Update from Liberia - The Terry Family, October 2016
After nine months of living with us, Murphy has once again decided to leave our home. We have had a particularly rough month when it comes to his behavior. We found out that he has been stealing and then lying about it to us, bullying other children in the yard, and leaving in the night for hours claiming to be using the bathroom. The most disappointing incident involved another boy named AB. Jennifer usually feeds the children who come to our yard to play everyday. So she made some corn bread for the daily meal and gave each child two pieces along with some soup and rice. Murphy very quickly ate everything he was given and then tried to take AB’s second piece that he was saving for later. When AB would not give it to him he started pushing him and was threatening to fight him. AB is younger and smaller than Murphy and is a very sweet boy, but he was ready to fight for his food. When we heard the commotion we broke it up and found out what happened. When we questioned Murphy he was very callous and would not admit he was wrong. You also have to keep in mind that Murphy has eaten every time our family eats which is more than most Liberians. Most children eat one meal a day along with whatever they can scavenge in the bush. Needless to say we were very disappointed. Because of this along with the other issues, we grounded him. He was not allowed to leave the yard and he was given extra chores to do. Jennifer had to supervise him while he was working because he often neglects his chores if you are not watching. So from sun up till the early afternoon she made him complete job after job as punishment. It was probably the most work he has ever done in his life. Jennifer kept talking with him throughout the day and said to him that there are good people and bad people and asked him what kind of person he wanted to be to which he replied "I don’t know." She said you can lie and steal but you will eventually end up on the street and possibly be killed or you can follow the rules and live here. But by early afternoon he had enough and said he was leaving. He made his choice to live on his own. Of course there is nothing we can do so once again we carried him back to his uncle who required the same from him so he ran away.
As I have said before it is a heartbreaking illustration of man’s unwillingness to follow God’s rules. There are many people like Murphy in the world. People who would rather live in wickedness doing things their own way rather than follow God’s law and receive blessing. For nine months we have cared for him, fed him everyday, clothed him, and sent him to school. Still he would go tell the neighbors that we were mean to him, that we would not feed him, and even that we made him eat feces. It is almost as if there was a secret hatred for us even though we love him. I knew he would be a hard case from the start but I never thought he would forsake everything because he doesn’t want to follow rules. We recently found out that Murphy is living in an abandoned house near us. I see him on occasion but he avoids all conversation. Our night watchman has also seen him hanging around the yard at times. I am fearful of his future. It is a very dangerous time for people living on the street. Elections are coming soon and people steal children and cut out their organs to perform witchcraft rituals to influence the outcome. It is very possible that he could be dead before the year is finished unless he realizes his mistake. Please pray for Murphy.
One of the classrooms where Jennifer helps everyday
Inadequate but adequate for Jesus…
We have been busy this month with the football ministry and Jennifer’s work at the school. Jennifer has taken on the whole school at Liberty in order to help straighten it out so it will work properly. She is functioning as a consulting supervisor helping them put the proper procedures in place. Things like making sure the teachers show up to the school on time and are ready to lead their class when they get there. The current process is six grades of students arrive and are lead by some class leaders in the pledge and prayer and then they attack each other in a chaotic mess until their teachers arrive; which can be up to an hour later. She is helping the lower grades work on listening skills, color recognition, numbers, and basic reading sounds. She is working with the older grades on reinforcing reading skills, dealing with trouble students, and proper classroom order. She spends about three hours everyday at the school observing and counseling the teachers, students, and administration. She has had some small victories but still faces an uphill battle. At times she feels inadequate or unprepared to take on such a challenge, but she is doing fantastic. Changes do not happen quickly here. The fact is that anyone who has gone through our public school system and has observed American processes could run any school here better than they are run. Jennifer is more than prepared because of her unique relationship with many of her grade school teachers and the fact that her mother was an exceptional school teacher for many years. So she has an intimate knowledge of the function and theory of teaching. Not to mention, she has home schooled all of our children. While she was not formally trained, she was made for this work. Please pray for her as she continues to try and reform Liberty grade school.
I myself feel inadequate at times with the football ministry. I have never been a coach and my knowledge of football is limited. I played football (soccer) in high school but to be honest, I wasn’t that good. I have had to spend hours researching coaching techniques, strategy, and practice drills. If I can’t teach them how to be better my unsaved players will lose interest and miss the teaching time. I have made plenty of mistakes and have recently experienced a minor setback because I have been trying to train them like an American sports team. I have been too hard on them at practice so consistent attendance is a challenge. They show up and train hard and then don’t come back because it is too much work for them. So I have had to tone down the practices so there is better attendance. Part of the problem is most of my players function day to day on just one meal so they just don’t have the energy. We do try and feed some of them afterwords but we cannot feed twenty hungry players four times a week. There are some players who are really good, they do all the exercises, practice hard, and attend regularly. They are truly committed and I am very proud of them. They are not only committed to the team but to Christian character and godliness. I would love to see some of them excel and maybe even try out for the national team. That would however be a few years from now because most of them are in high school. The majority of them that come are lost but we are teaching them the Bible every practice. I have put the godly ones in leadership and am trying to coach them to walk in their faith in spite of the many pressures around them. It is very hard to live as a Christian young man in this country. All the pressures we experience in America are here but without restriction or supervision. The peer pressure alone is intense. There are players that choose to come to our house and hang out so they don’t have to face the constant nagging pressure they face in their community. I have even had to bar players from coming because of their influence on the rest of the team. So please pray for the youth here in Liberia. Pray that they would stand strong in the face of wickedness, and that the lost would come to Christ.
The point is that things can sometimes feel overwhelming because you don't feel like you are prepared. Jennifer and I are not perfect, we lack a lot of experience, and have made plenty of mistakes; but God doesn’t necessarily look for the best of the brightest. We are inadequate but our sufficiency is in Christ who supplies the wisdom and ability. Do not let your feelings of inadequacy keep you from what God has called you to do. Step out for God and do your best to make a difference where you are and the Lord will help you. Please pray for us and for the people we are working with.
Delusions of Grandeur...
Looking back on the last year and a half here in Liberia I have to say things are not as easy as I once thought they were. I remember presenting our ministry in various places naively telling people of the masses who were ready to come to Christ here. Doing so because during my exploratory trips there were many people who I encountered that simply played on my experiential ignorance. I returned home excited about our future ministry and expressed it openly. Imagining what it would be like to continually lead many to Jesus. The truth is there is a side of Liberia that the people do not want you to know about and as a missionary you have to earn that understanding through time spent with the people. You have to gain their trust if you are to have a shot at changing the culture. With trust comes true understanding of the problems people face and the way they think. Without that trust you are only exposed to the version of Liberia that they want you to see. Unfortunately some people come here with the best intentions to help only to be used as a benefactor for an individuals personal gain. I have see it happen over and over because of a lack of understanding the people. There are times when many people come to Christ and lives are changed. Times when you see the hand of God touch people, but they are usually the in between moments. The vast majority of our time here is spent reasoning with people, teaching and preaching with very little evidence of change. Walking through daily life with people helping them understand the death of a child, or feeding them when they have nothing. Encouraging kids to make good decisions only to watch them fail, then dusting them off only to encourage them again. Breaking up fights in the yard and trying to teach the children to treat each other with kindness. Displaying what a healthy marriage looks like without verbal or physical abuse. We do not lead hundreds to Christ every week and honestly I would be skeptical of those who say they do. In fact Jesus said, "narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." It doesn't mean we should be discouraged or give up, because there are some who will get it and their lives will be changed. But it does help us have a realistic view of what ministry is. Most of the work is just living among the people trying to display godliness and pointing them to Jesus. Sometimes we are successful in leading them to Christ and sometimes we are not. Pray with us for those who will be saved to come to Christ.