Friday, March 8, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Leia Brown - Africa

Pens on a World Map
Penner's Spotlight
Name: Leia Brown
Location: West Africa

My son was two months old. We loaded him in our pickup and made the nine-hour drive from the West African capital city where he was born to this little bush village, where we had served as missionaries for three years. This snapshot was taken in 2001 on our first night home.

Every woman and child in the village crammed themselves into our tiny mud hut to see this rarest of all sights – a white baby. My husband took the picture by standing on a chair, the only spare space. The crowd spilled out on to our porch, and that lantern and the camera’s flash were the only lights in the room. Electricity had not yet made it to our village, but the joy of a new life certainly had!

In the coming months, the village grandmothers flooded me with advice. They coached me on nursing, scolded me for not giving him river water to drink, and taught me how to tie him on my back. I was never quite brave enough to carry a bucket of water on my head and the baby on my back at the same time, though! When our little guy learned to walk, the whole village celebrated with us. He’d fall plop on his diapered bottom, sending up a cloud of African dust, and I’d hear a chorus of “Awww” from all around me. Everyone’s eyes were always on him.

We gave him two names, one American, one African. The latter was in honor of the village chief, who from then on considered our son a member of his family.

“We’ve welcomed you and your husband as guests,” the Africans would tell us. “But this boy is one of us – a true child of this village.”

Do you have an interesting story from the birth of a child? Have you traveled in Africa? Please join the discussion below.

Brown resided in West Africa for over a decade and writes about marriage, faith and more on her blog,


  1. Such a fascinating story! It's good to read about other cultures and their way of life. It certainly makes us appreciate what we have.

    1. I agree with you, Carole. That's how I feel after all my travels. Extra blessed and humble. :)