I often forget what a life-changing experience it is to travel overseas for the first time. By the age of eighteen I had traveled the world and seen things people only dream of seeing during a life time. It was during a planning meeting for Liberia, when I looked across the table and asked my colleague, Hope Blaylock, if she would like to join us. Hope joined Samaritan’s Purse last year, and the extent of her world travel was to Jamaica. So, I figured if she is going to write and promote the work of Samaritan’s Purse, then she better see it with her own eyes. Today, I wanted you to hear from Hope. I want you to hear about her trip to Liberia from a fresh set of eyes. This piece she wrote is so pure and from the heart, that it made me cry when I read it. So, thank you Hope for allowing me to share this with my readers.
Despite all my planning for our trip to Liberia, I was not prepared for the guilt that washed over my heart with every child who ran to greet us from one village to the next. I want to help, I thought. But we were swooping in for an hour to see the way the people lived and swooping out again after I’d held a few babies and taken a few photos. But how does that help? For eight days, I fought my own presence in Liberia.
I wondered what these people thought of us as we drove over piles of garbage in a convoy of Land Cruisers, crowded around a boy as he received a wheelchair, snapped photos and grabbed sound bites with equipment whose value totals more than the home we stood in. If I was Liberian, I imagine I would be bitter. Oh sure that kid gets a wheelchair, but I didn’t say you could take my picture or stare at my children. I didn’t ask for your pity. And yet there I was, and click! went my iPhone, forever capturing faces smeared with dirt, glances that held questions. Who are you and why are you here? I wanted to remember how those faces tugged at my heart.
I wanted the Liberian people to look and see me. I wished my presence could speak: Yes, we’re leaving already, but we are going to tell your story. Americans need to know that you exist. They need to know you are resilient, that you are valuable. They need to see your need for food and water. Please, let us tell your stories. Let us tell them how hard you work to feed your family. Let us show them how eager you are to learn the alphabet at age seventy. Let us tell them how decades of war and loss have made you wish for a place to put your hope.
I asked one of our field staff if the Liberians were happy, and she surprised me when she quickly said no. She explained that before the war, the nation was fairly developed; the capital, Monrovia, was a thriving city. When the fighting ended in 2003, the land was ravaged. Today, Liberians exist in a state of constant need and cannot forget the comfort they used to know. Good memories in the middle of unpleasant reality make it hard for them to feel deep happiness, she said.
In America, I exist in a world of comfort. I never wonder if I’ll eat three meals today or if I will survive childbirth. Because I don’t lack basic necessities or material things, it can be easy to ignore my spiritual depravity. My first trip to Africa reminded me of a truth I forget too often—I am a sinner and Jesus came to save me. Unlike me, the Liberian people experience need daily, but that means they are ripe to hear and receive the Gospel of Christ. They’re longing for a reason to hope!
Please pray for the people of Liberia. Pray that the Lord will continue to prepare their hearts to hear about Jesus when Franklin Graham shares the Gospel at the upcoming festival. Praise God for the SP and BGEA staff who spend their days loving Liberia. They are the hands and feet of Jesus, providing real help to Liberians every single day. Pray that our staff will have more opportunities to share about the hope we have in Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…
I Peter 1:3-4