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Containers arrive at Brama

The container of goods and treats for our communities in Sierra Leone arrived on 4 December this year – in good time for Christmas.

The shipments contain a variety of goods and treats, which are hugely appreciated, including bedding, towels, books, clothing, toys and the all-important shoe bags of treats and Christmas presents, put together by our dedicated church members in the UK. 

We have since been sent some lovely photos of the children in Brama School proudly wearing their new jumpers, cardigans and hats.

Last year the containers were stuck at Freetown docks for several weeks before being released, which was frustrating for all concerned and involved higher duties needing to be paid. This year, thankfully, things ran more smoothly at the destination port, though the journey was not without a few hassles on the way from St Ives to Crawley for transportation! 

Read on to hear the tale from Janet O’Shea. 

Sunday 17 October

The St.Ives team gathered to load two Luton vans to the gunnels with boxes ready for transporting them to Redcoat at Crawley, a round trip of 591.4 miles, which should take 6 hours 3 minutes each way. Van 1 was driven by Mark accompanied by his wife Kirsty and my son-in-law Andy and Van 2 was driven by Naomi, a retired midwife, who was recovering from a broken arm, plus Nina (my granddaughter) and me - nurturing a back problem. 

Monday 18 October at 7.00am

First hitch of the day. Van 1 has two flat tyres and Van 2 needed some coaxing to get out of the car park. This may have given a warning light to Nina, who has experienced a few other ‘adventures’ in the company of her grandmother, but filled with positivity we pressed on and upwards via the A30. 

We cheered as we passed from Cornwall into Devon. Mark was ahead, but he needed to get to a garage because an engine light had suddenly appeared. Losing power is never good, God is always good, and Mark was able to pull over into a ‘proper’ lay by before the cabin filled with smoke! At this point Nina gave me a look of ‘I don’t believe this!’ 

The rental firm was contacted and we were told to stay put. Two and a half hours later a young man arrived with a ‘replacement’ van. You really have to picture this: three ladies, one with a broken arm, another with a bad back, young Nina and a young man whose job description does not include packing boxes into a van – in the pouring rain!

With sleeves rolled up we heaved, hauled, pushed and forced the boxes from the broken van to the other, now named Van 2b. It took us an hour and a half to nearly complete the job, but we really struggled to fit in seven banana boxes full of shoes. 

Later on we found out that the ill-fated Van 2 had burnt a hole in the piston and needed a tow truck to travel up from West Cornwall to retrieve it – and on its return journey the van was also involved in an accident! 

Meanwhile, we had a mission, to arrive at Redcoat by the 5:00pm deadline – and by now it was 2:00pm. We’d learned that Van 1 had arrived and unloaded, with the crew waiting for us at Crawley ready to unload our van. We finally arrived at 5:02pm and it took a further hour to load the container.

At 6:15pm Van 1 and Van 2b left Crawley for the journey home. It’s all downhill so it shouldn’t take long!! By this time the occupants of Van 2b were starving and desperately needed the rest room – but we vowed to get onto the A303 before we stopped. 

The Mattia diner seemed like a good place to stop so we checked the opening times and found that it shut at 9:00pm. Great! Visions of a burger and a visit to the ladies room filled our minds. We arrived at 8:10pm to be told that last orders were at 8:00pm. Okay, we thought, but asked if we use the rest room. No, was the response we’d have to use the garage loos. The garage loos were out of order, so we returned to the restaurant to explain our situation, but they wouldn’t let us in!

We happily found a much-needed stop before we set off to Exeter and the last leg of our journey. We eventually arrived back at our respective homes at 1:15am Tuesday morning. 

So, would I do it again? The simple answer is ‘Yes!’ I have personally had the privilege of accompanying Magnus as he distributes clothes, bedding, towels, sleeping bags etc, all in the name of Jesus. Then there are the shoe bags. Who doesn’t want to bring joy to children who have nothing? 

This shipment definitely came with some challenges, and I did not disappoint my granddaughter. We certainly had another adventure!