Tuesday, August 28, 2018

To My Ghanaian Family

Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not ill treat them. The foreigner must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (NIV)

This is how you have treated me all of these years…and even before I moved to Ghana. I had never met Rev. Lawrence, but he welcomed me into the Beka family almost two years before I arrived here. Little did I know just how big my Ghanaian family would be.

I came to work with the Children’s Centre-the OVC. And, during my first year, Rev. Dery was my Dagaare teacher…he wasn’t a Rev. yet. Learning a foreign language is not one of my God given gifts and I would often fear my next assignment. Dery would come to my house and he would say, “Today you will pray in Dagaare.” Oh, I sounded like a three year old praying! Once, when he asked me to describe a picture, I THOUGHT I said, “Jesus is eating with the children.” What I actually said was, “Jesus ATE the children.” Dery pushed me out of my comfort zone and into my learning zone.

God did the same thing. I was comfortable being with the children at the OVC. God had other plans. I became a Caretaker at Kalsagri and was put on the preaching plan. This forced me to spend plenty of time in the Word of God.

I have been Caretaker at Kalsagri and Kunyukuo and have preached at most of the Societies in the Circuit. I have seen people take off their juju and place their trust in Jesus Christ. I have seen people come running to the Lord because of a dream they have had in which He called to them. I have seen people so excited to read the Word of God in their own language for the very first time. And, I have seen people rise up out of the congregation and become leaders of their church. And, it’s not because of anything I have done. It’s because of the Lord, drawing people to Himself. In all of this, my Ghanaian family expanded, having brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles in so many villages.

I will always consider Kalsagri my home village even though it is not the home village of the Beka clan. Kalsagri was where I was first a Caretaker. People there welcomed me with open arms. They had a strong love of the Lord. I have always said, “If I die in Ghana, I want to be buried in Kalsagri.”

I have always wanted children and grandchildren of my own. I have never birthed any children. Yet, God has given me plenty of them here within the churches and in the community. The calls of “Makum, Makum” is music to my ears – most of the time. Boniface, Pius, Hassan, Rueben …just to name a few. I have seen my grandchildren of all ages learn to read, become nurses and teachers and most importantly, I have watched them become men and women of God.

Deciding to return to America was not an easy decision. But,ing is  I know I won’t be going alone. My Ghanaian family will be going with me – in my heart.

The longer I lived here, the greater my desire grew to just walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their veranda, play ball, throw water and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time and freedom to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as
simple as it seems. When someone comes into a community as a missionary, it is human nature to want to do something big…build a school, build a hospital or a library, start a big programme. But when that happens, life gets filled with meetings, with looking for cement or zinc for the roof or wondering when the electrician will come. All those things take away from the time I am able to spend with people. They prevent me from walking the streets and greeting others. It is difficult, not to have plans, especially for an American. We want to know when, where, why, how do I get there, where will I sleep, how long will it last. We want all of the very specific information. It is hard to let that go. It is hard not to be working towards some urgent cause, working for social progress and development.

But, I wonder more and more if the one thing, the more important thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell them your own. And to let them know with words, handshakes and hugs that you do not simply like them. But you truly love them.

And yes, I truly love you!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Seeking God's Direction

For six weeks this summer, I had the privilege of hosting an intern from TMS Global, Alex Ledford. Alex is entering her fourth year at University and is seeking God's direction for her life. She has a passion for the Lord and a deep desire to help physically handicapped children to overcome their disability, changing it to an ability. Alex visited Lawra last year with TMS Global's Greenlight Program. She fell in love with Lawra...and that is not a very easy thing for an American to do. Life in Lawra can be very challenging!

Alex arrived in Ghana on 1 June. We traveled north to Lawra a couple days later. We were met by Razak, a dear Ghanaian friend of mine. Then, we planned schedules. Alex would work in the Methodist clinic four mornings a week and work one one one with four different children, one each day, four days a week. Wednesdays would be "field trip" days - a day to visit clinics/schools/programs that worked with special needs clients. The schedule seemed to work well, so well that Alex wants to return for two weeks next summer to show at least one of her parents Lawra and introduce them to the work needed here.

Alex will continue to seek God's direction for her life as she continues her education. And, only God knows for sure if she will return here to work on a long term, full time basis. I know plenty of people are hoping for that! 

Alex, I pray you will seek, hear and follow God's direction for your life. Godspeed, my friend.

Friday, June 29, 2018

To Everything There is a Season

For everything there is a season and a time for everything under Heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

For going on eight years, I have lived among the Dagaaba people of Lawra in the Upper West Region of Ghana. I have worked in the surrounding villages and even call one of them, Kalsagri, my “home village.” People have invited me into their homes and into their lives. They have become family to me.

So, it is with mixed emotions that I am writing to say that September 21, 2018, I will be leaving Ghana and moving into a new chapter of life. I will have a six month long final Home Assignment. During this time I will visit my partnering churches, connect with the TMS Global Office and debrief. I will also look forward to starting over again and “nesting” in my new to me place of residence.

These past years have been amazing. God has allowed me to be His hands and feet and voice in so many places. I have seen “my boys” grow up and become teachers and nurses while the younger ones have learned to read and write. I have seen churches grow, thrive and stand on their own two feet. I have seen leaders rise up out of congregations and take their place in their church. I have seen people, young and old, profess faith in Jesus Christ for the first time. I have seen young guys get excited about reading the words of Jesus for the first time in their own language! Oh, my! It has been an amazing time here.

But, my work is done here. Ghanaians can do and should be doing what I am doing now. It is time to return to the US. It is time to reunite with blood family, and be reunited with friends, and be in the land of good medical care. And, it is time for me to enjoy my days and years of retirement.

I want to thank you for your support during my time in Ghana. Many of you have supported me even before I moved here. Please, please continue to pray for me. Pray for a healthy “Good Bye.” I want to finish well. Pray for a smooth transition. Pray, too, for the people here, who will stay as I leave. I have been a part of them for years and they, too, will feel the pain of separation.

If you support me financially, please continue to do so through my time of Home Assignment – March 2019. I will be “on the road” a lot of that time. And, if the weather doesn’t allow it (Erie, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas tend to get a LOT of snow), I will continue with visiting supporting churches after the spring thaw.

It has been a privilege to be your representative in Lawra, Ghana. God bless you!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Water Problems

I turned on the tap to fill a glass with water...and there was none. For me, this was not too much of a problem.I have plenty of drinking water in the house. But, do you realize all that you do with water?

Think about it...how do you use water during the day other than for drinking? First, there's brushing your teeth. Then, making coffee. You might rinse out your cup or put it in the dishwasher. And, there's that load of clothes that you were going to wash yesterday, but never did. How about a morning shower? And, washing off the jelly from the children's fingers? Oh, don't forget to wash your face and behind your ears! You might need water for cooking, or for wiping off the kitchen table plus other types of cleaning. How would you water your lawn or wash your car without water? how about washing the dog? Or, how would your goldfish swim without water?

While I was away, someone shut off the main valve to my water tank, hence it didn't fill when the water was flowing. Then, I found out that the water company was in the midst of doing repair work on the water lines, so the water wouldn't flow on it's regular schedule until after June 9. So, I had to quickly call my dear friend, Razak, who saved the day. He went to the borehole enough times to fill plenty of buckets and other containers so I would have water. Later in the day, the water did flow into the tank for a short time.

I don't know if we will run out of water again before the water company finishes it's repairs. But, I'm not worried. This has given me, once more, a greater appreciation of those women and girls who carry water on their heads every single day of their lives so they can drink, cook, and wash.

Please, don't take water for granted.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Grandmother? How?

Growing up, my dreams were to be a teacher, a wife and a mother.And, with becoming a mother, eventually, you become a grandmother. That's how it usually works. My dreams didn't turn out the way I imagined. I'm not a wife. I'm not a mother. I'm not a grandmother...at least  not in the usual way. I am "Makum." That is "Grandmother" in Dagaare. God has given me PLENTY of grandchildren of various ages. The boys pictured here are Reuben, Boniface and Hassan. I'm "Grandma" to only one...one Ghanaian man who works at Ghana Post. During the last year, he was moved to another town, but we still keep in touch. 

These "Grandchildren" of mine make me smile. Yesterday, ten of them were playing on my veranda. What I like the most is when I talk with them one on  one. I had traveled to spend New Year's with American friends from TMS Global. When I came home, one of these sweet boys (Boniface) said, "Makum, I missed you. Where did you go?" "I went to Bolgatanga. Where did you go?" He replied, "I went to Nandom." (Nandom is his home village about an hour away from Lawra.)

This same boy comes over frequently to talk, to read, even to help out. He's a good student and placed first in his class last term. Monday was the last day of vacation before school resumed for 2018. So, Boniface came over to spend time with me. The problem was I had plenty to do. But first,breakfast. Boniface knows that it is a VERY good possibility that I will feed him. Tea and spaghetti. What more could a small boy want? Then, I I did my work, he did puzzles-for hours! He was in no hurry to leave. After four or five hours, I told him he had to put away all of his puzzles and go home. No problem. He cleaned up and went to play with friends. He knew that Tuesday was coming and that is the scheduled play day for everybody.

So, am I a grandmother? Absolutely. By natural/normal means? No. Definitely not. It is by the power of God. And we, all of us, will give Him the glory.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Cultural Differences

I feel as if there is one aspect of living in Ghana that I will never understand fully. And, I doubt if I will ever fully embrace it. I  tried and I keep trying and I will continue to try, but....

What is this cultural difference that is so hard to embrace? Is it eating dog meat? Nope. Is it urinating wherever you can possibly imagine to relieve your bladder? Nope. Is it malaria? No. Is it 15 hour bus trips to get anywhere? No, not at all! "Then, what is it?" you may ask. I will tell you. It is WAITING, constantly waiting. There is no such thing as people showing up on time for a meeting. Meetings have to be scheduled early so people will arrive by the correct starting time. When the plumber says, "I am on my way coming." he may show up four hours later. I will take my motorcycle to get serviced at 8:00 am and go to pick it up at 5:00 and it hasn't been touched yet. Ugh! It's not just Lawra, it's everywhere! On Christmas Day, worship was at 9:30 in the morning. How many people were in church at 9:30? One. Me. I'm so passionate about this today because I was to meet with someone at 5:00 this evening. And an hour later, this person had yet to show up. I did manage to speak to them on the phone once. "I am still at the workplace." was the response I received. No further call. No suggestion to reschedule. This person knew I was waiting and yet....WAWA (West Africa Wins Again)

Now, this person may have been in a meeting. They may have gotten an assignment close to the end of the day. But, in this culture, no phone call is necessary to say a person will be late, maybe we should have our meeting tomorrow. When I am in the villages, I try to remember a lot of people don't have cell phones, clocks or watches. And, if they do, the battery probably is spoiled. As a Westerner, it is difficult to keep am open mind. During rainy season, it is easier because so much depends on the weather. I always thought that being on time showed respect to the person/persons you are meeting. Here, if a person has to depend on public transportation, time is not anything they can control. The vehicle leaves when it is full there is no schedule. 

I pray that the Lord will give me the insight and wisdom in these situations. That I would experience His peace. After all, when I get upset at someone for being late, am I forcing my culture on them? It's something to think about.

By the way, the person I was to meet with tonight never did show up. Never called.

A New Year's Prayer

I am not one for making New Year's Resolutions. I would like to think that if the Lord brings something to mind that I need to change, I would start working on it then and not wait for January 1. The more I read and study God's Word, the more I get to know Him, the more I realize I have so much to learn and put into practice. At the beginning of this New Year, this is my prayer in the words of John Wesley:

I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what Thou wilt.
Rank me with whom Thou wilt.
Put me to doing.
Put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for Thee or laid aside for Thee,
Exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine and I am Thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in Heaven.

I want to live each day this year and all my remaining years for Him, the Lord God Almighty.