Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baby Darlene Grace Needs Your Help!

Unless you just happened upon my blog today, then you are aware that I recently traveled to Liberia, Africa on a mission trip. You can read some of my very recent posts to learn a bit more about the trip. However, something very significant happened while there that I need to share with you in hopes of finding someone that can help...

We had the privilege of meeting a family with a darling baby girl by the name of Darlene Grace...

You see...Baby Grace was born in November, 2009 with a condition by the name of omphalocele, in which she was born with her stomach and intestines on the outside of her body. When she was delivered, her parents were told to "get rid of her" that she wasn't even human. They knew she was a gift from God and refused to do so. Due to lack of knowledge of how to care for this deformity, the hospital simply wrapped up her organs in gauze, which eventually led to a very severe, life threatening infection.

I had actually never heard of this birth defect before, but in researching it, I learned that it occurs worldwide and can generally be corrected fairly easily in countries with the resources to do so. Hence...the problem. Baby Grace was blessed this past January by a Chinese surgeon that happened to be in her home country of Liberia at the time but has since returned to China. He performed a first surgery on her then to save her from the life-threatening infection that had invaded her body. He secured her organs under a thin layer of abdominal skin but said that a second surgery would be required when she turns one, or she would not survive. This doctor, however, had to return to China, and there is not another surgeon in Liberia skilled to perform this type of procedure.

To get to the point...I'm putting this out there in hopes of finding some help for Baby Grace. There is a small group of us working on this, but it's going to take many people to pull this off. In short, this is a very poor Liberian family in need of a miracle for their daughter. This will need to be considered a charity case at all levels! I have met Baby Grace's mother and have spoken with her father (a pastor) by phone. They are wonderful people!

If you have the skill, ability, or know anyone with the skill or ability to help with the following, please contact me at or through a Facebook message:

1) A surgeon that can gift this type of surgery.
2) A hospital that can gift all services related to this surgery: operating room, staff, pharmacy...the works!
3) Someone to donate air travel for the baby and mother (at minimum)...frequent flyer miles might be an option here too.
4) A host family living close to the hospital where this procedure takes place.

These are just some initial thoughts. This is actually a pretty monumental project to undertake, and we're simply trying to gather as many resource possibilities as quickly as possible. We have been put in contact with a couple of people already, but we're willing to look at anything possible. Please, please pray for Baby Grace and ask God to reveal to you any possible way that you might be able to help with getting her this miracle!

Thank you friends! Be most blessed!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Reflections on Africa - Part 3

Thank you for following my journey to Africa with me, as I recap some of my journal entries through this blog. I continue to do so again now, but we're going to change locales a bit. We've just completed the first two workshops at the Love Center, and we're now moving to a new location a bit further out - Faith Works Ministries.

Journal Entry - June 10
Today has been an emotionally charged day on many levels. The day began with what else? RAIN! And...lots of it. It delayed us leaving for Brewerville, about an hour away, for the next workshop. But, it finally slacked off enough for us to begin the trek over there. We saw more of the country today than we have all week so far. However, most of the sites weren't very pleasant to look at. Extreme poverty. It makes me sick to think that anyone has to live this way. When we got to the church - we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was inside an orphanage compound. There were nearly 100 women waiting for us when we arrived. This was a MUCH different crowd than the last two days. The women were less educated, less attentive, and generally noisier. However, they still knew how to dance and praise the Lord. The hand massages were very popular - like at Love Center. I think we ended up doing around 30 each. The message that I gave on being God's princesses took on a completely different meaning here. Not only did the women hear that they were "royalty", but God really impressed upon some of them to also wisely choose the name of their children. Maria shared on the ride back to the compound that many of these women name their children by what is taking place in their life at the time. For example, they might literally name their child "Poor Me" or "Hard Times" or "Struggle". It's amazing to see how God took that message and allowed the women to hear something completely different than I intended. But, it was obviously something God wanted them to hear.

The rooms in our compound continue to fall apart. We've had things break right in front of us. Tonight, it was my shower - the floor of it literally caved in. Ginger and I decided that we need to find a way for a group of US men to come here and work on this facility before it completely falls apart.

Journal Entry - June 11
I don't even know where to begin writing today. I'm emotionally spent! Today's workshop was amazing! It was a smaller crowd than yesterday, but many of the same women returned. God gave me a gift today in a woman by the name of Teresa. I was able to see her transfrom into something spiritually beautiful between yesterday and today - right before my eyes. Ginger and I were both very drawn to her! She had her beautiful son with her today as well. God makes such beautiful people! At the end of each of the workshops this week, Maria has invited the women to come forward and share how our messages have touched them and how God is working in their lives. These particular women have a hard time communicating their emotions (Maria explained to us later), so they expressed themselves with a song. We had so many beautiful songs shared with us this afternoon. However, those that chose to also speak with words did so in such touching ways. My life will literally never be the same again! They flocked to us afterwards begging for our address and phone number. They treat us like celebrities, and I don't like that attention. I'm a woman just like they are - I just happen to be very blessed to live in the USA.

(BTW...I was so happy to be able to talk to Chris a little while ago - I needed to hear his voice desperately.)

The ride back to the compound today was very interesting. Traffic was horrible, and we even had to drive with the van door open part of the time - just to be able to tolerate the heat! Apparently, a drunk man "allowed" himself to be hit by our van (barely). He started shouting obscenities and ended up spitting on our driver and front seat passenger. What a crazy, messed up place this is - desperately needing the Hope found in Christ alone! We saw more and more poverty, as we made our way back to the compound. The stench of it won't leave my nostrils. I'm starting to long for home, but I'll return home a changed woman!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reflections on Africa - Part 2

I'm quickly getting acclimated back to my American life after having spent some time in Africa earlier this month. I will say that I'm extremely blessed to live in this country, and I appreciate it now more than ever. To continue my "reflections" on my trip to Liberia...I'll share more excerpts from my journal entries:

Journal Entry - June 8
Today brought Workshop #1 (of 5) at the Love Center, a church about 5-10 minutes down the road from the place where we are staying. The actual church structure was much nicer than I anticipated. We had around 50 women in attendance. But...before going any further, I have to say that Satan tried hard to prevent us from getting there. The van broke down that was to take us there. So, they sent another vehicle after us that completely lost a wheel en route (not a tire - but a wheel). Vehicle #3 finally arrived and off we went! We were greeted by the most beautiful, praise-filled owrship I've ever seen - African style. We quickly fell into rhythm and joined in. The message God gave me for these women went over very well, I felt. The workshop started later and finished earlier than expected, but that's okay. "Go with the flow" is our mantra in Africa! We gave lotioned hand massages to each of the women present, and they were an absolute hit! Probably the best thing we did. The women felt very loved and appreciated and thanked us profusely.

In an effort to hit the highlights of the day, I'll move ahead a little. The evening brought much relaxation and lots of rain! As a matter of fact, we are now on our second day with no water, and we still desperately needed to wash our hair. So - guess what? Yep - you guessed it! We stood out in the rain and lathered up and had a literal rain shower! God is teaching me lots here in Africa!

Journal Entry - June 9
WOW! What a day this has been so far. Today's workshop was incredible. The women were very receptive. The message that Ginger gave on Esther was "spot on". The praise and worship was incredible as always. We have been treated with such love and respect while we've been here. I can't get over God's goodness in allowing me to do this. There have been some bumps in the road along the way, but it's all for God's glory. I remember Lorie praying before I left that I would have a special connection with a Liberian woman. Today - that woman was Mary. I actually met her at yesterday's workshop, and she came back again today. God is really growing me and changing me in ways that I don't even understand yet.

Today brought issues with the phone service - we don't seem to have any. I'm desperately feeling the need to talk to my husband right now (especially since I was unable to yesterday). I'm praying that issue changes - for the better - very soon!

Even though we're working very hard at the workshops, I'm finding that I'm getting more rest down here than I've had in months! I've also needed that very desperately.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reflections on Africa - Part 1

Hello blog friends!

I'm baaaack...from Africa, that is! The much anticipated mission trip to Liberia has started...and ended already. It was an unbelievable trip, and I have so much to share with you. I've had tons of calls and emails asking for updates (and, thank you for your patience as it's taking me some time to get back with you), and there's simply *so* much to tell, that I felt it best to share some of that in a blog format. I'm still recovering a bit from jetlag and start back at work today, so it's taking me a little while to get back into the swing of things. So...bear with me, as I plan to break this down into segments. If I wrote it all into one blog post, it would turn into a mini novel. I journaled while I was in Liberia in hopes that I wouldn't forget some of those emotions and events as they were happening. I plan to share some parts of those journal entries with you in these blog posts, along with pictures!

Journal Entry - June 5
It's here. The day I've been preparing for for months. Today, I begin my first of 3 flights that will eventually bring me to Africa. I'm a literal fruit basket of emotions right now. I'm full of excitement, wonder, anxiety, a hint of fear, humility, doubt (just a little), and amazement. I'm utterly amazed that God has given me this opportunity to teach His precious Liberian women. I feel so incapable of doing this, and I am. But God - God is *totally* capable of achieving His plans and simply useing me as a vessel. I love Him so!

I now sit at the Charlotte, NC airport waiting for my flight to take me to Newark, NJ where I'll meet (for the first time) Ginger and Frankie - the other 2 team members traveling with me. Lorie - our sweet sister - that put this group together can no longer go with us, because God opened her womb again after 7 years. She's expecting a precious baby right around Christmas. While I don't understand God's timing, I trust His sovereignty.

I said goodbye to my precious husband and daughter just a little over an hour ago. It was hard, but I'm trusting God with them too. He adores them!

Journal Entry - June 6
Now I can truly say that overseas travel is tough, and I'm not finished yet. I'm sitting in the Brussels, Belgium airport having my first experience with jetlag. It's 10:20 am Brussels time and 4:30 am back home. I was unable to sleep at all on the flight here. I was simply too uncomfortable. I'm trying not to complain - it's just going to take some getting used to.

Sitting at the gate, I'm surrounded by Africans - such beautiful, ebony-skinned people. We met a precious Liberian woman right after we got into the aiport. I was drawn to her, as she was singing humns of praise to God while walking through the airport. I commented on her voice, and as we began speaking with her further, we learned she's a doctor - resident of the US but Liberian born. She may try to come to one of our workshops!

Journal Entry - June 7
We made it to Liberia yesterday evening after another long flight from Brussels - via a stop in Abijan in the Ivory Coast. My lack of sleep finally got the best of me, and I was very sick on the plane. I prayed that God would deliver me from that mess, and He did by allowing me to finally sleep on the plane. I felt like a new person after even a little bit of sleep!

After finally making it to the Monrovia airport, we felt like like royalty when the staff from our mission partner agency had such good people help us get through the airport craziness. After getting outside, we were happily greeted by Maria, Francis, and Willette.

We journeyed through the dark streets of Monrovia on our way back to the compound, where we were staying. After showing us to our rooms, we enjoyed a nice dinner of pork chops (in a delicous gravy), french fries, salad, and yummy pineapple. I even had mango juice to drink! After a late evening dinner, it was time for bed! I slept so well - even missed the hard rain that came through. (It's the rainy season in Liberia right now.) Monday morning (today) brought delicious bread and bananas for breakfast. We lounged about for several hours, and met some new friends - Konah and Zimah (twin 8-year-old Liberian boys thatr live at the compound awaiting adoption by an American). They are precious! We were walked down to the beach and saw many interesting sites - poverty at its fullest in shacks being used to house families of 5-6, wild hogs, and little "hoglets". The ocean was beautiful as were the rock formations that were jutting out of its waters. We eventually made our way back to the compound and had what Irving (head cook) called a chikcen sandwich. It was actually more like a chicken wrap stuffed also with potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and a delicious sauce. Yummy! We also had pineapple on the side. The pineapple here is outstanding!

Following lunch, we worked on some items for the workshops - stuffed goody bags to give to the women, etc. The workshops begin tomorrow! God, please prepare my lips. We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in Monrovia for African souvenirs to take home.

We ended the evening with another of Irving's tasty meals: fish (casava, I think it's called), rice, vegetables, and the African version of okra. It was all very, very good!

Here are some pictures from our first full day in Liberia: