2014 Blogs
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January 2014 Blog 1/28/2014

Greetings to all this very cold January. Since my return from Sierra Leone at the end of October, Bobbie and I have been busy packing donations of books and supplies for Madina Village School. Thanks to all of you that have donated so generously.

I have been communicating with the teachers and administrators two times a week. I am happy to report that the school is operating smoothly and the excitement about the school continues in the community. As I write, the area mining company is helping us build another much needed latrine complex.

I am flying back to S.L. on January 30 th. This time we will be building the soccer field and the playground and overseeing the completion of the new latrines. Many of you have donated soccer and playground items. Thank you very much.

We have come a long way. Lives are been transformed. We have given hope to a very grateful community. My God continue to bless you and your family for joining this dream because you decided it is worth supporting.

Wishing you all to keep warm while I leave this icebox and return to the oven.

Francis

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November 2013 Blog 11/7/2013

Warm greetings to you all from Bobbie, myself and the very appreciative and happy children of the Madina Village School. God has blessed our efforts and together we have done it! We have a school up and running very well. A dream has come true because of your belief that it was worth your support. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

We started classes on Monday September 16. We have about 270 children enrolled with age range of four to ten years old. For most of the children this is their first opportunity to go to school. It was an exciting day. But the hardest and the saddest part for me was that we had to turn away as many children as we admitted even though we have more classrooms to accommodate more. When we have the adequate funding, we will plan to expand to fill every room. As of now we have nine classes, all lower primary. For efficiency we are limiting class size to 30 students or less. We have a total of nine classes, with nine trained teachers and six teacher aids that are also trained teachers.

Pastor Craig Duke, our senior pastor at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, traveled to Madina with a videographer and a photographer to participate in the dedication and formal opening of the Madina Village School. The event was very well documented. Bobbie is zooming in on the photos to check out all the details, since she was not able to be there in person. I am trying to recover from jet lag and rest up from the past four months of non-stop activity. We will be sharing all the excitement with you in the next few weeks as it is organized and ready.

The dedication made one thing clear and that is the school we have built will not only impact children in the area, but the entire community. The whole community is feeling energized and proud and hopeful for the future. Our challenge now is to keep it operating for at least three years before we can expect any assistance from the government.

Again, on behalf of the children and the communities around the school, Bobbie and I thank you from the very bottom of our hearts for your faithfulness, generosity, and caring. May God Almighty continue to bless you and your families. God is good all the time.

Blessings to all

Francis and Bobbie.

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November 2013 Pictures 11/7/2013

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August 2013 Blog 8/6/2013

This month's blog was written by Joanne Cearbaugh

Looking into the eyes of child after child as they registered at Madina Village School was the highlight of my summer. Beautiful, precious children, full of potential, who have never attended school, now have that opportunity! The excitement is building because the dream of Francis and Bobbie Mustapha is so close to reality. Opening day is September 16!

I am grateful for the opportunity of serving with them during the month of July. We had three main goals, and thanks be to God, all three were met. Scores of boxes from the container sent from Fort Wayne had been unloaded into the school and were waiting to be opened, unpacked, organized and distributed throughout the school. It was a delight to experience the generosity of so many people from Good Shepherd and others from our community who donated books and supplies for Madina. Our second goal was to conduct a teacher training workshop for the newly hired teachers and assistants as well as other teachers from nearby villages. They were all very receptive to the training, and by the end of the week we felt like a team. And then came registration day....families walking through the bush from the village to the school, children soooo excited, mothers and fathers expressing deep appreciation, teachers meeting their students for the first time.....it was a day I'll always remember.

Thank-you, Good Shepherd family, for your interest, prayers and support of Madina Village School. We are counting on you to continue as there will now be an ongoing financial need for operational expenses and prayer needs for the children and staff. On behalf of my new young friends in Madina, thank-you for your part in changing their lives forever.

Joanne Cearbaugh

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August 2013 Pictures 8/6/2013

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June 2013 Blog 6/18/2013

Hello Friends,

I returned to Fort Wayne June 3 after a very challenging two months of work on the Madina school project. We shipped a container of school supplies, books, stationary and school furniture. Many thanks to the Buchanan Hauling and Rigging Company for transportation in the States. They made that part easy. Getting it out of the port of Freetown was much harder and took more than two weeks of negotiating with many offices in near 100 degree heat. I almost gave up, but we finally got it.

Thanks to the Sierra Rutile Mining Company for transporting the container 140 miles from Freetown to the school site and for using one of its cranes to transfer the container from the trailer to its platform. The mining company has also removed tree stumps from the school grounds so we can build a playground in the dry season. We have put up the blackboards and completed all classrooms. One classroom has been partitioned for offices and nurses clinic. For all practical purposes, the building is ready for students and teachers to move in.

A committee of educators and United Methodists also helped with the interviews and the selection of head teacher (we call that Principal here in the U.S.) teachers, and assistants. Thank you for praying for this process. Head teacher William Quee comes with experience and a dedicated attitude. All the prospective teachers are eagerly awaiting word from the Board of Directors, which approved their hiring during its June 15 meeting in Fort Wayne.

On July 2nd I will return to Sierra Leone with Bobbie and Joanne Cearbaugh and Zach Harants to conduct teacher workshops and student registration in preparation to start school in mid-September this year.

The next phase of our mission is to raise the funds for the operating budget of the school. A large chunk of this is for paying teachers and other school personnel. The average teacher compensation is $250.00/ month ($3000/year) and teacher assistant compensation is $100/month ($1200/year). We need sponsorships for teachers, assistants, nurse, several cooks and maintenance workers. Earlier many of you indicated that you will help and a few have already. Now is the time that these sponsorship pledges are needed. We are asking for at least a one year commitment to be paid monthly, quarterly, or in full.

There is also a need for child sponsorship of $30.00/month, which will help pay for a one meal a day feeding program and help subsidize school uniforms, medical care and school supplies. Any help will make a difference for a child. If you can help, please send your donations to Madina Village School, C/O Good Shepherd UMC, 4700 Vance Avenue, Fort Wayne, IN 46815. Donations are fully tax deductible.

We are thankful to God for your partnership in this mission. Pray with us that it will impact lives of Madina and surrounding area children for generations.

God’s richest blessings to all.

Francis Mustapha Executive Director – Madina Village School

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April 2013 Blog 4/28/2013

Dear friends and partners of our shared mission,

Thanks to everyone who prayed for me this past couple of weeks. The container that we packed in Fort Wayne arrived by ship on April 11. It has been very frustrating to jump through all the hoops to get the container of supplies out of the port in Freetown and transported to Madina. I wanted to give up several times along the way. But the impossible task is now done. We finally got it out on April 24 at 7 p.m. The container is sitting on its slab in Madina where it will be our storage shed. All the blackboards, desks, books and supplies are at the school.

This week we will put up the blackboards and bulletin boards and finish the water tanks. The heat is driving me crazy, but it will probably stay this hot until it starts to rain.

The advertisement has gone out for teachers. Please pray that the right teachers choose to apply for teaching positions. There is much to be done yet before I return in June. Please continue to pray for me for God’s guidance. It seems that it’s becoming more challenging here to do anything.

Blessings to all,

Francis

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February 2013 Blog 2/19/2013

Warm Greetings to all.

It is almost time for me to go back to Sierra Leone for the next phase of the school project. My going is being delayed by the need for eye surgery this week for glaucoma and cataracts, so I have not been able to set a date for my return, but I’m hoping recovery will be fast enough to leave in March. I’m getting very anxious to be back.

A board of directors has been formed and paperwork is well on its way for Madina Village School to be its own non-profit organization. This has been a goal of ours for a long time. We have now been given our tax ID number. This means you can continue to support the school project by sending donations either directly to Madina Village School Inc. or to Good Shepherd UMC. In either case donations will be fully tax deductable.

The forty-foot sea shipping container has arrived in Fort Wayne and the many donations of student and teacher desks, chairs, files, books and supplies are going to be loaded and on their way by the last day of February. Thanks to all the school kids, teachers, and other friends and supporters who have donated so generously. And to Buchanan Trucking, who has provided us with storage space and help with the container and shipment. Bobbie has been counting, sorting and packing boxes like crazy. It will take 6-8 weeks crossing the Atlantic, and I need to be there to receive it at the port on the other side. Pray that the mining company that helped us clear the land will be willing to transport it from Freetown to Madina. The container itself will become a storage shed for the school. This part of the project is paid for already. Again, thanks to all of you.

Other projects in this phase when I get back include building four large water tanks to be collecting rain water from the blue roofs during the rainy season, to help carry us through the dry season. Another set of latrines also needs to be built.

When I go back it will be time to hire teachers, assistants, and other personnel for the school. Please pray that all the right people will be chosen. So much is going to depend on these educators and their dedication to make the school a success. Many of you have expressed the desire to sponsor a teacher’s salary . We are now ready for these sponsorships. We have upgraded our teacher salary as our initial estimates were based on out of date documents from the Ministry of Education in the country. The current estimate is $200.00 average monthly teacher salary. We are confident that operating expenses and sponsor-to-teacher connections will happen in their perfect time, just as the needs of each phase of the project have been met one by one so far.

Thanks for every one of you who is finding your own unique way to join us in making Madina Village School happen. God is blessing.

Francis and Bobbie.

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October 2012 Blog 10/9/2012

Greetings to all,

Bobbie and I returned to Sierra Leone on July 4 th. Bobbie stayed for one month. Her main goal was to take an inventory of the targeted school population in the area, a prelude to registration.  We learned a lot from meeting the children. She catalogued almost 350 kids, many of whom have never been to school.  I stayed in Sierra Leone until the end of September.  Although we both started out with severe colds and back aches, the trips all went well. We never had any tropical diseases or accidents. And we accomplished all we had hoped to do. Bobbie reconnected with the family, after 28 years away, and plans to return.

Work on the school has been going well.  The two buildings (each with six classrooms) are complete, painted inside and out and ready for use.  We have built nearly 70% of the student furniture from lumber harvested locally.  The rest of the student desks and all of the teacher furniture are waiting for shipment from a school here in northern Indiana that gave us used furniture in excellent shape.

Before I came back, I had one classroom set up and brought kids to see what it looked like.  They got very excited and I got very emotional when it dawned on me that a life dream is really becoming a reality.  I have often wondered if I will live to see it.  I am very grateful to the many diverse groups of people that have come together to make this a reality. I am grateful that you are among my church family, colleagues and friends that have answered the call on my behalf. Thank you for your most recent contribution to this project whether it is teacher sponsorship or child sponsorship or building and material sponsorship.

Our next phase is to raise the funds we need for school supplies, equipment and shipment, and the operating cost for at least a year. We are again trusting God for this.  My hope is that I will be able to go back either February or March to put the final pieces in place to start school in the fall of 2013.

God’s richest blessings to all of you,

Francis

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October 2012 Pictures 10/9/2012

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August 2012 Blog 8/1/2012

Dear friends and partners,

We both got back to Sierra Leone in early July. Francis had been gone for 2 and a half months. Bobbie had not been here for 28 years. This is the first time the computer has been working, and the connection is only good in Freetown, not in Madina. It has been a very busy and emotional month. Now Bobbie is on her way back to Fort Wayne, and Francis will be staying on to continue work on the project until the first week of October. Work is a little slow because of heavy rains, but they continue to make progress inside the building. Both buildings should be completed by the time Francis comes in October. The glass is being put into the windows, and painting continues. In the next two months the carpenters will be constructing built-in cupboards and bookcases, and making student desks and chairs. They will do this work at the site. We are still in need of blackboards, shipping for the teacher and student desks that have been donated in the U.S., teacher materials, books and sponsorships for teachers and students.

We met and pre-registered over 300 children of various ages, including approximately 100 who have never been to any type of school before. We will work from this information to enroll students in the first jumpstart program in April. One completed building will be used for this. We hope to open full classes in both buildings in September of 2013.

Thank you for all your prayers and support. Except for very annoying bronchitis that started in the U.S., neither Bobbie nor Francis had any sicknesses or accidents during this month. Please continue to pray for us. Bobbie will be working on curriculum and materials for the jumpstart program and compiling the student statistics while teaching at Arlington Elementary. Francis will be pushing the work forward at the site. Blessings to all.

Bobbie and Francis

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May 2012 Blog 5/25/2012

My Dear Good Shepherd Family, My Faithful Friends and Partners,

Warm greetings to you! I returned to Fort Wayne Saturday afternoon May 19. The first few days I was very tired probably because of the proverbial jet-lag. I feel much better now and rested.

Our next phase of our school project which is completing the buildings for use has progressed as expected. One of the buildings was nearly completed before I left to the point that painting started. The other building is not far behind. The goal when I left was that this phase of the project will be completed before my return to Indiana. Projection now is that both building will be completed for use at the end of June.

As always there are many challenges for a project like this in a developing country. The challenges in the case of Sierra Leone are even stiffer in the wake of barely emerging from a rebel conflict that decimated the country. Basic human needs such as clean water and food are in critical shortage both in the cities and rural communities. I felt this more this trip as I was there in the height of the dry season when most the close by rivers and streams dry out and water tables of the few shallow wells are lowest and some even dry up. Prices for basic needs such as food and building materials change almost on daily basis. Yet in the midst of these challenges we have made considerable progress.

The rice farming last season has helped some on the food front in the village. The power chain saw we purchased was a big help. It helped us to harvest and supply most of the lumber we needed for the buildings.

Perhaps one of the frustrating challenges for me was that of transportation. My vehicle had several mechanical problems and there are very few mechanics in the country that really know what to do. Even as I write my vehicle is waiting for parts I hope to take back when Bobbie (my wife) and I go back in July. Bobbie is coming back with me in July for a few weeks visit to see the school and do what she can to help. Mostly she will be helping us to compile and record information on the children that will be attending the school.

When do we start school is the big question. Even though the building will be completed and useable at the end of June we still have a lot to do. There are more phases to be completed: Teacher and student furniture, Learning material supplies and first year operating cost are the next immediate phases. And so the answer to the question for now is when we are ready.

God is good all the time. Prayers matter. Your prayers for my family and for the school project for God to provide and lead are felt everyday out there. Many situations remind me that someone is praying. All we have accomplished to this point would not be possible without your faithful support. On behalf of the Madina Community the beneficiary of this labor of love I thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

Blessings to all.

Francis.

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May 2012 Pictures 5/25/2012

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April 2012 Blog 4/4/2012

Hello my dear family and friends,

This update is long overdue.  I am sorry.  The problem is that communication outside Freetown, especially 140 miles away, is next to impossible.  I suppose I could call and have Bobbie take dictation by phone but that, too, is not only expensive but very iffy. 

Nevertheless, we are making progress amidst real challenges. I started with vehicle problems on my return, an alternator gone bad on the truck, leading to other problems, and the one Toyota repair in Freetown no longer operating.  I am still dealing with it.  But God has been good in all this.  He has led me to more than one temporary help, so that I have not been stranded in the middle of nowhere. 

While getting one temporary help in March, I met a group of people that was doing a survey for deep water wells.  I told them about our school project and they came and saw it.  They surveyed the school site and Madina village and decided to include both places on their list.  The two deep bore-hole wells are to be put in before the end of April.  Do you think meeting these people was a coincidence?

Harvesting lumber locally is continuing to supply our needs for the school.  Work on the school building is progressing.  Wall plastering, ceiling and drainage works are going full blast.  We are hoping that all the classrooms will be finished before I return mid-May.  It is true that the challenges have been getting me down, but the knowledge of the support and prayers and encouragement I have gotten from you has helped me bounce back and keep going.  Your prayers for me are felt every day, so please keep them going on behalf of the project and my family. 

My health continues to hold up well, for which I am very thankful.  My nephew Maada, whose arm was so badly injured in the accident a year ago, has recently spent a month in Ghana having bone grafting surgery.  He is back and seems to be healing properly this time.  Thank you to all who have prayed for him. 

Please continue to pray for the work.  There are real challenges with extreme poverty, overwhelming needs brought to me to fix, difficulties transporting lumber and other materials, disagreements between chiefs and constant corruption.  I have to depend on God to give me the strength to meet each one.  And the heat is constant with such high humidity that we will all be thankful when the rainy season finally comes.

Blessings to all,

Francis

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February 2012 Blog 2/23/2012

Hello My Friends and Partners of Our Shared Mission,

Two and a half months have flown by since I returned from Sierra Leone. I reported to you our tremendous progress on our school project. We completed the structures of two classroom buildings, a well and two latrine complexes.

Our next phase consists of finishing the two buildings to get ready to start school. This includes putting in windows, doors, plastering, putting in tiles, painting, drainages, and landscaping. We needed to raise $60,000.00 to get this done. Thanks to all of you, with your unwavering commitment and determination, we have raised this amount. And in addition, due to your further generosity, we are very close to meeting the challenge of matching funds. If you remember, $5,000.00 was donated with a promise of $10,000 if Good Shepherd matches it. We are two thirds of the way there! I am flying back to Sierra Leone on Wednesday, February 29 th to start this part of the project.

After getting the buildings ready for use, the next phase will include student and teacher furniture, school supplies, and operating costs for the first year, all totaling about $90,000. Hope is that we will be able to start school this fall.

God has been gracious to us and I continue to have strong faith that this is His will and that He will continue to provide through us to get the job done. I am ready to get back to work after much needed rest and encouragement from you.

Please continue to support my family on both sides of the Atlantic with your prayers. There have been times out there when I have said to myself, “somebody must be praying for me”. Prayers matter.

Blessings to all,

Francis

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December 2011 Blog 12/23/2011

Merry Christmas greeting to all!

I returned to Ft Wayne on Saturday, December 17. Early Sunday morning we received a call from our son in Michigan announcing an early Christmas gift of another granddaughter. Needless to say, we were on our way to Michigan after church to meet the newest member of our family. Between jet lag and the excitement of another grandchild, I have been very exhausted the last few days and sleeping a lot.

Back in Madina, we were able to accomplish everything we planned on this trip. We completed the roofing on the second classroom building and built the two latrines, one for each building. Each latrine has four stalls.

We also started harvesting lumber using the power saws and were able to provide much of the lumber for the framing and roofing of the second building and the latrines. We are continuing to harvest lumber for future buildings as well as school furniture.

We had a very good yield from the rice field. Harvesting went well and we were able to provide food for many. This effectively completes the first phase of our mission and everyone is rejoicing for accomplishing a lot in a very short time.

The need is great. Even as we build we now have a church group from the surrounding area that has taken the name “Good Shepherd United Methodist Church.” They are using one of the classrooms on Sundays.

They brought benches from the surrounding area and built more seats from building planks and cement blocks. Before I left I gave them boards and some money to build more benches.

Our projected second phase is to complete work on the two buildings such as putting in windows, doors, plastering, painting, drainage, landscaping, furnishing and supplies. Our goal is to start school in the fall of 2012.

The need is greater for education now in Sierra Leone more than ever. Sierra Leone is now ranked at the bottom or near the bottom as the poorest country by the UN. Education in the country is among one of the casualties of the ten year civil war. More schools were destroyed than I was aware of on my first trip and the government is in no position to replace them. Even our effort will be a drop in the bucket but it will make a difference to those we can reach.

Please continue to pray for my family, for the country and for provisions to complete our mission. On behalf of myself, my family and the people this effort will be helping I cannot thank you enough. Only God will.

Christmas blessings to all,

Francis

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November 2011 Blog 11/8/2011

Hello friends,

(Another blog from Francis by way of Bobbie. We finally got one good connection and had a half hour conversation.)

Here’s the update:

The rice harvest of Francis’ forty acres is finished.  About seventy people helped, and most took their pay in rice.

There is plenty put back to last most of the year for Francis, his extended household and village people who are too old to farm. 

The best thing was that his big farming effort inspired a number of other families to also plant fields of rice. 

Those harvests are still going on.  This is a good year in Madina.

The saw mill project is now producing lumber that is being used for the rafters of the second school building.  The blue metal roof pieces have been brought to the site and the framing of the roof is going up.  It should be done by the middle of November.  More lumber is being cut to be used in the finishing of the buildings.  The septic tank portions of the latrines are being constructed and lumber will be used for the building portions of those, too.

The most surprising event is that the first classroom building is being used already, by a small Methodist congregation whose simple meeting place was badly deteriorating in the rains of a longer and harder than usual rainy season.  Francis attended their first service in the school building.  He said there were about sixty people, quite a few children.  For seating, they put together benches made of cement blocks and wooden planks from the construction site.  Francis’ brother Franklin is a part of this congregation.  They will continue to use the building every Sunday.  Even in its unfinished state, the blue roofs provide the driest place around.  Francis will bring pictures when he comes in December. 

Now that our time has changed, Sierra Leone is five hours ahead of us.  Their church service starts in the forenoon and continues into the afternoon.  So our early Sunday services actually overlap with theirs.  Think of this and pray with them, our unexpected sister church, worshiping under the blue roof. 

Amazing plan of God, beyond what we can plan on our own!

Thanks to God for all of this.

Thanks to you who have helped as God has prompted you.

We are blessed.

Francis and Bobbie

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September 2011 Blog 9/30/2011

Hello My Good Shepherd Family and Dear Friends,

It feels like I just got back from Sierra Leone and here I am already on my way back. The two months flew by. It has been great to share with you the tremendous progress we have made on our school.

We divided the project into two parts: the first consisted of getting the two classroom buildings to wall height and roofed, constructing a well and building latrines. When I came back in July we had completed all but the latrines and roofing of one of the buildings. We needed to raise funds to complete this phase. Thanks to all of you, we were able to raise the funds we needed. I am heading back September 28-29 and the Lord willing we expect to finish the roofing and the latrines before I return to Fort Wayne in December. Other things I hope to do in this two and a half months are to help harvest our forty acre rice field and set up a saw mill to meet our lumber needs.

The next phase includes finishing on all buildings, building school furniture and providing school supplies. Estimates for these individual items are listed below. Thank you for your tremendous support. Please continue to pray for this project and for my family. Together with God’s help we will get this mission accomplished.

Blessings to all,

Francis

Two Classroom Buildings
Completion Cost Estimates

Leones (Le)
Dollars ($)
1. Plastering & Screeding 35,184,000 8377.00
2. Ceilings 81,460,000 19595.00
3. Doors & Windows 58,860,000 14019.00
4. Painting 15,373,600 3660.00
5. Drainage 16,500,000 3929.00
Sub-Total 207,377,600 49380.00
2% Transportation Costs 4,147,552 9876.00
TOTAL 211,525,152 59256.00
Individual Item Costs for Phase 2
Leones (Le)
Dollars ($)
Bag of Cement 37,000 8.81
Ceramic Tiles (carton) 100,000 23.81
Enamel Paint (gallon) 60,000 14.28
Emulsion Paint (gallon) 32,000 7.62
Hard Boards 35,000 8.33
Standard classroom bench and desk (300 needed) 145,000 34.44
Teacher’s desk (15 needed) 160,000 38.00
File cabinet (15 needed) 300,000 71.40
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Interview 8/28/2011

Pastor Craig Interviewing Francis

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June 2011 Blog 6/24/2011

My Dear UMC Family, Friends, and all of you faithful supporters of our shared vision,

I am sorry there has been a break in my blogs.  For some reason my modem no longer works in the village.  It seems to only work when I am in Freetown.  I have been out of Freetown for a very long time carrying on three projects.  The first is keeping a constant eye on the school construction, the second is doing traditional rice farming and the third is working on my house in the village.  I think I am busier now than I have ever been in my life but I love it. 

God is good all the time.  My health had been great until about two weeks ago when I drank some bad water and came down with typhoid fever couple days later.  Thanks to our GS sponsored nurse who came to the village and gave me an IV treatment and supplemented my supply of antibiotics I brought with me.  I am fine now. 

We are making great progress on the classroom buildings.  Walls will be completed on both buildings by the end of June, and we have funds enough to roof one of the buildings. The other building will be okay through the rainy season as the walls are made of concrete blocks. 

Here is what we have so far.  The Sara Dinehart well has been completed.  Each of the two classroom buildings has six classrooms. Each classroom has a small room a one end for supplies, file cabinets and teacher’s desk.  This feature, I am told by many visitors and teachers, is unique in the country.  There is a lot to be done yet.  I am very optimistic that together with God’s help we will get it done.

We have also completed rice planting for the season. Rice is the staple food in Sierra Leone. I’ve been working very hard to help the village plant rice to feed itself rather than depending on very expensive imported rice. Many others planted rice fields.  In my field we planted 31 bushels of three varieties of rice.  This is well over 40 acres. The rice will be ready for harvest in October and I hope to be back by then to help with the harvest and continue with the school project. 

All these projects have been challenging but rewarding.  The response of the people has been great.  I am thankful and grateful for your support.  Please continue to pray for me and my family and I will do likewise for you.

Blessings to all of you,

Francis   


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May 2011 Blog 5/22/2011

My dear friends and colleagues,

We continue tomake progress on the school construction. The escalating fuel price ($6.50/gallon) has caused a hike in prices of basic everyday essentials such as food and building materials here. It is a strain on everyone, except perhaps the politicians.

Even in the face of this, we are making progress. The foundations of both buildings are complete, the cement floors are in and the walls are about three feet up from the foundations. We anticipate that the next installment of funds will take us through the completion of the walls and the roofing frames. Perhaps even part of the metal roof.

The first well is nearly completed. We have decided to name the first well the "Sarah Dinehart Well" since Sarah has donated for the construction of a well and a latrine. Thanks to Sarah and all of you who are working tirelessly to see this school become a reality. God is good all the time. This school will be the only comprehensive functioning school in the area. Some pictures are on their way to you.

I have been promised some help clearing more of the land around the school with an earth moving machine from one mining company not far from here. Also to supply us with sand and rocks and a storage container for building materials at the site. The mining company manager came out and looked at what we are doing, and has promised to help.

My nephew Maada is out of the hospital. Keep praying for him. In the accident we had in February, his forearm was crushed but several operations have saved it so far. He still is fighting infection in it and has to go for treatment and bandage changes. He came back with me to the village this week for the first time since the accident to see how the school is coming along. Since he is far from the hospital, we went for his bandage changes to the nurse near here who was previously sponsored by Good Shepherd. You see that what you do to help keeps on helping long after you may have forgotten what you have done.

While the school is being built, I am also busy organizing people to plant a large rice farm for the village and my own garden. All farming here is done by hand since there is no mechanized farming equipment. By the end of each day I am exhausted from swinging back and forth between the different projects and helping with some of the farm work myself. I am busier now than I've ever been in my life, and I love it. What I'm doing is very dear to my heart, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity. I am grateful for all of you helping me do this. There is no way I could be doing it without you.

Many of you are sending me messages of support and encouragement via email or Facebook. I have not been able to respond to most of those, but I appreciate that you keep them coming. Believe me they lift up my spirit knowing that I have so many friends constantly keeping me in mind. Keep praying for us.

Have a great week. Blessings to all.

Francis

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April 2011 Blog 2 4/27/2011

Hello my Dear Good Shepherd family, my Dear Friends  and my Dear Colleagues,

The challenge continues but God is good all the time.  We are now making consistent progress on the two classroom buildings with six classrooms each and the well.  The first well is nearly complete.  The foundation work on both building s is expected to be completed by the end of next week and the walls will soon follow.  I hope that the buildings will be roofed before I come back in July. The contractor thinks that it is still a possibility because once the foundation is completed the walls will go up fairly quickly.

The Contractor and one of my brothers and I met with the General Manager of the mining company  to ask for help with their heavy equipment for clearing and leveling several acres of construction area and to  deliver sand and water until the well is ready.  We prayed for the Lord to go before us for a favorable answer.  After explaining  the school project , the GM responded that he was happy someone is doing such for the area and that the company is going to do all it can to help.  Praise the Lord!  This will be a big help. 

I would like to report a very vital need we have.  We need a utility delivery truck. Except for what the Mining company will be doing for us, we have to lease trucks for all deliveries. A 2 ½ ton truck will cut down considerably on our leasing expense and provide a permanent and reliable utility vehicle for the school. 

I came to Freetown a few days ago to pick up a replacement digital camera for the one stolen several weeks ago.  Thanks to Dick and Carol Schwartz,  I now will be able to send you pictures of our progress on very regular basis. Expect some pictures in the next blog. 

The school work, the farming and the work on the house in the village all keep me very busy and I am happy.  Retirement  is a  misconception.  I am busier now than when I was teaching and I am loving it.  The only problem is that I get extremely exhausted at the end of the day. I am not the young inexhaustible man I once was.

Thanks to all of you that are continuing to hold my family up in prayers.  Believe me my family and I are feeling the effect all the time.  There ha ve been a  number of occasions that my only explanation was that someone was praying for me.  What a blessing it is to have an army of believers holding you up and supporting you.  My health continues to be very good for which I am very thankful.  Thanks again for all you are doing to make this ministry a success. Only the Lord will compensate you enough.

Blessings to all,

Francis

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April 2011 Blog 1 4/12/2011

Hello Good Shepherd family and my dear friends,

Even though I continue to be challenged, we are making progress. First I finally received my shipment and all the items. A very welcomed item in the shipment is the rough terrain vehicle, Toyota 4Runner. This has significantly improved my mobility between Freetown and Madina and other places I need to go. The Bishop lives and operates mostly from Freetown and I make frequent trips to consult with him as well as take care of other needs that require me to go to Freetown. Praise God! The only slight problem with the shipment was that the wind shield cracked in transit and needs to be fixed soon.

I am currently writing from Madina. We have finally started work on the school. Two buildings and a well are going simultaneously. The foundations of these buildings are underway. I am very excited and feel we are finally getting somewhere. I am extremely busy and happy about it. I am making arrangements with the area mining companies for help from the use of some of their heavy equipments for clearing the construction area and providing temporary supply of water for concrete work until the well is completed.

I am sorry I cannot send pictures now. My digital camera was stolen several weeks ago. Our friends Dick and Carol Schwartz are sending us a replacement with their son Kyle who is on his way to Sierra Leone to work with Dr. Dennis Marke at the Kissy Clinic for a while. Kyle is a medical student and very much looking forward to the experience. I will be meeting Kyle at Lungi airport in Freetown on Thursday.

God is good all the time. My health continues to be very good for which I am very thankful. Please continue to lift us up in prayers. Bobbie and Patti communicate often via email and telephone. I am also praying for all of you. May the good Lord continue to bless us all as we carry on this challenge together.

Blessings to all,

Francis

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March 2011 Blog 2 3/31/2011

Hello All, Good Shepherd released $60,000.00 about a week ago into the Sierra Leone UMC account for us to start the building construction. I have been notified by the S.L. UMC finance person that the funds have been received. We are now waiting for the Bishop to return from conference in the US on March 29 in order to access the funds. I am excited and can hardly wait to see the beginning of construction. Workers in Madina have done a lot to get the place ready. Much needs to be done yet and I have a promise of a small bulldozer to level an area where there are lots of stumps in the ground. Since my digital camera was stolen I will not be able to send pictures until I can get access to another camera.

I continue to face challenges that are truly teaching me lessons in patience and optimism. The delays and setbacks in getting my vehicle have made me extremely discouraged. After several delays, the container finally arrived in Freetown March 21. We were supposed to clear the vehicle on Wednesday the 23rd, but due to a fatal crane accident and a workers’ strike at the port it has been delayed again. We were told that we could access the container on Friday so we went to the port hoping that I would finally get it. But shortly after we arrived, riots broke out among the striking unskilled work force and so we again could not get the things. The next opportunity is Monday March 28. Even at that I am not sure.

I really needed to get back to Madina village to get certain things in place ahead of the Bishop’s arrival. So I am borrowing my brother in law’s vehicle to go back to Madina. A nephew who works at the port will clear my items whenever it can be done, and I have arranged for someone else to get the license and paperwork done.

Several of you suggested that I send an itemized list of small items and materials with prices for those that may be interested to help with individual items.. Here a list of some of these items from the builder. I will be adding to this list as I find out more.

Materials Unit quantity Unit price in dollars
Cement 1 bag $ 8.81
CI sheet 1 bundle $ 175.57
Ceramic tiles 1 carton $ 23.81
Iron rods 1 ton $ 1,155.00
Enamel paint 1 gallon $ 14.28
Emulsion paint 1 gallon $ 7.62
Hard board 1 piece $ 8.33
Standard classroom desk 1 desk 35.00
Teachers desk 1 desk 38.00
File cabinet 1 file cabinet 71.40
Assorted nails 1 carton 59.50

These are just some of the items and price quotes I have been given by the builder. I am sure there will be more. Let me know if there are other specific items you are interested in adding to the list.

Here are some of the major items individuals may be interested in sponsoring:

1 Well, including a hand pump $ 4,500 (at least two will be needed for the school complex including staff housing)
1 VIP latrine $ 4,000 (at least four will be needed for the school complex)

I really believe that what is helping me to meet these challenges and hang in there are your constant supplications on my behalf. Bobbie has done a tremendous job of helping me look at bright side of things and keep a good perspective as well as reassuring me that she is managing to stay on top of things at home. We both need your prayer support and I know we can count on it.

Blessings to you all.

Francis.

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March 2011 Blog 1 3/14/2011

Hello Partners, Friends and my Good Shepherd Family,

We are making slow but steady progress on the school project.  The recent auto accident was a temporary setback, including some personal financial hardship and pain, but we are trusting God to continue to provide.  My nephew Maada had his third surgery on his damaged hand on Friday, March 11th.    They did more skin grafting and reset the fractures.  It may take 3-4 weeks more in the hospital to do all that they need to do.  He is in good spirits.  He is being an encourager to me, actually.  He says, “Uncle Francis, we will get through this.  Things happen for reasons.  God is in control.”

The estimate for the first part of the buildings, including the foundations and walls, plus the digging of one well, was given to the Bishop and me by the Contractor.  $60,000 is the estimate for this and we will start as soon as the funds transfer.

On March 3rd I attended the Sierra Leone UMC annual conference and was able to share how Good Shepherd, Plainfield UMC,Kiwanis, friends and colleagues are all working together on this global outreach, and our desire to partner with the UMC in Sierra Leone as well.  The UMC in Sierra Leone is now committed to the project, too.

In my village, we have been clearing about ten acres for my rice farm.  Rice is a staple food in Sierra Leone, but it is getting too expensive to buy.  I am trying to set an example by growing enough to feed myself and others in the village.

Thank you for your tremendous prayer and financial support, and all the encouragements you are sending through Bobbie, emails, and Facebook.  I have not been able to get back to all of you individually, but I’ll keep trying.  Computer technology in this part of the world is still a bit of a challenge.

Please keep praying for us, for health and safety and that we trust in the Lord and don’t let discouragement bring us down.

Blessings to all,

Francis

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Groundbreaking Ceremony Pictures 2/26/2011
Click here to view larger versions of the pictures.

Preparing for ground breaking

Area initially cleared or brushed

The Paramount Chief, the Bishop and many of the town leaders during which the Bishop, the Paramount Chief and I addressed the people

Prayer before groundbreaking

Ground breaking by the Paramount chief

 
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February 2011 Blog 4 2/26/2011

The prayers of God’s people at GS going up on behalf of my family and me has been really felt here. My auto accident is a testament to it. Only the unseen hand could have protected me from injuries and death for that matter. I get a little discouraged sometimes but the knowledge that I have an army of believers always praying on my behalf keeps my spirit up at those discouraging times. As Ron admonished as a paring word I have to be patient. Things will not move at the pace I would like. I am learning real patience As I continue to struggle with availability of ground transportation until my own vehicle arrives hopefully in another three week. One of my main concerns now is trying to determine what to do about my brother-in-law’s vehicle that got damaged in the accident. As the scripture says” and this too shall pass” We are trusting God to lead in all this. I will try to write again when I get another opportunity. My gratitude, love and prayers to my Good Shepherd family.

All the best to you.

In His grace,

Francis

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February 2011 Blog 3 2/20/2011

Hello friends,

This weekend I went from high to low in the blink of an eye.

First the high – Saturday we held the groundbreaking ceremony for the new school in Madina. Everything went very well.  The ground was cleared.  The cooking was done.  The paramount chief came.  And Bishop Yambasu came back again. The plot was marked off for the first building.   There was a big crowd that included representatives from each of the 17 villages who will send children to the school. I will send pictures when I can.  There were prayers and agreements and speaking and feasting.  I was very excited and happy.

Then the low – After all the ceremonies, people were going home. In the evening, I went out to visit a relative not too far away. My nephew Maada drove me in a vehicle we had borrowed from my brother-in-law. He  and I were returning to the village late that night.  I was in the front passenger seat. My other nephew Adu and his girlfriend were riding with us.  They were in the back seat. Half way back, Maada lost control of the vehicle.  We went down an embankment and crashed.

I crawled out, but then I could not rouse Maada.  He was slumped over the steering wheel and smoke was coming into the car.  The doors were jammed, but somehow the window went down on the passenger side, so I pulled him out through that window, and turned the car off.  The two in the back got out safely, also. Maada’s left hand was so badly crushed I thought they would have to amputate it. Fortunately several other cars came along that road and Maada was taken to the mining company clinic.

A doctor there helped us and arranged for an ambulance to take us to Freetown. We rode all night, arriving about seven a.m.  Maada was on an IV and became conscious during the ride. He is now in the hospital and has had the first surgery on his hand.  He was able to move his fingers. That is much better than I had thought possible.  They have not dealt with the broken bones yet.  There will be more surgery.  Please pray for him.  He is 35 years old and has a family. The rest of us only suffered minor cuts and bruises and some whiplash.  I am okay.

I plan to keep my appointment with the Bishop on Tuesday to put more plans in place. The beginning of the first building will be about the 15th of March, Lord willing. This feels like a really big set-back.  Please pray for me.  I know it could have been much worse, even fatal. I appreciate your prayers and know that we are in God’s hands.  It has been a big shock to my system, though. I feel a greater need for your prayers for my safety than I did before.

I will try to keep you updated through Bobbie. 

We are thankful for the telephone.

Francis

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February 2011 Blog 2 2/13/2011

Greetings to everyone,

I am sending this message through Bobbie. Things are off to a slow start here. It takes so long to get anything done. I'm trying to slow myself down some, so I don't get so frustrated. After several days in the city of Freetown, I am glad to finally get to my village. We are trying to prepare for a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, February 19th. The area is very overgrown and must be cleared of brush. People are being sent out to notify representatives from the other villages who will have children in this school. The women will also be preparing lots of food.

My brother Franklyn is traveling with me. When I go back to Freetown Tuesday to meet again with the Bishop and the contractors, Franklyn will stay here to supervise those doing the clearing and preparing. Nothing gets done here unless you have somebody supervising.

So far I am in very good health. It is veeeery hot, but I am starting to get used to it again.

My computer is working, but cannot handle large emails with pictures or forwards. God bless you all, and please keep praying for me.

Francis

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February 2011 Blog 1 2/11/2011

Hello Partners, Friends and my Good Shepherd family,

I am glad to report that I arrived safely in Freetown Sierra Leone with all my luggages a week ago today. I met with the Bishop briefly on Wednesday and made an appointment to meet with him and the builders on Monday February 7 to determine the first phase of construction and the date for ground breaking. The Bishop has a UMC conference in Liberia the week of 13th so I am anticipating that the groundbreaking will be earliest the third week in February. For most of the week, I have been trying to settle in and adjust to my new home in Freerown staying with my niece and her family for now. It is a real challenge to get things done in Sierra Leone. Even to hook up utilities is a real challenge. I have been working hooking up water and power in my niece's and establishing a personal bank account all week and not completed any. I remembered Ron Layton's last advice to me as if he knew Sierra Leone well and what I may encounter; " Remember Francis to be very patient, things may not happen as fast as you would like.” Believe me Ron after one week your advice will serve me well.

I will be heading to the village next week to also get situated and get ready to receive the Bishop and and the paramount Chief for the groung breaking ceremonies. Inspite of the frustrations,I am grateful for the opportunity I have with your help to be back with hope that together we will make a difference for one child at a time. Thanks for holding up my family in prayers and for what you are doing to partner in this project, May God bless our efforts. God is good all the time.

Cheers!

Francis

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January 2011 Blog 1/24/2011
Hello friends, partners and supporters of our shared vision of a school building mission in Sierra Leone. I am completing last minute preparations in time to take off on Saturday the 29th. One of the final preparations was at church on Sunday when Good Shepherd prayed for safety for my family and for God’s leading as you send me. I am leaving with the assurance of your support of prayers and resources for which I am very grateful. You will be hearing from me often updating you on our progress through this medium. May God bless you for caring and for answering the call.  God is good all the time.

His peace to all

Francis

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