The Journey TO Liberia
(Edit: originally written last night, Tuesday night, but the Internet never came back to life, so I'm uploading this morning) Well, after over 50 hours of travel (28 in the air, the rest in airports and layover cities) our team of 30 has arrived in Monrovia, Liberia. For the most part, all travel was smooth and enjoyable... Okay, at least smooth... Here's a few highlights from our traveling escapades:
- we managed to check almost 60 pieces of luggage, all between 49.5 and 50.5 lbs. The over/under for how many would get lost was 3.5 and most people were taking the over (more on that in a bit). Sidenote: shout out to Michael Effinger for overseeing this endeavor
- on our first flight, to D.C., the flight attendant came on the loud speaker and announced, "we'd like to welcome our special guest flight attendant this morning, Mr. Dustin Nelson!" Who knew he had such skills in rolling a cart and handing out beverages??
- no matter what seat is originally assigned to Shane Jones, he never ACTUALLY ends up there. One flight saw him switch six different times before he found a seat to his liking. - Jason Hogue almost got detained at the customs check-in in London. Even AFTER all the signs stating "no cameras" (which he 'swears he didn't see') he whipped out his honkin' Nikon, held it up high over his head, and started snapping shots of the team standing in line. Almost instantly, a customs agent shows up at his side, "sir, I need you to give me that camera right now, and come with me." At first, we thought that was the end of Senor Hogue, but it turns out the agent just pulled him aside, scolded him briefly, and made him erase the pics he just took. Lesson learned.
- It pays to have a "medical team" travel with you. Can't sleep on the plane? Bam, here's an Ambien. Getting stopped up? Bam, here's a magic pill.
- Turns out you still need a prescription to get Malaria pills even on the streets of London, contrary to popular belief. (Fortunately, Flight Attendant Dustin has friends sharing their pills with him)
- The rest of the world goes crazy for the World Cup. Many of you know this well already. But everywhere we've been so far is caught up in Futbol Fever.
- The worst films ever created by Roman Polanski and Gary Marshall ("Ghost Writer" and "Valentine's Day," respectively) were the in-flight movies while flying over the Atlantic.
- Upon landing, finally, in Monrovia, Liberia, and sifting through all the luggage at baggage claim, only 4 boxes (out of 28) were missing, and only 4 people's personal bags did not show. Some would say this is an acceptable casualty rate. The word on the street is that they may arrive via another plane tomorrow (Wednesday).
- The Head Honcho at baggage claim (in Liberia) was refusing to let us take our 24 boxes out of the airport. He wanted Palmer to open them all up and pay duty on everything. The team began praying, and Palmer continued protesting. In the end, as we say in the states, Head Honcho got "chinched," and we quickly carted all the bags out as fast as possible.
- After getting all loaded up, we drove from the airport to some property owned by ABC right in Monrovia, on the beach. As we pulled away from the airport, my van was full of energy and humor. We had many a jokes to crack, and all were more funny that they should have been thanks to the exhaustion brought on by travel. However, after ten minutes of driving and laughing, we began to pass some small villages. Instantly, there was a noticeable drop in sound as everyone stopped talking, ceased joking, and just stared out the windows. The immediate silence was deafening. For most of us, this is a first-time experience seeing life like this, and "no words" seemed the most appropriate response.
- The beach in Monrovia is stunning. The water is bath-warm. The waves are perfect. The team got a little breather after some grueling traveling and before a long stretch where there'll be little to no breathing.
- This morning (Tuesday) we got up early, re-loaded all the boxes and bags in our 4 vans, and started the 8 hour trek up north to the ABC campus here in Yekepa. The road is "paved"... ish... with many a pot-holes. So, driving straight wasn't really an option... imagine swerving and bumping for 8 hours... what's that? you can't? yeah, neither could we, really, until we actually experienced it. I guess they're working on re-building the railway that leads up to Yekepa, so maybe next time we can take that.
All in all, we are now here in Yekepa at African Bible College. Tonight we sleep in beds that just four years ago had no roof over their head. This campus, torn and destroyed from the civil war, has quickly been rebuilt and restored by the grace of God and by generous followers of Jesus all around the world (many of whom are you, The Grove). The rebuilt dorms and houses are beautiful, and once the final multi-purpose building is finished, this campus will probably be in better shape than before the war.
Tomorrow we will get acquainted and oriented with the ABC students we'll be partnering with in our various missions. And Thursday we will get to work.
How you can be praying:
- a few team members are battling random illnesses due to travel mostly. Pray that tonights rest brings them much needed healing.
- most of our plans are laid out for the various teams, but many "variables" still exist to alter those plans. Pray that "best possible outcomes" would arise as we begin to enact our mission. Pray that the things we set out to do, and the things that God has for us, would become clear.
- pray for the lost luggage to arrive. It's hard to be so far from home and not even have your own stuff. Also, things such as the helmets for the dirt-bike squad and the basketballs/hoops for the basketball team are some of the missing gear. Lets hope they all arrive tomorrow.
- pray that God would start, even know, to open the eyes and the hearts of the people on this trip. May we be changed as we seek to bring change.
Thanks for reading and thanks for praying.
We'll touch base again soon.
The Love Liberia Team