Tag Archives: Sierra Leone

7 days in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a country from west Africa with a population of over 6 million people. After more than 20 years it’s still recovering from the civil war that ended in 2002 and Ebola that hit the country between 2014 and 2015. Over 50% of his people leave under the poverty line. 

The last time I visited Sierra Leone with my friend David was in 2012  to meet our friends from Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone.  

One image that persisted in my mind was a young boy that approached me on the street imploring me to help him to go out of his country. I couldn’t help him but the idea that I can do something for him and others youth from his country didn’t give me peace.

Another image was Ansu and his story. He is one of the staff from Word Made Flesh. He lost his right arm in the civil war while was a child and was saved by Red Cross. The government told to the people that the power is in their hands, to go to vote, and in response, the rebels amputated the right hands of many people from villages and bring them in front of the government building in Freetown. 

During my visit, I knew Francis and his family. He invited us one night for dinner at his home.  He is working with Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone leading a 3 years discipleship program for youth from Kroo Bay, a slam from the margin of Freetown. 

After a few years, he visited Romania, and I invited him to my home in Brasov. He told me about his idea to start a business to be able to provide jobs for the youth that finish their mentoring program. Most of them after they finish this program drop school and become drag addicted because of the lack of a job to be able to sustain themselves.  I told Francis that this is a calling from God, to start a business that does not exploit people for money but serves people and glorify God. So, we started the poultry farm project two years ago and this is the main reason for my visit now, to help Francis to make progress with his poultry farm. 

It is 6.00 a.m. and I wait to embark for Freetown via Paris.

I planned a few meetings for this week and I am looking forward to hearing what God calls us to do here in Sierra Leone. 

First, I want to help Francis to review his Business Model Canvas for the poultry farm and to visit together an existing poultry farm to understand more about how this business is done in this country.  Also, I plan to visit the construction project site.

Second, I want to continue the discussion with Jenifer about a new project that they have in mind and see if this will be the project that we will be involved in after we finish the poultry farm. Jenifer and his husband Steven are working with Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone and they started some training programs with prostitutes from Kroo Bay. They train them in tailoring, nailing, and baking. Jenifer called me a few weeks ago to discuss this project and how can they develop it as a business. Their dream is to develop a business and in time to give ownership to the woman involved, to empower them. I see this as a calling from God for them. He wants to liberate some prostitutes from Kroo Bay, restore their dignity, and made them His daughters. 

Thirds, I want to be one day with Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone, being part of their activities. It is a community that I love, and some people are giving their lives sacrificially and love and serve God among the poorest of the poor, in Kroo Bay slam. I already planned for Thursday to participate in Kroo Bay out-rich, visiting families from Kroo Bay, and after that their leadership team invited me for launch.

Fourth,  I planned a visit on Saturday at the American Computer College from Freetown, to discuss with the professors, students, and alumni the possibility to open a Code academy in Sierra Leone, a one-year internship program where students learn to code while working on paid projects mentored by a senior developer. I already discussed with Dani, Viorel si Darius the opportunity to become the first senior developers’ missionary in Sierra Leone. 

Finally, I would love to spend some time praying, running and reading, listening to God about his vision for people from this country. 

It is almost 4 PM and I am on the plane, listening to music and writing my thoughts. The next stop will be Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Muramandi, the man that sits near me will stop there. Muramandi works in Holland and goes back home to Guinea to see his boy. He is worried about his boy because recently there were fights for power in his country and now it is a military dictatorship installed.  He hopes to be able to take his 10 years soon with him in Holland. I asked him if he plans to come back to Guinea to do something for his country but he told me simply that there is nothing that can be done, he is only one man. I asked him what the future of his country and he answered that there is no future because people are discriminating based on the tribe they belong to. Their mentality should change, to start to accept and collaborate regardless of their tribe. 

I arrived at Lungi International Airport and after pass through a lot of filters and made two more Covid tests, they allowed me to go out. Francis waited for me at the airport and we took a ferry for Freetown. Finally, I arrived at the hotel to rest after a 24 hour trip from Brașov to Freetown.

It is 6.00 a.m., the first day of my stay here, and I stay on the balcony of the New Brookfield Hotel, reading my Bible and meditate on how can I learn from and be a blessing for the people which I will meet these days. This morning I have read Psalm 9 “The Lords is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” and I prayed for the people that I will meet this week, planned or unplanned. On my list are Francis and his family, Jenifer and Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone, Peter the rector from the University.

There is no Uber in Freetown. Taxi, a private car, Poda-Poda, which are public minibusses, Keke, a motor tricycle with cabin, and Okada, a motorbike, are the main transportation options here. I choose Okada because when they go fats I feel like I am in my car with the air conditioner on low.

So, I rode Okada with the main rider in front of me and arrived at the Greater Heights Global Mission Church where Francis and his family are part. Like I was expected when I entered they were in the middle of worship time, singing and dancing with high energy and volume. I was familiar with one song and I tried to move a little but can’t do it like them, they move naturally. 

After the church meeting, we went for lunch with Francis, Patricia, and their four kids. Lovely family that sacrifices a lot to serve od among the poorest of the poor. Love to talk with them about their work, school, local food, their dreams, and games that their kids play. Jesse comes to embrace me and touches my hand softly to feel the color of my skin.

Walking and running through the city is my favorite activity, to feel the vibe of this crowded city. I feel at home, love to talk to the people, they are very friendly and happy to talk with me. 

Running on the beach is awesome. When I hear the waves, I hear the voice of God, and when I feel the waves I feel His embrace.

It is 8.30 in the morning, the second day of my visit, and I am resting on the beach after 6 miles running from the hotel to Lumley Beach. 

Sierra Leone Peace Museum was open in 2013, over ten years after the end of the Civil War, by the Special Court of Sierra Leone to preserving the truth, honoring the conflict’s many victims, and promoting lasting peace. The Peace Museum includes a memorial to victims, an exhibit that documents and narrates the war’s history and the peace process, and the public records of the SCSL and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

In the Afternoon I visited this museum and as I was the only visitor Abubacaia was my free and personal guide eager to explain to me all the pictures and artifacts exposed. He was very kind and knowledgeable and answered all my questions. The most impressive part was a wall with stories and pictures of people whose right arms were amputated by the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) and pictures with those whom’s chests were tattoo with RUF initials.

In the afternoon I went to Steve and Jennifer for dinner. Steve came to pick me up from the hotel and we used a Keke to go to their home. A Keke is more comfortable than an okada. I knew Jenifer when I visited Sierra Leone in 2012. She is from Canada and was in an internship at that time at Word Made Flesh. Meanwhile, she married Steve and they adopted two lovely kids. Her dream is to open a beauty salon where to train and employ woman from Kroo Bay that where trafficked in prostitution. Was so good to see how God called them to start a redemptive business that will serve God among the oppressed. I feel blessed to be invited to be part of this. 

It is 9.00 a.m., the thirds day of my visit and I am waiting for Francis to go to visit the poultry farm project site. 

The poultry farm is placed outside of Freetown in a place called Mambo. The carpenters were at the site building the roof. The building is huge and will host about 1500 chickens.

I met Mohamed and Remon, two young guys that Francis supported for a long period of time.  They are helping Francis now supervising the construction work and buying materials for the workers. They told me their stories and also about how Francis helped them, being like a father for them, so far. They want to continue their studies, Mohamed wants to study law and Remon, Computer Science. Francis hopes to offer them a job at the farm that will support and allow them to continue their studies.

In the afternoon I visited Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a place that hosts about 150 chimpanzees rescued from the people’s houses or forests that were deforested. As I was the only visitor, Alfred, a young guy passionate about wildlife, was my personal guide walking with me around the reservation. He is hoping to be able to go to the university to continue his studies and study wildlife, to save enough money, and to obtain a scholarship after 3 years working here. 

All Chimpanzees from the reservations have a name and Alfred knows all of them and their stories. He explain to me how they are living in groups and the group is dominated by an Alfa male leader recognized by all members of the group. When he calls them by their name they respond with a specific sound. They are very intelligent animals, sometimes they are using sticks to pick up fruits from the tree and rocks to crack the coconuts.

It is 7 a.m., the fourth day of my visit and I planned to go with Francis to visit an established poultry farm from Freetown.

The farm is located after the Regent region of Freetown, on a hill. I met Francis ed we took a Keke to go to Region and then an okada to climb the hill to the farm. We met Ibrahim, the owner of the far, a young guy very passionate about farming and willing to respond to all our questions. Francis visited him before but I wanted to see with my eyes how chickens are grown on a farm in Sierra Leone. He was very knowledgeable a happy to share with us about his business, his providers for food, his veterinary, and the costs and revenue. It was the information that we needed to complete our business model. 

After the visit, we sit at the hotel restaurant and worked to complete the Business Model Canvas for the poultry farm. 

William is an intelligent and educated person, a friend of a friend, that I invited to meet to discuss Business as Mission. He resigned from his job and now wants to open with his brother a transportation company, to offer high-quality transport service by bus in the province and back. This service is in high demand here. We discussed how he wants to do this business to serve with love and sacrifice his customers and employees. He was familiar and passionate about the redemptive entrepreneurship model and learned about it from the Praxis Lab website. I liked him and I invited him to come on Saturday morning with me to the University. It is possible that God sent him to me to take care of this project, Code Academy here in Sierra Leone. He is studied business, computer science and has a mindset to serve people through business.

It is 8.00 a.m., the fifth day of my visit and I am preparing to go to Word Made Flesh Center for Kroo Bay Outreach program and then for launch with the WMF leadership team.

Word Made Flesh is the most authentic and community that I have known. They are serving Jesus among the poorest of the poor, in Kroo Bay and I was happy to see them after 9 years and see that most of them are here for a long time. Bala Bangura is my friend and he greeted me and introduced me to the WMF team. it was time to talk before everyone gathered and he gave me to listen to a song that he wrote recently and recorded about Peace. He is really talented and dreams to be a musician in the future. 

We started our activity reading and discussing a passage from the gospel of Matthew about the ten virgin and their lights and then split into groups of two and headed down in KrooBay.

Kroo Bay is a slam where over 6000 people are leaving in extreme poverty. I teamed with Balla and started our visit. I was especially interested to meet people that have a small business within the community. 

First was Alex that build an entertainment center down the bay and people come there to watch TV, for night club and to buy marijuana. He was so friendly with us, explaining everything about his business, he showed me how they are processing marijuana and prepare it for selling. It is not legal to do this in this country, but here down in the Bay are different laws that are in place. I was thinking of Jesus, he was a friend of the tax collectors and prostitutes. If he would visit Kroo Bay, for sure he would visit Alexa’s Household. 

The second workshop that we visited was Santos’ workshop. He is producing pots from recycled aluminum caps. He learned this skill and hire the workshop from his father who is an old man now. He has four kids all of them are going to school and WMF provided a scholarship for his older doubter. He looks like a happy man even he is spending all his time from morning till evening working in this workshop. He was so friendly with us, giving us all the details about his business and telling us about his dream to build a new and bigger workshop.

The thirds place that we visited was the Kroobay Fisher Organisation. They build boats and go fishing. They have an organization with tools and a fee if you want to be a member. They built a place where fishers bring their fish and people from Krooby that are selling rises come to wait and buy. 

There are no rods in KrooBay, so the only way to go from one place to another is through the small pathway that separates the “houses” that people build. So while you are walking, people are everywhere doing laundry, cooking, working, sitting, smoking, and very happy to talk to you. We drive in an area where their houses just were destroyed by a fire, a desolate place, and an image with a lot of kids and parents sitting or walking in the ash. That was too strong for my eyes. I almost started to cry.  

In the afternoon, I was invited for lunch by the leader from Word Made Flash Sierra Leone, Jenifer, Ansu, and Alafia. My question was what kind of projects can be done for Kroo Bay, that will bring transformation within the community. Word Made Flesh invest a lot in education and this transforms life’s of people as individuals, they have a lot of stories with people whose life was restored. Nevertheless, the poverty in the KrooBay community seems to be growing not decreasing. Nine years ago when I visited Kroobay they as a community was doing better than now.  My first thought was that they should create programs to help those that have small workshops or businesses in KrooBay to grow and be able to employ others from their community. This can bring transformation over the years. 

Finally, I arrived at the hotel after the most difficult day here, and I started to cry. It was my way to unload all emotions that I accumulated during the day.

It is 9.00 a.m., the sixth day of my visit here and I am sitting on Lumley Beach, resting after 6 miles of running, watching at the sea, and writing my journal. A boy named Mantsu came to me on the beach and we started to talk. He was sent by his aunt to sell some cookies to make money for his launch before school. When there is no selling there is no launch for him, and he begs for some food from his colleagues at the school. His mother died during Ebola and his father lived with them and is in the province farming. He told me that he want to be a pilot and asked me to take him with me to my home in Romania. 

It is my day with no scheduled meetings. I will go to the market to buy some presents and prepare my presentation for the American College of Science and Technology tomorrow. Balla called me and told me that is around, we met and drinker a coffee he came with me to the market helping me to negotiate the price, because usually, they try to charge me for my color. 

On my last day here before departure, I was to visit the American College of Science and Technology.  I teamed up with Francis and William and they received us warmly. A few students presented us their projects, I presented them our proposal for the one-year internship program, and then the professors invited us to eat together.  I was impressed to see that they are teaching at this college most of the technologies that we are using and encourage them to create some small projects using these technologies. We discussed the partnership and what this one-year internship program means. 

Sierra Leone has no software industry. Even the software they are using here they are doing it in India or China. This project will be a pioneering project for this country and a great opportunity for the students to learn more while working on paid projects. 

After the meeting, I was seated for a coffee and debrief with Francis and William and they passed to me their impressions about the project. They are open to help me with all the logistic that is needed to run the project in this country. 

It is 2.00 p.m. and I am waiting in the hotel to depart for the Ferry toward Lungi Airport. My Flight will be at 9.40 PM and I expect to arrive in Romania on Sunday, after 1.00 p.m.

Sierra Leoneans are friendly people. They welcome foreigners, are happy that we visit their country, and hope that more will come to help them develop their economy. 

As an emergent economy, it is a good place to invest.  For example, if we will succeed with the Code Academy project, we will be pioneering the software development industry in this country. This can be a model for Otter Companies and help to increase their GDP in the future. 

It is 11.00 a.m. and I am on the airplane heading to Bucharest.

I love Sierra Leoneans and want to do more for these people but at the same time, I feel like being small and helpless when I am looking to the needs that these people have. Their cry for help is overwhelming me. I will not be able to do something, but will God let me be part of his mission in this country? He is  “a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble”  he hears the cry of the kids that have nothing for launch, of those who sleep in the ash after their houses burned, of the jobless and oppressed and he will respond.

Două săptămâni în Sierra Leone

Am acceptat invtația lui David de a merge în Sierra Leone pentru că am vrut să ies din confortul zlnic, din cutiuța mea și să văd o cultură diferită, să cunosc oameni noi și să trăiesc în condiții diferite. M-am oferit să colectez materiale pentru crearea unui website pentru comunitatea Word Made Flesh de acolo și să particip activ la la întâlnirile și activitățile lor în aceste două săptămâni.

IMG_3418Sierra Leone este o țară mică din vestul Africii, cu oameni prietenoși și resurse minerale imense (diamante). În același timp este una dintre cele mai sărace țări din Africa, devastată de un război civil (1991-2001) și o administrație coruptă.

Drumul spre Sierra Leone a durat 30 de ore. Am pornit din Galați, am mers cu trenul la aeroport în București, am zburat spre Londra (Luton), am traversat cu autobuzul la Garwik, am zburat spre Gambia, din Gambia am zburat spre Freetown, Sierra Leone, am mers cu taxi la Ferryboat și am traversat spre oraș.

Am fost uimit de căldura și ospitalitatea cu care am fost primiți de gazdele noastre, veselia și prietenia oamenilor de pe stradă. Uneori strigau dupa mine „white man”, alteori mă opreau pe stradă să mă întrebe de unde sunt, alteori când mijloacele de transport în comun erau puține datorită crizei de petrol, se ofereau să ne ducă cu mașina lor personală. Am fost șocat de gălăgia, sărăcia, înghesuiala și mizeria de pe străzi. Nu există semne de circulație și șoferii conduc folosind mereu claxonul. Am învățat să fac duș folosind un lighean și o cană, să folosesc lanterna când nu este curent, să mă strecor printre oameni, mașini și motociclete, să circul prin oraș cu taxiul sau „poda-poda”, să trăiesc fără internet și telefon.

IMG_3205Prima zi m-a curprins un puternic sentiment de vinovăție pentru confortul în care trăiesc și neîncrederea mea în Dumnezeu. În mintea mea au răsunat versurile unui cântec compus de Delirios. „Slaveaza-ma din împărăția confortului unde eu sunt rege”. Împărăția lui Dumnezeu este neprihănire, pace și bucurie, dar acestea vin deseori la pachet cu suferința, durere și lipsuri. Am realizat că sunt sărac, mai sărac decât mulți din acești oameni care trăiesc în lipsuri, durere și suferința, dar caută Împărăția lui Dumnezeu și neprihănirea Lui.

Cominitatea Word Made Flesh din Sierra Leone, la fel ca și celelate comunități din România, SUA, India, Bolivia, Moldova, slujește pe Isus printre cei săraci. Centrul lor este așezat aproape de cea mai săracă zonă a orașului Kroo Bay. Activitățile lor sunt adresate în mod special copiilor din Kroo Bay.

Prima activitate la care am participat a fost „Kroo Bay Outreach”. Ne-am întâlnit împreună angajați și voluntari, ne-am rugat și apoi am plecat câte doi în Kroo Bay. Misiunea noastra a fost să identificăm copiii care au nevoie de tratament urgent, copiii care sunt exploatați, nu sunt lăsați să meargă la școală și sunt puși la muncă, să vorbim cu oamenii despre Împărăția lui Dumnezeu, să ne rugăm pentru ei, să invităm copii la Good News Club și să încurajăm pe cei mari să meargă la Biserică. Kroo Bay este așezat în valea orașului și atunci când plouă este complet inundat, oamenii trăiesc în apă. Majoritatea nu au apă și electricitate și „casele” sunt improvizate din tablă, carton, celofan, lemn. Cu toate astea oamenii sunt foarte deschiși, prietenoși, dispuși să vorbească. Sunt ușor de abordat pentru că majoritatea lucrează, mănâncă, se odihnesc, se spală în fața „casei”. Am oprit să vorbim cu un grup de pescari musulmani, cu un grup de tineri care jucau rișca și cu o famile care avea 4 copii. Am dialogat cu ei și i-am întrebat ce își doresc mai mult de la viață. Răspunsul lor a fost similar: trup sănătos, viață lungă, bani, educație. Am vorbit cu ei despre Împărăția lui Dumnezeu, păcat, iertare, restaurare și viață veșnică.

IMG_3492A doua activitate a fost „Kroo Bay Good News Club”. Peste 500 de copii din Kroo Bay au venit Sâmbată dupa amiaza la „Ali Ali House of Hope”. I-am împărțit în șase grupe, le-am legat câte o ață la mână, colorata diferit pentru fiecare grupă, au cântat împreună, au spus rugăciunea Tatăl nostru, au avut o lecție Biblică, au primit un plic cu substanțe nutritive numit „Mana”, cei care au avut nevoie de îngrijire medicală au fost asistați, ne-am rugat pentru fiecare  din grupa noastră și i-am trimis acasă.

În timpul săptămânii o parte din copii vin pentru „Tutoring after school program”. Aici sunt împărțiți în grupuri mici, sunt asistați la teme iar apoi mănâncă împreună.

Lighthouse Center for Youth” este un program de ucenicie pentru copii și tineri, care se desfășoară pe parcursul a trei ani de zile. Cei înscriși în acest program beneficieze de o masă caldă, asistență medicală, lecții biblice, consiliere.

În fiecare sâmbătă copii și tinerii sunt invitați să joace „Fritsbee” pe plajă. În timpul jocului sunt încurajați să aibă un comportament adecvat, la final se roagă și apoi primesc o masă caldă.

Duminica am mers la biserică. Am avut de asemnea ocazia să vorbesc cu pastori sau oameni implicați în Biserici. Sunt Biserici creștine la fiecare colț de stradă. Multe dintre ele nu au o doctrină bazată pe Biblie și deseori sincretismul religios este la el acasă. Unii propovăduiesc Evanghelia prosperității,  combinand materialismul cu spiritualitatea. Un pastor mi-a spus că dacă nu ești bogat nu îl glorifici pe Dumnezeu, Isus a fost bogat, Lazăr prin viața lui nu L-a glorificat pe Dumnezeu. Alții  confundă spiritismul cu spiritualitatea și au propria lor învățătură în care îmbină practici oculte și tradiții cu învățătura Bibliei. Cu toate acestea sunt și biserici sănătoase. Învățatura lor este simplă, biblică și o traiesc în viața de zi cu zi.

IMG_3467Într-una din zile am meditat la oportunitatea pe care o avem să fim lucrători împreună cu Dumnezeu la restaurarea creației Sale. Nu am participat la crearea universului, dar am contribuit la distrugerea lui. Am putut să văd cu ochii mei, mult mai clar ce înseamnă distrugere, în această țară unde oamenii se închina lui Satan pe stradă, cheamă morții și vorbesc cu ei, invocă spiritele și fac vrăji. Cea mai importantă lucrare pe care o putem face cât trăim pe acest pământ este să răspundem chemării lui Dumnezeu și să lucrăm împreună cu El la restaurarea creație Sale.

Am avut o zi de odihnă și am mers pe plajă. Mi-am scris obiectivele pentru anul 2013, si am fost foarte îngrijorat pentru că sunt implicat în multe activități și nu știam dacă este bine și dacă voi face față. M-am rugat, și după un lung moment de tăcere am primit răspuns. M-am așezat pe marginea ocenului și valurile au început să mă acopere, să mă doboare și să mă poarte unde vroiau ele. Erau mai puternice decât mine. Apoi am mers în ocean, și cu cât înaintam mai mult cu atât puteam să plutesc sau să înnot deasupra valurilor mai ușor. Dar nu după mult timp am avut nevoie de odihnă. A trebuit sa ies din apă, să mă retrag și să mă odihnesc.

Am decis să nu stau nepăsător pe margine ci să mă implic acolo unde Dumnezeu m-a chemat, folosind resursele, darurile și abilitățile pe care El mi le-a dat.