Saying Good-bye

The past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of movement and activity with abundant blessings in the midst of it all.

Representatives from the ELCA and the NTNL arrived in Sierra Leone last week and have been engaged in conversations with the ELCSL since then.   We have covered a lot of ground in recent days, including a working/leisure visit to River #2   and a trip to Bo for churchwide consultations.   Rich conversations about church and mission have shaped our time together with the ELCSL.

Rev. Themba Mkhabela, ELCA West Africa Regional representative; Rev. Jane Mar, NTNL; Rev. Kate Warn, ELCSL Pastor in Residence 2009 - 1012; Rev. Jim Gonia, ELCA Global Mission; Rev. Marc Hander, NTNL. (Photo by Gerilyn Hander)

A gift from the ELCSL. This woven blanket (country cloth) is in the colors of the national flag. It reads: The ELCSL thanks God for the work of Pastor Kate Warn in Sierra Leone.

In the midst of it all, the ELCSL richly blessed me with a night of singing and dancing and traditional ceremonies to bid me farewell as I prepare to leave Sierra Leone on Feb. 27th.   Out of all the experiences I have had in Sierra Leone over the past three years, the farewell celebration offered by the ELCSL was the most surprising and amazing of all.    Special songs of blessing offered by the youth and women still echo in my heart.  The sound of drums  and the traditional gourd shaker being played still resonate as well.

As the night unfolded, I was quite moved to see Bishop Barnett lead a dancing procession of my Lutheran brothers and sisters — coming my way with gifts in hand  As the procession drew near I could also see two men carrying a stout branch across their shoulders, and wondered what exactly they were bringing.  Eventually, I spotted a beautifully woven hammock and began to suspect what was going to happen next.

The traditional mode of transportation for chiefs. I was carried in the hammock as Yei Boi Katie.

During this time of  ceremony, Bishop Barnett honored me with the name/title of “first born daughter.”  I was then invited to settle myself into the hammock.    Being carried in a hammock is an honor accorded to chiefs in Sierra Leone, and  I felt deeply moved to be acknowledged in this way.  I was carried in the hammock, in the midst of  drumming, dancing and singing; eventually I received  the  hammock as my own, among many other gifts.  The blessings of the evening were abundant and memorable — a true reflection of the grace and beauty of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone.

One of the gifts I received was this traditional country cloth outfit, complete with hat and shoes, made by Marion Boima.

My final good-bye to my ELCSL colleagues and Freetown friends is only a few days away as I write.   Today I gratefully sent one heavy suitcase filled with many of the gifts I received in Bo and books from my Africa collection back to the US with the NTNL visitors.  This weekend my challenge will be to empty my kitchen and my closets, and to fit my possessions into two additional suitcases for a flight to Buffalo New York.

As I write tonight, the electricity and the internet are on and off and then on.   That somehow seems fitting.  At this point,  I will plan to make one final posting for On Mission Sierra Leone when I am  stateside, once I’ve had a chance to unpack my suitcases (if not 3 years of African life).

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8 responses to “Saying Good-bye

  1. Cindy Youngquist

    Oh Kate:
    I have such mixed emotions for your leaving. In one way I am so happy for you to get back to your USA family and friends, I am certain there are so many that are looking forward to your return, I for one am anxious maybe Gowrie will see a brief visit from you.
    But then in one other way I am so sorry for you and your people there in Leonne as you have to say Good-bye. You looked like you were treated like a Queen and I am certain there were tears shed for your leaving by many. May God bless your trip home and bless all the heavyt hearts as you say Good-bye and Hello. God Bless you and much love, Cindy Youngquist

  2. Kate, what a blessing your blogs have been. I am looking forward to your visit to Texas. Safe travels home and may your spirit continue to bless the people of Sierra Leone

  3. Catherine Tietjen

    Someone in Texas is thinking often of you these days as your time in SL comes to a close. As I have heard, this ceremoney only begins to demonstrate how much you touched the lives of so many. You will be missed but prayed for and cared about forever. Love abounds.

  4. Kate, We have been blessed to have our sister in Sierra Leone. There is no doubt that you have made a positive impact on the ELCSL and I know that each contact has had an impact on you. Thank you! You will be truly missed on both sides of he ocean. Grace and peace to you.

  5. What a love-filled send-off. The dancing, the music, the tributes, the hammock!!!! All a testament to the impact you have had on the lives of so many in Sierra Leone. We are so blessed to have shared a tiny, tiny portion in person! Safe travels.

    Sally

  6. It was a special blessing to celebrate this farewell and offer thanks for your ministry in Sierra Leone Kate. Thank you for your gracious hospitality in the midst of a very busy time. God bless you in these last days and during your journey home.

  7. Stephanie Varnum

    Kate,
    Thank you for answering God’s call to serve as missionary-in-residence for the NT-NL and ELCSL. Your loving work will yield fruit for generations to come. May you travel safely and receive a joyous home coming. We are looking forward to your being with us at Assembly in April.

  8. Carolyn Rusch Worley

    Thank you Kathy, for your most interesting blogs! I have enjoyed every one and I have learned much from them as well. Best wishes to you on your return home. May God continue to richly bless you as you continue to serve as you are called.

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