Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Faithful One

I find no hope within to call my own,
For I am frail of heart, my strength is gone,
But deep within my soul is rising up a song,
Here in the comfort of the Faithful One.

I walk a narrow road through valleys deep,
In search of higher ground, on mountains steep,
And, though, with feet unsure, I still keep pressing on,
For I am guided by the Faithful One.

Faithful, faithful to the end,
My true and precious Friend,
You have been faithful,
Faithful, so faithful to me.

I see Your wounded hands, I touch Your side,
With thorns upon Your brow, You bled and died.
But there's an empty tomb, a love for all who come
And give their hearts to You, the Faithful One.

Faithful, faithful to the end,
My true and precious Friend,
You have been faithful,
Faithful, so faithful to me.
And when the day is dawned and when the race is run,
I will bow down before God's only Son,
And I will lift my hands in praise for all You've done,
And I will worship You, my Faithful One.

 ~ Faithful One by Selah

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Still Learning....

Today is market day in Lawra. So, in Kalsagri, we have our worship service at 7:00 am so people will have plenty of time to buy and sell. Several times, even many times over the last two weeks, we have announced this fact. I even told the congregation on Wednesday, Sunday, when it gets light outside, get up, bath, get dressed, eat fast and come to church. I had hopes that people would do so...it happened in the past.
I left my house around 6:35 am. The air was crisp. I almost expected to see frost on the ground. My arms were cold as I zipped (did I really "zip"?) along the road to Kalsagri. The sun was low and beautiful. What a lovely drive! Yet, when I arrived in Kalsagri, "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." No one was at church. It was locked. No benches were set out. The drum was still locked inside. No one was around. 7:00 came and went. No one. 7:10 came and went. No one. 7:20 came and went. Still, nada. 7:30 came and went...should I go home? The first person arrived at 7:33. Then, another person, a cripples man, walking on his hands, arrived. By 8:00, there were seven (7) of us. So, we started the service.
Little by little people did come. It was cold outside. The sun does not come up as early this time of year. Some people were out late last night. Whatever the reason, they did not come at 7:00 am, but they did come. By 9:00, there were 80 people there. And, by the time the service was over, there were over one hundred in attendance.
During the testimony time, I stood up to speak. I asked for forgiveness for thinking like an American. I am living in a country, in an area, where people do not have clocks. They do not have watches. They do not have cell phones on which the time is displayed. What they do have is the sun. When a person wakes up, they look at the position of the sun. And, that is how time is marked...by the sun. So, when the sun rises late during this time of year, I need to be sensitive to that fact. People did come to church. But, they came according to the clock in the sky, not the one on my wrist. I hope I learned this lesson today. The lesson? It would be that I am not living in America. The lesson that telling time by the sun is not wrong only different. And, the lesson that God calls people to His house, not me!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas in Lawra

Christmas is a magical time, no matter where one might live. Customs my be different, social and economic may be different, but to me, it is all magical, especially when you see the joys and blessings of Christmas through the eyes of a child. Above is Raymond, the son of a friend of mine. He and his brothers LOVED playing with the nativity set. It didn't matter that the angel was missing, good ol' Joe stepped in to fill the part. The Christmas story was told and retold and acted out numerous times. And, the fact that there was music and lights didn't seem to bother them at all, even after the 57th time!
Christmas in Lawra is celebrated with family and friends. Big shopping, as people do in the USA, isn't done. Most people cannot afford to shop. They will scrimp and save and try to get the best deals on special food for the day, possibly chicken and rice, and new clothing that will be worn the whole year through. The main part of my Christmas shopping was buying three LIVE chickens, one each for three of my friends, including the pastor.
Christmas Eve Service in Kalsagri was at 9:30 in the morning. (This old white lady does not drive a motorcycle at night.) Over 100 people showed up to worship, sing, dance and hear the Word of God. After the service, a Christmas surprise...clothing left for the people by the Bishop and dresses for the girls made by my sister-in-law, Anita, and her friends.
Everyone had a good time going through the clothes and choosing some for their family...and just trying on stuff for the fun of it!
After church, Sydney and Leahy, two of my Peace Corps friends, came over and we "settled in for a long winter's nap."...we ate, made cookies, drank hot chocolate with marshmallows and watched Christmas movies (in Christmas jammies)! And, we went to sleep hoping Santa would find us!
Christmas Day found us in Church again. Dancing, singing, praising God. Numbers were down on Christmas Day..."only" 95! Leahy came to Kalsagri to see the church and to hear me preach. She is such a good sport...as I posted on Facebook: "White Jewish woman dances in black Methodist Church on Christmas Day!" Next, came the making of the feast and the savoring of it. Thanks to people back in the USA, we had the fixings for a wonderful meal!

Friday, I showed "The Nativity Story" at Kalsagri Church. Fifty six people squeezed into a small room, to watch the movie on a computer screen, with only two little speakers. And, they were ALL attentive...except for the two who fell asleep!

I did exchange gifts with Sydney and Leahy, I had something (a chicken) for the pastor, Mr. Gandaa and Fortune, and I had gifts for Razak, Dora, Kataali, Habib, and Hassan...but, I did not expect this...my fist LIVE Christmas chicken. It was from Razak and his family. The first thing the chicken did when I put it down was poop on my veranda! He was going to be dead meat, which, actually, he is...in my refrigerator. He will be cooked today!

Depending on where you live, your life's circumstances, your Christmas may have looked a bit different than mine. The truth of the matter is, Christmas isn't in the celebrations, it isn't in the gift giving/receiving, it isn't even in the food or family customs, Christmas is the celebration of our Saviour's birth. Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven to be born as a tiny baby. He experienced all those feelings and emotions that we do, and yet, in all circumstances, He trusted His Father...even all the way to the cross. He came to save me...He came to save you...Have you invited Him to live in your heart?
Come into my heart, come into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus,
Come in today, come in to stay,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kindred Spirits

Two of the best words I have heard since living in Ghana were spoken by my good friend, Tula. She said to me, "We're coming!" She said more, of course, but those words...so sweet! I have had some visitors while living in Lawra, but, they were visitors who were making "the rounds," visiting other projects and missionaries here in Ghana. But, now, Tula was coming. YAY! (Her husband Gary came, too.) I am still amazed that they traveled for almost three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas!
Tula had so many roadblocks while preparing to come, including her passport getting "lost" after she mailed it for her visa. She ended up having to get a new passport and had to do her paperwork for her visa several times because it got lost or misplaced. She ended up in the emergency room three days before she was to fly here...seeing a surgeon was suggested. But, she packed her meds in her carry on and came anyway. I wondered what God had in store for her because of all she had to go through to get here. The day for her arrival came and I met her and Gary at the airport.
Oh, I cannot tell you how good it was to see her here. We relaxed in Accra, then, I took the bus home while she and Gary rode with another friend, taking it easy until she felt better. By the time she arrived in Lawra, she was exhausted, but happy.
During the next two weeks, I was able to show both Gary and Tula, life in Lawra, Kalsagri, and introduce them to my Ghanaian family. Gary went out & about with John Gandaa, doing his agriculture thing. Tula and I visited Kalsagri by way of motorcycle! We visited the tea shop, ate tilapia, talked about ministry and about life. We played with the kids (with Gary) and watched Christmas movies. Gary cooked okra! (It was good. Who knew?) We talked about the possibilities of ministry for future trips. We dreamt. We laughed. And, when I saw them walking into the airport to leave, there were tears in my eyes. Having Tula here was such an encouragement. Such a balm to my entire being. I thank God for friends like Tula and Gary.
God has given me many friends with whom I can share my life and they can share theirs. But, it is not often you come across a "kindred spirit." When that gift is given to you, treasure her/treasure him. For they are truly a gift from God!

Entering a New Decade

Another decade has come and gone. "What?" you may ask, thinking it is still 2013; the calendar has not changed to a new year, let alone a new decade. But, in my life, the pages of the calendar have turned. I am now 60 years old...old enough to retire in Ghana! (But, I am not a Ghanaian citizen. Plus, what would I do if I retire now?) I have experienced many emotions as I have reached this milestone of life. People congratulate me...but, it isn't anything I have done. God is the One who numbers out days. So, I am grateful for the time He has given me. And, I am grateful for the many experiences in which He has allowed me to participate.
I often pray like King David did in 2 Samuel 7:18..."Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far?" Far can mean so many things...distance, as I am very far from my blood family...experiences, I have been in the Andes mountains and bathed in the river below, I have walked where Paul the apostle walked, I have been in the company of some very important people, in the world's eyes, and numerous important people in God's eyes...I have learned how to ride a motorcycle at the age of 59...I live and work among some of the most amazing people I have ever met. But, more importantly, He has brought me far in my walk with Him. Life has not always been easy, has not always been care-free. But, through the years, I have learned that I can trust in my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He will always be here for me, only a breath away - not even that far!!! And, with Him, I can be thankful in all things, rejoice always and live a grateful life.
I pray I have more new decades to enter. I pray that God will continue to sustain me. I pray that I will continue to grow in love and knowledge of Him. I pray people will see Him in me. I pray that as I live out this new decade of life, it will glorify Him, for He is the Author and Giver of Life. Thank You, Lord!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Most Welcome Visitor

Friday, 13 December 2013, was an historic day in the life of Kalsagri Methodist Church. The Right Reverend Emmanuel MacLord Alfriyie, Bishop of the Northern Diocese of The Methodist Church Ghana came to visit. What a wonderful time! Surely God was in this place.

But, an hour or so earlier, this American woman was wondering if anyone would come! I arrived at the church an hour or so before the scheduled visit. There was one person at the church! Yes, you read that right, ONE! Oh, I know that most Ghanaians come late. They are on their own time schedule. And, my people even more since they do not have cell phones (on which they can check the time) or wrist watches.

Little by little, people came...

And as they came, they read Scripture...


And danced...

And, the people did come! I should know better. People come, even when I think no one will show up. By the time the bishop arrived, there were over 175 people in attendance, including five representatives from the Kalsagri Chief's Palace!
The Bishop was once a teacher and an evangelist...and still is! He spoke on Christmas, the celebration of Christ's birth. No one fell asleep. I think it is impossible to sleep while this bishop preaches. He is very engaging when he preaches.

The Word of God was preached...seeds were planted...challenges given...now, responses have to be made. Pray for these people...the people of Kalsagri who never saw a bishop in their church until last Friday...the people who live in extreme conditions, but who still have hope...pray for those who have not yet made a decision for Christ...pray for their Christmas celebration...may they experience Christ's love as we celebrate His birth!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Many Faces of Wonder

Today, I visited the village of Kondokpie, a community of Kalsagri. It is the village where Naamal was living with her grandmother. Since Rev. Job, who has taken so much time with the care of Naamal while she was in the hospital and after, was in Lawra, I asked him to go with me to visit Naamal's grandmother. Friends of mine, Tula and Gary Crumpton, came along with us. When we arrived at the house, we asked for Naamal's Maakum (Grandmother.) We were told that her grandmother traveled south to Techiman to see Naamal! Amazing! This is the woman who pleaded with me to help her grandchild because no one else would help her.

Instead of leaving, we greeted the chief of this small community. Then, we showed him the before and after pictures of Naamal. Words cannot express the look on his face...awe, astonishment, wonder...and then, the photos were passed around. Naamal's uncle, who cannot hear or speak, was jumping up and down with joy, showing the pictures to extended family. People kept coming from their homes and from "out of nowhere" to see...male and female, young and old, all wanted to see the difference in Naamal. Unbelief...realizing a miracle had taken place. Everyone was so happy and so grateful. At least twenty people came all at once and shook our hands to thank us. I responded, "Barka Naangmen!" (Thank God!) Naamal's uncle went to the family house and came out with a bag of groundnuts from his family farm. He just didn't know what to say. Those were holy moments...moments when God was present and experienced by all. Even as we walked back to the truck, more people came to see the photos. They could not believe that this was possible! Our God is so good...to take a five year old girl who was seen as worthless to her parents, and He gave he a new life...a new face...her family back. Praise God for all of His wonderful deeds!

Naamal...Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel

I saw Rev. Job yesterday. He has been instrumental in Naamal's physical and spiritual health. When I saw him, he gave me this picture. It is Naamal, two days after surgery. It looks like there is a "spacer" in her mouth, to help keep it's shape. I really don't know what it is called or what the reasons are for it's use. But, it does help shape her face. Rev. Job saw Naamal last week. He said that he almost did not recognize her. She can close her mouth! Her face looks so fine! And, her parents are so happy. More to come as I receive information and pictures. To God be the glory, great things He has done!