May 2 Sierra Leone - It was a momentous day here in Sierra Leone as our SHGO team (Peter Demko, Tim Johnson and myself) trekked nearly 10 miles into the bush to visit four of the most remote of the 26 villages we have served since 2010. The temperatures were in the high 80’s with high humidity as rainy season in this part of West Africa is just about to begin. Needless to say, our local guides ran easily through the narrow, single-column jungle trails, while we tried our best to keep up!
It is indescribable to walk into a village that only occasionally sees people from outside their immediate area but over the years I have never ceased to be impressed at how open and welcoming the people we meet are. Life in the jungle is primitive by Western standards (mud huts, scant clothing due to the heat, and “three stone” outdoor cooking) but once you sit and talk as we did today, you quickly find that people are more alike than not. They love their children—they are happy living simply—and they are eager to share their life stories.
We traveled to this remote region of the villages we serve to determine if the 6 village chiefs and the people of each village would be interested in establishing a small Seven Hills, Zion Ministries primary school in this district. The distance children must to walk to our Bandawa campus school is lengthy and dangerous and establishing a regional school in closer proximity to these 6 villages would encourage more children to attend.
In each village, the chief and the local people were enthusiastic in their desire for a local school. We then talked about installing one solar light pole in each of the 6 villages—the only source of generated light any of the villages have had in their centuries of existence. And so, when I return to Massachusetts I’ll set about the task of raising the funds necessary to build the mud-brick regional school and the $750 needed for each of the 6 solar pole lights.
Due to the lack of WiFi, and overall connectivity, that we’re experiencing in Bo, it is difficult to post media or many of the pictures of the children that embrace us each day. Upon our return to the States, Peter will be posting many, as my words alone cannot fully describe our daily experiences.
It's through the hundreds of children within the villages visited that our work we began in 2010 is best captured. Though many have never in their lives seen a “pumwai," or white person, and initially may be a bit terrified, the friendships among us all are quickly established, and entire villages are filled with joy and laughter shortly after the arrival of these strange-looking foreigners from America. It is in these moments of human connection that I have always felt closest to God and the natural world in which we live.
Tonight as I write this, I am utterly exhausted, hot, and physically drained, but I would have it no other way. The people of Sierra Leone may be poor as measured in Western terms but they are rich in their love of family and in the welcoming of strangers. Wherever we have traveled this week I am met and embraced by villagers I first met years ago, and they ask me continually, “when are you bringing your wife back again?” (Kathee and I renewed our wedding vows in our remote bush campus 6 years ago, accompanied by nearly 1000 villagers who walked for miles to attend). I dare say that such love and openness is rarely experienced in the "developed" world.
My appreciations are extended to Peter and Tim who have shared this experience with me, enduring hard treks through the jungle heat, and have never demurred from openly embracing the people we encounter. I must also acknowledge our African staff from throughout Seven Hills for whom I have long felt a kinship. And finally, to my wife Dr. Kathee Jordan, who loves this part of the world as much as I and has remained faithful in encouraging me in my work throughout the world.
Tomorrow we will be greeting the students at our BO and Bandawa schools and then visiting with leadership staff at Najala University in their nursing and health officer programs. Come back to our blog tomorrow and if you are inclined, look further into our SHGO.org website to view the work in which we are engaged in with 7 other nations.
We return to Massachusetts this coming Thursday and I jump back into my work at Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates. “Bika” ( Thank you)
Dr. David A. Jordan