Who am I?

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Monrovia, Liberia
I live in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa with my wife and youngest son. We are recently arrived in Liberia where we are serving as missionaries with Evangelical Church Missions working under the Liberia Evangelical Mission. For most of the last thirty years we have served under ECM in Bolivia, South America. We are the happy parents of four children and the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rockpile Blues

This past Saturday I, gordon elliott, had to do manual labor. Yes, I know that it is hard to believe but I, a missionary, soiled my hands (well, I was wearing gloves) to help pour the loza for our new building. What is a loza, you might ask. Good question. A loza is what the guys here call the cement slab that serves as the ceiling of the rooms on the first floor of a muti-story building and the floor of the rooms on the second story. It is an interesting process because the hermanos don't have the money to contract it all done so everything is done by hand.

The first step was to get the forms put up to hold the cement in place, since it will not just hang there in mid-air. The Roberta, Georgia work team provided both labor and financing to finish this part.

After the columns that support the wall are built, cement rafters (I am sure this is not the right work in English but my building knowlegde is very scarce) are then lifted into place. These are very heavy. I would not want to be hit on the head by a falling one. Next styrofoam slabs are set between the rafters. The cement is then poured on top of the styrofoam.

To get the cement up to the second floor is a bit of a trick. A bucket brigade is the easiest way. The low man on the brigade fills the buckets with cement by scooping them into the trough where the mixed cement is waiting.

The guys running the cement mixer are responsable for putting in the water, sand, rock and cement. The people shoveling sand and rock

 (me - among others) have the responsability of filling the correct amount of buckets with sand or rock for each batch of cement mixed. I tried to make the job go quicker by singing such songs as Whistle While You Work and Just A Spoon full of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down. I don't think I was appreciated. Neither were my references to concentration and forced labor camps. At least, I noted, we were not being told to make bricks without straw.

It is a perfect picture of cooperation and harmony. When everything is finished a good hot and hearty meal is enjoyed by everyone.

This loza is a part of the ongoing Santa Cruz district headquarters project which will house the soon to be opened tutoring center. The plan is to open the center the first Monday on March. The goal is to help neighborhood kids not only do better with their homework but to show them God's love and introduce them to Jesus. If that can be done then I guess a day of hard labor on the rock pike is worth it after all.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ding Dong Wedding Bells Are Ringing

I don't get asked much any more to celebrate weddings any more., which is ok. We now have at least one pastor here in Santa Cruz who is authorized to perform them. however, tis time it was the daughter of that pastor who was getting married. So I was asked to perform the ceremony.

We arrrived at the church on time to discover (shock) that the wedding was not going to start on time. But that is nothing new here in Santa Cruz. It seems that wedding never start until at least 8:30 in the evening, no matter what the announced time might be. so we sat, chatted and waited until the wedding part were all there and it was finally time to begin.

The ceremony itself was pretty typical for our churches. While there is an element of formality (the guys usually wear at least a tie if not a full suit and the bride will have a bridal gown) the flow of the event is fairly casual and the actual service is quite short.

The main event of the evening was not the ceremony but the reception afterwards. Many people who are not at the ceremony will be present at the reception. The reception was held in the garden of a relative's house. The weather was warm and pleasent without much wind. Each table was graced by a blown glass center piece which were probably made by the bride and her father (he is a glass blower by profession). The crowd slowly gathered and pop and finger food were served as everyone waited the arrival of the wedding party.

Finally the happy couple arrived and the event was off and running. Lots of music and not a whole lot of anything else except for table conversation and an occasional word of encouragement for the new couple from someone speaking over the sound system. Supper was served at around eleven, which was a full hour earlier than normal. I was impressed.

Besides us gringos, seated at our table were three little boys, two of them sons of a pastor and the other their friend. They provided a lot of entertainment for us throughout the reception. I tried to make sure that their cups were kept full of pop all evening until their eyeballs were floating in it and they actually turned down a new refill.

Following supper they were playing, as boys will do, on the ground. suddenly one of them was hit in the face by the leg of a chair and a nasty bleeding gash was the result. As we watched from our table we finally realized that the little guy was huty. There was blood. My stomach, just thinking about it, began to churn and my head got that light feeling. So what does my dear wife, the nurse, do? She hands me a band aid or so that she found in her purse with an alcohol pad for cleaning and sends me over to offer help. One glimpse of the poor kid's face wass all I could take. turning my head away I quickly offered the bandaid and pad to someone. I didn't know who. I wasn't looking. Then I excused myself to go out to and see if I could find something more adequate in the first aid kit in the car. By now my stomach and head were in complete revolt and I had to recline the car seat back to stop the ground from swimming. I even considered, for one bried moment, doing what every man never does - relinquish the car keys to Niki and ask her to drive home. Fortunately the spinning stopped and I was able to do my manly duty and drive. thus ended the wedding for us. I didn't even get the chance to congratulate the couple at the official time. It was just as well. Later on that morning (it was now tomorrow), there was another celebration to be at so we really needed to get home and to bed.

My congratulations to the happy couple and my wish for God's best blessing on their home and lives.