Luke 24:13-32
This is Jesus heartburn(I have to credit Dallas Willard for this term!)...31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Saturday, July 31, 2010


There are times when I need to be reminded of why I am here. On nights like tonight when the challenge of living and working in a country that is not my own weighs on me and when the reality of what I am doing and where I am weighs on me, I have to remember…the promises of God—not that He won't give me more than I can handle but He will walk beside, in front, and behind me all the time! When I fail He's there, when I am need He is ready to answer….the experiences of the past—all these things that have brought me to this point and prepared me for what I face today…and the calling/purpose on my life—to love God and love others; and today for this time I am called to love these children well; to fight for justice, education, protection, and their hearts and souls. So I'm going to type this blog for my own reminder.

This week I said goodbye to a young mother who will leave the hospital with her malnourished 2 year old to live in conditions beyond imagination. We think the children's hospital is horrible…I can hardly think about how much better that place is then where she is going. Regina and Baby Esther are why I am here.

I participated in a slumber party for 17 preteens who just need the chance to be little girls--to giggle and dance and love on each other and eat junk food until they pop! Girls who wanted to make sure that their friends and siblings that got left behind get the same food and treats that they did so they begged Aunty Marie to bring take their extra to their brothers and sisters. These young girls are why I am here.

I was asked by my new friends here for simple things…clothesline and pants that fit, for bandaids and school fees. And I know that these simple things bring so much gratitude and joy! I am here to give as much of those little things away that I possibly can.

I listened to officials talk about children who were being sold or tricked into slavery. Stories of adults who willingly use children for their own gain or pleasure or whatever and I remember some of the anger that drives me here as well; not anger that is unholy but it is the type that can declare there is right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice in this world and I cannot look the other way. That is why I am here.

I sat and listened to a man who is giving everything that he has to serve these children say he did not need to be reimbursed for the fuel he uses while taking the children places they need to go. For him, it's not about the salary or the prestige, it's about the kids and doing whatever it takes to see them cared for. This man is the parable of the widow in action…he gives ALL of what little He has and trusts that God will be his provider. He is why I am here and when I look at him I remember that God has called me to give both out of my abundance—love, relational support, education, finances, health—and my little.

And I got an email at a very timely point this week, after visiting a group of children that we fought so hard for last year and it ended with a quote that sums it all up for me right now…

"Love is one of the pinnacle parts of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice, and justice is really love in calculation. The Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so the soul will have a chance after it is changed."  ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I haven't updated for a while. It was a busy week with children to visit in the hospitals and an internet subscription that ran out! Erica and Tina are here this week so if you want to know what's happening with TRS and the kids you'll have to check out their blogs at; they might be updating regularly. For me, I'm not sure if I'll have time to say much until next Sunday!

Today though I want to share an email that I got from Angie; I am so excited about what my friends in St. Cloud have done for the children here…

"This weekend Lesli and I gave our debriefing of Day Camp to the Crossroads community. We averaged around 60 kids a day and just as many workers. The kids brought in $733.76 and a Bible for offering. We challenged the congregation at both services to match the kids. The congregation did that and more between the two services they gave $868.56. The grand total being $1602.32!
God is Awesome!!

We are praying for you both and the kids at The Covering, or as the children of Crossroads say, "Cari's Kids".


Soon the children here will each have their own Bible to read. God is so good! Thank you!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I've been learning some Krio. It is harder than it seems! It is very similar to English and in many ways but very different. I struggle speaking because it feels like I'm using bad grammer and my English teacher is going to correct me! The word for tired is taya (a as in palm).
I have really never experienced anything like it. I go to visit the children and for hours I am a jungle gym! Today, at one point I had 2 in my lap, one on each arm, and several on my back. They pull my ponytail, stick their fingers in my ears, give me zerberts (I'm not sure what you call them but that's what they always were in my house! I think some people call them raspberries), try to scratch off my freckles, yank on my clothes, and if they are not sitting on me they hit whoever is! We have one boy who is big for his age and a dead weight, he slept on my lap for over an hour. It's better than lifting weights for hours…my arms hurt! So, I come home taya!
I was reflecting today how most of these little ones were carried around, strapped to their mother's backs the first year or more of their lives. As infants they never left their mother, they went everywhere and did everything with her; this must create a very strong bond between the mother and the child. And now that bond is broken, and in most cases gone forever. It is no wonder they long to be held and hugged and loved on.
I've been helping to edit their social histories for their files and I am overwhelmed by their stories. Loss, heartache, confusion, transition, instability, and fear are not strange to these children. They've been abandoned by fathers and mothers; cared for (or not cared for) by grandparents and relatives who have little or nothing to give them. They've been forced to do farm work instead of go to school—even as young as 3. They've lived on the streets or in places that are really beyond our comprehension.
Yet they are so resilient. They laugh and play. They study hard and care for each other. They love! It's an amazing thing to be a little part of their lives. I continue to pray that they will grow to be "mighty oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61 has become my prayer for them. I would love it if you would join me in that prayer today! AND I would be so happy if you could come here and hold some of them for me…if we each took 4, I'd only need 19 of you!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Visit to the Paramount Chief

Before you read this, be warned, it's about the bathroom…

Yesterday we went to Bauya to visit some proposed land for a new facility. It's about a 3 hour car ride (60 miles) up-country. The roads are very roller-coaster like so I took my Dramamine! I have been to Bauya before and knew that finding a place to use the bathroom is not an easy thing. So I prepared myself and tried to drink only a little. But as it was, yesterday was a hot day in Sierra Leone and water was my friend.
When we arrived at the Paramount Chief's house (kinda like a governor) I wanted to use the facilities. The outhouse was in the back of his house so I went in. There was only a small hole in the floor in the corner…um, that doesn't work well for me, so I decided to just go behind the outhouse. Squat and pee! That was fine…no problem.

We had our short meeting and then headed out into the bush. We spend hours in the hot sun…I could have gone into the jungle for shade BUT there are snakes and biting ands and HUGE centepedes and bush rats and muskrats and grass cutters and all kinds of scary things in there!

The land is wonderful though, hundreds of acres available for development and farming! I am praying that God gives it to us!
I drank more water!

We returned to the Chief's home before heading back to Freetown, and this time there were people around so I had to use the inside of the outhouse. I am not exaggerating when I say the hole was the size of the top of a soda can. BUT I attempted to pee in the small hole...IT IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO AIM and I had my butt up against the wall. I peed all over. I feel sorry for the next person who went in there:)
I was told that this is a story I need to share with all of you. But I've shares, and I'll say this, if you ever travel to Sierra Leone, or any part of the world really, you must always be prepared to encounter strange bathrooms. Being able to go wherever you are is a necessity!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Prayers Please

Today the office is very quiet. The older children are studying hard and quietly in school this morning and the preschoolers are napping until lunch time. But mostly it is quiet because a friend of several of the staff died last night. He went to the hospital on Monday with a sever headache and died last night. The particulars are uncertain but the grief is clear. We are listening to praise music and trying to focus on the job today but it is difficult. Quami has gone to sit with the family and share his condolences on our behalf and the funeral will be Sunday or Monday. Please pray for them in this loss.

There are also many other things that way on our minds these days. Suwaju's (8 year old whom may have Burkitt's or some infection that eats away at the bones in his jaw) care and treatment is still uncertain. Quality medical care is difficult in Sierra Leone and we need prayers to try and figure this out.

This afternoon I sat with a young girl who has run away from home several times and has come home pregnant. I don't know what she needs or what is best for her but my heart aches to take her in and let her live with me. She does not want to live with her family and she is not getting proper care for herself or her baby. Pray for wisdom and for the health of her baby. We fear that the pregnancy is not well; I will be taking her to the hospital on Friday morning.

The list goes on but these are on my heart right now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

21 things I learned today

  1. If you forget your umbrella, it will rain very hard. If you are lucky the nice Lebanese men will let you stand in the Super Market until the rain stops. On a good day you will hear an argument about Hezbollah in Arabic.
  2. On a hot night, there will be no power=no A/C. On a cool night the power will always work but you will not need the AC.
  3. "The African is always in pain" Pastor Tony…when dispensing Ibuprofen, make sure you have enough for the whole crowd, not just the friend who fell down in the street in a rain puddle and has been in pain since the night before.
  4. If you eat all the food on your plate they will say you are greedy, if you leave some they will wonder why you don't like it.
  5. Most days, when you are working with 80+ children you will have moments of pure panic, when you are sure that they will overtake you and you will have to pull out all your hair.
  6. Most days, when you are working with 80+ children you will have moments of pure delight, when you are sure that nothing could be better than this moment.
  7. You cannot escape number 5. On a really good day you will experience 5 and 6…it is a RARE occasion when you have 6 without 5!
  8. Simple things take 2x as long.
  9. Some milk does not need to be refrigerated at all times…right?!?
  10. The Minnesotan has an advantage here…ya means please, so you can still use it regularly.
  11. Football is serious business. It's polite to pretend that you are interested.
  12. No matter what the weather, after walking up the hill to the orphanage you will be soaked with sweat and need to change your clothes…it happens to everyone, not just me!
  13. Keep your eyes shut in the shower, the water makes them sting (I actually relearned this today, as I do everyday!)
  14. Find joy in the little things…like ant poison, flashlights, cool drinking water, hugs from children, and the sound of the generator running.
  15. Trying to get 40 boys to share 12 books is not a good idea…take one for everyone to avoid fights.
  16. When the children pray, don't be surprised if you cry over their words of love and encouragement. They love all their aunties and uncles and pray fervently for them.
  17. Skype, no matter how bad the connection, is a beautiful thing. The children love to see and hear their friends in America.
  18. My dancing can provide at least an hour of entertainment and laughter.
  19. If you taxi does not have a door handle inside, reach out the window and open it from the outside!
  20. A children's sermon needs only to be ½ as long when it has to be translated into Krio. Singing loudly when you lose all control stops them dead in their tracks.
  21. Hearing, "we luck you Anty Cari" (in Krio, the word love sounds like luck) makes EVERY lesson and EVERYTHING worth it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Attitudinal Change

Today I got to go to a graduation celebration. Aunty Marie, the wonderful friend that has been cooking for me and taking such good care of me, had a granddaughter graduating from nursery school. She invited me to go along and I went. I wanted to see some more inside the community of Freetown, I was ready to get out of the center for an afternoon, and I love Marie and I knew that her granddaughter would be just as wonderful. I learned or was reminded of some things today…when you are a white woman in Sierra Leone you don't get to sit in the back of the room and simply observe the ceremony! The moment I walked through the door the headmistress had me come to the front and sit at the honored guest table. I was introduced to the crowd as a very important person in Sierra Leone who works with children. I got Fanta, I handed out awards to the best students and gifts to the ones who always came with pressed uniforms or were never late or absent.

One of the programs at the school is called attitudinal change, from what I could understand they teach the students ideas and lessons that will help them develop attitudes about life and work that are different from there parents. Several of the children came forward and recited these things… "Parents, send your children to school!" "Parents, don't send your children to buy cigarettes and alcohol for you!" "Children obey your parents" "Parents don't send your children out to sell on the streets, this leads to alcohol abuse and early sex." There were really quite a few of not so gentle lectures to the parents…they were reminded that it is their job to provide for their children, not their children's job to provide for them. They even had to be encouraged to clap for their children and show their support. I was reminded that the children living at the center are blessed because they will not have to stand on the street selling water or biscuits or whatever to provide for their parents. They are free to go to school, to come home from school and put on casual clothes and nap and play. This is good but there are so many more children in this country that are not as lucky. I see them everyday selling fruit or water instead of being in school. And I wonder what does it take to change a whole country, a whole system…probably a little attitudinal change at all levels of society.

I left the school with Marie, thinking about the attitudinal change and the "poor parenting" that they talked about and Marie started to explain to me where we were in the city. She lived in this area during the war. She told me that they built the school there because they could no longer send their students to schools that were outside their neighborhood because parents would be killed taking their children to school. As we walked down one road she told me that it was the road she ran down with her children to escape the bombs and the rebels. "I saw people die, right here! They would line us up on this street and then choose 1 or 2 and just kill them." Sometimes they would hide in their houses for hours and no one could make a sound. The children would not cry or speak, only gesture when they needed food or water! They spent hours just lying flat on the floor praying that their lives would be spared because no one would notice that. What unimaginable pain and suffering and sorrow. Neighbor turned against neighbor and there was no one you could trust. As Marie shared these stories with me I was filled with compassion for the parents…all of them have been through such trauma and heartache and there is so much healing that still needs to happen.

Maybe a little attitudinal change from us as rich Americans as well; and we are rich. Most of us are among the 10% of the world's population. We might struggle to pay the bills but our bills have numbers on them that many here couldn't imagine making in a month or even two. We are rich and we can be so generous…but if we thought about it honestly we have prejudices against those who are poor. They should get a job…what if there are no jobs to be had? What if no one ever taught them how to even write or spell their own name? They should take better care of their children…what if they are working as hard as they can and still their children go to bed hungry every night? I face some of my own prejudices everyday! Today on the road I met a man who was begging. I did what I have been taught to do…do not make eye contact but he kept pleading. I heard that small voice inside say, Cari, look at this man, show him the dignity and respect that I would show him…I did not. I did not want to engage in conversation. I wanted to avoid the mess. He started yelling at me "Can't you see I'm begging here!" and still I ignored him, I chose to look away. The words that came out of his mouth next were horrible and painful. I could have at least looked him in the eye…instead I ignored him. I face my own prejudices about poverty everyday here. I cannot ignore it for long, it's right outside the window. I guess I'm in for a bit more attitudinal change myself.

PS The World Cup Finals are on Sunday. I am not a soccer fan but I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to the shouting and celebration on the street and everywhere when a goal is scored. Especially if it is a goal by an African team; yet there are no African teams left but the cheering and the excitement is still amazing. It's like the Super Bowl everyday for a month. It will be sad to see it go BUT I notice that there is a better chance we'll have power when there is no soccer game to be watched so I am looking forward to the possibility of MPA every night! I'll keep dreaming…

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ants in my peanut butter!

Yesterday I was so excited! I helped Aunty Marie serve breakfast to 20 Canadians who are here to do some mission work in Bo (they have left Freetown already) and I earned a fresh baked bun for lunch. After eating cliff bars for lunch for days on it I very much looked forward to a peanut butter sandwhich on fresh bread. At lunch I opened the jar of PB and found it full of ants. YUCK! I was so disappointed. I ate my bread without the PB. I was perfectly fine and grateful for the bread!

The thing is that the kids are constantly trying to share their food with me. Whenever I go up to see them at meal time they all look so concerned that I am not eating. I have told the cooks to give my portion to the kids (they make me a plate everyday), but they are so earnest in wanting to make sure that I get something too. I love that they have already learned that there is enough food to go around. Even if the boys are still a bit hungry at the end of the meal (what growing pre-adolesent isn't ALWAYS hungry) they have come to trust that there will be another meal. They don't need to be afraid of going to bed hungry and they don't have to consider whether they should take from someone else in order to survive. I love that they have learned this and I love their kindness towards me.

One of these days I'm going to have to pray really hard and just sit down and share a meal with them, maybe next time I get ants in the peanut butter I will!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Belay

The last few days have been full of anxiety for me. I've been here for a week alone…well not really alone as I have meet wonderful people here and have them all around me…but alone in the sense that everyone is new…there are no familiar faces except in my photo album or on facebook! The moments of anxiety have been especially great when I have to defend my decisions and make decisions about things that I don't understand or don't have all the information. I knew that in God putting me here, I would feel inadequate…I just didn't know how much! I knew that I would have to do things (like try to read CT scansJ, and analyizing termite infested wood) but I thought maybe there would be some time to ease into it, instead of it all coming at once.

I look through my journals for the last several years and I see myself asking God to teach me to pray, to trust Him more, to be dependent on Him in every moment, and to use me to do whatever He wills…I don't think I'll ever be done learning those things BUT I think that the time in Sierra Leone will accelerate the process! This morning the book I was reading had a chapter all about anxiety and worry; I do find that I believe this book was written for me (please let me keep my egotistical idea that the author somehow was thinking of me when he wrote it!). He talked about going on a ropes course, and I thought I'd share it with you today. Perhaps it will encourage you as much as it has me…

The pivotal moment during a ropes course comes when you are strapped in, ready to climb, and you say to your instructor, "On belay"—which I would be tempted to think is a French phrase meaning "I've lost my mind." Actually, to belay a rope means to make it absolutely secure, to fasten it to something immovable. It means that now your are connected to something that will keep you from falling, and you will entrust your body to what you say you believe. You will walk by faith. On belay….You could listen to the lecture about the safety of carabiners a thousand times; you could repeat the whole thing by memory—but that alone would not remove the fear from your body the first time you are on the ropes….The Bible and prayer were not given to us as forms of anxiety avoidance. In the long run, anytime we avoid doing the right thing out of fear, we die a little inside. When we really place ourselves in the flow of the Spirit's pease is when we say "on belay" to God…."okay, God, I will take the risk even though I don't know the outcome yet." We go through this life one time. Some wonderful things will happen to us; some dreams will come true. Some terrible things will happen to us, bringing with them pain, problems, and disappointment. Of that we can be certain. But we can go through this life worried—or we can go through it at peace.

Life is too short,

    joy is to precious,

        God is too good,

            our soul is too valuable,

                we matter too much

    to throw away a single moment of our one and only life on anxious striving.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid.


On belay.

(from "The Me I want to be: becoming God's best version of you" by John Ortberg, pg. 125-127)