LIFE ON A RUBBER PLANTATION
Life on the rubber plantation that we visited Saturday more resembled slavery than employment. We were allowed to come and do 3 programs in 3 different camps. If I had been the owners, I would never have allowed us to see what we saw. Though this is a very profitable business, you could never discern that truth by the way the people lived.
The camps were squalid. Each one was worse than the one before it. The people live on the plantation and because of its distance from a town, they can never leave it easily. Their children grow up to work as they worked. The people are more owned than employed.
Extreme poverty greeted us at every place and this surprised me. I expected that the workers would benefit from their employment. The children wore rags or nothing. Many were hungry and I could count the ribs on many little ones. No one smiled. They simply existed, staring at us with hopeless eyes. Life is a complete misery to them. They start at 5 a.m. and work until 3 or later. Each person must tap 500 trees a day. That means that they must cut 500 trees to run the sap into cups, and the next day they must collect the cups of sap.
The older people have endured the Civil War and still suffer. We passed a place today where 75 people were killed in a single day. The younger people no longer dream. When you are too old to work anymore, you receive a small income, but you must leave the plantation. Everyone you know and love is there, but you are forbidden their comfort.
We worked with a local pastor who is committed to follow up on those who prayed. So many called on Jesus to save them. Their lives provide no comfort so they clearly see their need for Jesus. This is their one great blessing!
Often when I speak at churches, I must remind people that this life ends and heaven waits. I encourage them to think about the next life and how today will affect that future. These people needed no reminders that this life passes away. Some were hearing the Gospel for the first time. They embraced the promise of heaven with enthusiasm. Grown men and women could be heard praying aloud, almost drowning the voices of all the children who also prayed.
Slowly, during the program, they began to smile, clap, and even laugh with us. The children were very shy with us, but warmed up to us quickly at they realized that we cared about them. The children were sometimes terrified by the puppets because they were so strange to them. However, we were quick to explain to them that nothing we had would hurt them. This statement they accepted. I don’t know why they believed us. We are white and it is white people who have always used them. Constantly, I prayed for them not to see our outsides, but to see God’s Holy Spirit on our insides. The Father was kind to us and gave them eyes to see our true hearts.
I will hold their smiles always in my heart. I beg you to pray for these dear people. Ask the Father to make them strong Christians who deeply trust Jesus. This is one of the saddest places that I have ever visited. He is their only hope. He is our only hope.
PRINCE, OOSAN, CHARITY, AND FRIENDS
We arrived late to the church where Sam was to preach and I was to give a mission report. They took us to the front of the church and sat me down by a doorway. It is brutally hot here and the breeze was the sweetest blessing. Our friends are always quick to do all they can for us!
Immediately, 6 or 7 children appeared and sat on the steps. My heart was touched by their smiles. While the church was singing, I began to draw pictures for them and tell them about Jesus. I used my notebook and with the high wall we were sitting behind, their presence disturbed no one.
I was having a wonderful time sharing with these little ones. I drew pictures for them and they were so happy. I believe the Father called them to sit on the steps beside me. They were not children who normally came to church.
One of the men in the church came and started to chase them away. He told them to leave. I jumped up to run out the door and call the children back. I yelled "Let the children alone. Let them stay." I hit my head on the door jam and nearly knocked myself out. It would have been quite a disaster except for 2 members of the Liberian puppet team who came and gathered up all the children and brought them back to me.
They invited the children to come into the church. One little girl ran off and when she came back, she had changed her clothes. Before, she was wearing a rag of a dress. She had run home, excited to be invited inside, and put on her best dress. My heart broke for this little girl and all these little ones. They all stayed and listened to Sam and I.
Children have not been a priority in ministry in Liberia. More, many in the church have completely ignored their needs. Please pray for the new Liberian puppet team. They see the needs of the children. They have our same heart.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Later Sunday night, Ben, our Liberian pastor friend, told us an amazing story. I had given all the children who sat with me a business card with a picture of Mike and I on the back. One little girl took the card to her mother and the lady came immediately to church to see who her daughter had met.
She heard Sam preach and watched as I drew pictures to illustrate the story. That dear lady heard the Gospel from Sam today because we were kind to her child. At one point, she closed her eyes and said that she could see bright light surrounding us. She told our friend Thomas that she saw someone standing and stretching out His hand to the little children. She said that she could see our heart for children, but even better, she felt the Lord calling to the children. Please pray that she will be drawn to deep faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Please pray that she will encourage her children to come and learn more about Jesus. Many people never think to take their children to church in Liberia.
Everyday my prayer in this place has been that the Lord would make us a bright light for Him. He sweetly answered that prayer today. We have only 3 days left. We fly home on Wednesday, October 8th. My prayer is that we would shine in these remaining days. Please hold us in your prayers.
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Sam and Silvana Shaw
Ben and Lauretta Munford