A Liberian Woman

God has given me a special desire. My life's call is to reach Africa with the gospel. In that call is a heavy burden for women. Most of you know I am involved in orphan ministries. I care very deeply for underprivileged children. But I am equally passionate about ministering to hurting and needy women. But stepping into someone's life in such a way to really make a difference is not easy. You need to be prepared. You have to make sure you know the culture, and you also know your Bible. Thankfully God has blessed me with a great, Biblical college education, an upbringing here in Africa, and Biblical counseling training. I am at a place where I can start truly making a difference, but I still have so much more I need to learn. Sometimes I feel so inadequate. This kind of ministry is difficult. Not only do I need to be the hands and feet - the voice - of Christ as I minister to these women, but I also represent a small piece of the heart of God as he fills my heart with love and compassion for these women. The more I work with them, the closer I get to them, and the more their suffering hurts me too.

I am a counselor and a Bible study leader, but I am also a friend. I show people hope and healing as found in the word of God. I also guide them with practical suggestions of how to live as a Godly woman in Liberia. Sometimes I help them out with clothes, money to take their child to the hospital, or something else material. But I am not the one to meet their everyday needs. One day I will no longer be working with them and they need to see how God is able to provide, without the help of a white person, and how they can bring in an income and support themselves. Part of showing Christ's love is meeting physical needs, but their needs to be a balance.

One of the reasons I am burdened for African women is their very difficult lives combined with very few Biblical resources. While everyone has faced some kind of hurt or suffering in their lives, the level your average African woman faces would simply astound most of you who are reading this. But I have hope. I have the Bible, which means I have the truth. I have answers. And God has given me training and desire to work with these women, and the ability to learn and understand the difficult Liberian English (all my counseling is done in this form of English, and to be most effective I have to use my heaviest accent and all the odd words that come with the dialect).

And so I want you to meet Patience* today. I want you to learn what your average Liberian woman is like.

*(Name changed for privacy)

In the fall of 2006 as I worked for Acres of Hope, I met many people looking for help from this humanitarian and adoption agency. Many single parents, with no alternatives, brought their needy and sometimes dying children as their last resort. One of these mothers stood out to me in a special way. Patience was a 21-year-old single mother of two. Her second daughter was born with a medical condition that could not be corrected in Liberia but with many surgeries could be fixed in the states. Since her daughter was born Patience had searched all over the country for a doctor who could correct her daughters problem. After 18 months of searching, with no assistance from the child's father or his parents, and completely on her own as her own parents had passed away, Patience finally heard of Acres of Hope. I established a friendship with Patience when she would come to the AoH office for funds to help with the care of her daughter or when I would visit them where Patience sold snacks. (While her daughter was accepted into the adoption program almost immediately, she remained in her mother's care since no foster homes were available at the time and her mother was already doing such a great job with her care.)

Well, due to complications with the child's extended family, this little girl was not adopted while I was working for AoH. I returned to the states in the fall of 2007 hoping that things would change and the baby girl would finally be able to get the life saving care she needed. I prayed frequently for this little family, for Patience's spiritual condition, for their daily needs, and that the baby would one day be adopted, before it was too late. Right before I left Patience gave birth to a little boy, by the same father as her second daughter.

In 2008, as I made plans to return to Liberia, God laid Patience on my heart. I had just received training in Biblical (Nouthetic) counseling and was excited to invest in the life of this single mom. I had made a difference in the lives of many children, but now I had the chance to make a difference in a mother's life, to show her how to make wise choices so she would be able to make it as a single mom, and most importantly, to have the hope and joy that only Jesus Christ can bring.

I was shocked to learn, just one month before heading to Liberia, that Patience's little daughter had passed away due to complications of her condition. We all knew it could happen…I was just believing God would spare this little girl. That someday it would work out for her to be adopted, that my involvement in their lives would maybe guarantee eventually she would find the help she needed. But that was not how God chose to work in this situation. For some reason he knew he would get more glory through the girl's death than through her life. I do not understand why God allowed this to happen, but it was very clear that God was leading me to be involved in Patience's life upon my return to Liberia.

And so when I began meeting with Patience, after returning to Liberia, it was for grief counseling. I was not able to start counseling right away, but again, when I was able to begin the sessions, it was very clear the Lord had me in Patience's life for a reason. The day I went to meet with her to arrange what our schedule would be like (we meet twice a week for about an hour) her ex-boyfriend had just beaten her up. Then, as we were talking, he stomped back to Patience's house, pulled out a bunch of her clothes, dumped them in a wheelbarrow, poured kerosene on top, and lit them on fire! I grabbed Patience and her kids and took them to the nearby police station to file a report on this abusive and dangerous man. Thankfully they were able to arrest him later, threaten him severely, and things have been better. Unfortunately the ex is not completely out of her life, but he seems to have decided he is going to be good.

In addition to the grief counseling, I have been helping Patience work through various areas of her life she needs to change to make right with God. Obviously Patience has had a very rough life. She is only my same age and has gone through more grief than many people will see in a lifetime. From the beginning Patience was ready to experience hope and healing, no matter the cost. When we began meeting she thought she already knew Jesus as her Savior. I knew she didn't, based on the lack of fruit in her life (Matthew 7:16). As those first sessions wore on, Patience started expressing interest in accepting Jesus as her Savior. I was thrilled she was so interested, yet I know one big problem with evangelism in Liberia (it could happen anywhere, really) is the push for a prayer or going forward, or some outwards declaration of following Jesus, when the person has no idea what they are really doing and is not truly ready to follow Jesus with their life. Most Liberians have no clue what it really means to be a Christian, or the high cost of following Jesus (the prosperity Gospel is very popular here). So after three more weeks of meeting, of explaining what it truly means to be a Believer, of taking her through the Bible and explaining how wonderful, but how hard, it is going to be to follow Christ, Patience accepted Jesus as her personal Savior!

Counseling and discipleship have been going very well. Patience is practically a dream counselee as she is so receptive to the truth and anxious to apply it to her life. But just because Patience is now following Jesus does not mean her life will be easy. I wish it did…

Just the other day Patience's 10-year-old daughter was raped. Patience had gone to the market and had left the girl at the house, as usual. There are many other women around and it really isn't a bad idea to leave a 10-year-old at home without mom around. Well, sadly a man who had been staying in one of the rooms at their house took advantage of this opportunity. The girl was admitted to the hospital right afterwards and then was transferred to a rehab center for counseling and encouragement (she will be there for about 3 weeks).

When I first learned of the rape I thought "why her? Why Patience, after all she has already been through?" Then I realize something; she is no different than your average Liberian woman. Only in her case I am here…Most of them just have to buck up and get on with life. It tears me up to think of that. To think that so many women live like Patience has lived, but with no hope. Yet God has given me the indescribable privilege of being here for this family. Of offering them the hope of Jesus Christ. Patience has become like a sister to me. I never knew I would grow to care for her so much.

I wish more people would join me. There is such a need. As Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."

When Patience's daughter comes home I will begin counseling her alongside her mother, half of the time. I don't know where to begin. I'm not ready for this. But God has placed me here for such a time as this (Esther 4:14) and how could I shy away from opportunity? After all, it's why I'm here.