REPORT #1 - MARCH 17, 2016

Dear Friends and Family,

This will be fairly quick, but I want to get a report off to you. Your prayers are being answered. We have had three productive days in Monrovia.

According to plan we spent two concentrated days at CWA High School, listening, observing, and coaching. Mr. Harris is the 11th grade math teacher. He is a fine teacher, but is just learning to use the computer. Eric and I spent six hours with him and his classes in the lab. Using technology is always challenging, especially for a beginner.


Yesterday, I asked Mr. Harris if I could teach his first two classes so that he could watch and learn. He readily agreed. I wrote on the board a “to do” list of the videos and exercises the students were to complete. Mr. Harris watched carefully, and then he taught the third period. He did a terrific job, replicating what I had done and adding his own teaching elements. When the class was over, he was enthusiastic. He is getting the picture, and beginning to feel a measure of success.


At 1:00 today (9:00 am EST) we meet with the Minister George Werner and the Ministry of Education (MOE). Please pray for this critical meeting. We are hoping to: 1) get approval to implement this new “KA-Lite-as-the-curriculum” model in the 10 pilot schools, and 2) gain MOE assistance in obtaining funding for the program.

Gary Friesen


Dear Friends and Family,

I just received this picture from Fairhaven Retirement Center in Rockford, Illinois. Chuck Holsinger, Janet’s 92-year-old father, is second from the left. Every evening after dinner, he and his buddies pray together! Along with many of you, they were praying for our meeting today with the Ministry of Education (MOE).


… and God answered your prayers! Our presentation was well received, and our three objectives were met: 1) Minister George Werner granted permission for the 10 pilot schools to use the “KA-Lite-as-the-Curriculum” model that we believe is the answer for teaching math in rural schools where there are so few qualified teachers, 2) We were invited to submit to the MOE a request for funding, and 3) Our partnership with the MOE continues to strengthen.

Tomorrow we go back to CWA High School to work with Mr. Lamas, the 12th grade math teacher. Mr. Harris (featured in Report #1) is 61 years old and Mr. Lamas is several years older. They are both fine math teachers, but are new to computers. We’ll spend periods 1 and 4 in the lab with Mr. Lamas. After lunch, we’ll meet with both teachers for some final coaching and debriefing. This will conclude our week in Monrovia. On Saturday, we drive down to Sinoe County.


Dear Friends and Family,

Today started off with a disappointment and ended with a big win. Eric and I left our hotel at 6:30 am and an hour later arrived at CWA High School. Monrovia traffic is heavy in the morning. Neither Mr. Lamas nor his 12th grade class showed up for their 8:15 class. We decided to wait to see what would happen for the 3rd period class. Again, no one showed. We never did get a clear answer as to what happened. Attendance and punctuality (for both teachers and students) are widespread problems in the schools - another example of the need for the Samuel Morris lessons!

Elijah was running errands in the morning, trying to get a check cashed and a document notarized. Simple tasks like this can take hours. Around noon Elijah phoned us that he had been contacted by the office of Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor. Ms. Taylor is an influential senator who chairs the Senate Education Committee. She had just come from a meeting where Minister Werner had spoken enthusiastically about our program. She asked if we could come by her office for a short meeting. We drove over to the capitol building and met this energetic and engaging lady.

Senator Taylor represents Bong County, northeast of Monrovia. She is keenly interested in our program for her county, and has discretionary funds that could be made available. She asked if she could schedule a meeting next week for us to present our program to a larger group of legislators! Furthermore, she is a personal friend of President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf and promised to update the President about our program.

The Samuel Morris Scholars Program is beginning to gain attention at the highest levels. Keep praying!

Gary Friesen


Dear Friends and Family,

In Thursday’s presentation to the Ministry of Education (MOE), I used the term “radical” to describe our program. Many educational initiatives are now including KA-Lite as a learning resource; but to our knowledge, we are the first to pilot a model where KA-Lite becomes the core instructional delivery system. We believe this “KA-Lite-as-the-curriculum” model is a game-changing approach for schools lacking qualified math teachers.

Following my presentation, Minister Werner responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Gary, you used the term ‘radical’. I like that term. Many consider me a radical. But we must be radical if we expect to see any change.” [This is not an exact quote, but as close as I can remember.]

Deputy Minister Anthony Nimely, pictured at the far right, has become an avid supporter of our program. He has counseled Elijah and helped him navigate the bureaucracy. A few weeks ago he personally carried one of our important registration documents from office to office to get the required signatures.

In a few hours we’ll begin the 200 mile trip to Sinoe. This is dry season, so the road will be in better condition. We’re hoping to make it in 7-8 hours. Pray for safety, and that the vehicle will hold up.

Gary Friesen


Dear Friends and Family,

Praise God we made safely it to Sinoe … but again, it was quite the adventure. Saturday morning we left our Monrovia hotel at 10:30 am, a little later than we wished due to our drivers having to negotiate for a different rental vehicle. We stopped by the grocery store to purchase food supplies, and then picked up two trunks of laptops at our IEL office (on the compound where Elijah stays).

The road was in relatively good condition due to it being dry season, and the trip should have taken six or seven hours. We made some good-natured bets as to when we would arrive in Greenville. Joe, our driver guessed 6 pm, I said 7 pm, and everyone put in their bets.

Forty-five minutes down the road our radiator sprang a leak and the jeep overheated, causing an additional oil leak underneath the engine. We found a mechanic who pulled out the radiator, welded the hole, and fixed the oil leak. We were delayed for several hours.

Just after dark, we encountered a flatbed trailer truck carrying a bull dozer that had fully jack-knifed across the road. Putting our Toyota Land Cruiser into 4-wheel drive, we bounced through the brush and got back on the road, only to find that one of our tires had been punctured!

Our drivers pulled out the jack and found it was out of hydraulic fluid. Joe filled the jack with some used motor oil, but couldn’t get it to work. It was an hour before another vehicle came by that graciously allowed us to borrow their jack to replace the tire. 

An hour outside Greenville our lights began to flicker and we lost all power. Opening the hood we discovered a broken battery cable. That was an easy fix with a piece of rubber strap and duct tape.

At 2:30 am we pulled up at the gate of the Mississippi Guest house, exhausted, but grateful.

Right now, it’s 10:00 am Sunday morning and we’re looking forward to worshipping at the St. Paul’s church down the road.

Gary Friesen


Dear Friends and Family,

Yesterday we presented St. Paul High School with their new set of laptops. Pastor Freeman (far left) is the school principal as well as pastor of the church. He has become a wonderful friend and a strong advocate for our program. We’re breaking new ground at St. Paul. This set of laptops will be set up each day right in the math classroom, helping us get closer to the model where the math teachers are using KA-Lite as an integral part of their teaching. Today we will help the teachers and students begin exploring the power of their new “digital classroom.”

On another note, Sammy Morris has made it back to Liberia! Taylor University graciously donated one of the life-sized bronze sculptures to be placed in the new Samuel Morris Educational Resource Center, that is nearing completion and will be dedicated on May 26. The sculpture was air freighted to Monrovia, thanks to the generous provisions of our friend Jamey Schmitz. It is currently being stored on the compound where Elijah stays (and where we have our IEL office). This 700-pound crate will soon be making its way down to Sinoe.

Samuel Morris’s dream was to return to his people. We have the great privilege of not only bringing back his physical representation, but more importantly, the message that he embodied. Pray that the spirit of Christ, as evidenced in Sammy’s life, will begin to penetrate the hearts of young people all over Liberia.

We’re grateful for your support. Every day we are experiencing the effects of your prayers.

Gary Friesen


Dear Friends and Family,

Today it happened! A class of 33 9th graders at St. Paul School modeled what we have envisioned for a Liberian classroom. The students are preparing for their West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) exams. They must pass this exam to be promoted to high school. They all have serious gaps in their math skills.

Look closely at the picture below. For two full hours, without a break, the students exhibited this level of engagement. Working in pairs, they solved problems together. Faces lit up when the bar turned green, indicating they had achieved mastery (8 out of 10 correct). They were having fun. They were feeling success. They were learning!

Today, these students felt empowered. No longer were they dependent on what the teacher could teach them at the blackboard. No longer did those who “got it” need to wait on the others who needed more time. If an exercise proved to be difficult, a video was always available; or, the “hint” button could be used.

Since September, we have worked with the principals and teachers trying to create this learning environment. Today it all came together … in a school without electricity, lights, internet, textbooks, air conditioning, or even fans (remember, this is the tropics!).

Tomorrow we will be back at St. Paul to build on this success. Please keep praying!

Gary Friesen


Dear Friends and Family,

Yesterday we had excellent follow-up sessions with the St. Paul 9th and 12th graders in their new digital classroom. The students are quickly getting into the flow of “personalized learning”, and their progress sheets are showing a growing list of checkmarks. In the afternoon we made visits to three of the other pilot schools to observe how the KA-Lite labs are functioning.

On the way back to town we stopped by the construction site of the Samuel Morris Educational Resource Center. It was exciting to see the progress being made. Men were installing windows and drop ceilings. Women were carrying water to mix the mortar and fabricate cinder blocks. The project fell behind schedule during the Ebola crisis, and more recently a prolonged illness of the construction supervisor. Everything is now back on track with 20 workers on site.

It is unlikely the building will be completely finished by the May 26 dedication, but we are eagerly anticipating this celebration. A large delegation will be flying in from the U.S., representing Taylor University, Ambassador Enterprises, Northwest Nazarene University, and the Sinoe County Association in the Americas (SCAA).

The guest house unit pictured above, and the larger facility to follow (as funds are raised), will soon be a hub of activity, providing educational programs for Sinoe youth and adults of all ages. Standing proudly in the lobby will be the Samuel Morris sculpture, providing inspiration and hope to these dear people who are trying to rebuild their lives after decades of turmoil.

This morning we drive back to Monrovia. Our drivers have promised that there will be no mechanical problems!

Gary Friesen


Dear Friends and Family,

Our drivers were right. On Thursday, the vehicle held up well and we made the trip back to Monrovia in seven hours! Now the challenge was to find a way home. Our United flights had been cancelled due to the closing of the Brussels airport.

Thursday evening, our driver dropped Eric and me off at the exclusive Royal Hotel, where we hoped to find a strong Wi-Fi signal. We spent three hours searching the web and talking to airlines agents via a troublesome Skype connection that kept dropping. Finally, we found tickets for Saturday on Kenya Airways, routing us to London via Ghana and Nairobi. Following an overnight in London, we would fly to Chicago on United. It took us over 55 hours, but Monday evening I was home in Fort Wayne and Eric made it safely back to Boise.

The trip was a success! Our relationship with the Ministry of Education continues to strengthen. Minister Werner granted permission for our “KA-Lite-as-the-curriculum” model to be vetted in the 10 pilot schools. We spent extended time at CWA and St. Paul helping their teachers and students begin using this model that fully leverages the technology during class time. Although Senator Howard-Taylor was not able to schedule the follow-up meeting with the legislators (due to Easter weekend conflicts), we believe her support will lead to critical funding needed for the scale up of our program.

One of the big successes of the trip was finalizing the details to bring Rev. Alexander Quiah on as a full-time member of the Innovative Education Liberia (IEL) team. Alex is an ordained pastor with a lovely wife and family. He is a gifted educator, technologist, and leader. Over the past two years, he has been of great assistance in getting our program off the ground. Welcome aboard, Alex!

Five weeks from now, on May 5, we will be returning to Liberia for the most challenging of all our trips. Forty delegates from Taylor University, Sinoe County Association in the Americas, Northwest Nazarene University, and Ambassador Enterprises will participate in over three weeks of activity including the third round of assessments, installation of digital classrooms in three schools, kickoff of the environmental stewardship program in 10 schools, engineering research on alternate energy sources, Samuel Morris Scholars Program Celebration, and the dedication of the new Samuel Morris Educational Resource Center!

Please do not underestimate the importance of your prayers. As we are faithful, we are confident God will continue to extend his blessings on this new generation of children in Liberia.

Gary Friesen