Last month we sent a team to Sierra Leone to support the gospel ministry already at work there. Read what our team had to said about how God was at work in and through them.
Thank you all for your prayers and support as we spent two weeks learning to love and serve others in Sierra Leone. It was a pleasure to see Jesus on display through the Sierra Leonian cultural aspects of hospitality and community. We were able to participate in a few activities that served an orphanage of around 100 children and hundreds more surrounding villages. We hosted a two day VBS in a village and fed 250 children breakfast and lunch for two days. There were songs, skits, games, and crafts. The kids loved it and the team had a great experience, too. We also got to read to elementary aged children in the school library, take photos for the sponsorship department, tour the campus, hear stories from in country staff, distribute the resources that we brought, and participate in a national holiday honoring the African child.
The total resources that our team was able to donate were: 6 soccer balls, 3 pumps, 1095 tubes of tooth paste, 1674 tooth brushes, 10 of each mirrors, tongue scrapers, and dental picks. We couldn’t have done this with out your help and generosity. Thank you!
It was truly great to see children who have grown up in the children’s home take on leadership roles and responsibilities. A few of the children that were graduating high school were volunteering their time during their gap year to fill roles in COTN and were managing programs that we interfaced with. One girl named Hawa was in charge of all the donations from receiving them to distributing them to kids from surrounding villages. She taught them why and how to use it and encouraged them to talk to their parents about using it everyday.
Below are some stories from team members about their experiences during the trip:
In the Children of the Nation (COTN) compound in Sierra Leone, one beautiful illustration of community occurred nightly when the children living in the ten 'children's homes' practiced devotions. The older teens would lead the group, transitioning song-to-song with a single cue, as all ages worshiped, clapping and often closing their eyes in sincerity and reverence. Not only was this a special introduction to their culture, it was an inclusion to their walk of spiritual growth. Like every discipline in our lives, this was a choice of obedience.
Inspired by each home being named after a fruit of the Spirit, our team meditated on the fruits of the Spirit while in Sierra Leone. Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
The reality is each of these children have endured hardship and loss. But from such practices of obedience, growing in trust and honoring the father, the Holy Spirit will be present. Seeing the fruit of joy present within this community was a strong reminder that whatever hardships we've endured, choosing to daily go to the Father will bear fruit.
I have seen joy ebb and flow throughout seasons of my life. It can be harder to practice obedience when pain and uncertainty seem to define us, but in these seasons it is even more important to lean into our Creator. Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." When we do choose obedience, to live in community and be present where He has called us, in this we will find joy.
This experience in Sierra Leone brought a new light to my life that I hadn't even known existed. These positive children and caring community taught me to be thankful for what I have and not take things for granted, no matter how little they may seem. Seeing them smile everyday, regardless of the bad in the world, made my heart yearn to be more like each one of them. God guided me here for a reason. I thought it was to impact the children, but I was wrong, they were meant to impact me. I now live my life in a completely different perspective and keep Sierra Leone in my thoughts every day.
This mission trip to Sierra Leone has been a life changer for me. I am so very thankful to have had the opportunity to go and so very thankful for all of your support and prayers. Every day was so very BIG AND BEAUTIFUL. God taught me so many things in this country and through these beautiful people. I have seen what "Indestructible Joy" looks like. These children that have next to nothing, are so kind and joyful. Many of the little ones just want to hold your hand and/or hug you and be near you. They praise God often and when they sing His praises, they sing with all their heart and soul. I know that God has the biggest smile on his face as He hears them sing. The day before we left, one of the older girls approached me and said she wanted to "pray for me". I was astounded! I came to serve, and yet she wanted to bless me. And yes, I was blessed in so many other ways too. Two of the older boys that I spent time with thanked me "for loving them as if I was their Mother". All these children without the love of their parents; and yet, they were joyful and fun to be with. They are truly a relational people; and it's beautiful! God is showing me how to be more like them. I am a single mom, with a house and yard to take care of and have my own business. I have become so "task oriented" that, at first it was hard to accept that things were not on-time or done efficiently. But God finally got through my thick skull and showed me what is truly important in this life. And it is NOT completing your tasks on time! It is to build relationships; to love and serve one another (the second most important commandment!) Huh!! I can be so slow sometimes!!!!
We were asked to do a VBS in a nearby village on SAT and SUN. This was AMAZING!! Words just can't even describe my experience there. One of the main things God showed me was that He can empower even me, to do His work. I teach a small group (6-8) preschoolers at my work. I am uncomfortable with large crowds. AND yet, after much prayer...God empowered me to teach to this large group of (130ish) kids of all ages. After the lesson, I taught them the song "I've Got the Joy, Joy Joy Joy Down in My Heart". I hope I can always hear them singing in my head. It was the most beautiful thing ever! At the end of VBS, one of the boys stood up and thanked us for coming and teaching them. He also wrote us a letter, which in part read "May the Lord guide you and protect all of you people to come back again". God has shown me that He will use us if we go...but, we must go!
Another way to serve, is to sponsor a child or two or three. For only $35 per month, you will be providing a gospel foundation, an education, food and water for some of these beautiful, joyful orphans. So, please pray about how you can serve these beautiful children.
I was sad as I came home to all my "STUFF". We have too much stuff!! And, it gets in the way of praising and serving God and each other. The more we have, the more we have to take care of and this is time away from God. And yet, we seem to always want more; again, this gets between us and God. Less is more, my friend. More time to love and serve God and others.
We got to experience the love of Christ and the fruit of the spirit in such a beautiful way through the kids and staff. When we arrived at the ministry center in Banta, we had the most amazing welcome from kids who lived in the children’s homes singing songs of praise like “tell am tenki, tell papa God tenki”, a hymn in Krio. I instantly fell in love with this beautiful family, that had come to welcome us. I felt at home, I felt part of the family.
During our orientation, our in-country team coordinator, Uncle Magnus, gave the team some of the most helpful words for our time in Sierra Leone. Me not being so sure how I would be used on the trip was set at ease to hear him tell us that “When you simply hold the hand of one of a child, you have made a difference in their lives”. I felt like I could just love on the kids, spend time with them, hold hands, play games, joke and laugh, and I would be doing the Lord’s work. Not too complicated here, just being part of this wonderful, loving family. God’s love was so tangible in each person and each new friendship made. One of the questions I got asked over and over again from the kids (besides “how tall are you?”) was “when will you come back?”. It’s a difficult question to answer...even though I would love the chance to go back, there are lot of logistics to navigate! But wow! I felt so loved and part of the family to hear that question. Also on a funny note, I became affectionately known as “Uncle Tall Man”.
And I got to see our team work wonderfully together and actually become better friends and grow through the experience. It was so great to see God’s spirit shine through each team member empowering them to operate to their fullest potential of love for God by serving and loving on the children. There are many more words I could share here but I will conclude with this:
COTN is doing an amazing work, by God’s grace for these children. Their holistic model of meeting all of the children’s needs (Spiritual, Mental, Social, Physical) is working. The older kids lead the bible studies, songs, and care for the smaller kids in their children’s homes. They truly are raising “children who transform nations”. And similar to the Samaritan woman in John 4 at the well, we get the lovely opportunity of sharing “what Jesus has done for us” and the children with our home community back in the States. What a pleasure to get to experience Jesus and his goodness in the lives of the children in Banta, and come home to tell everyone how good God is. I would ask you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through COTN. Thank you Hallows Church body for praying for and supporting us.
We cannot thank you enough for supporting what the Lord had done, is doing, and will be doing in and through the Hallows Church to the nation of Sierra Leone with Children of the Nations.