Thursday, January 14, 2016

Back in Voinjama

We’ve been back in Voinjama for two months now and so much has happened already. After a week of being here, I threw together a Thanksgiving meal after finally realizing it was Thanksgiving around 10 AM. I turned 30 years old here last month, hosted three groups of people including our country director and his wife, David and Nancy Writebol. We had John-Mark’s parents and youngest brother Jonah for a few days to celebrate Christmas and a couple days after they left, our dear friends, David and Judy Humphries stayed a few days with us. It has been fun to have a houseful. 

Thanksgiving meal - Chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, french cut green beans, buttered corn, homemade dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie made with pumpkin from our local market.

David and Nancy Writebol visiting. We visited some Mandingo villages and had to pass through this check point where the immigration officers had us all get out of the car and wash our hands in supposed bleach water.

Angel played a sheep in our Christmas pageant. Audrey was a donkey and Noah was a... cow? Baby James was a star as Baby Jesus.

We’ve transitioned back into our routines here almost seamlessly. It many respects, if feels like we never left. It feels like our time in the States was just a very wonderful dream. Though, we are seriously more refreshed and relaxed this time around. It has been great to be here without feeling so stressed. Our security workers did a top-notch job keeping our house up. Everything was just as we left it.

Our main security guard, Uncle Steve, is apparently a Packer fan too!
When we got here, we obviously asked a lot of questions about what happened while we were away. We found out that our house was actually used as an isolation spot for our security workers and their families. For those of you who don’t know, the man we shared our duplex with died from Ebola last year. Our security became contacts and so they and their families were no longer welcome in their communities. They took refuge for 21 days within our fence and in our side of the duplex. 

Our duplex and front yard

Speaking of our neighbor who died, we also got to hear stories from his wife and children about their last days with their husband and father. It is amazing how many contacts his man had and yet none of them got sick. He shared a bed with his wife and youngest son, even while he was sick. The two older children cleaned their father’s vomit from the floor. And he passed around various neighborhoods, greeting friends but saying he was sick and no one should touch him. His wife gave birth to their fourth child the day he was officially diagnosed. She gave birth at her mother’s house in the village as she was a contact and all medical personnel were afraid to treat her. It was a rather traumatic experience for them. In fact, it was apparently nearly 10 hours before one medic came to cut the cord. He then was promptly put under 21 days of isolation. Our neighbors stayed in the village but were not allowed to go out in the community or even use the community well. Eventually one girl started hauling them water and leaving it in their yard. The children quickly become solemn when they talk about it and the children’s grandmas cry when they see us. The whole thing is just surreal. 

Out neighbor Makema holding her baby brother who was born the day his father was diagnosed with Ebola.

On a more positive note, our house is so much more comfortable this time around. John-Mark’s home renovations he made in the spring have made a huge difference. Our house went from being rather junky to quite cozy. In addition, the container I packed and sent in June 2012 arrived last September so I finally have all those goodies. I have decent dishes, good knives, kitchen appliances, a deep freeze freezer, a rocking chair and even a small washing machine. I packed several other boxes this past spring and that container arrived right before Christmas, making for a Christmas full of goodies.  It has been fun to see the many things that were given as baby shower presents for Audrey. Baby James is really cashing in! Audrey has loved seeing her old toys she left here as well as the things I sent on the container. Many times a day we heard her exclaim, “Hey! I’ve been looking for that!” Many times a day I think, “Boy, have I been wanting this!”

Our renovated kitchen

Despite the many challenges we’ve had to overcome since coming back (mice and rats, termite infestation, and other maintenance issues), we feel like we are really thriving. We have a compost station going and a very hopeful garden planted. I’m successfully cooking Liberian meals for lunch each day feeding not just our own family but also our security guard, other workers who are around, and various others who pop in throughout the day.

Soaking potato greens and hot pepper

Cooking Potato Greens

 The children love always having friends around to play with and share everything they have better than I could have imagined. I often have 3-10 extra kids around. 

Making bracelets with beads

Water Party!!

Audrey and her friend, Small John-Mark

Audrey and Noah love their school sessions at home and both are starting to sound out simple words. 

Audrey draws or paints her Grammy in every picture.

James is such a pleasant baby and just loves being snuggled and held.

Aunt Audrey knit this sweater for our little Audrey before she was born. Noah and James have both gotten use out of it.

 Finally, John-Mark has a productive schedule with various native speakers and continues to make good progress on the Bible translation. He and I hosted probably the largest gathering of Mandingo Christians and seekers. We had a beautiful Christmas party in our yard for them and had about 20 people. We were thinking we’d be happy if even 10 people came so we were really blown away.

When we left  Liberia in July 2014 as Ebola was really starting to rage through the country, I couldn’t imagine coming back, much less wanting to be back. And yet, here we are, happy and thriving in Voinjama.