Chance’s Trip to Sierra Leone, Africa

In March, my husband, Chance led a missions team of four to Sierra Leone to serve. You may remember that Chance and I work full time as representatives of Lifegate in Africa.
After teaching my man how to use his iPhone camera (hello, focus?!), the team was off! Once they returned, Chance had taken hundreds of pictures, and some of them were actually pretty good! 
While there, the team helped with craft projects at schools, played games and hung out with kiddos at Lifegate’s orphanage, co-led revival services at churches, and learned tie dying from the ladies at the ministry’s trade school.
They. Had. A. Blast.
Below you will find a photo dump from the trip – with the captions written by Chance!
Here’s Ginger and I right before I left the farm. Isn’t she beautiful?!


Mickey, Julia, Fred, and I were bound and determined to not let the rainy weather bring us down as we left Peoria, IL!

As we traveled, our suitcases were not only full of our personal items, but they also included tools for the ministry (chalk lines, masonry hammer, pliers, etc.). Musa, our head of construction, was very excited to have such nice equipment. Not only will he use it for Lifegate projects, but he’ll also use it to teach trades to others!


Mickey is like a grandma to me and my boys. I love her dearly, and it is because of my great love for her that I pretended to kiss her while she was sleeping on the plane and took a picture to capture the moment!


Sarah, one of Lifegate’s in-country missionaries, told the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den at each of our schools. Then, the team helped students decorate paper plates to look like lion masks. It was fun!
The students at Kassie School had prepared some songs for our arrival. They were adorable as they sang and swayed in their cute uniforms!
While visiting one of our schools, we witnessed this man working on the side of the road. He spends all day long creating a machete from old vehicle leaf springs; he heats the metal up in a small fire, and pounds and scrapes until it’s razor sharp. He only sells them for about $2 each. I’m always blown away at the ingenuity displayed in Sierra Leone!

Children’s Home

This is Mabinty, one of the older girls at the orphanage. She taught me how to play a jacks-like game using only rocks. She’s sweet AND competitive!
This is Lahai, one of the older boys at the orphanage. He’s a ham, to say the least. He loves to be the center of attention.
Lahai also loves to share God’s Word with his peers. While there, we got to observe his passion!
This is Alpha, another one of the older boys at the orphanage. He’s a quiet kid who loves the Lord.
Fatmata, the youngest girl from the orphanage, is always up for a picture. She’s such a cutie in her school uniform!
This is Matha, another one of the older girls at the orphanage. Ginger, the boys, and I have supported her financially for several years. It was so good to see her beautiful smile and talk about her future dreams of being a nurse. I was very proud the day I watched her help the Lifegate nurse do checkups on all the children; Matha was right there by her side.


When we visited each church, not only did we bring the Word of God, we also brought food! We considered it a privilege to hire local people to cook the food for the revival services.


This picture was snapped right after church in Brigitte Village. Can you believe all those people fit in that little building?!
This is Tommy, one of the members at Lifegate Church in Brigitte Village. One year ago Tommy was living in sin (belonged to a gang, demonstrated violence, promiscuous life), but he’s taken a turn for the better. He gave his life to Christ, and he’s a new man. I even got to see him teach a Bible story to the people of the church in Sunday School!

Trade School

Fatmata is one of the ladies who has been learning God’s Word and trades (sewing and tie-dying) since January. It was so cool to watch her work. We’re so proud of the progress that she and the other students have demonstrated in the past few months!
One day on our trip, the students became the teachers. The gals learning to tie-dye were given the opportunity to teach our missions team the trade!
Once the fabric was folded properly, Mickey learned how to tie and knot the cloth.
Julia was taught how to create specific designs by properly folding the fabric.
Of course, I was given the most complex design to create! They even trusted me with a huge needle! It was not easy work!
Julia mixed the dye and chemicals so that the fabric could be stained.
Ladies at the trade school tie-dyed 10 shirts that the team eventually brought back to the US. Ginger and I are excited to give them away this summer at VBS programs and church camps.
Since January, Lifegate has been teaching literacy classes at our trade school in Brigitte Village. Three days a week, nearly 25 students gather to learn how to read and write. This mama sees the value of education; because she loves herself and her son, she’s made learning this life skill a priority (even if it means attending with a baby on her back!).

Daily Life In Sierra Leone


How does one keep a chicken close by in Sierra Leone, you ask? Simply tie a sandal to the chicken’s leg, that’s how!
As for shaving cream, it’s about $5 a can in Sierra Leone, even though in the states you’ll pay about a dollar.
American-style food can be pretty expensive in Sierra Leone. A single pack of Ramen noodles was about 60 cents. In the US, they are about a dime each.
It’s much cheaper to eat African; their diet consists of mostly rice and fish.



Lifegate is planning a banquet fundraiser on November 2 (mark your calendars!)  where items will be auctioned off.
A few of the hand-carved items include:
A chess set.
A nativity set.
And a mask.

Heading Home


This picture was taken the day before we left! I had a blast talking with Tyler, one of Lifegate’s missionaries (and one of my best friends) as we spent time on the beach.

Mickey, Julia, Fred, and I had just packed up and were making our way to the airport. It was so hard to say goodbye, but we knew that we had to come home and tell as many people as possible what God is doing in Sierra Leone.

Thank You

To those who prayed and supported me during my trip: thank you. Simply saying it or writing it doesn’t seem like enough, but I must express my gratitude.
Thank you for helping me go on this trip.
I was able to see people I love.
I was able to serve people who needed help.
I was able to see things that I wouldn’t have been able to see if it wasn’t for your generosity.
Thank you for your kindness.
A missions trip is currently being planned for 2018. If you are interested in traveling to Sierra Leone with Lifegate in Africa, please contact me here.

Once Again Loved – Martha’s Story

Over two years ago, Chance declared we needed to sponsor an orphan. Because of his position with Lifegate, he regularly asks families to make small monthly sacrifices in order to care for the children in our ministry.

But our own family hadn’t been willing to make a similar sacrifice.

I agreed to pray/think about this commitment when Chance received word of new children coming to the orphanage. He glanced through his email, and one of the children looked familiar. He had met her before.

On Chance’s very first trip to Sierra Leone in 2011, he and a team conducted Vacation Bible Schools in a handful of villages. One of those villages was Tort Kellah. In a community gathering place, Chance watched a girl, barely ten years old, lead her entire village in praise and worship songs.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.

Her big voice filled the space, but her heart and smile were even bigger.

This girl, Martha (pronounced Mahta), felt an instant bond with Chance. He, having grown up with younger sisters, knew exactly how to tease her. She asked to show him her house and introduce him to a woman Chance assumed to be her mother.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.

The next day, in an entirely different village, there was sweet Martha again. She had used her own money to hire transport in order to see Chance and the team again.

At that time, Martha was secure, happy, well-fed, and loved.

Two years ago, the girl looking back at Chance in the email was indeed the same young girl. She was no longer happy. Her face seemed frozen into a frown.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.

The caregiving woman Chance met had been an auntie. As this auntie’s own family expanded, she could no longer afford to provide for sweet Martha. Martha was no longer secure or well-fed.

When Chance realized whose profile he was reading, he rushed to tell me. He had found the sponsored child for our family. We ask others to sacrifice, our family could do the same.

Sweet Martha was worth it.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.

I briefly met Martha before she became a child in Lifegate‘s home as well, but getting to know her on my trip in October was life-changing. Martha is smart, responsible, and a total teenage girl. She loves to laugh and dance, and she really, really loves to eat.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.

Her knowledge of God’s Word impresses me. She is driven. She wants to train as a nurse and work for Lifegate.

As my time in Sierra Leone came to a close, I said my goodbyes. I hugged each of the children at the orphanage, but I saved my sweet girl for last.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.

She truly feels like part of my family. Her picture hangs in my house. My boys know who she is; they have gotten to FaceTime her, and cannot wait to meet her. We pray for her daily. We help to provide for her.

Saying goodbye to family is never easy.

Martha cried as I hugged her; I whispered affirming words into her heaving neck. I reminded her she is loved — by her Heavenly Father, by everyone involved in Lifegate, and by her American family – her sponsors.

Martha is once again happy, secure, well-fed, and most importantly, loved.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.


Maybe you and your family are interested in sponsoring a child. We have two children who are currently in need of monthly supporters. One child needs $20/month, and the other requires $30.

We encourage our sponsors to occasionally correspond with the children and provide pictures when they can.

Special needs adoption blog. Orphan sponsorship.

During Lifegate‘s yearly missions trip, there’s always an opportunity to get to know the children at the orphan home as well. If you’re interested in a sponsorship opportunity, please message me.

A Fellow Advocate, A Fellow Parent – Stories from Salone

[I’m obviously home from Africa. I wasn’t able to update my blog while in Sierra Leone because the internet connection just wasn’t good enough. For this reason, I will be sharing about my trip over the next month or so. This is one story from my flight over.]

Sierra Leone, Africa - Lifegate in Africa

I found my seat and settled in. I did not realize the African man next to me would be fighting off tears just a few hours later.

On my final flight to Sierra Leone two weeks ago, I was willing my travels to be over and for sleep to overcome me. I napped fitfully until my food tray was delivered. When I awoke, the man next to me was eager to talk.

I asked if he lived in Sierra Leone, and he said, “No. Not anymore.”

He, a soft-spoken man named Chernor, inquired about my trip overseas. When he realized I was also from the United States, his story began to pour out. He told me of his family who live and work in New York and Virginia. When I asked if he was returning to Sierra Leone for business, his answer broke my heart.

“No, I am traveling to visit my wife.”

You see, he and his two children had been given Visas to immigrate to the United States, but at the time, he and his wife were not married. She could not move with their family.

Her babies and her (now) husband moved halfway around the world without her. It’s hard to fathom a family separating like this.

With tears in his eyes, my seat-mate said he moved to the United States for his son. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his tattered wallet. It contained a single, small photo of his boy. He told me his ten-year-old son has autism.

I nodded and smiled. Of course he does. Only the God of the universe could orchestrate putting the mother of a ten-year-old boy with autism next to the father of a different ten-year-old boy with autism on an international flight. Only God.

The man next to me moved his boy, Gobie, and his younger daughter to the United States over two years ago. Chernor’s voice cracked as he shared the story that led his family to decide to geographically divide:

One day, his wife was walking to the market. Along her path was the school where her oldest child attended. The kids were all outside for their lunch break, so she decided to stop and say hello.

As she approached the school, she saw a large group of children huddled together. In the middle of that huddle was a small boy. His shirt was being pulled and he was being taunted. His lunch had been stolen and consumed by the bullying children.

As Chernor’s wife approached, she realized that boy in the huddle was her son. Her autistic son was nonverbal and had delays; he was the one being mistreated by his classmates.

The teacher didn’t seem to find anything wrong with this behavior. In Sierra Leone, special needs and differences are commonly associated with witchcraft. Disabilities are not understood, but rather they are feared.

But Chernor’s wife knew differently; that was her baby boy being mistreated. She immediately withdrew Gobie from school.

Gobie stayed home with her, but Chernor reported that she was completely heartbroken. When he and the children were approved for a visa in 2014, but Chernor’s wife was not, there was hardly a discussion. Gobie needed to come to the United States. He would benefit greatly from services not offered in Sierra Leone.

Gobie has not seen his mom since they immigrated. Her visa could take at least another three to five years before it is approved.

Chernor’s worry lines ran deep as he told me of the stress he manages trying to keep his wife from slipping into depression while fulfilling his parenting duties on the other side of the world.

To help lift his wife’s spirits, Chernor returns to visit her a couple times every year. He loads his phone with videos and photos of their babies. He tells her stories of how they’re doing in school and the places they’ve visited with their aunts.

Chernor spoke of the changes that need to be made in Sierra Leone. One might think he’d focus on the unfair government restrictions for issuing visas, or the delays in the red tape, but instead he talked about education and awareness.

His desire is to see his country, his people, understand that all lives have value. He longs for trainings to instruct teachers of the different types of special needs. He wishes for social reform that citizens of Sierra Leone might not allow their special needs children to continue wasting away, but that there might be a way to educate them and support the families raising them.

He, just like I — as a special needs parent — wants to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. He ultimately wants the best for his son.

Mama, I Need You

About a month ago, Chance and I took our first extended trip away from our children. For so long, Nasko’s behavior issues kept us extremely close to home.

Knowing this trip had the potential to overwhelm our remaining kids at home, Chance and I crafted our words carefully the day before we left. We sat Louis and Edward at the kitchen table; we told them we were taking a trip, but they were staying home. We outlined the next five days as we had an arsenal of friends and family scheduled to keep them safe and busy.

While describing our plans, we repeatedly asked our kids if they understood — Mama and Taty were leaving for a few days, but grown-ups always come back (thank you, Daniel Tiger and his fine neighborhood). Though we had explained the plans a few times, you could physically see realization as it spread across my five-year-old son’s face.

He became panicked as we continued through our scheduled events one final time. As we wrapped up our explanation, Edward couldn’t contain his response any longer:

But Mama! I neeeeed you!

(Hello, future drama major.)

But son, you’re right. You do need me.

You need me to feed you. You need me to administer your life-giving medicine. You need my loving touch and my soothing comfort. You need me to teach you and assist you in maturing. You need me to reassure you as you try hard things. You need me to tell you the gospel story in words you can understand.

Edward, you DO need me.

Sierra Leone, West Africa

But sweet boy, you need me in other ways too.

You need me to love your taty more than anyone here on this earth. You need me to take small breaks from this tough calling of parenting. You need me to take space and recharge when I become worn down. You need me to follow my own dreams and pursue my personal passions. You need me to use my talents, not only to feed your hungry stomach but to bring the Bread of Life to those who are truly starving.

Baby boy, you need me to be my own person.

As I prepared to embark on this two-week trip to Sierra Leone, West Africa, Edward again expressed his need for his mama.

And again, as I spend time away, I know exactly what you, my sweet boy, need.

You need a mama who is willing to do hard things. You need me to sacrifice finances and time for those who are hurting and lost. You need me to use my talents to share the stories and lives of those who inhabit the other side of this earth. You need me to write, capture, and create in order to bring dignity and humanity to those who live differently than we do. You need me to encourage/be encouraged by some of my favorite people who have chosen to make life-altering sacrifices for the lost. You need me to fulfill my role as a mentor to orphans and children other than just you and your brothers.

Edward, you’re absolutely right; you neeeeed me.

You need me to go, to do, and to be. And when I get home, you’ll need me to read all your favorite books, cook all your favorite meals, kiss your owies, and brush your hair.

I promise I’ll do what you need.

I’ve officially left on my trip to Sierra Leone. I’m posting this from an airport restaurant in Michigan. One of my main goals of this trip is to raise awareness of what is happening in Sierra Leone. I know the majority of my readers will never have the opportunity to travel to the other side of the earth, but take heart, I am bringing Sierra Leone to you. For the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing stories. I’ll be recounting my experiences, sharing testimonies, and posting a bajillion photos (Lord willing the wifi signal can handle it).

If you are at all willing to share these stories and pictures on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, I would be forever grateful. Raising awareness means exposing these stories to as many people as possible. We pray awareness eventually will lead to funds in many cases. Funds help to spread the gospel further. Thank you for helping Lifegate in this way.

Preparing for my Trip

I leave for Sierra Leone tomorrow! (Eek! Yikes! Bah!!!) Over the past few weeks though, I’ve been collecting things, making purchases, and packing.

For instance, I purchased two headbands to wear in Africa since my hair is short this time. These headbands twelve different ways (twelve different ways!!!) according to the package, so I decided to model each of the different ways at dinner one night.

It has never been more evident that I live in a house full of boys…

Edward thought one option made me look just like a unicorn. I decided to rule that option out as “unicorn” is not my fashion aspiration.

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

At one point during my fashion demonstration, Chance felt the need to grab his own “headband.” He wore it for the remainder of our meal.

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Finally, Edward improvised and made his own headband, but with a fake snake – because that’s the same!

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

It hasn’t just been about preparing my hair for my big trip, I’ve also made a few photography/video purchases. Chance, while he is a gifted speaker and fundraiser, he can barely take a photo to save his life. As our world becomes more and more visual through engaging in social media and consuming videos, it seemed my job should be to help gather media while in-country.

I bought these Moment lenses last week, and I am LOVING them. They attach to my iPhone and improve the quality of photos I can take without having to carry around my bigger, clunkier camera.

My family members were not the most willing subjects (except Edward, but that’s mostly because he was in a cast and couldn’t move away!), so I took lots of pictures of nature as I was getting comfortable with the lenses.

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

Special needs adoption blog, traveling to Africa

There aren’t any pictures of my final preparation; I’ve been preparing my heart. As I shared last week, this past year has been a very difficult journey for me. I am healing and growing again, and this is such an exciting time to travel and see what God is doing in Sierra Leone. I’ve been preparing my heart and my soul these past few weeks and I know God will use this trip to continue wrecking me (in a good way!).

I cannot wait to share my trip with all of you, but as for today, more packing and preparing!

Counting Down

We’ve attempted to maintain an upbeat attitude about Edward’s half-body cast. It’s cumbersome (he weighs almost half as much as I do) and restrictive, but we’ve managed to make this experience as fun as possible:

Special needs, adoption blog

Meet our very own Spider-Man!

We’ve also encouraged Edward to gain as much mobility as possible (again, he weighs half as much as I do — my back and arms are perpetually sore). He has learned to “crawl” across a room and roll over as needed (in my defense, I didn’t realize he was going to start practicing these skills in his sleep. He rolled out of his bed last week!)

Despite our positive attitudes and go-get-’em spirits, the countdown is ON.

At a doctor’s appointment last week, we were told the date this cast would be removed:

October 11.

Edward will probably receive a new cast on that date, but we are praying for a single-leg cast which will allow much more movement and independence.

The doctor made it a production to tell Edward he only had two weeks left in his cast. Edward caught the excitement and clung to her words.

Poor, sweet Edward thought she meant two days.

The day after our doctor’s appointment, Edward woke up and held up two fingers. He then put one down to tell me he only had one day left in his cast.

And thus, our countdown became necessary.

Special needs, adoption blog.

I attempted to explain “weeks” to a disappointed Spider-Man. I quickly abandoned this complex concept and created an entirely new countdown — 13 days until the cast is removed.

Days continue to tick by. Today is just eight days from the removal of Edward’s cast.

As we constantly check the date for Edward’s cast removal, I have an additional countdown taking place. Every morning when we discuss the number of days until his cast is cut off, I silently add just one more day.

I’m counting down to an event of my own. I’m leaving for Africa on the day after Edward’s cast is changed.

Spider-Man and his brother, Louis, will be staying home with their father as I board a plane to visit my best friend and our missions organization.

You see, I’ve been counting down for much longer than Edward has.

My best friend and her family moved to Sierra Leone one year ago to serve as full-time missionaries for Lifegate in Africa (the organization Chance also represents full-time). Since she and her family boarded their flight, I’ve been planning a trip to go visit them.

I knew though, I could not leave Chance alone with our three boys.

Last November, we realized how severe Nasko behavior truly had become. We determined we needed help in raising him, so we began to search for a group home. Our process was slow and draining, but I knew I could not leave the country until he was safely placed in his new home. The boys were too much for just one person to handle.

When Nasko moved into his new digs this summer, I was able to purchase tickets to go to Sierra Leone.

As Edward counts down his days until this cast is removed, I am mentally adding one day; I’m counting down the days until I see my best friend and her family again.

I, too, am counting down.

Lest you think I’m just heading to Africa to get manicures (ha!) or eat bon-bons (again, ha!) this is also a trip for raising awareness. I will be capturing media and writing every day.

Please follow me on Facebook and Instagram in order to see my pictures and video. Also, if you’ve never signed up to receive my blog posts by email (see the bottom of this post), that is a great method for keeping up — time zone differences will cause me to post at different times than usual.

I covet your prayers as I continue counting down to my trip and the day Edward receives his new cast!

orphan, sponsorship, sierra leone, orphanage

Orphan Crisis Solution – Sponsorship

There’s a little boy on the other side of the world who finished up his day of school earlier. He probably walked along a dirt road as he headed towards what he knows as home.

I can just see him smiling and laughing as he and his friends race in their school uniforms.

Idrissa finally has something to smile about again.

Just a few years ago, he and his older sister lived with their mother and father in Sierra Leone’s capitol, Freetown. Their parents were involved in some of the African Witchcraft practices, and their mother was killed by others within their religion.

Following her death, Idrissa and Isha’s father, Abdul, moved the family unit to a smaller village outside the capitol. There, in Kassie village, their father took on the trade of being a local fisherman.

Fishermen work long hours everyday. Isha, who is just six years older, was probably required to watch after Idrissa while their father worked. Without their mother to watch over them, the children likely spent their days searching for food, at the mercy of others in the community.

orphan, sponsorship, sierra leone, orphanage

These two young children were without a mother, in a new community, and struggling to survive.

Fishermen in Sierra Leone spend much of their time on the beach repairing nets, selling fish, and working on the boats. They easily build relationships with the other fishermen and peddlers as they work.

orphan, sponsorship, sierra leone, orphanage

While working, Idrissa and Isha’s father met a man named Maguay. Maguey is a leader at Lifegate in Africa‘s church in Kassie Village. He began to spend time with Idrissa’s family and was a good friend to Abdul.

As if the children had not already suffered so much, Abdul suddenly fell very ill. When he realized this illness would probably take his life (as many minor illnesses in Sierra Leone do), he turned to his friend Maguay. Abdul asked Maguay to be the guardian over his children, and to promise to protect them.

Idrissa and Isha were just four years old and ten years old when they became true orphans. They had lost all that they held dear – their mother and then their father.

Now they were considered second-class citizens in their culture.

After Abdul’s passing, Maguay began telling Jonathan, one of Lifegate‘s ministers, about these two children. Maguay told Jonathan of the children’s suffering, and of their loss.

Jonathan knew that Lifegate had to help. He worked with our orphanage to be sure there was the room and the resources for these precious children. When everything was ready, Idrissa and Isha moved into the orphanage together.


Before coming to Lifegate Children’s Home, Isha and Idrissa had very little hope. They were already missing the woman who was to care for them and meet their daily needs. They regularly experienced hunger and isolation. Their father worked hard, but struggled to provide for them.

They were alone and afraid.

orphan, sponsorship, sierra leone, orphanage


orphan, sponsorship, sierra leone, orphanage


Because of how their culture views orphans, they had little hope for the future. Their lives seemed desperate and bleak.

Since moving to Lifegate Children’s Home, however, Isha and Idrissa have thrived.

Today, they definitely have something to smile about.

They are receiving good, healthy meals every day. Their medical needs are being met by our staff nurse. They are allowed to attend school in addition to learning the bible. They are growing in attachment to their orphanage brothers and sisters, along with their caregivers.


Isha and Idrissa have experienced so much heartache and pain, but because of the opportunities presented to them from Lifegate Children’s Home, they again can have hope for the future. They can return to being carefree kids as they know their needs will be met.

It is amazing that they are no longer worried about their next meal, but more than that, they are being given the hope of eternity with their Ultimate Provider.


But Lifegate Children’s Home needs your help. Idrissa and Isha along with three other children are still in need of partial sponsorships in order to continue having all their needs met.

This month, National Adoption Month, I have focused much of my writing on adoption, as it is near and dear to my heart and to my mission. But, maybe a lifelong commitment to a child isn’t something you or your family can handle.

That’s ok.

But there are still orphans. There are still hurting children. 

One way you can help solve the orphan crisis is through child sponsorship. When you donate $30 per month, the children in our orphanage will have their earthly needs met. They’ll be told the stories of the bible, and they will be cared for by loving house parents.

orphan, sponsorship, sierra leone, orphanage

But without funding and help from you, Lifegate Children’s Home cannot provide for orphans.

Would you and your family consider sponsoring a child from our orphanage? Would you do your part in ending the orphan crisis by giving just $30 every month? Would you be willing to give a child something to smile about today?

To begin sponsoring a child and providing hope today, email Lifegate:

#throwbackthursday – Bawwwwk – 10/14/2011

I published my four-hundredth (!!!) blog post this week. I know many of you have been loyal readers from the beginning. Thank you. I also know that many of you are readers that have joined in along the way. Thanks to you too.

Since I’m pretty positive that not every one of you has read every single word I’ve written (except my mother. She has.), I’ve decided to resurrect old blog posts using a popular hashtag on social media: #throwbackthursday!

Today’s Throwback Thursday is from October 2011. Chance was serving on his very first trip to Sierra Leone, Africa. We did not know that Chance would eventually partner with this ministry and work with them full-time.

But we DID know that Chance was (apparently) well-liked over there, and was gifted a chicken…IMG_1627 (2)

…and the story was hilarious.

Before the Reverend makes the long flight from Africa to the US, I have to share a story that he called to tell me the other day…  (Because if I wait until he gets home, he might be embarrassed, and might not be too happy!)  :–P

While the Athens Christian Church team has been in Africa, they have been doing short, one-two day Vacation Bible School sessions in remote villages throughout Sierra Leone.  For each tribe they visit, they bring a gift for the tribe leader.  This is a customary practice where they are, and the team came prepared.  Actually, one of the leaders asked them to bring a laptop from the US, so they did!  If that gift meant the group could impact children for Christ, they were willing to comply.

On their final stop in a village for the VBS program, one tribe decided that they wanted to return the blessing and give the ACC team some gifts.

Now, I never did hear what the women on the team received, but Chance had to call home to tell me what was presented to him…

Read the rest of the story here.

Africa Trip – March 30-31

[This is journal entry number 3.  Here’s one and two in case you missed them.]


March 30, 9:00 AM
It’s Sunday, so it’s church day! I’ve been to church here a couple times now, and I still can’t tell you what time it is supposed to start. We left the house at 9:00 though. Sierra Leone is so primitive, hardly anything has an actual strict start-time. Things start when people show up! Our family is very schedule-oriented (thank you, Nasko’s orphanage and two parents who are a bit OCD) so this is a difficult concept to grasp for us.

When we arrived at church, it had already begun.


Since I was here the last time, Rick and Paula’s girls (Grace and Faith) have started a children’s program during the adult services. It’s great! The kids meet on benches behind the church building and are being taught stories from the Bible, based on the same Bible-telling methods being used in the Bible-Telling School.

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Today, the children were learning about Noah’s ark. They began their time by playing some games (Musical Bench – as opposed to musical chairs, Simon says, Telephone, and an African version of London Bridges called Lappa Lappa). Next, they reviewed last week’s story (just like the kids in the US, they had completely forgotten anything they might have learned just seven short days ago). Then Grace taught them the story for this week. Following the lesson, the children acted out the Bible story. The coolest part about this? Grace and Faith are 11 and 9 years old and have learned the Krio language well enough that the whole lesson is done in the children’s native tongue.

Meanwhile, the adults were inside the church having something like a Sunday School time. I have not mastered Krio (it has many similar words to English, but a different grammar structure and accent which makes it somewhat possible to understand if you are listening very, very closely) but the discussion seemed to be about what the Bible says about marriage – specifically having just one wife. Now, I’ve never heard anyone spend a significant amount of time on that topic in the US, but here, where the predominant religion is Muslim, this was a scripture that needed to be discussed.

Following the discussion, “Reverend Chance” was asked to come and preach. Chance delivered a sermon (with the help of one of Lifegate’s pastors, Pastor Jonathan, translating) about not believing that salvation is given because of who we are descendants of. It doesn’t matter how religious your parents are, or the fact that your uncle pastors a church. What matters is that we have a personal relationship with Christ.

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After the sermon, there was much pomp and circumstance for our benefit (mostly recognition of the different people in the church who volunteer). Rick said that is a typical practice when visitors come to the church. There was also a time of singing and dancing and praising and worshiping! The church’s minister, Pastor Justus, recently married a woman named Felicia, who was leading worship at a different church previously. She makes pastors’ wives around the world look bad… She can sing and dance and get everyone excited about worshipping! (Sorry… Inside joke with pastors’ wives. It’s often hoped that we can play the piano and sing.)

Nasko was having a rough morning (we WILL conquer jet lag, we WILL conquer jet lag) but he did enjoy the music here. He even showed off some of his moves by hopping on stage and dancing with Pastor Justus.


At the end of the service, Justus asked Nasko to lead a song, so he and I went up and sang “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” This song was apparently a crowd favorite, because after one verse, they erupted and joined in! It was beautiful.

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What a true message that song presents; God does have the WHOLE WIDE world in His hands. We can be part of God’s plan for helping His people who live on the other side of the planet. We cannot forget about them or pretend they don’t exist, just because they don’t live in the USA. As the quote goes, “WHERE you live should not determine IF you live.” We must remember that God has the whole world in His hands.

4:50 PM
After good, long naps for everyone (Sunday rest is biblical, after all) Chance, Nasko, Louis, Rick and I ventured to the Waterloo market. It is an insanely busy few streets that are just packed with “stores” selling a variety of goods.

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We went specifically for Nasko, as his flashlight had completely stopped working during the previous night. With a lack of electricity here, it is absolutely pitch black at night (think no street lights or neighbors’ lights).

Nasko was able to score a nice little battery-powered lantern, so he was happy about that.


We also took some time to shop for the fabric to make a babywearing sling for the girl in the orphanage who probably has cerebral palsy (Deborah).

The market is so crazy that I would feel very uncomfortable trying to carry Louis while walking safely. The roads, although paved, are uneven and treacherous. The shops butt up to the edge of the street curb and cars and motorbikes go wizzing down the road, assuming that everyone will move out of the way. For this reason, I tied Louis onto my back in one of my wraps before we even stepped foot outside the van. Louis – who has been enjoying looking out the window as we drove through the market previous days, really enjoyed his safe place to watch all the commotion.


Somewhat surprisingly, wearing Louis on my back attracted a lot of attention. Women regularly “po-po” their small babies here by doing a torso carry and wearing them low on their backs. Apparently though, it’s shocking to see a white woman po-po a white baby! So many people commented and wanted to touch Louis as we walked from store to store! Considering I was first inspired to research babywearing because of the hard-working African mamas I observed almost three years ago, I couldn’t believe that wearing Louis on my back would be so out of place to the people here!


(No I don’t know the person touching my baby. And yes, those are giant freezers on that dolly behind me.)

March 31, 9:54 AM

[From my Facebook Page:]

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(Jane is talking about her fear that the fowl might try to fly. Nasko is saying “piece of Kit Kat?!” because Chance promised him a Kit Kat if he caught the chicken. I’m the one telling the birds they aren’t welcome inside… Right after this video, both chickens broke into the house and one of them tried to nest under my bed!)

3:35 PM

Chance has been conducting a leadership conference all morning,

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and I finally feel like my children have adjusted to the time change. Naps were appropriate lengths and taken without a fight. Food was eaten at mealtimes and attitudes are getting better! The little things are so important when traveling overseas with your kids!

4:50 PM
Everyone is finally awake from their naps so it’s a great time to head to CROH.

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(Chance always asks if the kids have questions about America. It’s cool to hear what they’ve been wondering.)

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(Here he is drawing a world map and explaining where E is from.)


(Rick may or may not have been trying to tickle Frank…)



(Junior, who is typically too cool for his own good, showed a momentary soft-spot and let Nasko ride his bike.)

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(Nasko wearing Frank’s glasses!)

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(Rick’s daughter, Gracie, has a huge heart for the kids in the orphanage.)

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(See? Too cool for his own good.)


(Relay races with Chance.)

(Chance, smoking the kids in a foot race. That’s my husband – outrunning a bunch of kids and then being sore for days…)

(Nasko and sweet Zinub racing.)


7:45 PM
Visiting the kids at CROH is like a major sensory overload. We can’t go and stay for extended periods of time because I’m pretty sure our heads would explode. The kids are wonderful, but they are all seeking attention and conversation. They have lots of energy (think more like Nasko than Grace or Faith!). They have questions and thoughts and things they want to show off. It’s so fun, but I leave feeling physically and emotionally drained.

This morning, Rick and Paula had their tailor come to the house to work with me on making a ring sling for Esther to use while she is caring for Deborah. Johnny was so quick with the manual pedal sewing machine , he also cranked out two intricate shirts for Louis and Nasko – all in under two hours. We’re contemplating having him come back to make some items that could be sold in the US for ministry profit.


Since the sling was finished, I wanted to bring it to try it out with Esther. She loved it. She was so happy to have received it! The tail on it is too long, so we’ll need to hem it a bit shorter, but she was so excited to have something so nice. What she doesn’t know is that this sling will help Deborah focus on building the muscles in her neck for now. Win-win!


Also, while at the orphanage today, I had the kids use fabric markers on a DIY wrap that I wanted to make more colorful! The kids are great artists and I enjoyed watching them draw.

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8:00 PM
Tonight was a late supper, but a good supper. I had told Paula of a mango chicken salad recipe I’d seen recently, but hadn’t made yet. Mangos are in season here, so she thought we should try it. Sadly, on the wonky internet here, I wasn’t able to access my Pinterest board to get the recipe! Never fear, Paula rarely lets food go to waste, so she came up with her own version of a mango chicken salad. It had chicken, mangos, chickpeas and cold rice in it. Then she made an olive oil and vinegar dressing using some mango juice as well. This cold salad was perfect following our exhausting evening. Rick suggested crunchy Ramen noodles on top next time, and we even agreed that the Ramen seasoning packet might enhance the flavor of the dressing. Be looking for Paula’s African-survival cookbook! Coming soon to stores near you…



(Stay tuned for more!)