Saturday, March 5, 2016

Two Weeks

Yesterday marked two weeks that I've been in Liberia helping my friends at Partner Liberia. The trip began with a reunion of friends. Scott and Mike both hold full time jobs back in the states, but spend 15-20 hours a week on their work here, along with spending a couple months here a year collectively. Since, I've met many more intriguing, caring individuals.

Sam lived and worked in Denver for 30 years and came back to Liberia because retirement in the US was "too slow." The man is a wealth of proverbs and fries some of the best fish I've ever had. I also met Wadah. Wadah was left for dead in the street when he was roughly one and a half. He was taken in by an orphanage with which we partner. At three, he is just now learning to walk, although he can't speak and may never be able to. Josu is nearly as much a pistol as any little girl I've ever met. At 4.5, she pretty much runs the orphanage where she lives. A few nights ago, I ran the bar at an expat restaurant and spent the evening convincing everyone to order one of the three drinks I can actually make (Yes, bourbon straight up was one of them).

Josu owns my glasses, like she owns pretty much everything.

I have one move with kids. That's to hoist them in the air. It worked with Joseph.
Sam dishes out wisdom and delicious, golden fish.

Beautiful, miraculous Wadah.

These glimpses into the past two weeks are barely an introduction to the fullness of this trip. I've aspired to write bios of the folks I've gotten to know and post photo journals of the places we've seen and adventures we've had. The truth is, I feel strangely detached.

I've got a few ideas about the drivers behind this detachment, and I need to spend some more time exploring those causes. In the meantime, I'd love to share a few things that have struck me long with two realizations I've had on this trip.

First, helping orphans is awesome. I've spent years doing nonprofit work. This is a climate where effectiveness of different types of development and aid are consistently called into question. I've held exceedingly critical opinions of aid and development work. James 1:27 says: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. As far as I am concerned, there is no argument against providing vitamins, water, food, immunizations and micronutrients to orphans. Spending time with these little ones gives me a deep joy and sets my heart on fire.

I'm reminded again that I won an insane birth lottery. A couple of years ago, I was in the worst financial position of my life. I had to sell my car and watch my expenses closely. I never feared going without food or medicine that I needed. I got laid off a few weeks ago and I get to patiently go through a job search and will likely have a job soon after my return home, at a significant salary increase, in support of my desire to make a long-term life in San Francisco. Yesterday, I sat by in a hospital as a man's fate was determined by a lack of medical resources. He died hours later. Just 100 feet from where I sleep, a Liberian man sleeps in the the same complex on a deck chair.

Part of my desire to spend a month in Liberia was to hit a reset button of sorts. I've had a lot going on lately. I figured I'd come here, I'd live a different life and get some perspective. For a month, I'd be Liberian. The truth is, there is no "being Liberian" for me. I'm an American. I eat out at expat restaurants and bars. My accommodations have electricity twelve hours a day, along with running water, which I'm willing to bet 95% of the Liberian population doesn't have. This is definitely a case of being in but not of a world. It's a strangely insulating experience. While this country is beautiful, there's a great deal of injustice and suffering as well. For me, they feel at arms length.

Now for the two, rather random realizations that have come upon me in this swell of experiences and emotions.

I love San Francisco. So, so much. It is a magical place. I can identify some of the qualities I love about The City. It's a whimsical place where people put disco balls in the bay windows of their Victorians. It's surrounded by more natural beauty and adventure than one could discover in a lifetime. Beyond that, it just possesses a je ne sais quoi. Something unidentifiable and captivating. In a place of transience, it's my deep hope and prayer that the people I love stay and that we continue to build a life and a community. I want to be in this city forever.

I really can't wait to be a dad. I've met two or three children in orphanages whom I would absolutely take home tomorrow if I could. I have tremendous confidence that I am going to be a great dad when the time comes for me. This is an amazing time in my life, as I can feel the love inside of me getting bigger. I can't wait to share this love with little ones. I hope there comes a day when I have one or two of my own and one or two from a place like Liberia.

Jackie enjoys the swing set provided by Partner Liberia.


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