Hello! This could possibly be my final blog post – a look back and summary of my time in West Africa. Here we go.
- What are the things you miss most about living in the orphanage in Zuannah Town?
In all honesty, I liked nearly everything during our time living in that village. I was so happy every day to be there with many, many new things to learn and questions to ask and people to care about, that I couldn’t ever be bored or discouraged. When living in Zuannah Town I met some of the most important people in my life, some of whom impacted me in positive ways, and others in negative ways. Looking back, I feel like my eyes were blinded to the negative because of my naivete and perpetual cheer during that time. I was beyond happy, so to explain today what I miss te most about my life at the orphan home in Zuanah Town is no small thing.
I miss MY LIBERIAN FAMILY!! I miss my Hearwood family that I loved so intensly for so long. I miss Decontee, Moses, Felicia, Mercy, Bintu, Serrina, Diamond, Giftee, Leo, Small Princess, Oretha, Big Princess, Faith (Akos), Josephine, Patrick, and Gordon,and Auntie Vic and Uncle Rufus. I consider them my extended family, my brothers and sisters. Things I love to remember:
- cooking with Serrina in the open-air kitchen over coal pots
- talking with Decontee on the steps of the girls’ dorm
- doing the girls’ hair
- walking 45 minutes to school with my buddies,
- brushing little kids’ teeth after devotional
- taking my “best friends” – the little girls – to go pee in the middle of the night so that they don’t wet the bed
- playing cards and Liberian games
- Friday movie nights in the palavar house
- doing puzzles in the new library after the donated container arrived
- teaching Josephine and Akos how to say the sounds of letters
- washing Faith’s and Jo’s (and my own) clothes by hand
- learning about the 16 liberian tribes
- having guitar lessons from my dad
- having devotional every evening – especially the singing
- playing in the flooding rain
- eating rice
- making donuts and plantain chips and kala
- learning and speaking Liberian English (which I’m already forgetting)
- playing foosball and kickball
- going on the river in the canoe and rowboat
- skipping rocks at the river bank and playing in the not-that-clean water with Charlie and Ivy
- sweeping the dirt off of the dirt in the yard 🙂
- drawing bath water and washing water
- bathing, dressing, and preparing the little girls for school
- walking in the bush to play at the quiet beach and warm lagoon
- sleeping beside my lovely squishy baby Faith
- the list goes on and on (in my heart, not on this blog)…
I loved Zuannah Town! I was well known as a friend in the town, and I knew every person’s name by heart. I had so many small friends that felt safe with me. I loved!
- What are the things you do not miss about living in the village?
I do not miss the lack of privacy. We were in a chain link (see through) fence. There was no privacy, which I didn’t mind that much, but I don’t really miss. We were the most exciting thing happening in the village, and people tended to just hang out outside the fence to watch the show. I do not miss a few of the Liberian kids in our village, who were a bit racist, and at the same time clingy. Some kids liked to do things just to give people something to talk about, like spreading awful lies about me. Such gossip… this was something new to me, and I was comforted that a lot of people ignored and didn’t believe the lies. Those that ignored did so because they knew me. I do not miss the people that tried to cause me pain or hurt. But that’s logical, because I assume that nobody particularly enjoys being the object of somebody’s malicious imagination and big mouth.
- How did life change when you moved from the village to the private compound in Bible College?
For me this was a very unwelcome change at first. As far as I was concerned, my life had just been ruined and my happiness scattered along with all my friends at the orphan home. After dealing with the torment of being separated from my Heartwood family, I felt I had no comfort at all, not knowing if I would see many of them again. One of the sole things that helped me through this time was Janet and Caroline. These girls are 12 years old, Liberian, and twins! They were at the orphanage home the entire time we were there and when the children were dispersed and transferred into the care of extended family, Janet and Caroline had nowhere to go. They stayed with us. They were there through all of the bad and worse. They are my sisters and always will be!
When we were having family prayer one night a few years ago, when I was about eleven, my mother made the announcement that we were going to have a foreign exchange girl come from Japan. She was my age and would share my room! I was so happy I started crying hysterically. I had always wanted a sister close to my age, that was like a full time best friend. I have had honorary big sisters like this throughout my life and through young womens, but this was one of the main reasons I love living at the orphanage home. I was so happy, and when they were gone, Carol and Janet were there. I still had them. They still had me. When we moved to Bible College, Brewerville, they came along. We were a family of eight. We three shared a room, slept together, played all day, read, ate, played some more, and that is what I held on to. I love them so much, and I let myself cling to the hope that maybe someday my parents would agree to adopt them. The girls would certainly agree, I knew that much. They were happy with us.
There were only 2 times that I truely cried in Liberia, and I mean truely cried. With my whole body, grieving. The first was the day the Tokpah family left Zuannah Town to live with their Auntie Princess in Monrovia. The other was when I was told that Janet and Caroline were going back to the AFAA House (the orphanage where they were when they were younger – long story), so they could have the chance to be adopted again. After they left, life was different. I had school to focus on. Piano. Survival 🙂
- More pros and cons of Bible College:
Pros – more privacy than I could hope for. Proper space and equipment to take exercise. More family time. More attention on piano. More time to pursue what I wanted, and to read! Less pressure.
Cons – no small children to take care of. No close contact with friends that I cared about. Too much alone time. More anti-social-ness. The darned stupid 10′ cement fence. The city. The hurt of not knowing how my brothers and sisters at the orphan home were doing or where they were or if they were okay. No Faith. No Josephine. No Bintu. Nothing really to wake up and look forward to.
It took me a long time to get used to the place but eventually I liked it and deeply appreciated what we had there. Some of the children seemed to be in worse living conditions after being transferred out of our care and into extended relative care, and I worried about them constantly, but I had to have hope. I never stopped praying for them and never will.
- Describe how you grew and changed as a result of living in Liberia? Give three examples:
1) One of the most important things I learned in Liberia can be conveyed most accurately in a quote from Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” I came to realize that I am not that important. My trials are nothing. I can deal with anything that is happening right now. I’m okay and I’m surviving with ease. Many are not. Many are not even close. Struggling to feed their children. Bereaved for the death of countless loved ones. I have not experienced this. I don’t know what it’s like. However, sometimes I could look into someone’s eyes and feel a little of what they have felt. I could understand a fraction of their tribulations. I remember I could sense the strife etched on the face of an old woman who is taking care of her grandchildren because her daughter and son-in-law were infected and killed by ebola. There was a weary strength in her aura. Sometimes if I really paid attention I could feel some of that. But I knew I could never fully relate. Some of the people I met and even had extremely close contact with had suffered beyond my comprehension and didn’t come out feeling like the victim. Their “…heads were bloody but unbowed”, and future years shall “find them unafraid” (Invictus-by William Ernest Henly). I learned eternal lessons from these individuals. Priceless conversations that I will never forget. I am so proud to know them.
2) I learned the lesson “Don’t let small things worry you”. A friend spoke these words to me in an extremely consequential time in his life. I had so much admiration for the courage of this friend. He had the most important perspective, despite having lost his/her father to ebola and mother abandoning the family. I remind myself of this daily when I am tempted to overthink anything, which I often do. This friend taught me how to let go and let God carry me, and also carry fate. Nothing in life is an accident! Every possible thing is in God’s hands and if we are willing to be instruments in His hands, then we will never be anywhere or do anything that God didn’t intend. This is a lifelong quest that starts with letting God worry about it instead, because He is Almighty. He knows. I also tie this with another lesson I learned about freeing myself. This lesson has been taught to me by my (unorthodox) parents my entire life. To free myself from what I THINK people MIGHT THINK about me. To free myself from the critical eyes of others and do what I want without worrying what other humans may think or say or do. The point is to be yourself – your best, individual self. What people think of you couldn’t matter less. So be honest and unique and nerdy and whatever you really are without conforming to what lays inside the cage of fear. Be free! Don’t let small things worry you!
3) The last lesson I decided to write about that I learned was one that was made personal to me by the Spirit. The lesson was about humility. About destroying entitlement. I am less than the dust of the earth. I own nothing. I have nothing. I can do nothing. Everything I enjoy, a functioning body, a covenant family, enough food, clean water, talents, knowledge, a testimony, none of it was my fault. I did nothing to deserve it. Not even a little bit. My little friends in the bush in their underwear and infected with thrush and suffering from malnutrition and the product of an irresponsible teenage boy and girl, did nothing to deserve that birthright. I am no better than them. I have to be humble. If I can be obedient to Almighty God he will show me why I am born in a developed country and how I can use the resources and education I have as an advantage to serve His children, to feed His sheep. I must not waste a single moment because I will be held accountable for being true to the light and knowledge I have received (underline I – not the light OTHER people have or have not received). At first this thought made me feel that instead of being a blessing, this responsibility was a burden. But how selfish would I be to discard this advice and do nothing help my fellow men? I would never be able to look my Savior in the face. I’m not perfect, and these are by no means my own original ideas. I have been taught them, but I had to learn them too. I have become a lot more aware of these things through seeing how people lived in Liberia. I can’t say it is all part of God’s plan because I don’t believe He would ever wish a government to make its people suffer, but I know that miracles can happen and He does want us to come home, maybe bloody, but not unbowed.
- What lessons did you learn from making friends out in the neighborhood? Any experiences I want to remember?
Yes! I learned that sometimes you gotta take initiative. There were loads of friends outside the fence at Bible College just waiting for me to introduce myself, but I was kinda shy and reserved, and jealously missing my friends from the bush. One day my dad and I were coming home from working on water projects and he suggested that I go outside to “make fun” with the girls we saw playing Lappa outside the fence. Despite my reluctance, I went! I am so grateful I did because I was practically dying from boredom and depression inside the fence at the time and so… I made some friends. I met a girl named Faith Anderson who was a sweet soul that needed a caring friend. I’m not saying I was the perfect friend, but maybe I helped her a bit,and she helped me 🙂 She was my age, in first grade, and loved to talk. She was kind, knew how to cook, and had really, really good aim when she threw that old sock full of dirt. I’ll never forget her. I learned courage on the first day I stayed outside the fence. I’m afraid I would have hated Liberia after Zuannah Town because of my loneliness. But I didn’t! I enjoyed the time I spent outside, doing things I’d never done before, and meting some special humans.
LETTER TO SELF-FROM LIBERIAN RUBY TO AMERICAN RUBY
Dear Rubbles, don’t give up! I know it isn’t always your nature, but it is sometimes and I advise you to fight it, even though chances are high that life could get a whole lot harder from here on out. Don’t let small things worry you. Be brave. Be humble. Be kind. Don’t forget about God’s business. Don’t be a shallow knucklehead. Listen keenly to people who know more than you. Treat everybody with the value and respect they deserve to be shown, even when you don’t feel like it. BE GRATEFUL! You don’t deserve anything. Literally. Appreciate people because you never know when they may leave you… or when you may leave them. Be happy as much as possible, and cry when you need to but don’t be fragile. Forget about how you look! The more you think about yourself, the less you think about others. The less you think about others, the less you think about serving them. The less you think about serving others, the more selfish you are. The more selfish you are, the less Christlike you are. The less Christlike you are, the more you are like the devil. The more you are like the devil, the more likely it is that you’ll be headed pretty quickly where he is.
Soooo… quit thinking about yourself. In fact, lose yourself. Stop worrying how you look and how people perceive you. That’s stupid. Don’t be stupid. Got it? Didn’t think so. Read it again. Good. Now, never stop praying. I’ll be praying too. Never let go of what makes you happy! Laughter in righteous happiness is of God! God never intended you to be down in the dumps! Learn as much as you possibly can and stay curious throughout your life.
That’s all I have to say. I won’t wish you luck because you have no need for it. Have fun, Kid!
Thanks for reading, anybody who did! Congratulations if you made it to the end. I know I’m long winded (haha it’s an inherited curse). I dedicate this blog post to Andy and Kayla. I like you guys 🙂