I have a stomach issue today. Light stomach discomfort all day that seems like more of a sharp pain this evening and now as I go to bed. Most likely due to something I ate. PLEASE PRAY that I will get better overnight since we travel home tomorrow. PLEASE PRAY that nobody else on the team is effected.
Sorry for no updates for two days. It’s been extremely busy. Here is a very quick update. I will post more details as soon as I can. It’s after 9:00pm Thursday. We have conducted our Prison Ministry conference and a Leadership Conference. We visited Makeni Central Prison yesterday. It was another long day today. Two prisons. Good services. Upper 90’s in the sun 🌞 We all got a little too much sun (except sunscreen Nathan) but only on our faces and it won’t be a problem. We are packed up to drive to Freetown tomorrow, leaving Makeni (our current location) at 5:30am. We have to purchase Bibles and then to a meeting with prison officials and the head Chaplain and then a prison service at the largest prison in the country. Lots of logistics have to come together properly (replacement rental car, new hotel, all meetings, admission into prison, etc.) Please pray that all will work as we have planned it. Proverbs 16:9
There is so much to tell. I will get it posted as soon as possible.
I ran alone this morning and returned in time to have a three donut breakfast. Miriam and Fiona made some fritter-type pastries. They tasted like here may have been some banana mixed in with them but they were a plain, sweet, deep-fried pastry. We had jam, peanut butter and Nutella to spread on them. I opted for Nutella.
Dan led our devotional today, speaking about God calling those who recognize that they are not worthy of serving him. We are but vessels to be used to His glory. When we think we can do something on our own we are useless to him, but when we empty ourselves and recognize our insufficiency He will use us to do amazing things.
The conference was at the church next door to the compound so it was an easy walk back and forth whenever necessary. We had a full church at the start time of 10:00am. Shortly after we started we had a head count of 85 people. About 15 or 20 were already involved in prison ministry. The generator ran outside the window and polluted the church with fumes the entire day.
As mentioned previously, the church is in the center of the courtyard of the school that encircles the grounds. There were kids playing outside all morning, calling out to Apoto (white man).
Nathan served as the Emcee and shared a message from John 11. Tom shared a message about the importance of continually remembering the gospel – remembering that the gospel applies to us equally after we are saved. Mark taught Why We Do Prison Ministry, Dan taught How to Start a Prison Ministry, Nate taught the Four Divisions of Prison Ministry and Nathan got a good laugh out of everyone by telling a joke and then taught about Working with Staff at the institution. Lunch was mayonnaise and sardine sandwich for all of the nationals and one sick team member (or, at least, I’m surprised Steve isn’t sick after that) while the rest of the American team walked next door and made PBJs.
After lunch we continued as Steve taught the Character Traits of a Volunteer, Dan taught about Code of Conduct and Mark closed our teaching with the Importance of the PFC Network. Our translator, Jeremiah Benson, was excellent. He spoke all day, translating the entire conference.
At the end of the conference, after hearing our message and exhortation, we had about 60 people stating that they saw the need to get involved in prison ministry. We then prayed for those that are already serving and then handed out diplomas. We introduced everyone to our Certified Prison Worker Course (available online) and then had a long question and answer session while waiting for dinner.
A full dinner came at 5:00pm. There was a HUGE pail of fried rice and enough fried chicken for everyone to have a piece. Everyone ate in the church. We were served after everyone else ate. We also had fried plantain, mango, pineapple and cucumber slices.
The conference was really good in many ways. It was very well-attended, everyone taught their subject like a pro, there was great engagement from the participants, and a great response at the end. It was hot all day but at least ten degrees cooler than yesterday.
I took candy to give to the kids and was immediately swarmed. I started by handing a piece to each kid and then they were all running up and surrounding me so fast that I had to throw it up in the air so they could catch it and pick it up off the ground. They were all trying to dig their hand into the towel that I carrying it in so I wound up having to throw all of it around so they wouldn’t riot around me. It was fun except for the hurt feelings that naturally happen when kids fight to get the most of something and some of them lose.
After returning to the compound we met for a de-brief and then discussed our plans for tomorrow. It will be a busy day – we will meet with the Chaplain followed by a meeting with the nurse in charge of three prisons in the morning. We have a lot of medical supplies to give to him. Then we will visit the prison with about 400 inmates.
In the early afternoon we will have our audit with pastor Micah and then teach our first Leadership conference in the late afternoon.
It’s now 8:30pm and I’m hoping for a good night of sleep, a change from the past couple nights.
When I left for my run at 6:30am it had dropped overnight to 80 degrees. I’m sure it was close to 100 degrees by the end of the day. As I was leaving for my run I met Santigie, a 23 year old man that has been at Bridge of Hope since 2007. His family lives in town – he has four brothers and his mother who has a small bakery. It was their bread that we had with breakfast and lunch.
Santigie insisted that he run with me, that I shouldn’t go alone even though I had been told clearly that I can run anywhere safely (no fear of being accosted) but that I need to look out for traffic – fortunately there is very little traffic at that time of the morning. Our team was meeting at 7:00am so we had a half hour to run – because he was with me we walked a good part of the way. We passed by his church which is next door to his mother’s bakery where she waved at us as we went by. Many people were quite surprised to see Apoto (white man) running through their village.
Breakfast was very tasty sweetened oatmeal (I think) and bread from Santigie’s bakery with “No Name” (registered trademark) peanut butter. Packaged instant coffee is plentiful but I had already had plenty because I always bring iced coffee mix so I can have coffee before everyone else is up. Tom led the devotional this morning and then we spent a long time trying to determine the logistics of what was going to be done today. There is no power this morning as the generator is out of fuel. There also is no water for the faucets but the shower works – I’m not sure why that is.
Patrick arrived around 9:00am to talk to us about exchanging money. He then went away and returned about an hour later with 250 million Leone (8,900 Leone = 1 US dollar). The largest bill they have here is 10,000 Leone (equivalent to $1.12). We will essentially be paying for everything with one dollar bills. We have stacks and stacks of money.
While we were waiting for the money a couple young ladies came to the compound to pick up supplies that Eric had brought from the United States. Ruthy and her husband are translating the Bible into the local dialect of Themne. Hannah works for them as a Nanny and home-schools their four children. They told us a lot about the region, the prisons and the languages. I showed them how to use the feminine napkins that my mom made – we likely won’t distribute all of them because there are more sets than there are women in the prisons we will be visiting. Therefore we will leave the rest of them with the ladies of the church to distribute as needed in the village. These ladies will be able to explain the method of their use in the native tongue.
Nathan, Dan and Steve left just before noon to purchase humanitarian aid for the prisons. Tom, Mark and I stayed behind and fellowshipped for a while. Jet lag was hitting me so I was falling asleep mid-sentence.
After about 2 hours Eric returned with generator fuel and bottled water. He also brought some staple items such as bread, peanut butter, laughing cow cheese, jelly and some cookies. He then took us next door to the church where we will hold our conference tomorrow. It is in the center of the school courtyard. Once the children saw us they all came running. We had about 30-40 kids clinging to us, asking my name , telling me theirs, and wanting me to give them my sunglasses. The church was locked so we were not able to go in.
Soon thereafter the rest of our team returned with humanitarian aid for the three prisons in the Makeni area. We will purchase aid and Bibles for the Freetown Prison when we get there Friday. I took a nap, as did Mark, and when I awoke there were many pastors gathered in the common area.
Dinner was at 6:30pm, a big meal of rice, roasted chicken, fried plantain, beans, homemade chili sauce, mangoes, pineapple and cucumbers. Nathan then reviewed our conference outline and duties to prepare us for tomorrow and, after communal prayer, we each went our own way.
Eric attempted to teach the young men (late teens) how to play gin rummy or hearts but they wound up teaching him to play their game.
As I finish writing this it is 9:10pm and it has just started raining. It started out lightly pinging on the tin roof and now it is pouring down. All of the young men came running into the “lodge” shivering. I suppose it has cooled down to about 80 degrees.
Sorry, no wi-fi so no photos.
Nathan picked me up at 4:15am and we drove to his parents’ home and his dad drove us to the airport. We met the rest of the team at SeaTac airport at 5:30am and flew out at 8:10. We gathered to pray and then checked in. We had 13 bags among six men but we miscounted and had the check in agent prepare bag tags for 12. The agent was very helpful and kindly waived the $200 baggage fee for the extra bag.
Our flights were non-eventful. The service on the second flight (United Airlines from Dulles to Brussels) was terrible. The flight attendants didn’t seem to want to be there One of them was quite large and he was constantly bumping all of the people seated in the aisle seats. Nonetheless, I was able to sleep about four hours.
Our layover in Brussels was five hours. We used it to eat a light meal/snack at the coffee stand (not much was available in the terminal). Dan remembered that there were lounging seats in this terminal that we slept on when we passed through on the same flight when we went to Liberia a couple years ago. He took a nap for a while after Mark led our daily devotional.
Eric met us at the airport and flew with us the rest of the journey. He will be staying at Bridge of Hope, working on other things and will not be traveling with us to the prisons.
The third flight drops us off in Freetown and then continues to Monrovia. It was a pleasant flight on Brussels Air and most of us slept a lot. We were in the front row of the read section of the plane so we all had lots of leg room. I was quite tired and slept about four hours. Combined sleep time for me on the three flights was about eight hours.
Arriving in Freetown we spent about 30 minutes in the customs line and then gathered our bags quickly and got out of the airport easily. We were met by half dozen nationals, all of whom were very excited to see each of us. I met four of them: Pastor Micah, Gershon Browne, Abass Taduma Koroma, and a lady named Gueenesther. I won’t remember who is who tomorrow so we will have to go through introductions again so we can all get to know each other.
PFC policy states that we don’t drive at night. We had no choice today since our flight arrived in Freetown at 4:40pm and we had a 3+ hour drive to Makeni. When it’s dark in Africa there is little visibility because there are no street lights. The possibility of hitting an animal is high. Today it happened – two dogs were fighting as we passed through a village and one of them ran in front of the 4Runner. They’re not fighting anymore. I asked if the dogs are wild here and was told that most are probably pets. It’s unfortunate, I’m sure a family is having a hard night tonight.
I’m writing this en route to Bridge of Hope. The roads are quite nice so far. They have done a lot of construction recently and our hosts told us that the drive that used to take four hours should take three tonight. It was a dark drive. It’s difficult to see pedestrians and bicycles on the road. There will not be a meal at the Bridge of Hope compound (our lodging for most of this trip) so we are eating snacks tonight – this is why we bring them. Travel is often long and meals are often missed during overseas prison ministry campaigns.
I’ve had lots of opportunity to study the scriptures and pray during the travel time. It was refreshing and encouraging. I’m excited to serve with each of these men.
This is the first time for Prisoners for Christ in Sierra Leone. We are all up early for an 8:00am flight and excited to serve the Lord together. We covet your prayers.
Our team consists of (left to right) Steve Ives, Nate Bean, Mark Richardson, Dan Baker, Tom Lathrop and Nathan Schaefer.
We travel through Dulles and Brussels before arriving in Freetown, Sierra Leone at 4:40pm Sunday and then a four hour drive to Makeni.
We just bought three water filters for the prison. A couple of these photos will explain why.
Last minute update: Paul is sick, too. It just hit him this morning. He is staying home with the Marks.
We have departed for the prison. We are running late and praying for light traffic.
Mark Richardson is now vertical, he came down to see us before we leave, but he is still sick and will be staying behind at the guest house today.
Mark Sigl is doing better but does not feel he can drive eight hours so he will be staying home today, as well.
We are 13 hours 45 minutes ahead of Seattle. It is now 7:21am Sunday morning. We are leaving for our next prison in about 10 minutes. It will be a four hour drive there and four hours back. Please pray for travel safety and a fruitful and well-received prison service. Pray we will find favor with the prison officials and we will be able to preach openly.
Please pray for healing for both Marks.
Yesterday, Saturday, we had worship service at Yakub’s church and then walked to his and Manju’s house for a very nice home-cooked meal of rice, chicken, greens, lentil soup, pickle and pork rinds. We then went to a pharmacy and bought A LOT of medicines and first aid supplies for the inmates of today’s prison. Six of us gathered for dinner at the restaurant down the street.