I receive a daily email devotion from Lutheran Church Charities and a couple of the recent ones focused on “unity”. I attended the morning LCL staff devotion this morning and the first hymn was “Bind Us Together”. Mmm…is there a message in there for me about how to deal with my ongoing “volunteer” issue in Gbarnga.
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together
with cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together.
Bind us together with love.
This will be my message to the community members when I return to Gbarnga as I try to align our mindsets about working together on this project. Let’s lose the adversarial nature and channel that energy into teamwork. My strategy will be to approach the head women of the nearby village and discuss sharing the lunch meal together, like a big potluck supper, instead of me giving money to Sumo and the workers eating among themselves. On my recent trip to Nicaragua, probably a hundred villagers from 5 or 6 different communities came together to volunteer their time in digging trenches and laying water lines. At noon, the entire crew stopped and got in line while the women served plates of rice, beans, chicken, and cold drinks — then ate together scattered on the ground under whatever shade trees they could find. This is the image that’s stuck in my head of how I expected the Liberians to respond, especially since Liberia is such a social culture. I’ve decided Gbarnga Mission should stealthily support food distribution with our finances rather than feeling this paternalism of handing out “lunch money” each day.
With this settled in my brain, I closed that mental box, put it on a shelf, and opened the truck repair box. That’s a scary box! Costs keep rising as they find that a broken timing belt leads to serious internal damage. I meekly call the head driver, Mark, to see the truck’s status so I can determine if I’m in packing-for-Gbarnga mode or sit-back-and-wait-another-day mode. He tells me Naomi, the LCL General Secretary, wants to meet with me — my thoughts immediately went to how I would continue refusing financial culpability for mounting engine repairs. It felt a little like being called to the principal’s office as I slumbered through the morning heat to the main LCL office (Oh no! I forgot my hall pass!). We talked for a bit and I saw the conversation stemming from a sense of embarrassment that I had been inconvenienced and couldn’t get back to the school building project at hand. As she began explaining there were no alternative vehicles available to take me back to Gbarnga, I shared about yesterday’s big truck purchase. I think she felt relieved that we would soon have transportation and LCL wouldn’t have to coordinate it. When I returned to my guest room, I began calling the truck dealer, Sam, and Nyekeh trying to work out when and how I would both get back to Gbarnga and return to pick up the truck. Nyekeh had mentioned plans earlier in the week about a possible trip up country this weekend. In classic Nyekeh style, he tersely said, “I’ll pick you up at 5:00 tomorrow morning. What else do we need to work out?” I like that he’s a decisive, take action Liberian! (and a truly nice man and strong Christian brother!).
I headed out with Saah in one of the staff member’s Jeeps so I could get back to the truck dealer for signing final paperwork necessary for registration. The wire transfer went through the same day so payment was complete–next step: the Liberian labyrinth known as the government. I explained my urgency and encouraged them to complete everything by Tuesday evening so I could take possession of my TX-4011 3-ton adopted Chinese baby on Wednesday (as I write “adopted”, I’m reminded of the complex process for adopting my beautiful daughter, Kimberly, from Korea. I get the feeling her homeland is more organized! Thank goodness I didn’t need to do blood work as part of the registration rigmarole.) On my drive back from the dealer, I stopped at Eagle Electric to continue stocking up on supplies that were of suitable size to fit into Nyekeh’s SUV early tomorrow…gas water pump with 10′ of suction hose and 120′ of discharge hose, work gloves, “head pans” (shallow metal bowls used to transport cement on someone’s head…who would have known?!), generator extension cord, etc. Back home by 2:00 and I’m done for the day. Another delicious chicken/bacon ciabatta at the Royal Hotel with free wifi and I return to a power-less guestroom to call my parents using my 50₵ for 24 minute Cellcom international calling plan. Back to working on my daily blog while I hope for the a/c to kick back in. I’m getting spoiled after 4 nights in Monrovia, though I miss seeing work progress at the site. Tomorrow should yield some interesting photos of what Sam has accomplished…and hopefully some good news about the truck repair.
After all, despite seat belt straps and nylon ropes that snap under the strain of the bumpy Gbarnga Hwy, there are some “cords that cannot be broken.”