On 1 February 2013 Freetown became my home. The place is an attack on the senses – the 4am Muslim call to prayer blasting out; sweat running down me with the heat/humidity; the vibrant colours of African clothing; crazy drivers; traders calling out their wares; poverty everywhere; the smell of African cooking; shouts of ‘white man’ everywhere I move (I’m a white woman!); celebrations when electricity comes on; and the buzzing of that one mosquito that masters my defences!

Our team in Freetown might be small, but it is blessed with strong, supportive friendships, and shared vision to see the truth of God’s Word spreading throughout this country. Joel Willmer, my UFM missionary colleague, is primarily involved in Bible teaching and training of church leaders and evangelists. Paul pastors the Freetown Grace Community church and helps in the other UFM Sierra Leone ministries. Lamin works with me full-time in children’s ministry. The International Bible study group is also a great source of peer discipleship, fellowship, friendship and fun.

Whatever the difficulties, whatever the costs, they are worth it, as there is no greater joy that being where God wants me to be, and see what He’s doing in this place.

Sierra Leone is a place of spiritual darkness – the prevalence of animistic practices, the dominance of Islam, and rampant false teaching within Christian churches. There are many opportunities for ministry here, and a desperate need for more workers. A ‘normal’ month for me involves various children’s clubs; Sunday school teaching; working in a kids’ home for orphans and street children; programmes up-country; general church admin and organising church social events; supporting college students; and a general seeking to build relationships with others.

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I have found working with children here to be a real joy, and the potential to impact their lives for Christ is huge. They are like sponges, absorbing the Bible stories, songs and memory verses. They are desperate for that sense of value you give them by simply loving them. Sierra Leoneans also need to be better equipped to reach out with the aim of seeing children come to know, love and obey God. 2014 sees the commencement proper of children’s ministry training.

From my arrival here, God has given me a deep assurance that this is where he wants me to be right now, and I praise him that I wake up every morning with joy in my heart to be here. So many people make it possible for me to be here through their prayerful and financial support, and a particular highlight of this first year has been realising that I have the most amazing support team who soak everything in prayer, and show their love and support in so many different ways. There have been countless emails, messages and cards from people encouraging me. People I have never met have taken the time to post a letter saying that they are praying for me every day!

There are times I feel so frustrated at the inefficiency of the country – at the endemic corruption, or
the injustice people face. I struggle with vastly different cultural norms. I get discouraged that I can’t speak Krio fluently. I get disappointed and hurt when some people we’ve trusted or helped try to take advantage of us or don’t tell us the whole truth. I get irritated by the heat and impatient with others who value ‘African’ timing. I complain about the electricity and internet problems, and sometimes my attitude isn’t what it should be. Yet in all the challenges, and despite all my weaknesses, God is at work.

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Whatever the difficulties, whatever the costs, they are worth it, because there is no greater joy that being where God wants me to be, and seeing what he’s doing in this place. His grace is sufficient, and the work is his. What a privilege it is to be in the Master Potter’s hand, to share God’s Word here, and see how God is building his Church in Sierra Leone!

– Jayne Smyth