A day at the seaside today!
The car was full today as Francis Charley, our distinguished the, able contractor joined us along with Sallu Koroma and Sylvanus Alaba Nicol. This meant there were four of us in the back and two in the front! Intimate to say the least, and many a dead leg was suffered as a result of cramped conditions. The journey down to the south of the peninsula was thankfully mostly smooth. The tarmacked road is vastly superior to many of our cold weather afflicted roads in the UK right now, and it was only when we turned off this onto the tracks heading to the churches we were visiting when things got really bumpy (and when I say really, I’m not kidding!)
Francis joined us as we visiting Bureh Town where we are hoping to use him in jointly funded project with Friends of Sierra Leone, to erect a church building in this fishing village where Roger Grundy, our last missionary, used to live and work. This has been an extremely frustrating project. A number of years ago our friends at Bolney gave us a very generous donation to build a church here. Since then there have been all sorts of wranglings over the land and legal hold ups. Thank God, it now seems as if we are just one short signature away from being able to make a start at last! As well as the short ‘service’ here led by Lay Pastor Gibril Bendu, we were taken down to the beach to view the sights. We were luck enough to witness one of the local dug out canoes returning with its night’s catch of fish, on of which was particular magnificent. Seeing this I couldn’t help but think of the many stories in the Gospels of miraculous catches of fish. So often these stories seem so much more real here amongst people who’s lifestyle isn’t so far removed from the people of First Century Palestine.
From Bureh Town we covered just a few miles to reach the large fishing town of Tombo and Quiton De’Ath Church (or as it is named on the front of the church ‘DeATH’ which I must confess tickled me). For once we actually arrived early, catching the minister Lauretta Marah and her congregation by surprise. The school meet in the church and it was packed; I can understand why they wish for a building of their own as the wear and tear on the place must be high. In fact under Lauretta’s supervision they have started building a three classroom block behind the church. The foundations are down and they have started building the walls. I hope they are able to fund the roof before the rains come and destroy what they have achieved so far. Lauretta has also had the church painted without seeking any assistance, which I think is admirable. After a plate of locally caught fish and chips, we left them to cross the short distance to nearby Tissanna.
Trinity Church, Tissanna, is a special place to me. Tissanna is a small remote fishing village at the end of a track, and the first place I visited on my first visit in 2002. I remember clearly walking with the then General Superintendent, Josephus Browne, and our then Head Agent, Reuben Dove, and plotting what was to be my first building project, Trinity Church. I recognized some of the congregation today from that day, including the Coker family who have always been the pillars of the church, even in those days when they met in the community hall surrounded by fishermen fixing their nets. Today they were asking for help fixing the corner of the roof and the toilet roof, damaged after a branch had fallen on them during a storm. Considering how well they have kept the rest of the building, I hope this can be done for them. Repeating that walk of 9 years ago we strolled to the beach talking plans. As at Bureh Town and at many other locations, the beach here is stunning. The water blue and warm, the sand light and the green palms trees waving gently in the tropical sky. Paradise. Walking back I paused to watch a fisherman ‘weaving’ large baskets to keep caught fish in, a magnificent art. Frank Conteh, now the minister here, and the holder of a Masters in Development, wants us to help start a fishing project here under the supervision of the local Connexion in order to help them become more self sufficient. This is an admirable aim, and here I think they might just be able to make it work. There is, also, as elsewhere, trouble with encroachment and the removal of boundary markers. Here there is a potential quick answer, a visit to the local headman to ask for his help. Hopefully with the customary gift, Sallu was able to gain his support in stopping it continuing.
Our final destination required us to drive back to the peninsula road and cross it, heading up to Bethel Church, Cole Town, where Pastor Joe Pearce awaited us – some of you may remember him from stays in London. This is where the bumps in the road got truly serious, with tracks in placed that should never be confused with roads… As often, we were presented with bottles of fizzy drinks after the meeting and packets of biscuits which are shared around. I’m not a fan of fizzy drinks, but here I gratefully receive them, knowing that they are safe to drink and help rehydrate after hot journeys. The weather has been noticeably hotter the last couple of days.
Back home saddened to see one of the preying matises has died. Wondering about smuggling him home to show my son!