Faithful in Liberia

December 8, 2016 • Liberia
Leader mothers in River Gee, Liberia, share lessons from Samaritan's Purse about nutrition with their peers.
Ben O’Neil is the maternal and child health program manager for Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia.

Am I wrong about the underlying presumptions I’m operating from? That’s the terrifying question every scientist asks him/herself when the observed results don’t match their hypothesis. It’s terrifying because it means that you’re not only wrong about how something happens but also about why it happens. It’s like using a map to find your way to the hospital only to realize you’re holding a map of Jacksonville, North Carolina, instead of Jacksonville, Florida.

Every quarter in River Gee County, Liberia, Samaritan’s Purse holds a community leader mobilization where local village chiefs, pastors, and health workers come together and learn what the women of their communities are being taught.

Liberia maternal and child health

Through the lessons taught in River Gee, fewer women are dying during childbirth, and fewer children are dying from malnutrition.

The women of their villages have selected leader mothers from among their peers to learn and share the lessons from Samaritan’s Purse and the Liberian Ministry of Health. In sharing these lessons, their hope is to see fewer community members who suffer from preventable diseases, pregnant women who die in childbirth, and infants and children who succumb to malnourishment, disease, and death before they turn 5 years old.

These community leaders have seen organizations come and go with lots of flare but no lasting impact, so their question at every one of these mobilizations is, “Are we right to put our trust in you? Are you going to make things better, or should we look for someone else?”

John the Baptist recognized Jesus in the womb. When he baptized Jesus, God spoke, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. But in Matthew 11, John was in prison facing execution and had a crisis of faith. Was he wrong about the fundamental presumption he was operating from—that Jesus was the powerful Son of God?

Rather than lose his head, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Surely, John expected Jesus to come and rescue him to prove to John that he had not misplaced his faith. But Jesus’ response was a report of miracles and an encouragement to not stumble.

The community leaders want an assurance that the powerful Samaritan’s Purse program will fix everything right now. What I can tell them is that half as many children are suffering from diarrhea because their community members are exclusively breastfeeding their babies, they’re no longer practicing open defecation, and they’re now drinking from clean water sources like the 12 new wells we have built or 23 that we have repaired.

I can tell them 85 percent of their pregnant women are now receiving enough antenatal care and delivering in skilled health facilities. I can tell them that far fewer of their children are wasting or stunted from malnourishment, far more children and mothers are receiving vaccinations, and far more women can recognize the danger signs in pregnancy and newborns.

I can’t promise that mothers and children in this extremely rural and underserved area won’t suffer higher rates of disease and death than those with access to more resources. But I can say that they won’t stumble on their way to better health by following the lessons we’re teaching.

Last month, I was honored to attend the dedication of a new hospital that Samaritan’s Purse built. People arrived hours before the ceremony to be able to listen to the speakers including the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the president of SIM, Bruce Johnson; and the president of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham.

As I listened to President Sirleaf and others who have spent their lives in service to Liberia speak, I heard time and again how grateful they were that Samaritan’s Purse had been there through the Ebola crisis and for the work we’re still doing in the hardest-to-reach areas and among the most neglected people of Liberia. As God advances His Kingdom here in Liberia, I’m thankful to be a part of an organization that is faithful to those it serves.

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Ebola one year later Liberia
Liberia Projects As Liberia continues to recover from the Ebola outbreak, Samaritan's Purse is helping thousands of people through projects such as hospital reconstruction, leadership training, and programs that help people who are vulnerable and at-risk and children. As our staff members work to build resiliency in the country, they are sharing the love of Christ.

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