Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Day Ministry Challenges

During the Christmas Season, it is easy to think of decorations, special music and even going to church early so you can get a parking space. Some churches have the challenge of figuring out where to seat all of the people who attend their worship services. Not so in Kunyukuo. On Christmas Day, a Sunday, I arrived at church at 9:15 for a 9:30 service. NO ONE WAS THERE! I was so surprised! What was happening? Even the few that are usually in church early were not there. Did the village of Kunyukuo do something special on Christmas Day that no one told me about? 

I tried calling Mama Jane and Matthias. Neither of them picked up. So, I called Razak. He had relatives in Kunyukuo, maybe he knew. He told me that maybe people go to church on Christmas Eve. I said, "Razak. Even if they went somewhere else last night, today is Sunday. We have Sunday worship." He told me he would try to find out what was happening. Then, the network went down and wasn't working for the next two hours or more.

I walked over to Mama Jane's house. She said, "I am on my way coming." She was still getting ready. But, she also said, "It's so cold outside. I am moving slow." COLD? In Ghana? We really don't have cold. But, wait...I am from Pennsylvania. This weather in Ghana, even a morning Harmattan temperature in the 70s is nice to me. But, to a Ghanaian, it is freezing! I walked back to church. Oh, we now had five people. None spoke English. After waiting a bit longer, we had ten people, and Matthias had arrived from Lawra. He began the service....

I have been here almost six years. It sense to me that people would come late because of bad weather. Yet, in my American mind, this isn't bad weather. And still, I sometimes forget to look at things/circumstances from a Ghanaian point of view. I still have a lot to learn!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Immanuel, God with Us

Here in Ghana, children are given names because of their meaning. There are special names for the firstborn, for a child born after a miscarriage, or stillbirth, or to tell others that this child is a gift from God. The name might reflect the hopes and dreams the parents have for the child. A child can be named after someone special in the parents' lives.Children are named after popes and other historical figures. 

This being the Christmas season of the Liturgical Calendar, I can't help but think of the children who have been named Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a common name here, Emma (long "e" sound, short "a" sound) is used as a nickname. Emmanuel...God with us. Hmmm.... How does it feel to have that name? I don't think people are saying that their child is a god. It is more like, "God has blessed us, He is with us in giving us this child."

Imagine having the name Immanuel. It is a constant reminder of God being here on earth with us. He is here in our comings and in our goings. He is here with us as we are awake and as we sleep. He is with us when things go wrong and when things go the way they are supposed to go. He is with us in our health and in our sickness. He is with us in our work and in our play. He is with us in our celebrations and in our grieving. And, do you know what? He cares. He cares about these things. He cares about what makes us happy or sad or energized. He cares about us when we rejoice and when we weep. He cares about our creativity and He cares when we have "mental block." 

What other god is like that? Our God is personal and wants to be involved in our lives. He wants so much to be more than an observer in our lives, He wants to be an active participant. All we have to do is invite Him. Are you willing to invite Immanuel, God with Us, into your life? Won't you ask Him today?

Home, Sweet Home

Home, sweet home. It's so nice to be home again. There is something very comforting about being home. It's at home when I am most content. It's at home I can be myself and feel/express whatever emotion I am feeling without having someone wonder about it. Everything at home is familiar-clothes, food, rooms, books, storage, and the place where I have my time with the Lord. I can study at home. I can work at home...sometimes. The children come to play at my house. I love to hear them call to me, "Maakum! Maakum!" and see their smiling and expectant faces.I provide an island of familiarity to expats from Europe and the United States. When a respite is needed for these volunteers, I can provide it. But, most of all, being at home means being with "my people." God has given me family and friends for this chapter of my life. They are the people with whom I work and "play," those with whom I live among-the Dagaaba of the Upper West Region of Ghana, in the Lawra area. 

Life can be very challenging at times. I had three different plumbers here for a total of five times before my toilet was fixed! The ATM machine was broken. When it was fixed, it wouldn't take my US bank card. The next closest ATM machine is a two hour one way trip away. I can arrive at church on a Sunday morning, and no one is there, not even at the time the service is supposed to start. Being sick can present it's own set of challenges, too.

Praise God! He has a plan for all of these challenges. I am happy to say that the toilet was fixed before I got sick. And, when I was sick, I had the luxury of soft toilet paper that I bought in Accra, 15 hours away! When I traveled to Wa to use the ATM machine, I was able to buy "soft chicken" and potatoes for Christmas dinner that was shared with Ghanaians and expats alike. The Physician's Assistant is a good friend, and makes house calls! And, even thought it was VERY cold on Christmas Day (80 degrees F)  and no one was in church at 9:30 am, there were 20 people who came to worship Emmanuel, God with us! Even now, there are children's voices coming from my veranda. What a sweet sound. 

Home, sweet home. It's so good to be "home." Yet, I am a stranger here in Lawra because I am not Ghanaian. And, I am a stranger in this world because I am a follower of Jesus. I look forward to someday being in my Heavenly home...just not yet!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Day to Remember

My birthday was not going to go as planned. I was hoping to stay home and make Christmas cards. Did that happen? No. Life happened.I got up early and walked, read my Bible, was greeted by Boniface, drove out to Kunyukuo to pick up the financial books and start going through them, making sure everything was good. (Matthias has been doing a good job!) I also went to talk with the pastor about a bunch of stuff. Oh, and I needed to go into town to buy a few things. Plus, there is a sermon to be written this week. Anyway,it turned out to be mostly a work day, And that's okay, too. Minna, a Peace Corps volunteer was coming for dinner-canned peaches and grilled cheese sandwiches. (I also dropped my laptop on to the top of my right foot...the edge of me laptop. It still hurts!)

Minna came bearing gifts of snacks from Japan, Korea and the US. So, we had appetizers while we tried to figure out why the sound wasn't working on the TV?DVD player. (We didn't figure it out.) Then, there was a phone call. It was Razak. Mama, there is an emergency mandatory meeting at Galipol (He really meant Matron's) at 5:00. Be there! 

So, we walked over to Galipol and waited. And waited. Until a girl came over to tell us that Razak was at Matron's. We walked over and there they were...Razak, Vincent, (both from Ghana) Lena and Seraina (both from Germany.) We sat down and birthday greetings were given. So were birthday gifts. Glasses were placed in front of us and Razak presented me with a bottle of Sparkling Orange Drink. He proceeded to shake it and shake it and shake it and uncork it. The cork flew about 25  feet! There was a birthday toast. Then, a guinea fowl with spaghetti was served. Yum! After awhile, Minna and I walked home and ate some more while putting our feet up and watching a Christmas movie.

The day definitely didn't go as planned. It was so much better! God has truly blessed me with "family" and friends here. I am so grateful that my day was such a blessing. In so many little ways, and some big ones, throughout the day, He showed me that I am not alone and I am loved beyond what I could imagine. Thank You, Lord!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

114 Days

114 days. 114 wonderful days. 114 busy days. 114 long days. 114 days in the United States. In many ways, those days seemed too short. I spent time with family and friends. I enjoyed summer days at the lake, cookouts, coffee shops, shopping, a peach festival, making greeting cards, going to movies and eating popcorn, going out to eat, and snuggling with Lulu (my senior brother's dog.) 

I spent time with supporting churches. And spent time with possible new supporters. I attended continuing education conferences. I traveled to and through several states. And, I missed my people in Lawra.

During the first of those 114 days, I kept watching a video of one of the children who come to my was of video of him making great armpit noises. It made me laugh. (I can't tell you how many times I watched that video while I was gone.) I talked about my "Ghanaian family" whenever given the chance, always wondering what they were doing. I was missing life happenings with them. Oh, when I returned to Ghana, both Elvis and Junior were walking! They weren't walking when I left. I would wonder how my little church was doing. And, I was saddened that I wasn't in Ghana to grieve with my friends when Uncle Christopher died.

On of the hard things about living in another country is always missing the country that I am not physically in. When I am in Ghana, I miss being in America. I miss my sister and brothers. I miss my friends. I miss my home church. I miss celebrating holidays with family. I miss the festivities that go along with those holidays. But, I love my life here in Ghana. I love the fact that God chose me to live this life. I love my little churches. I love the children who come to my house. I love the "laid back" lifestyle. I love that everyday is different. Sure, things don't always go the way I want them to, but, that is part of life, especially life in West Africa.

During those 114 days, people would ask me how it felt to be home. Home? Where is "home"? Right now, it is in Ghana. And, during those 114 days, I missed being there. Today, I thank God for returning me safely. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I was talking with an American friend and I made a comment about tomorrow being Thanksgiving. Her response was precious and typical, "Tomorrow? Thanksgiving? I forgot all about it." That's easy to do when the outside temperatures are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanksgiving looks different here than it does in America. There are no festivities. After all, it is not a Ghanaian holiday! There are no turkeys. No stuffing/dressing.No cranberry sauce. No blood family.

Yet it is still a day of giving thanks. I am thankful for another day of life to praise my Lord and Savior. I am thankful that I started back walking this morning. I am thankful for all those I see and greet when I walk. I am thankful for my Ghanaian family and friends with whom I can talk, laugh and celebrate the joys of life and grieve the sorrows. I'm thankful for my personal Physician's Assistant who keeps my injections up to date. And for my mechanic who keeps my motorcycle safe to drive. I am thankful for Boniface showing me his school work and doing his homework at my house. I am thankful, too, for the technology that allows me to wish family and friends who are stateside, a "Happy Thanksgiving."

So, while most people I know in the United States are eating turkey with all the fixings and planning their black Friday shopping spree, I am enjoying a teryaki chicken stir fry, rice and a cold glass of iced tea. After all, Thanksgiving isn't about the food or planning the shopping trip! It's about turning your eyes/my eyes to the LORD and thanking Him for His great love and the gift of salvation. He has truly blessed us! Give thanks!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Two More Months

I landed in the US 51 days ago. I leave the US in 61 days - two months from now. Two, long months. I'm so tired. I want to go home. I want some normalcy back in my life. Even with scheduling down time, I'm tired. Every time I get in a car, my body says to me, "Not again!" Maybe it is borrowing a car every time I need to visit another city/town or even to go to a doctor's appointment. Maybe it is the hills and mountains that I have been traveling. Maybe it is because nothing is ever easy. Maybe it is the fact that I have people who love me and allow me to stay at their house, yet I'm not at "home". a Maybe it is the harsh reality of Home Assignment - reconnecting with partnering churches and hopefully connecting with new ones. I look at my schedule and I get tired. Oh, I love going to the churches and homes of people to share what God has been doing. And, I'd rather be busy instead of sitting around. But, in my mind, if I had a true "home base" where I didn't have to live out of suitcases and ask for a car every time I wanted or needed to travel someplace, it would be easier. If I have an internet connection all the time, that would simplify things, too. Part of it is that I'm not getting the exercise here that I do in Ghana. And, I stay up later at night. And, I have to keep track of where I am supposed to be going and when. I almost forgot about a church visit that I have at the end of the month! That's not good.

Add to that the stress of trying to raise funding for my next term in Ghana. Sometimes I don't worry about the income enough, sometimes, not enough. Giving has gone down. Life situations have changed for people Will my visits and speaking to others make a difference in my monthly support? B I also want others to know there is a need. But, I also try to leave that part up to God. 

In the midst of all of this, I guess I am asking that you would pray for me, my ministry and that needs would be met. Maybe you are part of the solution!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Last week, as I was driving, I was really enjoying the music on the radio...until I drove out of range. Then, it wasn't so pleasant. It was static. Nothing was being clearly transmitted. So, I tried another staion...and another...and another...I finally shut off the radio. And, I began to pray. "Lord, when did it happen...that I need to have background noise? I seem to always have on music or a video or maybe even a pod cast. Why can't I be satisfied with silence? What am I running from? What am I afraid of? I used to love quiet drives...taking inthe scenery, talking with You. When I go to bed, I have to fall asleep with a movie or music on. Even my "quiet time" with You isn't quiet. I have praise music on, which isn't bad in and of itself. But, I wonder, where is that focused time with You, when I can hear Your voice? Am I fearful of what You would say to me? What is more scary than moving to Ghana all by myself? Yet, I'm not alone. And, it wasn't scary. Why? Because I heard Your voice telling me to "GO!" So, what happened? Is it just a simple matter of a bad habit? Or is it something deeper? Lord, show me what needs to change in me as I turn off the volume and keep my time with You, time with You. I want to see Your face and hear Your voice. Teach me, Lord!"

Saturday, September 3, 2016

44 Days

44 days! Yes, 44 days. I have been back in the US for 44 days. It's been a time of laughter and a time of tears. It's been a time of joy and sorrow. It's been a time of relaxation and work. It's been a time of travel and of staying put. Yes, life here in the US is full of paradoxes. It's nice to be here, but I wonder what is going on at home. I feel torn at times. I'm enjoying being with family, reconnecting with friends and loving the hot and cold running water. Yet, I wonder, "How is Uncle Christopher's funeral going? How is Razak and the family doing in the midst of their grief? How is Boniface and Pius? Are they getting ready to go back to school? How is the church doing? Will Matthias be able to take the Local Preacher's Test?" and a lot more!

Still, while I am here, I am able to share their stories, the stories that are being written by their lives. I can share with others how God is working in the villages of Kalsagri and Kunyukuo. So far, I have told their stories more than 15 times in formal, scheduled settings and numerous times in a relaxed informal setting.

I have also taken time to visit family, enjoy the company of friends and, to see dentists and doctors, too. This morning I will travel to see some dear friends and their family. There will be food, fellowship and sharing what God has been doing in our lives and in the lives of those we love both near and far. Tomorrow, I will be sharing at another church. I love to tell the story. I am amazed at what God has done and continues to do. And, I wonder what He will do in the next 68 days!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Ministry of Presence

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.It is a privilege to have the time and the freedom to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire is to be useful, to do something significant or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn't be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

~ Henri Nouwen from the book, Gracias!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Pennsylvania Tour

I'm on a Pennsylvania tour - five cities in seven days! No, I am NOT a rock star. I am not a politician running for office. I am a missionary on Home Assignment, trying to connect with those who partner with me and encourage me. And, trying to raise support so I can stay in Lawra, Ghana for another five years, discipling people who live in the villages surrounding Lawra. So, I am on the road.

People wonder what I do while I am in the US. Is it good to be "home?" (Well, for this time of my life, "home" is in Lawra, Ghana. So, it is What are you doing while you are here? Well, let me tell you what I have been doing...less than 24 hours in country, I drove two hours so I could meet with the pastor of my home church. (He is new at the church since I was last here.) Then, I spent time with my "web and design goddess" to update, design and print some things for my display table. In addition to that, my friendly Geeks updated my laptop and tablet. Now, I am ready!

I have spoken with people on either a Sunday at church or in a less formal setting at least seven times. And, now, I am on a seven day road trip during which I will be sleeping in five different cities! Talk about being busy and tired. Homeland Assignment is NOT for the weak of heart. 

In the midst of it all, I am so grateful to the LORD. I have met many people who love God and want to see His Kingdom established in all the corners of the world. I have seen lakes and rivers and mountains and corn fields and lots of paved road. I an thankful for the people who have given me their cars to drive for miles and miles and days. I am appreciative of all those who gave me a place to lay my head at night, who have fed me and spoiled me.

Yes, I am on The Pennsylvania Tour. It will continue for weeks. But, connecting with God's people on His mission makes it all worth it. Why don't you come along and join God in His mission, too?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Bittersweet Time

It's that time. The time that is so bittersweet for me. It is time for Home Assignment.My home Assignment will be July 21 until November 10of this year. It is time to connect with the people and churches who have partnered with me in the past, to say, "Thank-you" and to update them on what has been happening in the Lawra area. It is also a time to invite others to partner with me in this ministry. It is also a time for personal and professional development. And, time to connect with family and friends face to face. Time to stop in the office. Time to "debrief." And, a time to worship in English! As you can see, there is lots to do!

This doesn't happen overnight! There is a lot of preparation for Home Assignment. And, that is complicated by being thousands of miles away with interruptions in electrical, phone and internet services. Add to that the time difference...and a variety of schedules! I have been contacting people since February, trying to set datesand to schedule talks, a "meet and greet," a dinner, transportation, etc. It hasn't been easy. There is a church or two that I haven't been able to track down yet! Aside from the "job" type stuff, there is also finding a place to stay, a car to use, a phone to use, and internet other than Mc Donald's.

Now, with my departure from Lawra only a day away, I have been working on the really hard part...tying up loose ends and saying "Good-bye" even if it is only for four months.Sunday, July 10 was my lst Sunday to preach in Kunyukuo until November. Bible study is over for now - it is farming season and everyone is busy.Even though I have only been in Kunyukuo a short time, I can't believe I am leaving already. It's hard to say, "Good-bye." On my morning walks, I greet the sanitation workers who are out so early. And, my eyes start to tear up. What's that all about? I hear, "Maakum" shouted by a child who is across the park. I return his greeting with a smile inmy heart.I am going to miss my morning people. I walk down the road some more and greet the elderly woman whose name is Faati. And, I see Junior at his house, anxiously waiting for me to arrive. I spend some time with him, playing an impromptu game. As I leave him, I am grateful for the worship music on my iPod, it gives me a distraction and focuses me on the Lord and not on a heavy heart as I say my "Good-byes." I will miss these friends of mine. I continue on to Ali's Tea Shop to greet Ali and have a mini Dagaare lesson. I stop to eat, too, since my food supply at the house has dwindled. Right now, there are children playing on my veranda. It will be so quiet when they leave.

Yet, I can't wait to see my sister again, to see my brothers. I look forward to seeing my friends. And, yes, I look forward to eating food that is non-existant in my world. I look forward to being with churches who have welcomed me and have joined with me in ministry in Ghana. There are many things I amexcited about doing while I am in the US. Even so, part of me will be in Lawra, part of me will be in Kalsagri, part of me will be in Kunyukuo. 

It's hard leaving the people I have grown to love over these five plus years. I pray God's protection on all of us while we are apart. And, in November, what a sweet "homecoming" there will be!

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Rainy Day

The rain started during the night. It was wonderful! The wwind and the sound of the drops hitting the zinc roof made sleeping very nice. I was surprised that the electricity was still working. Usually during a good rain, it goes off. When I got up at 5:00, it was still raining. It felt as if I should curl up with a good book. But, first, I made coffee.

When dawn appeared and it was light enough to read outside, I took my coffee and Bible out to the veranda. It was a bit chilly. I had to put on a long sleeved flannel shirt and slippers. I was definately making a fashion statement! I had been walking into town for breakfast this week, but, I had some odds and ends of jelly and cheese to use up. So, when the rain let up to a drizzle, I walked to town to buy bread for toast and grilled cheese. It's a good thing I went when I did. I got only slightly damp. About five minutes after I returned home, the heavens opened up and it poured for hours. We haven't had a rain like this since last year.

Here, in Lawra, most people walk wherever they go. Some use a bicycle for transportation. And, some use a motorcycle. So, what happens when there is a day of pouring rain? Children go to school late. Some schools don't have windows, so the children have to move their desks close together in the middle of the room when there is wind with the rain. Daily market is closed. People lose their income for the day. No one will venture out in the rain. Small businesses are closed because the workers can't make it into work. Sick people don't go to the clinics. How could they go? They would get drenched. Those who cook on wood face the challenges of finding dry wood. If it rained like this on a Sunday morning, worship services would be postponed until the rain stopped and held later in the day.

The rain is desperately needed by the farmers who  depend on growing their own food to feed their families. So, for them, the rain was most welcome. They hope that their crops will be enough to feed their families for the upcoming year. For me, it was a much appreciated day of rest. Cool temperatures, a book, a cup of tea...Thank You Lord, for refreshing the land and refreshing me!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What I Wish I Could Tell You

Today is a holiday in Ghana. It is Eid Ul Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Businesses are closed. Schools are closed. I am working. Just like I did on July 1, Republic Day in Ghana and July 4, America's Independence Day. Why? Why didn't I take a day off? Because I am leaving on Home Assignment soon and there is a lot to do. On this side of the ocean, I need to make sure my commitments are fulfilled, that my water bill is paid for the next several months, that my electric bill will be paid for the next several months, that my freezer and refrigerator is emptied and any food that is left is given away. I need to make sure that school fees are paid for September's semester for a special needs student. And, I need to set my schedule for the time I will be stateside. Oh, and packing. Did I mention the challenge of packing?

Then, there is arriving in the US. Who will pick me up from the airport? (My brother and sister-in-law and my sister.) Then, or rather now, I need to be concerned about where I will lay my head. I have no home in the US. A phone...I don't have one in the US. So, that is something else I have had to cosider while I am preparing for my "home assignment." I have at least 20 speaking engagements scheduled and possibly more to come, plus two continuing education conferences to attend. Add to that dentist and doctor appointments.How will I get there? I have no car. Flying to and attending conferences is costly. Living in the US, even with a borrowed bed and a borrowed car is much more costly than living in Lawra and driving a motorcycle. 

Part of this time is vacation for me. I get to spend time with family and friends. It may be home to you, but, for me, I want to picnic and do fun things like ride (Is that the proper word to use?) on a Segway, see fireworks, go on a boat, see a show, go to a movie...I want to eat foods that I haven't had in ages...Mmmm. I'm dreaming! 

And, I want to worship in English! I want to have Communion. I want to be able to sing praises in my heart language. Chances are, there will be all new worship songs and I won't know any of them. 

How can you help? (You can help, you know.) Computer help. A car to drive. A day spent together having fun. Shopping! Gift cards for fuel. Gift cards for restaurants.  Gift cards for All that stuff can help. And, can cut expenses. And, will give memories that when I am in Lawra feeling alone, I can remember the time we had together in the US.

Home Assignment is not for the faint of heart. It is almost four months of a gruelling schedule, visiting churches, talking about ministry and trusting God will provide. Pray for my health. Pray for my sanity. Pray that my needs will be met while in the US . Pray that funds will be raised so I can stay here for five more years. Pray that in all my busyness, I will not forget the One whom I serve.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Brother Lawrence

Several years ago, even before I moved to Ghana, a friend had asked me what concerns did I have about moving to Lawra alone. "Hmmm...I guess it would be that my family would not be close by." I explained the reasons for which my brothers and sister would probably never visit me in Ghana. So, this person told me that he was friends with a Ghanaian. His name was Lawrence. At the time, Lawrence was living in Accra. I was instructed to email Lawrence and tell him that he was to include me in his family. So, I did. Lawrence responded. Of course, I was welcome into his family. And, his home village was in the Lawra area. Who knew? Not the person who gave me Lawrence's name!

Fast forward about two years. I finally move to Ghana. My memories of Lawrence were on the "back burner." I had no idea who he was, where he lived or how to get in contact with him. It is Easter week. I leave for a training with Rev. Dery, which would be held in Kumasi. We show up at Dery's Uncle's house (Rev. Job) at 2:00 in the morning. And we are welcomed like long lost family! I fall into bed. In the morning, I join the group for family devotions...guess who walks into the room. Lawrence! I was introduced to him, finally! It ended up that the people I knew or have met are all part of Lawrence's extended family! His family house is about a five minute motorcycle ride from my house!

Since then, Lawrence and I have seen each other several times a year. He comes for coffee/tea when he is in the area. I attended his father's funeral. When I am in Tamale, I visit him. He makes long, boring meetings not so boring. We've had theological conversations. I ask about his family. He asks about mine. I encourage him and pray for him. He does the same for me. At Rev. Baiden's funeral, he stood next to me as I read the Tribute from the Lawra Mission Circuit. He watches over me like my older brother, Dan, would, if he were here.

And, because Lawrence is a Superintendent Minister in the Methodist Church Ghana and I work alongside Methodist Church Ghana, Lawrence is there to share my joys and challenges in ministry. And, when life gets crazy, he tells me to "breathe" and reminds me of the One Thing that is most important. He sends me to Scripture and prays for me. And, I am thankful that years ago, God put into motion everything needed to give me family when I am so far from my own. Praise God!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I'm Tired of...Saying, "Good-bye!"

It has been happening for a long time now. Aid workers have been leaving Lawra. Some return. Some do not. For the last several months, I have been saying "Good-bye." Sometimes the people leaving were close friends. Sometimes they were acquaintances. They all have one thing in common, they left.

I left, too. I left my passport country to live here in Lawra. I said "Good-bye" to family. I said, "Good-bye" to friends. I said "Good-bye to worship in English. I said "Good-bye" to being at weddings and funerals and life celebrations. I said "Good-bye" to a lifestyle.  

I'm tired of saying, "Good-bye." I did it this past week. I said, "Good-bye" to close friends whom I won't see again until at least November. Saying "Good-bye" is the life of a missionary. People come and go. I come and go. Nothing ever stays the same. There's no "status quo" among aid workers in my area. We are always in a state of flux, as I imagine it is with most missionaries and relief workers.

When I arrive in the USA in a few weeks, there will be a ton of, "Hellos" and, "Aren't you glad to be home?" Home? What is home? I don't have one in the US. I live out of a suitcase, borrow a phone and borrow a car. And, just as I have changed during the time I have been away, so have my family and friends. Again, a state of flux. Even worship - in English - will be different because new music will be played, new songs sung. I don't get much of that in Lawra! So, again, I say "Good-bye" to what was familiar...and I try to have an open mind and embrace all that is new while secretly wishing for familiarity.

I will see a lot of people when I am in the US, plenty of people I know, some will be new friends. Again, there will be plenty of "Good-byes" there, too, especially when I will be in a place for a day or two or three. Except for family and a few friends, the comings and goings will be filled with those "Hellos" and "Good-byes." 

And, you know what? Today, I am tired of saying, "Good-bye." Yet, it is a part of my life. A BIG part. So, I will get some sleep and tomorrow morning I will probably feel much better about the situation. And I will take comfort in knowing that the LORD is always near, never leaving, never changing, always the same. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I Love Minions, But...

I love Minions, don't you? They are cute. They are silly. They are clueless. I've never seen the Minion movie. I have seen the original Dispicable Me movie, though. Minions were cute then. They still are. But, I wonder...why do these cute little creatures need to be evil? I actually "Googled" Minions. What I discovered was, "Minions are small, yellow creature who have existed since the beginning of time, evolving from singecelled organisms into beings who exist only to serve history's most despicable masters." Oh, no! The life  goal of a Minion is to serve evil. Sigh!

As I was pondering this most important issue (after all, plenty of children watch the Minions. Are they good role models for our children?), the thought came to me...this is how Satan entices us. He makes sin look fun. He makes sin look cute. He makes sin look very appealing to us. And, it isn't until we are "hooked" that we realize that maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

In God's Word, the Bible, Philippians 4:8 says, "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." That's how we will stay out of trouble. It's all about fixing our thoughts, our minds on things that are honorable, that are pleasing to the Lord.

Oh, I still think the Minions are cute. But, I also think they need a heart change!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Flexability, a Lifestyle

As an American, I like to plan out my schedule...plan my workday, plan my weekends, plan my traveling. I want to know, "When? Where? How? Why? How long?" That doesn't work here. I love the fact that each of my days are totally different one from another. They start the or tea, time with God, then, I "go to work." Even if I plan something, it rarely goes that way.

On a recent Saturday, I traveled on my motorcycle to Kunyukuo to be with the mother of a child who had died. As I was with her, I received word that the step child of a church member in Kalsagri had died and the burial would happen soon. So, I hopped on my motorcycle and I was off. (Rev. Clifford, Razak and Steve were there, too.)

When we arrived at Kalsagri, we were greeted by family members and taken to a shady spot to sit. A cold drink was given to each of us. As we spoke with the family, we discovered that the minister of the deceased was not able to come. So, Rev. Clifford was going to do the grave side service. He had no liturgy book with him. But, I had my phone with me. So, I "Googled" Christian burial service" and found several. We were ready! When the time came, Rev. Clifford preached, Razak translated and I helped out with the prayers. We all worked together and God was glorified. The grieving family was most appreciative. And, when we left, we knew we had done the right thing.

Did we have other pland for the day? Yes.Did it matter? No. We went where we were needed. It was a God appointment. This or something similar happens ALL the time. Flexability has to be part of life. If it isn't I wouldn't survive. I guess another way to put it is I need to always be looking for how God intends to use me. It's right in front of my eyes. Lord, may I see the opportunities You set before me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Uncompromising Faith

Esther is a member of the Kunyukuo Methodist Church. Recently, she received word that her daughter had died down south. The daughter, who was not yet 20 years old, had left the village to travel south hoping to find a job carrying things at market.. Esther traveled to the south for the burial and funeral. But, there also needed to be a funeral in her home village, too. Her culture requires this to happen.

Esther is a follower of Jesus. Her ex-husband follows the Traditional relion. So, when the time came for the Traditional rites to be performed on the parents of the deceased girl, Esther refused. "I am a Christian. I will not take part in these rites." she said. The community elders were not happy. They wanted both the mother and father to participate and, among other things, have their heads shaved. I was notified of this situation. So, I hopped on my motorcycle and traveled to Kunyukuo to meet with the family and some of the elders of the community. A compromise was made, one that was satisfactory to both parties. On the same day and at the same time as the Traditional rites for the father of the girl, the mother, Esther, would meet with us and the pastor. We would have a Christian counterpart to the Traditional rites. 

Saturday, the day for the ceremonies to take place, had arrived. We drove out to Kunyukuo and met at the house of Ester's ex-husband. Chairs were set out. Water was offered. Greetings were made. And then, the service began. The pastor preached an appropriate sermon. Songs were sung. Hands were laid on Esther and we prayed for her. And, soon, it was finished.

I had been touched by Esther's faith. She did not compromise in a difficult situation. Her faith held firm. I don't see that very often. Most times, a little bit of both traditions is done. But, Ester held onto her convictions and was not afraid to speak up. I asked if I could speak. I commended Esther for her faith. And, then I did something that I didn't plan. It was most likely an American thing, totally against culture, but people didn't seem to mind. I took off my cross necklace that I had been wearing since I came to Ghana. It has the word "faith" written on the side of it. I put it around Esther's neck and told her to continue sharing her faith. This cross itself has no power, but, Who it represents does. I encouraged Esther to tell her story of faith in the One True God when people asked about the cross she was now wearing. Then, I sat next to her, and we grieved together. I pray that the Lord will continue to keep Esther's faith strong until the day she sees Him face to face.

Monday, June 6, 2016

For Liz and Christopher

My dear friend, Lizzy, got married on Saturday. I was several thousands of miles away. But, in spirit, I was with her and Christopher. Here is my prayer for them:

Father in Heaven, thank you for this husband, Christopher, and wife, Elizabeth, and their commitment to Christian marriage. As I look ahead, I pray that their future will never lack the convictions that make a marriage strong.

Bless this husband, Christopher. Bless him as provider and protector. Sustain him in all the pressures that come with the task of stewarding a family. May his strength be his wife's boast and pride, and may he so live that his wife may find in him the haven for which the heart of a woman truly longs.

Bless this wife, Elizabeth. Give her a tenderness that makes her great, a deep sense of understanding, and a strong faith in You.Give her that inner beauty of a soul that never fades, that eternal youth that is found in holding fast to the things that never age. May she so live that her husband may be pleased to reverence her in the shrine of his heart.

Teach them that marriage is not living for each other. It is two people uniting and joining hands to serve You. Give them great spiritual purpose in life. May they seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, knowing that You will sustain them through all of life's challenges.

May they minimize each other's weaknesses and be swift to praise and magnify each other's strengths so they might view each other through a lover's kind and patient eyes. Help them everyday to be kind and gentle, More like You. Give them a little something to forgive each day, that their love might learn to be long suffering.

Bless them and develop their characters as they walk together with You. Give them enough hurts to keep them humane, enough failures to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough of success to make them sure they walk with You throughout all of their life.

May they never take each other's love for granted but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, "Out of all this world, you have chosen me." Then, when life is done and the sun is setting, may they be found then as now, still hand in hand, still very proud, still thanking You for each other.

May they travel together as friends and lovers, brother and sister, husband and wife, father and mother, and as servants of Christ until He shall return or until that day when one shall lay the other into the arms of God. This I ask, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Great Lover of our souls. Amen.

Adapted from Dr. Luis H. Evans' Marriage Prayer for Bride and Groom 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

God Speaks MY Language!

On a recent afternoon, in the village of Kunyukuo, four of us met for Bible Study. Now, this isn't the type of Bible Study that us Westerners think of when we hear the term "Bible Study." We were reading the Scriptures for Sunday's service in English and Dagaare. I was helping the participants to understand the English and they were helping me to understand the Dagaare. This was basic Bible reading. And, simple explanations.

Those in attendance were Mama Jane (who can read and understand English, but needs reading glasses, so she just listened), Stephen (who can read both English and Dagaare quite well), Ernestina (who can read English some) and myself (who can read both, but understands some Dagaare.) 

First, we read the English passage in Luke. Three of us took turns reading it. Unknown words and concepts were explained. Then, we read the passage in Dagaare. Oh, Ernestina NEVER read Dagaare before today! Her eyes were glued to the page except when her baby was fussing. She was so focused and intent on reading the passage. Her face glowed! God speaks her language! She had seen and heard others read the Dagaare New Testament before, but, now, she was doing it! She was determined to read each word correctly. Stephen helped her along. Isn't this what the body of Christ is all about? Surely, Heaven was rejoicing as I witnessed this heart-touching scene.

Ernestina wants to continue to learn to read Dagaare. She wants to read God's words and understand them. And, I know that God will grant her these desires. I believe that Ernestina, along with Stephen , will one day be leaders in their church. God is showing them the way!

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Blessings of Lost Luggage

After I got over the initial, "What? My suitcase didn't arrive? How could one come and the other stay?" I decided to look at the blessings of lost luggage. The first blessing was the opportunity to spend time with Jesse and Jessica and their mother, Gifty.

The next blessing was seeing Steve and Suzanne and having dinner with them at their house. Steve is a grill master!

Suzanne made perfect tortillas! I am most impressed. Mine are far from perfect.

Project Heal, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, comes to work in Lawra every year. This year I nearly missed them. We were able to meet for coffee in Accra.

And, my bag arrived, unharmed, bearing gifts for me since it went on holiday in Portugal without me.

When this happens to you, what do you choose? To get upset? Or to see the blessings in the situation? I chose blessing.

A New Adventure, the Last Days

Here it last full day in Ramsbury and parts beyond, all in England. It's been a lovely holiday, but I miss "my people." I'm ready to go back home. I'm not ready to pack! I started the day with a new friend, Susan, and her dog Maisey. We walked along the river and talked, getting to know each other. (She had visited Lawra whilst I was in the US.) 

We went to see The Manor of Ramsbury. It is a huge building, a private residence, not open to the public. But, it was nice to imagine what it must be like inside.In the river were swans...all belonging to the Queen. It seems as if this is something in the history of the nation and has been law for hundreds of years. It is considered an act of treason if you kill a swan.

After our walk, we had coffee with friends and I visited my favorite Cafe' for brunch. Then, I had to walk "home" to pack. How would it all fit? No worries, it did fit. Later in the day, I went to dinner with friends before going into London. I was blessed to have a ride direct to the door of the B&B. I had an early morning flight, so I was staying near the airport this night. After checking in, I walked around a bit, enjoying the sights and hoping to get a good night's sleep.

Check in was very smooth. After I found my gate, I watched the sunrise as I waited for my flight. (The sun rises much earlier here this time of year.) Both flights went well, no problems. I arrived in Accra on time and had friends waiting for me. There was only one small problem. One of my suitcases didn't arrive. It was in Lisbon. I am ashamed to admit, I was not real happy and probably was not the best Christian witness. But, I did apologize the next day when I picked my bag. The people at the airport made the process of filling out the forms and collecting the luggage very easy and painless. I thank God that He had brought me safely home again!

A New Adventure, London

When I made my plans to visit friends in England, I told them that I wanted to be a tourist 20% of the time. Today was my London day! The weather was very cool and overcast. It was perfect for running around a large city. Luke was my tour guide for the day. We traveled into London on the train with Sarah. Less than an hour later, we were at Paddington Station. Sarah went her way, we went ours. 

Since I wanted to ride in a double decker bus, we toured the city from the top of an open air bus, alighting at various places that we wanted to see close up, spending time at each one. It was amazing to see so much history in one spot. Plus, mixed in with centuries old buildings such as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, there were modern buildings, such as The Shard and The Gherkin.

With all the places we visited, my favorite was...not Buckingham Palace or Marble Arch or Big Ben or Five Guys Burgers, but St. Paul's Cathedral. (Although, I was a bit disappointed that the Bird Lady from Mary Poppins wasn't there.)

Luke and I spent hours there, thanking God for giving mere humans the ability to create such a beautiful place. It inspires worship. We visited several areas of the Cathedral learning about the history of that particular spot. Then, we did it. We walked up the 528 steps to the top of the dome. Luke was concerned about me. "Will Maakum's knees hold out? Will she have a heart attack?" He was so sweet. All was fine except wen we were coming down and I was reading something on the wall and didn't watch where I was placing me feet. I only missed one step! The view from the top was incredible! 

After a rest, we continued on our touring. My legs were like jelly for quite awhile! God is good, and He gave me the strength to keep on going. We walked over to the bus stop and enjoyed the view for awhile before alighting again. We ended our day at The Mad Bishop and Bear for sustenance before we met Sarah and returned to Ramsbury. It was an exhausting day. It was also a day given to us by God to enjoy. And we did.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A New Adventure, The Bridge

Another low key day. I love those kind of days...things get done, but there is no pressure. Maybe it is those days are the days I trust the Lord more. If I put my day in His hands, what do I have to prove? I'm going off on a "bunny trail," sorry. I met Sarah, Sara and Kerry for a late breakfast at the Cafe Bella. Mmmm. Ali's bread and eggs are delicious. But, an English muffin with egg and bacon - it's hard to beat that! On top of all of that, today was the day I would share part of my story, my calling with a home group of Highworth Community Church, The group usually meets in the home of Stephen and Janet. Tonight they opened it up to anyone who wanted to come. So, it was held at their community Centre, The Bridge.

Janet picked me after she was finished teaching and took me to meet Matt, the main church leader, and his wife, Katherine. Matt and I shared our beliefs, what the Lord was doing in our lives. He asked about how I ended up in Lawra, which was a refreshing question to hear. After a bit, we walked to The Bridge to get the techy type stuff ready for the evening. Then, back to Stephen and Janet's house for dinner. I was real impressed - home made pizza - until Luke, their son, told me it wasn't! That, with a salad and a few other things made a wonderful meal. We all talked about how God was working in our lives. A nice time before going out.

When we arrived at The Bridge, chairs were being moved, coffee and tea were being made. I introduced myself to people as they arrived. Everyone was so welcoming. It was wonderful! The Spirit of the Living God was in this place. 

Matt introduced me, and it was time. My UK debut! I always seem to come alive when I talk about what the Lord has done in my life, especially when I talk to a group of believers. I gave them some information about my background...and how I thought life would be vs. the reality of it all. I am not a "super Christian." I have made myself available to be used by God. That's all it takes. I shared small about what God has done in Kalsagri and is doing in Kunyukuo. And, I invited them to come and see for themselves. 

All in all, it was a wonderful evening at The Bridge. We went back to Stephen and Janet's house afterwards to chill out a bit before returning to Ramsbury. I am so grateful that this opportunity was given to me. I pray seeds have been planted and more people will answer the call of God on their lives.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A New Adventure, A Day Without Rain!

The sun was shining bright and early. After meeting Sarah and Sara for breakfast, I went down to the river. Beautiful! God's creations are amazing. And, today was filled with a variety of His creations, both natural and man made. Sarah and her father, Charles, were my tour guides for the day.

Our first stop was Silbury Hill. It is a prehistoric mound built between 2400 BC and 2300 BC. No one has been able to discover why this mound was built. It has stood the test of time!

Next stop was to see the Avebury Circle of Stones. It's amazing to see,especially when you think about a glacier depositing these in their present location.

Whilst at Avebury, we visited the Church of St. James. I had to climb the steps to the lectern and see what it was like to preach to the congregation!

Next stop, the Hackpen White Horse, which is a chalk figure on Hackpen Hill. It was supposedly cut by the local parish clerk in 1838 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria.

We met up with another friend for dinner - pizza, and returned to Ramsbury to do exciting things like booking a hotel room in London near the airport so I could sleep small before my early flight on Friday.

As you can see, their are some amazing sights, even close to Ramsbury. And, it didn't rain all day! It was a gorgeous day. God has blessed me with several friends who have been making sure I have a memorable time whilst I am here. I am so grateful!

Monday, May 23, 2016

A New Adventure, the Sabbath

The Action Through Enterprise Film Premiere in Ramsbury last night was incredible! I woke up refreshed and was ready to worship with fellow believers. Luke and I ambled over to Holy Cross Anglican Church. It is a church with LOTS of history. We arrived a few minutes before the service was to start. There were four people up in the balcony ringing the bells, calling the community to church. Little by little, people straggled in just before the service began. The service was a bit different than what I am used to...first of all, it was in English and not Dagaare. And, we followed a Prayer service printed in a book. Everything was from a prayerbook or hymnal. There were no extemporaneous prayer or anything.

It was nice to visit a different church. It made me really concentrate on the words I was saying/praying. Since they were written down, did I really mean what I read them, or was I just reading words? Good questions!

After church, we walked around, reading the old tombstones before we returned home. Then, breakfast and a quiet afternoon of relaxing and reading and visiting with friends. Tomorrow will be another day to be a "tourist."

It was evening and it was morning. The Sabbath.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A New Adventure, Day 5

Today was a slower paced day, but a day filled with adventure. After breakfast that included homemade orange marmalade, we went into Highworth to see the sights: the Christian bookstore, which I loved; the farmers market , which had cauliflower and peaches! I remember those things. We went to The Bridge, an outreach of Highworth Community Church, for a cup of coffee/tea. We visited St. Michael's Church, too. What a beautiful place! Then, we were off to Bath to see the Roman Baths. When we arrived in Bath, we decided to have lunch since it was about that time. We had an exquisite lunch of a vendor hot dog, which I would say tasted more like an American sausage. Mmmm....good! I guess I've lived in Lawra too long because that hot dog tasted ALMOST good as the steak the other night.

The Roman Baths were amazing! Hundreds and hundreds of years old! It was rather interesting to learn the history of the baths and the systems and techniques that were used to bathe in this natural hot mineral water. On this cloudy/rainy day, it was nice to feel the heat from the water - to see the steam come off of it. Afterwards, I experienced cream tea. I am now a believer! I hope to have the experience again before I leave England.

Next, it was time to hustle back to Ramsbury for the Action Through Enterprise - ATE film premiere. When I arrived at the Community Centre, the place was filled. And, the screen on which the film was to be shown was very large. People were milling around, talking, until THE time arrived. Everyone got quiet. Introductions were made. The film was shown. It was very well received. I am sure ATE will greatly benefit from this film.

After a time of networking, many of us went to the local pub to celebrate. I had my long awaited fish and chips! Delicious! Once I finished eating, I was ready for bed. I said my "Good Nights" to all and walked home. 

It had been a fantastic day and I was ready to relax. My thoughts on today? "Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, Lord!"