Monday, March 30, 2015

Palm Sunday Celebrations

Palm Sunday is such a festive day here in the Lawra churches! It was quite obvious even as I drove my motorcycle to Kalsagri. Plenty of people were walking to their place of worship. The all had palm branches or other types of leaves and flowers in their hands. They were dressed in their best. There was a sense of celebration in the air, almost as if everyone was going to a party! 

Almost everyone wove their palm leaves into something. Each one was different, there were so many beautiful designs. And, when giving the sermon, audience participation was encouraged with the waving of the palms, shouting, " “Hozaana! A soba na naŋ Waana a Daana yuori eŋɛ nyɛ la maaloo; A Izerayɛl Naa!” After the sermon, we sang, "Hozanna!" and walked down the road and back as we sang and waved our palm branches. People love this day.

Later on in the day, I celebrated Kataali's 9th birthday with her parents, Dora and Razak. We went to a local spot (a place to buy drinks and sometimes even food), Matron's, to drink Malta (a Ghanaian non-alcoholic malt beverage) and eat chicken. Kataali loved being able to eat out, something that is only done a few times a year. I gave Kataali her gift, which she was very happy to receive. After the chicken was eaten, Razak asked for a sachet of water. (Drinking water is sold in plastic sachets.) He bit off the corner and then proceeded to squirt his daughter - to "pond" her. It is something that Ghanaians do on your birthday, you get ponded, in other words, people throw water on you!
Palm Sunday was a very festive day this year. People celebrated. People enjoyed the day. They loved those who were with them. Happiness could be felt. It is all because of what Jesus did for us!  “Hozaana! A soba na naŋ Waana a Daana yuori eŋɛ nyɛ la maaloo; A Izerayɛl Naa!”

A Tro Tro Adventure

The day was Friday. I needed to be in Wa for a 4:00 meeting. "I'll leave my house by noon," I told myself. After I finished everything that needed to be done before leaving Lawra, I locked my door before11:00! I walked into Lawra Town to the tro station and saw a zillion Senior Secondary School students. They were on Easter holiday! And, they all wanted a seat on the tro. So, I prayed a prayer, "O Lord, PLESE let me get a seat on this tro." I went up to the station master and bought my ticket. "Thank You, Jesus!" Of course, there was no change for my ten Ghana Cedi note. I was to receive two Ghana Cedis in change. "I will give it to you," I was told. I asked who was the driver and asked him if I could sit in the front seat - wrong choice! But, there is more leg room.
The driver was getting ready to leave. So, he opened the passenger door and lifted the seat. Then, he did something with the wires or engine or whatever. And, the car started! He flipped the seat back down and we all entered. One of the female students sat next to me, in the middle. And, we were off! Yes, it did feel like we were on a race track. The trip gave me plenty of reasons to pray! I am thinking to myself, "There is a curve in the road - TURN!" The driver did turn, but, never slowed down a bit. Oh, I imagined all kinds of things...fishtailing, sliding on the dry, dirt road.... Then, two tro tros are coming in the opposite direction at the iron ONE LANE bridge. Yet, our driver doesn't slow down. The first tro crosses the bridge and continues towards Lawra. Then, we proceed onto the bridge, at an uncomfortable speed, just missing the other tro. Praise God, we were safe! I decided it would be best if I just closed my eyes for the rest of the trip.
As we entered the larger towns, Jeripa and Nadowli, I open my eyes. When I touched my glasses to reposition them, the lens fell out. "Thank You, Jesus, I am on my way to Wa. Please let the Red Cross Optical be open." I put my glasses in my bag. The driver honks his horn and flies through each town. We made it to Wa safely, because of the grace of God. We made excellent time! And, I was provided with the opportunity of doing a LOT of praying!
Just another day in the Upper West!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Story - My Story

The epilogue of The Story ends with this sentence, "The chapter with your name is about to be written." Hmmm....a chapter in The Story is pretty close to a book of the Bible. How would my chapter read? Would it be all "fluff", good reading when one is so tired that eyes are almost closed? Would it be a comedy? A love story? (I doubt it.) Or, would it be a chapter of heartache and broken dreams? Would there be adventure? Will it be a mystery? Or just history? How will it end?
I think the chapter would include all of the above. Most of all, I pray it would be a story of redemption, a story of someone who, in their own way, searched for something. A story of searching for Someone and found Him. A love story, yes, but not your typical love story. I pray it will be a chapter of grace - grace received and grace given. I pray that my chapter will be a source of help, and quite possibly, inspiration, to others. When others read about the good, bad and ugly of my life and read how God has used it to glorify the Father, maybe they won't give up, but, press on towards the goal.
So, my friends, since my chapter is not in this book, or any other, feel free to ask me about how God has made a beautiful stained glass window out of the broken glass shards of my life. Let's talk! I know that my God can do the same for you! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Anger or Compassion - What Is Your Choice?

Many times, as I read Scripture, something that I always took for granted jumps out at me. I was reading about Jesus' ministry and the thing that jumped out at me was His compassion. He looked out at the crowds and had compassion for them...they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus performed miracle to glorify the Father, but, I also believe that He did what no human could ever do because He had compassion for them. If Jesus was 100% human without being God, too, I am sure that He would have gotten angry more often. He may have wanted "His own space." He was always being pulled towards people and their needs. It wasn't often when Jesus heard a "Thank you." And, did anyone truly understand who He was and what His mission was all about while Jesus walked the earth? He was patient because of His compassion. He touched the untouchables because of His compassion. There was a time, He told the same basic story three times, so people would "get it" because of His compassion. (Lost sheep, coin and son in Luke 15.)
Then, I look at myself, at my actions, reactions, thoughts towards people. Are they always compassionate? I think not. My initial reaction oftentimes is to get upset, or angry, although I don't often act on that reaction. I forget that I am an American, with a different world view than the people with whom I work. We have been taught differently. We accept different behaviors as normal. We have different ideas on what should be done in many circumstances. It is OK to do things differently. People who live here know what works, I don't. (example -my garden!)
I know that I need to see what Jesus sees more often, not what Sue sees. I need to feel in my heart what the Lord feels. I need to pray more often and more seriously for the people with whom I work. Yes, there will be times of teaching and testing, both of myself and the people. We'll get through those times. God will bless us because of them...because He will be glorified. I will learn. The people of Kalsagri will learn. And, our lives will be a better reflection of the One we serve.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Household god

What does this picture look like to you? To me, it looks like a pile of rocks with two sticks standing up in it. To the people who live in the compound where I saw this, it is a "household god" or "family god." This surprised me because I know that the people who live in this compound are Christian, they go to my church. At least some of them are and do.
I asked about this "god." I knew that ancestors are very important in this area. This "god" is the "god" of the grandfather of the family. The grandfather has passed and so has everyone of his generation. So, I asked, "If the grandfather is dead, why not destroy the 'god?'" "Oh, Mama, we can't do that." was the response I was given. "Why? I am just a nasapog (white woman), I don't understand." "Because the community will not allow it." "The community? As in the elders of the community?" "Yes, Mama. They will not allow it." "What will happen if your father destroys the 'god?'" "The community will get angry and my father will have to pay some money." "What happens if he doesn't pay?" They will come for him." And so the conversation went on.
It is obvious that there is fear involved in removing the idol. There are others inside the house, too. So, are people living for Jesus but, hanging onto their Traditional beliefs? Or are people really afraid to rid their homes of "gods" made out of wood and stone? Please pray for the people of Kalsagri, that fear would give way to the peace of Christ and that people would be willing to stand up for their beliefs. Ghana is a Christian nation. Here, in the Upper West, not so much. May people embrace the One who gave His life so they may be free of such things and live life to the fullest!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Off Aain, On Again

Many of you have asked me to write about everyday life in Lawra. Life in Lawra is great. It is a blessing to have the privilege to live here. But, it does have its challenges. Electricity is not stable. Often the current is low so much that if you are using something that pulls a lot of electricity, don't bother. It won't work. That is one reason why I haven't pushed for my a/c unit to be serviced since I returned. If the electricity is weak, how do I know my a/c is working properly?
The other issue is "lights off." (No electricity.) Sometimes it is planned, sometimes it is not. Evidently, Lawra is on a four day schedule. Every four days, lights go off at 6 pm or so and go back on at 2 am, eight hours later. Sometimes it is shorter, sometimes longer. It really helps to know the schedule. And, I am so grateful that we are not on the Accra schedule which is 12 hours on, 24 hours off.
It is the unplanned, unscheduled lights off that can be annoying. The weekends seem to be a favorite time for VRA (Volta River Authority, my electric company) to work on transformers. So, lights go off for awhile, come back on for an hour or so and go back off again. Or, they may flicker off and on. That can't be healthy for any kind of electronics! Yesterday was Monday, and lights were off again on again most of the day because of work on a transformer. Then, last night was our scheduled night to have lights off.
The moral of the story? Keep everything charged. Unplug favorite electronics before you leave the house. Use a stabilizer (to try to keep the current from jumping too high.) Be grateful for the times you do have electricity!