Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reflections on water

On a hot January day at Camphor Mission, VIM friend Jack Hopkins gave me the report that Neenyadah Village was ready to receive a new water well. I was glad to hear this good news because my local congregation, Green Valley UMC in Akron, Ohio had sent enough money with me to fund the digging of a new well somewhere in the Camphor vicinity. Before I traveled to Liberia, I had learned that boys and girls of the rural areas walk miles carrying buckets and cans only to bring home contaminated water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning. Within my very first days at Camphor I saw for myself the parade to and from the river. I saw the river water, stagnant and dark in many places. I also saw the clinic where cases of dysentary are treated.
On that humid January morning, Jack asked if I and several others wanted to take a bush hike out to Neenyadah. Joshua, the well digger employed by Camphor, would be our guide. We hiked the three miles to the village, step in step with Joshua on dusty trails of red dirt. We carried bottles of drinking water that were emptied long before we reached the village. After an hour or so, our party rounded the corner that brought us into the village - a community of over one hundred people. On the edge of the community sits the only water source, a lazy stretch of suspicious river water. Just past the river begins the complex of village buildings, walls constructed by dirt, roofs covered in thatching. But despite the primitive homes, Neenyadah is pristine, devoid of litter. The village is orderly in a gentle sort of way. Children play with dogs. Women cook on fires. In one palava hut a large group of people gathered in a circle of dancing and drumming. Joshua explained that the village is bereaved. Someone had died.

"Come this way," a man of the village directed us to the shade of a tree. Someone rounded up chairs - enough for all of our Camphor party of five. A couple of wooden benches were dragged into the shade. "Good morning," a smiling man greeted us with the firm hand shakes and the fast intimacy that was becoming familiar to me in this West African world. As village men and women took their place in the circle on the benches and on the ground, I realized what was happening - a business conversations of sorts, negotiations between well digger Joshua and village council. Neeyaneedah was soon to receive their fresh water well.

Joshua spoke quick Basa to Neenyadah village chief... Camphor Mission would supply culverts, pump, concrete, all supplies, plus the expertise of Joshua for supervision. The village would supply two men each day to dig. They would supply gravel and sand. The elders discussed the terms - the collaboration was beginning. Details were agreed upon. As Joshua pointed to me, he explained to the elders that a United Methodist congregation in East Ohio, U.S.A., was backing this project 100%. Christians in North America had given so that children in West Africa might have fresh water and live. "Zwo Bamba!" several women exclaimed, the Basa words for gratitude. Their children's life expectancy had just increased significantly. They moved close to embrace me. It was a beautiful way to spend a hot and muggy morning in January.

by Rev. Jennifer Olin-Hitt, pastor at Green Valley UMC

Thursday, January 26, 2012

UMVIM Team 2

Maribeth, Steve, Erin, Jennifer, Sam and Eddie have arrived. All are having a blessed time.
Eddie has been on adventure in the bush visiting UMC schools and churches with Helen Roberts-Evans.
Others have visited villages for well site selection, toured the mission, pounded palm, lead devotions with the girls, played kickball, worked on Map Team project, secured basketball hoops, gifted girls with much needed feminine products, and are getting to know the people on the mission.
Stay tuned for more details and photos!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

We have had a blessed time at Camphor Mission with UMVIM Team 1 from East Ohio. We send Janet, Ted and Ginny Logan home on Sunday and Jack, Kathy and Danny pick up UMVIM Team 2. Keep us in your prayers and that we would be decreased and God's glory would be increased.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Camphor Mission says thank you for sending volunteers and school supplies, for prayers and backpacks, for lockers and textbooks, for love and faith, for time and energy, for conversation and dreams, for hope and transformed lives.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If you want to know more about Liberia . . .

Books about Liberia
Might Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee
This Child Shall Be Great by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
By The Goodness Of God by Bishop John G. Innis
The House At Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper

Movies or Documentaries about Liberia
Liberia: America's Step Child
Pray The Devil Back To Hell
Johnny Mad Dog
Liberia An Uncivil War

Justin and Monica Tarr

I want to introduce you to two of our students at the Camphor Mission Station. Justin and Monica Tarr are brother and sister, same pa different ma. Their father's name is Rev. Joseph W. Tarr Sr. Rev. Tarrr is second in command at the St. John River District office. Monica's mom's name is Mary James and Justin's mom's name is Nyonjay. Mary is a midwife who sometimes brings goods like cola, bitterball and fufu to sell in the market. Nyonjay sells clothes in the big market in Buchanan that she brings from Monrovia. Justin was born in Buchanan at the government hospital while Monica was born in a home in Buchanan. Buchanan is the provincial capital, a large town just 15 miles from Camphor Mission Station.

Justin is the older brother, 15 years and Monica is just a year younger, 14 years old. They live in the dormitories on the mission. Justin has lived on the Camphor Mission for 6 years and Monica has lived on the mission for 3 years. Both attend school on a church scholarship. This means that they each bring 1 bag of rice, oil, and pay just $125 a year for school fees. Before living and going to school on the mission Monica and Justin lived in different homes in Buchanan but always knew one another. Justin was raised by his mom and Monica was raised by her grandma. As you watch them interact you can see a real love, respect and relationship between them. They look after one another and care about each other deeply.

Monica Marjay Tarr was born on July 1, 1998. She is in the 5th grade and wants to be a United Methodist pastor when she grows up. Meanwhile she likes to play with her friends, study, eat, dance and sing. Monica likes living on the mission better than living in Buchanan. "The teachers teach us good things," she says. Monica's favorite thing to eat is rice, palm butter with cassava leaf. Her favorite colors are pink and blue. She has her ears pierced. Her favorite television that she watches when in Monrovia is African shows and her favorite music is Me and You. Monica is looking forward to connecting with the pastor from East Ohio on the next UMVIM teams to arrive.

Justin Oliver Tarr was born on April 26, 1997. He is in the 9th grade wants to be either a journalist or a mechanical engineer. He was excited to hear that two engineers will be visiting the mission soon from the East Ohio Conference. Justin likes being at Camphor Mission where he can play with his friends. He likes soccer/football and basketball. He also likes being in Buchanan where he can walk all over (have more freedom), ride a bicycle, and watch football/soccer at the video club (a room with a generator and television to pay for viewing a live games or dvd). Justin's favorite football team is Barcelona. He even enjoys driving a motorcycle! He paid his friend to teach him to drive! Justin's favorite food is dumboy with palm butter. (Dumboy is cassava, a root vegetable, boiled and pounded and served as a staple food in Liberia.) Justin's favorite music is BayJay. Justin will graduate from the 9th grade this year and will attend school in Buchanan at another UMC school, Brumskin.

Monica and Justin want you to know that they their father has 8 children. The oldest brother Joseph is in the Armed Forces of Liberia. The oldest daughter Vicki finished high school and the next 2 older sisters are raising children. Monica has 2 younger sisters by the same ma same pa, Comfort and Patience. Justin and Monica are both sad about their relationship with their step mom, the woman their father is married to now. They say, "She hates us.. We love her and want her to be our mom but we are not allowed in their house," says Justin. Monica reinforces his words with "She does not want any part of us." They are still able to see their father when he comes to the mission to visit and when they are in Buchanan they go to his office.

All of the schools are coming to a close of the first semester. This week has been exam week for the school. They will have one week of classes then a two week break. Justin will go home to Buchanan with his mom for break and Monica will be with her grandma in Buchanan. Pray for Monica and Justin that they do well on their school exams, that they have an opportunity to visit with their father and relationship with their step mom, and that they are safe and healthy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Everyone is busy.
Building the guesthouse.
Digging wells.
Math teacher training.
Map mural painting.
Tutoring students.
Substitute teaching.
Devotions with girls dorm.
Visiting villages.
Building relationships.
Eating great food.
Working in the agriculture field.
Participating in traditional birth attendant training.
And . . .
Site seeing in Buchanan.
Traveling by canoe to Edina.
Shopping in Buchanan.
Visiting Peace Corp Volunteers.

Being blessed by time spent stretching us outside of our comfort zone and being a blessing to others.
God is using the gifts God blessed us with for God's glory and kingdom building!
God is good all of the time. . .
All of the time God is good. . .

Peace from
Kathy Danny Ginny Ted Jack Janet and Lindsey

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Things we see and don’t see at Camphor Mission . . .

We don’t see trash.
We don’t see long grass or overgrown palm trees.
We don’t see Tommy Paye, may he rest in peace.
We don’t see mosquito nets in the dorm.

We do see kids coming to school with backpacks and new uniforms.
We see pineapples in the pineapple grove.
We see brick making already in progress.
We see people digging a new boy’s dorm well.
We see healthy babies getting vaccinated at the clinic.
We see all the things we left behind.
We see water draining down our shower and the soffet job keeping bats our of our rafters.

It is a blessing to be at Camphor Mission and not be in crisis mode. Life is good.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year Thoughts from a past volunteer

As 2012 begins, Kathy and Danny are back at Camphor, getting ready to receive visitors. In the weeks prior to their departure on December 31st, I thought a lot about them going without us, and I was sad. I even cried. There is no way I could be going, but Camphor is part of my life now. I wonder how things and people are at Camphor. I think of Tommy Pay, and I cry for the loss of him, but I smile knowing I will see him again in Heaven. I wondered who was going to meet Kathy and Danny at the airport; if everything was still going to be where it was left. I wonder how Irene is, or Bishop or Rev. Kulah or Success or Alvin Joe. I wonder how Esther and Annie are doing in school. Is Seite still at school? How are the students doing in school? Has the road been fixed or going to get fixed, and how is the house progressing? Were there any rats and spiders? How did the Mission celebrate Christmas?

Having been to Camphor, now the Mission and the people are part of my life. I am so blessed to have been able to go to Camphor. God is so good. Even though I had told God I would never go to Africa, I met Kathy and heard the Camphor Mission story, and the Holy Spirit told me it was time to go even though I was over 60 years of age. God has such an adventure planned for each of us if we just let him have control of our life. I will wait for each of Kathy’s posts to the blog and pray for the safety of her and Danny. I will always wonder about the people there and look forward to seeing them in Heaven when we all get there. Visitors are going this year that I don’t know, but I am sure they will come home with feelings similar to mine. This is God’s world.

So enjoy 2012, and may each of you be blessed with health and happiness. And may God bless Camphor Mission Station and the work that is and has been done there.

Jane Sterken