Saturday, April 26, 2014

Passing the Baton

 I hope these words find each of you in places of hope and grace. My blogs have been few and far between lately. So many travels and transitions are happening. Many times I become overwhelmed to the point of giving up on putting it all into words. I will give it a go today and hope that the chain of events will not confuse you! ;-)

Since my last blog, I traveled home for two months to America (February-April).  I had a chance to spend time with my family. It is always good to be loved on by my siblings and friends, and they went out of their way to do so. We all got to spend a long weekend together at the beach – which is a stretch when you have seven siblings! We laughed and caught up on life. We made memories that will forever be remembered. Thanks guys!
I had opportunities to see some of my donors and to speak at various churches while home. A special thanks goes out to Crosspointe Church of Valdosta, Georgia, First Baptist Church of Lake Park, Georgia and Northside Baptist Church of Valdosta, Georgia.
I had a wonderful time home connecting with other missionaries at Pioneers’ base camp in Orlando. I was refreshed and pointed in a slightly new direction as I sought God on my future work. Many of you have been in the loop of the growth and progress of our Tree of Life ministry. Last year, our first year, we served over 110 students and 5 communities teaching community health, Moringa education and the Gospel. As a result, a house church was planted by our lead instructor Pastor Emmanuel Sesay. I cannot say how thankful to God I am to see his passion and desire to use Tree of Life as a tool in bringing hope and health to Sierra Leone. Pastor Emmanuel will be traveling to Ghana this month for training with Pioneers Africa. I am excited to see how this opportunity will grow him and challenge him as he perseveres in doing God’s work in Sierra Leone. I also would like to share that last Sunday Pastor baptized 9 new believers at his church in Deep Eye Water.

My good friend, Mark, is now back in Jui and closer to Pastor Emmanuel. He is co-teaching with Pastor and telling the Bible stories within the class. Pastor has nothing but praises to ring about Mark and has taken him under his wing to be mentored. This is exactly what I have been praying for through the birth of Tree of Life – disciples training disciples. Mark has even shared with me that he is feeling that God may be calling him to be a pastor. Please pray for both Pastor Emmanuel and Mark as they continue to follow the path God lays out for them.
I will be here in Sierra Leone for the next two months and will return in June. I feel that it is time to pass the Tree of Life baton in Sierra Leone to Pastor Emmanuel and Mark. This will mean that they will take my place as a in-country director of the ministry. I will move into more of a consultant/support role as I pray about expanding the project to other countries and people groups. Because West Africa is predominantly comprised of French speaking countries, I have been advised to learn French. This will allow me to travel into countries that have an interest in Tree of Life and do training in the national language of those countries. Because immersion is the best way to learn French, I will be raising funds to spend a year in France at a language school. This is a leap of faith for me and a big cultural shift from where I am living now. I will be coming home in June to begin fundraising for the extra monthly funding needed for the difference in the cost of living expenses.
·         Please pray for me as I enter this time of transition. I still will be traveling to Sierra Leone each year to reinforce the work and to encourage Pastor and Mark.

·         Pray for Pastor and Mark as they take on more responsibility and realize their autonomy in making Tree of Life a thriving ministry in Sierra Leone.

·         Pray for more students to come forward as teachers within Tree of Life – Sierra Leone.

·         Pray for my team that I will be leaving behind (temporarily) as they continue to be faithful to God’s call on their lives and to the people of Sierra Leone.

·         Pray for the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Liberia that potentially could affect Sierra Leone and other surrounding countries.

·         Pray for me as I strive to raise the monthly quota needed to make my transition to France.
I love you all and encourage you to share this blog and prayer requests with your churches, small groups, and others. I am forever grateful for your partnership, love and support. We all are beginning a new chapter of this adventure. Thank you for walking with me! LG+LP

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A New Year and New Beginnings

Happy New Year to you all! I am a little late with my compliments of the season and blog. My internet connection has been unreliable the past month or so, and I wanted to wait write about the holiday season here in Sierra Leone.
Christmas was celebrated at my house with Mark, his wife Teresa and their Son Charles – my namesake. I cooked a big pot of soup and we watch Home Alone. I know, I know….don’t laugh, but my options to bring any form of American Christmas nostalgia is limited. We had a great time of fellowship and I was blessed to have someone to spend Christmas with.
We are still plugging away with our Tree of Life class in Binkolo near Makeni. The class has just completed their community project by building a tippy tap. A tippy tap is something that allows people to wash their hands when they come from the latrine. This will improve hygiene, sanitation and help prevent many other sicknesses like cholera, worms, etc. I have enclosed a picture to show the class working on building the tippy tap with their own resources. Pastor Emmanuel is also finishing up his class in Deep Eye Water and they will be graduating this month. His church is still thriving and growing!
I am also encouraged because of Mark’s involvement with the project. He has begun teaching the Bible Stories in our class sessions in Binkolo. This is a new venture for him, yet he is doing an amazing job. He confessed to me that he has always felt inadequate for such a task, so I am so happy to see his confidence and reliance upon God growing more and more. He is sharing his faith and learning to be a leader. It is beautiful to watch.
I will be coming home February 19th through April 15th. Due to some losses in monthly funding, I will be speaking and trying to raise support to continue my work here in Sierra Leone. I invite you all to contact me to come and speak or meet with any groups to share about our work here in Sierra Leone. I will just need to know in advance so that I can schedule the appointments for the limited time I am home.
I love you all and ask you to pray for me concerning decisions on the horizon that I am faced with. Continue to pray that God will undergird me and my team with his love and protection as enemies press in close. Pray for God to send true encouragers near me who can walk with me as I continue my work here in Sierra Leone. LG+LP

Psalm 10:17

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Family Trip to Salone

  It has been an amazing and busy week. I was so blessed to have my sister Stephanie and her husband Ben come and visit me for ten days here in Sierra Leone. This has been the first visit for me from friends and family back home. I know that it was a huge sacrifice for them, yet I pray that it was a time of learning for them and a time of seeing the needs and work here in Sierra Leone.

A lot of our time was traveling between Makeni and Freetown, and the time seemed to speed by faster than light. We had time to laugh, catch up on life back home and experience the work taking place in Sierra Leone. For many, pictures and words can never fully communicate what it is like living and working here. That is why I am so thankful that their visit here will be a catalyst to help me communicate fully the joys and challenges of working on the mission field to you all.

One of the highlights of our week was spending a Sunday with Pastor Emmanuel and his family in the Deep Eye Water area. Pastor Emmanuel is my first Sierra Leonean instructor for Tree of Life and has since begun a new church as a result of his sharing the Truth with his students. The Sunday we spent with them was inspiring as we sat in their house church packed out with 28 people. It was their 6th service.  I am thankful for how God is blessing Pastor and his family for his faithfulness, integrity and perseverance as we partner together.

We also were able to visit the Binkolo Growth Centre led by Ismail Bangura. My family was able to see were our next new Tree of Life class will begin in December there and to hear about our potential partnership with the centre to process moringa and make it available to populations at risk for malnutrition and for possible exportation.

We also had some fun time together at the beautiful Tokeh Beach. I could not let my family fly thousands of miles without letting them enjoy the beauty of the beaches here in Sierra Leone. It was a relaxing and long overdue opportunity to just ‘chill’.

I also want to say thank you to the individuals and churches who gathered needed items for me and the work here. Also, I want to say thanks for the fun items as well. I may be subject to a Skittle overdose! ;-) You all will never know what the little things mean here and how much they are treasured.
I will be writing more soon as I prepare for the new class in the coming weeks. Please continue to pray for more leaders to arise. Pray for the new church Pastor Emmanuel is leading and for his family. Pray for our team as many are traveling and as change is on the horizon. I love you all. LG+LP

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Honest Faith

This season of my life I am learning about suffering. I confess in the past, the suffering I experienced in life consisted of things such as a flat tire, hoping my depleted checking account would cover my bills, or a transient sickness would knock me out of pocket for a few days. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not trying to diminish or minimize various types of suffering, yet even in those situations, it has occurred to me that my past sufferings seem small in comparison to the war that rages around me now. I realize the blessing of having lived in a country blessed with abundant resources, access to a family of faith and the peace of mind knowing that safety and security is a priority. That stands in direct contrast to my current world where suffering and persecution is on a much larger scale minus the safety nets I took for granted. The truth is, we cannot empathize with the hungry unless we are hungry. We can’t understand a martyr’s allegiance in the face of death until we ourselves face a persecuting mob. In other words, we can easily rattle off scripture, but can never truly understand how that will flesh out until our own lives and faith are in the midst of those same circumstances.

As a believer, I have discovered that faith is a radical thing. In a culture of faith and freedom of religion, it is easier to exercise it and proclaim it. We often forget that the tests of our faith reveal the depth of our faith. We learn the right verses to quote, the correct blessings to pronounce and the cliché responses that are expected in the world of Christian culture. I have been humbled to examine my own religious culture and to examine if what falls out of my mouth is what truly is felt in my heart. This may be the last thing you expect a missionary to write, yet I would be a hypocrite to recite expected religious liturgy without acknowledging the truth about all believers…we are human and flawed.

I often think about John the Baptist and doubting Thomas on their quest of solidifying their faith. We may think of Christians who ask “Why” to be heretical. And God forbid if we question God and admit that we do not understand His ways or thoughts. Through this time of my life, I have come to relish the honesty of those who hurt, do not understand and who ask those questions. It is not a guarantee that God, in His sovereignty, will in fact give us all the answers, yet there is something beautiful about people being honest with themselves, other hurting believers and ultimately with God.

My faith started with the question “Why?”. Growing up in a Christian family, I learned the proper responses and church culture required of me. I thank God for Christian parents that exposed me to the Truth of the Word, yet we all know that faith is a personal journey and not an inherited way of life. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started asking, “Why do I believe what I believe?” I had to strip away much of my learned behavior and begin the solitary journey to discover Jesus for myself. This was a milestone for me.

Now is the season of testing. It is the time in the caves alongside David fleeing from Saul’s spear. It is a time when faith seems to slip, questions come, and yet silence. James reminds us that we should ‘rejoice in our sufferings because it yields perseverance’. This is when the providence and faithfulness of God’s hand reaches down in the midst of my ignorance and utter exhaustion to fulfill that promise.It is the time in-between that is the battle.

What would our family of faith look like if we were honest about our questions and doubts? How much more could we relate to those within the faith and those struggling outside the faith? How much encouragement and solace would it bring to us and others knowing that we are walking the craggy, narrow road together and not possessing all the answers? I write this today to remind us all to be honest, to remain steadfast in prayer, trust God and to never allow ourselves to be calloused to the sufferings of others and their battle to endure it.

I love you all! LG+LP

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Praises and Prayers

Life on the mission field is filled with extremes. Sometimes work is overwhelming, fast and never-ending. Other times, the pace is slow and seems to creep by while the rest of the world spins out of control. I can say that the past couple of months have been more on the moderate paced side. I have been blessed to be settled in my new place and making new friends within my neighborhood. The place is very secure, yet I cannot say that it is extremely quiet. Of the four walls of the compound, outside one wall is a church, the other a mosque, the third a road and the fourth an entertainment center that plays soccer matches over a PA system. Though the area is full of activity, it is a blessing from God and I am thrilled to be there.

Our Tree  of Life classes are doing well. This week I met with Pastor Emmanuel, the lead instructor for the Tree of Life branch in Freetown. He just finished up his latest class of 9 bringing our total of graduates up to over 160 since last October. He also has relocated to an area known as Deep Eye Water which was born out of a seeker from a previous class name “A”. “A” asked Pastor Emmanuel to come to the area and begin a new church since the area is lacking and very populated. Pastor has found a house and is meeting regularly with “A” and six others who have expressed interest in knowing more about the Christian faith. Please be in prayer for this new church plant and for Pastor Emmanuel as he teaches these seekers of Truth.

Tree of Life will also be beginning a second class in Makeni starting in the month of October. We are dialoguing and working with the Binkolo Growth Centre in Binkolo,, a village just north of Makeni. I am hoping this will be the site of the new class. We also are dreaming together with this growth center about developing it to allow a network of farmers grow and sell moringa for processing at this center. This will provide moringa to local and international markets. It also will create jobs and open more avenues for the Tree of Life curriculum in villages surrounding the Makeni area. Please be in prayer for all who are involved in these initial stages of planning and discussion.

I also am happy to announce that in November my sister and her husband will be visiting Sierra Leone for 10 days. I am so excited that I will get to see my family and have them experience life here in Sierra Leone. My prayer for them is that this vision trip will help them know more about the needs within Sierra Leone, the needs of missionaries and others working here, and to return as advocates for the work and people within the country. Please pray for them as they prepare to come.

I will keep this brief for now and will write more soon. I hope to have transportation by the end of the month, so that is another answered prayer. Continue to remember my team as we strive to work and serve here in Sierra Leone. With every victory comes a new challenge. I love you all and am forever grateful for your support, love and prayers. May God continue to bless you and keep you.