Makin' Friends

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This week was about making new friends of the Sierra Leonean, international, AND chimpanzee kind.

United Methodist University School of Theology

I’m not yet lecturing at the UMU School of Theology, so my days still seem a little untethered.  Last week, my guide Olivia was in the provinces for the Women’s convention.  I probably could have gone with her but I felt I needed to be more present at the University.  So Monday morning I showed up there.  The professor who instructs the 9 am course was sick, so what I found were a bunch of students standing around.  They asked me to give a lecture and I politely declined.  A few students and I chatted instead about Sierra Leone culture, tribes, their respect for the outsider, and mission philosophy.  (More on that in another post.) The second professor showed up and I sat in on his class. 

When it was over they had some free time and once again they asked me to lecture.  I said no, as I was not prepared, but I told them if they wanted to ask me some questions that I would be happy to give them my responses.  So we spend an hour in Q&A.  They asked me what made the prophets unique.  They asked me some questions about preaching.  They asked me if the Old Testament is necessary now that we have the New Testament.  (I found out later that was the topic of an essay they were asked to write for their Old Testament class.  Sneaky.)  Fun times.  Later on, the professor in charge of chapel asked me if I wanted to preach that Wednesday.  Um…yes, please.    

That’s about the most “work" I did last week.  The rest of the time at the University I just chatted with people.  I’d go into their offices, they would come into mine.  At one point, there were three men in my office all asking me for assistance on different things.  One is looking for online resources that can be cited for his PhD proposal.  It’s hard to find books and articles here, and a $40 academic book on Amazon really might as well be a $200 book.  $40 is a heck of a lot more money here than it is in the US, and much harder to drop on a book.  Another one was asking for suggestions on what institution in the US might be good for him to get another degree at.  Another needed help setting up his wifi.  And when I couldn’t help him with that, I used my thumb drive to transfer a document from one computer to another.  Another day, I sat in the Dean’s office for an hour or so and we discussed Africa University and the future of our University.  The Dean is my direct supervisor at the school and he has been so kind.  He’s made it clear that he is my supporter.  He, like the Bishop, has already started lobbying me for a second three-year term when this one finishes.

I enjoy having colleagues again.  They have made me feel right at home…and part of the family.

Expats and the Sierra Leone International Church

Last Monday I decided that it was time I start trying to make some friends in the international community.  So I put something on a Facebook forum asking if there are any students of the enneagram.  (It’s better than saying, “Does anybody want to be my friend? [sad face emoji]".)  I got a few bites!  One who is equally as obsessed as I am and another who expressed interest in learning.  Out of those exchanges I have a coffee date planned for this Thursday and an invitation to join an international choir when it starts back up in the new year.

Another thing I had been looking forward to is attending a SL International Church service.  They meet every first and third Sunday evening at a juice bar.  In weeks past I didn’t have a ride and by the time evening came around I was exhausted from the long morning services.  But yesterday I made my way over there.  I immediately met an American Psychotherapist who has been here four years and a Physician from Norway who has been here thirteen years.  By the time the service started, the circle of chairs around the juice bar’s back room were all occupied.  An Irishwoman sat next to me and shared some of her story.  Later, I had a delicious smoothie with another Irishwoman, this one a physician.  At the end of the evening I had another coffee date in the works along with plans for Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day.  The Lord provideth. 😃 

Chimpanzee Friends

I saved the best for last.  There is a chimpanzee rescue just about twenty minutes from my house.  Chimps are at severe risk of extinction.  In the 90’s the estimated number of chimps in Salone was something like 25,000.  They recently did a census and found that that number has dwindled to 5500.  Part of the problem is the sale of chimp babies on the black market because in order to get a baby, you have to shoot the adults around it.  So one baby chimp sold on the black market can mean as many as 5-10 deaths of other chimps.  The rescue takes in these chimps and rehabilitates them until they can go back into the wild.  There are currently 77 chimps at the rehab.

On Saturday, I was thinking of going there for the walking trails, but it turns out that Olivia was back and wanted to go too.  So we went for a tour.  Beforehand I went down the black hole that is their website and ended up adopting a chimp named Sarah.  I chose Sarah both because of my sister Sara and because apparently she has some spunk and does what she wants.  My kind of lady.

The tour was just delightful!  I took lots of video that can be found on the Postmodern Missionary Facebook page.  This place—Tacugama Chimpanzee Rescue—also has the monthly birds and breakfast walk as well as periodic retreats.  You can come and stay overnight in one of their bungalow’s too.  I think I’m going to be spending some serious time there…that is, if I can continue to stomach the 4wD-required hill that you have to take to get there.

Katie Meek