Monday, June 11, 2012
Childhood can be a magical time if you are lucky, and I was. I have so many happy memories to choose from, but our vacations in Nimba have to be at the top of the list. Being medical missionaries in rural Liberia could not have been easy for my parents, and life was pretty serious with a lot of hard work. But somehow the “powers that be” knew the toll that serving an impoverished population in a third world country could take on the missionaries and insisted that they take two consecutive weeks of vacation a year to recover, rejuvenate and re-energize for the challenges of the next year. Sometimes we went to the capital city of Monrovia and spent the time visiting with missionary friends and going to the beach, but our favorite place to go was Nimba.
Nimba was only about an hour on dirt roads from Ganta mission station where we lived, and was an area deep in the interior dominated by the Scandinavian iron ore mining company Lamco. It was an interesting combination of native Liberian structures and modern Scandinavian buildings and there was a house set aside for missionary vacations. I loved this this airy, open concept ranch, with its bunk beds and glass window panes, and there was hot water for a real bath! Mom and Dad could really relax here, and we kids would spend our time playing games and listening to records. Best of all, most days we would go to the pool - not just a regular pool, but a beautiful olympic sized pool with a regular diving board AND a high dive, a swing set, a terraced area for picnics and laying out, and a club house where on rare occasions we could get soda or snacks. To me this was the height of luxury and we never got tired of spending our days at the pool. These trips were an infrequent pleasure though, once a year if we were lucky.
I remember one Sunday when I was about nine years old, coming home from Sunday school at the Ganta mission elementary school and expecting to go right over to the church for worship. As we approached the house we saw Dad standing in the doorway, not wearing his usual Sunday clothes or even his doctor clothes, but a polo shirt and tennis shoes, with a smile of anticipation on his face. He told us that we were immediately going to Nimba for the day and I could tell how much he enjoyed giving us this unexpected news and watching our delighted reactions. I donʼt remember anything else about this day, why we went, how long we stayed, or what we did, I just remember the thrill of the moment when my relaxed and happy father said “weʼre going to Nimba”!
It makes me think of our Heavenly Father. When I come to the end of what I trust will be a long and happy life, and I approach the doorway between this life and the next, I imagine that I will see my Heavenly Father waiting for me with a smile of anticipation on His face, relaxed and happy, ready to take me on a wonderful trip.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
For a very short time our family lived in a small apartment on Sekou Toure Avenue in Monrovia, Liberia. We had just spent a year in the states and had come back to Liberia to live in the city instead of returning to our rural Ganta mission home. Bill, Sandra, and I didn’t have much to do all day, since we had left our few friends and family back in the states, and our friends in Liberia were upcountry in Ganta or Phebe. Mom and Dad had been to a missionary conference at Lake Junaluska while we were on furlough, and they brought back a cassette tape of praise music called De Colores. Having little else to do in this new environment we listened to the tape frequently, and I especially remember the upbeat title song. We listened to it so often that De Colores has always seemed like the theme song of this interlude in our lives.
Although our stay was short it was eventful and memorable. I remember the violent tropical storm when a transformer blew outside our window in the middle of the night, with a blinding flash, and we children were frozen with fear until Mom and Dad came to us in our dark room. Another night we sat down to dinner and bowed our heads while Dad said grace. When the extra-long grace was done we looked up and Bill calmly said “there’s a fire in the kitchen.” We rushed into the kitchen to find the grease in the frying pan on fire, and while Mom and Dad frantically tried to find something with which to smother the flames Bill reached over and put the lid on the pan. The fire was out, but we were washing smoke off the walls for days. And Mom and Dad suggested to Bill that in the future he should feel free to interrupt the prayer for an emergency!
We soon moved into a more permanent house, started school, and life again took on the busy pattern of childhood. But I have always remembered that time on Sekou Toure Avenue, in between one season of our lives and the next, when it was just our family and the music of De Colores. Imagine my surprise many years later when I attended a Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat, and for the first time in about 35 years I heard De Colores again. We sang it frequently throughout our weekend and I loved thinking about the connection of my faith journey between my African childhood and my American adulthood; and for a little while I was 11 years old again, playing with my brother and sister on the other side of the world, in that little apartment on Sekou Toure Avenue.
“De Colores and so must all love be of every bright color to make my heart cry.”