Monthly Archives:June 2017

Post-Liberia Q&A with Ruby

30 Jun 17
Ruby Jones
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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.


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!


Yourself (Ruby)


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 🙂


Post-Liberia Q&A with Charlie

30 Jun 17
Charlie Jones
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Hello. Well, we are back to the United States of America now. I dropped from blogging for many, many months. Actually it wasn’t that many. Only about 6 months. Even though it has only been 6 months, a whole lot of things have happened between about January and today. Even so, I can only talk about a few things. That is why I have decided to talk about the 3 most important topics that have happened to me, which are questions my Old Man asked. Here goes…

  • What do I miss about the small, remote village that we lived in called Zuannah Town?

Well again, I do miss many things but I can only say a few. That is why this paragraph will be fairly short because this topic does not matter as much to me as the other ones do. To start off, I always have really enjoyed Zuannah Town. It had a rather large river named the Poe River. It was about 2 minutes away from the compound in witch we stayed. I recall swimming in it at least 3 times. I only attended it on very hot days, and with either Simon, or Ruby and Ivy. On either side of the river were extremely large, lusciously green trees in witch, if you believe Simon, monkeys live. It fits descriptions of the Amazon River exactly. Except this is not this Amazon River. Anyway, Zuannah Town was a great place to be. I enjoyed our stay there plenty. In conclusion, Zuannah Town was, and is fantastic.

  • What did you learn from your time working in the bush? Any lessons learned or experiences you want to remember?
     Simon and I labored in wilderness, or if you want to say it the African way, the “bush”. Both of us worked on the drilling te-am, as a part of witch we drill for clean water out in little, tiny , very remote villages out in the bush. The farthest one was Nyawusay. It is about 3 and a half hours to get there from where we lived, and the the roads sucked. I mean for an example, there was this thin palm tree bridge over this deep creek. That always gave me the willies whenever we had to cross it. They were all dirt roads with huge water-created craters from it raining in the rainy season, then huge trucks as big as American semis carrying a few thousand of pounds worth of sticks and logs or charcoal. You’ll start to see over time that it just morphs the earth in to, like, moon craters. I remember so vividly getting really carsick on those car trips that we had to have every day to get to work. One time I got so darn carsick and the gas tank in the trunk was left open, not on purpose, and I just felt so sick that I demanded that Simon stop driving and roll down the window. He did as I said and as soon as the window was down I immediately threw my head out the window and vomited. Since then I made sure that I always sat in the middle seat and that the gas tank in the trunk always either was closed or had a blanket over it. After that it never bothered me again. And I was super happy about it. On the drilling team my job was to be the scribe and photographer, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Simon’s job on the drilling team was to be just, like, the strong guy who does the really hard stuff. He’s strong. Well, working on the drilling team was worth while. Other wise I’d just be sitting at home being lazy and worthless. In conclusion, working on the drilling team made me feel full of use, or in other words use-full. I had a good time and Mentor was always like”Wow” if we hit rock. It made me laugh. The food we ate in the villages was good, especially the cassava leaf which was my favorite soup, over white rice. All in all, the drilling team really helped me see what I am and what I can be in this life. (A tear, and a Laugh).
  • How did life change when we moved from the village to the private compound at Bible College? What are your pros and cons about village living vs. private compound living?
     Hi again. This next paragraph is going to be my pros and cons and feelings about moving from village lifestyle to a private compound in Brewerville. Well, to start off, I enjoyed it a lot more. It was a more comfortable place to tan (haha). This is the place I would usually tan: The water tower. Umm, what?  Okay (laughs), where were we? Speaking of water towers, I also enjoyed the fact that there were no more bucket baths. We had running water from our hand-dug well. It didn’t run very fast though because it was just flowing down from the water tower (haha). It was the same temperature as the well water in the village. Also, we had a big fence around the perimeter of this compound. It had a rather large backyard and front yard. The front yard was probably about as big as the back yard. Okay. Back to the topic. We also, uhh…. wait. The house was a lot bigger than “the dome” or “the stinky room” (the library we all four shared the first few months). Well Simon and I shared a room at the house, and Ruby and Ivy shared a room except Ivy slept in my parents’ room. And of course, last but not least, Mom and Dad shared a room.
And there were lizards on the walls! Simon and I, two days before we left, would throw a spray of rocks and try to kill them brutally outside. It was a lot of fun. We only caught three though. Our plan was to catch a big gnarly orange one. But our plan (sniffles) never succeeded. For other entertainment, we had a small TV but we could only run it when the current was on, which was rare, and then we would have to unplug the little fridge. I liked to watch a movie once a week, sometimes. So I read a lot. Very much! It was a boring experience there until the drilling experience was introduced into my life. I owned two little dogs and nourished them and named one Bart and one Barticus (that’s a lie). I like those dogs but we ended up eating them ( this is also a lie, done by Charlie Jones). I did not have any friends in the compound. I was a loner and a rebel. Back to topic! Dang it! Uhhh anyway, I enjoyed the compound more than the village. I was sad when on the last day we were at the compound that we figured out that we could climb the big plum tree. For the months that we were there I always thought that there were ants up there that felt like fire shooting up your hand and through your body when the bit. But if you get bit on your foot it shoots up your kneecap (also a lie by Charlie Jones). Okay no more lies. I can’t think of anything else to say except that there were lots of fruit trees in the backyard. We had avocado and plantain and banana and also mango (plum) tree. We spent a lot of time when we first got there cleaning up trash. The place was a dumpland. To be finished with this paragraph, I like the closed compound more than the village life. Thank you.
  • Please describe how you grew and changed as a person as a result of living in Liberia. Give at least 3 examples.
     This next paragraph is going to be about how I grew and changed as a result of living in Liberia for 9 and a half months. I will provide you with at least 3 examples. Here it goes. Example no.1: Well, I gained a good 6 pounds and grew a rough 2 inches. To explain this example I had a rather large growth spert during the time being in Liberia. I am rather happy about that be-cause… I have always been the shortest person in my class next to my best friend, Hashim Ahmed. I guess you can say that’s why he’s my best friend. My feet also grew a big growth. Even though my dad says that I look a lot different I believe I look the same.
Example no.2: My skin got very tan. Although I  like the look of being tan, it is fading already. The sun is just not as hot or powerful here in Idaho (witch is the place from witch I am writing this). I enjoyed the sun in Liberia. I liked the heat, the humidity. I loved it all very much, not just because I wanted my skin to be darker or in other words more tan, it’s because that’s the kind of environment that I enjoy better.
Example no.3: The ways that I changed spiritually and emotionally are these. I think that being in Liberia helped bring my family closer together and I am quite full of gratitude for that cause. I also think that it helped to bring me and Hossanah closer together. It also helped for me to strengthen my own testimony. I am very happy for the fact that we went to Liberia.
     This is my conclusion paragraph. I conclude what I am about to type. In conclusion, going to West Africa was a fantastic experiance for me. I really did enjoy myself there. I like the country enough that it would not be the end of the world if we had to possibly go again. Thank you for reading this.
                                               Thank you
                                                            Thank you
                                                                        Regards, Charlie Jones

Post-Liberia Q&A with Ivy

29 Jun 17
Ivy Jones
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Hi. Ivy here! I’m going to tell you some of the things I miss most about Zuannah Town. I must continue to write until I have finished answering the questions Andrew Dee Jones wrote out for me.

  1. I miss that place (I wrote “that place” because  Zuannah town is too hard to write). I miss it because….. Because the cooking was really good.
  2. I loved the river too. I love the river because you can go swim in it, and you won’t get eaten by piranhas.

My life changed when we moved from the village to a private compound in Bible College because I had a lot more friends my age to play with (at the orphan home the kids were younger or older than me, but we were still friends). All of my friends at Bible College were really nice to me, except for Tina. But she was like, 25. Angela and Tina were the best Lappa players. Jaqualine was my friend too, but she left. She was very nice, but sometimes she didn’t wear a shirt! And she was a sort of grown up girl.

Lappa is a game you play with three or more people. You split into teams with an equal number on each side. If you just have three people in the game, then two people stand on the side and one person in the middle. That person is trying to line up all of the slippers while the other people on the sides try to throw and hit the person in the middle with a ball that is made from a sock filled with sand and plastic and then tied. If there are five people and you want to split into even teams, one team gets three people and the other team gets two. And the team with two people chooses the best person on the team to play for the last man. If you line up all the shoes and then scatter them, it’s called, “making a game”. If you make a game, then everyone on your team that’s out, can get in again.

So, all in all, I liked living in the private compound in Bible College better.

The way I grew and changed in Liberia….

  1. My dogs really made me happy. They made me laugh. I was the only one who took care of them. One time during a rainstorm, Cosmo was hiding in a corner on the porch. So I took a blanket and covered him so only his head was sticking out. I learned that dogs have a lot of energy and love to play.

The things I learned from making friends in the neighborhood is…..

That Angela is a very naughty girl. But she will always be my best friend there. I also learned that some Liberian kids will set their mind to something and then try really hard to do it, until they know it is impossible. Like, one time… Like, all the time… someone would kick the lappa ball onto the roof. And they really try to get it down until they do.


Post-Liberia Q & A with Simon

29 Jun 17
Simon Jones
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  • What are the things you miss the most about living at the orphanage in Zuannah Town?

The thing I miss the most about the village is the cooking. We had chicken and rice almost every night. I didn’t like it all that much at first, but as the time went on I got used to it and began to like it more and more. Another thing I miss is when me and some of the boys would sometimes go out on the river in the canoe, and sometimes we would jump in and take a swim.

  • What are the things you do not miss at all about living in the village?

I felt like the kids had their own groups that they stayed in most of the time. I wasn’t very outgoing and didn’t try to make friends so I was kinda doing my own thing most of the time. A few of the kids there also were just not very nice. They would laugh at me if my clothes were dirty or didn’t fit right. When I was gone some of them would use my stuff without asking. At one point some would also steal, and sneak out of the compound at night. Even though I know I had some good times, the bad experiences that I had there sort of don’t really let me remember the good memories.

  • How did life change when we moved from the village to the private compound at Bible College?

We went from being in a loud compound in a quiet village to a very quiet compound in a loud city. It was great! We had more privacy, and running water with flushing toilets and showers. For as much as I knew, I thought it was 100% better. But it was boring. It was just us Joneses in the compound, and again I didn’t go out of my way to make friends with any of the neighbors. It was definitely the dullest part of the trip, until the water projects got moving.

  • What are your pros and cons about village life vs. private compound living?

With village living I feel like there were more people my age. Therefore, there was more pressure to act a certain way so I couldn’t really show my true colors; whereas in the private compound, there was no one around except my family so there was no pressure to act a certain way or to do certain things. My siblings and I got pretty close because of that.

  • Describe how you grew and changed as a person as a result of living in Liberia. Give at least three examples.

First, I learned how to work with people that I didn’t get along with. This was a hard one for me because, before this time, if I didn’t like someone I would just stay away from them. But in this situation I couldn’t just stay away from the guy because he was my boss, and we had to share ideas and work with each other. Second, I learned how to be a hard worker while I was working with the drill team. I learned the when stuff gets hard you shouldn’t just quit, even though that’s what a lot of the Librarian’s I met do. Third, I learned how to be a better problem solver. When we would hit rock while using the drill we would have to figure out what to do about it and that could be challenging at times.

  • What did you learn from your time working with the drill team in the villages for 2 1/2 months?

I learned about the layers of the earth and how they affect the work we do. I learned that we Americans are very spoiled with all of our luxuries such as: dishwashers, washers and dryers, air conditioning, a grocery store, and running water.  

All in all, I think that it was a great experience. Thank you.


My daughters, Olympia and The Cuteness

26 Jun 17
Ivy Jones
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Hi. This is Ivy. Today I will be blogging about my dogs, and a few other things. Let’s get started!

I have two dogs. A girl and a boy. The girl is Olympia, and the boy is Cosmo. Well, we’re still thinking about the boy’s name. It’s either Cosmo, The Cuteness, or pup. I bought him with my toothfairy money. He cost five hundred L.D.= five U.S. dollars. He’s so tiny (and fat) (and soft)! And I love them so, so, so, much! That’s why every morning before I do literally anything, I go to greet my best friends. When The Cuteness gets really excited, his tail wags so enthusiastically that his whole entire rear end is wagging too. It’s so funny and cute when he does that! Olympia ran away a couple of times. Last time it was for like three days! But she’s always sitting at the gate waiting for us to open it so she can get in and eat. But last time she ran away, I was sick. And I didn’t go outside for a while. Then I finally realized that I hadn’t seen my dearest, precious, darling daughter for a while. So I went outside to greet my dearest, precious, darling daughter. Man, you should have seen how excited she was to see me! The way she ran towards me and her ears flipped back in the wind and I swear that I saw her smile.

Today I was thinking about our trip to Hawaii. A couple of years ago, we went to Hawaii. I remember snorkeling at the beach. And then I saw a turtle. It was rather big, and then I found a way to get behind it. I distinctly remember reaching my hand out and touching its shell. Just a little bit. It was cool.



Reflections on Liberia: The good and the… good.

23 Jun 17
Kayla Jones
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June 5, 2017

After years and years of preparing and praying that the “right time” would present itself for us to move to Liberia, our nine months of living there have just come to an end. There were times throughout the experience when I felt it may never end! And if you had told me in month five that when our plane would race down the runway and lift off the ground to leave Liberia a few months later, that the tears would uncontrollably stream down my face, sadness consuming my heart, I would have said you were wrong. But now here I sit, on American soil. Liberia is still under my fingernails. I’m still itching bug bites. And people keep asking the question, “How was it?” Well, I’m still processing. I think it will be helpful for me to put some of my thoughts into words, and to share. The good and the bad. It’s worth a try, at least.

There’s a cute family movie I love about a modern-day Noah. In it, there is a scene where “God” is speaking to Noah’s wife, though she doesn’t know it is Him. She is having an emotional battle with what her family is being asked to do. God gives her this to ponder:

God:” Let me ask you something: If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prays for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prays for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

When we embarked on this journey nine months ago, the greatest desire of my heart was that this experience would provide unifying opportunities for us as a family. Had I known at the time how painful these unifying experiences would be, I may have run the other way! Here is a list of physical ailments suffered within just the first 3 months, each delivered with its own special package of pain, inconvenience, expense, and worry of side effects, AND also trust, prayer, faith, and patience:

  1. Andy and Simon: painful, recurring ear infections that cause temporary, partial hearing loss
  2. Ivy, Charlie, and Kayla: severe heat rash
  3. Andy: malaria
  4. Simon: motorbike accident while learning to ride – 17 stitches on his right arm and hand, scarring
  5. Simon: malaria
  6. Ruby: cut right ankle on a rock in the lagoon: worst pain she has ever felt, nerve damage, 4 stitches, scarring
  7. Charlie: infected fire-ant bite on his foot
  8. Andy: venomous spider bite & staph infection on top of right foot – laid up for almost 2 weeks – permanent skin discoloration
  9. Charlie: malaria
  10. Andy: malaria (again)
  11. Simon: 3 infected spider bites on right hand – unable to use for 1 week – hand looked like a baseball glove
  12. Charlie: attacked by orphan home dog: 2 punctures – dog eaten by Haji & Follay
  13. Ruby: lung infection for many weeks, painful coughing
  14. Ivy: attacked by stray dog – 16 stitches on hands and face – dog eaten by Morris’s family
  15. Kayla, Andy, and Charlie: ringworm
  16. Simon: large motorcycle burn on right calf

The next 6 months, things slowed down a bit, but still…..

  1. Andy: while riding motorbike on road, hit by another motorbike driver, suffers minor bumps and road rash; but Kayla, who watched the whole thing, has mini heart attack!
  2. Charlie: malaria (again)
  3. Andy: persistent fungal infection on left foot
  4. Simon: motorbike wreck in the bush – BIG time road rash and burns for him and his passenger, Moses. (If not for helmets… can’t even think about it!), scarring on right knee
  5. Kayla: persistent fungal infection on left ear (evidently Andy should keep his foot away from my ear 🙂
  6. Ruby: motorbike burn on calf


Some mothers may be wondering why in the world we didn’t pack up our bags and get on the first plane out of there! Trust me, I considered it many times. Even Liberian friends were perplexed at our knack for attracting misfortune. But when I reflect on each ailment, how each one clearly could have been so much worse, and then consider what was learned, or gained, it was clear to see that God was teaching us – humbling us, and giving us opportunities to love and to serve each other. I watched my children who, pre-Liberia, had been so distracted and impatient, were now carrying one another through some very tough times – figuratively, and at times, literally.

The things we felt, the sadness we experienced, the prayers we said, are all too much to tell. I’m so grateful I used our friend MK McClintock’s new gratitude journal series throughout this journey. The first half of our trip, having to focus on three good things per day, was a saving grace. The second half, I didn’t have enough room to write ALL of the things I was grateful for each beautiful day. Some of my other blog posts include excerpts from those precious journal entries. The fact is, no one will ever know, outside of our family, the full extent of the frustrations, the love, the heartaches and the comfort we experienced. But I think it is safe to say, that we like ourselves and each other a whole lot more than we did before we left.

Notes to self: Kayla, don’t forget…

  • Andy’s tender tears when NOTHING on this trip was going as planned.
  • …the acoustics of the dome home – listening to the hymn Abide With Me each night during those hard months of December and January – tears wetting my pillow.
  • …witnessing with awe Andy‘s limitless capacity to love and to serve, NEVER thinking of himself.
  • …Gift. My dear, dear friend who loved me and my family so genuinely, and never asked for a thing in return. Remember massaging her hugely swollen, pregnancy feet while having a soul connecting conversation about the wonder of carrying a baby, and the agony and joys of birth. (See photo of me and Gift).
  • …Simon’s “Don’t mess with my sister” instinct after Ivy was attacked by the dog. He, along with our friends the Town Chief and the Imam, cornered it, and Simon did the very hard, very emotional job of making sure no one else got harmed by it. A true boy-to-man experience.
  • …Simon‘s smiles and tenderness with children, which I had never seen before – Snuggling and feeding an orphaned newborn, making Patrick, Josephine and Faith squeal with laughter, and becoming his own sister’s hero and best friend.
  • …Ruby throwing herself wholeheartedly into this Liberian experience. She loved everyone and everything so completely, even during hard times when that love was not reciprocated.
  • …Ruby‘s eager ear, talented tongue, and determination that enabled her to so quickly to pick up and perfectly speak the Liberian pidgin English “Coloqua”, winning the hearts of all she conversed with.
  • …Charlie’s abandonment of fears and anxieties. Walking taller than I’d ever seen him, and being completely free from the worries of what others think.
  • …Charlie tirelessly working with the drilling team alongside Simon, Mentor, Remember, Aaron, and Moses, like a grown man – twelve hour days, 6 days a week, deep in the bush, for 9 weeks – being the record keeper and photographer. He didn’t complain. Not even once.
  • …Ivy playing Lappa and other Liberian yard games all day, every day with her friends and coming home at dusk, covered in dirt with her hair sticking to her face and neck from sweat, and a huge smile on her face.
  • …Ivy‘s incredible love for her dogs, Olympia and Cosmo, which were so therapeutic after her dog attack. She became the best dog owner I’ve ever seen. They were her babies and her best friends.

In short, Liberia got under my skin. Sometimes it itched. Sometimes it ached. At times it was downright painful. But in the end, it soothed and calmed, and mentored. When the time is “right” again, I will definitely be going back.










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