Travel Diary 9 & 10: Third World Challenges

Hi Everyone,

This is a Monday-Tuesday report and I have to admit that it is hard right now to stay objective and unemotional. It has been a hard two days compared to the rest of this trip and most recent trips. There has been some positive and that needs to be the emphasis but it’s difficult to see through the good through the cloud of challenges.

A subtheme might be: Wimpy Western Spoiled Snowflake Deals with Challenges in Liberia.

MONDAY

Monday was travel day. Fly from Nairobi to Monrovia, Liberia, arrive at 5:40pm, get to my room to rest by maybe 7 or 7:30 and prepare for Tuesday. NOT. Up at 6:30 in Nairobi, 3:30am in Liberia. The flight was initially delayed 50 mins from a noon departure to 12:50. Then a passenger that had checked in didn’t board the plane which means the luggage is removed and that added to the delay another 30 mins or so. Then a 5 hour slight to Ghana to drop off passengers and pick up some, and refuel. We were in the plane an hour waiting for all of this. Then another 2 hour flight. Then immigration, etc. Then there was a 2 ½ hour ride to the hotel where I am staying and it was no super highway. It was mostly bumper to bumper, slow moving cars and motorcycles on mostly, bumpy dirt roads. All in all I spent 9 hours on the plane sitting and flying, and another 2 ½ hours in a car. I was out of bed for 22 hours before I finally settled in for Monday night. 

To add to the challenge, the hotel has a bar and there is loud, raucous music pounding into the night to the wee hours of the morning.

And the advertised internet was unusable until about midnight. But at midnight I was able to get online for a while, check email, even call my wife over WIFI, which was nice.

That was Monday.

TUESDAY 

Up at 7, breakfast at 8, off to our meeting at 9. Our activity of the day was to speak to a youth group (post high school) and answer their questions about Christianity. I know some of you were praying that I would not stick my foot in my mouth when answering questions. Thanks, I don’t think I did.

The session was well attended by the end. I answered questions for nearly three hours but honestly, most of the questions asked were relatively unimportant in the big scheme of things; at least from my perspective. Here are some of the questions. I won’t time and space to give you the answers I proposed. I was as interested in helping them reason through the answer as much or more than providing an answer.

  • Where was God when He created the heavens and the earth?
  • If God’s throne is in heaven, how can He be outside of heaven?
  • Why does God give more talents to one person than another (it was in reference to Jesus’ parable of the talents)?
  • If Jesus is the Son of God, who is God?
  • What happens to the soul of an individual when they die?
  • If heaven is a perfect place already, why did Jesus say I go to prepare a place for you?
  • Were Adam and Eve married? How?

I will comment on this one. I asked them to define “marriage.” And they did a pretty good job and just about everyone who answered said “a man and a woman….” I complimented them for making that distinction, i.e. a man and a woman. Then I told them about our Supreme Court defining marriage as just about any two people who want to get married even if they are the “same sex.”

  • Why did Adam have to be asleep when God created Eve from Adam’s side?
  • Did Adam and Eve live together before they were married?
  • Why are we supposed to pray if God provides for unbelievers who do not pray?
  • Are all sins the same?

I used the last 15 minutes to get them thinking about how we find the meaning and purpose of life and how we communicate such things to unbelievers. I told them about the questions I’ve been asked recently like, “Why doesn’t God stop the war in Cameroon?” “Why did God allow the genocide in Rwanda in 1994?” “Why are Christians so poor?” And I tried to challenge them to be able to answer questions like these.

Potential for much more 

But it was not in vain. I met the leader (overseer) of 21 churches in Monrovia. When I told him about our philosophy of ministry, our training, and what we want pastors to know, be, and do when they finish with us, he seemed very encouraged and I am sure he wants to work with us. 

I also met the lead pastor of the big church we met in and that many of the youth attending our meeting came from. He is a recognized leader in the community and has a positive relationship with neighboring Muslims and even those who run the elections. His church is a polling center.

He has a big vision and he is eager to work with us and that may mean eventually setting up an ITEM resource center for people to come and study. We talked about the possibility of one day helping them set up an internet center where pastors could come and study online.

The church has a leading school and want to build a medical clinic. Holistic Ministries are common here or are a common objective to where a church is ministering to the whole person. (See the photos).

So, even though the questions were not that significant, it was a beginning and I met some local leadership and they had a chance to get to know me and ITEM.

BACK TO THE ORGANIZED CHAOS

After almost 4 hours we left for lunch, managing the packed and noisy street sand went to a restaurant with very loud music blaring. The prices were through the roof (see picture of pizza prices in the album). 

We made our way back towards the hotel by way of more mostly bumpy, dirt roads. We stopped so I could get a few snacks for my room and the variety was slim and the prices, again, sky high. I mean SKY HIGH. A couple of ounces of peanuts cost nearly $5. And then I got back to my room and the internet worked briefly and went dead all together. (Editorial note: About 3 hours later -just now- it was fixed by one of the young hotel guys who evidently knows how it works around here.)

I’ve complained enough so I’ll stop. I am a spoiled westerner!

I HONESTLY DIDN’T SEE IT COMING

I have been here before, but I am seeing things and experiencing things I didn’t before when I was here or did but forgot. The chaotic appearance of the streets. I say appearance because to them I am sure it is business as usual. Cars and motorcycles going in all directions at once. Taxis parked in the middle of the one lane road. “Businesses” set up under umbrellas, lining both sides of the streets with shoppers and sellers everywhere. Getting anywhere takes a long time because you have to slowly drive through the swarm of people, cars, and motorcycles. This has reminded me a lot of Kinshasa, the capital of the Dem Rep of the Congo. But Kinshasa is a very large city. Monrovia doesn’t have the population but has the same swarm of people, small businesses, and vehicles, moving here and there, shoulder to shoulder, bumping into each other, moving around each other, etc, while in the background is blaring music coming from somewhere.  

As I end this report, it is 8:45pm. I can hear the music blasting away downstairs in the bar. Even with the AC on full blast, it is 75 degrees in my room.

But it’s not about me. It’s about the Lord and the Liberians who need Him, and the Christian leaders who are form partnerships that will better equip pastors to shepherd their churches, equip individuals to answer the questions about Christianity being asked by non Christians.

TOMORROW, WEDNESDAY

I meet with our team tomorrow. We’ll discuss where the ministry in Liberia stands and where it needs to go next. After that, I’ll get packed up and prepare to leave for home on Thursday at dinner time. I head back to Accra, Ghana on Kenya airways then jump on a KLM flight to Amsterdam then a Delta flight to Portland on Friday morning.

Pray for what got started today, for the relationships that were built with the leader of the 21churches and the lead pastor of the church we met at today.

Thanks!

By His grace,
Steve

Many new photos of live in Monrovia. CLICK HERE.

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