Thursday, June 12, 2008

Liberia deja vou

Sometimes I have Liberia deja vou. Today was one of those days. For a split second there is this flash back, and I'm in Liberia, West Africa again.

First, we woke up to a warm, humid day. The high was supposed to be around 90, but the thermometer in the truck said 97. In Liberia, that's a regular day. (Pictured: A palava hut in Liberia).

Second, and the most powerful in causing a Liberia day dream, was the smell of wood smoke in the air in the morning.

The smoky haze today was from the huge wildfire down east North Carolina burning in three counties. But the smell immediately transported me to morning on the ELWA campus. (Pictured: A girl taking homemade charcoal and putting it in plastic bags for sale. One bag is enough to cook a meal. This is the way most folks cook in Liberia.)

There, the whole area smells like wood smoke in the mornings because the oppressive heat, humidity, and night-time dew has kept low to the ground the smoky smell of a thousand smoldering piles of wood being processed by average Joe Liberians for sale as charcoal. (Pictured: bags of charcoal - or 'coal' as the Liberians say - ready for sale in a rice bag covered over with palm leaves. This is enough for a couple weeks to a month or more. In the foreground is sugar cane ready for sale. They'll cut off whatever size you want to buy to chew on.)

Third, this evening I grilled some pork chops, and before the meat went on, I roasted some corn on the cob, in the shucks, over the charcoal. One of our favorite afternoon snacks on the rough roads in Liberia, especially traveling from Buchanan back to Paynesville was to stop at a market in Grand Bassa County and buy each one in the truck an ear of roasted corn to eat going down the road. (Pictured: A Liberian market.)

Liberian style corn is usually roasted by a young girl over a charcoal pot, so it has that same smoky flavor ours did today, but they roast them bare, without the shucks, giving kernels too long over the heat a hard shell.

Here in North Carolina, Amanda and I like to peel back the shucks, take off the silks, salt and pepper and butter the ear, then carefully put the shucks back and roast the corn in the ear over the coals about 15 minutes on each side. That way we don't get the hard kernels like the Liberian girls have on their ears of corn, but we get the smoky flavor and even heat inside the shucks. It beats corn on the cob boiled in water.

In Liberia I got up every day feeling more than anywhere else that my life was counting for something valuable in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ

I've been to Liberia four times since 2003, and Amanda and I had the privilege of living there together only about nine months. (Pictured: Kids cooking on a coal pot on the porch.)

But Liberia marked us deeply. It is a better place to raise a family. 

Despite its inconveniences from time to time, we miss the place very much, and I miss that daily inner assurance that I was making an eternal contribution and living a life of Romans 12:1-2 worship for the King of Kings.