A Plea for Sierra Leone
|Oct 9, 2014
I want to tell you about Sierra Leone, at least what I know of it. Some of what you read, you may have already heard or seen (such as the movie Blood Diamonds or Amistad). Much of what you read you may not have. In any event I want to tell you about my adopted country.
In June of 2008 I visited Freetown with a small group from my church. We stayed only a week, but during that week I was deeply moved and challenged to make a deeper commitment to the people there. I have visited many third world countries during various missions trips during my life (South African squatter camps, Mozambique, Mexico) but nothing had prepared me for what I saw in Sierra Leone. The misery and the energy far surpassed anything I had ever seen before. The streets of Freetown are filled, no jammed, with people. Among them are numerous amputees from the long bloody civil war that ended in 2002, others are in wheel chairs (there was a serious polio outbreak during the war years too), others just seem to be going somewhere or nowhere. In the country (i.e., the jungle) there are numerous villages where people scratch out a living farming rice, cassava/mandioc, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. I went to a place called "dark city" in Freetown. It was a squatter camp of around 200 orphaned boys living in an acre or 2 of mud and dirt. The lucky ones had card board to sleep on at night. It was nothing like the "lost boys" of Peter Pan I assure you. But no matter where you are, I would say that many if not most people live hand to mouth. The poverty and desperation there is overwhelming.
Since that initial visit I have returned twice for longer stays.
During those times I have made a deeper friendship with the director of Iris Ministries, Andrew Sesay. In fact, we have become the best of friends. It is with Andrew and his family that I have stayed. When he has come to the US he has stayed with my family. He is the best of men. There are few like him in all of West Africa. He has done things, endured things, persevered during hard times like few could have done. And now he is facing the trial of his life.
Ebola has come to Sierra Leone. Just two months ago Andrew drove to the Kenema district, at the leading of the Holy Spirit, to reach out to those suffering and stricken with fear. At that time Ebola was far worse in the town of Kenema and the surrounding jungle than anywhere else in Sierra Leone. While everyone else was fleeing the area, he drove in and spent 3 weeks there with the poor. To no surprise, when he left 3 weeks later, he left 2 new churches full of new believers.
But things have changed now. The Ebola pandemic has spread to Freetown and throughout Sierra Leone. In fact, the news media is only reporting a little of what is really going on there, perhaps because they have already fled the country, too. So I want to tell you what is happening there from someone inside Freetown.
It is worse than you have heard. Yesterday Andrew told me they are just hanging on. He meant this to describe what is going on all around him--the "they" meaning the inhabitants of Freetown. Government agencies are shutting down. Basic services are stopping. All schools are closed until further notice. Everything in Sierra Leone is going up in price--a lot. Food is getting harder to get and becoming very expensive. Airline prices have more than doubled. It appears that what is happening is going to affect everyone. Even those who don't have or get Ebola are going to have to pay and suffer. It seems that very survival in Sierra Leone is going to become a challenge until this plague passes.
I told him when he does get some money from the Iris Redding base, that he should go out and get 6 months of food and stock up. There may come a time, and soon, when just going to the local market becomes impossible. And then there is the proposed 21 day curfew that the government is considering in order to break the cycle of Ebola re-infection. Even though this is not yet in the news, it has been reported to Andrew that it is a possibility (he often knows things because of his connections before almost anyone else).
If they don't get ahead of this, the W.H.O. has already projected more than a million cases of Ebola in West Africa alone. It appears that this is going to be a long dark period for Sierra Leone.
It is because of my relationship with Andrew and Iris Ministries that I feel certain of the course I should take. I intend to make an emergency donation to Andrew and Iris Ministries, Sierra Leone from the proceeds of Piedmont Iris Farm and per our pledge to do so. The money will go to people who truly are making a difference during the Ebola outbreak there. And it is sorely needed.
Please pray Andrew Sesay and his family, for the Iris team in Freetown, and for all those they serve throughout the country. They are in desperate times. We cannot even imagine what this must be like. They are truly experiencing something like what happened in the dark ages with the bubonic plague. The whole country is shutting down. And the pandemic is just getting started.
Kind Regards and All His Blessings,
Piedmont Iris Farm