Here is an excerpt from my book "Inspired to Action"
Ch. 3 “White Woman” “Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.” – Mother Teresa
“White woman, white woman! Please help me. I’m hungry; please be my friend,” said a street man in his mid-20’s. “White woman, I have no food for my children. Please be my friend,” chimed in a middle-aged woman. “Please, white woman - give me a job. I have no work; I cannot feed my family. Please help me.”
People swarmed me, pointing to the many overwhelming physical ailments they had, pleading for my help to get them on the big white hospital ship we were living on. Many had come to the ship as a last resort to rescue them from their life-threatening illnesses such as infectious growths, skin eruptions covering their bodies and disease complications I was not even trained to identify. Thousands of Liberian people had already been screened by the seven doctors on board the ship. The small crowd surrounding me was made up of the ones who had missed their chance to be seen by a doctor in order to determine whether they were a candidate for surgery or not. The appointment cards given to those approved for surgery are like golden tickets in these parts of Africa. More than 600 surgery slots had already been given out during the screening days.
In 2005, Liberia was not on my list of first choices for our family to live in, especially since it was only a year and a half after their 14-year civil war had ended. Yet our commitment to Mercy Ships at that time was what brought us to the nation. It was a time when 83% of the population was unemployed. Fifty percent of the population was under the age of 18, and 70% were illiterate. Liberia’s brutal civil war had destroyed the nation’s economy and displaced over a third of the population. Hospitals, libraries and schools were ravished in the process. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in 1989, Liberia had 800 practicing doctors. By the end of the war, it had 50.
In the first couple of weeks in Liberia, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer needs and desperation of these African people. Each day I would dread having to go off the ship for fear of facing the ones I felt I could not help in any way. Furthermore, I didn’t believe that anything I could do would make any real difference in their lives. Their problems were just too big and complicated. The people who were begging on the streets numbered in the hundreds at that time. The ones lined up at the port entrance desperately wanted a response from me as I would pass by; but I didn’t even know what to say.
I would say my prayers for them nightly, but that was the extent of what I felt I could do for those off the ship. My job was Renovations Secretary, and my main focus at that time was to get our department ready for the shipyard in South Africa in just a few months. This was a yearly maintenance time for the ship to be taken out of the water and worked on from the inside out, structurally and cosmetically.
Not long after arriving in Liberia, I read a book called African Friends and Money Matters. The author talked about how everything in Africa is based upon relationships. To be successful in Africa, it is important to spend a lot of time building friendships and relationships with the nationals if you truly want to affect real change in their nation.
Through that book, I was particularly interested in what the author shared regarding the beggars. When someone is begging, of course they want their needs to be met, but even more than that, they want to be heard and valued for who they are as an individual. One way to come to terms with this dynamic is to consider they may want a friendship with you. Yes, part of it is that they hope to get help financially, but you valuing who they are as a person is even more important to them than money, according to the author. He advised looking the person who is begging in the eyes and asking his or her name, asking them about their lives, families, etc. - truly showing value and worth to them. After this type of encounter, you will have gained a good friend.
While reading this, I started to get excited. I had been so frustrated at how overwhelmed I was each time I had to face the people hanging out on the streets. It became so bad that I didn’t even want to go off the ship any more. Emotionally, it was too much. However, after reading this newfound information, I felt personally challenged to test this out and push myself to let the African people teach me a few things. It was time to put myself in the learning role with the ones who terrified me emotionally. My prayer was that God would give me wisdom with each person who came into my path-specifically with those who were begging.
Putting a plan together, I decided that twice a week I would go off the ship for two hours in the morning and just hang out at the end of the port where crowds of people spent most of their day. I would make up my work on the ship in the evening. My plan was to go with no agenda except to learn from them. I would be open to whatever God prompted my heart to do with each person in front of me.
So this is how my Liberian adventure began:
In my book “Inspired to Action” you will read about how my entire life changed through these times on the streets and the miracles that followed that will forever amaze me.
I am still taken back at how my naivety caused me to walk in such fear and almost kept miracles from being accomplished in others’ lives. Through knowledge and just being teachable and walking in humility, God converted this fear in my life into transformational miracles for others. Find out how this happened and how you also can become free from your own fears, by ordering your copy of “Inspired to Action” today.