The Land Where Despair and Hope Live Together
March 28, 2019
The last two weeks, I traveled around the once-mighty country of Liberia. Visiting a young family who works with Water4, planting freshwater wells where needed, I was able to experience much of Monrovia, the capital of the country. We also spent a few days out in the bush, where the terrain is more tropical jungle, than African savannah.
Did you know that Liberia was once a prosperous, booming country? Of course, it had its issues, which probably began in the 1800s, when freed slaves from America were transplanted back to this African soil. The freed slaves took what they had learned from America and created their own caste system, by enslaving the natives there.
By the 1980s, the tension between the classes had grown so severe, fighting, then ultimately war broke out in 1989. This war lasted more than two decades, with a brief couple-year break from 1997-1999.
Now, almost 20 years later, most of Liberia, Monrovia in particular, still runs on the thinnest of threads and breathes in despair as its main source of oxygen.
Many of the people I saw never smiled, and it was clear that the mortality rate hovers in the mid-50s to early 60s. I wondered why so few people had wrinkles—it was because people don’t live that long in its deplorable environment. The health conditions are poor, poor, poor.
Nowhere did I see a more clear picture of despair than in the once-five star hotel and gem of Monrovia, the International Ducor Hotel. Perched high on a hill, today the Ducor is a constant reminder of how life once was, what it became, and what is now left.
When we arrived there my last morning in Monrovia, my friend bribed the security guard to open the locked and barbed-wire gates surrounding the hotel. This was really nothing more than an entrance fee, as we ran into other “trespassers” also receiving personal tours by security guards. (And that’s Liberia.)
It was in this abandoned, destroyed pile of cement blocks where I felt my first tinge of fear during my two-week stay. Led by a security guard and the tiny light on his flip phone, we climbed eight floors up narrow cement stairs with no railing, to reach the roof.
The views were spectacular; I saw all of Monrovia from shore line to the furthest stretches of neighborhoods. Though today if you were to view this at night, there would be no street lights or store fronts shining back as there is no central electricity in the entire country.
I poked my head into one of the luxurious suites and every single piece of hardware and wiring that could be removed had been, as well as every single spec of furniture and carpet. The walls had all been scraped down to the bare cement as people tore through the entire building, finding wire, pipes, anything salvageable.
Despair. The despair of the Ducor had crept into my bones. I could feel it. That’s where my fear had come from.
As we slowly drove down the pot-holed street back into the bustle of the capital city, I swiped through my cameral roll of pictures I had taken earlier that morning.
We had just dropped off the 4-year old at preschool when loud band music was heard from down the street. Not just any band music--marching band, complete with drums, horns, and whatever other instruments you logistically can march with.
Cheerleaders with pompoms pranced behind them.
Before I go any further, I have to confess that before I could actually enjoy the sight, I had to get over the shock that this festive parade on a Friday morning in the school week was literally sharing the road with oncoming traffic. (Again, that is Liberia.)
Following the band and cheerleaders, were all sorts of teams of dancers, small ones with their mamas, big ones dressed in traditional costumes, and many in between. It went on for several minutes.
I didn’t move from the spot until the entire parade had passed, and the traffic had resumed its typical somewhat controlled chaos. (Which is almost as fun to watch as a parade, as long as you are not on the roads yourself.)
I had not only witnessed a colorful array of students celebrating their church’s 10th anniversary, but I had watched Hope dance before me.
Despair may have stolen center stage of Liberia with its destroyed buildings and streets, economic havoc, and corruption all over. But Hope is in the wings, behind the curtains, waiting for its turn to take the spotlight.
And with every organization like Samaritan's Purse, Water4, and Orphan Aid Liberia that comes, they bring a little bit more hope to this struggling world. And with every Liberian student who goes to school and learns to read and write and is encouraged to pursue their dreams, more hope is created. And before we know it, this country could once again be overflowing with hope and promise and goodness.
To Liberia: May your Hope always defeat Despair.
(For a quick, entertaining journey alongside my travels in Liberia, check out The Creative Farm Girl on Facebook or on Instagram (or #whitegirlinliberia), which started on March 11.)