Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Eve and Day in Sierra Leone

So Christmas Eve we enjoyed a beautiful Christmas dinner
(only missing my mum's roast parsnips) with the Mercy Ships family all together.
Shared a few gifts and enjoyed the Christmas tree....

Then late in the evening, after many a mince pie and mulled wine, we had a Candlelight Service.

Always time for a little Christmas drama.....

We spent time celebrating, singing carols and

remembering the wonderful gift that Jesus was and is to this broken world we live in.

Only God could make a way out of our brokeness, and that He did by sending His Son

Jesus - He saves,

Immanuel - God with us.

He descended deep so we could ascend high.

He created our life in His image, He gave us life through redemption......

He IS our LIFE.

Christmas morning was spent talking with friends and family on Skype

- SO thankful for internet.

Then off to the beach!!

We headed to River No. 2 beach. With a lovely warm day, plenty of food to snack on and fantastic friends we had a wonderful day....

We sat on the sand as the sun set over the waters. Yes we missed family and many of our normal Christmas traditions, but we celebrated in the natural beauty of the the creator of this world, the creator of us, and the giver of life.

May you all know Jesus' peace, joy and love at this time.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas at the Orphanage...

We had such a wonderful afternoon with the children at the orphanage I visit to see Michael on the Eastern side of town. We went there last year Christmas too for an afternoon of fun and games.

We started the afternoon with drumming and carols.

Then spent a while talking about the Christmas story and how we can be friends with Jesus now.
This year I had the idea of doing some crafts with them. So along with Sandra we set about making a huge paper Christmas Tree, which looked very bare to start with...

but soon got filled up....

This is Michael - proud of his and his friends work.

Not one of these children had ever had a Christmas Tree in their home before. It was really special.

Just watching them perfect there decorations with glitter, feathers and screwed up tissue paper, you could see how much they were enjoying themselves.

This is Binta..being the youngest at the Orphanage, she got to glue the BIG Yellow star on top.

And all the Children then went on to make their own trees. By now they were experts!!

This is Abu helping Michael - I'm not sure who was enjoying themselves most??

But one thing is for sure, we all had a great time of joy and sharing love with one another. Exhausted we settled down for a short film and refreshments to round off the afternoon.

Loved it, Love the kids,

and Love being able to share Christmas this way.

Merry Christmas to you all...

Monday, 15 December 2008

We've been theived...

Last night we were robbed...
they stole all our gazeebo chairs where we sit to eat dinner, one families shoes, and my shoes too :o(
Basically anything that was outside what was worth taking.

My friend Sandra wrote an excellent blog about our thoughts on this....have a read...

Frustrating that we cannot trust our guards, and that the theives ran away with the chairs, and my 2 best pairs of shoes. It has left me scrambling up mountainsides in flip flops (and I do mean litereally) to get to my patients. Not funny!
But at the end of the day, as wrong as theft is, I know that I can afford to go and buy new shoes. A wander around Freetown is in order next weekend to find some others...maybe I'll even find my own back!
It happens!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Girls Football...

This weekend we had a girls football match against 'Cultural Dance Troop' - the village that lives across the road from us at the Mercy Ships clinic in Aberdeen. Our neighbours are somewhat fit from the culutral dancing they are renown for. We however had never played together, and many of our team had never kicked a ball before!!

So it was not light competition...

The guys had had a match the week it was our turn.

So we did our warm up, trying to look as if we knew what we were up to...

And scare off the other side...

And we're off....Much to the delight of the crowd that had gathered...

We played on a rough, uneven, dirt pitch, with a slight slope to the side. No lines but a line of people and a wall the other side! If it went out of the doorway in the wall, straight into the road it was definately out...however before long there was no way it was getting through the door as at least 15 outsiders heads were peering through to watch this crazy game!!

Oh and our nets - old fishing nets on sticks...

Our 'man of the match' Jeneba - was an awesome defender, scary!

All in all it wa a fun event....despite loosing 3-2.

Still scoring 2 (one was mine - Kelly my old Footie coach would be proud!!) was not bad for a never played before team!

Friday, 5 December 2008

December's Newsletter

Dear faithful supporters,
Yet another month and indeed year has passed as I write you this Christmas Newsletter. I praise God for his many blessings in our work with the disabled children here in Sierra Leone. As I've said before every day is a new adventure. Experiences are good and bad, frustrating and sometimes funny, but there is something to be learnt in every moment, and that has to be good for me!!

So Christmas this year will be somewhat different, with temperatures reaching well into the 30's
and humidity at least at 90%, I will certainly not be wrapping up with scarves and hats or snuggling up to log fires. However I did bring out a few decorations and thoroughly enjoyed myself decorating my balcony. There is not much sign of Christmas around. The commercialism of the occasion is not here, much so because people just do not have the money to waste! So I pray that the real meaning of the season is what is central. Jesus is the giver of the best present – life and hope.

Over the last month there is many an experience to tell but I'll give you just a few...
Last week we took a PET out to Amidu, a 11 year old boy with Quad Cerebral Palsy. He lives on the beach as his father is a fisherman. However, living on sand means that getting around in a wheelchair is impossible. For his whole life he has crawled on hands and feet, and since I've known him it has not been possible for his knees to straighten, so sadly walking even with splints will never be an option. We have known Amidu for a while and despite working on preventing further problems, strengthening his upper limbs and trunk and helping him with basic literacy, still his mobility was the biggest problem. Coming up to his teenage years means that image is all the more important. This PET, which is a hand propelled cart with larger tyres and a crank shaft, is purposely designed for 'difficult' terrains. Abu carried it on his head across the sand dunes to deliver it to Amidu. After explaining the safety and control, Amidu was eager to have a go. He really was the star of the village as he cycled it around and around the huts. All the other children followed and encouraged him along. It sure was a fun event for all. So time will tell as he develops his arm muscles, but we hope it will allow this young boy a chance to move around as independently as any one of his friends.

Abu and I have continued to meet with other organisations that work with children, the disabled or both, still seeking good networks and possible partnerships. One of these is called Handicap International, who are known world wide for their rehabilitation. They work from a Rehab Centre, and as yet do not do any community based care in the Freetown area. They however are also very big on petitioning the government for the rights of the disabled. The meetings went well and we hope to increase our already good relationship with them, although in quite what capacity I don't yet know. The other news as far as rehab in Freetown goes, is that New Steps, the Mercy Ships rehab programme where I started my physio experiences in SL, has been closed down due to lack of support. Not only is it very sad for all my local friends who lost their jobs, it is also a huge loss to the disabled people of SL, and I will struggle with no where to refer to for many pieces of equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches and PETS. It leads one to ask the question, how can we make programmes that will last, and who should be responsible for funding them – aid from outside SL, or SL themselves? When the country is still listed by the UN as the poorest in the world, with 2 in 5 children dying before they reach 5 years old; the priorities should be basics such as medical services especially maternity and children's care, and water and sanitation. With such a lack of major basic services, what hope is there for the country to support rehabilitation services, even though it is said that 10% of the total population have a disability? So planning for the future of my own work has made me think long and hard about where exactly I am going with this ministry. This is a huge question and although I originally committed 2 years, that is nearly up already!! As it stands for now, I hope to be coming back after the English summer with Sarah, the Occupational Therapist. We will work together for several months, then when she is settled I will probably return home for a while. However, since the work is going so well, we hope to continue to build this strong team maybe with more internationals as well as more locals, with Abu heading it up from this side. Abu has a long way to go learning how to manage this kind of project as well as the therapy skills. But he remains committed and reliable, and learning is a daily focus for us all!! I hope that updates you all a little on our future here.

This month I also travelled to Monrovia, Liberia with Sandra, a children's doctor and my closest friend here. We travelled across land, some on bumpy roads, for 13hours, but eventually arrived in one piece despite being a little shaken up! We went to the Africa Mercy, Mercy Ships' newest floating hospital ship. We took and brought back several patients, some who had cleft lip surgery; did some training with colleagues on board, and met up with good friends for professional and of course social encouragement!! It was a great trip and after all my years linked with Mercy Ship landbases, I'm happy to have to have finally seen a real ship!

Some prayer points if you don't mind:

~ Thank God for new families we are working with, that they learn what we are encouraging
~ Thank God for a wonderful trip to Liberia
~ Pray for on-going protection as we travel around in the Landrover
~ Pray for me as it gets hotter here as I have been suffering from migraines which make me dizzy and sick, not a good combination when long rough drives are needed to get home.
~ Ongoing processes of Sarah OT coming out
~ Pray for the government of Sierra Leone to hear the voices of the disabled, and recognise how to better support their needs
~ Pray for Abu's continued development in his progressively important role in this ministry
~ Pray that at this special time of Christmas, Abu and I can continue to share the love of Jesus, giving hope to so many families in desperate situations. Pray that we will have the wisdom and discernment of how and when to help and the patience and strength to deal with the many frustrating and sad situations we often come across.
Abu and I wish all our supporters a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

“Meri go bon boy pikin en yu go kol di pikin Jizos,
bikos i go sev God in pipul den from den sin” Matyu 1:21

“Mary will give birth to a boy child and you will call him Jesus,
for he will save God's people from their sin” Matthew 1:21

Emmanuel God with us – this is the hope we have in Christ Jesus

With Love and thanks, Vez