Who am I?

My photo
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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

He Who Finds A Wife . . .

This week Niki and I will be celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary. Through the years Niki has been a huge asset in our ministry. I have written about her involvement in Bolivia elsewhere so will not go into that here, but I have come to appreciate her in a new way since coming to Liberia. When we arrived in Monrovia and were brought to where we are staying it was a somewhat disheartening experience. The ceiling was dripping, things were less than clean, it smelled musty and there was no one to welcome us with warm food or warm greeting. The brothers were with us and I don't mean to discount them but there was no one to help us get settled and be "at home." Now, before you accuse me of whining or complaining let me make my point. Niki had numerous times in Bolivia helped to welcome new, or returning, people, not only in our own mission but others as well. There is nothing like a plate of hot cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit and eggs and sausage, a hot cup of coffee to welcome you to your new home. I missed that. And it made me think how thoughtful Niki had been all those years. When you are new to a country you need to learn about shopping, food preparation, even house cleaning. Again, Niki was good at helping new people learn to do these basic things. Perhaps the biggest thing you need is a listening ear, a good laugh or cry at times, maybe a cutthroat game of Settlers - all things that Niki has done for newcomers. So, again I say, the lack of these things being done for us on our arrival has only increased my appreciation for Niki and her talents as hostess and caregiver.

Niki has been a trooper here. I, being the insensitive male that I am, thought that she (weak female) would have more difficulty in adjusting to Monrovia than me (strong male). Hah! She has amazed me at her flexibility and adjustment. She has run circles around me in that aspect. So things weren't the cleanest in the world and we had a cockroach playing on us while we slept, she rolled up her proverbial sleeves and attacked everything with gallons of bleach. Even the books in the guest house library were bathed. The house no longer stinks, the cockroaches have greatly diminished and the kitchen cupboards and what they contain are clean.

And then Niki has jumped in with both feet into the ministry here. She has already had the pastors' wives over for a tea and plans to have a monthly meeting with them.

She is spearheading the weekly art class at the children's home that we teach.

And she has been helping with the kids at the Mt. Zion Church when we have occasion to attend there.

I hope by now you get my point. The Bible says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing." Thirty-three years ago I found a good thing (actually she found me but that's another story) and it's still  a good thing. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for praying for Niki. We are eagerly looking forward to the future and, should you come visit us, well have the cinnamon rolls waiting!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Come To The Wedding(s)

During our first month in Liberia, we have had the privilege to attend two weddings, one in a rural setting and the other in the city. Both were weddings of pastors, both were joyous occasions, and both offered us a window into Liberian culture and customs.

The first couple had been living together without having had any kind of wedding ceremony. After the man began to sense God’s call on his life for ministry (he now serves as an assistant pastor in his church) he was counseled that he needed to separate for a time from the woman and then get formally married. Wanting to do the correct thing, they agreed to the separation and then to the wedding.

The wedding was held in Careysburg, a small town outside of Monrovia, where the Liberia Evangelical Mission (LEM) has a new church planted. To get to the wedding, we rode with some of the brothers and sisters and pastor from the Mt. Zion Church in a van contracted by the church. The Mt. Zion church had encouraged its people to attend if possible and to pay (yes, pay, as an obligation) whether or not they attended, 500 Liberian dollars ($5.95 US) as a contribution toward the wedding to show support for the couple but also to help pave the way for church support of future weddings in the congregation.

The wedding festivities began on Friday when the families of the couple formally gave their approval to the union and the bride price was paid. Saturday afternoon was then the church service and blessing of the wedding.

The wedding was held under this shelter which provided protection form the sun.

My bride.

Is this a commentary on the ceremony?
The service consisted of lots of music and movement, offering, a straight forward message on the Biblical expectations for marriage, the exchanging of vows and rings and much celebration.

The ring bearer.

The flower girl was followed by the candy girl who lovingly kissed each piece of candy before throwing it down among the flower petals. The candy girl got scared when she me and didn't want to continue her entrance.
Following the service the crowd went from the church to the reception where a delicious meal was served with more music and celebratory dancing all the while.
Fried chicken, jolif rice, macaroni salad, potato salad and cake.

The young couple.
 Our van was returning so we were not present for the rest of the reception, which included toasts from the families, giving of gifts and cutting the wedding cake.

The second wedding took place the following Saturday. This bridal couple was also a pastoral couple. Their story was a bit different. Five years earlier they had been married traditionally but wanted to celebrate their marriage again, this time with a church ceremony. This wedding was held in the city in a borrowed church sanctuary. 

Lots of music.
The basic elements of the wedding were the same; music, movement, offering, message and vows.

The flower girl kissed each petal before throwing it down.
Here comes the bride!
Following the service the reception was held in the sanctuary with a meal that was similar to the meal the week before. This time we were able to witness the toasts and the cutting of the cake.

Yummy, wedding cake!
I thank God for these two couples and their desire to honor him with, not just their service, but with their marriages and homes as well.