Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Triplets, a Blessing or a Curse?

I have known a few people who have given birth to triplets. When they found out that they were expecting three babies, instead of one, they were both excited and concerned…would they be able to care for three babies properly? Would they be good parents? In the end, all was well. Family and friends were always around to lend a helping hand, when needed. The children were truly a blessing.
But, what do you do when you give birth to triplets and they are looked upon as a curse? This is exactly what the Dagaaba people believe. Triplets are a curse. They are from evil spirits and, it is best for everyone if one or more of them is allowed to die.

One of the reasons mothers and their children come to live at the Lawra Orphan and Vulnerable Child Centre is because they have given birth to triplets. The children are not accepted in the community. The Traditional Religion leaders want the children dead. They are afraid that the spirits of the children would take over the spirits of the parents. And then, the parents would die. So, in fear for their children’s life, the women flee the village, taking their children with them.

Once the children reach an age of at least two years, they are more accepted by the village leaders. It is safe to move back home. But, there is still a stigma related to triplets. The first born is not seen as the first born but as the “Herald,” as the one who announces the birth of twins. The actual second born is given the first born rights.                         

Paul, Sarah and Rose came to live at our Centre in 2009, shortly after birth, along with their older sister, Papula, and their mother.  As infants, their mother was very concerned for the lives of her children. They were not welcome in their village. People were afraid of what might happen. They children were very tiny. At the Centre, the children grew and were happy. They played. They laughed. They were enjoying life.

Several months after their second birthday, the family moved back to the village. They settled into a new chapter of life. Six weeks later, Paul was dead. He and his sisters became very ill and were taken to the hospital. That is where Paul died. Even though his mother grieved for him, his death was also a relief because now she had one less mouth to feed and she didn’t have to worry about what the Traditionalists would do.
During the time Paul and his sisters and mother lived at the Centre, Christ was presented to them. Seeds were planted. Hopefully, lives were touched. Many, many times I prayed for Paul and the others. Even now, when I hold a child, I pray for them. I believe some of these children will be the future teachers, pastors, teachers, nurses, etc. in this area. And, as they come to know Christ, they will live in such a way that others will know Him, too.  
I pray that the Dagaaba people will come to the place where every life, every child would be looked upon as a miracle, a gift from God. And, that triplets born to a woman, would be perceived as a blessing. I pray that the parents would choose to praise God for these children’s lives and they would not fear them. They are God’s special blessing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Communication Workshops

A few weeks ago, I was telling my friend, Sarah Gardner, about some of the "malformed" children in the area. (Sarah has years of experience working with disabled children.) I showed her pictures and some video and told her what I could about some of the children. Most of these children cannot speak and they have no communication skills, so they can't ask for even the most basic of needs. Sarah suggested we do a communication Workshop where we would teach the parents and children how to use pictures for their needs or to express emotion. So, we made 45 "Communication Fans" to introduce to the children and their caregivers.

Finally, the day for the workshop arrived. I was able to greet and spend time with some old friends, Ebenezer, Belinda, Ziem, Stephen and others. The first part of the day was for play. The children don't have opportunity to gather and play with or near each other. The Teacher resource Centre was the perfect place for this. As people arrived, children played with blocks, shape sorters and puzzles. They ate breakfast, too.

Then, we started our "schedule" (which was up to change at any given moment." After prayer, introductions, objectives, the children were introduced to the Communication Fans. We had food and water ready so that when the children asked for it with the picture, we could give them what they requested.

Each day included two health talks, one on some of the contributing factors that may cause a mother to give birth to a disabled child and one on hand washing. There seems to be plenty of people in this area who have disabilities. One of the biggest reasons is poor nutrition during pregnancy and poor, if any pre-natal care. Alcohol, self medication, smoking were also listed as things to avoid while pregnant. And, after birth, some of the actions that are widely accepted in this area of the world, need to be avoided, too, such as beating your child. On the hand washing issue, many did not realize that you have to wash your hands several times a day AND washing your child's hands is a must, too. Keeping clothing on a child for health reasons was part of the discussion.

All in all, the two workshops went VERY well, thanks be to God and all the help we had! Everyone pitched in to do what they could. It was definitely a co-operative effort! There were 24 disabled who attended the first day and 11 disabled who attended the second day, along with their caregivers and siblings. It was such a good experience. I pray that these workshops will open doors to further ministry to the disabled, who, in their society, are seen as worthless. God sees them as valuable...precious in His sight!

Metro Mass Transit, LTD. - Moving the Nation

Yesterday I began my travels to Ho, which is in the Volta Region of Ghana. I am VERY grateful that I was able to catch a Metro bus in Lawra, instead of having to spend the night in Wa to get a bus at 4:00 AM. I was told to be at the Lawra station by 5:00AM. So, I was able to sleep in my own bed & avoid the extra cost of staying in Wa.

I arrived at the station shortly before 5:00. After being asked where I was going, I was told by several people that the bus had already passed through Lawra. They wanted me to travel in their tro-tro, a van that squishes 20+ people in it. Hmmm...that didn't sound right. Just a few days ago the Hamile-Kumasi bus passed through Lawra at 6:00 AM. No, I told them, I will wait small.

The tro-tro was being packed and I was praying. More than one person had told me that the bus comes somewhere around 6:00 AM. And, if they left Hamile at 4:30, there was NO WAY it would have reached Lawra this early. So, I waited. And, continued to pray!

At 5:50 AM, the most beautiful orange bus came into view. It was the bus I was waiting for, the Hamile-Kumasi bus. I would be able to ride this bus to Wenchi in relative comfort. (Comfort being 90% attitude.)

I ended up in seat number 3, with no one in seat number 2, so Julia, my seat mate & I had plenty of room. The motor was right in front of me & I was able to stretch my legs out on top of it. =-) The ride to Wa was truly a blessing. I was so thankful. 

Our "quick" stop in Wa ended up to be two hours long. Evidently, there was a problem with one of the tires & it needed fixed or changed. I would rather sit in Wa for two hours than on the side of the road for four. Again, it is all a matter of attitude & gratefulness!

All went well after that. I couldn't help wondering why people pay to ride at amusement parks when they can ride the Metro at a much smaller cost & have the same experience! There is no preaching or selling on the bus, so when we have our "rest stop" people preach and sell right outside of the bus doors. Trust me, the facilities at the rest stops don't even come close to American facilities!

Even with the two hour stop, I alighted in Wenchi before 1:30 PM. Metro Mass Transit does it again...I arrived safe, in a timely manner and at a great price! Thank You, Lord, for keeping me safe on this trip!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Woman at the, um, Borehole

Yesterday I had one of those moments where it seemed all too familiar, as if I was living in a Book I have read. I was preparing for a communication workshop for disabled children and adults. And, for my "health talk" on hand washing, I needed water. So, I went to the nearby borehole to pump water. I greeted the people sitting under the tree who were trying to escape from the morning heat.  One man greeted me in the usual way (and in Dagaare), "Good morning. Did you sleep well? How is your house? How is your husband?" I did well in answering his questions in Dagaare. But, as I told him, "I have no husband," I half expected him to say, "You are right. You have had five husbands and the man you are living with is not your husband."

But, alas, I have not had five husbands and I am not living with a man. And, this guy was not Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, but a local man, most likely a Muslim. I was able to tell him about a Book that I have read, about a story of a Great Man who met a woman at the well and asked her about her husband. And, I continued with the story...Seeds were planted. May God's Holy Spirit do the watering!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Together We Can

A friend of mine, the Very Rev. James Salia is retiring this year. He will have reached the mandatory age of 70 when Methodist Church Ghana posts pastors in October. Rev. Salia is from the Upper West and has served at the Lawra church for several years. He looked at the posting as an opportunity, not as a punishment because he knows the people of the Upper West. He know they need the LORD. After leaving Lawra, he could have been posted at a more "lucrative" church, a "better" assignment. Instead, he asked to be posted in a village, again, in the Upper West.

Now, this chapter of his life is closing. Rev. Salia has had to face the fact that he needs a house to live in when he retires. He has purchased land and has started to Build his cement block house. But, will it be finished when he needs to move in? I doubt it. He is doing what he can, as he can afford it, little by little.

While at Synod a week ago, I saw the body of Christ in action...I saw Synod members take care of one of their own. I saw a church take it upon themselves to help this brother in Christ as much as they could. 

A plea was made on Rev. Salia's behalf. People responded...with money, with promises of funds and supplies. People, a few at first, came forward, placing their gifts in the collection box. By the time Synod was officially over, half of the money of what Rev. Salia needed to complete his house was provided, along with seven doors, two bundles of roofing sheets and cloth. It is amazing what the family of God can do together! Thank You, LORD, for the out pouring of love on this dear brother!