“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.”
During my devotional time this morning on our way back from Liberia, God reminded me of a promise that I need to cling onto for this season. John 16:20,22, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.” While I do recognize Jesus was talking to the disciples about his resurrection, this scripture is fitting for this particular season also. It’s a bittersweet moment leaving Liberia and returning home. We befriended some wonderful, loving, and kind people that I feel honored to call my friends. We were welcomed and embraced by the Liberian people as though we were their own people. We laughed until we cried, we danced (or at least tried to), we grew in faith and biblical knowledge, and fellowshipped with God fearing mature Christians.
With that being said, I would be remiss to pretend that every experience we had in Liberia was positive. As can be expected, Madison and I witnessed and experienced some hard things like resource poverty, corruption and mistreatment to name a few. It’s difficult to see all these things and not have the power and resources to completely change the situation. For example, many clinics and hospitals don’t have diagnostic tests for sexually transmitted infections, which is rampant in Liberia. So, typically the health care providers prescribe antibiotics and pain relievers, treating the symptoms without knowing what disease the patient is actually suffering from. This leads to some patients not being properly treated, as well as a high patient return rate. My desire is for every hospital and clinic in Liberia to have the resources, ability, and skill to be able to diagnose and treat the patient's disease rather than just the symptoms. But that is not something I’m able to change...at least not at the moment. Reflecting on these things creates dissonance within me. I feel sorrow thinking about the Liberian people that are hurting.
In the schools, I (Madison) saw methods of discipline that seemed to be doing more harm than good. I saw many students that didn’t know their worth in Christ. I saw students whose home situations prevented them from being able to focus on school. All of these factors were disheartening and required complete reliance on the Lord throughout the entire summer.
We’ve realized that when doing missionary work, there are a lot of things that you don’t know. Some of the work we did in Liberia, there’s no concrete proof that it positively impacted the people of Liberia. However, other times we could see our service made a difference and we felt honored to have been a part of it. For instance, I (Lorvena) went to three schools and provided health education. I led a CPR training for 7 community health workers and I exchanged health education with midwives and nurses at Red Cross Clinic. I also had a weekly health talk on the radio.
I (Madison) made sure to encourage my students in their identity in Christ. I saw significant improvement in some of my students who have been told their whole lives they weren’t smart. I held a teacher’s workshop focused on project-based learning and a growth mindset in hopes that teachers would increase the encouragement they give their students.
So as I process and reflect on all these things, God's promises and reminders give me a sense of hope I didn’t realize I needed. There will come a time when Jesus comes back and all these troubles will be washed away. No more poverty, no more corruption, no more weeping. Just pure joy. Until then, the work in Liberia is not finished yet.There is no place that God isn’t present. God still holds his people in his hand. And for that reason, despite the dissonance I feel, I can truly say and believe, it is well with my soul.