Rachel Jenae

Travel: A Road Less Traveled

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We drove for two hours on a bumpy dirt road with windows down and the early morning breeze blowing my hair every which way. We were headed out to another remote village and I knew when I took my glasses off the rest of my face would be a shade darker. “More African” they told me. I was told the winds blew across the Sahara and brought down the red dust, but there seemed plenty here without those winds. I was seated with four others on the back row, making the ride much more “intimate” and like any long car ride with 13 other women it, there was never a silent moment. Stories of life and questions on the scenery kept us all occupied. I sat near the window, ever ready to capture this country with the snap of a button, or at least try. The terrain changed from homes to farmland to rainforest quite quickly and in the distance we could see trees like I’d only seen in movies they were so large. The sounds, the smells, the heat, added to each visual memory-the constant burning of trash and diesel fuel puffing from every running engine.  This was just part of Sierra Leone. A road less traveled.

With each new scene I found my senses overwhelmed, but much more my heart. The American in me ever ready to “fix” and change things. “Make things better”. But as quickly as those thoughts came, they were followed by another. It was more of a whisper, reminding me of why we were here. It wasn’t to dig wells. It wasn’t to educate on air pollution. It wasn’t to plant grass and make things “pretty”. It wasn’t to build better homes and set up a community trash and recycle company. It wasn’t to help educate the kids and make sure they had a brighter future. It wasn’t to teach good farming techniques. It wasn’t even to teach on ‘how to disciple’ or ’10 steps to a better quiet time’. And while my “job” may have been to take pictures, my purpose was much bigger than that. Those were all good ideas (and ones I definitely made a list of to talk to God about later) but my purpose in being there each beautiful day was actually much simpler. For we could “fix” a million social and economic issues, but if the deepest issue was not addressed, what would it matter.

It was all about love. That was my job.

To hopefully, even if in the faintest resemblance, remind these people that their Heavenly Father loved them so deeply and passionately. That He was near and present and longing to walk this life with them. That while life circumstances may change, He did not. That amidst a war-ridden land, He would redeem and restore what the locust had eaten. We were coming as an extension of God’s love directly to each person we met. It was enough. Isn’t God’s truth and His love enough?  He uses you and I in our weakness and through our feeble attempts to “help” Him, but when you look at the life of Jesus, He was rarely trying to “do” everything and much more concerned about “being” a representation of the Father to His kids.

While our journey led us to an incredibly packed week of ministry, we met some of the most beautiful people and saw God do so many great things! We met the mayor of the city of Bo, who is a Christian, and talked and prayed for he and his deputy. We visited the hospital, the prison (scariest moment of my life!), put on a two day women’s conference, spent time at the Baby Rescue Center almost daily, and drove out to two different remote villages. We saw God save, heal and set free some of the sweetest hearts and we also spent part of a day praying and prophesying over the entire Fresh Hope staff (probably my favorite time of ministry). It was a packed week to say the least!

The images below are from the second village we visited. We drove two hours outside of Bo on a dirt road, parked by a river, walked across said river, then walked another mile back through the jungle. We passed a few other small villages before reaching our destination. This village has quite the story. A little over two years ago christians would not enter this village, for fear of losing their lives. Then one of the pastors from Fresh Hope starting visiting and slowly but surely God opened a door. Now almost the entire village of about 200 know Jesus and welcome His presence.

As we got close to the village many met us on the trail singing and playing drums. We walked into the village and were led to a small building (cement floor and hatch roof), their church, that was in the center of the village. After formal introductions and greetings, a couple of our pastors shared a word of encouragement before our team began praying for them. We then set up to have a medical clinic for all of the children, distributing worm pills and testing for malaria and various other health issues. As the building was not very big it filled up fast and mothers with crying babies seemed to come out of nowhere. As there wasn’t room or need for our entire team to help with the clinic many of us played with the children that were waiting. They gave us a full tour of their village and it was hard to believe 200 people lived here. From one side of the town to the other it was no longer than a football field, if that. Their were fruit trees surrounding the outskirts and many of the men not present were in the fields harvesting their crops. There was a well in the center of the town that we never saw anyone use, so are not sure if it was even working. Their lives were quite self-sustaining, but diseases and parasites were a common ailment. 23 out of the 33 children tested had malaria and one young baby we were not sure would make it through the night if not taken to the hospital immediately. They are the most resilient and persevering people and their eyes reflected the kindness in their hearts.

As we played with the children we taught them various songs and actions to go with them. “This little light of mine”, “Jesus loves me”, “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes”, and others. These children were special. We had met many in our short stay, but there was something uniquely different about these children. They were so eager to learn and were the perfect little parrots, mimicking our every word and action. As I walked around taking pictures here and there I had two small boys that rarely left my side. When my hands were free they were captured by their own. They weren’t asking for anything, just simply holding on and wanting to stay near. Little did they know I wanted to give them the moon and if I wanted to give them that much, how much more their heavenly Father.

This village is one of 27 new churches that Fresh Hope has started in the last 16 months! They have been in Bo with one church for five years, but recently God has been opening the hearts of many out in the villages. I’ve never seen a ministry live so lean and I’m sure I will say this more than once, but I’ve never seen a country so in need of help. Physically and spiritually it is a time of fresh awakening for Sierra Leone. They have a christian president who was just re-elected to another five year term and has started cleaning out corrupt cabinet officials! God loves redeeming and restoring what looks lost and I love that I can say I am a part of that, even if in a very small way. So if you have been wondering and praying about fertile soil to sow into, I encourage you to look into Fresh Hope and sow into what God is doing there!

Fresh Hope Ministries