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!