After a night in a hotel up-country, five of the team, plus our Liberian friends Matthew Walters and Jackson Cooper took off about 9:00 a.m. in a Toyota Cruiser for our trip to Cooper Town. It was more than an hour’s drive over paved road, then a dirt road, then boarded bridges that some of our group chose to walk across because of their instability. We finally came to a village and parked the car. We were met by 3 youngsters and 2 men, one being Pastor Daniel Cooper, teacher, preacher and the village chief.
The men carried some of our bags and helped us across log bridges. Some of the bridges had makeshift handrails which we hung on to for dear life. Other bridges had no handrails – these were especially scary to cross. We crossed a total of 5 of these logs in single file. Below, families washed clothes in the river. It was very hot in the midday, so not many animals were out. However, we crossed a driver ant parade (dangerous - they bite). We walked for 35 minutes and paused at a village for rest. Then we walked another 35 minutes, totaling 4 miles to arrive at Cooper Town.
When we arrived at the village, we were escorted into the new church where school children, dressed in red blazers, sang several songs of welcome. Next we went to the guest house which was unlocked for us. The men quickly set about collecting sun rays with the lights that would be used in our house that night.
The well, church-school, palava hut, and guest house had all been built since 2017, the well being built first. They were very proud to have accomplished so much in a short time. The Effort Baptist Church in Monrovia had been involved in completing these projects. People from this church visit Cooper Town regularly. The well provides water for the village of about 100 people and also nearby villages. Because it was Dry Season, they were restricted to drawing water in early morning and late evening in the hope that it would not run dry. During the day, the villagers fetched water from the river.
We gathered at the palava hut at about 2:00 p.m. and the two men and two of our ladies went for a hike to see a waterfall. The children gathered and stared at us with curiosity. After a while, we blew bubbles that the younger children tried to hit with their hands. The older children braided jump ropes from strips of cut up T-shirts.
Rev. Cooper started a kindergarten last year and now has kindergarten through second grade. He had large pieces of slate in his church-school and we talked about him teaching. Rev. Cooper teaches basic math and writing skills, while incorporating ideas to encourage personal cleanliness and care of the village. (This was apparent in the overall cleanliness and order of the village.) He plans to clear some land in order to build another building to accommodate students in additional grades.
He is near seventy with a new wife and a three-year-old son named John. He also has a daughter who is about five and an older daughter in her early 40s. Rev. Cooper gave us a tour of his house with dirt floors and make-shift beds. He couldn’t believe that two older ladies (72) would walk all the way to his village.
From midafternoon on, folks would travel through the village, returning home from a funeral event in the next town. Many stopped and visited. This traffic went on until after dark. In the late afternoon, the women gathered in the central cooking area. They pounded, sifted, and cleaned the rice. They pounded the red peppers. As it was getting dark, they served Matthew and Jackson a huge plate of supper and palm wine. The women used a lot of wood and cooked way into the night.
We used a nice outhouse. They brought water to the outhouse. They heated water for the outdoor shower area. Kathi ventured in. Mosquito nets were cut and covered the windows of the guest house. The solar lights were charged and spread to the rooms, air mattresses blown up, and if it would just cool down a bit, we could go to sleep. We sweat all night. All of our clothes were saturated.
Around 6:00 a.m. we started stirring. Of course, the women were already at the fires, preparing for the day. These women stoop from the waist without bending their knees. Their stamina was amazing. We quickly said our regretful goodbyes. We were on the dirt path by 7:00 a.m. to retrace our path. It was a cooler and crisp walk through the thickness, compared to the previous day.
I asked about seeing animals and Matthew said we would only see monkeys, but it was already too late in the morning. Liberia’s wildlife includes monkeys, chimpanzees, pygmy hippos and elephants. We saw none, not even the ants. Returning was just as hard, a bit more downhill, and with the assurance that we had made it to Cooper Town, we knew we could also make it back. We had the same village escorts as the previous day.
What an experience to stay where there is no outside daily communication, where food is grown or traded for other goods. How exciting to see the well that was built through the generosity of the WMU/WOM ladies. It has benefited Cooper Town in many ways by providing clean water. While our visit was special to this village, we felt blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with these generous, precious people who were so welcoming to us. It was a once in a lifetime experience!