6.12.16…Love Never Fails…

In my first trip to Sierra Leone I was overcome with many first impressions.  Each trip has brought new experiences, new memories and new friends.  Each time I leave I am left with lasting impressions.  It never gets easier to say goodbye.

Today was short, but exhausting.  We started with church at the center.  Pastor Daniel shared 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 - Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Often times this verse is romanticized, but it goes so much deeper.  We live in a time with so much evil surrounding us.  God is the one who can truly move mountains to show us His love.  The sermon and verse were very appropriate as part of my heart stays in Sierra Leone each time we leave.  There may be a lot of poverty in Africa, but God is certainly present.  No place is perfect, but while America has a lot of wealth, there is an incredible amount of spiritual poverty.  (Thank you Ronnie for that insight)  Often times we rely on our money and our things, not God.  However, here, especially at the center there are not a lot of things to bring hope.  They solely rely on Jesus and prayer...an absolute beautiful approach.  It really challenges me to step back and reconsider myself and my own spirituality.  So simple.  So powerful.


Isha sang a solo at church…

After church we moved right into the goodbye ceremony.  I sat through it listening to the aunties, uncles and children bid us farewell with a huge lump in my throat, most likely fighting off a very ugly cry.  After the goodbye ceremony we had a few minutes to say goodbye to the kids before we headed back to the hotel to gather the rest of our things.


Today was one of the prettiest days I remember in Sierra Leone.  Clear blue skies for miles and miles…


Our one and only full team picture.  We came from Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Colorado…


Now, as hard as it is to say goodbye, we have begun our 30+ hour journey home.  The Lord continues to be at work in Sierra Leone whether we are there or not, but I am oh so thankful for the time we got to spend there.  Sierra Leone has faced hardship after hardship, most recently Ebola, but it continues to come back stronger than ever.

As someone mentioned in the goodbye ceremony, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

Until then...


{The Launes}

6.11.16…Choosing Joy

There has been an underlying theme of joy over the past two days and week as a whole.  Joy: a feeling of great happiness.  There has been so much joy present, whether it is in the kids, the staff, our team, or a random person on the street.  It is hard to walk more than a few blocks without receiving a warm greeting from a passerby.

Today we had the opportunity to take our sponsored kids to the beach.  It is a beautiful beach just a little bit outside of Freetown.  In all we had something in the ballpark of 25 kids and 25 adults, all of which were transported in two podas and one SUV.  We spent plenty of time in the water.  I even got to teach Kandeh how to make sand angels.  There are definitely no snow angels in Sierra Leone.  By the end of the day I think most of the kids (and adults) were exhausted.  I managed to escape without a sunburn, but others were not so lucky.


It is difficult to see from the picture, but this is what it looks like to pile more than 20 people in one poda…warm and cozy.


So thankful for this friend.  She planted the seed for our first trip to Sierra Leone about five years ago…


We ate lunch right on the beach…

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Arm wrestling was a must…

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We ended the night with outdoor devotions.  At the beach we bought Kandeh, Zainab, Isha and Memunatu each a bracelet from the market.  It was nice to give them something to commemorate our day together.   It may not have been much, but seeing their faces light up as I slipped it on each of their wrists brought me so much joy.

It is hard to believe this is our last night in Sierra Leone.  Our last devotions, our last trek from the center to the hotel, our last good nights.

{The Launes}

6.10.16…You Make Beautiful Things…

After a good night’s sleep, today we spent most of the day painting.  (Apparently a heavy rain last night woke everyone else up, but Trent and I slept right through it).  Today I had a whole new understanding of the African proverb, “Many hands make light work.”  Paint colors and brushes were purchased yesterday so we were ready to get started painting first thing this morning.  I was a little hesitant on the paint colors (blue, yellow, mint green and pink), but they really turned out great!  Many of the kids were eager and willing to pick up a brush and help.  It may have been a bit messier with their help, but I truly think that they had an absolute blast.  Some of the kids were practically covered from head to toe with paint.  It was nice because many of the aunties and kids were saying how much they liked the new paint and commenting on how bright and cheery it was.  Some of the aunties even joined in and did a little painting.

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Tonight we had a party for the kids and staff.  There was a light rain early this evening so we had to move the party indoors.  We hired a DJ and treated the kids and staff to chicken, rice and soda.  Everyone had so much fun dancing and there was not a dry shirt in the place.  It was probably over one hundred degrees in that room and everyone (Uncle Trent included) was busting a move to some American pop, but mostly African music.  We spent more than two hours together celebrating this wonderful staff and these kiddos.  They work so hard day in and day out to care for these children.  They sacrificed time with their own families during Ebola to care for these children as if they were their own.  It was fun to see them dressed up for the party and dancing.  They show a true picture of community.  Worshiping, praying, loving, grieving and celebrating together.


So hot.  And sweaty…


I feel like it is the little things that mean the most to these kids.  Having a snap taken of them, a hug, just being present with you.  We’ve had a lot of opportunities to create memories with them throughout this week.  I am so thankful to share these memories with them. I know that I will cherish them for many years to come. 


{The Launes}


6.9.16…This is the Stuff…

Today was a pretty busy day.  The clouds were very heavy and low all day, but we never got more than a light shower.  Some people we hired were busy working on projects around the orphanage that we weren't physically able to do ourselves.  Two men spent most of the day pressure washing the walls so that we can paint tomorrow.  Pressure washing here is much different than in the U.S.  There wasn’t a water source to hook into.  Instead, they were going outside of the center and filling buckets with water from a nearby stream, carrying them in, and filtering the water through a towel into a large trashcan with a hose stuck in it.  I’m not sure how many times this process had to be repeated, but they worked all day long.  While they were working on that, two other men were removing broken glass from all the windows and replacing those with the new pieces purchased yesterday.


Pressure washing the rest of the walls…


All the kids enjoyed watching while on a break from school…

Aside from that, we started out the day by piling into the poda to go to the market.  Going to the market is always an experience.  There were at least twelve shops set up selling basically the same things, with their owners calling you their friend and wanting you to buy from them.  I really didn't plan to buy anything, but did walk out with a pair of salad tongs.  We needed them and I figured maybe I’ll eat more salad if I can look forward to using my African salad tongs.


Piled into the poda…


After the market we took the Prep 6 kids out for ice cream at Gina’s in Freetown.  The Prep 6 kids passed a big test recently and are headed to class 7.  That was certainly cause for celebration!  The kiddos enjoyed cold milkshakes and time outside the center with their friends.

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What can beat ice cream in Africa on a hot day?  Ice cream in Africa on a hot day, twice!  We also took our sponsored kids out for ice cream at the same place later this afternoon.  Memunatu went with the Prep 6 kids, but Kandeh, Zainab and Isha joined us for ice cream with twenty eight others.  Thinking back, that may be partly the reason our waitress left in a taxi before she finished getting all of our order out… We may have nearly ran Gina’s out of ice cream today.  I know for a fact we ate them out of Snickers.  Both trips were fun.  The kids always dress in their nicest clothes when they leave the center.  I think that is something that is very culturally important here.  People always seem to be dressed so nice.


All ready to go for our ice cream date…





This evening we had a basketball tournament against the older boys.  Somehow I became the ref.  I wasn't very good at it, but I did manage to call a few jump balls.  The little boys played at half time, although it looked more like tackle basketball.  I guess everyone has to start somewhere, right?  The older boys did a great job and even had matching uniforms.


Coach Laune ready to go…




Kandeh and his auntie…she is an amazing woman!


Aside from blowing exhaust out of my nose when we returned from the market, it was a great day.  I love how every trip has its own unique features.

Oh, and…


Kandeh wore this shirt tonight.  Not sure how a little boy nearly halfway across the world got an Ashland-Greenwood basketball t-shirt, but he did….and my heart melted a little.

{The Launes}