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 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...


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 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!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wisdom for All Circumstances

The last several weeks have been very trying, to put it lightly. Most of the time I am amazed at what God has allowed me to do / to witness. But, these last weeks, I am still amazed, but for a totally different reason. It reinforces the fact that the world needs a Savior.

I have been reading through the Bible. The one I am reading now is a Good News Bible that includes the Deuterocanonical books /Apocrypha. I feel I am going back to my "Catholic roots." I have just finished the book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). It has plenty of wisdom for the situations I face. Here are just some of the verses that have spoken to me during this time:

~ Keep quiet until the right time to speak, and you will gain a reputation for good sense. 1:24
~ Be like a father to orphans, and provide widows with the help their husbands can no longer give them. 4:10
~ Never abandon an old friend. 9:10
~ Your chief pride should be your fear of the Lord. 9:16b
~ It is not right to refuse honor to a poor person who is intelligent, and it is not right to give honor to a sinner. 10:23
~ Before you start criticizing, get your facts straight and think the matter through. 11:7
~ Don't get into an argument over something that is none of your business. 11:9
~ Do good to humble people, but don't give anything to those who are not devout. Don't give them food, or they will use your kindness against you. Every good thing you do for such people will bring you twice as much trouble in return. 12:5
~ If a person has a clear conscience and never gives up hope, he is certainly to be congratulated. 14:2
~ Be kind to your friends, be as generous as you can. 14:13b
~ It is not appropriate for a sinner to sing hymns of praise, because his worship is insincere. 15:9
~ Don't make yourself a beggar by borrowing for expensive banquets when you haven't enough money of your own. If you do, you never will get rich; if you don't pay attention to small matters you will eventually ruin yourself. 18:33-19:1
~ It is much better to rebuke the person than to keep your anger bottled up. 20:2
~ A wise person will not speak until the right moment. 20:7
~ Gifts and bribes make even wise men blind to the truth, and prevent them from being honest in their criticism.20:29
~ A man may be famous as a good speaker, but when he is wrong, a sensible person will detect it. 21:7
~ Gossips and liars deserve to be cursed, because they have been the ruin of many people who were minding their own business. 28:13
~ Be understanding with those who are poor. Don't keep them waiting for your generosity. 29:8
~ It is impolite to have a greedy eye. 31:13
~ Be moderate in everything you do and you will never be sick. 31:22
~ Never, as long as you live, give anyone power over you. 33:19a
~ As long as you have breath in your body, don't let anyone lead your life for you. 33:20a
~ Keep control over all that you do; don't let anything stain your reputation. 33:22