Sunday, February 17, 2013

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day was so special this year. John-Mark, Audrey, and I were able to visit the village, Jawajeh, where JM and I first laid eyes on each other! When I was in Liberia in 2007, I stayed in Jawajeh with Water of Life. John-Mark came up on his motorbike, took off his helmet, and I thought, “that has got to be THE John-Mark Sheppard!” I had met his family just days before and heard all about his ministry in Liberia. Sharon, another woman on the trip said to me after watching us lay eyes on each other for the first time, “you’ll be connected to the Sheppards one day!” By that, she meant, married into the family. She was right!
I was able to visit Jawajeh for a few days in 2008 and it was great to be back there this week. Many of the kids (now pre-teens and early teens) remembered me. The kids even started chanting a song they used to sing when I was there in 2007. “Sara, the baby is crying! Wah, wah!” I guess they chanted this because I was so involved with the kids and babies.

After being in Jawajeh for a bit, we drove to Tubmanburg to visit my special friend, Henry, whom I met in Jawajeh. Henry is deaf and mute, but in 2007, he actually put his mouth right in my ear and spoke my name! Henry is 11 years old now and living at a school campus for the deaf. I was so impressed with the place. Henry looked clean, healthy, and comfortable. He was communicating with others and it was SO great to finally be able to communicate with him using sign. He actually remembered me! Some of the staff I met are clearly passionate about their work and the kids. It is run by an NGO out of Scotland. His schooling, health care, personal needs, and vocation training are provided at no cost. Apparently, Henry had some hearing tests done and scored extremely low. He was given a hearing aid, but can not use it unless a specialist comes out from overseas to help. It was so special to see Henry on Valentine’s Day and express to him how much I care for him. He is without a doubt doing so much better at this school than he would be if he had stayed in the village. I can’t wait to visit him again!

Some Random Notes

We have been in Liberia for five weeks now. We are very excited to move to Lofa County tomorrow! We will spend Monday night in Konia at the “House of Love.” This is where I spent my summer in 2008. On Tuesday, we’ll go the rest of the way to Voinjama and stay in a guesthouse until our house is built. We are thankful that Mark and Jared are coming with us for the first week to help get us settled and oversee some of the building and electrical work. 
I didn’t realize how much exposure I would have to different nationalities here in Liberia. In the last month, we’ve had direct interactions with people from Kenya, Malawi, Guinea, Ghana, Mauritania, South Africa, Liberia, Canada, China, Lebanon, America, Costa Rica, Israel, United Kingdom, Germany, Holland, Burundi, and India.
I have been surprised by how much more expensive many things are in Liberia than in America. Of course, we have to consider that almost everything is imported. Another missionary recently posted some prices from a local grocery store that I thought some of you might be interested in seeing. We are doing our best to be frugal and cook from scratch.
Gas in Monrovia: Approx $4.25/gallon
Powdered Parmesan Cheese: $6.55 
Crest Toothpaste $7.10
Ocean Spray CranGrape juice $9.40
Honey Bunches of Oats cereal $12. 75
Bottle of Wishbone Honey Mustard salad dressing $7.00
Package of 10 soft tacos $4.55
Welch's grape jelly 6.00
Smuckers jam $6.80
Powdered Hazelnut coffee creamer-small jar-$9.25
5000 ml chocolate ice cream (about one and a half gallons) $33.00
Besides the prices, I have really enjoyed grocery shopping here and Audrey apparently does too! One store has these cute cars attached to the carts. Somehow, Audrey managed to pick up a few items herself (pistachios and licorice) and get them through the check-out line without us noticing!

Friday, February 15, 2013

We Have a Birth Plan!

I am almost 22 weeks pregnant now and definitely showing it as you can tell by the picture. I had morning sickness only through week 16 and have felt great ever since arriving in Liberia. For those of you that haven’t heard, we are expecting a baby BOY! His name is Noah Robert Sheppard and he is due June 24th.
I was able to have a natural birth experience at a birthing center in South Carolina with a midwife. It was the most beautiful, serene experience I could have imagined and wanted to have as similar of an experience as possible with baby #2. Unfortunately, because of timing and finances, birthing in the United States again was not a very practical (though not impossible) solution.
This led us to start exploring other options for a safe place to deliver. For myself, regardless of which country I deliver in, there is no part of me that desires a hospital birth. The Sheppards have a good family friend, Joan, who is a missionary midwife. She is an American that grew up in Liberia, has 12 children of her own (whom she delivered herself!), and now lives in Ivory Coast. Originally, we planned to go to Ivory Coast to have her deliver because it seemed to have the best “Plan B” option if there was an emergency.
Upon getting to Liberia, we were encouraged to at least explore options here. After tons of researching, praying, and consulting with others, we decided to stay in Liberia and fly our midwife friend here.  We feel like this is the best option for us and our families and SIM directors are in full support of our plan.
For those of you that are interested in the details, here is why we decided against Ivory Coast:
·      Cost
·      Disruption of entire family
·      Limited support network
·      “Plan B” options not necessarily better than in Liberia
·      Difficulty and time it would take to process paperwork for baby
·      Lack of transportation available once in Ivory Coast
Here is our plan for staying in Liberia:
We will leave Voinjama at least a month before the due date and stay in Monrovia until the baby is born and for an undetermined amount of time after that. If there is an emergency in Voinjama, the Samaritan’s Purse director agreed to help with their helicopter. (We don’t take this lightly, THANK YOU KENDALL)! Our directors with SIM will be in England for the summer and they have agreed to let us stay at their home on the ELWA campus. It is a 2-bedroom house that is right on the beach. The setting is perfect! We are flying Joan in from the Ivory Coast at the beginning of June and she will stay with the Sheppards, only 20 minutes drive from where we will be staying. (This is a very good thing since Audrey was born in just 2.5 hours)! She will come to us for a home birth when the time comes. If there is an emergency, the ELWA hospital is only a couple minutes away. There is a very competent American SIM missionary surgeon coming to live in Liberia within the next few weeks to work at the ELWA hospital. She has plenty experience with C-sections and has agreed to help if needed. It will be so nice to have the Sheppards close by to help out after the baby is born. And, since ELWA is a mission compound, there are plenty of other missionaries that will be nearby to visit and help.
I feel like we’ve done our best to cover all of our bases and we rest KNOWING that God is so in control of this and definitely has all the bases covered!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Adventures around a stolen laptop

Yesterday my computer was stolen. We went to ELWA (our mission headquarters) where Sara had a Bible study and I had some business to take care of. After her Bible study was over we decided to take a walk around the compound, and foolishly I left my laptop in a backpack in our vehicle. It was locked, so I thought it would be safe. We got back from our walk and headed over to a friend’s house for dinner. As we got on the main road the back door swung open. I stopped to close it, and thought it was strange, but the backpack was here and I didn’t think much of it. It was only after we got back from dinner that I realized it was gone!
Thankfully my most important files were backed up, but obviously this has been a big blow. It was password protected, so I’m not too worried about people using the information on it. I’ve just got to figure out what to do now about replacing it. It was the computer I was hoping to use for my Bible translation.
On the off chance I might be able recover it, I’ve asked some Liberian friends to help track it down. It seems there are some well-developed criminal networks in Monrovia that are quite efficient at stealing and quickly reselling stolen items. My dad was once able to recover a stolen phone from friends of the original thieves! We’ve been asking around, and hopefully if it turns up at a pawn shop someone will call.
I also decided to file a report with the police today, and that turned out to be quite an adventure. Well, filing the actual report was very straightforward. On the way to the station, I pulled off the road near a busy junction to wait for my friend Armah. After being parked for a few minutes, a police officer walks up and tries to issue me a parking ticket for being illegally parked! Of course there are no signs to indicate that I should not park there, and I saw others cars doing the same thing. Then Armah shows up and tries to intervene for me, offering the officer a little “cold water” (50 Liberian Dollars or about $0.75) to get him off my case. The officer acted all offended at being “bribed”, and then took it. We then explain to him how we were on our way to the police station to file a report for the stolen computer. He then tells us how it’s pointless and we will never get the computer back. Later on he changes his mind, and says that he actually has informants and that he might actually be able to help us find the computer. While he was still going back and forth about whether to charge me with a traffic violation, a couple of guys with some other security organization that works in that area come and put a tire lock on my front right wheel! This ticks off the police officer and they begin yelling back and forth about it. By now there are probably 20 people gathered around my car. Finally they take the lock off my wheel and the officer let me go. Unbelievable!

Monday, February 4, 2013


Last week we were basically home-bound due to a big UN meeting here in Monrovia. The major roads were closed. This allowed for us to help the Sheppards with clearing out their garage. It was fun finding some treasures, including a kiddie pool! It was a lot of work cleaning and organizing, but we made the best of it by making a fake “Hoarders” episode. Mark was a good sport and played the hoader, while the rest of us recorded scenes of how his behavior was affecting our life. Even the guests staying downstairs got involved as the social worker and a frustrated father. Perhaps the funniest scene was little Jonah and Nathan fighting over a broken toys and Nathan clutching a broken stroller and whining, “I don’t want you to throw this away! I was saving this for my son one day!”

John-Mark and I were able to walk around the neighborhood a bit. We met several Manya people, which gave us a great opportunity to practice our Manya. I can only say and respond to a couple of things, but John-Mark did really well!

We had our first little vehicle adventure this week. On Friday, Mark took us to pick up our vehicle from the mechanic’s shop downtown. It was there so we could get the speedometer fixed. On the way home, the A/C stopped working and engine began to overheat. To make matters worse, were stuck in a traffic jam. As soon as we got out of the jam, we saw a puff of smoke and the vehicle turned off. We have so much to be thankful for! Mark was right behind us and was able to tow us home. Audrey slept through the whole ordeal. We were in town (as opposed to rural Liberia). And the problem was just a pipe bursting; easy and relatively inexpensive to fix.

We went to a SIM related Liberian church yesterday morning. One of the nicest parts was that it was in an unfinished building on the second level so we had an awesome breeze during the 2-hour long service. Most of the women werewearing traditional African dress. They sang mostly American hymns (very loudly) and some Liberians songs. They used a small drum set, keyboard, tambourine, and the African “saasaa” (gourd rattle) for worship. The funniest part for me was that they had a “Singles and Searching” meeting after the service. John-Mark and I enjoyed the service and will likely make it our church home when we are in Monrovia.