In an atmosphere of 90 degree heat and dire poverty, eleven Hoosier United Methodists of Indiana’s Warsaw District assisted Liberian United Methodists earlier this year in constructing a new cafeteria at St. Matthew UMC and School in Monrovia.
Due to the large number of United Methodists mission teams already in Monrovia, leaders of the Lutheran Church in Liberia hosted the Warsaw team at their compound a few blocks away from the school. Women enjoyed running water as men ran to a nearby pump for their water.
After settling in, the Warsaw team boarded a new 15-passenger van recently donated by Hoosier United Methodists. The Rev. Anthony Dioh, former West African coordinator for Indiana based Operation Classroom, and his wife Jennifer Dioh hosted the team. Anthony has coordinated Operation Classroom in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He now serves an administrator at the Tubman College in Harper, Liberia. Jennifer now coordinates OC in Sierra Leone and Liberia
Arriving at the St. Matthew, the team’s work was prefaced by singing and prayer. Then the Warsaw team began their week-long assignment of pouring a 40-foot by 60-foot concrete floor and applying stucco to both the outside and inside of the steel-roofed, concrete-block building.
When the team arrived, the walls and roof were in place. Churches of the Warsaw District raised $17,000 last year to pay for building supplies and local Liberian skilled labor to erect the structure.
One of the goals of Operation Classroom is to provide employment and income to local residents as a way of helping lift families out of poverty and contributing to the struggling Liberian economy destroyed by the civil wars of the 1990s.
All the work at the construction site was done manually. Team volunteers mixed bags of concrete with sand using shovels. Once mixed together, volunteers added hauled-in water. As the mixture began to resemble wet concrete, volunteers scooped it into wheelbarrows and added more water until the texture was right.
Most Indiana team members could not handle the heavy wheel barrows, therefore African students and men pushed the wheel barrows with concrete into the building. There, Hoosier volunteers poured the floor, which they completed in three days.
During the remainder of the week, volunteers mixed more concrete to apply stucco to the walls, both inside and outside of the cafeteria building. By week’s end, most of the exterior and about half of the interior of the building were covered with stucco.
Monrovian pastors, church members and many students arrived on Friday to dedicate the building with singing, prayers, speeches and an anointing with oil.
Driving through the country and around the city of Monrovia revealed the immense poverty the Liberian people suffer from as a result of almost two decades of civil war. Most families live at a subsistence level. Many live in simple huts constructed of scrap wood and salvaged shreds of metal roofing. Many have no employment or adequate income. Most survive from day to day by selling craft items or extra food from their small gardens.
Begun by the Hoosier United Methodists, Operation Classroom/Operation Doctor helps Liberia and Sierra Leone UM churches build schools, clinics and hospitals.
For more information and learn how to support a student or assist with school support, visit www.operationclassroom.org.
Photos courtesy of the Warsaw District UMC.
Warsaw District volunteers, decked out in St. Matthew senior high school T-shirts, pause before the United Methodist-related school in Liberia.
The team’s work was prefaced by singing and prayer.
The Warsaw District worked together to raise the money and build this school cafeteria in Liberia. District volunteers poured the concrete floor and added a stucco surface to interior and exterior walls.