Monday, April 20, 2015

"Dog Days of Summer"

It has been very hot in Lawra lately. It is not summer, as there is no summer season here. (To me, it seems as if it is summer all year 'round.) Right now, we are in the midst of the hot season, when the temperatures are high and it is very dry with little, if any, rain.  As you can see, the temperature hit 108 degrees Fahrenheit on the day I took this picture. You can also see that we had electricity that day, since my a/c was working and it was 84 degrees in my bedroom. (Thank You, Jesus!)
I am a morning person. You can probably see that if you look at the timestamps on Facebook, my emails or even this blog. You have to be a morning person during this season because the heat saps out all of your energy! Three afternoons a week, I drive my motorcycle out to Kalsagri for different activities at the church. If they were not scheduled, I would be like many Ghanaians - relaxing because it is just too hot to do anything! And, when there is no electricity....ugh! But, it is what it is, a fact of life here in Lawra. A person has to accept it or move someplace else because things are not likely to change.
I know the saying, "the dog days of summer" refers to the period of time when Serius, the Dog Star, rises as the same time as the sun. I like the more simple definition: a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence. The afternoons are filled with low activity activities, if possible. And, sitting in the shade drinking plenty of water! If you enjoy the heat, you are invited to join me in Lawra!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Husband, a Father and a Spiritual Battleground

My church members told me last Sunday (Easter) about a man who was crazy. His wife attends our church with his young twins, a boy and a girl. The people of the church wanted me to visit him, but, since they told me that he is sometimes tied down because of the way he acts, I begged off until Monday. That way, Razak and the pastor would be in Kalsagri and if something happened, they were stronger than me. As it turned out, we didn't go on Monday because the man wasn't home. So, we went today. Not with Razak and the pastor, but, with at least twenty people from the church.
"He lives just over there," I was told. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived. We asked permission to visit and it was granted. We were led to a place under a large mango tree where two benches were set out for us. My eyes saw what they never saw before. And, my spirit wept. For there, in front of me, sitting on the ground was a man in a dirty, ripped up green shirt and filthy trousers. But, that wasn't what made me weep. That is almost normal in Kalsagri. What made me weep were the shackles on his wrists and ankles. Ofonso, the person we came to see, was in shackles because he has been harming others. He literally picked up a couple of men and threw them to the ground. I kept praying, "Jesus. Jesus." And, I kept thinking of the Bible stories of Jesus casting out demons. And I kept thinking, "Jesus loves you."
Samuel was our spokesperson. He talked with Ofonso and led us in prayer. The women sang. It was a holy time. And, here is the spoiled American (me) thinking, "I wish I could snap a picture." But, it wasn't the time or place. It would have been rude and inappropriate. As we prayed corporately, I wept for this tortured soul. Oh, how Jesus loves him. I prayed against the powers of the evil one. I prayed for his restoration. I prayed that he would be given visions and dreams that he would know personally the Lord and Giver of Life. I prayed that he would answer the knocking at the door of his heart and welcome Jesus inside. I prayed that he would one day live his life for the Lord.
After we prayed, Samuel spoke with Ofonso some more. He spoke of grace and mercy and the love of God. As we finished up, we asked if we could visit again in a few weeks. He said, "yes." So, please, I beg you, pray for this man, that God would restore him and give him life. And, that Ofonso will live his life to glorify God.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Cry for Mercy

O Lord, who else or what else can I desire but You? You are my Lord, Lord of my heart, mind and soul. You know me through and through. In and through You everything that is finds its origin and goal. You embrace all that exists and care for it with divine love and compassion. Why then, do I keep expecting happiness and satisfaction outside of You? Why do I keep relating to You as one of my many relationships, instead of my only relationship, in which all other ones are grounded? Why do I keep looking for popularity, respect from others, success, acclaim, and sensual pleasures? Why, Lord, is it so hard for me to make You the only one? Why do I keep hesitating to surrender myself totally to You?
Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in You and see through You the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words and thought can become a hymn of praise to You.
I need Your loving grace to travel this hard road that leads to the death of my old selfand to a new life in and for You. I know and trust this is the road to freedom.
Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend. Amen
From A Cry for Mercy by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Missing Easter...or Not!

Lord, today I am "missing Easter." I am missing all of the preparations that I would be doing in the US....boiling the eggs and coloring them, baking the almond puff pastry, jelly beans and chocolate cashew eggs and decorating as if spring has arrived. Oh, and the scent of hyacinths, my mom loved hyacinths. I am missing familiar Easter hymns. And I am missing being with my family and friends.
Yet, Lord, I know that isn't what Easter is all about. it isn't about polish sausage and a butter lamb and jelly beans and chocolate. It's about You. It's about Your triumph over death, crushing the head of the serpent. It's about victory so that we, including myself, can be with You in Your Kingdom for all eternity. 
So, what do I do? I will ride my bicycle into town. I will buy eggs. Maybe I will be able to buy some bread flour. I can buy some chocolate (even if it is far from a chocolate cashew egg!) When the internet is working, I can email my brothers. I can write my sister a letter. And, I can focus on You, worship You with my Ghanaian friends and family.
On the first day of the week...the stone had been taken away from the tomb..."Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday service in Lawra was just what I needed. It was so good to be a part of the congregation, even if I did have to sit up front with the pastor. The corporate worship, the prayers, the singing. It was a nice change from leading worship and preaching. The evening was filled with symbolism of the Christian faith. And, what was most exciting to me, is my pastor leads by serving, not just lip service, but in his life!

A foot washing service was incorporated into the evening's worship service. The Very Rev. Ernest Baiden sat on a small kitchen stool and called for the leaders of the church to come forward. One by one, he washed our feet. I wanted to respond like Peter, "Rev. Baiden, don't wash my feet. I walked here. They are filthy, gross. I came to serve the people of Lawra, not to be served." I didn't voice what I was thinking. I just watched him, filled with the love of Christ, rinsing my feet, spreading the soap and lathering and then rinsing off the soap and taking a towel to dry my feet. Oh, my! It was amazing! THe love he has for the people in his congregation. He is truly a servant.
After the church leaders had their feet washed, they, in turn washed the feet of the congregation. We went through plenty of soap and water. If you live in Lawra, your feet don't stay clean for long. There were a lot of nasty looking feet. But, as I washed the feet of others, I didn't think, "Ew, this is horrible. Why am I not wearing gloves?" Instead, I prayed for the person, for their safety as they walked throughout town, for their relationship with Christ, for their life and their family thanking God for this opportunity to serve others. What an example! It was interesting to hear the comments of people afterwards. Surely God was in this place!

The service continued with communion. Jesus did these two things, washing the feet of those closest to Him and He shared a meal with them. And, he told them to do as He did. We are to be servants and we are to remember Him when we eat the bread and drink the wine. Being so far away from all that is familiar, this was the perfect way to worship and to remember what Christ had done for us, for you and for me. It was truly a "Holy Thursday."