Arriving a Roberts International Airport and entering the small, crowded and somewhat chaotic room that served as the arrivals area immediately reminded Sarah of her years growing up in Nigeria.
However, word had been sent through to helpful staff who smoothed our way through immigration and baggage collection and ensured that we were paid little attention by customs.
On arrival at the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) campus it was nice to meet up again with the two MAF families already serving in Liberia. They made us very welcome and looked after us incredibly well all week.
ELWA campus contains a hospital where several SIM missionaries serve, a radio station, Tearfund offices and is a base for Samaritans Purse. It is where the MAF staff have their houses ....what a beautiful place it is to live since it is right on the ocean with it's own beach! Our children did all they could to get to the beach and swim as often as possible during the course of the week.
|Sea front and staff homes on the ELWA Campus|
|Wet view from the guesthouse we stayed in|
|Kids enjoying the sea|
|The MAF houses...ours should be built to the left of these|
One of the things that we all had to get used to quickly was hand washing before entering any public building. This is to reduce the chance of spreading the Ebola virus. Everywhere there are buckets with taps that supply chlorinated water to wash your hands with and some shops even take your temperature with an infrared thermometer before allowing entry. Generally handshaking as a greeting is not used which felt very rude to us just because it is such an automatic response and multiple times we found ourselves having to pull our hands back.
During the week we were able to visit the town centre, see what is available in the shops (and at what price!) and eat at one of the many Lebanese owned restaurants. Liberia uses both the $US and its own Liberian dollar. The Liberian dollar is of little value and therefore nearly all goods are sold in $US.
We discovered that almost nothing is produced within Liberia so all goods are imported and come at a price. This includes essentials like milk, eggs and vegetables. A few things are locally grown and these include eggplant, cucumbers, bananas and pineapple.
Coming from Uganda we are used to heavy tropical rainstorms but in Liberia we experienced another whole level of wetness!!! Our visit was during rainy season and being there during that time we can quite believe the annual rainfall of 5 feet which is 50% more than the UK but the bulk of it arrives in a 3 month period.
On Sundays we attended Monrovia Christian Fellowship. The teaching was excellent and the worship lively. It reminded us in many ways of the church we attend here in Kampala.
|Monrovia Christian Fellowship|
We were able to go with the children to visit the American International School of Monrovia. It is the only international school in the city, and currently has 60 students (Many of the former 130 students have not returned following the Ebola crisis), The school has excellent facilities although we all had to use our imaginations to picture the school filled with children learning or at play since it is the summer holidays now. We all decided we would be quite happy for Amy and Joshua to attend AISM.
For Mark there was the opportunity to visit James Spriggs Payne Airfield where MAF will be based. They already have an office which they are sharing with another small Christian NGO. The office is a 5 minute walk from the airfield. During Marks visit to the Airfield he was able to see the options for setting up maintenance there until MAF is able to build its own hangar. He was able to spend time at the Samaritans Purse hangar and talk to their Maintenance Director (mostly about motorbikes but also a little about work!!!). It was helpful to get an insight into maintaining an aircraft in a hot and humid climate near the coast. He was also able to see the area airport officials have verbally agreed MAF can build a hangar on...right now it looks like rough, uneven, rubbish strewn swampland but with a little imagination....who am I kidding!
It is hard to put all the thoughts and emotions of a week full of experiences into words...I think we are all still processing things. We all came away from the week more aware of those parts of our life in Uganda that we would miss. However, we also had a wonderful week building new relationships and picturing a new and different life for our family in Liberia.
Therefore, we have decided it is right for us to move and this week Mark formally accepted the position of Chief Engineer for the Liberia Program! We are currently planning to move direct to Liberia from Uganda in March 2016 in time for Amy and Joshua to join the last term of school before the long summer break. We would then take Home Assignment over the summer.
Until we move we will be in the interesting situation of being part of two programs. It maybe necessary for Mark to travel there to help with the maintenance on the aircraft in the interim.
I think it is fair to say that we are all excited to be starting this new adventure in Liberia and seeing what God has in store for us.