Thursday, 26 December 2013

Kissi Money

Kissi money is the name for an iron currency made in the Kissi country of Sierra Leone that circulated widely between the 1880s and the 1940s in the immediate vicinity of its production among the Gbandi, Gola, Kissi, Kpelle, Loma, Mandinka and Mende and other people of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Kissi money still features today on Liberian bank-notes:

And bizarrely, not long ago my parents bought a box of junk at an auction house in rural west of England that contained 40 pieces of Kissi money! Small world eh?


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Liberia in the news: Liberian students may need to study harder

Liberian students may need to study harder
None of Liberia's nearly 25,000 school-leavers passed this year's admission exam. A University of Liberia official said they did not have a basic grasp of English.
A student at a university in Liberia
Ten years after the end of the West African nation's civil war, many schools lack basic education material and teachers are poorly qualified.
For full article click here.

Monday, 23 December 2013

A new Mercy Ship

It looks like the deal has been done: "Mercy Ships has announced that it has reached an agreement with Asian and European shipbuilding firms to purpose-build a new 36,600-GRT hospital ship for Mercy Ships. Contracts were signed between Mr. Dong Qiang, VP of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), and Donald K. Stephens, President/ Founder of Mercy Ships, together with Jim Paterson, Senior VP of Mercy Ships Marine Operations." 

For full article click here or go to 

Happy Birthday Libby

Libby was 9 yesterday! 


Banana wagon

Thank you blk24ga for this brilliant photo s/he took recently in Monrovia.


Sunday, 20 October 2013


Last week, Noah and I drove to Birmingham and brought home a 20 year old caravan

Its got 5 berths, a little bathroom, running water etc, and we hope it will open up England to us, as it will provide us with cheap accommodation. PLUS we have bought tickets to next year's New Wine, and are already looking forward to spending a week next August with our church family and meeting up with old friends...Olly

Sherborne transformed

RIGHT NOW, Fox Searchlight have taken over the centre of our home town, Sherborne, and have transformed it into a set for their latest movie, Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd". The crew have been at work for 2 or 3 days already, and this afternoon the spotlights are being set up. The RVs and caravans for the actors haven't arrived yet - they have parking spaces reserved for tomorrow - but the Horse Crew are already installed, as can be seen by the horse droppings on the street (which Libby thinks were put there as props...). Below, our 900 year old abbey with the 1901 set...

...complete with the turn-of-the-century street fair:

Below, Half Moon Street with the shops being transformed into old fashioned grocers, haberdashers and iron mongers. Brown tape has been put over the modern window frames, and artificial doors are being placed over the modern doors. Before filming starts, all the TV arials will be taken down too...

How exciting. Olly

Monday, 7 October 2013

Baptising Anna

Yesterday we baptised Anna, at our church in Yeovil. We are very proud of her, especially that she still lives for Christ despite being back in the real world. Thank you for all your good-wishes via Facebook.

And I got wet too! It was a busy service, with 9 baptisms in all. Olly

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Olly's book review

I noticed this book on the shelves of our good friends the Kronesters in Germany a couple of weeks ago, so I ordered a copy for myself...which is fascinating reading. Ma Ellen is well educated, focused, knowledgable woman, who has lived through Liberia in peacetime, and under Doe's terrible regime, and under Taylor's terrible regime, and under a transitional government, and now Liberia under her own government...and yet the country is still a mess! Come on Ma Ellen. Sort it out!


Liberian Fish and Greens

In May, I planted sweet potatoes in our greenhouse. They have grown like crazy, spreading foliage everywhere, even between the panes of glass and onto the vegetable patch outside. I'm not growing them for the roots, but for the leaves, which every good Liberian will know are delicious cooked with fish and rice:

The leaves and stalks are sliced thinly and fried with onions, hot peppers, water and a stock cube...
Meanwhile Sally fried sliced ripe plantains a la Mama Gina (oh how we miss you, Gina!)...

...and wolfed down by hungry Liberian and Brits alike.


Thursday, 29 August 2013 reunion

We spent the last couple of weeks with our German family, the Kronesters, who we used to live with on the Africa Mercy and who now live in Bavaria and who run the Mercy Ships Germany office. We spent a couple of days in the foothills of the German Alps before the weather deteriorated, and took some lovely photos against the spectacular scenery. 

Ah, what a great time we had. What a lovely place. Thank you for your hospitality, Ines and Udo. You drove us many hundreds of miles, introduced us to many great places and sights, and gave us great food and company. We wish we were still with you in your beautiful home. Olly

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Ten years of peace

On 17th August 2003, Charles Taylor left Liberia and went into exile in Nigeria. And thus the peace process started, culminating in the arrival of Nigerian lead peacekeepers in September 2003 on behalf of ECOWAS. Now UNMIL - the United Nations Mission in Liberia - has made released an excellent (but low-res) short video about the last ten years of peace in Liberia - click here to watch it. Olly

Thursday, 4 July 2013


One of the many things that I miss about West Africa is the deep soulful sound of the djembe drum, so when I recently stumbled across a company in London that imports them from a master drum maker in Ghana, I ordered one quickly. It arrived yesterday, and I am absolutely thrilled with it! It is beautifully made from African tweneboa cedar timber cut from managed forests, and goat skin, and decorated with carved patterns...and it sounds great too. 

The djembe has been an instant hit in our household, and is a popular favourite of a certain young lady who might have Africa in her veins...

It came with a free carrying bag, the outside of which is typical brightly coloured African fabric and the inside of which is an old flour sack from a milling company in Tema! Ah, how it brought back memories.

So go check out to see the company's profile, and see what other products they import. Below, a photo of the drum makers at work. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Baptising Noah

Yesterday, Noah was baptised in the sea at West Bay. We are proud of his decision and commitment he has made, and we are blessed to be part of a church that is working hard in Yeovil and the surrounding areas to make God known.

Of course the Devil hates powerful testimonies, so the generator that runs the PA system mysteriously died and Noah and his youth leader Claire had to shout to the gathered crowd on the beach...

Claire's husband Joe and I had the privilege of baptising Noah:

The sea temperature was 13 degrees C - way too cold for me and my thin blood, so I wore my dry-suit and looked like an idiot, but did I care? Olly

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Transition: complete. Really, this time.

My father recently reminded me that a long time ago, a wise man told me that it often took two years to get a job and fully settle back in the real world after being on the mission field. But praise God: it has only taken us 22 months, for on Friday I was offered permanent employment as Site Manager at a local Christian-run independent school.

Looking back, I can see how God went before me all the time I was working in rain-swept gardens, freezing cold churches, refrigerated warehouses and unheated factories and offices. I learnt a lot about patience, grace, family, friends, church, myself, and my relationship with God.

Thanks to those who stood with us during this period; who prayed for us, distracted us, entertained us, fed us, and continued to support us financially. We love you guys. Olly

Monday, 28 January 2013

Modern Liberia

Someone called blk24ga has posted 1776 photos of Liberia on Panoramio. It may be one of the poorest capital cities in the world, but Monrovia now boasts a huge advertising screen outside the Ministry of Finance:

...a chicken restaurants that boasts "the love of chicken brought us here"... amazing new American Embassy building:

...and a coastguard cutter:

blk24ga managed to get into some very restricted areas, and shows many photos of the President: I can only assume that she was working for the President's office. Some great pictures. Olly

Friday, 25 January 2013

Lost in translation...again

I've just noticed that SKD Boulevard in Monrovia is described as "Eskady" Road by Google Maps. Hah. Wonder how that happened. Olly

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Salt making - continued

On 7th November 2009 I made the following blog entry whilst we were in Benin, West Africa.
Making salt
Across the lagoon from Babs Dock is a very weird landscape:

Dominique told me it is where locals make salt during the dry season. The sand is rich in salt - it is placed in the baskets, and fresh water is poured through to wash the salt out into the collecting bowl below. The salt-rich water is then boiled away over cooking fires, and the salt is collected.

However, like most ingenious things in West Africa there are drawbacks. The cooking fires use up huge amounts of wood, resulting in local deforestation. And the "home-made" salt is iodine-free, so many local people suffer from conditions due to a lack of iodine in their diets, such as Thyroid conditions and goiters. Olly
Today, 19th January 2013, the BBC News website Africa in pictures had the following entry:

Africa in pictures: 11-17 January 2013 
Women salt diggers collect top soil in the village of Djegbadji near Ouidah in Benin. Afterwards 
they will filter water through the soil to draw out salt and later boil the water to collect the salt 
to sell.

BBC, are you copying my blog (in exchange for all the things I copy from your websites I guess?) Olly

Friday, 18 January 2013

First snow

Overnight we received the first substantial snowfall since we returned to the UK 18 months ago. It is also Libby's first snow! She loved it, and managed to play outside for an hour without getting too cold and wet.

So Libby joins the ranks of the many Liberians now living in the complete opposite to the climate she was born in. D'you know that one of the largest communities of Liberians living outside Africa is found in Minnesota, one of the coldest and snow-bound states in the US. Olly

"Tim Hetherington, his life and death"

There's a brilliant article on the BBC New's website today about the life and death of Tim Hetherington, a British war correspondent who I met in Liberia in 2005. In 2003 he lived with the LURD rebel soldiers in Liberia, filming their advance on Monrovia, which you can see in the movie documentary "Liberia; An Uncivil War" which is available in 4 parts on YouTube. He was killed in Libya in 2011. For full article click here. Olly

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Africa Mercy on Google Earth

I found the Africa Mercy on Google Earth at last! Taken whilst the ship was in Lome, Togo, during the first half of 2012. 


Friday, 11 January 2013

A Missionary Kid in a British school

Our Anna - a missionary kid for 8 years - was asked to compose something today in R.E. similar to what Matthew would have written about Jesus, so she wrote down the words to Chris Tomlin's "Our God" from heart...and received a "brilliant" from her teacher, who had never heard of Tomlin and didn't recognise the song. Ha! How we laughed when Anna told us about it when she got home. Olly

Thursday, 10 January 2013

More BBC website photos of Liberia

These two photos appeared on the BBC News website today, "On the Road in Africa". Click here to go to the original article. 

"""This is Broad Street in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, photographed by Cecil at night from his hotel window."

"Hubert Simmer took this photo in Liberia. "I like this picture because of the inscription on the car, as well as because of the condition the car was in at that particular moment," she says, "And, last not least, these people can still smile at the worst circumstances." "

Monday, 7 January 2013

Sand mining in Sierra Leone

There is a great article with slideshow on today's BBC News in Pictures website - click here to follow the link. It seems sand mining is a problem in any coastal West African country with a recovering economy - I have already blogged previously about sand mining in Liberia and Togo. Sure, it's great that there is a building boom, but the effects are appalling with terrible damage done by erosion caused when a beach is literally removed, as the photo below illustrates: