Arriving in Liberia (Roberta’s Story #1 of 5)

Here are the promised pictures and a bit of explanation of what they depict. Let me start again with a thank you for your prayers.

We arrived in Liberia the evening of June 6, and met Ollie, Amos, George, and Darius in person for the first time. It was everything I ever could have hoped for and more. A wild hour’s ride over deeply rutted dirt roads with no illumination and a river running over the road (this is the main highway and under construction) brought us to our hotel, A’ La Lagune. They had not honored our reservations. At 9 at night, Ollie put her network to work and eventually found us another hotel for the night.

Security is critical, as you can see from the photo of the high wall with razor wire that ran around the hotel. The 12″ high steel gates manned by two guards at all times are either ominous or reassuring based on your perspective. This is a country still recovering from 14 years of civil war and the resultant poverty and shattered infrastructure.

We had the best night’s sleep of the trip and rose to pack up our luggage for a move back to A’ La Lagune and met for a team breakfast to launch the time in Liberia (Ollie is missing from the picture, but she arrived later). It was our last brewed cup of coffee of the trip. Liberians use mostly instant coffee.

At A’ La Lagune, we were able to secure rooms, though not yet available. Finally, we were on our way to Beautiful Beginnings school! But first, a stop to be interviewed on radio. By this time, so many unexpected things had happened that my stomach did not even do flip-flops. I did not wonder what I would say. I was becoming Liberian.

At School, we were greeted with great fanfare. Two full scale assemblies (primary and intermediate), greetings in the languages of the 15 different tribes by students who were dressed in traditional clothing for each tribe. One child was holding up a sign with a message of sympathy for the families in Uvalde. Although the children have nothing themselves, they raised $100US to send to the relief fund in Uvalde.

Against much pushback, Ollie built this school in 2007 next to the open-air market place in a poor county, specifically so she could provide quality education for the underserved and vulnerable children of Liberia. The money that could have rolled in from tuition if she had chosen a wealthier area to build is unavailable here. Mothers bring their 4-year-old’s and drop them off at school while they work to sell spices, etc. all day in the market. Many children stay through the 5th grade, with tuition consuming most of their earnings from the market-place. But they have seen the value of an education, and make the sacrifice on a survival level.

Opening your gifts of supplies was a great event. We went through the items in the principal’s office, and all were very excited. We thought we would be able to show you some pictures of newly decorated classrooms, but the principal is a wise manager of supplies. He will keep the supplies and check them out to teachers to use in the new school year (start date not yet determined by the Ministry of Education). Teachers will also be asked to check them back in at the end of usage.

Long emails don’t get read, and perhaps this email is already too long for many people to read. I wanted to begin to paint a picture of the reality of the vision Ollie has for the school-a place where children grow to be Christian leaders solving the problems of Liberia and contributing to the global community.