Liberia Report: Contrasts

During our stay in Buchanan, Liberia, one thing that struck me was the variety of contrasts we saw.

Old and Young: At the Old Folks Home, we visited with dozens of aged people, several with physical handicaps. But a number of children also live there, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the elderly residents. Like their elders, these kids have no other family to care for them.

I thought this cool hand bike / wagon was a toy. But I learned this boy cannot walk.
The wagon actually serves as a wheelchair.

High Tech meets Old School:

Here I am with Martha Gibson, the lady I told you about who cares for orphans at her home.


This is Martha’s daughter, also named Martha (known as “Martha Jr.”) She was clearing brush with a machete out behind the orphanage during our visit, and stopped to take a call on her cell phone.

New Life… or Not:
Possibly our most heart wrenching visit was to the Government Hospital in Buchanan. The hospital serves three counties, roughly a quarter million people. It is currently staffed by a team of dedicated nurses… and one doctor.

Here in the maternity ward we brought little hats (handmade and provided by sweet ladies in Texas) and prayed over the babies and their moms. I don’t know why this dear mother seemed so listless… maybe we white people just made her uneasy.

Praying for provision and strength for this mom and her precious, healthy little girl

Woefully under-equipped, the staff can do little to help people. This woman’s preborn baby had died. In the US, she would have received immediate treatment. Sadly, all she could do was wait in the hospital to deliver spontaneously.

Liberia is a country of resourceful and intelligent people, but the nation has deep, urgent needs. I hope you’ll consider joining BESTWA in alleviating what suffering we can.

Thanks for reading,

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Who’s Sacrificing Here, Anyway?

It’s easy to think that, as citizens of a wealthy country, we USA types know what’s best for allllll the other countries.

We’re here to fix you. You’re welcome.

Granted, BESTWA uses donated funds to buy food, employ cooks, and serve a daily hot meal to more than 900 children. And yes, those of us traveling to Liberia had to get immunizations and visas and mosquito nets and pay for airline tickets and rented cars and drivers, and, and, and… a very real financial sacrifice for some.

But shortly after we arrived, the churches affiliated with BESTWA held a Sunday afternoon welcome service. One of the pastors made this statement, which I found quoteworthy:

No one is so rich that he cannot receive,
and no one is so poor that he cannot give.

Sure enough, we soon learned that we American peeps weren’t the only ones sacrificing.

Look at what magnitude of hospitality we received…
Because of the drought, the water level in the bucket well next to our building was too low to reach. Fortunately, a school about a quarter mile away gave BESTWA permission to use their pump well. Every drop of water we needed for washing, bathing, and flushing, came to us atop a child’s head.
Please note, kids are used to hauling water on their heads and they earned a little money for their efforts on our behalf. But still.

And here is how we got hot bath water. Our hosts heated it by the kettle full, right over the propane tank, and hauled it upstairs in a bucket.

Martha Gibson is a sweet elderly lady who’s been running an orphanage in her home and at her own expense since the end of Liberia’s civil war (August 2003). She brought us the gift of produce from the garden she uses to provide food for the children.

These ladies prepared a delicious dinner for their guests in this outdoor, partially floored “kitchen.” It was hot, hard work, but they were clearly bent on giving us their best.

After the meal, these same generous people gifted us with our very own traditional African dresses, complete with head wraps. (Think we can fool anyone that we’re really African?)

So, yeah. The supplies we brought, the record-keeping system the administrators established, the rice we took to the orphanage and the Old Folks Home, the time we took traveling… it all sort of paled next to the gracious and loving care we received.

It is good to be generous, but sometimes it’s even better to be humbled.

Thanks for reading,

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And The Winner Is….

On a recent road trip, I stopped in a small Texas town for some barbecue. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of one of their drink dispensers.

Based on the evidence, this here has got to be the best named soft drink brand on the planet:

Just wanted to share.

Note: You can see the edge of the Cooperative Sodas just to the right…..

Thanks for reading,

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Greetings From West Africa!

I am drafting the beginning of this post a week before our group leaves for the multi-day airline marathon to Buchanan, Liberia. Not being sure how much time or Internet access I’ll have, I want to make it easy to pop in with an update for you, maybe a few photos.

Saturday, Feb. 24:

Quick, while we’re at an Internet cafe:
We made it to Monrovia. Here is a shot of me with Daniel, the man I’m to interview, and his lovely wife Victoria.

I may not post on schedule over the next week, but I’ll catch you up after we get back to Texas.

Thanks for reading,

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On Writing, by Stephen King

Normally, the “Great Weekend Reads” I recommend are fiction. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King‘s memoir On Writing, but did not at first consider telling you about it as a Great Weekend Read.

After all, who wants to read a textbook about grammar rules?

Except it isn’t a textbook.

It took me a while to realize that while I’d picked up On Writing mostly for storytelling tips and methods, the book is actually a most entertaining memoir.

If you admire King’s work and have wished for a chance to ask him about his life and how he gets his ideas, or what it’s like to start out as a part-time writer with a day job, or how a wildly successful author works, or what his day-to-day life looks like… this is your chance.

No ivory towers here. King is frank, conversational, and maybe a little self-deprecating as he recalls his childhood and his early successes and failures. He also offers some pointers about writing–dialog and description and such. Far from rule-driven lecturing, these chapters serve as a behind-the-scenes look at fiction writing. King entertains both with his own running commentary on methods, and with good and bad examples.

I’m not into King’s genre (horror) at all, but found myself liking the man very much. If you enjoy fiction, whether you write or not, my guess is you’ll like this book. And if you are a writer, I’m sure you will find it encouraging.

Thanks for reading!

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Flattened by Overuse, Part 2

When last I wrote about overusing the word “love,” I didn’t plan any followup post. But some of the discussion has reminded me of another overused word:


You hear it a lot. F’r instance,

“I just think we should …”

“Just checking to see …”

Ellen Leanse wrote about this in 2015. Often we (especially women?) use the word “just” as an unnecessary apology. Apologizing for every opinion or statement not only flattens the impact of your thoughts. It also undermines you, the speaker.

I’m inclined to agree. If your speech habits make everything you say come across as hesitant, apologetic, uncertain… why should your colleagues have confidence in your ideas?

Ms. Leanse got some blowback, though. A couple of months later, Shane Ferro offered a rebuttal in Business Insider. Ferro points out it’s a bad idea to stress out about trying to eliminate any word from your vocabulary.

For one thing, a workplace ban on specific words like “just” sets up a judgmental culture. If you get busted for saying “I just need…” you end up apologizing for apologizing.

Talk about undermining yourself!

She has a point. Besides, the word has other uses. It can mean “simply” (This dessert calls for just three ingredients) or “exactly” (He has just enough money for dinner).

I find the discussion interesting. The differing points of view raise the question: Can you really predict how your speech will be perceived by your audience?

Giving some thought to how you express yourself seems like a good idea. With a bit of planning, you can make requests or share opinions and ideas without sounding either arrogant or apologetic.

Besides, any word you use from sheer habit probably doesn’t say what you actually mean.

Your turn: Do you police your speech for self-undermining phrases? Has anyone ever told you you’re too tentative, or too abrasive/bossy? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Thanks for reading,

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Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers

Image Credit: Goodreads

I’ve just re-read a classic mystery by renowned British author Dorothy L. Sayers. Whose Body? is, in fact, her very first novel, published in 1923.

Sayers’ main character is Lord Peter Wimsey, a quirky aristocrat and amateur detective whose title gives him some leeway to “interfere” in police work. In this first novel, Wimsey’s mother calls to tell him that dear Mr. Thipps, the son of her longtime friend, has found a dead body in the bathtub of the Thipps apartment.


On the same day, a wealthy financier has gone missing. Wimsey’s police friend, Parker, is sent to the bathtub scene to see whether the corpse is that of the financier. There’s a superficial resemblance, but everyone soon realizes it’s a different man. Everyone except Inspector Sugg, who promptly arrests the Thippses’ maid.

Lord Peter, aided and abetted by Parker, painstakingly unravels the few fine threads of clues that exist.

I enjoyed meeting all the characters, even the stubborn Inspector Sugg. Apparently I’m not alone–Sayers produced at least a dozen Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

If you like mysteries and haven’t yet discovered Dorothy Sayers, I think you’ll enjoy this Great Weekend Read.

Thanks for reading,

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