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.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Two Amazing Young Men

I have known Wisdom and Godwin for three years now. They are members of the Kalsagri Methodist Church. I remember when we first received the Dagaare New Testament. Straight away, these two boys sat under a tree, opened them up and began reading. They read Dagaare so well! (And that is unusual.) You would never know that there was no Dagaare teacher at their school. 

These boys have been very active in the life of the church. They read the morning Scripture readings. And, if they are from the Old Testament, in English, they are able to appropriately interpret it into their own language. They are on the list to take a turn to lead the worship services. They walk over a half hour to attend church, Bible study, prayer meeting and school. Godwin interprets for Bible study. Wisdom wants to be a pastor and is always at church when something is scheduled..  Both of them are ranked first in their class - Wisdom in Form 1 (Grade 7) and Godwin in Form 2 (Grade 8.)

So, this past week, these two boys were given bicycles as part of the Kalsagri Bicycle Project. It is for Junior High School students. The requirements are: 1. Be a member of the church. 2. Be VERY active in the life of the church for at last a year. 3. Rank first in your class. Already Isabella, who is ranked third in her class, is saying she will work hard to become first. She, too, is active in the church.

What a joy it has been to watch these young people grow and mature, both physically and spiritually. When I question my work it making a difference...I think of these two and I smile. God has blessed me with knowing these young people. Pray for them as they continue to grow, mature, study and become closer to the one true God in the midst of a society where idol worship is the norm. And, continue to pray for the congregations of Kalsagri and Kunyukuo that they may seek after the Lord and Him only. And pray that these congregations will become "a beacon on a hill" for a dark world."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Small Girl's Request

Not too long ago, after church was finished in Kunyukuo, a small girl came up to me. Her name was Akos. I asked her how old she was, she didn't know. I am guessing she is about six years old. She said she wanted me to be her friend and gave me a black plastic bag full of groundnuts. She also asked me if I would give her a Christian name. This was the first time I was asked to name someone. I wasn't sure what to say. So, I replied, "You come back next week. I will pray and ask God what name I should give to you." That was fine with her.

As I rode my motorcycle back to Lawra, I began praying. "Lord, what is Your name for this small girl? I want her to know Your love, Your protection, Your strength, Your mercy. I want her to know that even though she is from the village of Kunyukuo, she can have hope for her future life." All week long, I sought the Lord for an answer. And, all week long, the story of Esther was impressed upon me. Esther didn't have parents. Akos does, but she came to church by herself. Someone else is watching out for her spiritual life. Esther had no idea that she would be the one who would become Queen and be the person God used to save her people.

Young Akos doesn't know what the future holds for her. Her future doesn't look promising when you look at the reality of life in Kunyukuo. God makes all things possible!

So, when Akos returned to church the next Sunday, I sat down with her. I told her (and the entire congregation) the story of Esther. And, that I believed "Esther" is the name God would have me give to her. Maybe one day, she will be an instrument of change in her world.

Please pray for young Esther, for health and safety, for a hunger for the One True God and that she would grow and mature into a woman of God who would change her world!

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Breath of Fresh Air

Heat. Travel. Unstable electricity Things not working. Heat. Things needing repair. Going to town to buy something only to find out "It is finished." Internet issues. Heat. Driving a motorcycle to villages in the strong sun. Not "seeing" any change/growth in the church or congregation. Wondering if "anyone hears." Heat. All of these may seem like small things. But, day after day, they can wear on a person.

Enter, a breath of fresh air. It came in the form of six people from Highworth Community Church, Highworth, Swindon, UK. They came to Lawra for a couple of reasons, one being to encourage me in my ministry, see what God is doing in this part of the world and to pray. And, pray, they did!

They prayed at the clinic.

They prayed at my house.

They prayed at the market.

They prayed at a funeral.

They prayed in Kunyukuo and they prayed in Kalsagri.

One of the things that this team did was to pray throughout my house - a house blessing. I was touched by the faith and conviction with which they prayed...and the blessings they prayed. 

We also had "down time" to share stories of life and faith.

Of course, some were more tired than others!

On Sunday morning, Pastor Matt and the group taught a song to the congregation. His sons did a drama to reinforce the morning Scripture. Then, he preached. It was really nice to hear a sermon in English! I know that all who were present were blessed.

Pastor Matt preaching in Kunyukuo.

All too soon, their time was up and the group had to leave. Lots of farewells and hugs and blessings were given. The visit was short. But, it was enough to strengthen me, to let me know in a concrete way that I am not alone here in Lawra, that others are here with me. (That is easy to forget since I get so few visitors and rarely anyone not connected with TMS Global.) I pray God will continue to bless Highworth Community Church, its leaders, and their mission focus. 

Who would have thought this partnership and friendship would happen? God is so good! Only He could have orchestrated this. Thank you for visiting. You are welcome to come back anytime. The door is open.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Grateful for Six Years

In February, I celebrated six years in Ghana! Six years. In some ways it seems like I just got here. Other ways it seems as if I have been here forever! When I came, I had in my mind that I would be here for at least ten years. IF I decide to leave after ten years, I have passed the halfway mark. I have only four more years! But, I don't sit around and count the days. What good is that?

Today I choose to be grateful for the time and the opportunities that God has given me. I came to Ghana thinking I would be working with children who were AIDS orphans. And I did for a while. But, God had other ideas.

I have had the privilege of: working with disabled children; being a "home away from home" for volunteers from the US and beyond; working in a clinic; being grandmother to a bunch of local children; and facilitating trainings for church leaders and Sunday school teachers. 

The last four years (has it been four years already?) I have been the equivalent of a lay pastor in two village churches, Kalsagri and Kunyukuo. I am so glad God put me in Kalsagri first because if it had been the other was around, I don't know if I could have done it. In Kalsagri, the congregation is made up of a variety of ages. The children and youth WANT to learn and many of them have attended Bible studies, English classes and trainings that  have been available. Even those in Junior High School are helping to lead the church. Kunyukuo is mainly made up of widows, a couple of young mothers and LOTS of young children. So far, I haven't seen the interest in growth among the people of this church. It is as if they are sleeping and need to be awaken. Both churches have a large percentage of illiterate people in their congregation. Both churches have welcomed and accepted me, for which I am grateful.  

It hasn't been easy. God has stretched me beyond what I could imagine. I drive a motorcycle! I prepare a sermon most weeks. I have seen the needless and preventable deaths of both adults and children. I've attended more funerals in the last six years than I have in my entire life before I moved here. I have seen people who are oppressed and need the peace of the Lord. I have seen people who try to feed their families and don't have the means to do so. I have known young men and women who want an education and can't afford it. I have had illnesses that I never thought I would have to worry about. I have seen way too many flying insects up close! And, now that we are entering the hot season...Ugh! 105 degrees and higher is NOT fun.

But,the blessings, oh, the blessings...a Ghanaian family... Being part of someone's life, watching them grow in their faith and be baptized and confirmed. Listening to testimony after testimony of how God has worked in lives. Being a part of a church where the blind, lame and disfigured worship and praise God side by side of others - and witnessing their confession of faith and baptism.Seeing people who have been outcasts become accepted. Watching boys and girls try their best both in school and at church, leading the worship services. Hearing children of all ages call out, "Maakum!" to me. It makes me smile and know I am blessed beyond measure.

Six years down...only God knows how many are in my future.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bible Storying

Most of the people with whom I work are illiterate. They cannot read or write. They live in an oral society and have oral traditions. They learn the stories of those who have gone before and tell them to their children. So, in this culture, it is especially important to teach the Bible in the way people will hear and understand. 

In the two churches where I work, Kunyukuo and Kalsagri, I have started a Bible storying class. We meet in Kunyukuo on Sundays, after church, and in Kalsagri on Saturday afternoons. We will methodically study the main 80-100 stories of the Bible, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation. During the class, the Bible story is told. We discuss it and answer some very pertinent questions, then the story is told again. (This is done in both English and Dagaare.) Then, we break up into pairs and tell the story to each other. Kalsagri did is when I was the Caretaker at their Society. So, they got right into it. They are very animated as they tell the story. And, when someone arrives late, there is no hesitation to tell the newcomer the story of the day.

Kunyukuo, on the other hand is tough. During the first class, people looked at me as if I had three heads. They are not used to doing thing. The last class we had, most groups told the story and a couple of them were very animated. I am hoping that this continues. You can watch some of the Bible storying on my Facebook page, Sue Kolljeski, Serving Christ in Ghana.

In an oral, illiterate society, it important to know the stories and lessons in God’s Word. And, little, by little, these two Societies are able to tell the Bible story and lesson that are taught. Hopefully, people will share the story of God's extreme love for us. And, hopefully they will draw strength from His word, for now they are learning it and hiding it in their hearts.