"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me."
Matthew 9:37

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Trip to Kparblee, Nimba County

Hi folks! I am so sorry it's been so long since the blog was updated, but needless to say, I have been very busy as the Interim Country Director!

In the month of March a team came out to Liberia with Patty. The team consisted of our AOH Belgium staff, Cyndi who is on the board of directors, and Dave who is the office manager in the US. Our guests were here for one very eventful week, and we also had a set of adoptive parents with us (who made it successfully home with their two girls!) during some of the activities.

To start the trip we (myself included) drove deep into the bush to visit the village of Kparblee (pronounced "Bah-blee"). This village is where Acres of Hope built a clinic some years ago. Many of our medical related donations have ended up at this clinic.

Additionally AOH started a school and feeding center in Kbarblee. No one else was helping this tiny town, and they were struggling to recover from the war. Thomas, a native of Kparblee, and respected townsman came in contact with Patty and together they worked to help this needy village.

Today the clinic is doing great, as is the school. There is no longer a feeding program, but the village has done a great job of continuing the school and clinic that Acres of Hope started. It was wonderful to be along for this trip and to see some of Acres of Hope's history in the form of these still-running projects.

We started our trip fairly early in the morning and drove and drove and drove. Just when I thought we were about to drive out of Liberia (or off the edge of the earth - whichever came first) we drove two more hours into the bush!

While crossing a bridge near a town we saw all these people bathing and washing clothes.
Here is a thick strip of the infamous Driver Ants. They are like the ant version of a Pirana (no joke).
We didn't make it to the village until after dark. Everyone was thrilled to see us. This man pictured here is welcoming us with songs and trumpeting from his bull horn.
This is it! The clinic looked wonderful and we were thrilled to see how the villagers had come together to maintain and improve the clinic over the years.
This is one of the staff at the clinic (I think he is a physician's assistant).

Some of the donations that have been sent to the clinic by Acres of Hope.
The medical supply room.
The beds were all donated by Acres of Hope.

We actually were only able to spend one night and half a day in the town. We spent half our time walking through the village visiting the school, church, etc. and then the rest of the time in a program held in our honor.

This is Cyndi with some of the children who attend the school.
This massive bridge is on the road right before you enter Kbarblee. It's actually out of order. It fell some years ago and since then cars have not been able to drive across. In dry season you can go a little out of the way and actually drive through the river (when it's shallow) but in rainy season vehicles have to park on the other side of this bridge and cannot enter the town. The community is trying to see if they can get the government's help to rebuild this bridge to promote better trade and economic conditions in the town.
Dave with some of the village people.
The village's cultural dancing team gave us a little show.

Here Thomas is pointing out the location of the first clinic building. It was actually a mud and stick house.
The first clinic building is only ruins now.
A pretty little girl of about 10 baby-sitting her little brother.

This is the school that Acres of Hope started. The leadership is now completly community based. We were amazed to see that the little primary school AOH started had been expanded to this size and a much higher grade level (I think it goes through high school, but it might have just been through junior high.)
Thomas, Chris, and Patty at the little program the school held for us.
There was beautiful singing by all the students.

This is the same man that welcomed us the night before. According to the children, he is "the man who praises people." This is one of the cultural arts that is being forgotten in the cities. This man is trained in many songs, can make up his own songs, knows how to play this horn, and knows it's his job to welcome the visitors. (I am sure he is also involved in many other community affairs).

These women are the cultural welcoming committee. They sang and danced for us as we walked around the village, and then were also a part of the program later that morning.

At about 10:00 the program started. Kbarblee is near the boarder of the Ivory Coast and some people had walked from the Ivory Coast to be a part of this program. The village wanted to honor Acres of Hope for all they had done to help them over the past 5 years. There was more cultural dancing, singing from the students, many, many speeches, the donation of some wheelchairs and baby supplies, and finally the traditional gowning.

The staff from the clinic.

Acres of Hope donated wheelchairs to these two handicapped men.
Ladies from the local Baptist church singing.

Wim getting gowned. It is one of the highest honors in Liberia to be given an item of African clothing. Typically this happens at the end of a program or ceremony. All of us who came on this trip were gowned.
The program was veeerrryyyy long and some of the children just couldn't stay awake.
AOH donated some diapers and other supplies to the mothers who had just given birth in the clinic. Some of the babies from the clinic were less than 24 hours old!

A little girl with her own baby. This is a "country doll" made of a piece of wood (the center part of a particular palm branch) and has synthetic hair (leftover from a woman's hairstyle) stuffed into the top.
And finally, we all gathered around for a picture in front of the clinic.

We are sad we couldn't stay longer in the village, but had a very wonderful and very eventful trip anyway! The ride home was very long and it didn't help that we were not able to leave the village until after 2:00 PM (because of the program). But we all survived and it all made for a wonderful story and great memories!

Stay tuned for more updates! There is a lot to share!

-Melodie (Interim Country Director)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Acres of Hope Update

Dear friends, families and supporters,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Melodie Kejr (pronounced "care") and I grew up as a missionary kid here in Liberia and the Ivory Coast. My relationship with Acres of Hope began in 2005 when I met Patty in Liberia during my summer internship for college. After graduating in 2006 I worked for Acres of Hope in Liberia for a year and a half. Since then I have lived in the US, had a few other jobs, moved back to Liberia, and most recently, got married! My husband Kevin and I are back in Liberia and I just began work again for AOH as the Interim Country Director while Eric Sewa is on sabbatical. Eric is finishing up his master's degree and preparing to defend his thesis, so with my availability and Eric's schedule, it has worked out well for me to take this job during this time.

Things have changed so much over the years I have been connected with Acres of Hope. In 2006 there was one orphanage with about 40 kids. In 2007 we opened another facility and had nearly 100 kids. Later in 2007, we opened a third facility for special needs children. At our peak we had around 125 children between the three facilities and a few foster homes. Many desperately needy children were saved during this time and it was my privilege to have been a part of that process. Things began to slow down in 2008 and finally, in January of 2009, adoptions were suspended. I was devastated at this news and believed with all my heart that adoptions would reopen before too long. Well, "too long" has passed and there is still a moratorium on adoptions. Thankfully, children with adoption decrees completed before the moratorium and those with special needs are still being allowed to be adopted. Meanwhile, many children have been caught in limbo in various orphanages and foster homes around the country.

My work with Acres of Hope is fueled by my passion to find the best homes for the various children in our care. I will do my very best to get those who are allowed to travel home to their families. But this is only a portion of the children in our care. Additionally, the government of Liberia is establishing new requirements for orphanages and is altering their criteria for children they deem in need of alternative care (this includes those they believe are in need of adoption). Together with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Acres of Hope will be going through each of our cases to determine what the potential future will be for each of our children that do not have special needs or adoption decrees. Patty and I will be available to discuss your concerns and the future of our children, but the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is responsible for the final decision on each child.

We still have no idea when the suspension on international adoption will be lifted. There have been many rumors over the past 15 months, but despite all the good and the bad we've heard, things still remain essentially the same. However, we recently learned that the government of Liberia anticipates the new adoption laws will require an organization be a member of the Hague International Convention on Adoption before it can practice adoptions. Presently, all agencies will have to evaluate the Hague Accreditation requirements and begin the long process that will be involved. If you are a family who has been waiting a long time to be placed with a child or if you are matched to a child who does not have an adoption decree, we encourage you to contact the home office, Patty, or me to discuss what the best next step will be for your situation in light of these new developments.

As we consider all that has happened over the last year and a half, and where we are today, it is easy to feel disappointed, disheartened and even angry. Yet God is sovereign through all of this and if we seek Him with sincere hearts, he will show us what the next step is during this difficult time. Above all we need to remember that God truly does have the best interest of every Liberian child in mind, even when we feel the thing that was in their best interest may not happen anymore.

I pray God's blessing on each one of you as you walk through this time and encourage you to contact me with any needs or concerns.

In Christ,

Melodie Kejr

(The picture above is me with the Smith girls who just made it home to Canada!!!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

HOPE: Acres of Hope Newsletter January 2010

HOPE. It's a word that inspires and brings about many positive feelings. It whispers of better days to come and shines light in dark situations. It is something that everyone in the world appreciates, but some cling to it desperately. When Jesus Christ came to the world over 2000 years ago, he was the fulfillment of the HOPE of thousands of people. His life, death, and resurrection provided the solution to the desperate condition of sin in which mankind suffered. This HOPE is eternal and is free to anyone who is willing to receive it. And it is because of Christ's HOPE, that Acres of Hope is able to help the needy children in the world today. We are privileged to not only claim this HOPE as our own, but to be able to share it with those that God brings our way.

This past year, those connected with Acres of Hope have become especially acquainted with this word. Adoptions were suspended in Liberia over a year ago due to the government reforming the laws on adoption. We HOPED that they would reopen in a short amount of time, and the children would soon be united with their adoptive parents. Because of the suspension and a failed economy we faced additional challenges as an organization with financial constraints, and we clung to the HOPE that somehow we would still be able to care for the children and meet the tremendous needs of those we serve. Despite this disappointment, and the year turning out quite differently than many of us had imagined, God still gave us several stories of HOPE, amazing stories that could be considered miracles. We still saw HOPE in the darkness.

HOPE came in the form of several beautiful babies, who were placed with Acres of Hope by the Ministry of Health during this challenging time. The Ministry of Health has continuously relied on AOH for our high quality of care for needy children. Recently AOH was commended by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice for our professionalism and exceptional care given to the children of Liberia.

One of our greatest stories of HOPE this year was Alvin, a 13-year-old boy who lay dying in a tuberculosis sanitarium when AOH found him. He had suffered numerous injuries due to a car

accident which led to paralysis. Misdiagnosed with tuberculosis Alvin developed bedsores that had eaten away his flesh to the point that his bones and internal organs were visible. He could no longer walk, use the bathroom, roll over, or lay in any comfortable position. Alvin's future seemed hopeless, and death was just around the corner.

On one of my first visits to Alvin I thought he would die within a few days. Alvin asked me to sleep near him in the sanitarium (on the floor beside the bed) so that if Jesus came, and saw a white person, He would be inclined to stop and see him. I explained to Alvin that Jesus showed no preference for black or white skin, and then led Alvin through the plan of salvation, so that if Alvin were to pass away in the night, Jesus would indeed bring him home with Him to Heaven. Alvin accepted Jesus as his Savior that night and I stayed close to him throughout the night sleeping on the hard cement floor beside his bed.

Alvin and his birth mom had been praying a long time for some way that Alvin's life could be spared. Some way for him to live the future he dreamed of and recover from his constant suffering. Through the ministry of Acres of Hope, and a loving Christian family in America extending their hearts and home through adoption, the present day hands of Christ reached out to Alvin to save his precious life and bring him to a place where he can receive the most physical recovery possible on earth. A plea was made known and people responded to help get Alvin to the States for medical care. With the generous financial donations, and the prayers of thousands of people, God worked a modern day miracle in the life of a little child who thought he had been forgotten. Who thought Jesus only came to white people. Who thought his dreams to see life and a future in America would never come true. Today Alvin has undergone many surgeries and is healing physically and emotionally. He is doing well with his new family and is looking forward to a long, full life.

After Alvin was safely home, I was able to dive head first into preparations for the new Extreme Humanitarian Expeditions AOH will be leading. Each expedition will be filled with exciting fun adventures in the back country, and featuring a spellbinding fusion of humanitarian projects, Liberian culture, and relationships with locals. Participants will engage in some of the complex issues facing developing nations and learn how one can truly make a difference. These trips are designed to bridge the gap between the vision to help and the ability to experience first hand making a difference in the lives of the Liberian people. The Extreme Humanitarian Expeditions and projects will help to provide sustainability for villages and projects throughout Liberia.

You can read more about the Extreme Humanitarian Expedition by clicking here to visit our website and download the Humanitarian Expedition informational packet for cost, scheduled dates of expeditions and details of the trips.

During one of my survey trips for the expeditions, a young man approached me about his brand-new daughter who was born with a double cleft palate. Blessing’s health was in jeopardy so the family asked me to take her. Despite a hospital stay and a lot of coaching, with the biological family, Blessing was rejected by her family and village who feared she was bewitched because of her physical deformities. So we welcomed this little Blessing into the AOH family and she is now thriving in a foster home. For Blessing, there is HOPE. She will be undergoing surgery in February then attempts will be made to reunite her with her biological family.

The AOH family suffered two devastating losses when Lawrence and Levi, two of our beautiful but medically fragile children, passed away very unexpectedly.

None of us had anticipated that in August Lawrence would still be in Liberia (and not with his adoptive family n the US) and certainly none of us anticipated his death or Little Levi who still waited for a family. We are comforted by the HOPE of Jesus Christ and the life we know Lawrence and Levi are enjoying

with Him in Heaven.

The children at the AOH Children Home want each of you to know that life is good at the home. We have been blessed to have the Lairds, foster and adoptive parents with AOH and missionaries with SIM missions in Liberia visit the orphanage almost every Saturday. They along with their children play games and usually bring treats for the kids. Holiday events like Easter and Christmas are always made special. Melodie Sheppard has been a constant blessing as well as she serves the Lord in her ministry with the children and women.

Shortly after Alvin went home Acres of Hope began another story of HOPE, one we trust will continue to become even more inspiring. The Ministry of Health had approached Acres of Hope several months earlier about a beautiful baby boy named Jeremiah that desperately needed care. At the time Acres of Hope just couldn't handle another child (as no income was coming in because of adoption being on hold), but with the passing of Lawrence and Levi...well, there was now room. Jeremiah was abandoned in a local hospital due to his hydrocephaly. Jeremiah is about a year and a half now and has spent almost the first year of his life in the hospital. He was abandoned by his family after receiving surgery. While the hospital had tried their best to care for him, the staff simply did not have the time or resources to care for this little one and his very special needs. Jeremiah began to really go downhill and with nowhere else to turn, the Ministry of Health asked AOH once more if they could take him. We were ready this time and he was welcomed into the special needs room with open arms. His condition was deplorable. Though at least a year old, he was thin enough to wear newborn clothing, and his large, misshapen head was covered with terrible bedsores.

Jeremiah's condition upon arriving at Acres of Hope's Children's Home.

Little Jeremiah is finally receiving the long overdue tender loving care he so deserves. AOH nannies have given special attention to this sweet angel who had been forgotten....

AOH has established a sponsorship program for our special needs children.

For information about this program visit our website by clicking here.

Perhaps you might like to give HOPE to a little child like Jeremiah.

“When a poor person dies of hunger,

it has not happened because God

did not take care of him or her.

It has happened because neither you

nor I wanted to give that person

what he or she needed.”

- Mother Teresa-

Jeremiah immediately began to improve in our care and has already become a treasured member of the AOH family. Though Jeremiah has faced a lot of heartaches in his young life, he has become a child of HOPE. Acres of Hope has been given the privilege to care for this special child, giving him HOPE when no one else was able to, and we pray his story does not end in Liberia. We pray that somewhere in a country with medical resources more advanced than Liberia, there is a family who would be willing to bring Jeremiah home and call him their own. That this child who has been uncomfortable for the majority of his life, who has felt the sting of abandonment and rejection, through the arms of a loving family these wounds will heal, and he will experience the greatest HOPE this young one can see on this earth.


Rock Hill is a community of more than 30,000 residents who mainly crush rock by hand for a living. It is heart breaking to walk through this community and see young children, pregnant women and elderly people pounding rocks into gravel by hand in HOPES of making enough money to buy a bowl of rice at the end of the day. AOH partnered with AOH-Belgium to bring HOPE to the children and their families by installing 2 hand pumps providing clean drinking water which continues to saves lives.

AOH has supported the Wilbel Foundation School which has been a make shift school in an abandoned building in the community. The building is in need of extensive repair. AOH has sponsored numerous students and help to supplement the teacher’s salary to this school. With the involvement in the community to bring HOPE to the residents there Acres of Hope stepped out in Faith and committed to bring quality education to the children. This last year AOH in partnership with our sister organization AOH-Belgium has raised $60,000 for the construction of the new Acres of Hope Rock Hill Elementary/Training Institute which will open her doors in September 2010. We HOPE to educate a minimum of 500 students per year with the addition of adult education training classes in the late afternoon and evenings. A teacher sponsorship program has been established to offset tuition fees for students. The adult education program will include literacy and skills training such as sewing, soap making, and classes on independent business success. If you would like to be a part of this exciting program to give HOPE to hundreds of kids, please visit www.acresofhope.org or email us aoh.savinglives@gmail.com

In 2005 Acres of Hope revitalized the Kparblee Community Clinic in Nimba County. The services that were provided were life saving and gave HOPE to the community and surrounding areas. Word spread of the clinic even into Ivory Coast and soon it became apparent that we would have to expand the existing clinic or build a new one. This last year has been exciting with the construction of the new AOH 35 bed Clinic in Kparblee which will serve hundreds of people in the surrounding area. Below is the construction of the clinic.

HOPE comes in many forms, Orphan Rescue, Education, and Medical Outreach, but none so important than meeting the Spiritual needs of a nation hurt by years of war and dysfunction. Acres of Hope recognizes that without the Spiritual foundation and commitment to serve the Lord, none of what we do has much meaning. Recently I was appointed to develop a ministry in Robertsport which is about 2 hours from the Capital in Cape Mount County. This community is about 70% Muslim, but back in 1834 the Mt. Zion Baptist Church was founded in Robertsport. Today this church building sits on 10 acres overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. With only 15 members in the congregation, but a heart to grow, I have made a personal commitment to develop and support this vital ministry. Our Christian presence is a testimony in the community. Plans are in progress to restore the historical church building, build an elementary school and construct 2 missionary houses on the property. Total project cost is $250,000

Consider becoming a partner in this important ministry. Or perhaps your church would like to “adopt” the Mt. Zion Community Church. Your involvement will not only bless this ministry, but will be a testimony to an entire community that needs desperately to hear of HOPE through Jesus Christ. Mt. Zion is committed to Romans which states:

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love:

give preference to one another in honor;

not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit,

serving the Lord: rejoicing in HOPE,

persevering in tribulation and devoted to prayer.”

Romans 12:10-12

AOH expanded our services this past year to include The Democratic Republic of Congo! We now are doing Orphan Rescue and adoptions from the Congo-DRC. Our trip in September of 2009 to Congo proved to be successful in many ways. We spent time with government officials sharing with them our commitment to the children of Congo. Great relationships were established, and we were blessed to experience the Ministries endorsing our efforts to provide humanitarian relief and work along side the different branches of government to accomplish our goals.

I was particularly touched to visit mission stations where my parents served as medical missionaries when I was a child. Things had CHANGED in 40 years, but our house was still there and it was great to walk the halls of my father’s hospital. It brought back many wonderful memories of my childhood and also reminded me of how much work there is still to do. Another blessing came our way when the very dorm I grew up in at boarding school, became thenew AOH Orphanage Children’s Home! Talk about coming full circle!

We look forward to many years in the Congo and bringing HOPE to those we serve there. Acres of Hope USA has been busy with domestic adoptions and coordinating all international activities with our sister organizations. Acres of Hope USA became a fully licensed Child Placing Agency licensed by the State of Wisconsin in 2008. Tim Faust, Director of Adoptions- USA and I have attended state wide conferences on adoption issues as many changes are constantly occurring. I have had numerous speaking engagements across the country and traveled to Belgium for 2 separate fund raisers this last year. We have been on several radio programs, television, and had numerous newspaper articles written.

The week of March 12-21, 2010 we will be celebrating the ground breaking of the Rock Hill School project and the Dedication Program of the Clinic in Kparblee. In addition we will be kicking off our Extreme Humanitarian Expeditions. This will be an exciting week filled with opportunities to be a part of what Acres of Hope is doing in Liberia. Our AOH-Belgium team will be on the ground that week and we want to extend an invitation to all our supporters to come and see first hand the life-saving work AOH is doing. We will be touring a variety of projects and sites giving all those in attendance an insider view of what makes Acres of Hope uniquely effective. Please contact our office at 715-765-4118 if you would like to be a participant.

We want to thank all our families, friends, volunteers and contributors for the wonderful support and prayers you have given to Acres of Hope this last year. Each of you have given us the encouragement to continue giving the HOPE to others who are in need. AOH whether USA, Belgium, Liberia, Ghana or Congo are the hands and feet to accomplish the work, but through your Spirit of generosity and support our mission is accomplished.

May the coming year bring HOPE to the world and to each of you.

Many Blessings,

Patty Anglin, Executive Director

And the entire Staff of AOH