Seattle 285K Meal Marathon Food Arrives in Sierra Leone!

08/18/09

A 40-ft. container containing 285,000 meals has finally arrived in Sierra Leone! The container of meals (packaged last May at the Seattle, Washington “285K Meal Marathon” at Mill Creek Foursquare Church in Lynnwood, Washington) made the long trek from Seattle, passing through the ports of Canada, Japan, China, Malaysia, and Egypt, going through the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean, changing ships in Spain, making its way through the Strait of Gibraltar, and finally down the west coast of Africa arriving in Freetown in early July.

After weeks of delays, demanding fees, and miscommunications at the port, the Seattle 285K container full of food was finally released by the Sierra Leone government and has made its way to our children!

"This is an answer to the prayers of so many,” shared Fraser Ratzlaff, COTN’s Seattle Feeding Coordinator and organizer of the Seattle Meal Marathon, who was serving in Sierra Leone this past month when news of the container’s release came in. “When we got the news, all the interns and I stopped and prayed to thank God,” shared Fraser.

Read more for Fraser’s account of the Lord’s provision…

“The container was released from the Port of Freetown at the end of the day on a Thursday, just as it was getting dark. We were disappointed that our videographer in Freetown wasn’t going to be able to take any video of the container being unloaded. It was raining very hard in Freetown and the truck could not make it up the hill to the COTN compound. The driver parked the truck on the side of the road to wait for the rains to stop. Some of our COTN–Sierra Leone staff even slept in the truck to ensure its safety through the night!

“The next morning, part of the container was unloaded and put into poda podas (VW busses turned into taxis) to make the container lighter so it could make it up the hill. And it was all caught on film in the daylight! God’s timing is perfect.

"The next day, my sixth day in Sierra Leone, as I was finishing up dinner at COTN’s ministry center in Banta Mokelleh (an 8-hour drive from Freetown), I found it hard believe that the food we has just packaged halfway around the world would soon be here! What were the odds that I’d actually be here when it arrived? Again, God’s timing proved perfect!

"The truck arrived late Friday night (technically 1:30AM Saturday morning). Most of the meals remained in Freetown, locked safe in our COTN compound, with a portion of meals ferried up to our children in Banta as needed. Some of the older boys and I unloaded the 400 boxes into the storeroom here in Banta. (Earlier in the day, in preparation for the new inventory, we had completely cleaned it out, scoured it with bleach, aired it out, and patched any holes in the walls.) I was up until 4:00AM making sure the boxes were moved and stacked properly, all the while capturing as much as I could on camera. When all the food was secure, I trekked back to the intern house, took a bucket shower, and collapsed into bed.

“I feel such relief and satisfaction knowing all the children living in our homes have enough food for the coming year (and just in time, too, as the cooking staff were down to their last eight boxes of meal packets). Praise God! His perfect timing evidenced yet again. I feel so grateful to everyone who donated their time and money at the Seattle 285K Meal Marathon, those who made getting food to these children in Sierra Leone a reality.

“Children die from malnourishment all the time in the surrounding villages here, a sobering fact I have now seen for myself. My eyes cannot help but well up with tears when I think about the 102 children in our Children’s Homes and the thousands in the surrounding villages enrolled in our Village partnership Programs who will have healthy food every day because people in my city, Seattle, care enough to get involved. It brings me to my knees.

"If you are older here (over 20 or 25+) you are addressed as ‘Uncle’ or ‘Auntie’ as a sign of respect and inclusion into the family or village. All the children here in Banta call the meal packets 'Eighty-Eights' (long story). So I have become affectionately known as ‘Uncle Eighty-Eight.’ It is a title I have proudly taken to, and I smile every time a child calls me by my new name."