Rachel Jenae

Travel: New Friends in Sierra Leone

They were walking towards us, clapping, singing, big wide eyes filling small faces in blue school uniforms. I couldn’t make out the words, but they were welcoming us.  Women with children clinging to their backs and men with deep voices directing the younger. As we exited the bus they drew closer. Closing in around us were curious young faces reflecting my own. How far had they walked? Why would they sing for us? Perfect strangers. Was this custom? As the singing died and formal introductions ceased the curious faces turned into smiles and the younger ones quickly grabbed our hands. Two and three to each one of ours. The older children still watching, standing off slightly, waiting for us to see them too. They then began leading us down the dirt road in the direction we’d been heading. The sun beating down did not detour their smiles, or singing for that matter. A young woman near me, passionately sang and danced as we walked and beckoned me to join her. The young child, maybe not even two, held onto her back and bounced along to the rhythm. It was intriguing and I could not refuse. I slung my camera around to my back and joined in.  My lack of knowing the song and dance coordination sent the woman laughing. This I understood. Dance had never been a gift of mine. But laughter we had in common. I had a new friend.

We walked on for about another mile before we reached their village. We were escorted into their opened wall, hatch roof church building and the singing continued. Children rushing to the front to get good seating, women in the middle and the boys and men sitting in the back and on the half cement walls. We were seated in front facing them and introductions began. We met the village pastor as well as village chief and could see how much it meant to them that we had come so far to visit. The pastor of the main church in Bo, Ps. Aluson, was with us and shared an encouraging story and word with them. It felt like stories I’d read in the bible where Peter and Paul were going to different towns to encourage and exhort the believers there. It was simple. Jesus loves you richly. Don’t lose heart. Keep following Him and keep growing in faith, hope and love. Amidst a hundred different individual stories, and an ocean between worlds, wasn’t that what we all need to be reminded. Ps. Mallory, from our group, shared a short word as well-explaining why we’d come so far. God had not forgotten them and we were here to remind them.

Afterwards they gave us a tour of some of their village and we met many people along the way. Women cooking on their front porches and an elderly woman, to weak to walk, asked for prayer. She couldn’t remember how old she was, but her guess was mid 90’s. Those with us said she’d hurt her leg and had no way of getting around anymore. Stopping to pray didn’t seem like enough. I asked to take her picture and after taking it showed her, only wishing I could have captured the delightful grin she gave after seeing herself. Did she know how beautiful she was? Every wrinkle holding a story I wish I had time to sit and listen to. Her feet worn and covered in dirt I knew she was stronger than I’d probably ever be. I prayed she’d be held and cared for, like my grandmother was. I prayed she had family near her to do so. I prayed for God’s nearness to always surround her.

We only stayed in this village a few hours, but the memories will last a lifetime. Dancing, singing and bringing them a word of encouragement. They had welcomed and received us well and God’s presence was all over them.


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