Over the past month, some of these missionaries have been featured — giving our readers a little peek of the experiences they have encountered.
By Michele Longworth
Susanne Schneider has been helping people in other countries through the business she started in the fall of 2007, but she always had the desire to take a mission trip. In fact, she says that her mother has told her that when she was a child, she felt God was telling her that Susanne would become a missionary.
Schneider said she has always wanted to help people since she was small. She grew up and attended Murray State University and went on with her life not really thinking about missionary work.
“In 2007 I felt God’s call to start my Fair Trade business. I wanted to help people,” she said, explaining she and her parents, Darrel and Billie Schneider, opened the business Cafe @ 1210 Fair Trade Store + Restaurant. Fair Trade was a way for Schneider to be a missionary through her business.
But last year when she learned through her church, First United Methodist Church, of a mission trip to Liberia, she began feeling led to participate and realized there was more she wanted to do to help.
According to Schneider, she was questioning God if it was the right thing to do. It was a different mission trip and she prayed about it and felt if it were meant for her to go, God would provide the money, so she signed up for the trip.
The wheels were set into motion and from January 17 through February 2, she took her first mission trip to Liberia, a destitute, war torn country, which she said actually means “freedom.” There was a report published that listed Liberia as number two on the list of most miserable places in the world. With about 85 percent unemployment, Schneider said the commerce is not there to provide jobs for the people. She said a pastor’s salary in Liberia is $20 a month. According to Schneider, they currently do not take a salary and cannot afford to send their children to school. U.S. Methodist Church donations help pay the Methodist Liberian pastors salary.
Having had two civil wars from 1989-1996 and from 1999-2003, the entire country has a population of 3.7 million. Monorovia, the city where Schneider and the group of nine other people were, has a population of 1.7 million. Interestingly, Schneider said the country is English speaking.
The English influence comes from the days of the slave trade. “When the war in the United States ended and the slaves were set free, those on the slave ships were brought back to their countries of Liberia and the Ivory Coast. This is also how Christianity was brought into their country,” Schneider said.
Schneider was the only person from Metropolis with her group, though Physician’s Assistant Cheryl Brookshire, of Family Physician’s Center in Metropolis, was also on the same trip. From St. Louis, Schneider and the group departed to Chicago, on to Brussels, Africa and finally to Monorovia, after five flights and between 20 to 30 hours in the air.
When the group arrived to Monorovia, they had no air conditioning and no running water. A bucket of water served as their “shower,” Schneider explained, saying it was more like a sponge bath. She said they used dry shampoo. But at times when she had her hair wet, they would use what they dubbed the “455 hair dryer.” That she said was the four windows in the vehicle rolled down, while driving 55 miles per hour.
They stayed at the First United Methodist compound in Monorovia. The compound’s roof had a 10 to 12 foot wall, which had glass or barbed wire affixed to the top. During their trip, there was a robbery just two blocks from the compound and a person was killed with a machete and left in the street.
The country’s dry season is from November through April. Schneider says the rainy season is from May through October and it rains non-stop. According to Schneider many of the homes there in the city are made from mud block, with a thatched or tin room. Because of all the heavy rains, the people constantly have to rebuild their homes.
She said she and other members from her group traveled through West Point, which is a very rough section outside of Monrovia, the capital city. According to Schneider, well over 75,000 people are crammed into one area along the ocean, mainly living in tin shacks. “I visited a Methodist school that opened there two years ago,” she said.
The group Schneider was in visited so many cities and towns that Schneider has a hard time remembering them all. The group stayed in Monrovia, went to Cotton Tree, Bong County, Ganta, Coo Coos Nest, Firestone, and into the neighboring country Guinea. “We traveled all over the country to meet with various Methodist churches and to help where it was needed,” said Schneider.