Eager sisters

The Eager sisters prepare to record the day's lesson with Liberian decor behind them.

When parents live through a brutal civil war and a deadly Ebola outbreak, their children’s education becomes totally disrupted. The suffering and non-education of child and parent continues well into years following. One such eight-year-old, immigrated to the US, was placed with same-age students in public school. Though he spoke English, he found himself being laughed at and ridiculed because he fell far below second grade level. 

Such is the situation for a number of Liberian refugee families who now reside in a section of New York City. The adults lived through the rebellion and coup of 1989, that resulted in a 14-year civil war lasting through the 1990s in their homeland, Liberia, Africa, which killed some 200,000 Liberians. The deadly Ebola virus appeared in 2014 with more deaths.  

Two local Valley women, Francis and Edie Eager of Imperial, volunteered this summer to be a part of the outreach to these children in need. Over a two-week period, they studied and then video-taped Bible lessons with the help of Pastor Jim Simpson recently at the Imperial Community Church in Imperial.

These lessons will open the school day for the Liberian elementary children attending summer school in Staten Island Mid-Missions (SIM) annual program. Because of COVID-19, both Eagers, who are in their 70s, weighed the risks and reluctantly decided at the last minute to cancel their plane tickets and teach online. 

Both experienced teachers found taping in an empty room strange.

“I miss the interaction,” Edie said. Indeed, she is the more animated of the two and eager to ask questions to elicit excited conversations.

“But it is so good to be a part of this,” Francis said. “Mid-Missions just saturates these kids to help them get caught up.” 

The two decorated their background with artifacts and cloth from Liberia. They also changed in and out of several Liberian outfits Francis brought home after her years there. It helped to connect students and teachers each school day for the lessons.

Francis was one of many SIM missionaries in Liberia that was evacuated because of the coup. She taught at the Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) elementary campus for 26 years to children of missionaries, Liberian workers, and diplomats. 

A group of missionaries founded ELWA in 1951 who also established the first Christian Radio station in the African continent as well as a hospital and school on land donated by the Liberian government. 

The government at that time was run by descendants of freed slaves from the United States. Though there are many ethnic groups and many languages in Liberia, over 70 percent are Christian. The official language is English.

Most of the ELWA radio station, hospital, school, and compound were destroyed during the coup. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse rebuilt a new, larger hospital at the site in 2019. The radio station returned, and the radio waves reached as far as Fiji. 

Edie, Fran’s younger sister, is also a retired missionary. In her earlier 30s she taught at an international Seoul, South Korea elementary school, teaching children of missionaries, business people, and embassy personnel.

Edie also taught children in the Philippines with a group called TEAM. She and a fellow missionary founded a school for Evergreen an international, very diverse organization in Taiwuan, China. With native Chinese staff, Evergreen assisted native Chinese with agricultural work, medical, infant care, and more. Edie currently is a fifth-grade teacher at Brawley Christian Academy. 

Francis was also a SIM missionary to Ethiopia for a time. She returned to the States to care for their mother who many in Imperial knew as Mama A, founder and teacher of the Happitime Pre-School in Imperial for years. Francis then taught many years as a kindergarten teacher at Faith Academy in Imperial until her retirement. 

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