In what has been one of the more difficult projects to see fulfilled, Timothy Project: Liberia 2015 and the goal of Liberian Institute for Empowerment (L.I.F.E.) was to fill and send a shipping container from Colorado to Liberia. The container was finally packed with a lot of soccer equipment, school supplies, and even a vehicle. CrossTraining’s commitment was over 800 pieces of soccer equipment including Colorado Rapids jerseys, cones, training vests, backpacks, and cleats and you can read the last update from July. Just last week, CrossTraining received an update on the container and we share that with you now,
The large sign announces, “WELCOME TO THE FREEPORT OF MONROVIA: THE GATEWAY TO LIBERIA’S ECONOMY.” A sad irony now, given what we painfully endured to clear from the port and customs our 40 foot container filled in large part with donated school books and sports equipment to distribute for the good of people in one of the poorest nations in the world.
Reflecting now, we see the urgent need to help change the worldview of many, so Liberia can be a land of happy and prosperous people. The struggles of war and collapsing social order and economy in the 1990’s has led to desperation. Straying from the principles of right versus wrong, people desperate to survive now gain money and food through bribery, theft and extortion. Honest people struggle to stay so when faced with having their children go hungry. This is something we want to try and help change. With God it is possible.
We are struggling to forgive the US-based, Liberian owner of a shipping company to whom we paid good money up front for shipping our container, legally establishing our non-profit organization in Liberia through his attorney to obtain duty free shipping privileges, and take care of all clearing and custom charges and processes at the port. Assured an August 5th arrival of the container, we booked plane tickets to arrive the next day. No container. Finally arrived on the 25th. And none of the other services we paid for occurred. Someone fed on our funds and apparently thought that was okay. Leaving us to fend for ourselves in a port of no return. Back to the worldview issue thing of right and wrong. Do pray we can get the funds back. That he would change his heart and ethical perspective.
Unlike what the sign says, Freeport is not at all welcoming; in fact is a place so miserable and dirty a prison might be more appealing. Haphazardly built structures give it a shanty town ambience while the pouring rain causes the muddy ground to be flooded with unimaginable filth. In order to enter the port, one must pass desperate young men waiting for an opportunity to go in and “work.” Once you gain entrance you face the real filth in the port—the corrupt government officials waiting to squeeze every last penny from your pocket. Not paid enough, they “supplement” their income by preying on the people they are supposed to serve. Not only will you fight with government extortionists, you will also be fighting your own broker—the person you are relying on to go to almost 30 offices to obtain the proper paperwork to clear your container. A broker misleads you every step of the way in order to get more money out of you, too. The system is set up to frustrate you to the point of giving up (after getting all your money out of you, of course). There are hundreds of abandoned containers in Freeport because people walk away after realizing the charges from the port are more than what the contents are worth.
After the first excruciating day at the port, we quickly realized that we would need a miracle to get the container out of the port. God sent a “Giant” to help us fight this battle. Our hosts, seeing our desperation, called their neighbor to come to the house. Their neighbor, Andrew aka Giant, is the head of security for the port. He shook my hand—I quickly noticed why they call him Giant. His hand swallowed my hand. Giant is a BIG dude. He also is very respected and feared at the port. He agreed to intervene on our behalf and help us free our container.
The following day, Thomas went to the port and asked to speak to Giant. He saw the crowd of people parting like the Red Sea as Giant made his way through the port to see him. Giant demanded the broker give him all the paperwork. The broker shakily handed the papers to Giant. Giant immediately saw that the broker was attempting to extort us, too! Giant determined that the process needed to start over again. He told Thomas to stick to the broker like a cheap polyester suit in 90 degree heat and to not let him out of his sight. For the next two weeks Giant was a constant presence with Thomas and they began to form a strong friendship by sharing their stories.
Giant had worked at the port for almost 20 years but prior to that, Giant was a notorious criminal there. He was the leader of a gang that would break into the port on a regular basis. The gang would open containers and steal anything they could get their hands on. No one had the guts to try and stop him; until one day, the port manager had a risky but brilliant idea. He asked Giant to come work at the port in the role of a security officer. Surprisingly, Giant accepted his offer and began working at the port. The opportunity changed his entire life. He was very effective at stopping most of the criminal activity because he knew all of the criminals and their tactics. He quickly rose to the top and became Director of Operations at the port. During this time, he became a devoted follower of Christ. He uses his power and influence to point people to Jesus in one of the darkest places. Also, he is furthering his education and attends night classes at one of the colleges in Liberia.
Without Giant’s help, it is doubtful that we would have been successful in getting the container out. His story is clear testimony of how God worked in his life by providing him an opportunity to transform his life for the better through his employment at the port. We believe that most Liberians are desperate for opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the opportunities are not available. We are trusting in God to help us change that.
Please pray for the Fahn’s and the container situation in Liberia. Specifically, that the funding will come in for their costs. Stay tuned for another update!