The Day the Sun Ceased to Shine and The Moon Disappeared

Our sun. It warms us, it gives us light. It is the source of light. It is the signal that a new day has dawned, and new possibilities are near. The sun has been a symbol of hope for humans for millennia. As a child, the sun governed my days. I didn’t wear a watch. When the sun communicated, it was time to go home with its orange glow low in the sky, I began heading home. The sun helped me, even with washing my clothes. The sun toned my brown skin, it illuminated my world. I owe a lot to the sun. It brought me life. The sun was always there, I never thought it would ever cease to exist.

On April 25, 1989, the sun didn’t rise! Its warmth was absent, in its place a void, a dark, cold, unpleasant void. I felt it. I would have to have a different source of life, a different source of strength, a different source of consistency. I would have to find a different way to measure time, and different way to wake up and a different inaudible voice to bring me home in the evenings. When the sun ceased to exist, I couldn’t exist either. It would only be a matter of time until I shriveled up and died. The sun was my everything, I needed the sun to live. In an instant, it was gone, and it would not be coming back. That much was clear.

The sun-my sun had a name and a face. My sun’s name was Ma, she had a face that I stared into every day. She woke me up in the morning, and called me home in the evening. She fed me when I was hungry, and warmed me when I was cold. She gave me life, and she sustained my life. She was ever present and reliable. It was by her light that I saw everything else. My ma, spoke words of encouragement. She corrected me when I was wretched. She kept my brown skin glowing by cleaning and shining me daily. My world revolved around her. My sun, my sun, didn’t rise one day, and I cried.

The moon aimed to take the sun’s place. The moon was always the stabilizer of my universe. It controlled the gravitational pulls within me. Never allowing my tides to get too high or too low. It brought just the right amount of light to the darkness when the sun settled daily. It ruled my evenings and nights. It was the lesser light, but its impact was felt physically. The moon was always somewhat of a mystery.  It controlled the length of my months, it was the math behind the madness. The moon, though the lesser light was more disciplined to my mental needs.

On August 24, 1990, the moon was taken away. Though I wasn’t there, I felt something was off about my gravity. Something was off about the timing of my everything. The tides of my moods sank and rarely recovered. I sat on a dry mental beach, as the sand hardened beneath me. I sank lower and lower and my footing became more and more uncertain as I walked the beach. The tide had gone out, and it would never return. The night was dark, but it was cloudless, it was an endless abyss.

The moon, my moon had a face, a stern square jawed face. My moon’s name was Pa. My moon loved Ancient Rome and Latin. My moon demanded academic success. My moon struggled to do the job of my sun after it didn’t rise. It was too hard. I clung to my moon, but it too ceased to exist. I was left without my guide. I began floating through outer space, spinning faster and faster, and more out of control. I had nothing to orbit, and nothing to orbit me. I had lost track of my days and months, and I was devoid of light.

The Creator of the sun and moon, stepped in. The source of the source of the two lights, the architect of gravity, the creator of warmth and the author of life came in. The source came for the earth, to stabilize it. Before I ever knew The Creator of the sun and the moon He knew me. I am thankful for The Creator of the sun moon and stars.  The Creator, my Creator is God. God created my ma and pa, and he created me. Now that I am being warmed by many other suns, and controlled by other moons I am thankful. One day I will be someone else’s moon. I will guide someone, because I was loved and guided by the two great lights.

In Memory of...

In memory of all those people who were led away and never seen again, dead and gone, without a grave, whose lives are but a faded memory in our minds.

To those nameless, naked bodies along the roads, the distinct features may have faded but the memory remains.

To all those who saw a nameless person get murdered by a nameless soldier, the random senseless killings of thousands, this work is in your memory as well. Let this be a reminder that we cannot allow this to happen on our continent any longer.

To all the young men and women who killed the innocent, we hope you one day go from being hated to forgiven, and may be loved again. You need to belong to Liberia again; you belong here. Your grief, fear and trauma needs to be healed. Your childhood and humanity were lost too.

To all who struggle with having been accomplices to murder, whether actively by identifying people to be killed or passively standing by in an unconscious act of self-preservation while others were murdered, this work is for you. Forgiveness is available to you.

To all the families in Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Guinea and so many others who lost sons in Liberia. This is for you. Those who fled and spent years in refugee camps, to those children born in refugee camps and have never known their home country, this is yours as well.

To those who lost the prime of their lives; in friendships, relationships and property. To the second generation, who are born in foreign lands, who always hear of how sweet Liberia was and are in constant wonder as why we are here, if Liberia was so great. This is for you.

To those Liberians spending their golden years in a foreign land, yearning to go back to a place that no longer exists, a country that once was and is desperately trying to be, once again. We remember your sacrifice.


To those involved in the rebuilding of our once sweet country. Keep hope alive. We are standing with you. Your work will not go unnoticed.

Brotherly Love and the Unintended Consequences of War

Friday night May 20, was like any other. My wife Annie and I had enjoyed a nice summer BBQ with friends that evening and everything seemed very normal from my perspective. As we got ready for bed, I thought I noticed Annie frantically sending text messages. It did not strike me as unusual. I was tired so I fidgeted and soon fell asleep. I usually check to make sure our front door is locked before we fade off to sleep, and I did just that on this night. In what seemed like twenty minutes, she was up with her phone again. The light from her screen interrupted my sleep enough for me to barely notice, this was unusual. She usually falls asleep before me.

All of a sudden she was up and in the kitchen, while I was somewhere between deep sleep and confusion, I heard other voices in our home. It was like a dream, I had to be dreaming. No one would come by at this time of night, on a Friday night! My desire to sleep pulled me into unconscious rationalization. I made sense of it in a way we all do when we are unwilling to engage.

Through the slight crack in the door I noticed a man- A man whose silhouette and walk I recognized. Yet, the fog of sleep held onto my brain. Could it be who I thought it was? It can’t be him. I am dreaming again. I am having one of those flashbacks mixed with wishful thinking topped off with some familiar memories. My brain desperately tried to make sense out of what my eyes thought they were seeing and my mind was struggling to interpret. Somewhere in my brain, there seemed to be a breakdown in communication.

Then my room door opened, and the light shone in my face, and the figure of this man, stood there, about six feet from me.  I quickly went through my mental checklist; I had locked the door, I had checked the windows, we live on the second floor, and I definitely turned off the lights before bed. How did this man get into our apartment? And where is Annie? Those were all surface level questions floating in my foggy brain. As the man stood in the doorway of our room, the contrast between the light in the kitchen and the darkness of the bedroom was stark. The man’s body blocked most of the light, and it looked as if he was the product of my imagination. My eyes were still shut as Annie entered and whispered, “Marcus, someone is here to see you.” This is not real, I told myself. Then he spoke, and I was jolted awake! “Jungle…Marcus!” The Liberian accented pronunciation of both names alerted my brain that it wasn’t a dream. But it had to be, because my father has been dead for almost 26 years! Here he is standing in my bedroom in Hamilton, Massachusetts on a Friday night! What?! Pa!? No it can’t be.

Annie had kept a secret and surprised me once again. My brother Lemuel had come with his family to see me. I haven’t seen him in a few years. He still lives in West Africa. What a great surprise. I smiled, dropped my head back into my pillow as my brain finally connected the dots from earlier that night. I loved it.  Because I had sprung a semi surprise on my brothers when I visited Liberia 6 years ago, they have returned the favor over the past few years. It is so great to see my brothers when I get to. The love is strong, and the reconnection after years of being apart because of war makes us appreciate the times we get to see each other.  We enjoyed the weekend and it was a joy to have my brother there as I talked about the book and our family. We have tried to make the best out of our situation. Like most refugees, our families are scattered all over. My brothers and I have not been on the same continent in over 20 years, in the same country for almost as long but we are not alone in this. Many of my fellow Liberians and other refugees are going through a similar situation. These are some of the unintended consequences of war.

lemuel and marcus.jpg

Why Write Catching Ricebirds?

I get this question frequently, especially from my Liberian brothers and sisters.  Why write this book? There are many reasons why I wrote the book, here are a few:

I wrote because I didn’t want to forget the story. At some point in my early twenties, I realized that I was beginning to forget the face of my beautiful mother, I began to forget her voice. It alarmed me initially, but I later recognized that it was a natural part of life. We forget things. I realized then, that I needed to start writing the story.

I wrote so the world wouldn’t forget Liberia, my beloved home land, where so many atrocities took place, where so many lives were lost, where so much happened. My urge to write grew out of a sense that the world would soon forget what happened in Liberia. The story needed to be told, and retold in order for it to survive in the memories of generations.

I wrote to give a bit of hope to Liberians and to those wanting to make a difference in Liberia. The book gives a window into Liberian culture and history for those who are thinking of making viable contributions to countries like Liberia who are moving through post war reconstruction. I wrote because, in my mind’s eye, I always see Liberia as what it could be.

I wrote to express sympathy and solidarity with those who are refugees around the world today. Hope is hard to find in a refugee camp. Hope is difficult to see when you are uprooted from the only home you’ve ever known. As refugees, we lost family, property, financial stability. Yet the unseen cost of war are much more, the loss of dignity, sense of belonging and independence.

I wrote to share what the Gospel of Jesus Christ did to change me. I went from an angry, often introverted, apathetic young man, to a joyful, purposeful and forgiving man. Only understanding the good news of forgiveness through Jesus could have set me on the path that I am on today. It is still difficult to express fully, but there is no denying that something changed me.

I wrote to bring awareness in the western world about war, beyond the newscasts and our social media newsfeeds. The plight of refugees is distant to many in the west and a story like mine helps put a face to the struggle of millions of people around the world. I also wrote on behalf of the most vulnerable in war, the children. Catching Ricebirds is a story of a boy who survived war, came to the west as a refugee and was drastically changed through the gospel of Jesus. I made a decision to never forget those who were hurt by war and the aggressors who hurt us. We all need healing. 

I am a Refugee

Here is the speech I gave at a dinner raising awareness regarding the refugee crisis. The dinner was a collaborative event with World Vision, World Relief and Gordon-Conwell. 

Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to speak here tonight. It is a great honor; I would like to say thank you to our President Dr. Hollinger for his heart and commitment to pertinent issues that confront the global church and the Seminary. Thank you to the donors present here tonight who make the Seminary what it has been and what it is today. A special thanks also to the Donors and friends from World Vision and World Relief. I would also like to thank those who were responsible specifically for me to stand before you today.

As I look back for my life, it is hard for me to believe that it has been a complete coincidence. God in his sovereign grace had a plan.  All that I am experiencing today was at one point in my life, impossible to imagine. I never dreamed that I would one day live in America, I never dreamed I would ever leave my home country, I never dreamed I would serve as a positive example for so many. I thank God for the opportunity to have access to openings like this one to remind people of what it is like to be a refugee. I thank the Lord for the chance to live in the United States, to have access to higher education.  None of these things I just mentioned would have been possible or even available through my wildest dreams. Because For a long time I couldn’t dream, in fact I couldn’t afford to plan more than a day ahead. The daily possibility of death was very real.

 I was born in the tiny West African nation of Liberia, to an illiterate mother and a hardworking father, in a country that only a few have heard of and even fewer can find on a map. Liberia was founded by freed slaves from the United States in the mid-19th century. It was at one time a great light for African democracy. That all came crashing down as the land was ravaged by brutal civil war in the 1990’s. As so many of those conflicts are, it had both political and ethnic violence. Child soldiers roamed the streets, and more than 250,000 people were killed, in a country that had just about 3 million.  I am a survivor of the Liberian civil war, but it left its scars. By the time I escaped Liberia, I was unknowingly an orphan.  My mother was poisoned and died mysteriously one month before my 10 birthday, and my father had been brutally murdered by rebels a year later. We fled to the neighboring nation of Ghana as refugees on a cargo ship.  I had one older brother to cling to. As we sat on the deck of that ship, we recounted family members they were dead or missing, how our personhood had been violated, our dignity trashed and how our lives forever changed.

 Unable to return home because of the threat on our lives, we sought to start a new life in a different country.  We came searching for a better future. We applied and were granted political asylum through the refugee resettlement program to come to the US. It was like winning the Powerball. Ask any African who comes to the States what it feels like to receive notice that they have been granted asylum to the US, and they will smile and tell you a wonderful story. In a recent Hollywood movie, the actor Will Smith who plays a Nigerian doctor living in Pittsburgh in one particular scene, says, “When I was a boy in Africa, heaven was here, and America was here." This is how most Africans see America. I stand before you today as a former refugee. I came to the United States in 1993 with just the clothes I had on. It was a steep climb for me socially, emotionally and especially academically.

Americans have a system for everything, when you are an outsider everything seems to move incredibly fast. It can be overwhelming. A simple trip to any grocery store for example is intimidating. Things like, buying furniture, clothes, or an outing to the Department of Motor Vehicles are routine to most Americans, but can be daunting for a refugee. Immigration law, trips to the Doctors office can all be frustrating and lonely. The American credit system, renting an apartment or buying a house are all experiences that most refugees need help navigating. For me, the college application process was never really explained, and I didn’t quite understood it and neither did my relatives. As a result, I didn’t leave home for college until age 21.

Over the past few years, I have seen the news stories of refugees, on boats, like I was years ago. Desperate to escape war and experience peace, freedom and love. And I began to think, what should our response be? 

I am here to tell you tonight, that the Grace of God is radical! Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is more radical than perhaps you have ever thought.

 A few months ago, I was listening to Dr. Martin Luther King’s Mountain top speech he gave the night before he was killed. He was discussing the Parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke chapter 10. He boils the story down to two questions. As the priests and the Levite walked past the man beaten and robbed on the Jericho Road, they had to ask themselves a question. “If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?” But when the Samaritan came upon the same man, robbed and beaten he asked himself, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Tonight, as you leave here, I want you to consider the question, if I do not stop and help the refugees what will happen to them?” Do not only ask the question the Samaritan asked, but take the action that he took.


Thanks for your support!

Thank you for taking the time to visit I began writing my story simply because I didn’t want it to fade from my memory. People often ask me, “How long did it take you to write?” This is a hard question to answer. The thought of writing a book about my experiences came to me while the war in Liberia was still going on and while it was still uncertain if I would live through it.

I actually began the outline for the book in Le Havre, France in the fall of 2006. I didn’t begin writing until October 2008 in Denver, Colorado. I didn’t own a TV for almost three years as I wrote. I committed to writing at least a paragraph every day for those three years. The first draft was completed in 2012.

It also took me a long time to write because I am not skilled at typing and it takes me awhile to express myself through writing. I also took many breaks because some parts of the story were incredibly painful to relive. All in all, it has been nothing short of a prayerful devotion to tell a great story of forgiveness and redemption through Christ. I hope you enjoy reading it. Browse the website and contact me if you would like me to come to a city or town near you.