Friday, August 6, 2010


Before I left my home in the U.S. for an UMCOR trip to Cote d’Ivoire, I made sure to have my BlackBerry charged, my new iPad loaded with the Kindle app , my noise-cancellation head phones , my laptop, and my camera. I also brought a book (the real kind, with paper pages) in case all of my technological accoutrements failed. I wanted to be certain I remained “connected.”

As the plane taxied to the gate upon arrival in Abidjan, I turned on my cell phone as I always do—no signal! I removed and replaced the battery, manually turned the phone off and on and—still no signal! When I arrived at the home of my Ivorian sister and her family, I learned she had installed wireless internet since my last visit. “I am saved,” I thought to myself. I unloaded my laptop from my very heavy backpack, which held all my technological wonders, turned the computer on and, after several attempts, it did not boot up. I began to panic again.                                     

Photo: Michelle Scott
Then I looked around the room and saw the joy in my hosts’ faces. They made me realize that while I may have been offline, at that moment I was as connected as I ever could be. It was not my first visit to Cote d’Ivoire nor the first time I’ve stayed with this family.

They had greeted me like one of their own when I arrived and carried my things to “Cynthia’s room.” I was connected to them through our shared experiences in a country that has faced great challenges. And we were connected in Christ, a connection that needs no wireless server, charged battery, or cellular tower.

Early this morning my cell phone began to receive service, and my laptop is working beautifully tonight. I wonder if the things I thought would keep me connected stopped working just for a moment so that I might see the joy in real, person-to-person connection.

Once I was reconnected to the internet and email, I read updates about the floods in Pakistan and UMCOR’s response. I retrieved notes from a meeting on our recovery work in Haiti. I reconnected to the world. Grateful as I am to receive all this information through technological connections, I am reminded that our real connection is with people around the world and that it is important to stay connected as we respond to, and serve, one another.

After I leave Cote d’Ivoire, my next stop will be Liberia, where I will explore UMCOR’s connection with the people there through our many health-related projects. The final stop on my “West Africa Tour” will be Sierra Leone, where, in December, UMCOR will be part of a massive mosquito-net delivery, thanks to the generosity of the many contributors to Imagine No Malaria.

There is no doubt that this trip will continue to connect me with people in very powerful ways. I hope that today you, too, will experience new and profound connections with others.

Cynthia F. Harvey

Reverend Cynthia Fierro Harvey is the Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR.


  1. What a wonderful reminder for all of us. Blessings.

  2. Prayers for your well-being heading into Sierra Leone. Whenever that country is mentioned, I reflect back on my reading of "In The Land Of Magic Soldiers" and feel the horror all over again. Safe travels to you...Wayne / Raleigh, NC