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 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 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.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Santa's Christmas Prayer

On Christmas Eve the other night
I saw the most amazing sight,
for there beneath the Christmas tree
was Santa kneeling on his knee.
His countenance was different than
that all-familiar, jolly grin;
his head was bowed, and hand to breast,
and slightly tucked into his vest.
For there in a Nativity
was Jesus and His family,
and as I heard him start to pray,
I listened close to what he’d say.
“Lord, You know that You’re the reason
I take pleasure in this season.
I don’t want to take Your place,
but just reflect Your wondrous grace.
I hope You’ll help them understand
I’m just an ordinary man,
who found a way to do Your will
by finding kids with needs to fill.
But all those centuries ago,
There was no way for me to know,
that they would make so much of me,
and all the gifts beneath the tree.
They think I have some hidden power
granted at the midnight hour.
But it is my love for You
Inspiring all the things I do.
And they give You all the Glory,
For, ‘You’re the One True Christmas Story.”
Original author
Alda Monteschio

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.