Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Funny...we don't look alike...

One of the very best parts of my trip to Liberia was meeting Mark, the Field Director for Spirit Liberia---an NGO (non-government organization) that works in a variety of ways to spread the gospel and improve the lives of the Liberian people. Among other things, the Spirit Liberia folks minister to inmates in prisons, share the good news on the streets of the Monrovia area and provide support and training for agricultural and other projects so that impoverished families can become self-supporting.

While the founders of Spirit Liberia, Greg and Vanessa, were in the states preparing their family for a permanent move to Liberia, I was blessed to be able to rent their house for a week and make it "home" for Amos, Kalee and Brant.

Mark lives on site and was a huge help to me during the week I was there. I'm not sure how I would have survived the trip without him, in fact. Though Brant and I traveled to Liberia with a team of 8 other volunteers doing construction to complete the new Addy's Hope facility, once we arrived, we were separated by many miles and were actually only together for a short time during the week. Subsequently, I was on my own quite a bit and Mark graciously served as my very patient translator, driver, embassy escort and market negotiator!

I began joking with Mark after a few days that I felt sure, after all the trouble I'd caused him, I'd never be invited back to Spirit Liberia. At the very least, I was starting to feel the need to re-name Amos in his honor! When I came home one afternoon and realized Mark had washed the boys' messy laundry by hand without being asked----I knew I had met a very special person. And that was just my first clue---
  • My hair dryer consistently caused the generator to shut down in the mornings. Mark kindly restarted it for me...every time.
  • When I accidentally pulled the kitchen faucet out of the wall---creating a domino effect of other plumbing emergencies as I frantically tried to shut off the water flow at various junctures--- Mark realized that I had in fact broken a valve and drained both roof-top cisterns leaving us with NO water. He got a plumber out before sunrise the next morning to make sure the boys and I had all the water we needed by the time we got up.
  • Mark dropped every thing to accompany me to and from the US Embassy the day I had an appointment with the consular. I could have hired a cab and navigated it by myself, but he wouldn't hear of it. What we thought would take a couple of hours, ended up taking nearly 8. At the end of that exhausting day, Mark wouldn't even let me buy him dinner or a pizza at one of the few restaurants in Monrovia. But he did accept a cup of ice cream! He deserved 10 gallons of this Liberian luxury--and if we'd had a way to keep it cold, I would have bought it for him on the spot.
  • When neither the security guard nor I could get the belligerent toilet paper saleslady to leave the Spirit Liberia grounds, Mark answered my SOS, leaving his ministry work to come home to deal with her. Even though I didn't hear what he said, I know he defended me; he said later that he "explained a few things to her. " And that's all I needed to hear. I felt vindicated!
  • Following the toilet paper incident, Mark never left me alone. He read while I visited the kids at Addy's Hope, he waited patiently during the chaotic orphanage move, he never complained no matter how long I took or what I was doing. In retrospect, I don't think Mark was afraid I was in danger so much as I might bring about some sort of danger or calamity to myself!
As if being saintly weren't enough, Mark is a full-time student studying sociology at the University of Liberia. He is also a talented singer and musician and serves as worship leader at Bethel Cathedral of Hope near Monrovia. I was honored when Mark invited me and the boys to attend church services with him on Sunday, August 1rst--- our last day in Liberia. Bethel is a HUGE church with a huge congregation. Its sanctuary seats most of its 5000 members---all of them worshipping the same God I do, all of them His children!

As we drove home that day after church, Mark and Brant were in the front seat and the little boys and I were in the back. We were all hungry and tired but I realized as we talked, that Mark was getting up the courage to say good bye to us. He thanked us for worshipping with him. He said many kind things....and he said that he hoped we'd come back to Liberia someday. He assured me that Spirit Liberia would always make a room available---because, he emphasized, he and Brant and I were more than friends---we were family.

We continued the drive home from church and I pointed out spots where Amos and Kalee could get a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. I tried to explain that when Drew and I come back for them, we'll all board a plane and fly across the water---that very water-- to their new home in the United States. I gestured and tried to be clear that just on the other side of the ocean was where we lived. The only thing separating us, I emphasized, was the Atlantic Ocean.

And at that exact moment, I glanced up into the rear view mirror and I saw that Mark was smiling. Maybe he was smiling at the absurdity of what I was saying......4500 miles is a long way by any standard.

Or maybe he was convinced like I was, at that moment in time, that the ocean wasn't that vast or that wide. Mark knows, like I know, that worshiping the same God makes us part of the same family of believers....and that means we really aren't going to be very far apart...ever.


love2bmom said...

Wow! Friend, have you thought of writing a book? Your words made me feel as though I was there with you. You have a gift.

thank you Kelly.......

Love you,


jena said...

Yes.... write the book!!!!

Loved our time together today sweet friend. Can't wait to do it again.

PS... Our "Mark" in Uganda is named Godfrey.