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.