This was always going to be a long day…
It started with a phone call from Francis to tell us he would be late; he was stuck in traffic in Lumley. This was bad news. We had quite a few appointments to get through and our timings had slipped before we started. It was nice to have a few more minutes to prepare though.
Eventually he made it and we started our daily journey through Freetown, calling off at our travel company’s office to reconfirm our outward flights – I had tried to do this on my mobile, but the call had ended abruptly, leaving me unsure of whether or not it had een done. Some things are worth checking!
Eventually we emerged from Freetown, picked up Sylvanus nd Augustine, and started trawling the petrol stations looking for fuel. This isn’t always straightfoward, and so it proved today with two garages (including a 24 hour Tesco – somewhat bizarre seeing that here) saying they had problems with the pumps or were out of fuel. We were quite far out when we found what we wanted, and this was at a station with only manual pumps… Everything was conspiring against us.
Turning off the main Peninsula road, Francis put his foot down and we sped to the south of the Peninsula and the village of Bureh Town. We were given funds to build a church here by our friends from Bolney, but a series of problems obtaining land has caused a frustrating wait of a number of years. At last, however, things are beginning to move. As we drove, Sylvanus informed us that Reuben was simultaneously travelling to finalise the papers with the Ministry. Bureh Town is a small fishing village, a simple and beautiful place, with no permanent church at all. The congregation, guided by Gibril Bendu, meet in a small room in mud hut (his house?) Their faith was clearly real. They have gathered in various places, none ideal, as they have waited for a place of their own. The last temporary structure we built them blew down! Despite these setbacks, they have persevered. It was lovely to be able to tell them that at last it looked as if we could raise a home for them. Like Daniel in Mongegba, it was heartening to see someone resisting the lure of the city to stay and serve their home village community. Before we left they fed us the most gorgeous fish steak and local rice. Stunning flavour.
We were also treated to fish and chips at Tombo and St. Marks, Waterloo. Extremely generous, but too much! Someone has clearly said that this is what Englishmen eat… I never thought I would go off Leonian snapper or chips but I think we have had this at least once a day if not twice!
Tombo is another fishing village, but much larger. Rev. Angel Ama-Lamin is minister of this older church, overseeing both it and the school that meet there. I was most impressed by the school. The headmistress is paid through the funds that we send, but the other three staff are supported by the community. What they get is really just a pittance, and yet they stay and do what they can as they are committed to education. They appealed for a school building, and there’s room on the plot – in light of their dedication, out of all the teaching projects, this is the one Augustine prioritised. It was also good to see Angel again, not long ago were we asked to send money to help him, he had been diagnosed with an enlarged heart. I’m not sure exactly what was wrong, or what treatment he required, but it was clearly serious. He has lost a lot of weight – but not the determination to get me speaking Krio!
From Tombo we headed over to Bethel Church in Cole Town. Francis did some masterful driving to get us down the ‘track’ to get us there. It struck me that this was a church that felt quite sorry for itself (whenyou see the pictures of St. Marks you can understand how this could happen). Rev. Sammuel Williams has been suffering from cateracts. He has had one eye done, but needs help with the other. Pastor Beresford Coker showed us the extenion he’d been doing to create an altar area. Personally, I don’t understand the need for this, or the desire to sit te minister behind it, miles away from and ‘above’ the congregation, but it does seem very important to people here.
St. Marks, Waterloo, is the ‘cathedral’ of the Connexion, an enormous, ornate, and prosperous church, quite unlike any other here or for that matter in the UK. I didn’t recognize it at first, they haveredecortedit inside and out. They also have plans to build a hall alongside it. The minister here is Alex Dixon who was for along time one of our agents. He was assisted by James Davies, who in also the Connexional Secretary and Vice principle at TECT. Our gathering was quite political, and a bit dfficult to manage. Some of this refered back to the elections at Conference. We also had to expain to Mrs. Brown why we can’t offer further help towards rehabilitating and securing the nearby church at Adelphi. Fortuntely, Tim is fantastic at hanling chikdren and old ladies!
Ths was supposed to be theend of the day, but having missed out the day before, we called in at TECT where the principle told us at length in a hot, sweltering, room about the expanding work. One of our party fell asleep – not one of us you’ll be glad to hear.
Home late, stuffed and exhusted. A long day.