Saturday, July 30, 2011

What’s in a Name?

Meet Tamba, Tamba, and Tamba.
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Yes, all three of these guys are named Tamba. Remind you of a sitcom from the early 90s?

We joke about how many patients we have with the same name.  Ibrahim, Idriss, Foday, Tamba, Sahr, Abu, Abdul, Hassan, and Mohamed will identify most of the boys you see.  Kadie, Isatu, Memunatu, Mabinty, Aminata, Salimatu, Hawanatu, Fatmata and Fatu – holler these out, and you’re likely to find several females with those names.

Last names seem to be just as limited: Koroma, Kamara, Conteh, Sesay, Kanneh, Jalloh, Tarawally, and Coker and you have most of the country.  Imagine what this does with a database when you have 12 patients named Mohamed Sesay??

This past week we met Augustine at the beach.
Well, his name is Tamba – Augustine is his baptismal name.  We asked him why so many people are named Tamba and finally got some reasoning for it. He said that in his home area of Kono (the district in the far northeast, known for their diamonds), your birth order determines your name. 
Sierra Leone Districts.png
(for reference, Freetown is located in the Western Area Urban district- identified with a number one on the map).

According to Tamba (Augustine), these are the names for your children according to birth order.

the first born is: Sahr.
second is Tamba
third is Komba
fourth is Aiah
fifth son is Kai
sixth son is Mani
seventh is Sundu

For girls, the name for the first is Sia.
second girl is Kumba
third girl is Yeah (love it!)
fourth girl is Finda
fifth is Bondu
sixth is Sundu
and the last baby (girl or boy) is Bama.

While Tamba (Augustine) was telling us this, we asked what his brother’s name is.  And (to no surprise), it was Komba (third born).  What goes unsaid is that there was a child born before Tamba, a boy, named Sahr.  He confirmed that Sahr had died as a baby or small child.  With an infant mortality rate of 7.8 deaths out of every 100 births (compared to 6.06 out of every 1000 in the US), (Source: CIA World Factbook) Sierra Leonean moms and dads can't really afford to spend nine months dreaming and creating a name into which they deposit all their hopes and dreams for the future. 

So, while Jacob, Aiden, Madison, and Emma may top the charts in the west with several thousand other names creatively being invented,  Sahr, Tamba, Sia and Kumba are still topping the charts in Kono, Sierra Leone. 

On a side note:

Back in Freetown, our friends Kadie and Haja (girls who go to school on the Cheshire Home site, but live in a little roughed in building outside the compound), had another addition to their family last week.  Baby girl was born on the 17th of July.  We met her that Tuesday looking as perfect as can be.  When asked what the name was, mom said that she didn't have a name yet- she would be named on Sunday, following the Muslim custom of daughters being named on the seventh day.  So, we met "Aisha" this past week.  We are praying for health and life in this family.

Mrs. Kamara with her (at least) sixth child, Aisha.
Kadie (left), neighboring toddler (in wig), neighbor girl in center, Haja (right),
with baby sister Aisha and Mommy in back.  One little sister and two brothers are missing from the photo.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oh, The Places You’ll Go…. (When You’re Not in Control)

This week we’ve been blessed to have my parents (aka Grandma & Grandpa) with us.  We’ve visited our stomping grounds of Cheshire Home, the Cotton Tree downtown where the first freed slaves gathered after being brought to Freetown, the agricultural center, the Hope Center, the wards, and the beach. The beach isn’t quite so “beachy” in the middle of rainy season, however, but still the beauty of Sierra Leone can take my breath away.
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with grandma & grandpa at Bureh Beach, in the rain
As I sit in the hut I have time to ponder what God has done in our lives over the past two years since Dan felt the nudging by God to “go to Africa,” and I eagerly accepted the challenge (having felt that same nudging some 16 years earlier).  I remember that it’s not what I can do, but rather what God is doing through us.  This week I was struck by the simplicity of this response and it echoed in the devotional by Henry & Richard Blackaby, in “Experiencing God Day-By-Day:”

God’s Initiatives
Now the Lord had said to Abram,
‘Get out of your country, From your family
And from your father’s house.  To a land that I will show you.’
Genesis 12:1

The most dramatic changes in your life will come from God’s initiative, not yours.  The people God used mightily in Scripture were all ordinary people to whom He gave divine assignments that they never could have initiated. The Lord often took them by surprise for they were not seeking significant mandates from God.  Even so, He saw their hearts, and He knew they were trustworthy.

The Lord spoke to Abram when He was beginning to build a nation dedicated to His purposes.  Through this nation would come the Savior.  God appeared to Moses at the very time He had purposed to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  God found in Jesse’s youngest son David a godly man who could lead His people.  God surprised Mary when He told her she would be the mother of the Messiah.  God’s Son selected the twelve disciples, all ordinary, uneducated men, when He was ready to take the good news of His salvation to the world.  Through the ages God has taken the initiative in the everyday lives of people to accomplish things through them that they never could have imagined.

The Lord may be initiating some new things in your life.  When He tells you what His plans are, trust Him and walk closely with Him.  Don’t let the busyness of your present activity keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you.  You will see Him accomplish things through your life that you never dreamed were possible.

I see this played out in our lives.  This was not our own initiative, but a response to what the Lord was doing in our hearts.  We are DEFINITELY ordinary!  I have been certainly caught off guard by all that God wanted to do in and through us during this time of preparation.  And now that we are here- in this country far away from family, in a land that we definitely needed to be shown, we are blessed to see the ways that God chooses to use us in responding to his purposes.  I’m grateful for the heavy sense from the Lord to not brush this idea aside and call it CRAZY TALK.  The busyness of life easily could have swallowed it up.  Thank you, Jesus, for being persistent.  Thank you for encouraging us through the hard processes of downsizing, saying goodbyes, fundraising, and letting go of our own agendas.  It was definitely worth the effort.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Agriculture Program : Food for Life

This morning we attended the graduation ceremony of 16 students.  These students have been working with Jean-Claude and Anastasie, a Mercy Shipper couple that are from Brazzaville, Congo.  For the past several years they have worked with students onshore training in sustainable and organic agriculture.

Tracy (left) is the Off-Ships Manager, Jean Claude in the middle, and Anastasie on the far right – sorry! She is cut in half!!
Nearly 60 of us journeyed an hour inland to the site of the graduation.

Dulce forgot to read the memo that says we should dress up, so she borrowed this fancy head wrap from one of her local friends attending the ceremony.

The festivities kicked off with song and this banner by the Women’s Empowerment and Self-Development Association.

The seating was crowded as everyone came out from the nearby villages to celebrate with us.

We worshipped and sang together praising the Lord for what He had taught the students.

The students reiterated what Jean-Claude and Anastasie have taught them:
God was the first farmer.  Look at the forests as an example of how he mulches, uses nutrients from other plants, and uses the insects to do the work that we try to replicate with chemicals.
Prepare the land WITHOUT burning it and destroying the nutrients.  They learned how to pair crops that benefit each other – six rows of corn can be supported by the nitrogen in three rows of ground nut (peanut).  Onions and garlic plants work as insecticides when planted around other plants.  There are 16 elements a plant needs – they learned which materials can provide those elements in making compost for the plants.  The benefits of mulch for maintaining moisture and preventing weeds and grass from growing was also reinforced.

Along with their certificates,

Each of the 16 students who graduated was given a wheelbarrow, starter seeds, hoe, shovel, and all they need to be able to recreate this training back in their own communities.


Daniel, one of the new friends we made today.

Tracy with the leader of Heifer International, Sierra Leone, one of our partner organizations for the agriculture project.

These little boys from the village came out to check out the commotion.

After the ceremony we headed over to the site to check out the fruits of the last 16 weeks of labor.


Three rows of ground nut (peanuts) provide the nitrogen in the soil needed to support six rows of corn.


They also provided some examples of urban gardening – ways to be creative even when you don’t have a big plot of land.  These cucumbers were planted four weeks ago.


Aubergine (aka Eggplant)

Jean-Claude explains the reasoning (and wisdom) behind these raised beds that don’t collect destructive insects.

Summer Program Fun!

What do you do during the summer when you live on a ship? 

SUMMER PROGRAM, that's what!

The girls have been blessed by an amazing family (from MINNESOTA!) who come to the ship on a regular basis to run the summer program for the kids. Their helpers come from Australia, Netherlands and the US to provide activities for the kids age three through high school. 

The Zupke Family have an amazing love for children, a passion for what Mercy Ships is doing, and a nearly limitless enthusiasm as they lead our young ones for the majority of the summer. (And they have become our next door neighbors onboard, and Margo is my running buddy at 6:15am three days a week!).

Summer Program: Think summer camp, day camp, VBS, and field trips all rolled into one.  So far in two weeks they have been to the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Bureh Beach, the hope center and the ward to do crafts and games with the patients, and played loads of games! They come home with crafts, singing songs, and smiling brightly.

These pictures were taken on Friday as they spent the afternoon with patients on the ward.

Half of the 50 Academy students have gone on holiday for the summer - home to visit with extended family and do support raising.  So, for the 25 children that remain, this has been an awesome time of fun.

They will have two more weeks of summer program, then two weeks off, and then school starts up again! Incredible how fast the time goes.

Thank you, Zupkes and others, for pouring love into our children!!