Back home in the USA.
I shall endeavor to complete the chronicle of my journey. I have experienced much since I last wrote.
Our taxi drive through Freetown on November 21st was quite an ordeal. The traffic is not what one could call “organized.” Our vehicle sideswiped cars twice, and the police finally stopped us at a round-about. We four white people stayed in the van while our escorts “discussed” the situation with the police. It was a heated discussion, and the driver ended up having his license temporarily taken away to ensure that he would return after delivering us to our destination. Unfortunately, I forgot to look at the side of the van that had been damaged.
We stopped at a market in Freetown. Agnes asked a random lady to be our guide. She did an incredible job helping us find shops and bargain for the goods. It was interesting to find myself becoming more comfortable with bargaining. I ended up finding some gifts for my family and for supporters. We were glad to find genuine Sierra Leonean memorabilia as we hadn’t been able to do so in Bo.
We arrived at the ferry some time before the ride was scheduled, so ate a lunch that the ladies in Bo had packed for us. The owner of the nice restaurant establishment where we ate apparently knew Gregory and treated us all to drinks. I got some great pictures from the second level looking out over the ocean. The greatest shot I got was probably of a man hanging laundry out on the barbed wire to dry. Such a sight is so unknown at home.
A few of us went down to the water. When I saw the beach, I decided to not take off my shoes. Some older boys came up to Carey Jo and me. Though they were trying to be friendly, I could sense that they most likely had the normal expectations of foreigners like us — financial help. I did get a picture of one of them, which I was happy about since I’d hardly gotten any posed shots of Sierra Leonean men.
Some of us got our shoes cleaned by a very amiable shoe-cleaner on the ferry. He was happy about me taking his picture so that I could publicize his excellent service. Too bad I can’t really help him get more business. I spent most of the ferry ride taking pictures of the sunset over Freetown.
We spent the night at the guesthouse we had stayed in the first night in Sierra Leone. After our dinner and impromptu debriefing time, Lori and I talked late into the night in our room. At one point I was sitting on the floor scratching my foot. Finally I realized that I was scratching off skin, and it started to burn. Whether I had gotten a bug bite to provoke the scratching or not is something I’ll never know, but I still have a scar on my foot. The next day it was red and oozing. It’s hard to imagine that my scratching was the only cause of the wound. I like to think I might have had an encounter with a champion bug, but that probably was not the case.
The next morning, we drove to the Banguras home. The road had been leveled, so the ride was very pleasant, lasting 5 minutes instead of the previous 15-20. One of their church members (Sole) and her cousin (Havas) were kind enough to accompany Patty and me as we wanted to get a few more things. Without their help I don’t know how we would have managed. I probably would not have tried to get the inexpensive eye medicine that my dad had requested. At one point we were waiting for Havas to come back as he had agreed to get my money exchanged into smaller bills. We three ladies were approached by a man who promptly started talking with Patty. When we finally decided to leave the area, our escort said there was something not right with him. It was a bit scary.
We rode Okadas to the land that Gregory has purchased to use for his training campus. As resources permit, bricks are being constructed out of cement. The location is surrounded by palm trees which make it beautiful indeed. The stories Gregory told of God’s provision of the land and resources spoke of the amazing power of the Lord to provide.
At the Banguras’ home that day, we worked on the primers. Word control was continued and the meanings of words were clarified. One lady who helps the Banguras knows Mende, so she was able to help with the Mende lessons while Gregory helped with the Themne. Mid-afternoon, we headed back to the guesthouse to retrieve our luggage and check it in at the airport. Our flight was the only one scheduled for the day, and there was only one place to check-in. Never have I been in such a tiny airport. We were treated very well. We got our passports stamped so that we wouldn’t have to take the time for it later. After checking in, we headed back to the Banguras. Agnes had a delicious meal prepared for us. Since the water had been off at the guesthouse, the Banguras allowed those of us who so wished to use their shower. It felt good to be sweat-free for a little bit. In the early evening, we hugged Agnes goodbye and headed off to the airport. I had to leave my swiss army knife with her since I had forgotten to place it in my check-in luggage. Agnes was thrilled. But she was sad to see us go. It was sad to say goodbye, but should the Lord tarry we will meet again.
Security at the airport was airport staff searching our luggage. I saw no high-tech devices anywhere. We spent the next short while in the lounge and enjoyed our last Sierra Leonean cokes. The plane arrived. And then we were among the large crowd heading out the doors to the open night-time air outside. More airport staff at a large table outside searched our baggage again. And then we walked to the plane. It was still ~86 degrees, and I looked up at the Sierra Leonean stars, moon, and sky for the last time.
I have now been back in the West for 5 weeks and have readjusted quite well to reliable electricity and hot running water. Sometimes I still have flashbacks. When I drove again for the second time here, I thought about the motorcycle rides–enjoying the breeze as a relief from the heat, closing my eyes to keep out the dust, and people staring as I rode past. I had to remind myself a couple of times that I no longer had to hold my bag really close in front of me when walking past other people in town and that I could indeed use the water in the sink to clean my retainer and brush my teeth. I realized today that my computer cord is still stained from the weeks of being strung across the dusty cement floor of the training center room. And though I am enjoying all the conveniences of life here, I would leave it all in a second. I would go back to that land far away in a heart-beat if the Lord opened the door and led me through it again.
It was an immense privilege to participate in the proclamation of the gospel in Sierra Leone by preparing materials for the people to learn to read God’s Word. I will forever be grateful for that time.