Kevin in Liberia

Its Purpose: to raise awareness of current social, political, ethical, and spiritual issues within a relief and development context in Liberia. Its effectiveness is simple: It relies on me, the author, to provide insightful, and often debate-sparking material that will encourage you, the reader to get engaged through comment contributions, emails, and promoting others to read, re-think, and respond to the important issues discussed.

I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom. ~ a prayer by Blaise Pascal

Monday, December 04, 2006

Liberia: Part Deux - Rebuilding and Reconstruction

After seven long enduring months back in North America the time has come to resume my work in Liberia, a country that cries out for you when you’re not there and often leaves you on the verge of tears when you are. Seven long months were highlighted by a drawn out application process with Samaritan’s Purse International Relief (aka SP), a process that I’m glad I went through, but in the meantime contributed to me feeling very lost at times. I wasn’t fortunate enough back in April 2006 to have any sort of debriefing or re-entry coaching in order to get me ready to face western culture once again; I paid for it dearly. Whether it was social, mental, or spiritual awkwardness, my first few months back in Canada were extremely hard. I often found myself questioning things I never questioned before. I found little things that were just ‘normal’ to me prior to working in Liberia often very irritating and even annoying. Over time these things unfortunately worked themselves out in my own mind but I knew it was time to get back over to Liberia. It’s a shame how comfortable we can all get while living in North America, myself included.

So here I am with one hour and nineteen minutes left on a trans-atlantic flight that will eventually lead me back to Roberts International Airport, an airport just outside Monrovia built by the US Military about 60 years ago. Unlike last May when I first came over to Liberia, this time I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. I know the job and what it entails, I know the culture and the neighborhood I’ll be living in, and I know, for the most part, all the people I’ll be working with. This time around is also very different in the context of what I am leaving behind. Even though I feel like at this point in my life I belong in Liberia and not North America, I still have a lot of apprehension in my blood. The last two months of my prior stay in Liberia introduced to me an amazing girlfriend named Seren who has blown any previous concept of what it means to love and be loved. Leaving her behind is probably the hardest thing to do at this moment but something that is necessary regardless. She plans to come and serve in Liberia as well in the near future and we both need to have faith that God will provide an opportunity and a way.

In May 2005 I had so many different thoughts going through my head not having been in a war-torn country before: What are the people like? How dangerous is it over there? How has the war affected the Liberian people? After living in arguably the poorest country in the world for a year and opting to go back for two more, a whole new realm of questions exist that are a product of my current knowledge of the country and my time spent there: Is foreign aid beneficial to the Liberian people or is it just making them more dependent on ‘rich’ countries? Am I a missionary or a relief/development worker? In an often pressure-packed environment, how can I take a more compassionate approach to Liberians as a whole? What can I do to ensure that I keep the focus of our work in Liberia at the forefront of my mind?

The position I accepted is a two-year post as Field Finance Manager/Accountant. This position is very much like my previous position but without a lot of the clutter that caused a lot of stress and confusion in my last position. Indeed, there will be times when I will want to pull my hair, or gouge my eyeballs out, but I will be surrounded in an environment that looks out for the physical, spiritual, and mental well-being of their employees, an environment filled with some of the most quality people I’ve ever met.

I’m looking forward to what I can imagine happening in the next two years in Liberia. Some events that I can foresee happening are: 1. The Conviction and Sentancing of Charles Taylor for War Crimes/Atrocities (and the jubilation or potential violence that follows), 2. Full Compliance to the Kimberley Process by the Liberian Government and the Subsequent Lifting of Diamond Export Sanctions by the UN, and 3. Partial Re-Construction of Water and Power Infrastructure. There are many other events and much more progress that will realistically happen in these two years but these are the three main events that I can realizably see happening. Do I see corruption coming to an end in the next two years? The next five years? …even the next ten years? No. I don’t think corruption will ever cease in Liberia, much less the entire world, but with anti-corruption campaigns, more governmental accountability, and increased economic status of Liberians one would hope that these would all be factors at reducing the amount of corruption in the country. Some of the cultural issues within Liberia, corruption being one, are issues that I believe will take a generation to change. I hope I’m wrong.

A partial goal for my blog this time around is to expose what it was like for Liberians during the civil war that plagued this volatile country for 14 years. While I was in a deep sleep a week or so ago I got the brilliant idea that I would interview various Liberians, profiling their trials and success stories throughout the war in an effort to expose the atrocities that can be caused by large-scale greed and corruption. Through this process I hope to also expose some very moving stories of survival and change as these people look ahead to reconciliation and redemption. If I talk to enough people I’m positive that their stories will blow your mind and hopefully change the way you view the world. My initial intention is to create a standardized survey containing a variety of questions, mostly open-ended. I believe that with a well designed survey and some additional probing that I’ll be best able to convey their stories as accurately as humanly possible.

I also believe that through the purchase of a Canon 20D camera I’ll be able to provide more telling pictures of Liberia and the people who call Liberia home. This camera was an expensive investment but in order to capture the essence of Liberia I felt that it was necessary. I am looking forward to a more increasingly interactive and informative blog. Part of this is my responsibility through providing the necessary information and resources but part of this relies on you, the reader. In order for the entire international community to better understand Liberia, I believe that constant participation and dialogue from my readers is necessary. I look forward to getting back on the ground and ‘into the thick of things’ as they say. Keep posted and keep posting comments. I want to hear from you!

Currently in the Brussels airport…

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3 Comments:

  • At 7:16 PM, Blogger Karen said…

    Hey bro! I'm so excited for you. May God bless you and keep you in His love and joy during your adventure of reaching out to his children from afar. You are in my prayers and I am cheering you on. Keep blessing souls by your smile and your kind heart. --Sis in Christ

     
  • At 4:40 AM, Blogger Marjorie said…

    Hey Kevin.

    I remember Alex telling me about this blog once. She was pretty excited about it. And then the email from you about it. I can't wait to read about what's happening on my "homeland". I'm pretty jealous that you get to be with African people and I'm stuck over here. But oneday I will rejoin where my heart belongs and is. Until then enjoy the people, the country and the surfing because you can't go wrong with that combination.

    By the way, you should definately be a journalist.

    -MJ-

     
  • At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Suzi said…

    Beautiful, Kev. I'll be honest - I'm excited to read this blog again, especially since I can picture so much of what you write about. I'm entirely jealous, but I'll get back there someday.
    Thanks for allowing me to stay in touch with a country I fell in love with.

     

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