Looking back over my fifty plus years of life, I realize my early years were a time of near poverty. We were blessed as we had a home. It wasn't luxurious, but it was home. We had running water (cold), but no indoor toilet. What we lack in "stuff," we made up for with love. I had friends who had much less. Some friends had dirt floors; we had linoleum flooring. Some friends didn't have a blade of grass in their yard. My brother had to mow our lawn.
Life has improved over the past fifty plus years. With our indoor plumbing comes hot and cold running water, two toilets, bathtubs and showers. Life is better.
During a recent mission trip to Liberia, I was face to face with abject poverty. Recovering from a fourteen-year civil war Liberia as an unemployment rate of almost 85 percent. An entire generation of young people was deprived of an education. Many of the preteens were forced into combat. While much of Monrovia, the nation’s Capitol, has electricity, most of the country must rely upon generators for electricity.
I met Liberians filled with hope, love and faith. Despite the poverty and unemployment and the high rate of crime, they continue to trust God in all things. Joyfully they declare every Sunday: “God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good.”
As a twelve-year lad, Sam had the sense of self-preservation to wrap himself in the sleeping mat and hide in the corner. He kept quiet while the female combatant searched for him. As she searched, she shouted, “I know you’re here. When I find you, I’m gonna kill you.” God kept Sam calm. Fifteen years later Sam believes God has called him to the ministry. Yet, he is unable to respond to God’s call as he lacks the funding to go to seminary.
Rose, formerly a restauranteur in Monrovia, now prepares meals for visitors from the United States of America. She is a wonderful Christian woman. Her daughter was killed by a stray bullet. She isn’t angry. Grief-stricken? Yes, but she continues to trust her God. Rose proclaims, “God is good, all the time.”
A leader of a military faction was dumbfounded when the rockets aimed at a particular home continued to missed the target. Confronting the woman living there, he discovered she was a Christian. She was sheltering others from her community. When the military leader learned she was a Christian, he exclaimed, “We kept firing rockets toward your house, but I saw two strong arms push the rockets away from the house. Now I understand. God has been protecting you.” From that brief encounter, Dorothy and her friends were given protection by the military leader. “God is good, all the time.” Stories of survival were shared with us during the ten days we were in Liberia.
As I prepared to leave Liberia, tears welled up in my eyes. I was surprised. I’ve often heard people who were in Liberia say a part of them remained in Liberia. Now I understand. Boarding the plane, I was delighted to be returning to the United States of America. For all its faults, I still treasure the freedoms we have here. I was looking forward to toilets that flushed. I found myself longing for a glass of milk, a cherished commodity in Liberia. After drinking only bottled water, I anticipated clean, drinkable water from the faucet. After seeing piles and piles of trash along the streets in Monrovia, I will now appreciate regular trash removal.
While going through immigration in Chicago, I remarked to the immigration official how pleased I was to be home again. One needs only to experience the deprivations of other countries to truly appreciate the conveniences we have in United States of America. The poorest of our poor is richer than most of the richest folks in Liberia.
I have a new appreciate for Irving Berlin’s song, God Bless America.
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.
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