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!