The church building, school building and house building all looked very familiar to me as we had seen many pictures and videos from Mark’s previous visit. When we left home, our temperature had been around 16-17 degrees F, but when we arrived in Liberia it was about 92 degrees F with high humidity. When we pulled up to the house, we were told we could freshen up before eating something. Pastor James showed us where we would be staying…it was the same room that Mark had on his previous visit. It was like a master bedroom as it had it’s own bathroom! What a blessing that was! Well, considering how hot it was, we decided to take a shower to cool off! Now, let me explain! Our shower to cool off was basically the tank which was a big bucket (about 20 gallons) with lots of water in it and a smaller bucket (about 5 gallons) with a smaller scoop in it. The way we cooled off was by pouring water over our heads and when we ran out of water in the 5 gallon bucket, we grabbed the smaller scoop and kept refilling until our 5 gallon bucket was full! That was our bathroom! It did have a sink, a toilet, and a bathtub so we were in style. Now, I will say this was a more affluent household in Liberia…kind of like middle class! Btw, we did have running water…one of the kids went running for it when we needed it! (I know, a very old joke but this is seriously how we ended up getting most of our water!)
Before we went into the bedroom to freshen up, Jerry, James Matthews (the missionary), and the other guy arrived from the airport. Mark saw Steve Trexler and introduced me to him. I was glad to meet him after having heard so much about him. We stood for a minute to talk and Pastor James introduced me to his wife, Sister Lydia. We talked for a minute then we were told that the we needed to freshen up, so we did. Jerry showed up slightly after we had. He and Mark chatted with James Matthews, Steve Trexler and Pastor James while I listened. I wasn’t saying a whole lot at that point…not that I really did the whole time I was there…except for when I was teaching! We did give Steve his M&M’s and he was so happy over it! He thought we were only bringing him a small bag so it was a treat. The only thing was, he wasn’t going to be in Liberia after the next day as he was flying back to the states due to his brother having medical problems.
When we walked out of the house onto the porch, one of the ladies began singing and clapping her hands. This was my introduction to Liberian singing! The lady that started the singing sounded like she was actually singing the song while everyone else was her background. Most of what was sung was pretty close to the same thing maybe a slight variation on a theme. So it would sound something similar to one lady singing many different words and she would stop while everyone else sang kind of the background music, then they would be almost finished and the main singer would start up and sing many more words. She would stop while everyone else sang the background music again. During this whole time they would clap their hands in a kind of cadence. Sometimes it was a clap, clap, clap, pause, clap, clap, clap, pause. At this point I believe it was more of a clap, clap, clap, quick pause and two quick claps. I couldn’t tell you what they were singing but I am sure they were praising the Lord because that is what Pastor Philemon told us. The song normally goes for a few minutes and if everyone gets enthusiastic over it then it can go on for quite awhile.
The praise time finally stopped and Pastor Philemon introduced himself and the people from his church then each of the pastors introduced themselves and the people from their church, then they asked Pastor Mark to introduce himself and his team. Afterwards, Pastor Philemon shared about how Mark and himself met in 2007 through the scam. It was a great time of blessing but also a time for me to wonder why it was that we were so welcomed! I knew we had never been welcomed like this in any place we had ever been and so it was pretty confusing to me. It wasn’t until later that I understood the strong ties between Liberia and America and how that affected Liberians! On top of that, the people were so grateful that we were willing to come to Liberia to teach and train. To them, this is of paramount importance that no one else is willing to do! Eventually, Pastor Philemon told everyone that we were exhausted and we needed to go to bed and get plenty of rest because we would be leaving in the morning to go to Duaita. He asked two men to pray and then Mark to close in prayer. After prayer time, we talked a short time with everyone then said goodbye as they were all leaving.
Pastor James invited us to sit down to the table so we could eat. We noticed that there were many people gathered outside of his house. I really wasn’t sure what would happen next. They had welcomed us when we first came and I thought I recognized some of them from photos but it turned out that I had never seen their photos before! Thankfully, most of them didn’t even understand what I was saying so I was pretty relieved. Anyway, I received my first taste of Liberian food and I must say I was impressed! I think it was made with the greens but I couldn’t be positive. However Sister Lydia made it, it was very good!