] and allow herself to be served was she finally able to find peace. Why is it that so many of us from the developed world, especially those in the line of missions or international development, have such a difficult time with this? We are so used to giving, giving, giving and thinking that we are the only ones “rich enough” to give (rich being associated only with money of course), subconsciously putting ourselves on pedestals to which the rest of the world must look up to for support, money, and “wisdom” and feeling the weight “to save” everyone, thinking that we alone are the only ones with anything worth giving, we alone are the only ones with ideas worth sharing. This complex or way of thinking is often referred to as the “savior complex” and it is something I currently battle within my own mind, something that we should all be on the lookout for in our own lives. Because this way of thinking is dangerous, leading to patriarchal oppression disguised as seemingly innocent acts of charity, and destroying the honest and pure nature of giving which in its truest form promotes unity, equality, and a shared humanity.

“Let’s Eat-Oooo.” It’s not about giving something and hoping for something in return. It’s not about guilt, wasted time, money, germophobic thoughts, or messed-up schedules….those things are so tiny in comparison to what it’s really about. It’s about sharing food, the thing that sustains and unites all life. It’s about giving freely, for it is in giving that we truly receive. It’s about giving and trusting that the god that you believe in will care for your needs if you care for the needs of others. It’s about relationships, taking time to spend with loved ones. It’s about being thankful for what you have and wanting to share it with others, no strings attached. It’s about a tradition of giving, a tradition that runs deep and permeates every aspect of life here in Liberia. It’s about sharing one’s staple food, a giant steaming pot of rice fresh off the coal pot and an oily, spicy soup to be served on top; the food and recipes that you and your ancestors have eaten for hundreds and hundreds of years, the food that has sustained your people through times of war, disease, poverty, and death and also fed your babies as they grew up big and strong. It’s, as D.L. Mayfield realized, about wanting to share this part of who you are, this part of your history with a foreign friend and hoping that he/she too loves it and appreciates the food for its taste, rich culture, beautiful history, and tradition, as much as you do, knowing that they probably will not but hoping to show them a bit of who you and your people are in the process nonetheless. It’s also about wanting to be known and understood, not just for the things that you don’t have but for the things that you do have. It’s about wanting to be the person who gives for once, rather than the person who is always expected to receive. It’s about mutual respect for one another, and our ideas, culture, and way of life. It’s about restoring balance and equality. It’s about dignity. It’s about community. It’s about so much more than my narrow-minded, young, schedule-oriented, guilt-driven, and often-times-stressed-out American mind can comprehend. But I want sooooo badly to try and understand.

So, I say “Let’s Eat-Oooo!”

Rice with palm butter soup on top

 

 

 

 

GlennsGoGlobal Youtube Channel

Hello friends,

Just wanted to update everyone that Nathan and I now have a YouTube channel called GlennsGoGlobal! If you want to subscribe to get email updates each time we upload new videos you can do so by 1) clicking on this link which will take you to our homepage and then 2) clicking on the red “subscribe” button in the top right-hand corner.

We will post videos of FFA activities, soccer games, walks around campus, trips to the beach, agricultural practicals with our students, church services, and much more!  I will also try and include links to specific videos in future blog posts so stay tuned.

Here is one of our videos that’s on the site now. We had an FFA officer training a few months ago and did a team building activity where the students had to move a marker from one end of the room to the basket at the other end of the room. Each of them could only use 1 finger at a time and they could not walk while touching the marker so they had to work as a team and hold onto it together and pass it carefully down the line. This is their last attempt out of three attempts and it was finally a success!

Miss you all and good luck with that big snow storm coming in today! Meanwhile it’s sunny and 95 here 😉

Nathan and Anna