COTN's First High School Graduate in Sierra Leone

09/15/09

Mark Drennan recently returned from spending more than a year in Sierra Leone serving with COTN as a Global Intern. Below are his thoughts after witnessing the first child from COTN’s Children’s Home in Sierra Leone graduate from high school this past July.

It was while Celine Dion was warbling about her “heart going on” that I let my head rest against the seat in front of me and allowed the moment I had found myself a part of wash over me. I was in a place called Moyamba in the hall of a Sierra Leonean boarding home for primary school girls and the questionable music was blaring from a large sound system sitting beside the stage. On the stage in an elegant dark blue dress sat one of this summer’s national Global Interns, Precious. At this moment however her internship was taking a back seat to something else.

Precious had just graduated from high school.

COTN’s Global Intern team had jumped in to a poda poda (mini bus) and made the three-hour journey of potholes, dust and jungle whizzing past the windows to join Precious for her special day. We were ushered to seats near the front as the ceremony got underway and sat with expectant grins on our faces. As the individual class prizes were being presented, the announcer reached the award for Christian Religious Education and it was too perfect. It felt inevitable. Precious didn’t disappoint and the loudest cheer of the day erupted from the pale skinned third row as our graduate strode on stage. The school band was even struck up by someone who got carried away by the excitement. This was something special and the cheer that reverberated around Harford School for Girls was but scanty recognition of that. Precious is the first child from COTN’s Children’s Home in Sierra Leone to reach this level of education and she has a story that should have made this event an impossibility.

But it wasn’t impossible. She had done it. Precious had just graduated from high school. And as we sat at the party thrown in celebration—a party which included insect repellant pyrotechnics—all the glory and honor was given to God: Precious’ Father, the Redeemer.

And that Father is far from finished teaching his daughter. Precious dreams of becoming a lawyer with a speciality in international law and beginning that process with a degree from Fourah Bay College—West Africa's oldest university, but she is also on a similarly exciting spiritual journey. During a Global Intern team debriefing session Precious had spoken—her soft voice choked with tears—about how powerful an effect the experience had had on her. A city girl, she had been apprehensive about serving COTN in the “bush” and felt like she didn’t understand those from the villages of Sierra Leone. While serving with the Global Interns, however, something had happened. Precious had seen others come and give of themselves to people they couldn’t possibly understand. She had seen young people cross the world [COTN’s Venture participants] to play and teach and learn from her brothers and her sisters. In her own words, Precious had been “shown how to love.” And not only had she learned from what she saw as a lesson but she had loved living it out.

But back to Precious’ graduation… The wonder of the moment struck me as the DJ hired for the occasion pushed play on Celine. I looked at the beautiful young woman on the stage in front of me. I thought about all the other children in COTN’s home and all those at our schools and how much I want this moment for them too. I thought about their abundant talent and potential, the seeming limitation of their opportunities juxtaposed as it is with the limitless love of their Father.

As Celine’s voice hit a crescendo, I wondered and I thought and I prayed.

To learn about how you can serve as a Global Intern through COTN’s Venture Programs, click here. To read more about Mark’s experience in Sierra Leone, visit him on his blog.