Saturday, December 9, 2006

GLUE STICKS & 'NO WAY' MOTORS - early July, 2006

The Spectacular Freetown Coast

Tonight is warm and humid & Aaron and I have been enjoying a relatively peaceful day in Kabala following the whirlwind tour of Ghana and Sierra Leone with my folks and the Carpenters. Disco music from town is pulsing its way up the hill to the little round house, competing with the crickets and frogs for dominance in the soundscape (not sure if that is a real word or not…) I didn’t feel the personal connection to Ghana that I do to SL, but our time there was rewarding. The Acrofi Christaller Institute in Agropong was encouraging to become acquainted with. Joel’s friend Dr. Bediako, one of the foremost theologians in Africa, exuded wisdom and positive vision. We became acquainted with a Ghanaian Bible institute and Ghana Fellowship of Evangelical Students. It’s our hope that some degree of connection and relationship can be established between some of these organizations (and a few others that we met up with in Sierra Leone) and the emerging churches in the north of SL – that will strengthen each.

Adventure began in a whole new way as we were forced to abandon our plans to take the hovercraft (not working) into Freetown from the airport. Instead, we were corralled onto an ancient and decrepit helicopter that swayed with the weight of twice the amount of people as it was licensed to hold… the operators told us not to worry – everyone would get on - as they loaded up the aisle with luggage and piled a few more people on top of suitcases. Joel Carpenter’s seat on top of a box practically spilling into the cockpit was particularly unconventional, but I was feeling enough thrill noting that my seatbelt didn’t clasp and the whole machine shook as it flew just 300 feet from the ground… night air coming in the open windows. I’m not going to bother giving a whole summary or narrative of the time here – but I’ll share a few stories:

Freetown is in a bit of a furor due to lack of water. As this is ‘rainy’ season, this is particularly troublesome. All of the water (for a city of 1.2 million) comes down in a pipe from the Guma Valley Reservoir, about 45 minutes drive south of the city. The problem isn’t lack of rain (this I can verify!) it’s incessant cutting of the supposedly protected Guma Forest Reserve that surrounds the reservoir. One of the latest big culprits is the new construction of a US Embassy for which all of a mountainside has been clear cut, and which has triggered the cutting, clearing, etc. of another major chunk of the reserve. Without the forest to hold and regulate the retention of water, the reservoir just can’t serve the large and growing population in Freetown… and there aren’t any other particularly viable alternatives. The other issue is, of course, the growing population of the city. It tripled over the course of the war (’92-’02) with little infrastructure development to support it – in truth, major infrastructure regression.
At many points along the road, we’ve all been enjoying both God’s creation and man’s creativity. The naming of businesses has become much too bland in the US. We’re wondering how some of these gems might go over:

In God All Things Are Possible Beauty Salon
Hot Sweet & Jumpy Relaxation Spot
No Way Motors
In God’s Time Auto Repair
Peculiar Child Day Care

Kabala’s Adult Women’s Literacy Class - this class is comprised of 10 women who are community leaders, but who never have received a formal education. Jo Kuivenhoven, from Canada, has been leading it, and she is tremendous. She is working on some really exciting education and literacy projects (more later).

Class began with a meditation from John: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ So… the obvious question was asked – what in the heck is it supposed to mean that ‘Word’ = ‘God’. Without missing a beat, the women came up with the notions of the ‘power’ of words, the ‘bridge’ that they build the ‘understanding’ that they create.

A discussion began regarding why these women wanted to learn to read – and the list emerged quickly… some reasons profound, some practical. A women pulled out a glue stick that had for some reason been put in her school packet and described the length she had gone to try to figure out what it was. Was it deodorant? Chapstick? Perfume or something with a scent? Being able to read would have short circuited much experimentation.

Aaron & I are currently joined in Kabala by Jo K. and Dennis & Jenny DeGroot. Dennis is the principle of Frasier Valley Christian School in Canada. I don’t know where to begin with describing how impressed I am with the innovative thinking of this group. Start ‘Googling’ “Frasier Valley” and “Christian Extension Services” and you will probably come up with some further details… Frasier Valley began a building project for the school over two years ago, and Dennis helped guide the institution towards a decision that has built in a ‘tithe’ of 10% of the capitol campaign to go towards the building of a school in Kabala, and the training and sustaining of it’s teachers and teaching resources. Jo is working with one of SL’s teaching colleges to pilot new techniques of teaching literacy in areas where there are limited resources and much of the research will be done at this school. She is working on a further grant to sustain the activity of college level research internships with this project. Two students are likely to come this fall, but Jo is tearing her hair out waiting to hear the final word on whether the grant has been received.
In any case, Dennis claims that the fundraising for their school addition has been tremendously energized by the tithe to the school in Kabala, and that people are perhaps more excited by the ongoing news of the developments of what is happening here than the addition in Canada (though it was much needed). I’d love to think that this could in some way become a model for capitol campaigns of churches and schools elsewhere in Canada and the US… though I know the challenges.

Thus far, schools in Kabala are OK, far better than the villages, but not adequate to prepare a student for any further education. It is tremendously exciting and a relief to think of the impact that this project may have on opportunities for many of the children that I have become acquainted with here. So far, about $80,000 has been raised, and only about $25,000 is needed for the physical infrastructure of the school, so a good portion of it will go towards the ‘human resource’ development of the teachers and the ongoing sustenance of the program. This has been a big problem with other ‘development’ projects. All over one sees clinics – with no trained doctors, and no good medicine. Dennis is trying to figure out a way to allocate a small percentage of the annual school operating budget towards the continuing support and relationship with this school. We hope that it will be open for next school year.

Having my parents come to visit was really neat. I’m sure that they are returning with many thoughts and stories to tell, so I won’t try to pre-empt that. My mom survived remarkably well despite lost luggage and we’ve all grown fond of the green dress that she bought in Ghana… though she probably won’t be wearing it again for a couple of weeks at least.

Aaron and I are now making plans for the next research expedition into the ‘bush’. I’m kicking myself because with all of my meticulous packing, I managed to pack TWO LEFT BOOTS (of my two different pairs) when packing up the suitcase to come, and we couldn’t find a pair that fit in the used shoe market in Freetown, so are having to get one shipped. Though very interested in Aaron’s research, and well, probably more accurately, being with Aaron… I’m a bit intimidated by the prospect of hiking 30 miles into the ‘bush’ with no camp set up in the middle of rainy season – especially as his SL friends (all men) talk about past expeditions in a way that makes them sound positively grueling. I’m assured that the pacing could be done a little differently – though I wouldn’t want to really slow things down. So pray for us, as this is a bit of a challenge to figure out. We only have about a month more to be together before what is likely to be another couple months of separation.

Grace, peace and love to all,
Emily (and Aaron too)

1 comment:

Neil said...

Hello, Emily and Aaron!

I enjoy reading of your adventures and work.

I wonder...During your time among the Kuranko were yo able to observe any Gbanbe (Gbangbami) rituals, masquerades, Sacred Bush (Komebon) or the young initiates? Or was this kept hidden from you?

I wonder what impact the recent conflicts in the region has had on native religion, conversion to Christianity and Islam, displacement of families and population movements into and out of Guinea and Liberia.

Be well,