(Second from left) Mother Mardee Kpoo, 78, was one of the 350 beneficiaries of the UMCOR food distribution in Liberia. Photo: Mary Zigbuo.
By Mary Zigbuo*
"But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish!" - Psalm 9:18
It was not business as usual today in Topoe Village, a busy, crowded, economically challenged community in Monrovia, Liberia. Hopeful anticipation characterized the mood of the crowd at the Henri Dennis United Methodist School campus! Supported by an Ebola-response grant issued by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the school staff provided leadership in distributing a month’s ration of rice, fish, beans, salt and vegetable oil to 350 vulnerable persons of Topoe Village and Flahn, where the school is located. Like many of the 60 United Methodist schools in the country, the Henri Dennis School plays a leadership role in its community. UMCOR International Disaster Response grants strengthen their efforts to respond to the ripple effects of Ebola.
Mother Mardee Kpoo, 78, was one of the beneficiaries of our food distribution. Mother Kpoo, her sister and three great-grandchildren stood in the line waiting. I watched her family from a distance as they received their provisions. Their demeanor was different from most—there were no smiles. Someone placed the 50-pound bag of rice atop the head of Mother Kpoo’s 11-year-old great-granddaughter. I watched her balance the heavy load by steadying her little neck. I could tell this little one was accustomed to carrying large loads atop her head!
They left the school campus with determined faces. I decided to walk along with them. Mother Kpoo arrived in Topoe Village in 1996, after spending most of her years as a small market trader in the diamond mining area of Bomi Hills. Civil unrest forced Mother Kpoo and her husband to flee to Monrovia for safety. Their only son emigrated to the USA in 1986 and joyfully provided supplementary income for his aging parents. In 2010, he was incarcerated and she has not heard from him since that time. Her only daughter lives in a remote village, surviving off subsistence farming activities.
|UMCOR Disaster Response grants are strengthening the UMC in Liberia to respond to the Ebola crisis. Photos courtesy of Mary Zigbuo.
Since 2010, Mother Kpoo, and her three great-grandchildren have been surviving off the generosity of their neighbors and a modest market of producing and selling palm kernel oil. Restricted movement throughout the country, because of the Ebola epidemic, forced the closure of schools, offices and businesses. People aren’t receiving salaries. Communities that routinely provided food and shelter for abandoned, elderly neighbors are strained to continue this. The UMCOR grant responded to the food-security needs in Topoe Village by providing food to vulnerable elderly people, the disabled and expecting mothers.
After arriving at her humble home, Mother Kpoo raised her hands to God and with a determined face, exclaimed in her native language, “So God, you still remember me?” In her daily struggles, Mother Kpoo prayed for food. Someone from Henri Dennis School came by her home a couple of weeks ago, assessed her situation and promised food for her family. Today that promise was realized and she stood in awe looking upon it. Mother Kpoo cried. I cried. The children watched. We shared tears of thankfulness, tears of joy, tears of hope; tears of fear and struggle were replaced by tears of comfort and strength.
Almighty God, thank you for allowing me to be in mission service and for seeing firsthand how you will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish! Thank you, Almighty God, for blessing the Mother Kpoos of this world and for the gift of Advent that encourages us to live on the edge of promises turning to fulfillment.
*Mary Zigbuo, Advance #10721Z, is a Global Ministries missionary on special assignment in Liberia, assisting the United Methodist response to the Ebola epidemic there.