Sunday, September 20, 2009

Traveling mercies

(tenth and last of a series)

Shortly before leaving Makeni for Bo in the southern region of Sierra Leone, a few people, including 2 pastors and their wives, arrived at the staff house to see us off. They wished us traveling mercies. Our host prayed for us and then we took off in the same bus that brought us to Makeni. We loaded less supplies this time. But we now had my suitcase, which arrived while we were in Makeni.

The bus we contracted to take us from Freetown to Makeni and Bo

The first hour of the trip was smooth. Then we reached a junction where we were stopped by police at a checkpoint. I heard the police say that the road was very bad. We proceeded anyway.

For the next 3 hours, we traveled on rugged dirt road in the middle of vast fields. Occasionally, we passed by clusters of homes. But for the most part, there was just nature.

I saw few vehicles on this road traversing the middle of Sierra Leone. There were SUVs that would have no problem with this road condition. We were on an old mini-bus.

This is not a good place to experience a vehicle breakdown, I thought to myself. I remembered the pastors who sent us off. Those blessings for a safe trip, I receive them all, I prayed silently. The phrase traveling mercies gained new meaning for me.

What a way to Bo!

It started to rain around 4pm. I didn't know how far we were from our destination but it certainly felt like we had been driving forever with no end in sight. With the rains, the roads got muddier. Oh no...

Thankfully, we got to Bo in less than an hour after it started raining. Our bus made it safely! Thank You, Lord, for Your traveling mercies.

The staff house in Bo was not big enough to accommodate all of us. We were billeted in a new guesthouse instead. When I first entered my room, I felt so relieved to have a real bedroom with its own bathroom and a toilet that flushed. I don't know how long I sat on the bed just enjoying the comfort. I savoured the moment. Ahhhh...

Our project in Bo had its own challenges. We were already feeling the stress of the job and it was taking a toll on our bodies. But we gotta do what we gotta do, and we did it, with the help of God. We were able to finish well ahead of schedule. Our team left Bo a week earlier and went back to Freetown.

The road from Bo to Freetown was much better than the interior road we took from Makeni to Bo. There were more communities and structures along the way too. We stopped at a small market place somewhere. Children selling produce approached our windows.

When I started taking pictures, more children came. "Apatu, snap me! Snap me!" they said. I had heard that word before when I was in Makeni and walking on the street alone. Children called out, "Apatu!" I just smiled or waved at them. What could they be saying? I wondered. I didn't really care to know, just in case it was insulting.

But here in our mini-bus, I got curious and asked our local companions what apatu meant.

"It means 'white person'," he said. Me white? I found that amusing.

Back in Freetown, we spent the first day contacting our office in Canada and the US to get our tickets changed. We had nothing much to do but wait for our departure.

Finally, the day came. I was happy to be at the airport again, eager to go back to my family and to Canada. I thanked God our work in Sierra Leone was completed, I got my suitcase back, and I gained new Sierra Leonean friends.

Thank God for His traveling mercies.

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