Prov. 3:27 Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God's hand for that person. Don't tell your neighbor, "Maybe some other time," or, "Try me tomorrow," when the money's right there in your pocket.
The ELWA Campus in Paynesville occupies 133 acres and needs a sizeable team to manage the campus’s roads, water system and the generators. A building of cinder blocks on the ELWA campus sat unused because it lacked a roof. In January 2007, the job of the ELWA missionary team was to cut the trusses and put them in place for the support of a new roof for the Administration Building at ELWA.
This was no simple task for the team of American missionaries and their Liberian helpers. Liberian wood is grown deep in the upcountry forest and is strong but very heavy. So, instead of constructing the trusses on the ground and then raising them in place on the roof, these trusses were raised up to the wooden platform used by the men to construct the roof. Over a period of 9 days, the American team of missionaries along with their Liberian counterparts raised the trusses, cut the wood for the support of the roof. Later on their own, the Liberian team placed the zinc roofing material in place. Now this building serves as the Administration Building for the entire ELWA campus and is a showplace for visitors to ELWA.
· Painting sign
The renovation of the ELWA radio entry walls was started in January 2006 by the Thompson siblings group. The walls were dirty, moldy and cracked, in dire need of cleaning, repair and painting after many years of neglect. With the help of some ex-combatants who were in a rehabilitation program, the first paint job of the walls was completed. The second phase took place in January 2007 by the Wheaton team, with a new coat of paint and lettering of the entry walls.
While working on the project, several young boys, including Archie and Emmanuel, came by and volunteered to help. While conversing with the boys, we found out that the reason they were “free” on a school day was because they had no money for school fees, so couldn’t go to school. When the project was completed, Nancy Molenhouse went with them to their schools and paid their fees so that they could start attending school again. This was when Nancy began to realize the desperate need for scholarships for children in the ELWA community, and the idea to start the ELWA scholarship program began.
· Scholarship fund
While working on the ELWA sign painting project in January 2007, several young boys, including Archie and Emmanuel, came by and volunteered to help. In conversing with the boys, we found out that the reason they were “free” on a school day was because they had no money for school fees, so couldn’t go to school. When the project was completed, Nancy Molenhouse went with them to their schools and paid their fees so that they could start attending school again. This was when Nancy began to realize the desperate need for scholarships for children in the ELWA community, and the idea to start the ELWA scholarship program began.
Currently we provide scholarships to 32 deserving students. It costs about $150 a year per student for school fees. Board members review the applications and select students, and the staff at ELWA coordinates with us to disburse the funds to the schools.
· Orphan Outreach
God bless you for giving to the poor. (Isaiah 58:6-12)
We’ve worked closely with Christine Tolbert Norman through her organization REAP (Restoration of Educational Advancement Program) in our orphan outreaches. In 2007 we partnered with REAP in hosting Orphan Joy parties at Phebe Grey orphanage as well as Susie Guenter orphanage. At both parties we shared the love of Jesus through games, gifts, balloon art, stories, and special treats.
With each trip we’ve also brought supplies of clothing, books, calendars, sewing kits, toys, pencils and pens, coloring books and crayons, sports equipment and jerseys, medical supplies, spoons and bowls, and also provide funds for purchasing mattresses. Many of these were donate by friends, neighbors, and organizations like Operation Christmas. As we distributed the materials, Nancy had thrown in an Algebra book, which was eagerly received by a young man. As we continued our distribution, he looked over the book, and we heard him exclaim excitedly, “Polynomials!”
Most of the children are ages 3 on up, because there are no facilities for babies. We were given a donation of a pair of baby shoes, and we were anxious to see how God was going to use this offering. Sure enough, the Pastor’s daughter had a shoe-less baby on her hip. How thrilled the young mom was to have a pair of pink shoes for her son!
When we were deciding where to put the “first in Liberia” merry-go-round well pump on our January 2009 trip, Christine recommended that we do the project at the Susie Guenter orphanage. We took Christine’s advice and the project was a true blessing to Jefferson and Helena Zeon, and their orphanage, Susie Guenter, as well as to those who were involved in doing the project. Not content to provide “just a merry-go-round”, we also built a swing set, a basket ball hoop, and two picnic tables.
Additionally, in January 2009, we hosted an orphan girls retreat for 40 girls and leaders which was held at the Isaac David school in Paynesville. Christine made the arrangements to use
the facility including setting up mattresses in 3 classrooms for the overnight. She also
enlisted the help of several of the Isaac David School teachers to help supervise and cook the meals, and hired 3 security guards to insure everyone’s safety. It was an amazing weekend as Judy Koci taught on the topic “I am special”, and Ellie Kniffin, Nancy Molenhouse, Joelle Koci and Kate Molenhouse taught the girls numerous crafts. Christine closed out the weekend by teaching the girls “Steps to freedom in Christ”.
- The Merry-Go-Round Well at Susie Guenter
Under the leadership of Dave Parker, a team of men designed and built a well that is activated by a merry-go-round. By spinning the merry-go-round in the playground, the children are able to pump water to a nearby water tank for drinking, cleaning and cooking.
The idea of the merry-go-round well has been used in other areas of Africa where the water supply is not plentiful. Even though Liberia receives plentiful supply of water, the long dry season of 5-6 months presents a difficult challenge for many Liberians. Often the only water available in the dry season can be found in local rivers, where the water is often not sanitary. In the urban areas, where a growing portion of the Liberians now live, the wells run dry in the dry season, and water becomes scarce.
The Susie Guenter Orphanage, which is near the ELWA campus and about three miles from ELWA Junction, was an excellent location for the merry-go-round. Jefferson Zeon, the owners of the orphanage, was very helpful to the workers. The Orphanage had one operating well but a second well had gone dry. The Americans relied heavily upon several teams of Liberian workers for this project. The teams included well diggers, cement diggers, welders and carpenters. In addition, local Liberian welders built the water tower and transported the water tower to the orphanage. The welders also constructed and welded the parts of the merry-go-round. The well-digging team determined that the second well was not strong for the merry-go-round well. So, a team of three men dug a new well over the course of three days. Cement culverts were used to form the sidewalls of the well.
Dave Parker and his team of missionaries and local men installed the merry-go-round on top of the well. The engineering and design of the merry-go-round was carried out by Dave with the help of various engineers in South Bend, Indiana and then transported by plane to Liberia. The design and parts had been tested in the States. So, once the well had been dug and the water tower lifted into place, it was a matter of putting together the parts of the well and connecting the pipes to pump the water.
To cap off the project, after Dave Parker and his team left Liberia, Jefferson Zeon and the Liberians laid the pipe for a water line from the water tower to a nearby building so that the Orphanage suddenly had indoor plumbing! We saw photos of the kids at the orphanage taking a shower. Clearly Jefferson and the kids had taken ownership of the merry-go-round and figured out how to employ it for the benefit of the children!
· Orphan retreat
Christine Norman of REAP asked us to plan and facilitate a weekend retreat for between 30 and 40 teenage orphan girls, for it to be to be a time of refreshing, of feeling God’s love, of building self-esteem, and casting a vision for who and what they can be. She also asked that we have a training session with her counselors before the retreat. We designed a weekend that would include 4 teaching sessions (You Are Special, You Are Unique, You Are Loved, taught by Judy, and Steps to Freedom in Christ, taught by Christine Norman of REAP), and several craft sessions, lead by Nancy and Kate Molenhouse, Ellie Kniffin, and Joelle and Judy Koci.
The retreat was held at the Isaac David School in Paynesville, Saturday and Sunday, January 17-18, 2009. There were about 40 girls and leaders that attended. The lessons seemed to be well received. The older girls were taking many notes, and everyone loved our theme song, “He Knows My Name”.
We started our first teaching session a bit after 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, and began by teaching them “SASHET”, an emotional check-in to self-monitor current feelings using the 6 core emotions of “Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, and Tender.” We talked about pretending to be one person on the outside, and another on the inside, and then had them make paper plate “Masks” using cut out magazine images and words, and pens. The girls had come in quietly and shy, but we could see the excitement growing.
We then used lots of scripture talking about God’s unconditional perfect love for them, taking time for them to journal in their notebooks, and meeting in their small groups when there was time. The first session, “You Are Special”, where we also read Max Lucado’s book by the same name, (Each orphanage was given a copy of the book) and used lots of Scripture teaching about God’s unconditional love. We also gave each girl a mirror, and asked her to look at it each in appreciation for how God had made her.
The next session was “You Are Unique”, first having them ink their thumbs and then placing their totally unique fingerprint in their journals. We also talked about finding their “sweet spot”, that place or activity where they felt energized and fulfilled. Though we didn’t have time to talk about it, each counselor got copies of tools to help them teach their girls how to uncover their gifts and talents, and a handout describing vocational jobs fits by motivational gifts. We then had them make “I am Special” buttons, using lots of the craft materials. Such a highlight!
The Sunday morning session was “You Are Loved” and surrounded them figuratively and literally with Scripture illustrating God’s love for them. We talked about salvation, and how we are transformed, using the butterfly illustration, and then had them make “Luverflys”, butterflies made out of fun foam hearts. We had a time of testimony and singing, and then had the girls use some sewing skills by decorating fabric bags with buttons, lace, ribbons etc. The final session was "Steps to Freedom in Christ", taught enthusiastically and effectively by Christine.
Alice Scott and her team were incredible with the delicious food and care for the young women spending the night. I also appreciated how she and Maybelline entered enthusiastically in all our sessions and crafts. By the end of the weekend, the shy quiet girls were chattering, hugging, singing, praying, crafting, getting pictures taken – it was an awesome, only-God weekend.
THINGS TO DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME:
· Try to have the girls arrive close to the same time
· Name Tags on all, in dark sharpie, and we needed to do a better job keeping track of who came
· Keep the age groups to teens on up
· Have a meeting with the counselors before the weekend
· Alice and her team were incredible! The food was wonderful, and the girls’ sleeping and bathing arrangements seemed to work well.
· Our team worked together very well – our gift sets meshed effectively
· Our supporters at home were praying and donated wonderful gifts that made the girls feel special
· Colorful bags with a journal, pen, flashlight
· SASHET bookmarks
· Who am I in Christ bookmarks
· Laminated verses
· “Mask” activity
· Finger knitting
· Pipe cleaners
· “I Am Special” button with photo
· Sewing and decorating bags
GIRLS RETREAT ATTENDEES
· My Brother’s Keeper – 7
· Calvary Orphanage – 7
· Alfred Agnes – 4
· Phoebe Grey – 13
· Susie Guenter – 6
· Alice Scott and Maybelline
Total 39 attendees
Thanks for entrusting us with the opportunity to do this. It was an enormous blessing to us all!
SOME PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS….
Alice Scott – Teacher at Isaac David School where we had our retreat
Alice was our hostess, mistress of all the logistics involving bathing, feeding and sleeping 37 girls, and she ran a tight ship, always with a smile. She joined us for all the sessions, and lapped up the teaching, training and crafts. She was so eager to learn new ways to communicate and inspire creativity with her students! She and Maybelline, the other teacher, made the “I am Special” button, created with collages, pipe cleaners, sewing bags, and kept asking for more. She truly deserved one of the “DEW – Developing Exceptional Women” bags!
Maybelline Hopkins – is the 3rd grade teacher at the Isaac David School, another “Exceptional Woman”. She would really like training in phonics so she could more confidently teach her children. She was so eager to learn crafts and teaching techniques, and we loaded her up with leftover craft supplies. While we were talking about the lesson and the orphans needing love, and God keeping our tears in a bottle, and she whispered, “You know, I’m orphan too…
Psalms 56:8 (NLT)
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book
27 year old teacher, chaperone of Suzie Guenter Orphanage girls, my sister. I took one look at her and I know she must be Helene and Jefferson’s daughter. I asked several students if they could tell me any African stories, and she spent almost an hour writing out a Spider story. We’ve already exchanged e-mails. We’ve also become Facebook friends, and she told me that she’s already shared some of our first lesson with her students, resulting in great discussion! I sent her a copy of my notes, and she will let me know when she needs the next installment. We have an instant, life-long connection that can only be of God.
Mary Dennis –
Mary, the Phoebe Gray Orphanage chaperone for the retreat, and I had a great conversation at lunch. She’s had her share of heartache too. Two years ago, one of the orphans, a twin girl, whom she had raised as her own, died of malaria. Compounding her grief, the government came and took away the little girl’s brother as well. Her own children have left and are far from the Lord while she cares for other children, fully comprehending the irony. We shared our struggles with our children and wept and exchanged embraces.
· Project Hannah retreat
The day before we left Liberia in January of 2009, we met with the Project Hannah women. This is a global prayer ministry, concerned with the plight of women, and sponsored by Trans World Radio. They also try to teach them how to cope with daily challenges, bringing them hope. This year they are praying for the sex slaves around the world. We’re talking about serious pray-ers! Christine Norman oversees the group, consisting of between 20 – 50 unemployed widows, some young, educated with young children, some old women, some of them country women with no schooling, and everything in-between. These women come from many churches where many of them lead women’s small groups. Christine also tries to teach them life skills that can be translated into micro-business opportunities. Her brief to us for their monthly meeting was to teach on prayer (What could I teach them???), and include a craft.
We had about 50 women come. I taught 10 key principles and Bible promises for powerful and effective prayer, and I was amazed at the hunger for teaching. Those who could write furiously jotted notes, and I slowed my pace so that each verse and principle could be copied. I had much more to teach about attitudes and hindrances to prayer, but I followed the Holy Spirit’s promptings to share more personally. The room was silent, heads were nodding, and tears formed in eyes as I shared my struggle with disappointment with God and unanswered prayer, deep depression, leaving my faith for a year only to return, convinced I could not live another moment without God. Miraculous answered prayer, struggles with wandering children –it all deeply resonated with each woman. Living in that black hole for so long, I never would have imagined that God would redeem my story to encourage these dear, courageous women. But that’s our God!
Then I also shared some creative ideas for prayer: PRAY (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield), A Five Finger Model of Prayer (Thumb: Those furthest away – missionaries, persecuted Christians, friends and families overseas, 1st finger: Those people who lead and guide us, pointing the way (ministers, teachers etc.),2nd finger: The strongest finger – those people with power and responsibility (governments etc.),Ring finger: Those people we love – family, friends, Little finger: Those who are ill, weak, infirm, old, poor, helpless, Whole hand: Pray for yourself finally, offering your hands to God to serve Him as praying and serving hands for all the people you meet.), Praying in sand (writing down sins, and erasing them), musical prayers, praying through sketches, etc.
Again, the pencils were flying, and many, many asked me for copies of my notes. I prayed for them and the handed each of them Pray Magazine bookmarks: Personal Prayers from Colossians, Scriptural Blessings to Pray for Your Children, Biblical Virtues to pray for your kids. And Ellie, Nancy and I sang for them the song we had taught at our weekend girls retreat, “He Knows My Name”…
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee….
He Knows My Name (Tommy Walker)
Happy, thankful women love their gifts! Thank you Donna Fanning , Diane Raupp, Cecelia Whitacre, and Jeanne Malnati!
Then we handed out the t-shirts from Jeanne Malnati, shirts emblazoned with “DEW, Developing Exceptional Women”. Oh my! The cheers, oohs and ahs, smiles and thanks then exploded into dancing and song. “Jesus wastes” they sang and danced. What? Jesus wastes??? It evidently means that Jesus “wastes” or pours out his blessings on them, that they are not worthy of his blessings. Even without a video camera, I’ll never forget that image!
What a way to live, in the “God-Zone”! Following promptings to teach, share, give, embrace, listen, pray, not knowing how but trusting that each obedient arrow would hit its mark. It’s a God thing – YEAH GOD!
The day we left, Helen came as she had promised the day before that the Project Hannah meeting. She told me about her three children, how her husband had worked at the hospital and they had been a long time part of the ELWA community. Then she told, tears in her eyes, how during the war her husband, father and little sister were snatched and executed in front of the rest of the family. How she misses him, and how difficult it is to support herself and her children! Then she talked about her small group she leads, and about how many are struggling with wayward teens. Next time I come I will talk about parenting teens (Thanks Jeanne!) Again, she had no Bible; she too had trouble with her eyes. We got her a Bible, and Ellie gave her the pair of reading glasses she owned. Helen used to be a seamstress, so we gave her our left over material, some needles and thread and a scissors, a pattern-making kit. I gave her a couple of Bible Study books, and some devotionals, and then we had a sweet time of prayer. Helen, you remain in my heart – I’ll see you and your small group next visit!