Friday, 2 June 2017

Christmas, propellers and avionics…

Well, if anyone has been seeing my Facebook posts then you will already know that Christmas came early (or late – depending on your perspective) in Liberia…..
The long awaited container of tools and equipment finally arrived….the clearing process went pretty quick and we had it delivered to the airport about 1 1/weeks after it arrived!  Of course the timing of its arrival coincided with a busy week of maintenance, so I had only one day to get in there and start figuring out what was what and where things were.  Fortunately it had all been packed really well with clearly numbered boxes and a detailed packing list so I could even find a particular piece of equipment I needed for some of the maintenance being done the following week.  Knowing that the next week was going to be busy with maintenance, Josh and I went to the airport on Saturday morning to continue with unpacking some items – our aim was to get to the crate at the back that contained the Kubota tractor that is to be our aircraft tug.  Since MAF has been in Liberia we have been reliant on other operator’s kindness and so we are looking forward to being a bit more independent and, being in a position to return some favours!!!
So that was Christmas…

Then there are propellers.  Our aircrafts propeller was due to be changed.  You may remember that in January I went on a course in the US on how to assemble propellers?  Well, now it was time to put the training into practice.  There were a couple issues during the re-assembly that delayed things a little but the plane was booked to be down for some checks on the avionics that gave me the down time needed to get the job done. 
There were also a couple of distractions of the reptile three young snakes were found around the hangar and aircraft over two days!

The avionics checks were carried out by Hannu, an engineer with MAF in Kenya, and so he worked on those tasks while I worked on the prop and we managed to synchronise things so that we didn’t get in each other’s way.  Hannu was also able to repair a radio problem that had been plaguing us for a while.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Festivities All Around

This past week has been filled with Fun and Festivities for just about every member of the family.

International schools around the world often find their own ways of celebrating the many countries and cultures represented in the school. The American School of Monrovia  is no exception. Amy and Joshua's school has around 90 students and they represent 23 countries around the world!  Last Friday the school celebrated this diversity. Festivities included a parade of flags,and Joshua carried the flag of United Kingdom. Then there was  Liberian dancing and drumming performed by various students  which was all followed by a "Feast of the Nations" potluck meal. My British scones were a hit...and the Lebanese mums have been asking for the recipe.
Standing for the Liberian anthem after the children have paraded in with all the flags. Joshua is top left.

Liberian dancing

A day later, Mark & I were celebrating the graduation (pinning ceremony as it is known here) of the therapy students from SALT, the rehab clinic where Sarah volunteers as a Speech therapist. 
 Fifteen students had completed a 9 month diploma course, passed their exams (in speech, occupational or physical therapy) and have been eagerly anticipating this day. I have come to know some of them fairly well as I work with and mentor them at the clinic each week and  it was an honour to be invited to join them.
 I was especially privileged to be the main speaker at the event and to be given the freedom to share with them how my faith affects my approach to therapy and those I work with.  It also, will go down in our memories as one of the few events we have attended in Africa that started on time and finished early!

Dr Kamara (SALT founder) Sarah and the graduates

Mark and I with Pious, the Physio therapist who treated Mark and has now graduated in Speech Therapy also.
Some of our paediatric patients whose mothers came to the ceremony. To my right is Martha, the lead speech clinician whom I work closely with.

This week has been one of praise and excitement for our MAF team but especially for Mark. He has spent so many hours over the past year occupied with the job of ordering all the tools, equipment and spare parts needed to get the maintenance base in Liberia set up. 
 He finally saw the 'fruit' of some of those hours sat in front of a computer screen this week!
A container full of equipment and tools had safely travelled the seas from the US, been cleared through customs and was offloaded next to the hangar.
It's like Christmas!! Eager to get inside and start unpacking, Mark headed to the airport with Joshua this weekend to start digging in. They had fun but were certainly hot and sweaty at the end of the morning.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A month in pictures

Well it's been quite a month (plus a few days but whose counting?)
I thought the simplest way to give the highlights were in pictures.

The children have been asking about a pet since we arrived. Since this is not our permanent home we had been a little reluctant to make the commitment.  Towards the end of January we Oreo, our new kitten.  Mummy is just thankful he is great at using the litter tray.

Then at the end of January I (Sarah), celebrated the big 40!! I was spoilt with cakes, meals out that lasted the whole week.  I felt so blessed.  I do believe that cards may still be on the way...nothing like the African postal services (snail mail still exists).

The month has been full with work activities.
Mark had a week of meetings and training in Kenya with all of  the MAF Africa region Senior engineers.
Sarah is keeping busy with Speech Therapy and MAF story writing. Check out my first published story on MAF UK website.

We have also fitted in school Joshua's class visited the Firestone Rubber Plantation.
We learnt all about tapping the trees, grafting new rubber trees and what can be made from the liquid latex.

Awards at school....Amy won the award for Positive attitude among all the grade 5 & 6 students.

We are incredibly proud of the enthusiastic, caring and determined young lady she is growing up to be.

We are also incredibly thankful for your prayers....MAF has now found funding to build two more MAF houses (one will be a permanent home for us).  We are still praying that contracts and final plans can be drawn up quickly and work can begin while the dry weather lasts.

The best Day of my Life - A post from Joshua

This was last Thursday. My mum and dad decided that I can go on a plane, yes, a plane by myself! By the way my name is Josh, I am 9 years old and have 2 lovely sisters. The oldest Amy, she is 11 and Abby is 4 years old.

On Thursday my dad woke me up at 5.30 in the morning. I got up and got showered and fed the neighbours dog (they work for SP Samaritans purse and they had gone on retreat). I and my dad got in to the car, a big Toyota car.  We went to the Sheppards home to pick them and their bags up.  We all went to the airport where my dad works. His good friend the pilot Arjan was the pilot that day.
We sat in the waiting room eating our snacks, then my dad said “come”, so we boarded the airplane. We got in the plane and when everyone was seated we prayed to God. Arjan started the plane… one of the best parts was I got to sit where the pilot sits. It was so awesome!!!

We flew to Voinjama, Liberia to take the Sheppard family back home.  They do Bible translation there. The weather was really cloudy so we could not land at Foya, the second destination, and went back to Voinjama.  It was cool to see Liberia from the sky…lots of trees.  

My favourite things about the day was getting to sit in the front and ‘be a pilot’ for the day. I also got to help my dad tow the plane back in the hangar. I would love to be a pilot when I grow up.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Around The World

Wow, only four days until Christmas.  There is no snow (although our children would love that), no Christmas music in shops, only a few decorations on sale in some supermarkets and no carol service to attend.
So,what have we been doing to prepare for Christmas?

We do have our tree that has traveled the globe with us. I love decorating it as our ornaments are filled with reminders of friends who gifted them to us or happy memories of Christmas' past.

For many reasons, our other decorations are mostly home made.  This year the children and I have had fun making paper chains, snowflakes and giant paper bag stars.

With no advent candles or readings at church here we usually follow some advent readings of our own,  This year we have enjoyed using 'Jesse Tree' advent readings, with a symbol to add each day as a reminder of that days story.

The schools that the children attend have been busy collecting donations & gifts for less advantaged children in the community.  They put on some great Christmas programmes too which have been a highlight for me as a mum!  Amy & Josh performed 'Twas the night before Christmas' poem.  Being an International school several songs were sung in multiple languages.
Abigail attends preschool at a Christian school and they put on a fabulous was Abigails first school performance and she did really well.  Her class sang " Happy Birthday Jesus" and reminded us what Christmas is all about.

This week we are busy with Christmas baking.  Gingerbread yesterday and mince pies today!
We shall have a traditional English roast and open family gifts on Christmas eve this year.
Christmas Day will be spent at our little church making Christmas special for the 60+ children in the community. After service we will have cake, koolaid and games.  We will share in lunch (Jolof Rice, fried chicken and coleslaw) and then we will watch a Nativity Movie.

Whatever, your Christmas holds we pray you will have time to pause and reflect on the reason we celebrate,  May you marvel anew at the details of the events as you celebrate Jesus, God's greatest gift.

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10

Sunday, 11 December 2016

back it up...

Some people ask periodically, and I guess a lot of you wonder, how my back is doing after the motorbike accident I had just before leaving Uganda.
After the MRI scan in the UK and appointments with the Orthopaedic Doctor I was referred to do intensive physiotherapy in order to relieve the stiffness in my neck and back a hopefully help with the aching I get in my mid back.  I was able to find a new Centre that had just started in Liberia that provides physio, occupational and speech therapy that had been set up by a physio therapist from the USA.  Salt Rehabilitation was even conveniently located only about 5km from where we live.
I have been receiving therapy 3 times a week for the last three months and am now having a break for at least 8 weeks and will then review to see how things are.

My therapy has consisted of a lot of different exercises to stretch and strengthen my back muscles, ultrasonic therapy, Electronic Muscle Stimulator (EMS) and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS).

On the whole things have improved a lot, in particular the range of movement I have, has increased and the stiffness I had has really reduced.  The aching I get in my middle back has improved but is still an issue when I am in certain positions – the typical position it aches in when standing at the sink doing the washing up......but I haven’t managed to get out of it yet! Also, on days when I am particularly active doing practical work like maintenance on the plane the aching is an issue.

Me with Dr Kamara who set up Salt Rehabilitation

Pius - one of the two therapists that treated me

Monday, 7 November 2016

Church...the missionary dilemma.

I  believe there are many things to love about church in Africa.
Vibrant and authentic worship.
A new cultural perspective on Biblical stories and teaching.
The chance to understand another culture and build deep friendships, are just a few.

There are also challenges, particularly  when you have a young family.
I have wandered along open porches, dancing with my toddler during worship that lasts over an hour.
I have tried hard to entertain children with books and colouring through long sermons.
I have invested hours in training Sunday school teachers in order to improve the quality of what was being taught to the children.

We found a wonderful church in Uganda that became 'home'. We enjoyed fellowship with our Ugandan friends, benefited from great teaching and the children had some wonderful role models to learn from.  Yes, services could be long but it was worth it.

As we moved to Liberia we prayed that we would find the right church here for our family.
Mark and I were immediately drawn to a large evangelical church in town. The  Liberian Pastor taught the Word and was not afraid to speak the Truth.  However, the Sunday school was very large (50 children in the 1-3yr age group) and our children were not comfortable there. They also struggled with the very loud music.

We also visited a small community outreach run a by a Liberian/Canadian couple.  The services were only an hour long and another missionary family with children the same age attended.  This is where our children wanted to be!
Right now, we want them to be excited about worshiping the Lord and attending church, not to go just because we make them go.  Mark & I can find more in depth teaching in other areas (Bible study, pod casts etc). So, New Gate Community Church is where we worship each Sunday.  It is a fabulous little church with a congregation that is 75% children, We sing action songs, learn to pray together, and have a fairly short sermon.  After church the children all receive a snack or meal and get to play,  and we get to show them the love of Jesus in small ways (many of them come from neglected or abusive homes).

I often used to begin Sunday school teachers training by looking at Jesus as The Good Shepherd, focussing on the primary role of a shepherd to care for, protect, nurture, and feed his sheep.
We have been entrusted with our own little flock and therefore right now, this is how we feel we need to care for and feed our sheep.

Worship time at church

Pot luck Sunday once a month - That means Rice with a variety of 'soups'

The children also come during the week for library time and some vocational courses

Football - These boys take their football very seriously!

Those too young for football enjoy the play ground