q & a

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Liberia, my ministry and what I do there. I thought it’d be fun to compile the most popular questions and give you another look into my life as a full-time missionary and non-profit worker.

Q: Liberia? Is that actually a country?
A: Sure is! (Don’t worry; I actually didn’t even know it existed until I was planning to go there for the first time!) It’s located in West Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and the Atlantic. Population is about three and a half million people, capital city is Monrovia.

Q: Just to be clear—Liberia. You’re sure you don’t mean Libya?
A: I’m positive. They’re two different countries; I’m sure of it. Final answer. 🙂

Q: What language do they speak there?
A: There are different tribal languages, but “Liberian English” is standard. It’s difficult to understand at first, but it becomes easier with time and practice. It nah easy-o, but I trying small.

Q: Okay, okay. Why Liberia?
A: Liberia endured a brutal 14-year civil war from 1989 to 2003. When it ended, approximately a quarter of a million people were dead, the country was in shambles, its infrastructure was destroyed, and thousands of children were left orphaned, abandoned or displaced. As a result, “orphanages” began to pop up all over the nation; the problem is that most of them lack the necessary resources to make sure the children are adequately cared for. Consequently, these kids are living in completely unsanitary conditions, are often hungry and usually sick, and are way behind in school (if they’re even enrolled).

Q: Whoa. So what do you do then?
A: I work for a non-profit called Orphan Relief and Rescue, which was founded in 2007. More information about us can be found by visiting our website. We partner with honest, well-meaning and reputable orphanage directors who genuinely want the best for the children in their care but simply lack the funds/resources/supplies to do it alone. Through our various programs (relief and healthcare, construction, child development, agriculture and small business), we work alongside the directors to: bring children in orphanages immediate relief from hunger, sickness and premature death, provide sanitary living conditions through orphanage reconstruction projects; create partnerships with other organizations to help maintain the health and welfare of these children on a long-term, sustainable basis; and empower orphanage directors and older children with skills to sustain positive change, build self-sufficiency, and enable continued spiritual growth.

Q: What about you, personally? What is your role?
A: I act as the Child Development Program Manger. This the program that concerns itself with fostering emotional and spiritual health of children living in orphanages. I write, plan and implement curriculum and lessons that teach character development and holistic health. I do one-on-one and small group mentoring and discipleship. I give children who have been through trauma, poverty, and loss a safe place to explore and talk about their feelings, and refer them for additional counseling if needed. I provide tutoring and academic help to any children who need it, and often do more intensive work with specific children struggling in school due to various learning disabilities. I also manage a group of hired Liberians who assist me in the teaching process.

Q: How many kids do you work with?
A: I work primarily within our three core orphanages; all together, that’s about 150 kids.

Q: How did you get involved with Liberia and ORR?
A: Well, it’s a long story, and you can read more of my personal testimony here. Basically, I had always wanted to go to Africa, ever since I was young, but didn’t think that it could ever be a possibility. As a result, I put the dream on the back burner as something I’d love to do one day, if the chance ever came up. Fast forward to 2008. I was going through a divorce and simultaneously losing my teaching job due to school closings, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that all the changes meant that perhaps God was trying to point me in a new direction. He really began to lay Africa heavily on my heart again, so I started researching different missions trips to go on and explore the possibility of working overseas full-time. Around this time, I reconnected with a friend from high school on Facebook. We hadn’t had contact for about seven years, but I found out that he was living and working in Liberia for ORR. I felt prompted to ask if there was any way if I could come, check it out, and see what God said. Everything fell into place, and I went for a two-week trip at the end of 2008. By the second day, I knew that God was going to call me back to Liberia. I went home, fundraised, sold mostly everything I owned and returned to Liberia full-time in 2009.

Q: How often are you there?
A: I typically stay in Liberia for six months, then come home to the States for eight to twelve weeks of rest, recuperation and fundraising.

Q: Where do you stay when you’re in the US?
A: I consider Reading, PA my homebase, and I have a couple of dear friends that allow me to stay with them while I’m there. I also travel to different states and Canada (where I am originally from) for fundraising. Currently, I live in Seattle, where I am working in the ORR stateside office.

Q: Are you going back to Liberia?

A: Yup! I leave Seattle on March 1, actually, and am making a week-and-a-half pitstop on the east coast along the way. I’ll arrive back in Liberia on March 11 and will stay until mid-September.

Q: What then?
A: Your guess is as good as mine. 🙂 I expect God will give me my next step(s) when I need them.

Q: How long do you think you’ll do this?
A: Ahh, the million dollar question. Well, I’ve already done it for longer than I thought I would so honestly, I really don’t know. All I can say is that I don’t feel like I’m done in Liberia yet. I obviously don’t think I’ll be there full-time forever, but I DO believe Liberia will always be a part of my life. Now that I’ve seen the need first-hand, now that I know the faces and stories and have formed a bond with the kids, I just don’t see how I could walk away. So in the future, even if I’m not living there, I’d still like to be able to visit once a year or so.

Q: How can someone support you and your ministry?
A: There are tons of different ways to be involved! The first is through financial donations. I hate talking about money, but the sad truth is, I’m not able to do what I do without it. You can make a tax-deductible donation to Orphan Relief and Rescue on my behalf by either going to our website or mailing a check to 1416 SW 151st Street; Burien, WA; 98166. You can give a one-time gift or become a monthly supporter. You can spread the word about myself and the ministry to your friends, family, neighbors, etc. You can sign up for regular updates from the ministry by visiting our site, and you can get personal monthly newsletters from myself by just giving me your email address. You can pray regularly for me, my teammates, the kids, our Liberian staff, and the orphanage directors. You can become an advocate, and you can also plan a fundraising event in your hometown.
If you have any questions or want additional info, just send me a message or email me at elena@orphanreliefandrescue.org

Thank you! 


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