I checked my makeup and hair one last time. Straightened the collar on my blazer and smiled. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and told myself, “Rachel, you can do this. You are professional, and you are completely capable.” At first these interviews were just a requirement for my travel study credit. I had spent a whole semester researching the history of Liberia, the conflict in Liberia, and their present problems. I knew I was ready for them. I had questions written down and did mock interviews with Dr. Karen Sumner. But now these weren’t just interviews. I fell madly in love with the people in Liberia. I was in love with their hospitable kindness, their unending joy, their open hearts, and their easy-going nature. The children at the orphanage quickly stole our hearts. We each gravitated to our favorites (which were all of them), and we struggled each day to say goodbye. The torrential rain, constant stomach pains, and miserable humidity could not keep us from loving the people. The hugs from the children easily erased any complaint we had. Dickson Freeman was a twelve year old who taught me African hopscotch, which was just him laughing at me when I kept doing it wrong. We sat and talked about America and Liberia. I had to ease his concern by telling him no, we do not eat dogs, and yes people get sick in America. He looked at me and said, “You’ll take me back to America with you?” I was speechless. They tell us how to respond to that, but it’s different once it happens. Kayla Kohen sat next to me in the van as we left that day.
“You really love him,” she said. I turned to her with tears in my eyes.
“I do. I want to give him the world.”
I knew I couldn’t take Dickson and the other precious children to America with me, but I wanted to make Liberia a better place for them. I want Liberia to succeed so that Dickson does not have to come to America to be the doctor he wants to become. I want him to have a chance in Liberia. So these interviews became my chance to get a better understanding of the issues in Liberia and build connections and partnerships to help improve Liberia for Dickson’s future.
I was expecting an array of sad statistics when I met with the Women’s Development Association of Liberia, employees with the U.S. Embassy and Representatives of their Congress. Instead, what I learned was all bittersweet. They did tell me all their hurdles, but they told me all their hopes. They rightfully boasted of progress and humbly admitted they had a long road ahead. You could see the bullet-holed buildings and limbless men, but you could also see buildings being rebuilt and hordes of happy children in schools. Most importantly, I learned that hope is more powerful than fear and Liberians are not short on hope. They dream of a better Liberia for their children. They dream of progress. They dream of peace. Alongside them I will dream; I will hope; and I will do. Then together we will say, “Liberia, we can do this. We are a land of dreamers and we are completely capable.”
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
What are you capable of?