Thursday, November 23, 2017

It's Not about the Turkey

Today is Thanksgiving. I have been seeing pictures on Facebook of Families, Pies and Pilgrims, Table Settings and all kinds of things connected with today's holiday...even Parades and football. It's a sweet day to be with family and friends.

For many Cross Cultural Witnesses, Thanksgiving will be a day quite different than what they were used to celebrating in the United States. Some may live in or close to large cities where the traditional American food for today's feast can be purchased. For others, who live in the middle of nowhere, they may have to kill their own chicken if they want a fowl for dinner. Some may settle with canned chicken breast meat that someone was kind enough to send in the mail ahead of time. (Been there, done that.) Today, in Lawra, I will be eating a "soft chicken" leg quarter (imported and you won't break a tooth trying to eat it), canned green beans...not green bean casserole, the other ingredients aren't available, my favorite Jello that a dear friend brought for me when I was in South Africa, and a pasta side dish that my sister-in-law sent me. So, that's my meal. I most likely will eat alone as my Ghanaian counterparts are all working today. My plans for this evening got canceled, so I will try to meet up with some Ghanaian friends after work. I won't have my family with which to share my meal. Colleagues live too far away from me, so sharing with them isn't possible. 

This is the reality of a Cross Cultural Worker. At least, it's my reality. Everyone is different. I do miss my brothers and sister and their families. I miss my church family at Concord UMC, Wesley UMC and Cornwall UMC especially. Even though they are not with me in body, they are with me in Spirit. I thank God for all of them.

For me, and numerous people like me, Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey. It isn't about the pies. Or about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Or Football. And, when you come down to it, even though family is important, it isn't about family. It's about giving thanks to God. Thanking God for another year. Thanking Him for another year of life. Thanking him for another year with family and friends. Thanking Him for His Salvation, for His provision. And, even when the past year has been tough, thanking Him for Him walking with you, beside you, guiding you and holding you in His arms.

Today is Thanksgiving. Yes, I wish I were going to eat the white meat of the turkey today, along with all the traditional side dishes. It's a wish that will be granted in a few years. In the meantime, I will let all that is within me give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dark Night of the Soul

I really struggle with writing a newsletter when I think I have nothing to say. I had such a hard time writing the one I sent out yesterday, not because I had nothing to say, but because of what I did want to say....and here is what I wrote:

The phrase, “Dark Night of the Soul” is familiar to me. I never realized that it is the title of a poem written by St. John of the Cross. People talk about experiencing this dark night of the soul. It is a time of questioning life, faith, meaning, self-esteem, acceptance, work….everything. I recently experienced a “Dark Night of the Soul.” I don’t think it was severe, but it was definitely a time of searching.  Life was happening. I was doing what I usually do...reading Scripture, praying, preparing sermons, playing with the children, going to the villages, visiting with friends. Yet, something was missing. Something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Prayers seemed to hit the ceiling and go no further. A sadness came upon me. Things that brought me enjoyment no longer did so. What was happening to me? This has happened to me in the past, but in the way past. And, when it did happen something usually triggered it. This time, nothing.
I called a close friend who is a pastor. I talked. He listened. He gave me some suggestions. I started working on implementing them in my life. I also spoke several times from a good friend who is a counselor. That helped, too. As I thought about what preceded this time in my life, I realized that every couple of weeks I was getting sick. The cycle was sinus infection, getting well. Then, another bug, and getting well. Again, something else would strike. I wasn’t well, but I wasn’t sick enough to “stay home from school.” Then, I got a bad case of malaria. Not a perfect end to the story. Not much after I recovered from malaria, I dislocated my shoulder. (Immense pain!) But, what happened as a result of all of this was that I had to take care of myself. I had to take it easy. I had to rest. I spent more time with God. I poured my heart out to Him in a way I haven’t done for quite awhile. I went back to journaling. I read. I allowed God to love me. I allowed God to speak to me. And, I listened.
I recently noticed that Scripture was alive again...even Numbers and Deuteronomy! There was a spring in my step, a smile on my face and I imagine, a sparkle in my eye. God is good! I continue to speak with these two trusted people as I enter into another season of ministry here in Lawra, Ghana.
I know this isn’t a great “ministry moment” kind of testimony. But, it is my life. And, from it I have a deeper realization of the faithfulness of God.
“Faithful, faithful to the end, my true and Precious Friend. You have been faithful, faithful to me.” ~from the song Faithful One by Chris Eaton and Brian White

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Little Trip...

Eight days ago, I traveled to Wa which is about two hours away.. I haven't been there for a while and I was looking forward to doing some shopping that I couldn't do in Lawra. I went to Vodafone, to Foka, to the bank, to Melcom (YAY!) and to the market. As I was leaving the market, a big wind and rainstorm started. I quickened my pace because of the rain. If I got to the place where I would meet the tro tro (a run down van used for public transportation) for the ride back to Lawra, I would be able to sit out of the rain. I was almost to my destination, next door to it as a matter of fact. Then, it happened. I slipped on the wet cement and I fell, turning my body, my heavy backpack taking the lead. Immediately, I knew something was wrong with my left arm and shoulder. I was in excruciating pain, pain worse than I had ever felt before. I couldn't move my arm because it hurt too much. I fell in front of a hair dresser's shop. The women came out and helped me up off of the cement and out of the rain. I begged them to find me a ride to the hospital. They wanted me to wait for the driver of the tro tro that would go back to Lawra. I told the no, I needed to go to the hospital NOW! (I was in pain.) So, one of the girls ran out in the rain and got me a ride.

A few minutes later, I arrived at Wa Regional Hospital. The nurses took me and put me in a wheelchair. My only thought was, "Give me something for this pain." They tried to get basic intake information from me before taking me to see the doctor. A five minute wait seemed like five hours. Finally, the doctor sent me to x-ray. I had someone pushing the wheelchair and someone supporting my arm. I hurt so much! The x-ray technician wanted me to stand in a certain position in order to get a proper picture of my shoulder. Oh, I could hardly stand it. I grabbed onto the nurses arm and squeezed it instead of crying out in pain. I am sure he still has marks on his arms from me.

Then, back to the examination room. When we arrived, NO Doctor was there. And, I still didn't receive anything for the pain. I sat down in an upholstered chair and put my feet up and maneuvered my arm to a less painful position. After some time, someone came in to check my x-ray. Praise God, nothing was broken, but my left shoulder was dislocated. (Later I was told the part that was to be in the joint was in my armpit.) Now, I was to be admitted to a ward, then I would be taken to the Theater so my shoulder could be put back in place. On the way to the ward, we stopped to pay for the x-ray. When we arrived, there was more waiting. And then, there was the "trying to get an IV port into a vein" process. After five tries, it still didn't work. They would do it when I got to the Theater.  I was asked several times who had come with me and everyone was surprised that I was by myself. I didn't plan on going to the Regional Hospital when I left home that morning!

We proceeded to the Theater. We were in an entrance-way, sitting, waiting. I was in pain. I asked about pain meds. "they will give you some." Right! Then, I asked if I could lie down. In my mind, that would ease the pain. The medical people agreed to this. YAY! It didn't help much. But, they did get the IV port in. As I was talking to one of the nurses, I fell asleep since the anesthetic was added to the IV. The next thing I knew, I was in another room, without excruciating pain. My shoulder was back in place. I had pain, but it was bearable. There was some numbness, too. I was told that it would eventually go away.

The plan was to admit me so I would stay overnight. Ghanaian hospitals are different from American hospitals. The family provides the food, medicines, sheet/blanket, etc. I was wearing wet clothing because of the rain. I had no one in Wa to take care of me. So, I pleaded with the doctors to allow me to go back to Lawra where there were people who would care for me. They agreed. And, the anesthesiologist even drove me home! 

I thank God for all he blessings that took place on this day. I was in Wa, not Lawra. It was my left shoulder, not my right. It was put back in place. I had a ride home...All things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Just One Little Bite...

It seems as if I have been sick a lot lately. A sinus infection. Then, two weeks later, something I eat doesn't agree with me. Then, the cough increases. After that is gone, there always seems to be something else. So, when I wasn't feeling well, I wanted to call Vincent, my "personal" Physician's Assistant. Ooops! He is in Germany. I call Derek, the guy who runs the lab at the clinic. "Derek, I am not well. My temperature is not normal. Would you please give me a blood test?" So, he agrees and comes to the lab after normal working hours. He checks for malaria. and, the answer, no malaria. The test is negative. Praise God! Maybe I just need some sleep.

Fast forward twenty four hours. My temperature has been in the triple digits all day, going down with Tylenol, but rising again. I am vomiting. I am freezing to the point of my teeth chattering. Then, I am hot. Then, I am just tired. I try to keep hydrated.I call Razak. He is an Accountant. "Razak, I feel terrible. My temperature is high. I am cold, then hot. The malaria test was negative, but look at me. I must have malaria." "Mama, you do. Start the malaria treatment and drink Tonic (it has quinine in it)." So, I dug out my malaria meds and started treatment.

The next two days, I tried to sleep in the midst of chills and being hot and not feeling quite right. My temperature spiked to 105 degrees  a couple of times. I ached. I couldn't concentrate enough to read. I was miserable. By day three, I felt some relief. I was able to sleep. my temperature was about normal.

The treatment for malaria is only for three days. Day four, I was feeling much better! I still tired easily, but that would change as time went on. Praise God that I wasn't worse than I was and there were people here to check on me. One little bite from such a small insect can cause a whole lot of pain and trouble!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Baby Steps

The work I do here in the Upper West Region of Ghana is important. But, if I look for results that can be seen and measured, I may be discouraged and tempted to take the next flight to the United States. The progress that can be seen is small and slow. Only God can see what is happening in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls. I work as a church "Caretaker" or Lay Pastor. My church, in the village of Kunyukuo, is small. It has an average attendance of 11 adults and 13 children. Most are illiterate. And, if they are able to read, they are very shy and unsure of themselves. My prayer for this church is that one day it would have local leadership. The young man in the above picture is one of those leaders. He has taken the Part I exam to be an accredited local preacher within Methodist Church Ghana. He hopes to attend school in the future, either for teaching or nursing. His heart's desire is to be a pastor, but there is no money for the training. Plus, it takes time.

The young woman's name is Ernestina. Ernestina has attended the Kunyukuo church even before I started there in January 2016. She has just recently volunteered to read the Psalm for the day in the service. Since there is no Old Testament in her heart language of Dagaare, the Psalm is read in English, the national language. She did an excellent job reading. And, Matthias translated it into Dagaare so everyone could understand. It took a year and a half for this to happen! But, it did happen. Baby steps. Please pray for Ernestina, Matthias, and all of those worshiping in Kunyukuo, that the Lord would touch their hearts and they would have the desire to know Him and serve Him.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Home Maintenance, Ghanaian Style

I have lived in the same house for over six years. It's a basic cement brick house built on very hard ground. When it rains, there is no place for the rainwater to drain. Over the years, the cement walls have started to crumble from the water seeping up into them. So, this past spring, it was time to fix that and a bunch of other stuff.

If you want your cement walls fixed, first all the bad cement has to be knocked out of your wall. What a mess! Imagine big, heavy hammers making big holes (or so it seemed) in your walls. Cement dust was everywhere! I was blessed to have a willing helper, Boniface, who would take outside the bad cement bucket by bucket since the masons didn't clean up after themselves.

After the old cement was knocked out, it was time for the new cement to be put on the walls. YAY!  My walls had a two foot strip of new cement about two feet up from the floor. Next came the mopping. Boniface was willing to mop, too. I mopped. Kataali mopped. Razak mopped. Fortune mopped. It was days before my floors looked normal again!

Before the walls and ceilings could be painted, the carpenter came to replace some sections of the ceiling. Again, he doesn't clean up very well. But it is finished and the painting begins!

All of the wall and ceilings inside the house were painted.

Then, the outside received a new coat of paint. And...

The roof was fixed, too!

Next, came the plumber to fix the water tank outside the house. 

It was the most exhausting ten days I had in Lawra. I went to bed with throbbing feet. And, I woke up with throbbing feet. I was tired to the point of tears. I am so grateful for those who helped me get my home back to "normal." I don't think I will have to go through this again. And, if I do, I'm running away!

An Interrupted Dream

Meet Lena. She came to Ghana in September 2016, as an eighteen year-old volunteer from the German organization Kinderhilfe Westafrika. She was posted at Methodist Clinic Lawra, along with a colleague, Seraina. Lena and Seraina were on a rotating schedule for week in the Out Patient area, one week helping in the lab, one week helping in the consulting room,doing whatever was asked of them. They were always ready and willing to work. Then, Lena came down with malaria. Not once, not twice, not even three times since September. But, seven times!She traveled to Kumasi to have extra, more detailed blood work done, to find out why she was so prone to contract malaria. She was put on stronger antibiotics. But, within two weeks, she had malaria again. She was in communication with her organization and with her health insurance. The decision made for her was that Lena would have to travel back to Germany, cutting her service short by about ten weeks. I think all that knew her wept when they heard the news. Lena didn't want to leave. We didn't want her to leave. But, even when you are nineteen years old, an illness that can't be isolated and treated might have long term effects. Lena had only two days to pack and say "good-bye." We have all grieved her leaving us. Lena is determined to return"home" to Lawra someday, to finish her service. It may be later than sooner. We have to trust God for the timing. Maybe Lena will earn her University degree before she returns. We have all been blessed by knowing her. She may not be physically in Lawra, but she is here in our hearts. And, we pray, along with her, that her dream can come to fruition.