by Mary Lou McCall
True love flows from the cross!
I was reminded of that universal truth this morning after a conversation with my oldest son Johnny who is in his second year as a missionary at an orphanage in Liberia. As I hung up the telephone I marveled at how my child, who is nearly six years in recovery from the darkness of drug addiction, has turned the worst experience of his young life into a pivotal turning point for the poor in this faraway land.
Johnny and the other missionaries from “Comunita Cenacolo” care for approximately 20 orphans. Every day, he and his friend Nick walk the school age kids 45 minutes to school and in the afternoon they walk them home. The youngest child is 6 years old. “We could take them in the car but it wouldn’t be right for our children to be driven to school when all the other kids have to walk,” Johnny told me.
As the “community” acculturates into Liberian society, it is very important for them and for the orphans to live as closely as possible to the life of the locals.
During the Ebola crisis the government allowed the children to stay in the orphanage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “For sure it was challenging,” Johnny admitted. However, he said they developed a routine and a deeper bond with the children while using the extra time for education and to teach them new skills-like rapping. That’s right. The beat of American rap music can now be heard in a remote section of Liberia! Americans always seem to leave an indelible imprint wherever they go!
Last month Johnny called me from a 130,000 acre Firestone Corporation complex where he and Nick were on retreat. Locals live and work there removing the rubber from trees so it can be shipped abroad to make tires. During this retreat he met four nuns from Our Lady of Consalata, (Our Lady of Consolation). One of them from Brazil has been dubbed, “Angel of the Orphans” because she has cared for approximately 400 orphans, many of whom are victims of Ebola.
I’m thrilled to report that Johnny will be using a portable camera to interview the nuns about their work with the children and the help they give a colony of lepers.
“Is Ebola over in Liberia?” I asked. “There’s a new case, it’s probably on your news, of a lady in Monrovia who has Ebola. Officials are investigating this but she may have come from Sierra Leone.” Other than that, Johnny said Ebola doesn’t appear to be a serious threat any longer.
I try to imagine how my son copes with all the daily challenges, but from our conversations it is apparent that he is living a life of surrender and acceptance. He has surrendered the conveniences of his American upbringing and accepted the hardships that are a natural part of missionary life.
Johnny said there is a sense of purpose and joy because he feels he is making a positive difference in the lives of some really poor people. “Mom they don’t have the basics that we take for granted. A little girl broke her arm and when she was taken to the hospital, someone had to go to an outside source to buy the materials for her cast because the hospital didn’t have the medical supplies.”
An ongoing issue is the shortage of doctors and other medical staff, but it appears divine providence has stepped in! A surgeon who is a member of Comunita Cenacolo and a former addict has now entered into the missionary life of this orphanage.
“There was a little girl in the village with a tumor in her arm and the hospital would not operate.” Johnny told me. “It was amazing mom! Our doctor numbed the girls arm, cut her open right in front of us, removed the tumor, and then sewed her back up! She’s just fine now!” Johnny said this same doctor operated on an infection behind his ear and all is well!
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Mary Lou McCall
+Mary Lou McCall has traveled the world reporting about the Catholic faith, even accompanying Pope John Paul II to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Cuba, Rome and beyond, but it took hitting rock bottom for Mary Lou McCall to discover her true beliefs. Today, Mary Lou is a prevention specialist, public speaker, and media expert at Action Against Addiction.