June 10, 2013 Tom Berlin

Two Words That Describe It All

We had dinner with two young men who lived at the CRC for many years and one who was in the Child Support Program, which means that he lived with his parents but his school fees were all paid by the CRC. All three are now in college in Freetown. They are hard-working and doing well. In return for their tuition, they each put in 450 service hours a year, which is no small undertaking given that they are full-time students. These hours can be done at the CRC, Mercy Hospital, or any other location, like a church or in their community. Afiju is studying community development. Yusuf and Aruna are in medical college. When they finish, they will begin their internships so that they can become doctors.

I think about all the people who have invested time and money in the CRC over the years.  The board meetings, fundraisers, Volunteer in Mission trips, planning events, and scads of unsung personal hours that volunteers have logged on the U.S. side of the Atlantic, much less the hours the Sierra Leoneans have contributed on a volunteer and staff basis. Thousands and thousands of hours that could have been spent golfing or taking a nap or riding a bike or something. And it has not been easy. We are working with kids, which are some of the most unpredictable beings in the universe. We are working across cultures, which means that there are a lot of ways miscommunication and misunderstanding can occur. As God is able, it has all worked out, but it has taken some effort. Sierra Leone has its own factor of difficulty. Poor roads break vehicles. Extreme rain, followed by a dry season, wrapped in high temperatures, make maintenance on everything from vehicles to buildings a constant endeavor. And wells go dry. Don’t even get me started on wells going dry. Or how the pump can fall down the well and get jammed. Don’t even ask me about that. And one time when the power went out, which is a fairly regular event, thieves stole the power cables that feed the CRC and Mercy Hospital. They stole the cable off the poles. If you steal the power lines that provide electricity to a children’s home and hospital in one of the poorest countries in the world, you are a very bad person. That may sound judgmental, but it is just so true it is plain.

Let’s just say that there are lots of reasons to feel weary when you say “yes” to God in this endeavor. So I am eating dinner with Yusuf and he is talking about why some doctors stay in Sierra Leone and why some leave as soon as they can to make more money abroad. He tells me that the issue is whether you have a desire and passion to serve the people who need it the most in your own country as a citizen of Sierra Leone. Yusuf tells me that he wants to be the kind of doctor who puts the people first. He is already known for the uncomplaining way he fulfills his service hours, so I believe him. I look down the table and see Afiju laughing with Emily, a 19-year-old member of our team who has been his pen pal since the third grade. It’s obvious that they really know each other and are enjoying finally talking in person. Then I see Aruna engaging another of our college students. They are comparing notes on what classes they take and what it is like to attend college.

I take all this in, even as Yusuf begins to speak again, and two words come to me like a bolt of lightning that God has aimed right between my ears. And I wanted to share them with anyone who has ever given time or money to the CRC or Mercy Hospital, and especially if you are like me and have felt weary from time to time.

Those two words were: Worth It.

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Tom Berlin

Rev. Tom Berlin is the Lead Pastor of Floris United Methodist Church. Tom was raised in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and has lived in Virginia most of his life. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech and his Master of Divinity is from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He has co-authored three books and is the author of several small group studies. Tom and his wife Karen have four daughters.

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