Family undertakes mission in Liberia

With an open heart, and determined to follow God’s call, the former principal of St. Mary Catholic School has taken his family on a journey across the world to serve in a different type of school—on mission in Liberia.

In a community founded by Franciscan Works in 2003 in West Africa, where poor children and orphans, survivors of a long and brutal civil war, studying to become the future leaders of their families and communities, is where the Caudle family will spend the next couple of years of their lives.

For Greg and Kristen Caudle, serving as missionaries abroad is not something new. This couple met while serving as Peace Corps volunteers in Eastern Europe in the Republic of Moldova. Two years after, they decided to marry and return to the United States to start their own family in Colorado.

After having that experience and knowing the impact service had on their formation and faith, now they want to share that with their family. “During this time we felt that the Lord has called us to return as missionaries abroad, specifically in a mission of faith… where we can share the Catholic faith, and also bring our children with us,” said Greg.

In 2004, Greg Caudle began working at Saint Mary Catholic School as a substitute teacher, then he became a full-time teacher, and later as assistant principal at Saint Vincent de Paul. For the past five years he returned to work at Saint Mary Catholic School as the principal. This work experience has allowed him to find a great job opportunity where education, his Catholic faith and his calling to serve abroad, all combined.

“I started looking for an opportunity and found the position of director at Liberia Mission through Franciscan Works in Chicago. After much discernment and prayer, I accepted the opportunity in July of this year,” said Greg.

The couple travelled to Liberia in October accompanied by their four children who are between the ages of one and eight years old.

“This is a great opportunity for our children to know the world and to see the different needs of people and the importance of serving. To follow the example of Jesus especially in this Year of Mercy, which has been declared by Pope Francis,” said Greg.

For Kristen, this is an opportunity to give back: “The Lord has blessed us so much and in many ways. We are going to this mission with a carefully discerned decision. We feel the Lord’s call to go to this mission, and we are fully confident that he will be with us to guide us in this journey.”

Liberia Mission

The Liberia Mission has a school called Saint Anthony of Padua that next year will have an attendance of over 400 students. Of these, 70 live in the mission (in an orphanage or in a residency program). There is also a chapel, and a pig farm that helps to support the mission. Greg Claude will oversee the day-to-day work of the mission and he will be the link between the project and Franciscan Works.

The Caudle family would like to invite the readers to be a part of this mission by supporting them with prayers and if possible a donation. According to the couple, this would be the first time a director of the mission would bring a family along with him. Franciscan Works is only covering the director’s expenses. The Caudles are raising funds for travel costs, visas, vaccines and medicine to prevent malaria for Kristen and the kids.

Consider making a  donation to the Caudles at www.gofundme.com/caudlestoliberia

What is Franciscan Works?

Franciscan Works is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children living in poverty in developing countries through education based on Catholic values and the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

About Liberia

Liberia is located in West Africa and has 4.3 million inhabitants. In its recent history the country was immersed in two civil wars. The first war was between 1989 and 1996 and the second between 1999 and 2003. This situation has generated hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees and has devastated the economy. In 2014, the country was hit by an outbreak of the Ebola virus. This country is currently in a transition from civil war to democracy. In 2011, its current President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the end of armed conflict in this country.

COMING UP: Denver man’s school in Liberia on hold till Ebola threat fades

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Julie Filby

Growing up in the African country of Liberia, Ebenezer Siefa Norman saw a need for change. He saw women mistreated and abused, and recognized that too many people, women in particular, were not educated.

“Women were treated so poorly,” Norman, 33, told the Denver Catholic Register. “They didn’t believe they could do anything better. My goal is to change that mentality.”

He wanted to leave Liberia, he said, get an education, then go back and “start a movement.”

That movement began in 2010, for the Christian man living in Denver, when he started A New Dimension of Hope. Norman’s nonprofit was established to address the issues of poverty and illiteracy through education. Specifically, he has been working to open a school in Troyah, one of the country’s poorest towns. However, that project was halted when Ebola broke out in western Africa. The outbreak is the largest and most complex Ebola epidemic since the virus was first discovered in 1976, according to the World Health Organization.

“God put this big dream on my heart. I’m just a vessel,” said Norman. “Now I have to trust in him and he will give me the details.”

Norman, the eighth of nine children, left Liberia in 2000 and came to the United States where he played soccer for the University of St. Mary in Bismarck, N.D. He moved to Denver six years ago, where he continued his education at Regis University, graduated in 2012 and is now studying for a master’s degree. He plans to attend law school next year.

In the four years since he launched A New Dimension of Hope, he has raised the funds needed, approximately $25,000, to open a school. The building for 350 students was built, teachers and funding were in place, and the school was set to open last August when Ebola hit.

His home country has been the hardest hit so far, recording nearly 3,000 confirmed, probable and suspected Ebola deaths since the outbreak per WHO figures.

Norman hasn’t visited Africa since the outbreak. But prior to that, he traveled to Troyah many times. Until the threat diminishes, opening the school is on indefinite hold. While it has proven to be an obstacle, he feels confident it is one that will be overcome.

“There is hope and I believe it will get better,” he said. “It will come together.”

A Nov. 24 report indicated that efforts to fight Ebola in Liberia were improving. U.S Army Brigadier Gen. Frank Tate, deputy commanding general of U.S. Operation United Assistance, told Reuters news service that daily cases had fallen to around 20 from close to 80 in September.

“It’s a dramatic improvement,” Tate said.

In the meantime, Norman continues to trust in what he believes is God’s plan for the school, and to raise money for the venture through fundraisers and speaking engagements.

“It’s what God created me for,” he said. “Someone has to stand up. Maybe I can inspire a little girl to take up the cause. Maybe she will inspire three more, and it will grow.”

For more information on A New Dimension of Hope, visit www.ndhope.org. Mailing address: 5755 Danube St., Denver CO 80249.