Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year of Blessings, A Year of Growth

 
It would probably be safe to say that a lot of people are looking back at 2012, reviewing what took place in their lives these past twelve months. I am, too. It is good to look back and see where we have been and look forward to where we are going.
 
What I consider to be highlights of 2012 are vastly different from what Facebook says. As I look past over this year, these thoughts come to mind:
 
I celebrated my first year in Ghana, where I live, where I work and where I play. I thank God for the Ghanaian friends I have made. It has been a blessing to hang out together, share food and just enjoy each other's company. They have been there for me in good times and in bad. It has been a privilege to share in some of their deepest joys and sorrows over the last year. SNAP (Special Needs Awareness Program) was born in 2012. It is an avenue of ministering to the least of the least in this culture. God has amazing plans for SNAP in 2013! God has blessed me with the opportunity to share His word in some of the villages around Lawra. This, too, will expand in 2013. I wonder what God has in mind. In June, an amazing group of people came from Alabama to work in the villages of the Upper West. These people have become like family to me, especially my sister, Ama. I look forward to seeing them again. I thank God for the children at the Lawra Methodist Orphan and Vulnerable Children's Centre. It is an honor to be "Mama Sue" to them, to be a part of their lives, to watch them grow in body, mind and spirit. And, in 2012, I came to know, at least a little bit, the village of Kasalgri, where I will be working during the upcoming year. I pray that I may shine God's light in a dark world.
 
The year brought sadness, too. My dear friend and neighbor died this past year. I wasn't able to attend her funeral. I know we will meet again on "the other side." I have seen children die of preventable diseases. I have seen unauthorized use of money, and mismanagement in many areas. I have seen people lie and cheat and argue...I have seen that people (including me) need the Lord. More now than ever! I, along with many, many others, have experienced malaria. Sickness is rampant in my area.
 
Don't let me end here, though. CHIPs, Childrens Health Insurance Program, is providing health care for the children in the Lawra area. Funds have been raised for water filters for Kasalgri. The word has been sent out about what is happening in my area of Ghana. And, people have responded most graciously. Many, many children and adults will benefit because of their generosity. I have been able to visit family and friends. I've taken a class that has challenged me in more ways than one. Plus, there were trainings, too. Lots of travel took place in 2012. God provided me with transportation, a place to stay and took care of all the details! And, it has all been good.
 
God has blessed me so much in 2012. It was a year of trust and watching God work. A year of growth in my spiritual life and in my personal life. I am not the person I was a year ago. Praise God! Good-Bye 2012, Hello 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

I'll Be Home for Christmas

 
When I realized I would be in the United States to celebrate Christmas, I was so excited. I called my sister and said, "You know that song, I'll be Home for Christmas ? Pretend I am singing it to you."We were both pretty excited. But, now, I miss my home in Ghana. I miss my kids. So, this is for them...

 
I'll be home for Christmas.
You can count on me.
 
 
Please have snow and mistletoe,
And presents on the tree.
 
 
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams,


I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.
  
There won't be snow. There won't be mistletoe. There won't be a Christmas tree. There won't be presents. But, there will be love of family and friends, celebrating Christ's birth. Merry Christmas to my "family" in Ghana. I miss you. I will be there with you...in my dreams!

Hope for the Future

 
Last Thursday, my close friend, Cathy, received her Master's Degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. (Cathy is one of those very creative geek types. I wish I could do even a fraction of what she can do.) There were hundreds of people receiving their diplomas, each had earned a Bachelor, Master or Doctorate Degree. And, I sat there and thought about all the opportunities that lay in the future for these men and women. The possibilities are endless. They all have such hope for their futures.
 
I couldn't help but think of the people I know in Ghana, people who struggle to receive even a secondary education. It is costly for them. Many families cannot afford it. Then, on to a post secondary education...it is hard for most people, it is hard for everyone I know. It seems as if people who live in my area, if they want further education, go to school on weekends, working during the week. That way, they can support their family while pursuing an education. Only 5% of Ghana's population has a post secondary education. Again, in my area, most people can look forward to farming the rest of their lives, trying to eek out a living by selling whatever they might have extra. Possibilities for the future? Not for many. Hope for a better life? Not much. Opportunities for a job? Nope. They just aren't available.
 
I am so happy for Cathy. Excited about her future. But, my heart breaks for those in Lawra who struggle just to feed their families. Cathy is sharing in the work of God in Ghana and in other places in the world, providing some hope for those who are hopeless about their future. What about you?


Monday, December 17, 2012

Waiting

 
Waiting...Ugh! I really don't like to wait. In Ghana, my whole life seems to be waiting. I once facilitated a Sunday School teacher training. It was SUPPOSED to start at 9 am. Two people were there. By 11 am there were twelve. When I travel, I walk to the tro tro station and wait. The tro tro won't leave until it is full (except for the 7 am one.) I sometimes wait 15 minutes. Most times, though, I wait more than an hour. When taking the bus to Tamale, I am always told the reporting time is 4:30 in the morning. The bus rarely leaves before 6:00! Banking can be difficult. When inside the bank, I join the queue. Hopefully, I won't be in a hurry! The plumber says he will arrive at 7:00 in the morning. He arrives closer to 8:00. Even on March 8, Independence Day, when the programs are to start at 9:00 am, I have waited hours for the festivities to begin because the Chief has not yet arrived. Then, there is always waiting for the internet to connect or the electricity to come back on. It seems that after awhile, I've gotten used to waiting in Ghana.
 
Now, to the present day...I am in the USA. I have been with my beloved family and friends. I have seen doctors and dentists. I have traveled, visiting all four time zones. And, I have waited. This time, it is a different kind of wait. Waiting to go through security at the airport. Waiting for a movie to start. Waiting in line at the store. Waiting for church to begin. Waiting for my name to be called at the doctor's office. Waiting to see my sister again.
 
There is one kind of waiting I am having a terrible time dealing with. It is waiting to return to Ghana. And, that return timing is not easy to nail down. My return depends on the healing of my jaw/gums/mouth from a dental implant. Then, after I am discharged from that dental specialist (ideally 10 weeks after the implant), I have to go to my dentist to have a crown made and place in my mouth (About three weeks of more waiting.) What if things don't go by the "ideal" timeline? When do I return home? I miss my own bed. I miss having coffee or tea with God on the veranda. I miss my friends. I miss my kids.
 
There is a reason I am here other than dental work. What it is, I don't know. God does. Maybe He is teaching me patience. Maybe He is protecting me from something or preparing me for something. All I know is waiting is hard to do.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

With Hope


In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman:
 
This was not how we thought it was supposed to be.
We had so many plans for you, we had so many dreams.
And now you’ve gone away and left us with the memories of your smile.
And nothing we can say and nothing we can do
Can take away the pain, the pain of losing you, but…

 We cry with hope, we say good-bye with hope,
‘Cause we know that our good bye is not the end, oh no.
And we can grieve with hope, ‘cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again, we’ll see your face again.

And never have I know anything so hard to understand,
And never have I questioned more the wisdom of God’s plan.
But through the cloud of tears, I see the Father’s smile and say well done.
And I imagine you where you most wanted to be,
Seeing all your dreams come true,
‘Cause now your home, and now your free and…

We cry with hope, we say good-bye with hope,
‘Cause we know that our good bye is not the end, oh no.
And we can grieve with hope, ‘cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again, we’ll see your face again.

 We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything God promised is true, so…

We cry with hope, we say good-bye with hope,
‘Cause we know that our good bye is not the end, oh no.
And we can grieve with hope, ‘cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again, we’ll see your face again.

We wait with hope…
And we ache with hope…
We hold on with hope…
We let go with hope…

                                                                  ~With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman

People Need the Lord

 
Today the whole country is in shock and grief due to a horrific event yesterday. A lone gunman, only 20 years old, went into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and opened fire on children, very young children, ages 6 and 7, cutting short 20 of their already short lives. News programs have focused on this for more than the past 24 hours and is still continuing coverage. There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered. Some will be answered, many will not. Parents are grieving. The child they kissed good bye yesterday morning never came home again. Other parents are in tears because their child had been spared and is home safe in loving arms.
 
Even now, as I write this, the newscaster is talking about how can this be avoided in the future? Mental health issues and gun control seem to be at the forefront. But, I think the answer goes a lot deeper. As years have gone by, as generations have passed on before us, our nation which was founded on Christian principles, has become more and more lenient, accepting of behaviors that even 50 years ago were not acceptable and we have left Christ out of our lives.
 
I wonder if anyone has done a study of the decline of good, solid Christian lives being actively lived out versus the increase of horrendous crimes. I would bet the result would be amazing. America has been trying to get God out of the schools, the courts, the community (for example - Nativity sets on government property) and even in individual lives. People are bullied because they are Christian. Some people loose their jobs because of their faith in God. Just a few days ago, I heard of a company that said they would choose to close its doors instead of being forced into health insurance for its employees that pays for abortions.
 
People, we need the Lord. We should be sobbing because of what our world has come to be. We need to pray for our government officials. God has blessed America. He trusted us. And, we blew it. Is it too late to turn to Him? I will. Will you? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Invisible

One of the books I have on my Kindle is Invisible byLorena McCourtney. I can relate with the main character, Ivy Malone, who in this chapter of her life seems to be invisible to many around her. No one really notices when she enters or exits a room. Her age and size is such that guys aren't chasing after her. The wisdom of her years allows her to be silent and watch others without being noticed. For her, it works as she tries to solve murders. But, in other areas of life, it can be difficult.
 
Have you ever felt invisible? How does it make you feel, deep down? I have felt that way, too. And, I still do. There are areas of my life where I just want to be noticed. I don't want to be in the limelight. I don't want to be on center stage. I just want to be noticed. I want my efforts and accomplishments affirmed. Yet, in many areas, it doesn't happen and most likely never will.
 
Usually, that's all right with me. Like I said, I don't want to be the center of attention. I don't want to be the one people see. I want them to see Christ in me. So, therein lies the paradox. I want to be affirmed in my accomplishements, to receive a "pat on the back," but, I don't want to be in the center of things. Is that possible? I guess I would rather be invisible than to be in the limelight. But, I also want to know that what I do or what I've done matters. Hmmm....
 
When it comes to what really matters, I'd choose being invisible so that Christ can be seen in me. And, I guess it shouldn't matter whether or not people acknowledge what I have done/am doing because it isn't me, it's Christ in me. It's that part of me that hasn't died to self that wants the pat on the back.
 
Lord, forgive me. I am so grateful to You that to You I am not invisible. You see me. You see me when I sit, when I stand, whatever I am doing, You see me. I pray, Lord, that my actions glorify not me, but they would glorify You. May I be an extension of Your hands, feet and an expression of Your love and mercy.In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Broken Front Tooth and Thankfulness

Early this afternoon, my front tooth felt a little weird...something wasn't right. So, I called my dentist and made an appointment for Wednesday afternoon. No problem. Then, I sat down to watch numb3rs. As I was watching, I was eating pretzel Combos with cheddar cheese. Mmmmm...until I felt a filling in my mouth instead of a pretzel. Now what? I called my dentist again, pleaded with the receptionist, called another doctor and rescheduled that appointment and finally made an appointment with my dentist at 1:30 Monday afternoon, and put the broken filling back in place. That leaves me with a loose filling in my front tooth that can come out again at any time. Agh! My Sunday School class is having breakfast for me on Sunday! I am with a compromised tooth for four days! Ugh!
 
Yet, I am thankful to God. I am thankful that I was able to replace the filling. I am thankful that I can see my dentist on Monday afternoon. I am thankful that I was able to call my friend, Tula, and whine for awhile. I am thankful that I don't have to travel 18 hours to a dentist. I am thankful that I was able to reschedule my other doctor appointment. Things didn't work out the way I wanted them to, they rarely do. But, I have a choice. Do I let the circumstances drag me down, or do I say, "Thank You, Jesus for this opportunity to trust You." and go on with my life. I choose to say, "Thank You!" in the midst of circumstances that I don't necessarily like. How about you? 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Gift

Today is my birthday. I am 59 years old. It has been a very quiet day, spent with friends and just relaxing at home. I wish I were with my sister or with "my kids" in Ghana, but, that was not to be. Today I am thankful for the gift of life. That in itself is a miracle...I remember a time in my life when I questioned God on the reason for my birth...I didn't see the point of the suffering and pain. But, praise God! He has given me life. He has given me something to celebrate...life in Him! Thank You, Jesus!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Feast

 
Thanksgiving...just the word spoken at this time of year brings visions of turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and pies to mind. Oh, and don't forget the sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top! I can almost taste it now.
 

 
Where I live, most people are farmers. They barely raise enough crops to feed their families. The soil is rocky and full of clay. The sun beats down on it. There is no rain for six months. Most people don't even eat meat because they can't afford it. Maize flour and yam (similar to cassava) flour are the main ingredients in their local dish.
 
 
As you eat way too much food today, remember to thank God for your blessings...of being able to have today's feast...the blessing of food and clean water...the blessing of gathering in a place with family and friends...the blessing of His love, His grace and His mercy. And, pray for those who are struggling to find food to feed their families. Then, do something for them...

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,  for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;
4 who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;
10 who struck Egypt through their firstborn, for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever;
17 who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed famous kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to his servant Israel, for his steadfast love endures forever.
23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; 24 and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever.
26 O give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endure s forever.
Psalms 136:1-26 (NRSV)
 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Undisciplined

Undisciplined...that about sums up the struggles in my life. I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. Monday, I had a dental implant. So, I basically didn't schedule much this week because I didn't know how I would feel. I had all day yesterday and today so far to do as I want. Did I take optimum time with God? No, but I did take some time. Did I eat properly. No...I found out that even after oral surgery, it didn't hurt to eat! Did I exercise? Hmm...do I even remember what that word means. Did I just rest and enjoy the day since my schedule has been so hectic? No, I did a little bit of everything. (Of course today, I regret it.) And so goes my story of woe...
 
I know what I should do. I don't do it, though. I'm not the only one with this issue. Romans 7 tells us about Paul, "What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. (v. 15) I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. (vs. 18-19) It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (vs.21-23)"
 
So, if Paul was undisciplined, what chance do I have? I have a pretty good chance of turning the tables, just like Paul had. Why? Because my God, and his, is bigger than anything else! I can turn the desires of my flesh, the way I spend my time, spend my money, even how I eat, exercise or what I think...God can change all of that. If I give my desires to Him, He will renew my life. I will once again live passionately for Him. How about you? How do you want to live?
 
Father God, I give to You my life, as undisciplined as it is, so that I can do all things through You. I know that with You I am able to overcome the areas of my life that do not glorify You. Change me, O God."



Thorns

 
Are you suffering a thorn?It's probably safe to say that we all suffer a "thorn in the flesh" at some point in our lives. Scripture tells that Paul suffered a thorn. Three times he prayed to have it removed. Three times the answer was the same, "No." Why does God allow us to suffer with thorns? They hurt, they are painful, they are hard to remove...
 
Yet, we have them. I believe God allows us to have thorns in our lives to draw us closer to Him. I do believe that God does not give us these thorns, I believe that Satan uses them to take our eyes off of Jesus. I also believe that God can use these thorns to glorify Him. He uses them to build humility in us as we accept our thorns. As we place our trust in Him, others see He is our Comfort, our Fortress, our Shield, our All in All. People can see that His grace is sufficient for those who truly place their trust in Him.
 
Will our thorns ever be removed? Paul's wasn't. But, that doesn't mean that yours or mine won't be removed. God is the only One who can remove them, though. We can't do it ourselves. Will you trust him with the pain of your thorn today? I do!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Drainers and Gainers

 
"Drainers and Gainers." Have you ever thought about them? If you are like most people, there are ever present in your life. I know they are in mine. "Drainers"...those things in my life that drain the energy from me, they sap away my strength. It seems as if I have a lot of those lately...a VERY hectic speaking schedule, constantly packing and unpacking, doctor's appointments, travel, a cluttered table, piles of stuff to pack for Ghana, homework...and there is always the stuff I should do, but haven't, like my newsletter and weekly team updates.
 
Praise God, there are also "Gainers" in my life...things that energize me. Things like worship in my heart language, lunch with a friend, quiet time with God, being with my sister, seeing the hand of God work in my life and in the lives of others, clearing a pile of "stuff' and finding a place for all of it, being able to sleep in "my own" bed, being thankful, making a card or scrap booking, a good Bible study, taking a Sabbath rest, walking...those things help me get motivated to do more, they revitalize my life.
 
But, what do we do when the drainers outnumber the gainers? I try to reduce my drainers by one or two each week. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Other times, I have to "just say 'no!'" to whatever is being asked of me. I also try to increase the gainers. I NEED to have my quiet time with the Lord. I NEED to thank God for my many blessings. I NEED to sleep! I NEED to be with my sister, in person, or on the phone. I NEED to make progress in de-cluttering my life.
 
In the end, the gainers have to outnumber the drainers. If not, exhaustion takes place. Then, what good am I? I thank God that He has given me the wisdom to discern what drains me and what doesn't. And, I am grateful to Him for those who help me see, when I am blind to the stresses in my life. I need to remain in Him and remember, He gave us the Sabbath for a reason!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

brave...?


It has been awhile since I have used a Bible study book. Usually, I use Scripture and glean from what I read. Since I am in the land "flowing with Christian books and studies," I decided to see what was available. My first stop was in Chambersburg, at the Lifeway store. I was with friends of mine and they blessed me with books to take back to Ghana with me. Next, I stopped at my church to see what they had leftover from studies held there. I found this study, brave, honest questions women ask. And, I knew I found a study to work on during the remainder of my time here in the States.
 
The first lesson really described me. the question was, "Lord, do You know I am worn out...again?" That has been my life since I touched down in Pittsburgh on September 4. Worn out. Always on the road. Always packing and unpacking. Always speaking about my mission work in Lawra, Ghana. Always preparing for class  Always getting ready for the next thing. Always tired. Always exhausted. Always weary.
 
Since I am always doing the above, there is the opposite, too. Never sleeping in the same bed more than a few nights in a row. Never feeling settled. Never feeling finished with what has to be done. never saying, "no, I can't come and speak." Never finished with class. Never totally refreshed and renewed.
 
Enter brave. God knows I am weary. God knows this is a season of fund raising and speaking engagements. God also is my strength in my weariness. He says, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and I will give you REST." Matthew 11:28 My rest is in Him.
 
Another point brought out in the study is that Jesus did not heal everyone who was sick, He did not minister to everyone who came to Him. He only did what the Father told Him to do. It's a lesson for me. It is perfectly acceptable to respond, "I'll pray about it." And, if God is showing me that I need to take a Sunday off to worship Him, then so be it! Being in His presence restores my soul, it restores me. That is the purpose of the Sabbath rest, isn't it?
 
So, for now, I will be open to what God has for me...His strength and His rest.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who Are Your Saints?

 
Today, the Christian Church celebrates All Saints Day. Growing up Catholic, this was an important part of life. We would go to church and remember those who have gone before us in the faith. We would remember those who have walked this earth to the glory of God and have now received their heavenly reward. Many of the people we remembered gave their lives for their faith.
 
Now I am a lot older, and, hopefully, a bit wiser. All Saints Day has a different meaning for me. Well, maybe not different, maybe just expanded. I no longer stop at thinking of the apostles, matriarchs and patriarchs of the faith. Now, I can put faces to names. I have read about modern day "saints". My concept of "saint" has evolved over the years.
 
Webster's Dictionary defines "saint" as:  one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent for holiness; one of the spirits of the departed in heaven; one of God's chosen and usually Christian people; one eminent for piety or virtue; an illustrious predecessor.
 
One of the definitions I would like to add is a saint is a person, who has lived their life for the glory of God. Many saints suffer in this world because of their faith. When I think of "saints," I picture Patience, a woman who attends my church in Lawra. She comes to church every time it is open, walking more than a half hour, and she is there at 5 am for morning prayer! She has a family, a business, and her husband is a Traditionalist. She has had to endure many hardships because of her faith. I think of another woman, whose husband took a second wife. Yet, the first one remains faithful and is growing in her faith. I think of Beatrice's mother, who carries her disabled 12 year old on her back to town, to church, and never loses faith. I think of the single mothers that I know, who face immense odds every day, yet, they have instilled a holy fear and love of God in their children. I think of those, both living and dead, who have impacted my life. Saints...maybe not in the formal eyes in some denominations, but, in my eyes, they are saints. And, too, I think of those many children whose lives have been cut short because of disease. Saints, each and every one of them.
 
Who are the Saints in your life? Today, stop and thank God for the impact they have had on your life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Homesick


I have been in the United States for 56 days. I have been in four time zones, spoken in a formal setting 26 times, taken a course in Seattle (which I am still working on and have classes to attend), spoken numerous times, informally, driven all over the state of Pennsylvania and flown to others, slept in many more beds than I actually want to count. And I am tired, very tired.
 
My schedule has lightened up a bit. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I actually will be sleeping in the same bed five days in a row this week. But, I have to admit it. I am HOMESICK. I am homesick for my home in Lawra. I want my slower life, with the dirt and bugs and unstable electricity. I want to be among "my kids" with their dirty hands, big smiles and bare bottomed babies. I want to be with Akos as she prepares to attend Senior Secondary School. I want to be the spoiled American who takes that "first day of school" picture. I miss Janette and Sarah, colleagues of mine who work in the Lawra area. I miss the special needs kids. I miss my friends, Rose and Razak and Dora and Habib. I miss not being there to welcome the new pastor. But, mostly, I miss home.
 
Home...a place to hang your hat. A place to rest, relax, renew. A place to question. A place to find answers. A place to clean. A place to study. A place to cook. A place to be with friends. A place to reflect. A place to think. A place to scream. A place to shout. A place to pray. A place of no resistance. A place of surrender. A place of sanctuary. A place of my own. Home...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Afraid to Dream...but God Knows

 
When I was a child, I had plenty of dreams. My biggest dreams were that someday "my prince would come" and I would be a wife and a mother. I dreamt of being a teacher, too...life would be wonderful. But, in the reality of my life, those dreams never unfolded in the same way they did in my mind. As a result, I have often found it difficult to dream and to dream big. While at Missionary Training International in August 2010, one of the hardest and most emotional exercises for me was to dream about where I would be living when I moved to Ghana. Dreaming was hard because I had already seen where I was to live. It was a lot different than if I could have asked for a few things and actually received them. I knew the reality and harshness of life where I was going.
 
God had other plans. He found me a house which has become my home. It is much nicer than I would have ever imagined or hoped for. All I had to do was pay the rent. And, over the course of my time in Ghana, God has truly surprised me in many ways, fulfilling some unspoken dreams.
 
Now, I am in the US, speaking about the mission I am doing in Ghana raising funding, being on the road almost constantly so far. It is VERY wearing on body, mind and, at times, spirit. Yet, God has been amazing me. Read on...
 
I had no vehicle to drive while in the US. How would I get around? Borrow my brother's car? Use my sister's car from time to time? Try to line up some rides? Then, while speaking to a friend, she said, "I have a car you can use until January." It was a Jeep Compass with 12,500 miles on it! When I left for Ghana, I had a 17 year old Honda civic! God knew what I needed. He provided.
 
One of the hopes for this trip was to raise enough money to buy a motorcycle, a small one, so I could more easily travel to villages to visit my special needs kids and to work in the village of Kasalgri. Last Sunday, I was at Cornwall UMC in Cornwall, PA and mentioned this. After church a young man came up to me and asked me about the motorcycle. He told me, "Don't worry, you will have your motorcycle." WOW! It ends up that this man is not only a state policeman, but a motorcycle instructor.

Last night, I was in Alum Bank, PA. After I was done speaking, someone came up to me and asked if I had a special need. I hesitantly replied, "Well, I don't have a NEED, I have a WANT...and it is very self serving. I'd like to buy an air conditioner that can withstand the fluctuations in the electricity in the north, one that would work well." She stood there and wrote out the check. I told her what a blessing she was to me...(I had gotten to know her some over the previous 2 days)...and said I feel "funny" asking for something like a/c. She said, "Why? You're a daughter of the King. You have not because you ask not." and she laid the check in my hand.

Today, in Chambersburg, I was told I would be on the receiving end of devotional/Christian growth books that will be bought when we have an outing to the Christian bookstore, something that I don't get much of in Ghana. 
 
God is showing me that it IS okay for me to dream, to ask, and, there will be times that the answer may be "no" or "not now." But, there are many, many more time that He wants to lavish His love on me, one of His beloved children!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Action or Reaction?


A few weeks ago,my sister and I were visiting my friend, Tula in Meadows of Dan, West Virginia. It was truly a relaxing time, but a time too short. The morning we left her mountain top cabin, it was foggy. As we went down the mountain, the fog thinned out more and more, making it much easier to see while driving. We thought we were making good time for the beginning of the trip.
 
Then, it happened...traffic was backed up. Ugh! we wanted to make it all the way to my house in the one day. I really thought we were cutting it close already, leaving a little earlier than originally planned. We really didn't need a delay. What was it? Was it road construction? Animals? A broken down car? An accident? Traffic wasn't even crawling. we were at a dead stop. People were turning around. But, not knowing the area and not having a GPS, we were kinda stuck where we were at.
 
So we talked. We wondered out loud what was going on. I was getting impatient, after all, we had "stuff to do" that day. Finally, traffic started moving slowly past the trees, past other parked cars, past emergency vehicles, pasted a very badly crunched car, past a person strapped onto a stretcher and being taken to an ambulance, past people directing traffic...
 
And I prayed. I prayed for the people involved in the accident, that God would give them peace and healing. And, I prayed for the responders, that God would give them wisdom and insight. I prayed for the families, that God would comfort them. ..
 
And I prayed for myself, that God would forgive me for my reaction, for my judgement, even if it was only in my mind or shared with my sister. Tears were fighting to crawl down my face. Here, I was complaining about a few minutes (in the big picture), something that would be to my advantage, and this person, these families had a major negative impact on their lives that day. Was it their fault? Who knows? All I know is that I begged forgiveness and thanked God for health, family, friends, a safe drive home, for His protection, etc.
 
Anyone can act like a Christian. Anyone can go through the motions of prayer. Anyone can go through the motions of worship. Anyone can look like they are a "fine, upstanding Christian." But, in a moment of reaction, how do you respond? Whose character do people see? Is it the character of the world? Or is it a Godly character? In a split second people can see who you really are inside. I want people to see Jesus.

Lord, forgive me for my quick, human reactions. Help me to develop so in a split second reaction, people see you and not my faults and failures. I want YOU to be seen and glorified. Amen.  
 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rest...A Much Needed Commodity!

 
I'm not very good at taking time for myself, to rest, renew, to be refreshed. After a hectic three weeks, I FINALLY was able to do this. My sister and I loaded up her car and headed to Meadows of Dan, VA. We drove all day and we were so grateful when we saw the sign, "Welcome to the Mountains." Yes, we have been driving in the mountains, but this particular mountain was our destination!

 
My morning starts with the above scene. Who can doubt the existence of God when they see this? I grab a cup of coffee and my Bible and head outside to the porch swing.

 
I did take a day to be a tourist in Mt. Airy, NC, sometimes referred to "Mayberry." This is the home of Andy Griffith. I visited the sheriff's office, the jail, the Darling's still (no moonshine was in it) and even rode in Barney's car. This was the day I was introduced to a rib eye steak sandwich.

 
Since then, I've mainly loved just "chilling out" at my friends house in the mountains. They are such wonderful hosts. Every need/want has been met, even before voiced.

 
The flowers are still beautiful. The leaves are turning colors. The birds are singing. And, a hawk or two was spotted, too. I'm loving this.
 

 
Pumpkins have arrived by the truckload, there is a crispness in the air, ahhh...

 
A fire on a cool evening. Sitting, talking, warming my feet. I wonder, "Lord, what have I done to deserve a break like this?" Refreshment, renewal. And when I leave, I'll be ready for what is next in my schedule!


 

On the Road Again...

 
 
I'm on the road again, or is it still? I guess it doesn't matter what continent I am in, I am on the road a lot!

 
I have been in the United States for 26 days. I have been in four time zones, spoken in the states and have attended a week long class which has assignments and teleclasses to complete. 
 
 
It has been a blessing to be with old friends and new, telling them what God has been doing in the Upper West Region of Ghana.

 
No matter how tired I am, I come alive when speaking about Ghana, life there, the villages, the people, the children.

 
Yes, I miss my life in Lawra. It is a lot simpler, a lot harder, too. But this chapter of life is much needed, too.

 
God has used this time to introduce others to His work throughout the world, and specifically in Ghana. And, He is using this time to meet the needs of those with whom I work as well as my own.
 
Yes, I am on the road again...and God is faithful!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

CORE Coaching

 
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything and make you remember
all that I have told you. ~John 14:26
 
Almost two weeks ago I flew to Seattle, WA to participate in the CORE coaching training. This type of life coaching is Christian based, with the Holy Spirit being an integral part of it. I spent the week with 30 other amazing people who work throughout the world, encouraging people to look past what they think they can be to what God thinks they can be. Coaching begins in the present and looks to the future. Coaches don't give answers. They help the "coachee" look within themselves to set their own goals and action steps to achieve what previously seemed impossible to them. Coaching is so positive and reinforces all progress...and it can be done over the phone!


The class included plenty of time for practice. We each experienced several hours of coaching and being coached. It is amazing what a person can discover about themselves in 15 minutes or a half hour! There are so many facets of life that can be encouraged and strengthened by coaching. I kept learning more that I ever imagined! Coaching has challenged me to go beyond many of my old thought patterns and preconceptions. I am in the process of setting up coaching sessions for myself so I can activate all those areas and thoughts and ideas in me that have been sleeping.
 
Is there an area of your life which you want to develop? Where do you want to grow? What area of your life are you dissatisfied with? Is it in the relational area? Spiritual? Physical? Leadership? Intellectual? Character?  Hobbies or recreation? Maybe there are other areas. I'd be privileged to be a part of your life for awhile and help you excel in all areas of your life.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back in the USA




I am back in the USA. Life has been really busy for the last three weeks, REALLY busy. Good friends of mine, Cathy and Chuck, and their son, Joe, picked me up from the airport and delivered me to what will be my "home base" for the next three months. After "mosey-ing" around, I fell exhausted into bed around 2AM. The next morning, Pastor Tom picked me up to take me to Erie so I could pick up a few necessary items...clothes, insurance card, driver's license and a car. (Thank You, Jesus! That is another story!)
 
I was so excited about my trip to Erie. There would be two whole hours of nice roads and three, count them, THREE, nice rest stops. I told Pastor Tom that I was so excited to know that there were flush toilets along the way and asked if we could stop at them. His reply, "We are NOT stopping at all of them. We can stop if you REALLY need to go!"
 
So, we hit the road, stopping at the golden arches for breakfast to go. And, as nature took it's course, I eventually "really had to go." We stopped at the rest stop with well marked parking spots, a nice, green, well manicured lawn, a BUILDING with electricity AND running water that worked! It looked clean and smelled clean. I entered the Ladies Room slowly, relishing the fact that I was actually there. I stood inside, gazing at the row of sparkling toilet stalls and sinks and....
 
I got tears in my eyes!
 
As an American, I take so much for granted. This rest stop is something that I grew to expect. But, after living in Ghana for 19 months, I am truly grateful for it! I thank God that I live in a country where I don't have to worry about toilet facilities while on the road! =-)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon

 
Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.
 
Blue Moon, you know just what I was there for,
You heard me saying a prayer for,
Someone I could really care for.
 
And then there suddenly appeared before me,
The only one my arms would ever hold,
I heard someone whisper, "Please adore me."
And then I looked to the moon and it turned gold.
 
Blue Moon, now I'm no longer alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.
 
Tonight was a "blue moon", the second full moon in a month. It made me think of this song by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. And, it made me wonder...who would I really say a prayer for...someone I could really care for? And, to be honest with you, it wasn't anyone in the romantic sense. It was for the kids in the Upper West who have little or no hope. ..The kids that are disabled. Their parents don't know what specifically is wrong with their child because they cannot afford to go to a specialist. It is a great burden to the family and very time consuming. And, I pray for the "kids," the young ladies who have been raped or work in the sex industry just to have money for food to survive. And, I pray for those kids whose education is not "up to par" yet have to take the same exams as those in the same grade in some of the best public schools in the country. And, I pray for...you get the picture. 
So, this blue moon, please pray that these kids will no longer be alone. That they will know the love and hope of Jesus Christ. Pray that they can have hopes and dreams for their future. And, pray that they will give Christ the glory and pass it on.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Staggering Statistics

I recently read a book, AIDS Is Real and it's in our CHURCH by Jean Garland and Dr. Mike Blyth. (First published in 2003.) It is an excellent book, especially if you are working anyplace in Africa. I especially liked the true life stories and the cultural facts. It opened my eyes to a lot of things...

~ 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide and 29.4 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.
~ In 16 countries in Africa, more than 1 in 10 adults is living with HIV.
~ In seven countries in the south of Africa, one in five adults are living with HIV.
~ 13 million children worldwide are orphans due to AIDS.
~ 2/3 of all people living with HIV/AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa, although only 10% of the world's population lives there.
~ Many, if not most, African women living with HIV/AIDS were infected by their husbands.
~ 800,000 African children were newly infected in 2001.
3.5 million Africans were newly infected in 2002.
~ 9 out of ten people infected with HIV are unaware that they have it.
~ HIV test can read positive for the first three months the person is infected.
~ 80% - 90% HIV infections in Africa occur through sexual intercourse.
~ 10% of all HIV infections are passed on from mother to child.
~ You cannot know if a baby is HIV positive until 18 months after birth.
~ 5% - 10% HIV infections in Africa are from blood transfusions.
~ About 5% of HIV infections are from sharing needles, blades & other sharp objects.
~There are some cases of the HIV virus surviving in water for up to 2 weeks and up to 7 days in a dry, dusty climate.
~ Half the sex workers in Ghana are HIV positive.
~ Most people who are HIV positive in Africa are in the 20 - 40 year old age bracket.
~ Condoms are only 80% effective in preventing HIV.
~ AIDS is the leading cause of death in Africa.
~ In Sub-Saharan Africa, life expectancy has dropped from 62 years to 47 years because of HIV.
~ In Zambia, teacher deaths from AIDS is equal to half the total of new teachers trained annually in the country.
~ Ghana has a relatively low HIV rate, 1.5%. In the Upper West Region, it is 6%.
~ In the last 20 years, AIDS has killed ten times more people than all of the wars in Africa in the last 100 years.

These statistics show that, as Christians, we have a job to do. If we believe as John Wesley did, "The world is my parish", what are we doing to be Christ to those who desperately need Him? I have read that HIV has another meaning, one that is so very important to those who are HIV positive...

HIV...HOPE IS VITAL!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reflections on Conference

This past week I had the privilege of representing The Mission Society at the 45th Conference of The Methodist Church Ghana. I was so excited when my team leader asked if I would attend. I LOVE going to Annual Conference in Western Pennsylvania. So, I packed my best Ghanaian clothes and my notebook and my red pen...and I was ready!

The Conference was held at St. Paul Cathedral in Tema, Greater Accra Region. The church was HUGE! After being in small churches in the north, almost everything amazed me! The team that welcomes us was"on their toes" and ready to meet whatever challenge came their way. After I registered and received my conference materials, I was given a ride to where I would be staying for the next four nights. I settled in and went to the Lay Delegates session. (Buses were always on hand to transport us when necessary.) The work of the laity and how to use our various gifts for the Kingdom of God was discussed.
 
Then, what we all have been waiting for...REPRESENTATIVE SESSION. I sat in an area where I could listen and see while being comfortable, too. I was impressed with the fact that there wasn't a lot of unnecessary talking/discussion. Reports were given with highlights mentioned. People seemed to do their homework and came to the sessions prepared for the day's work. I marked my journal with my red pen, so that I could make corrections and notations as needed.
 
The opening worship was amazing! I sat with the Women's Guild, sticking out like a sore thumb! They showed my the proper way to dance during the offering. Then, it was back to "work." Reports, worship, fellowship, doing the business of the church...it all went so smoothly. Each day we were finished between 6:00 and 6:30 in the evening...and, we finished early on Saturday! Incredible!
 
Challenges were given to those in attendance...the challenge "to carry the work given to us" from Numbers 4:49 and to remember the four "all"s mentioned in Matthew 28:18-20 and to act accordingly.We were challenged to give up all and to do the work of Christ. (Hmm...sounds familiar!)
 
Conference concluded with an Ordination Service with 28 people ordained into full time ministry, 2 women and 26 men. Many were teachers, but several other occupations were given up in order to serve God full time. I pray that God would give them wisdom and strength and courage as they enter this new chapter of life.

Wouldn't it be nice if life ran as smoothly as this conference did? The problems were few and seemed to be fixed in a reasonable time. And, there were times of celebration, too.The problems in my life don't seem to go away very fast. And, sometimes the celebrations are few and far between. It's the difference between doing a task and building character in a person. Building character takes time. Often, I want God to change me...right now!
 
Next conference is in August 2014 in Kumasi. I am ready & waiting!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lake Bosomtwi


Holiday at Lake Bosomtwi...aaahhhh! The Lake is so beautiful! It is the only fresh water lake in Ghana. This lake, which is five miles across, is inside of an ancient meteorite crater. As I sit lakeside early in the morning, I listen to the lapping of the water. It is so relaxing. 



I watch the fishermen. They sit on wooden plank "boats" casting their nets. On their boat is a basket in which they place their catch. This is the only type of boat permitted. The Ashanti consider Bosumtwi a sacred lake. According to traditional belief, the souls of the dead come here to bid farewell to the god Twi. Because of this, it is considered permissible to fish in the lake only from wooden planks. It looks so easy...but, it takes great skill to maneuver these boats across the water.



I sit with my coffee and Bible and spend time with God while watching the sun rise. What a great way to start the day! It is just this side of heaven!

Then, after a time, my friends awake  and the activities of the day begin. We eate, laugh, swim, boat and have a wonderful time. Alas, the time is too short and it is time to leave. As I leave, I will be relaxed and refreshed! I praise God for days like this. It restores stregnth to my soul!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Very Fine Send Off


This past Friday was the burial of Mr. John Kuu-Ib Beka. He was the father of a friend of mine, Rev. Lawrence Beka. "The Old Man", as he was lovingly called by many, died July 15, 2012. I could tell by the numbers of people attending the funeral and days of grieving that he was very much loved.

Funerals in the north of Ghana are quite different from those in the south. This funeral, though, had aspects of both mainly because of the age of the person and the position he held in society. In the north, the body is "staged." On Thursday, "the Old Man" was staged - on a platform, about six feet off of the ground, sitting in a chair. The platform had canvas around 3 sides and a roof, to protect the body from the sun. Mr. Beka was dressed in his finest. Around him were items and crops to represent his farming days. In front of the staging area were two rifles propped up, to signify the hunting he had done. he was also a blacksmith, so there were also tools of the trade displayed. Underneath the platform was the hand- hewn coffin, draped with northern cloth and a quilt. As people paused in front of the staging area, they would toss coins on the ground. These were later used to pay the grave diggers. Gyli (traditional wooden xylophones) players were constantly playing their music, only stopping to switch players. Coins were tossed there, too. This money was split amongst the players.

Friday, the body was in the casket. When I arrived at the Beka family compound (which is where the funeral and burial took place), I was told that they were preparing to have a service. Chairs and benches were set up under two trees in what looked to be a clearing in a corn field, which was actually the entrance to the family compound. Drummers from a near by village drummed in a somber distinct way. As I sat waiting for the service to start, I watched people come in from the path parting the field. There were many, many mourners. Some carried food on their heads to be given to the family, others brought minerals (soda pop) or alcoholic beverages, chickens and even a cow was presented to the family. Many just brought themselves and their grief.

After a bit, with the drum roll still playing, the casket was carried to the gathering by members of the military and set on benches. People gathered, sitting on chairs, benches, tree roots, cloth, pieces of tin, bricks, etc. to take part in the burial service. The grave was there, right before us. As the pastor finished his message, men were arranging the rope so they would be ready to lower the casket into the grave. Then, the time for the final farewell came and the coffin was lowered. The words, "From dust you were made and to dust you shall return" were spoken. And after each phrase, Lawrence shoveled some dirt onto his father's casket. I didn't hear the ending of the service. I was watching Lawrence at this solemn time...wiping tears from his eyes...and I prayed for him.

"The Old Man"'s middle name was Kuu-Ib, meaning we can't escape death. He couldn't. You can't. I can't. The question is, will you be ready? Will I? He was. Praise God!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stepping Up to the Challenge


Living in Ghana, in northern Ghana, presents many challenges. Yesterday I was presented with a few new ones. =-) I had to travel to Wa to do some shopping and to pick up some mending. So, I left home & joined the 7:00 AM tro tro. It doesn't wait to get filled up, it fills up on the way, that's why I like it. Anyway, we were so close to Wa...and we were stopped at the police check point. First complaint - too many passengers on the tro. The police said there should only be three, three, three...three people on each seat. The tro tro drivers always put four. You learn to live with it. It's life in Ghana. The next complaint was that the front passenger tire was too low. It was! So, we all got out & the driver changed the tire. Less than ten minutes later, we were in Wa, disembarking the tro tro.

On the way home, we were packed four-four-four, not including babies & children. When we stopped in Babali, the driver saw that the vehicle was leaking oil - big time! So, we all got out again. We were 30 minutes or so away from Lawra. Only God knew when a tro tro would be going in our direction. So, we decided to take a yaabaa which was going our way. It was kinda funny - the Ghanaians were willing to wait for the next tro. I was the one who wanted to leave & was willing to ride the yaabaa. So, not to be "one upped" by the "white woman," the rest of them joined me.

The driver was very safe. It was a beautiful day. We saw cows & pigs & sheep & goats & children. It was fun! God provided a way!