Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Christmas Box

One of my Ghanaian co-workers surprised me last Friday. They gave me a Christmas gift. It was such a surprise because people in this area don't typically exchange gifts. This is because the majority of the population cannot afford it plus most of the residents in this area are not Christian, so Christmas is not celebrated. But, my friend is a Christian and does celebrate Christmas, but I know that this person cannot afford to buy gifts. That's what makes this little "box" so special. It is a gift not given out of plenty, but given sacrificially.

Sacrificial gifts make me remember the sacrifice that God the Father made. He sent His Son form the glory of heaven to be born in a stable - a barn with all the dirt and smell and filth. It was because of His birth and eventually His death that makes me a child of the King. The story doesn't end there...Jesus rose from the grave, defeating death once for all. Because of that sacrificial gift, we can be more ways than one!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Hi! My name is Akos and today is my 18th birthday. I live in Lawra, Ghana at the Methodist Orphan and Vulnerable Children Centre with my 9 year old sister, Napog. Our mother died several years ago and our father died three years after mother died. We came to live here in Lawra. I am in my last year of Junior Secondary School. I enjoy school, especially English and math. I hope to be able to attend Senior Secondary School in the fall of 2012. In Ghana, students have to pass difficult examinations in all their subjects before they can proceed to Senior Secondary School. These schools are boarding schools. I pray that God will provide the necessary school fees so I can further my education. When I attend SSS I would have to leave Napog here in Lawra.

My life is much like the lives of my, study, cook, do laundry, look after my sister and others at the Centre, go to market, etc. I am very active in my church. I attend weekly Bible study and also I attend prayer meeting at 5 AM three mornings a week. It is my faith that helps me get through each day. God is watching over me and my sister and guiding me.

Even though today is my birthday, there will be no special celebrations, not like what I have heard about in America. Mama Sue and one or two others will make sure that I celebrate in some way. I thank God for watching over me all these years and pray that He continues to provide for our needs.

Just Another Day?

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
~ from A Charlie Brown Christmas

These words may describe Christmas in America, but they don't describe Christmas in Lawra. Of course there is no snow. There are no sleigh bells. There aren't even "carols in the air." There are no decorations. There are no gifts. The only dreams here are the dreams of eating rice and possibly meat this one day of the year. If possible, new clothes are worn, if not, then the best clothes that one owns is worn. The "ancient story" is know by few and told in church and Sunday school.

The reason for the season remains the same both in America and in Lawra.."Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Weights and Measures

Shopping at market in Lawra can be a learning experience. It is the same in much of Ghana. In America, when I shop for fruits and vegetables, they are priced according to weight. I can buy a pound of bananas for a certain price. The same for tomatoes, onions, potatoes, etc. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. A watermelon isn't usually priced by the pound. Neither is corn on the cob. But, I'm sure you understand what I mean.

Here, in Ghana, I buy a pile of tomatoes for a certain price, a stack of onions for a certain price or an apple for a certain price. There are no scales at the market, it's all by the number of items and their size. Buying rice and maize and soy beans is a little different. Those are sold by the "bowl". A bowl holds a tad more than 10 cups...I know because I measured my bowl today. Usually, the seller will pile the grains so there is a little pyramid of grain over the top of the bowl. This is how I bought maize, guri and beans for the children. I was grateful that the rice was already bagged!

Next, I had to bag the various items for each family living at the centre as well as the rice for the staff Christmas gifts. I'm not real adept at that. I won't say how much rice ended up on my living room floor! I was instructed to make the bowls "water full" so that everyone received the same. It all was bagged and some handed out. Today I will give the rest so that the mothers will have their items to cook for their Christmas dinners. Rice and maize and special spices and canned mackerel for Christmas dinner. It's something that these people rarely have, it is a feast for them. Makes me stop and thank God for the many blessings He has given me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Clothes

Most of us think nothing of going out and buying a new outfit for the holidays. It is almost a given. You need to have something to wear to the office party or to Grandma's house and something new for Christmas service, right? Even though we have a closet full of clothes, still, there seems as if none of them will do.

Well, last week I had the privilege to buy dresses for six little girls who had never owned a new dress that was chosen specifically for them. The boys will receive play clothes since they got their "dress" clothes in October. I can't wait to see the surprised faces on Christmas morning. Imagine...a new, fancy dress for "occasions!" I want to make sure these children have something special on Christmas day. After all, didn't God give us something special on that first Christmas? He gave us His best! So, Christmas morning, I will visit the children and give them their clothes. After church, we will have a small party complete with a child's version of the Christmas story and snacks...and gift bags! Most of all, I want the children to know that the gifts are because of Jesus and His gift to us. I want the children to know His love for each of them. Someday, I believe they will accept His love and have a personal, intimate relationship with Him. Until then, I'll sow seeds...this time in the form of clothes!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Shopping, the Upper West Way!

Christmas is quickly approaching. I have been asking people who live in the Upper West how they celebrate Christmas. For everyone who is a christian, Christmas is definitely a special day, a most holy day. People worship the new born King. As for family celebrations and Christmas gifts, those are very simple. There are no Christmas trees or hanging stockings. There are no big piles of presents. But, people do visit each other. And yes, they go bearing gifts. But, not like we would bring gifts in America. The gifts given are rice (most people can't afford to eat rice very often) and, if possible, a chicken, which would be alive! For the majority of people who live in the surrounding villages, Christmas is the only day of the year that they eat meat. It isn't because they don't like it or are mainly vegetarians, but because they can't afford it. So, Christmas here is simple, very simple.

It reminds me of another Christmas many years ago. It was a very simple Christmas, too. No one mentioned eating rice or chicken. The housing situation wasn't like the Hampton or Holiday Inn, it was simple. I doubt if it were very clean. But the day was filled with wonder, awe and worship of the new born King. People came to visit, too. They also brought gifts, simple ones - their worship of God's only Son. It was a Christmas that people still talk about today.

So, this year, I am going to focus on the simple things - the Christ Child and how and why He came. I will give gifts - rice and maize. (I won't be carrying around many live chickens.) There will be no Christmas tree with a big pile of gifts under it. I have a few simple decorations. They are quite enough for me. I'll visit my kids, bearing gifts for of rice and maize...and some other "fun" stuff, too. I will tell the Christmas story. And we will celebrate with minerals (soda pop) and biscuits (cookies) and we will play. But, most of all, we will thank the Father for the most precious gift of His Son.