Day 13: St. Peter’s Lutheran Church

Today we visited St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. We weren’t drawn to this church to get the story of their school, but to learn about the church’s bloody history. We were able to speak with the current pastor of the church, who provided us with a wealth of information surrounding the church’s history.

On July 29, 1990, Samuel K. Doe’s rebels entered St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. They proceeded to open fire on to hundreds of citizens who were seeking asylum in the church’s sanctuary and school building. 500 innocent people were massacred that day.

It’s hard to describe exactly the feeling that was brought on by being inside the church’s sanctuary — where the original windows, punctured with bullet holes, casted an eerie glow on to the pews. Just as striking was what we saw outside: a parking lot and a basketball court settled nonchalantly over the site of two mass graves. Marking each grave was a simple, large white star.

The Palava Hut

Palava huts, like the one pictured below, are used as a place for people to resolve conflicts in their community. Rather than resorting to strong argument or fighting, disagreements or misunderstandings can be sorted out inside of the palava hut, which is specifically designated for the purpose. These huts originated here in West Africa, and we got the chance to see quite a few while we were in Nimba County.

A palava hut, sighted in Ganta, Nimba Co. Looks like this one got a lot of use!

Day 4: Long Ceremonies, Long Days

Today we traveled west of Ganta to visit three more schools. By the time we got to the third school we were exhausted from the heat and strenuous car ride, and apparently the kids were exhausted too — we found out on our way there that they had been waiting on us since 8 a.m. (we got there around 1:30)!

After yesterday and today we’ve decided that three schools per day is a little too much to try to fit into just a few hours. From now on we’re going to do the best we can to have a more personal interaction with the main leaders of the school so that we can find out more intimate details about the institutions’ histories.

Because it is Liberian tradition to have large, loud and long welcoming ceremonies for any visitors (especially white ones), a lot of our time has been taken up with said ceremonies. Though exciting, these experiences aren’t exactly what we’ve been looking for, as it’s difficult to encourage people to tell us their personal stories in this crowded setting.

Our hope is that as we get the opportunity to have more one-on-one interactions with school representatives, we will be better able to make those individuals comfortable enough with us to tell us their personal experiences through the country’s civil war and the consequential struggles that they have dealt with.
James has, however, gotten some great pictures along the way.

Kids awaiting our arrival at Kpain School

Day 3: Visiting the first schools

Today we traveled east of Ganta to visit three schools in Nimba County. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but we found welcoming smiles everywhere we went. At two of the three schools, we even found that the administration and students had put together welcoming ceremonies for us. Over the entrance of each of these schools was a traditional Liberian welcome, an arch made of palm branches.

The third school was already closed when we got there in the afternoon, but we were still able to meet with the principal to learn about the school.

Our first day could definitely be called a success, as we’ve been able to gather a wealth of information for our project. Also, James was a huge hit with his camera. It’s safe to say that the average Liberian child is not camera shy.

All smiles from the students of Gbedin United Methodist School