This mission trip to Bromley marked my fifth trip to Liberia, having spent thirteen weeks there in the past two years. Needless to say, Liberia has taken permanent residence in my heart. In fact, I was brought to tears many times from friends calling and saying, "Welcome home, Kimmie!" This is exactly how I feel. Home.
I also felt tremendous joy in introducing my friends to the extraordinary girls at Bromley, to their teachers and their caretakers. What an honor. We were all profoundly affected. We hold memories of successful work, but also of voices rising in song, laughter floating up like bubbles, profound conversations, tiny hands finding ours, and of eyes that hold a deep joy even in the midst of such hardship.
The theme we chose for this mission came directly from words and visions of the school's founders, carved into the walls of the Julia C. Emery Hall over 100 years ago, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6). The primary focus of our mission was to provide the Bromley teachers with professional development, utilizing critical thinking skills and communication through visual art and oral and written language.
This particular mission came as a direct result of the requests for professional development from the teachers and staff at Bromley. For months and months leading up to the mission, all the participants put their expertise- and their hearts- into planning. We also collected and shipped 49 boxes of teaching aids and school supplies and carried 13 extra suitcases packed with mission materials to leave at Bromley.
Teaching seminars, small group work and team-building activities for the teachers coincided with many student art projects designed to not only offer interpersonal social skills and teamwork, but also to address the hunger for creative channels, which was expressed on my last trip. We also gave out certificates for successful completion of the program, Mission T-shirts, and goodie bags (provided by the congregation at St. Philip’s, Durham, NC) for all the students and staff.
In addition, one of our missioners, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Pulmonology, Allergy and Immunology at the University of Virginia, Dr. John Hunt, was able to conduct preliminary assessments of medical needs at the Bromley Clinic, the J.F.K. Medical Center and ELWA Hospital, a project that has been developing over the last 10 months.
The results were rewarding, and even more than the successful project, we continued to build relationships. As Buck Blanchard, World Missions Coordinator for the Diocese of Virginia says, "It's the people, not the project."
Everyone came home with many letters of thanks and love from the staff and the students, which will help carry us all through our own challenging times at home. On our last day, filled with songs and cake and tearful goodbyes, I told the girls that I felt a little sad, but I thought I could speak for the group when I said our hearts did not feel heavy. Our hearts were light because they were filled with their love and their light. They are lights in our darkness, stars in our night and they will always remain in our prayers. Then, we all sang, "This Little Light of Mine," and clapped and cried and laughed. Hide it under a bushel? No possible way!
Just as the students and staff at Bromley take comfort in knowing there is someone across the ocean who remembers and loves them, we feel exactly the same way. It's as if we have brushed fingers with angels and in so doing will never be completely lost. Hand-in-hand we can do so much. Isn't it so exciting to dream of where the next step will lead?
A special thanks to all the missioners who worked selflessly to provide a lasting impact on The Bromley Episcopal Mission School:
This year’s members of the mission team included Rev. Kate Bryant, Assistant to the Rector for Adult Ministries at St. James’, Leesburg, five individuals with a total of 142 years of accumulated professional experience in education (Diane Bell, Nancy Chapin, and Elaine Nunnally of St. James’—Leesburg, VA; and Laurraine Landolt and Paul Miller of St. Peter’s—Purcellville, VA); a world-class pediatrician, Dr. John Hunt, from Church of Our Savior—Charlottesville, VA; a professional with 30 years of information technology experience, Judy Hall, also from St. Peter’s—Purcellville, VA; and a professional with 15 years of experience in community development, Donna Rewalt, from St. Philip’s—Durham, NC.