November 2018 I visited Sierra Leone, one of the two poorest countries in the world, where most of the people live in tin sheds or mud houses with no running water or electricity. It is situated in the S.W. corner of Middle Africa, almost on the equator and average daily temperatures of 35 degrees.
When June and I were there in 2003/4 helping build a hospital wing I made friends with a minister who was also working in the administration offices of the hospital. Pastor Albert Sam had a small church in the village of Morabie 30 miles from the capital Freetown.
He had a dream to build a primary school in his village. 5 years ago in 2013 I read in his church newsletter that they had laid the base for the building and had run out of money. So with the help of Renfrew Rotary Club, Renfrew North Parish Church and Newmains Primary School we raised the money to build their 3 classroom school.
They had just opened in 2014 when the Ebola Virus swept through the country. Schools and churches and community centres were closed for 8 months. People did not gather in groups in case they caught the virus. Parents in the village died leaving children as orphans. Villages were quarantined.
The world health organisations and UNICEF eventually got on top of it and sent detergents and medicines to clear it. Renfrew North Coffee Bar sent another £100 which fed 80 families for 2 weeks and the people were so grateful. The school reopened with 50 children in each class, here they are going in. Across the yard is the church built with mud bricks and corrugated zinc sheets another 3 classes met.
The classrooms are very basic, the desks and benches were paid for by Newmains Primary School. You can see the children sitting 4 or 5 to a bench.
Then along came the Education Department who said you have a school, you need a toilet block. We held another fundraiser and Renfrew Rotary paid for the block. Children would go to open wells and fill plastic containers and carry them some distance on their way to school or home later. Morabie Church and School employed someone to had hand dig a well in their grounds and at 25 feet down he hit rock Some more fundraising and a local firm was employed to drill a bore hole 55 feet deep. It was lined and a hand pump fitted. They had water.
The Children could crank the lever and enjoy clean water. The local community could also use it for an hour in the early morning and evening, otherwise it was padlocked. The school used some of our money to render and paint the outside and I received many e-mails thanking the people of Renfrew for their help and prayers.
2017 they started a Junior Secondary in the afternoons and another 150 children aged 11 to 14 enjoy the opportunity to learn. They are desperate even though when they go home they have many parents who do not read and write.
November 2018 I decided to visit this month and see how everything was progressing.
The car was stopped on the verge of the motorway and I was asked to get out. What a sight, the whole school had turned out to welcome Papa Charlie.
They closed the motorway and walked across both lanes and back again singing and dancing. One of the mothers walked alongside typically balancing a basin of fruit on her head. The traffic drivers sat patiently watching the procession. Then we made our way down the mud track for 1 mile to reach the school. It’s the first time I have sung and danced my way to school.
Everyone crowded in to the church and various people and parents spoke and thanked Renfrew because without us they would not have a school or a well. Even one of the 13 year old girl students thanked us and passionately told everyone how important education was to them all. They could become teachers, doctors or even President.
I met the mothers, many cannot read or write. I met the teachers who do a fantastic job sometimes waiting 2 or 3 months to be paid..
On Saturday they had a going away party for Papa Charlie and a Church Service where I was invited to preach. Albert translated into Krio. I finished by reciting John 3:16 “For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. All the children joined in and recited it with me.
The minister’s wife and one or two mothers prepared the meal for 300 children on an open fire.
Then the real treat all the children lined up for lunch, rice with corn and small pieces of fish. Many walk miles to school each day most without breakfast. Can you imagine walking to Paisley or Glasgow to attend school?
Finally a special treat as they walked past with their plates for dinner I gave each of them a lolly. We can have sweets and treats every day if we want. They may only get 1 treat a year if lucky.
I said my goodbyes to them and Albert presented me with plaques for the groups in Renfrew they are so grateful to for their support.
There is so much to be done in Africa but the little we do has made a fantastic difference.
Pastor Albert Sam asked me to give sincere thanks and God’s blessing to the people of Renfrew and for us to remember Morabie in our prayers..