It is with great interest that I read the PK4A Blogs, ( Eleni is and has been a physical and financial member for many years).
I find myself nodding in agreement as I read about the traffic hazards, the peddlers, the beggars, the hungry children at Waterloo, that can’t concentrate on school work because they have not eaten all day. The homeless, the disabled, the sick, the suffering. I empathize when I read the pleas for more help from those who have travelled there and share their eye witness accounts.
Events so far out of the realm of comprehension in the west that words, images and emotions cannot adequately capture what is experienced.
The blogs are important in that they connect us with what is happening over there, we capture a glimpse and we admire those who leave the comfort of home to travel to Sierra Leone and we even pray and praise the work of Reverend Themi and the Mission.
Sometimes we are even inspired to donate.
But for those who have been there, the lingering images never cease. The trip itself to Sierra Leone is physically exhausting but it is the emotional toll that is draining even after one comes home and recovers physically. The psychological and spiritual impact of such an experience remains embedded on our souls forever. The faith of the people, the images, the smells, the buildings, the relationships, the promises we make to the people we meet. This is what stays with us- haunting our dreams and are minds as we go about our regular lives.
It’s been 2.5 years since I travelled to Sierra Leone. Naïve and full of hope I was convinced I could make a difference in some small way. All I had to do was save the money for the ticket and expenses and somehow get there. I never realized what a huge responsibility a trip like this carries. Once you are there, once you see, once you listen, once you witness- you have an `Obligation to Act’.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you decide to visit and have hopes of helping the people and Reverend Themi, do not expect to walk away untouched and unchallenged. Do not expect to ever get a good night’s sleep again. Do not expect to forget. Go, but be ready, willing and able to make that difference long term. For if you cannot do something yourself, don’t expect your stories to motivate others. I learned this the hard way.
I am now tormented by the fact that I went and witnessed and have done little else. The call to return and stay for a year is strong but the weight of western responsibilities and money has left me fighting an inner and outer battle. I can rationalize mortgage, job, failing economy and family obligations but deep down I know I am choosing one over the other and God will judge me for this broken pledge.
Our passport, our money, gives us freedom but with this liberty comes deep responsibility and a duty, making us forever accountable. My advice? Don’t go to Sierra Leone unless you are prepared to make ongoing personal sacrifices. The people of Sierra Leone will capture your heart and mind but they deserve more than our kindness. As Mother Theresa so rightly said “The Poor do not need our sympathy and our pity, they need our love” and love in not a `noun’ it is a `verb’.
For those of you who don’t know Eleni, she is a wonderful Orthodox Christian, from Brisbane, Australia, dedicated to Jesus Christ and the education of children. Working in the US expat Educational System in China for many years, she returned to Australia, after her trip to Sierra Leone in 2010, intending to relocate to Sierra Leone permanently, to live and work in the mission’s school system and help Rev T. Unfortunately, PK4A could not afford to pay for her basic needs in Sierra Leone and pay enough to meet her financial obligations in Australia. So, she has gone back to China to save as much as she can, so she can return to Sierra Leone to help.