ODELL DROPPED OUT of school when she was fifteen years old. Now at age 35 she worked as a school janitor. She was a mother who would do any hard work to get pay to feed her seven children. Every day as she completed her work on the campus of the Ward Preparatory School in Gardnersville, Chicken Soup Factory, she would go around to work for people in the community. She would wash their clothes; cut grass in the yard and clean bathrooms. But the highest pay she got for doing these work was three hundred Liberian dollars.
With the pain she faced from neighbors and people she worked for, she realized how unbearable life was, and admitted that she was responsible for her condition because she was compelled to do such work to be able to feed her seven children. One day, having gone through her day’s labor, she avoided areas that people had assembled and found a large tree where she sat down under its shade to examine her life.
Her husband of twenty years who was her strength, died during the heat of the deadly Ebola crisis. Unable to care for the children’s upkeep, she allowed her oldest daughter Evelyn Cooper, who was 15 years to stay with her mother, which was her grandmother. She sent her second child, Isaac Cooper, 12, to live with her former neighbor, a policeman at Battery Factory community, where she once lived with her husband and the children. Her next two children, twin boys, John and James Cooper were eight years, who were still staying with her, along with six years old Marie Cooper, Cooperlyn Cooper, who was four years and three-year-old Watta Cooper. As she thought about her life and the challenges she faced, she dozed off, and yet her thoughts moved on to her hard life.
Sometimes she felt like allowing five of her children who were living with her to stay with people who had always pestered her, requesting for the children to live with them. ‘How can I do that,” she murmured in her sleep. It was in the midafternoon and though it was in the raining season, the day was warm and a light cold breeze swept under it. It was no wonder she had dozed off, thinking about her personal life and what she must have done to her life. With the number of children she had brought into the world, did she prepare herself enough for them? Even if her husband Samson Cooper were alive, could he have provided materially for all of the children? Yes, she knew life was treating her severely but how did her suffering begin? Supposed she had had only three children, could she have provided support to them, though she had no skill to earn money on her own? Of course she knew about family planning that many of her friends used to space the births of their children. Why she never encouraged her husband to have used it to space their children? She seemed now to realize that as a woman she possessed the authority to determine how her children were born. That she did not do so meant she was responsible for their suffering. Then suddenly, she woke up, when she heard a loud voice behind the tree she was sitting under.
“Oh,” she said, “so I have been sleeping?” It was not a question to anyone. She gathered her clothes about herself and walked around the tree to see if someone was behind there, and there he was the community pastor, who was known to preach on bushes.
“You scared me,” she told him, and the man, with a smile, murmured, “Sorry I did not know you were sleeping behind the tree.”
“It’s alright,” she said and lowered her head, though she did not why she must act like that. The man was known to be a good man in the community, just that his love to preach on Killer Bean yellow buses in the community made him popular. She was still thinking about the man’s preaching when she heard the man say, “Let God bless you, my dear, for I know your story and I’ve asked God to bless you.”
Turning her face to look at the pastor, Odell said, “Pastor I know God is a merciful God and always care for those who don’t have it, is that not true of God?”
The pastor brought his worn Bible from a plastic bag, and said, “He is surely merciful, for he cares about us.”
Looking away from the pastor, Odell, said, “Can you explain to me why my husband was killed by the Ebola virus and now I am left to care for children only by doing hard work?
“I get sick at times after doing dirty work for people and then go about asking good neighbors for money to buy medicine to take care of my children.”
The pastor gave a deep breath and said, “My dear, I’m not surprised at your question but understand that God is a wise God and He gave us a lot of common sense to do anything that we want to do.
“I am aware of your troubles but don’t ever imagine that the good Lord was responsible for your husband’s death, for unforeseen occurrence befalls all of us. We had an Ebola situation that killed many people, both good and bad people; both children and mothers…” The pastor did not end his statement and Odell gave way to tears. It was hard for her to think about events about her husband’s death and those of the countless in that dark period in
Liberia. As she her eyes filled with tears, the man of God moved closer and placed his hand on her back, telling her that God was in control.
After a several seconds, Odell regained her composure and when the pastor said, “We should remain strong in the Lord, for He knows our tragedies and He would help us in His own due time.” She knew the man of God was telling her the truth but it was a truth she figured was loaded with meaning.
Lifting her head to face that of the pastor, she said, “I feel good, pastor,” and extended her right hand to shake that of the pastor. The man of God smiled, and held the woman’s hand, pumping it several times.
“In all that we come across,” the pastor said, “we should put our hope on God for He has a way to make up with us and now all you need to do is to look into your own circumstances and find a way to make it right for yourself.”
When she asked what he meant by that statement, the man of God said, “I have known how much you have suffered with your children and as we speak you are still going through a lot.
“Have you thought about learning some skill, like being able to do some selling at the market in Gardnersville to be able to earn money to help yourself and your children? I see you are a smart woman and with blessings of children who may be able to assist you in what decide to do, turn your life around and don’t allow things to take over yourself.”
The young woman’s smile was radiant for now she could see what the man of God was directing his message. She realized that if God had made it possible to bless her with seven children then of course she must take the pastor’s suggestion to turn her life around. But she knew also that doing business involved money, and so she said, “I am good at doing some selling but pastor you know it takes some money to do that.”
The pastor agreed and then suggested to her to come to the nearby church that he was one of the pastors, and may be God’s loving kindness could meet her when the congregation got to hear her story.
IT HAD BEEN two years since Odell had the encounter with the pastor. Now she was a woman of purpose, and her children had returned to her. Her business was booming and she was a staunch member of her community church that showed her the way.
To crown it all, she was happily married to a man who cared for her. It was the man; yes the pastor who preached to her and God led the way to turn her life around. Pastor Sam Kollie and his wife Odell Kollie were known in their Gardnersville community. His wife, Odell was a model woman who was the head of the women’s wing that carried out a group that counseled young women in the church and in the community to gain or regain their focus in life.
Her new life was spoken about and she had always voiced her testimony to encourage others who were down and out because, she always told those that were in dire need of a new life that, “God has always been good to me and he would do it for you, only if you don’t give up and persevere in prayer.”