On Feb. 10, 2018, Therese Wetta, ASC, set out to begin a two-year mission in Liberia.
Wetta has a heart for mission work and felt that reopening the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) Mission in Liberia was a call from God.
The ASC began their ministry in the village of Grand Cess, Liberia in 1971. Wetta and Sister Zita Resch from the Schaan, Liechtenstein Region returned to revive the mission and reconnect with the Liberian people. Resch had served previously in Liberia from 1982-1989 and taught sewing.
The two arrived with no specific ministry in mind. Instead, they wanted to listen to the people of Grand Cess to hear what they felt they most needed.
“We really had no goals except to be a compassionate and reconciling presence among the people,” said Wetta. “Although one Adorer had served as a volunteer in Liberia for four years following the killing of our five sisters in 1992 during the Civil War (1989-1997), this was our first return as a community of two Adorers.
“We wanted to witness to and assure the people that the ASC hold no animosity against the people. Our dream was to be more actively engaged in reconciliation ministry but in Grand Cess, the people really were not ready for this. We believe the wounds of the war are still too raw. Instead, they wanted simply to talk about their experiences one-on-one, if and when they were ready to do so. Our presence became the message of reconciliation.”
During their stay, Resch taught sewing and aided the sick and elderly while Wetta was asked to teach.
“Initially this was after-school sessions in phonics and reading,” said Wetta.
Once the fall 2018 school year began, she was also teaching English and religion. She also worked with parish lectors and redid the school’s library.
Wetta is grateful for her ability to adapt as she had to work with very limited teaching resources.
The ASC helped by gathering monetary donations to purchase sufficient textbooks for each student to use for English, math, science and social studies. Persons in the religious education office for the Diocese of Wichita gave Wetta religion texts to take with her.
All of the teachers use a blackboard as their primary teaching medium and had limited ability to copy anything, including tests.
Wetta said the experience in Grand Cess and especially in the classroom helped her grow in patience.
“Timeliness is not an African virtue; perhaps this is why they don’t have hypertension and heart issues like we have. Classroom management was a real challenge for me and being patient was much more helpful than reacting,” she said.
She also became more gracious to God for the many gifts that are ours, she said. “Especially having the basic necessities of life. Most of us in our country are spoiled,” she said.
While teaching, she received help from the administration on how to best reach the students.
“The administration and faculty were helpful with suggestions about how to reach the students, many of whom are older than the usual age for a grade because of interrupted education,” said Wetta.
Students in Grand Cess do not have it easy. The infrastructure of the country was destroyed by civil war and the Ebola pandemic only slowed the already slow rebuilding process.
Grand Cess is a village of 2,000 with only the promise of paved roads, electricity and plumbing, semi-potable water that comes from a well or stream and no postal system.
However, the lack of resources does not damper the people’s spirit, Wetta said.
“The people are joyful and feel rich when they have food and basics. They are a thankful people, giving praise and gratitude to God. They work very hard and celebrate hard also; drums and dancing are vigorous and playful and delightful,” said Wetta.
Wetta felt prepared for a life with limited resources due to a past mission in Tanzania.
“Living in a place without the daily conveniences that we take for granted was not super difficult for me. … Gratitude for our many blessings was and is a daily prayer to God,” said Wetta.
The two sisters were blessed with a generator that ran lights and a refrigerator for a short two hours in the evenings. They also used a small propane stove to prepare morning coffee, Sunday meals and bake bread. These items are all considered luxuries.
The experience gifted her with a greater ability to live simply. She said,”We are driven by our wants and the desire to have and have and have things that really aren’t essential for living with joy and peace.”
She also found a deep love for the people who, despite the poverty in their lives, help each other and daily celebrate the gift of life.
“They know how to live with gratitude for the little they have and thank God for life and living,” she said.
The slower pace and gracious people helped Wetta build a stronger relationship with God. She also forged a strong relationship with an 11-year old boy named Francis who was born with club foot and in need of surgery — a surgery that no hospital in Liberia can do.
Wetta accompanied Francis and his father on their journey to the United States for surgery.
Aided by Wetta and a Newman alumnus, Francis was connected to a doctor at the Shriner’s Hospital in St. Louis. They stayed at the ASC Center in Ruma, Illinois, while Francis recovered. Wetta took on the role of driver, teacher and nanny to Francis from Feb. 20 to Aug. 14, 2020.
Wetta has a long history with Newman University and is relying on God to tell her what is next in store.
Currently, Wetta is readjusting to life in the United States. In October, she will make a retreat to find out what God is asking from her for “the next,” she said.