Update from Andrew in the usual wordy form. I am adding a few pictures to break up the monotony.
TRS- As of July our children’s home was at capacity and the landlord decided to double our rent so Quami and I headed out in search of a new facility. This was quite a challenge as not many facilities in Sierra Leone are built with 100+ children in mind. We looked at about 25 properties and finally settled on one 2 miles from our house. It is a wonderful place for the kids. There are 4 buildings that are apartment style, a main meeting hall, medical clinic, skyping rooms, office space, guest house on site, room for the kids to play, and most importantly room to bring in more children. We left the old facility with 96 children and are now up to 128 children.
It is one of the most amazing things to witness the transformation of these children. They come through our gates dirty and broken and within a few weeks are getting healthier physically, acting like children again, and worshiping their Savior with all their heart each day. Our social department handles our intakes, so I am not very involved in the actual process, but the other day I was able to witness the best part of a new intake, in my opinion. There are a couple of boys who lived around our old facility. They didn’t go to school because they spent their days selling items on the streets to bring home a dollar or two to their family. These boys were extremely poor. They started coming to the TRS church on Sundays and I started to get to know them a little better. We desired for them to come into the center, but at the time there just wasn’t any more room. Once we got our new facility our social department was able to complete their case and bring them to the center. I am updated on all our pending cases so I know what kids are coming in so I knew that Santigie and Peter were headed our way soon, but I didn’t know the actual day. Well, I was leaving the office one day and happened to come out of the building at the exact point when these 2 boys walked in through the gate. Of course, I just had to stop and watch. These boys came in with worn, torn, and dirty clothes with a small bag over their shoulder containing all their worldly possessions. It was one of those moments when it seemed like life just went into slow motion. They stepped through the gates looking a little alarmed, get very wide-eyed as they looked at our new building and all the kids, and they busted out in huge smiles. You could almost see the burden fall from their shoulders as they realized they didn’t have to sell any more, that they didn’t have to survive life on the streets, that they now could let others care for them instead of raising themselves, and that they now were part of the family they longed for at our old facility. It was really special and I will always remember that moment. It was a tough day at the office and witnessing that moment before I got in my car really put things into perspective for me. I pray that they will come to know their Savior soon.
Something that has been really tough for us lately is the fact that we have open beds at our center. Why is this tough? It sure sounds like a wonderful thing and for the most part it is. The tough part is when it is left to you and your management team to determine who is the “most desperate”. The problem is that we could fill those beds in 1 day with so much need here in Sierra Leone, but TRS has a desire to help those who have no options, those who are the most exploited, most abused, most cast off, the most desperate. How do you choose? That question has left me staring out my window many times. I am thankful for the men who stand beside me and help answer this question. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Part of me is thankful that the choice is even in front of us because it means that another child will be rescued, but part of me wishes I would never have to answer this question. Who is the most desperate when they are ALL desperate? How do I answer this question when I don’t really know what desperate is? We had a young woman who made a mistake and got pregnant. She ran away to Freetown from her village driven by shame. She lied to a lady in the community just to get a room in which to sleep. She had her baby in the depths of poverty. In those most crucial days for the child to get milk from its mother she contracted cholera from the epidemic going around Sierra Leone and was told that she should not breastfeed. The lady giving her the room found out about the lie and kicked her out. She was walking the streets with a new baby, nowhere to go, no food, no money, and no ability to feed her child who is crying out to her in hunger. That is desperate. We are told about her through a friend. Our social workers brought her to the office to talk with her about her story. She ran away and left the baby to us. The baby had nothing to eat or drink but dirty water for many days and was near starvation. The baby is doing well now and in the hand of loving caregivers at TRS. That baby was desperate, and her mama was desperate. I have learned that I really don’t know anything about being desperate. This is a different level than I have ever had to deal with, but I am still required to help answer the question. Lord, bring us the most desperate and help us be wise.
Church/Discipleship class- I wanted to take a second and tell you about the TRS church and a class we call the Discipleship class. The TRS church meets every Sunday in the main assembly hall at our children’s home. It is open to TRS kids, staff, and the community. It is a joy to see these once desperate kids worshiping their Savior. It is a joy to see former Muslim community members have their eyes opened to the truth. It is a joy to see these same community members choose to express their devotion to Christ through baptism despite major persecution from their family. It is a joy to see the children grow in Christ and their relationship with Him deepen. He makes all things new. Discipleship class meets right after church. This class is a time for some of the older kids and community members to dig deeper into God’s word, discuss, ask the tough questions, and learn what it means to be a follower of Christ. I was struck at the beauty of this class a few weeks back when I looked around at the ones in attendance. The class was made up of mature believers, non-believers, young adults who are new believers, new believers who used to be Muslims, former Muslims who face great persecution from their families, and curious Muslims who want to know more about this Jesus Christ guy. All members learning how to follow Christ and Jesus was changing hearts on many different levels; it was beautiful to behold.
Albert- I want to take a second and brag on my son Albert. This kid has the biggest heart. I am continually amazed at his awareness and concern for others. I want to tell you a story about him. While Heather was in the states with Levi and Ivey for medical care the rest of us visited another church here in town for a birthday celebration. During part of the celebration they were raising money for the church by selling candy via auction style. I gave Albert enough leones to go by 3 pieces of candy so each of my kids could have one. He came back and gave John one, gave Isatu one, and then sat down with his own. I waited for him to eat it but he just kept looking at it. I wondered what was going through his head as he stared at the candy and rolled it around in his hand. I thought for sure he would eat it since it was chocolate, a rare treat. After about 15 seconds he leans past me and hands his candy to a lady sitting 2 seats down from me. I was really startled that he would give the candy away until I took a closer look at the woman. Even though she had her “Sunday best” on you could tell that this older woman was REALLY poor. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even notice her other than to acknowledge that an older lady sat down near me, but Albert noticed. He noticed her clothes, he noticed that she did not get up and go to the offering plate, and he noticed that she did not have any money for candy. So he gave her his. I was beaming with pride over this boy. Such a small gesture, but the look on the lady’s face as she popped that candy into her mouth was priceless. He is always doing things like this. We can barely keep him clothed because any time he gets a new shirt he wants to give his old one to an orphan friend of his who lives nearby. Any time he has anything extra he wants to give it away to someone in need. God has big plans for this kid, I just know it.
Container- We finally got our container after living here for 10 months. Oh wow, were we excited. Not only were we super pumped about getting big items like our table, but we were equally excited to get some small things like books, hangers, tools, and school supplies. What we did not expect was the amount of awesome things sent by our friends and family. My sister loaded up our kids with 5 boogie boards, a friend tossed in some bikes, and we have enough peanut butter/mac n cheese to last several years.
God’s living word- There is a young boy that lives near us that has become close to our family. He is an orphan and has a very tough past. He has been attending church with us and has recently given his life to Christ. He has been studying about baptism as he prepares to publicly declare his allegiance to the King. Recently he came up to me after church to ask about a particular verse. It was: John 14:17-19
New International Version (NIV)
17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
He asked specifically about the word orphan. God’s word is living and active. As I explained the verse to him he got a big smile on his face so I shared some other verses with him about our God being a father to the fatherless. This boy is finally finding hope again. That’s the good stuff.
Land Development- Over the last several months I have taken on a more in-depth role with the development of the TRS children’s village. There are 100 acres of land in the Moyamba District that we are developing into a children’s village that will be able to house 400 children, provide nursery, primary, secondary, and a vocational school for over 1000 students, provide a medical facility for the surrounding villages, open a church building for the kids and the community, and have a 45 acre cash crop farm to increase self-sufficiency. We have currently been able to clear 60% of the land, open the access road, finish the warehouse, complete the brick making facility, and start producing bricks for our main buildings. Soon we will drill 2 bore-hole wells and start construction of the guest house and school. We overlook this undeveloped land and dream about the hills being filled with praises to the King in 2 year’s time. Many will come to know their Papa God through this village. May his Name be praised!
We visited a nearby village so some friends of ours could treat a man with a wounded foot. Albert really liked visiting with the kids and asks to go back frequently. It is a Mende village. I can speak passable Krio, but I know almost zero Mende. Albert grew up in a Mende village and when we got back in the car Albert smiled and said, “Dad, I could understand them. I forgot how to talk, but I know what the kids were saying to me.” Big plans in the future for this kid I tell you…
More to come, thank you for your support and prayers. We love you,
More to come, thank you for your support and prayers. We love you,