The first time I visited Sierra Leone was in 2012. I was involved with Word Made Flesh in Galati for over ten years, and my friend David invited me to see the WMF community in Sierra Leone. This trip was a transforming experience. From then, my mind and heart became attached to the people I met. As one of my friends told me, this is African syndrome. You go once, and then you want to go again and again. There are powerful images in my mind that make me want to do something for these beautiful people. The last time I was on the beach, a boy asked me if I wanted to buy some cookies from him. I asked him about the school, and he told me his story. His parents died in 2014 of Ebola, he stayed with his aunt, and she sent him to sell cookies. If he sells, he makes money for his lunch for the school. If not, he needs to beg for his lunch from his colleague. These stories remained vivid in my mind and stirred me to do something. I made some friends, started some projects years ago, and I used to visit them. This is my third trip.
I planned to visit a church on Sunday, have a full day of BAM Training, where 14 entrepreneurs registered, on Monday, visit Francis’ poultry farm near Freetown on Tuesday, visit and discuss with small entrepreneurs from a slam named Kroo Bay on Wednesday, run, read, and write on Thursday and meet with the programmers that are in the Code Academy Project on Friday.
This is a God-given mission, more incredible than I can accomplish. I follow step by step what He guides me.
This time I asked my church and friends to pray for the people I would meet, and a group of 12 committed to praying daily.
I recently read a book, Walking with the Poor, which makes me aware that God is already at work in this community. This time, I want to discover what God is doing there and see how I can be part of this.
I am in Bucharest Airport, heading to Freetown via Paris. I expect to arrive at 8.00 pm in Freetown. I wrote to my prayer group my first update and asked them to pray for my friends from Freetown and for me to be a blessing to them.
I landed in Freetown at 8.00 pm and took the Ferry arranged by the Hotel.
I started to feel the smell of Africa. I don’t know how to explain it, but it is like going to my grandmother’s or my mother’s. It is a specific smell that you can’t forget. And it makes me feel good because I love the place and the people.
On the road to the ferry, I met David, a professor from Atlanta that came here for a conference about human trafficking. Then I shared the taxi with a US artist, Luke, who came here to make solar power light artwork in slams. They stay at the same hotel as me, so I want to learn more about what they are doing here.
My first day here was Sunday. First, I was at the market to buy water and data for my phone. Then I went to church. I chose to walk so I could experience a little bit of Africa. Churches are on almost every corner, each competing with its value proposition. One close to my hotel was thunderous. They promise you will experience Divine power and collect your blessings if you go in. If you go in, they collect your money. Many churches preach a prosperity Gospel here.
I met with Steve and Jenifer at the church. At the entrance, they gave me a bulletin with the program and hymns that they would sing. At the end of the service, some elders came to greet me and asked me to introduce myself briefly. They preached about love from 1 Corinthians 13, and I observed that they practiced hospitality. After church, I was to Steve and Jenifer’s home for lunch. I learned more about their mission here and played with their kids. Jenifer and Steve are from Canada, missionaries here, and adopted two lovely kids, Ezekiel and Nathanael. Jenifer works with Word Made Flesh and wants to open a beauty salon that trains and employs vulnerable women she works with from Kroo Bay. I mentored her online to create a business model, and she wants to finish the business model on Monday.
I walked back to the Hotel, and a young boy on the street approached me, wanting to talk. His name is Mali. He studied and graduated in Social science and worked with Unicef on a project. Now he is looking for a job that will help him to support his master’s studies. He told me how difficult it is to find a job here. In his view, the only way to get a job is to have connections, people that will introduce and recommend you to those that can employ you.
I reserved the evening for running because I am preparing for Brasov Marathon in May and must run thrice weekly. It was Sunday night, and the city and the beach were crowded. I tried to run through the crowd and different types of vehicles like Okada, Keke, taxis, and buses. When I returned, it was night, so I gave up and took an Okada, a motorbike, to bring me back to the hotel.
Monday was BAM Training Day. It was a blessing to help entrepreneurs create a Business as Mission model canvas for their businesses and learn how God works through them to bless their community. They worked 8 hours, finished their BAM Canvas, and presented it to the group.
Here is feedback from two participants in the training:
Thank you so much, Adrian, for yesterday’s workout and workshop. May the Almighty bless you with more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I appreciated everything we learned, and I pray that by the grace of God, we will be able not only to implement but impact many lives towards Christ with our businesses. (Privie)
Thank you, Adrian, for the excellent training yesterday. I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. The contents are informative and valuable, and I wholly enjoy the tool you gave us to model our ideas into businesses that can bring glory to God. This will guide us into implementation and help us integrate our Faith with what we are doing. (William)
We organized this training at the WMF center, and they gave me a tour to show me the tailoring shop where they train and produce bags working with vulnerable warn from Kroo Bay.
Tuesday, I was with Francis to visit his chickens’ farm. We started to discuss and work on this project four years ago. First, we created a business model, and then Francis opened an NGO, applied for the permit, built a structure, and finally bought 1500 one-day chickens. They have grown and expect to start laying eggs next month and become a sustainable business. Francis opened this business to provide jobs with dignity for youth and help them to continue their studies. He employed two guys, Albert and Raymond. I met Albert. He is passionate about the farm and even planted some vegetables from the building. In the future, he wants to continue his studies and study Electrical Engineering. Francis is facing many issues with this farm. First, one guy he employed stole the farm’s water pump and some chicken. The land where he built this structure is rented, and the owner wants to sell it. It costs 10000 dollars. The Chicken food is costly, and they are not laying eggs for the first six months. Francis has experience working with NGOs, and now he needs to learn how to manage a business.
Wednesday, I was to WMF for their community worship, and after, I was with Alafia to visit entrepreneurs from Kroo Bay. Kroo Bay is one of many slums in Freetown; over 6000 people live there, and many are kids. It is near the sea, so when it is the rainy season, the whole place is flooded. We first visited Santos. He is producing pots from recycled aluminum pets. He has a small workshop and three guys from the community that employed. They can make 25 pots a day. He dreams of having a more extensive shop on the street, training the trade, and providing jobs for more youth from his community. He also employed John, a youth assisted by WMF, who is now working for him part-time and studying social work at the college.
Then, we visited Lama, who owns a bakery, a more extensive shop, employs ten people from his community, and produces about 1000 leaves of bread a day. All is done manually using an oven with coals to bake the bread; Kroo Bay does not have electricity.
After that, I was with Ansumana and Jenifer to visit Privie’s beauty salon. Privie worked with WMF and trained vulnerable women from Kroo Bay in nailing; now, she employed two in her beauty salon. Jenifer and Privie plan to open a Beaty salon close to Kroo Bay to continue training and employing vulnerable women. I worked with them online, helping create a business model. On Monday at the training, they finished it.
Today is the Independence Day in Sierra Leone. They became independent from Great Britain in 1961. Today is my rest day; I plan to run, read and pray mainly on the beach. I took a Keke down to the beach and started training for the marathon my trainer prescribed for this week—8 intervals of 400m and 8 of 200m. I made 4 of them and gave up because it was too hot. What I learned these days here is that almost everything I know doesn’t work here, so if I want to be helpful here, I need to unlearn and learn again from them. I met with Francis’s Family for the launch and ate together. They invited me to play frisbee, but my skin was already red. I was afraid to stay in the sun at 2.00 PM, so I returned to the hotel and returned later to the beach to continue running, reading, and praying.
Friday is my last full day here. In the morning, I met Emanuel at the reception of the hotel. He approached me and asked if I worked with WMF, then explained that he grew up and lived in Kroo Bay, but WMF assisted him in going to school and finishing college, so now he got a job as a receptionist at the hotel. Francis told him about me and that I was staying in this hotel, and he recognized me.
I met with three students, Alhaji, Benjamin, and Emmanuel, that are part of the Code Academy online program. We discussed how we could solve their problems with the internet connection, power, technology, and quiet workspace where they can work.
Then I met for lunch with the WMF leadership team Ansumana, Alafia, and Jenifer, to discuss their dream to create jobs and develop more businesses. They have already started a tailoring shop at their center, which I visited this week, where they train and employ vulnerable women from Kroo Bay and produce bags. They asked me for ideas about developing this and selling more of their bags. Also, we discussed Jenifer’s vision to start a new training center and beauty salon for vulnerable women from Kroo Bay. We visited a space they identified as being proper for this activity, and then we had lunch together and continued our discussion.
Later, Francis came to see me at the hotel where I lived, and we had a coffee together.
Tomorrow is my departure day, so I will run in the morning, shop for something from the Big Market, and then depart for the Airport. Thank you for taking the time to read this report. I hope you will continue to pray for Sierra Leone and may consider joining us in what God is doing there.