Settling in?!

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The heat really began to take its toll on us during the second day. Tired from the hectic traveling then straight into the conference early on Thursday.

Realising that the stuff we sent over has really made the conference a smooth ride overall – the vehicle we sent is getting a lot of good use as the journey to the church is a long way through packed, dirty streets & unpredictable traffic. The buses btw are hilarious – what should be 9 seaters are crowded with 20 or more, while trucks pass by with young kids hanging on the back.

Women here carry immense loads on their heads – one we spotted today had items nearly her own height carefully balanced on top. Kids love to say hello and often touch your skin or hair when you’re not looking – “Aporto” is the name for white man or “ghost” but until now we’ve only been called Chinese, so obviously their influence here is increasing.

Desmond & Mick both laid some strong messages down on day 2 of the conference – tackling issues like serving the poor, laying down our lives as a foundation for the church and the importance of heart fellowship. Iain led a challenging interactive workshop on discipleship, trust and fathering – all new stuff for them really.

Myself and Joe got stuck in with the young guys in the praise team and picked up several numbers and Facebook details. Great guys, coming from difficult situations, unemployment etc but fighting to make something of their lives.

This is what stands out here the most I feel – the fact that there is need everywhere but yet they just get on with life – there is not a rights culture. Driving through town it seems the economy is simply fighting to keep everyone going until the next day – young lads desperate to sell their quota of bread, matches, toiletries or whatever. Such a need for long term vision and input.

I digress…

The final day of the conference brought more lively kingdom action and fresh perspective – Iain bravely sent us all out into the busy streets of Calaba town to bring the gospel. A short but insightful time – a couple of lads led me out thrusting me into the open houses, then into a small shop where we ended up praying and blessing several guys. Joe got dropped in the deep end when he was led to pray for a blind man.

Bread & wine was another powerful time – a sense that the word of the brotherhood church was really soaking in and making its mark. I just hope that leaders have courage to make changes where the temptation is to stay with comfortable traditions.

dsc00232In between the conferences we’ve managed to visit the project locations in both Grafton & the Peninsula where the animal husbandry will be set up. Pastor Alex has an amazing heart for the province of Grafton – selflessly serving through running a school, evangelising and looking after several churches nearby. We looked at the proposed building for the sewing school which is large, secure and has good facilities though we need to secure the rent on it in the next week or so. Alex has already got several candidates lined up for the sewing school including half a dozen polio victims from the nearby camp.

Before the conference this morning we had the privilege of dropping by Lumley beach where the amputee football team was training. All of them with just one leg giving their all, full of joy and energy – not a whiff of self-pity or despair about them as they gave us their motivational chant and dance, thrusting the crutches in the air jubilantly. A truly humbling experience to meet these guys.

We’ve certainly appreciated the built-in rest times during the afternoons at a friend’s house nearby as it’s been pretty full on since we got here. This is where Joe has picked up some young admirers who literally cling to him on the way out the door.

Trying to get a gauge on the projects ahead of us now as new challenges arise but there are some good guys on the ground here and God has provided so far so we press on.

Keep following the progress with us. We may have a few breaks in communication as internet is really quite sporadic here at the best of times.

A seriously loud house party is cracking off next door which could go on until 4 or 5 am we are told… So looks like sleep will continue to be in short supply 😦

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Welcome to Freetown!

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After a long day’s travel we touched down at Lungi airport on Wednesday at around 6.30pm. The quick descent over the river gave us a glimpse of the atmosphere we would be entering – though the light was rapidly fading the “lion mountains” stood clear against a stormy backdrop with lightning and heavy rain starting to fall we disembarked.

From 3 to 31 C is quite a contrast though it didn’t hit us at first. The air has this sort of musty, fruity smell though in the city it also stinks of burning plastic and waste.

We were welcomed by Desmond and team in the Toyota vehicle we sent over (with seemingly half the airport staff there to help load our bags!) Great to see it already in use!

The next stage of the journey was more hectic – through the town of Lungi to the ferry before crossing the river and then making our way through Freetown to our accommodation.

So much to take in – shanty shops, candlelit communities along the roadside, glow worms in the bush, frequent fork lightning illuminating the night sky, crazy driving – a mix of massive pot holes, endless beeping, taxis weaving and dodging while women carrying ridiculous loads on their heads attempted to sell us fish, bread or flip-flops.

We spent most of the time wide-eyed trying to take in the obscure sights, smells and sounds and were glad to hit the hay after a mentally & physically demanding day.

After a great nights sleep, free from the dreaded mosquito bites (there’s none around at the mo as the rainy season was so bad) we experienced an African breakfast of fish, chicken and a sort of spicy pancake. A far cry from your average bowl of Coco Pops!

We rushed off to the first day of the Freetown conference and picked up Willie, our supervisor throughout the projects, who has been running around with Desmond to get everything in place in time for our visit. Pastor Henry in Lungi has already received the benches and stuff for the school so we look forward to staying with him next week to see how its working out there.

dsc00106-e1384765863932The conference was packed with over hundred pastors as we piled in and haphazardly assembled laptops, projectors and screens. Both Mick & Iain did really well engaging the guys and sharing their hearts and Desmond tied it all together. There was good interest and response but great just to enjoy these wonderful people – full of smiles, welcome & hospitality, though many are quietly shy but soon pick up confidence when you show an interest. The kids are always curious, affectionate and keen for your attention – it’s perhaps their first sighting of a white man.

We travelled through into the hilly area out of East Freetown to another house where we had fellowship over a meal with some of the pastors and a chance to rest a while before the evening meeting,

Myself and Joe were treated to a walk through the village to have a more personal encounter with the people here. Mango & banana trees stand amidst clusters of corrugated sheet & stick shelter homes with families sitting together – everything in the open. A Playstation 2 house is among the fun on offer here for the kids – a dozen of them piled into a curtained shack while opposite a small mechanic shop is in operation with motorbike taxis turning up for quick repairs.

We got a few pics but some people really don’t want their picture taken so you have to ask permission a lot of the time but at the same time, others drive up and get out of their car to pose for a snap. We are learning to take every opportunity to build esteem and wholesome pride in these people – there is a sense of hopelessness and shame here though they also have a tremendous resourcefulness and resilience.

The heat got to us all today and it feels like we haven’t really settled in yet so I’ll be glad for a rest. Joe has just fallen asleep so I think its time to shut down. Should get another blog out before we go over to Lungi so watch this space!