Monday, February 28, 2011

When Plans Change

We’ve been here in Liberia four months. Four months in which nothing has gone as planned. Nope, our plans have been flipped upside down by a few thousand (try 50,000+) refugees milling around Liberia’s eastern border. This past week we began to hear about fighting on the other side. Everyone take a deep breath and be reassured that we are in no immediate danger. Kyle and I are a long way from the border, 5 hours away to be exact, and the fighting is in the Ivory Coast not here in Liberia.

The fighting has however sent a rush of refugees over the border into the areas surrounding our clinics. The last month or so felt like a stale mate as far as the refugee “crisis” was concerned. This feels as if a dam has broken that had been holding thousands of refugees back. One of our colleagues that went out to our Buutuo clinic, a hotspot for Ivorian refugees crossing over, reported thousands of refugees packed like sardines into a local school to sleep.

We’ve had such an unusual experience in the time that we have been here. Lots of curve balls have been thrown our way and it’s left us wondering what it is that God is trying to accomplish through our hands here.  The needs are great. The work is plenty. Pray that the Gospel can be made known through our lives and through this situation. We are praying for peace in Ivory Coast and continued peace in Liberia.

Weekly Prayer Needs:

Pray for peace in Ivory Coast and for peace to reign in our own hearts.

Pray for rest for us.

Pray for safety wherever we may travel.

Pray for wisdom on the way forward in our ministry here.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Difference Between Life and Death

Death is a way of life in Liberia.

I’m not trying to be morose. I’m not trying to be a real downer on your Wednesday. It’s the truth. We were warned before we got here that death is a regular occurrence. I know, I know- what does that mean? Isn’t death a regular occurrence everywhere?

As a student of public health you spend a lot of time looking at statistics. International statistics about rates of birth, death, and disease. Afghanistan, Sudan (in all it’s incarnations), Haiti all rank at the tops of these lists and so does Liberia. It’s easy to leave these statistics in the theoretical while sitting behind a desk or flipping through t.v. channels. It’s not so easy when you befriend the people that these statistics directly affect.

We’ve been here for four months and have forged friendships with a lot of Liberians. In the those four months we have gotten word of countless numbers of deaths amongst our friend’s families. Just last week we heard of two deaths connected with our EQUIP Liberia family. One was our young mechanic, Sylvester’s, one week old daughter. The believed cause was malaria- particularly dangerous for children and especially infants.

Sylvester was back at work on Tuesday. Sitting on the EQUIP office’s front porch surrounded by 15 or so men sitting silent with him- silence is not normal in Liberia- ever. Tears glistening in his eyes he told us that he needed to come back to work. The pain is there. Liberians aren’t immune to grief, but they have gotten really good at moving on in the midst of it. They’ve had to. Between two civil wars, 25+ years of conflict and public health problems that continue to plague the country there hasn’t been time to take a breath.

So we’re left with the question when death can’t be ignored. What do we do to help? The answers aren’t easy. The hard questions never have easy answers. We emulate Jesus. We weep with our friends. We sit- like those 15 men with Sylvester- in silence and allow our compassion to be the loudest sound around. We pray that by God’s grace we can place hands on the wound of death slashed across this country and at least slow the bleeding. We have faith that the little work that our hands do might be found to the praise and honor of Christ and live with the hope that in life or in death we might glorify Him through this work.

Death is a way of life in Liberia but life, true life, is found in Jesus who conquered death. I’m looking for true life in the midst of real life in Liberia.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February Flying By…

Welp, here comes another week. A week in which we promise to be better at blogging. O.k., we’ll really try- I retract my promise.

I (Jessica) wrapped up the Clinical Management of Rape training on Friday and there are now 17 clinicians trained to treat victims of sexual violence in Nimba County! Kyle’s WATSAN team has been working all over Nimba repairing water points and even doing much needed repairs to the roads. Last Friday refugees began to be moved to the camp. So yeah, we’ve been busy!

This week is the monthly staff meeting. We’ll share the highlights at the end of the week!

Weekly Prayer Needs:

Pray for our family as we miss them and they miss us!

Pray for our travels all around the county and back and forth to Monrovia

Pray for our relationships with those we work with that they would be fruitful for the Gospel.

Pray for us as we endure the heat of Liberia- without A/C or a fan.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Training Daze

All week I (Jessica) have been back and forth between Ganta (our Liberian hometown) and Saclepea (about 1 1/2 hours away) organizing and assisting in the training of 17 Physician’s Assistants and RNs in the Clinical Management of Rape. Even in Liberia there are tons of details that go into having an effective training! It isn’t easy-o!


Philip from EQUIP Liberia’s Protection Team talking about legal and ethical issues of treating survivors.

The refugee influx along with Liberia’s instability and cultural taboos provides and open door for issues surrounding sexual gender based violence (SGBV). EQUIP’s Gender Based Violence Program is actually addressing these issues and working with Liberia’s justice system to find perpetrators and get convictions. Truly something that is unheard of in Africa.


Trainees work on case studies in groups.

Along with the justice component of SGBV there is the clinical management of gender based violence. Women (also, men and children) that have suffered these attacks should be seen in the clinic immediately. The training that EQUIP conducted gave clinicians the tools they need to counsel, examine, refer and collect forensic evidence for rape and abuse survivors.


Liberian’s always make time to relax! Even during a training!

The training has gone really well. The communities that the trainees have come from (many from clinics along the Ivorian border) commonly experience this type of violence and cases of abuse. These issues are not foreign to Liberians because unfortunately many were victims of such acts during the war and it is often a part of the culture rather than an anomaly.  Cases are unfortunately drastically under-reported and most go untreated for physical and emotional problems that result from such abuse. The participants were eager to learn how to work with the survivors in their area to begin healing and hopefully assist the survivor towards justice.

A representative from USAID came to the training and was highly complimentary. She even suggested that the way that we did the training should be a framework for the whole country!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

M.I.A. on a Monday

Hey Folks and Faithful Readers,

Sorry about yesterday (and the majority of today!). We spent a few days relaxing in Monrovia before returning back to our home here in Nimba County. It was a nice break from Ganta and our constant work. We ate something other than rice and beans and enjoyed Dubai One, our new favorite Middle Eastern television station. All in all a really nice weekend- just too short!

We returned back to Ganta late Sunday. We put away all the goodies we got from the grocery store and readjusted our bodies to sleeping without air conditioning. Even a couple days of A/C spoiled us!

This week is a busy one as usual!

I (Jessica) am organizing and conducting a training on the Clinical Management of Rape. This training will allow many clinics across Nimba County to serve women (and men) who are the victims of rape or other sexual gender based violence across their communities. Kyle is continuing to direct his WATSAN team across Nimba. Our work (both health and WATSAN) now encompasses both our regular responsibilities as well as work with the Ivorian refugee population. Kyle and his team have much work to do in the next 3 months!

We will write more later to fill you in on the details of our work and the way that the Lord is working in our hearts and through our work. We confess that words fall short all too often.

Weekly Prayer Needs:

Pray for our sanity through long days, short nights and complicated work.

Pray for the Word to be alive in our hearts and in our lives.

Pray for our relationships with everyone we work with and alongside of here in Liberia.


P. S. There was a “devil” in Ganta yesterday. He was a Valentines devil apparently. Our friend Kristen had to pay him off so he would stop dancing next to the car. Happens. All. the. Time. Welcome to Liberia.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guess How Many Lapas!

Lapa (pronounced lap-UH) is the African name for the fabric that is used to make everything from curtains to dresses. Liberia has beautiful lapa with many colors and design. One of my favorite activities is to go to the market and peruse the surrounding lapa shops. Just like in U.S. fabric stores you can usually find the best ones in the remnant pile! We put a new lapa in each of the Mama Kits. Here is a stack of lapa that will soon be on their way to clinics across Nimba:

Jessica With Lapas

Guess how many lapa are in the stack! Ok, so it isn’t “Name that Fruit” but there will be a prize!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Short Week, Long Weekend!

Last week we worked hard and enjoyed the likes of Grandpa. Glad to know he is a big hit even outside of Liberia! This week we are cutting it short in Ganta and on Thursday will be heading down south (not to the land of the pine unfortunately, pat on the back for the Old Crow Medicine Show reference) to Monrovia for a long holiday weekend. What holiday might you ask? Armed Forces Day…ironic in a country that has been disarmed, but we will ignore that small oversight and take a few days of a much needed break.


Just in case you needed to see Grandpa again…

Remember the story about the bats? The roasted ones on the side of the road by the pineapples? Well, turns out one of our drivers, Franklin (or Frankie to his friends) is a true Nimba-ite and picked a few up on his way back from the bush. Our friend/co-worker Kristen stood in shock and awe as Frankie proudly pulled his bats out of the glove compartment of his vehicle. I’m sad to say that I was not there and once again failed to get a shot of the bats. The next day when I saw Frankie I gave him a big “No sir!” about the bat-mongering. He was perplexed and clung to the fact that they are sweet and delicious. So we had to ask, “What’s the best part of the bat?” All Frankie said as a delighted grin crept over his face was “the entrails”.

Oh, golly goodness. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

Weekly Prayer Needs:

Pray for rest.

Pray for endurance and patience when days are long and frustrating

Pray for us as the weather heats back up. Our few days of cool nights and mornings are beginning to pass.

Pray for discipline to stay in the Word and be led by the Spirit in all we do.

Pray for Jessica as she plans a Bible Club for children in the EQUIP neighborhood.

Pray for Kyle as he hires new WATSAN workers to complete the work ahead.

Pray that our lives would be conduits of the Gospel to those that we work with.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I never thought I’d come to Liberia and find a new Grandpa, but I have…meet Wilson Glee, a.k.a. Grandpa.


Grandpa wandered into the EQUIP office long before Kyle and I got here, but he had been gone for a long time. Evidently a few threats from EQUIP’s Liberian staff sent him on his way (where, we don’t know because no one seems to know where he comes from or where he goes when he leaves). Rumor had it that he was a bit of a clepto, but I believe that a man can be reformed so I don’t mind if he hangs around…as long as I can keep a careful eye on his sticky fingers…Like literally his fingers are sticky…gross

He’s got some sweet dance moves, a voracious appetite and well, the name- He’s Grandpa. Here are a few shots of the fun we had with him in the office the other day. Unfortunately the perennially slow internet keeps me from uploading the carefully choreographed music video that Grandpa and I made.


Cheesin’ with Carl


Fuzzy self-portrait

Yes, that is what missionaries do in their spare time, make music videos with children named Grandpa. Stop me before this gets weird.

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