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!"

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A New Adventure, Day 4

Friday started a bit late for me since we were in London so late last night. Sleep was good, very good! The morning was relaxing, writing blogs, talking with friends, drinking coffee and reading. In the afternoon, I went to Littlecote House in Hungerford to The Stables Leisure Club. This was my spa day! Yay! A massage and a pedicure, what could be better? Dinner with friends, of course!

Luke picked me at the spa and took me on a scenic drive to Highworth for the remainder of the day. Tea with Janet and Luke and catching up on each other's lives as we waited for Stephen to come home from work. Then, we got in the cars and went to an amazing Italian Restaurant for dinner, L'Artigiano, in Lechlade.

We had a relaxing evening both at the restaurant and back at home. It was a quiet day sandwiched in busier ones. Just what I needed! Time for sleep.
It was evening and it was morning, the fourth day.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A New Adventure, Day 3

The sun was shining. The birds were singing and the brook was babbling. God was, and still is, in His heaven and all was right with the world. Another day had begun. Today I would go with Sara to the Methodist Church of Ramsbury for their coffee hour. Sara goes once a month with her greeting card business. (Not to be confused with ATE's Sarah, although Sara is an ATE volunteer.)The church is a lovely one, small, with lots of character. I found out that there are only a handful or so people who attend worship services there. (Maybe I should be a missionary to Ramsbury!) Sara unpacked her cards, setting up a nice display. We sat and chatted with the ladies of the community and a few men, too. Plus, I went shopping! There were a few items of clothing and some household items, gently used, for sale. I ended up buying a bright pink sweater to wear in this cooler, damper weather. It cost me £1, a vet good investment! Afterwards, I walked to the Post to buy a couple of items before returning to Pip's house. 

Tonight was the big night, the London premiere of the Action Through Enterprise film. We wanted to get an early start to make sure everything was set up and ready with time to spare. As Pip drove into London, her and Sarah talked about last minute details and thought of a zillion little things that needed to be done once we arrived at the venue for the evening.

Chairs, clipboards and brochures were put in place. Luke was in charge of setting up the refreshment table! Refreshments were set out. Now, to wait! My job was to direct people to the room where the event was being held.

At 6:30, everything was a "go." People enjoyed refreshments, Sarah greeted people, Bex Burch played the traditional xylophone from the Lawra area and it was time for the film. Even though I had previewed the film, I got teary eyed watching it again. It is such a good portrayal of life in Lawra and the work Action Through Enterprise - ATE is doing there. The folks at Epiphany Productions filmed this in Lawra in January of this year, and did the entire project pro bono! What a gift! It was very well received.

After everything was over and done with, cleaned up, put away, we went out to celebrate at a pub that was named after me...The Angel!

We did eventually make it back to Ramsbury, after midnight! I was one tired person. But, it was a wonderful day and I wouldn't have changed a thing. I am grateful that I have had this opportunity!

A New Adventure, Day 2

I woke up. I was so comfortable. I didn't want to move. Where was I? Hmmm...Oh, I remember. I'm in Ramsbury, at Pip's house. I eventually dragged myself out of that little piece of heaven known as a bed and ambled downstairs. I greeted Pip, who had been awake for hours! We sat and chatted, enjoying a cup of tea. I spent the morning reading, writing my blog and enjoying the rain. I didn't realize how late it had gotten. I told Sarah that I would go to the ATE office and hang out with whoever was there and doing what needed to be done. So, I walked into town, in between the raindrops. When I arrived, Sarah was in the midst of trying to get lots done and wondering how she would get some other stuff done. I volunteered. She sent me to pick money from the ticket sales for the ATE movie premiere on was starting to rain, again. I went to the Post and picked the money. Then, she sent me to another place to pick money. Now, it was raining a bit harder. Fortunately for me, someone had left their umbrella there. Before I had a chance to return to the ATE office, it was POURING! I returned a bit damp. Since I am not a "fair weather friend," I didn't mind at all. We did plenty of things in the ATE office in the afternoon, stopping for a sandwich at The Bell. Mmm...

That evening, there was a barbeque to attend. Luke is a Master Grillist, grilling steaks, ribs, tuna, bratwurst and kebabs to perfection! Luke thought he was attending and cooking for a barbeque that was planned so I could see all my friends here in this part of the world. It was really to honor him. He had been working with Action Through Enterprise for over two years and had resigned in order to follow a different dream. Luke ended up cooking and doing dishes for his own party, but, he was in his element! It was a wonderful evening with plenty of food and laughter. Oh, such good memories!

It was evening and it was morning, the second day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A New Adventure, Day 1

My day started with the pilot saying, "Ladies and gentlemen. Good evening. We are experiencing a slight problem. The engines won't start. They are working on fixing the problem. We will keep you updated." Hmmm. I prayed, "Lord, let us be safe." After about 15 minutes we were told the problem had been solved and we would be leaving the gate soon. The rest of the travel went smoothly. In Lisbon, I got in line to go through passport check. Ooops! Wrong line. I switched to the "correct line." After a few minutes, I found out since I was going to Gate 41A, I could skip this line and join the line "over there." It was MUCH shorter! I got through passport control, found my gate and waited. I eventually boarded the plane for London Gatwick.

The flight was uneventful, praise God! Going through Immigration was painless. I even gave the Immigration Officer a "commercial" for Action Through Enterprise-ATE, an NGO that is based in Ramsbury and works in Lawra. Well, he was asking questions, so I answered them. He was impressed with the detailed address in Ramsbury that I gave him. Sarah and her father, Charles, met me at the airport and bought me morning coffee. Then, we began our drive to Ramsbury. The countryside is gorgeous! Green and lush! Oh, the temperature was quite lovely, too. I didn't sweat at all! On the way to Sarah's house, Actually to where her mother lives, we stopped at the ATE office for a moment. Then, on to the house. It was so good to see Pip again. The view out the windows are amazing! I could be happy just staying in the garden the entire time...if it was warm enough and not raining! I settled in and had a laid back afternoon, enjoying the hot running water. Then, Sarah took me on a motor tour of the area, stopping near the Garden Center to get the car washed. We had coffee at the Garden Center and I bought a fleece to wear at half price. Nice! I don't have many cool/cold weather clothes in Lawra! On the way back home, we saw Sara. It was so nice to connect up with her again. We stopped at her house, then walked with the dogs up to The Bell at Ramsbury, a local Pub. We all went in. All of us. Three humans and two dogs. It was normal. No one batted an eyelash! That is where I saw the painting of American presidents playing cards. Anyway, after a spell, we walked Sara home and went back to Pip's house. Sara would join us for dinner. Dinner was later than I usually eat, but it stays light outside a lot longer here than in Ghana. Even after we were finished, I couldn't go to bed. It was too early. It was light outside! So, I colored. It  was nice, very nice. When I did finally go to bed, aaahhh! The bed was amazingly comfortable. And, it was morning and it was evening, the first day!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Expectations vs. Reality

It was Sunday morning in Accra. was not only Sunday, but, Pentecost  Sunday. I was so excited. I was going to attend church at Asbury Dunwell with friends of mine. I had attended there in the past and I knew the service would be in ENGLISH! The prayers, the sermon, even the songs would be in English. For me, who preaches most Sundays and sings just a few songs because they are in Dagaare, this would be a real treat! Thank You, Jesus!

Steve came to the house to pick Gifty, the children and me and take us to church. He was  going to preach. Not only would I hear a sermon in English, but, it would be in American English! We get to the church. It was prayer time before the service. The prayers were in English! I was a happy camper! Then, the praise team came forward. The leader started to sing...What? What was that? I didn't hear. Maybe the speakers were too loud.Oh, now the words were on the screen. They were singing in TWI! Oh, no! Twi is their heart language, not mine! I wanted to sing in mine! I struggled along, looking forward to the next song.

Again, the leader begins. I listened. What? What was that? Something familiar, but not was Spanish! Definitely not their heart language. Definitely not my heart language! After the song was finished, we did sing in English. But, in reality, it could have been in another language. I have been in Ghana over five years. Worship songs have changed. I didn't know the son that was being sung. 

I pondered what was happening. It was Pentecost Sunday. We weren't speaking in tongues, but we were singing in a variety of languages. How appropriate! As the service closed...a song, an oldie, but goodie, one I knew and loved..."Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us..." Yes, Holy Spirit, fall afresh on us, today and everyday!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Farewell, My Friend

Thursday I attended the funeral of my dear friend, The Very Rev. Ernest K. Baiden. I wanted to go early because, "It will be a big funeral. We need to get a parking place and someplace to sit." said my American mind. The funeral was to begin at 5:30 in the morning. We arrived just before 5:00. Oh, no one was there. There were PLENTY of spaces to park and plenty of empty chairs! We watched as the final preparations were made whilst listening to the squeaks of bats turn into the songs of birds. Morning had come! The stage was set and the casket arrived. Notes were reviewed. We were ready to start. It was after 6:30. 

Hymns were sung. Prayers were prayed. Scripture was read. Tributes were given by each of the Churches and Circuits were Rev. Baiden served. They all said the same thing. Rev. Baiden was a man who walked his talk. His life reflected what he believed. He loved the Lord. Anyone who spoke with Rev. Baiden knew that. I was given the honor to write and to read the Tribute given by the Lawra Mission Circuit. I was nervous. I prayed a lot because I knew I couldn't do this on my own strength. The Very Rev. Lawrence Beka stood with me. I began to read. My voice cracked. Oh, I prayed more. God heard my prayer and gave me strength to continue. Afterwards, we walked around the casket to say our final "Farewell." This was done group by group.

Then, the Tributes from the family were read. One of the pastors' wives read the Tribute from Mrs. Baiden. Another hymn was sung. More people viewed their loved one for the last time. Then, the Pastors' Wives walked around the casket. Bertha (Mrs. Baiden) was supported by her friends which were like family to her. The grief she expressed was heart wrenching. 

The casket was closed and the service continued. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Nathan I. Samwini gave the sermon. More songs were sung. More prayers were prayed. It was time to leave for Agona Abodom, near Winneba, for the final burial which took place Friday morning. Then, something happened that really touched my heart. The ministers came forward. They "shooed" the young men who were ready to carry the casket away. And, they picked up their colleague, the one whom they loved and, did for him the last thing they could here on earth. They carried Rev. Baiden's casket to the hearse and put him in.  Now, all was ready to leave.

Rev. Baiden was young, only 61. But, he loved the Lord. He showed all of us that we don't need to compromise our beliefs. We can live in a way that would honor God in all that we do. Let us carry on where he left off....

Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Tribute

The Very Rev. Ernest K. Baiden served the Lawra Mission Circuit of the Northern Diocese of the Methodist Church Ghana for three years, from 1 October 2012 until 30 September 2015.  To those in the Lawra area, he was known as Brother, Uncle, Father, Pastor, Reverend and most of all, Beloved Friend. Rev. Baiden looked at his time in Lawra as, “This is where God wants me at this time in my life.” In the church, Rev. Baiden’s number one focus was on the spiritual life of the church. His desire was to see people come into a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. He tried to revive and infuse new life into each of the Societies in his charge. Rev. Baiden taught Baptism and Confirmation classes in each Society, as the Caretakers alerted him of the desire of the people to make a public profession of faith. He reestablished the Local Preachers Training Programme within the Circuit, encouraging others to attend the classes and become fully certified Local Preachers. He was ready at a moment’s notice to travel to any village to assist and give comfort to the grieving and brokenhearted people of his congregations. He could often be seen visiting the invalids of the Societies, bringing them communion, encouraging them and praying with them. Many looked at Rev. Baiden as their spiritual father, to the extent for that when people traveled south they would entrust their loved ones to the care of their pastor.

Rev. Baiden was an advocate for the least of those in the community, always lifting up and giving value to the oppressed. He gave dignity to all he met. He was involved in the Special Needs Awareness Programme, helping the families with special needs children realize that their children were important; they were gifts from God, children whose lives should be celebrated. He wiped the tears of many orphans, doing all he could for them. Rev. Baiden was a disciplinarian and did not play favorites. In any situation, if you were correct, he would tell you. And if you were in error, he would tell you that, too. He didn’t believe in rumors, but looked at a person’s character. He sought the truth in all situations.

It was a bittersweet day for the circuit when Rev. Baiden was posted as the Synod Secretary of the Northern Diocese. We celebrated with him. We also grieved at losing his leadership for our circuit. And, now, again, we have to say “Good-Bye” to one who has been Christ to us in so many ways. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Growing Church

I recently preached in the village of Kalsagri. (I consider Kalsagri my home village, even though I never lived there and I am now lay pastor at the church in Kunyukuo.) I haven't been in Kalsagri for church for a while, so it was like going home. At 9:30 am the service began. Comfort led the service. Wisdom, Alex and Elizabeth read the Scriptures in English and in Dagaare. Nicodemus and Francis translated/interpreted, when needed. People volunteered to pray aloud. Others led the singing. The young boys drummed and Alex played the traditional xylophone. All I needed to do was to focus on the Lord and worship....and, give the message for the day. Announcements were made. Scripture readings were assigned to people so they could prepare for the following Sunday. The offering was given. Prayers were prayed. Money counters had counted and recorded. The benediction was given and the worship service was finished.

I was the lay pastor for two and  half years at this church. When I was reassigned, I was a bit disappointed because I thought it was a few months too soon. But, look. God is in control! Everyone was doing their part! The church is standing on its own two feet. And, I couldn't be happier. It takes a long time to see fruit like this. But, if you go to worship in Kalsagri, you will see it. Praise God!