Saturday, December 25, 2010
When we were younger and my sister and I shared a room, we would have a terrible time sleeping on Christmas night. Eventually, usually around 3 am, my brother would come into our room and we'd kinda just hang out until our 6 am "allowance time" to get up and run upstairs to check out what Santa brought.
As time went on, even as a high schooler and into college, I still struggled with sleeping through the night on Christmas Eve. And even when my sister and I had seperate rooms and after I had moved out and on to college, I would bunk up with my sister on Christmas Eve and share the excitement of all that comes with Christmas with my sister!
And even now, an adult, each Christmas, Andrea and I move into Bri's room for Christmas Eve and enjoy sharing sleeping space and a little sister love!
This morning, we were up at 7 and downstairs opening up our stockings and seeing what Santa had brought the other kids. After a little pumpkin deliciousness (thank you Aunt Peggy), we opened up the rest of our family gifts and then it was time to get cooking. For our Christmas this year, we had a "multi-cultural Christmas meal". My mom made Chinese as well as Jenn (my brother Chris' wife). My grandma and Ray made a deep fried turkey and stuffing. And I made jallof rice, beans and plantain, and ground nut soup and rice ball. I have to tell you that it wasn't quite the same as in Ghana, but it was familiar enough. I added way too many spices and everything was pretty piping spicy! But, it was fun to try my hand at some Ghanaian recipes and to see what would happen. A few more times practicing it and I think I'll get it down!
After a delicious and VERY FILLING meal, we headed downstairs for gift-opening time. It was so fun to watch Kayden, my little 1 1/2 year old nephew opening gifts. He is just so stinkin' adorable! He would tear a tiny piece of paper off of a packacke, hand it to his mom, tear another little piece, hand it to his mom, until the whole package was unwrapped! He was so cute when he opened up the little african outfit I had got for him. He started taking off his sweater and wanted his new shirt put on right away. So cute!
After gifts, my mom and sister passed out puzzle pieces that Andrea, Bri, and I had made the night before. My mom wanted to play some kind of game that would demonstrate all the different families that come together to make one family on Christmas day. So, after passing out all the puzzle pieces, we all sat down to figure out how the puzzle would go together. It wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but after some time and a few hands helping out, we were able to put together the colorful Christmas tree puzzle!
It was fun to see my Grandma, cousins, and all the other family members that got come and celebrate with us today. I just love time with my family and Christmas is just one holiday that makes me feel so absolutely BLESSED to be a part of the family that I am a part of. Loving, giving, full of laughter, and always, always, always inviting more and more people to be a part of the family for our special day!
Merry Christmas to ALL OF YOU!
Friday, December 24, 2010
For instance, yesterday, I was leaving my Grandma and Grandpa's house after visiting with them and I lifted my hand to wave goodbye and immediately I thought, "I'm waving with my left hand, HOW RUDE! Better wave with my right hand!". So I switched my hands to wave bye to my grandma. And that is when it crossed my mind that I was in America and it really didn't matter what hand I used for anything.
And then when I woke up this morning, my back hurt a little bit (which is pretty common for me) and my first thought, "My back is paining me!". And then I almost laughed outloud because it's such a funny saying in the first place, and then that it was my first response to the pain I was feeling.
And last night, I had some weird dream about rescuing children with Stacy, John, and the NYU volunteers from last semester. Random. . .
When I'm in Ghana, most of the ways I react to things are very American, and the things I dream about are all about my life here in America. And yet, I leave for even a short while, and I realize that Ghana has impacted my life in even the smallest of things.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
*lots of chocolate
*convos with my parents
*phone convos with my besties
*a few of my favorite tv shows
*Christmas music and movies
*quality time with my favorite people
The one place that has probably overwhelmed me the most has been Wal-Mart. In California, I wasn't really a Wal-Mart shopper, but here in CO, there is one in every town. When I first entered Wal-Mart, my first comment to my mom was, "This place is so big." It is overwhelming how much stuff is in that store--necessary and unnecessary STUFF--stuff that will be wasted and stuff that will be used. It just made me think. . ."Wow! We live with so much here in the States." I wonder what would happen if we set aside our wants this Christmas and thought about the needs of the world. . .hmmmmm.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Will now take out the Christmas music, begin the Christmas cooking, and watch a few Christmas movies. The season has officially begun for me!
Friday, December 17, 2010
The hardest part about being home, so far, has been getting used to the time change. I have been trying to stay up as late as possible so that I can sleep through the night and each day has been getting progressively better. By 3:00 in the afternoon, I'm absolutely exhausted (as that is 10:00 pm and my bedtime in Ghana). Each morning, I wake up a little bit later (from 3:30 am my first morning, to 5 yesterday, to 6 this morning). I think I'm settling in.
One thing I'm enjoying immensely--running water. And even better, running HOT water. I wouldn't need that in Ghana, but for Colorado, hot water is very nice! My feet never seem to be warm, so it's nice to enjoy a warm shower each morning.
This morning, I'm going to talk to Savannah's class (she's in middle school) about Ghana, particularly about child trafficking and the work that City of Refuge does in Ghana. I'm excited to see what questions come of my time in her class. Maybe, when I leave, there will be a classroom full of middle school abolitionists! We'll see!
I also get to spend my lunch today with Jenn, Chris, and Kayden. That will be fun! I'm excited to see my brother and his family. And Kayden, well, since I only see him every six months, it's crazy to see how much he grows! We'll also do a little shopping for our Christmas foods. We'll see what we get!
So far, being home has been just what I needed!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
A few months ago, I was living and teaching in EPA. I had roommates, a car of my own, and was living a pretty independent life.
Now, I've realized that my life is not at all independent. I have to depend on God to provide my every need. My funds come not through a paycheck, but through my community of donors in the States. My food choices is made by the Freedom Center staff who cooks each meal for the 20 children we house and the 10 staff members that are part of our ministry. My ability to shower comes down to whether it has rained enough, or the tap is running, or the tank is full. And even my sleep is dependent on how well my little Edwin sleeps. My life has completely changed.
And it makes me wonder how my adjustment this month is going to be. I know that Stacy was praying that it would be a smooth transition returning home, since my trip back is so full. And I pray the same thing too. But, I just wonder, how has my vision changed (not literal, but figuratively). As I view my American life, what will I see now? I suppose it's a different kind of journey that I will take on this soil.
As I look at my tennis shoes, now brown from the dust and mud of the soil of Ghana, I know that somehow these two worlds will collide, will mix together, will make a new me. And the process begins now. . .
Saturday, December 11, 2010
In any case, yesterday was a fun day at school. The other teachers didn't show up until late, so we put together puzzles, played math games, and ate a yummy lunch together. Then, it was time to rehearse for our performance. I was worried that it wasn't going to come together because we practiced and practiced and they still weren't doing what they were supposed to do, but when everyone arrived to see the program, the kids did great! They all remembered what they were supposed to do and did everything well! The show was a hit. . .the only request was that it be longer with more dancing next time. We'll have to work on that for next time!
Last night, we celebrated the quarter's birthdays (October, November, December). Mershak, Portia, Mama Theresia and Daddy Joseph, and Stacy. We had a feast together, had a beautiful cake, and then we danced the night away. We had so much fun taking turns dancing and JJ won the dance contest for his amazing dance moves. Even Edwin enjoyed the dance party! He swung his arms out and turned in circles and then would walk back to his starting point with his hands on his head and the arms would start again. It was so funny!
What a night! It was a good memory to take with me when I go home in just a couple more days! How is that possible?? Time really does fly!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
This week the challenge is for parents. So, if you don't have any kids, just enjoy the post!
Here in Ghana, there are no baby wipes for dirty bottoms and there usually aren't any bathtubs for bathing. Instead, a poopy diaper (cloth diapers mind you), brings you to a bucket of water. You stick the baby inside the bucket and rinse, rinse, rinse--the baby is clean and ready for a new diaper.
It's been funny getting used to this with Edwin. Babies here are so used to this process, then know that if you are coming at them with tissue, they'll bend right over so you can wipe their bottoms and they'll walk straight to the water for a rinse.
Bathtime happens usually right after dinner. The little ones don't head inside for a bath. Nope, they're plopped down in the middle of a bucket, soaped up, and rinsed off. The bath takes less than five minutes--there is no playing around with bathtime here. AND, it teaches water conservation (for those who like to recycle and keep the planet green).
So, your challenge? Grab a bucket and head out to the backyard the next time your kid has a dirty diaper. No bucket? The hose will do. Rinse of the baby in the water and then bundle him back up in the diapers in no time flat. And bathtime, head outside again!! Wash fast and make sure to keep the water limited to less than a bucket! Your child probably won't be happy with you (especially since it's COLD there), but hey, it's a once in a lifetime Ghanian experience!
Good luck moms and dads!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
This afternoon, I got a chance to rest a little bit, get some paperwork done, and spend some time in worship. That was good and it's much needed as the end of this term has been a little stressful getting everyone's work together and graded, putting together exams, and all that jazz!
Tonight, we were supposed to go to Accra for the showing of the NYU documentary (the one that they taped when we took them to the Volta region). Unfortunately, we got a flat tire on the van and we are out of spares, so we had to find another form of transportation. John called up a taxi friend and he set us up with a cab, but the taxi driver got stuck in traffic, so that meant, it was time for us to walk. It was already dark, so in our nice attire (we were all dressed up), we hoofed it to the village in hopes of coming across our cab sooner than we expected. The looks that a couple of white girls get stomping through the center of the village in our Sunday best, yeah, that was pretty priceless.
We were almost to the police station when a big vehicle started coming our way. Stacy and I stepped off the road to give them way, and found ourselves ankle deep in mud! I only got one foot in and it wasn't too bad, but Stacy, she really got it! Her skirt, her shoes--it was like she was stepping in quicksand! Even her shoe was lost for awhile, until John saved it from the mud. We sloshed our way to the police station and asked for some water to clean up. The policeman called for a little neighbor boy to bring us some water and we were able to get, well, most of the mud off! Then, it was time to just WAIT. By that point, the cabbie's phone network wasn't working (which is common in our village), so we couldn't tell where he was. We waited and waited and waited. Finally, the policeman pulled over a passing truck and asked if he could take us to the next village where we could pick up a taxi a little easier than in Doryum. So, we climbed in and took off towards Alfienya.
Of course, as soon as we got in the truck, the taxi driver drove by us! So, John called him again, his network finally up and running, and told him to meet us in Alfienya or we would find a different taxi. So, off we went in the little truck. The only time I looked ahead was when I saw the spedometer read more than 100 mph. After that, I just closed my eyes and prayed that we would make it safely to Accra!
After the man, our new friend Eric, dropped us off in Alfienya, we only had to wait for a few minutes before the taxi driver showed up. And we were off! We had to be in Accra by 8:15 pm, but being that it was already past 7, I wasn't sure we would make it. But, John called the NYU students and asked if it was possible to have a later start time. Luckily, they were able to switch some things around and we had until 9 pm to get to their place in Accra.
When we finally made it to Accra, we realized that finding their school building in La Bone would be the difficult part of the journey. We roamed around a bit before getting close and having someone come out to find us. We finally made it and the NYU students were so excited! It felt like a huge reception when we got there. All of our volunteers and our intern, all the kids that went with us to the Volta--it was an amazing entrance!
We found out that the sound system had blown before we got there, so none of the videos had been shown yet. We chatted with the kids and got to see their classrooms and where they had been staying for these past 5 months. It was fun to kinda put a picture to what they had told me about their stay.
We watched 3 films that the students had worked on during the course of the semester. The first was on the traditional religions of Ghana. It was interesting and eye-opening. The second was our film, VOLTA. The students did an excellent job of putting it together. They really tried to capture so many points of view in the 15 minutes that they had to display the issue. They really showed how it was an issue that is hidden but needs to be exposed. And I loved the way that they showed DK--a freed boy, able to attend school and learn and grow and play as he wishes! We were so excited with the outcome and the possibility of use for the film in the future! Way to go NYU film team!!! The last one was on the first president of Ghana. It was interesting too, but perhaps I'm biased. I have to say that I loved VOLTA the best! After the films, Rosemary got up to perform her poem, Phenomenal Woman. She did great! I was so proud of her!
At the very end of the night, we had to say goodbye to everyone. It was sad to see them go as we've so enjoyed having them around. What a blessing they've been to our ministry and our children. I think it was good that we finally made it there tonight. They were so excited to see us!
When all was said and done and we were home, at almost midnight, I thought about today's adventure and realize. . .well, just another day in the life here in Ghana! You never know what to expect! And. . .I think I like that.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Before I came to Ghana, Priscilla Tyree and another Southlander prayed over me three things: 1) Faith for finances, 2) Faith for opened and closed doors, and 3) Faith for the miraculous. Even though it took a great deal of faith and obedience to get me here, I feel as though, in some ways, I've forgotten to have faith for bigger things than what I already see in this day to day journey here. But, it seems, lately God has been reminding me to have faith for great things.
I think of the way that I lived even 6 months ago. I was dependent on a paycheck, on my car working when I woke up in the morning, on the water being warm for my shower, on the electricity that it took to turn on our heater in the winter, on a friend's voice over the phone when I needed a chat, on access to internet, and so much more. In so many ways, my life has changed. My dependency isn't really on temporal things. It's become very apparent that nothing in this world really lasts. The only thing that I can depend on is God and I can have FAITH that HE ALONE is working in the relationships that I'm creating here and that through Him, I'm leaving something behind that is real and lasting.
So, I guess I am living in faith. I just don't want to forget that! As I think about it, I see big decisions that are on my horizons, decisions about the next year, and I'm praying IN FAITH, that God will open and close doors as He sees fit. I'm praying IN FAITH over Edwin as I care for him on a day to day basis, that God will work miracles in his life. I'm praying IN FAITH over my time at home this Christmas that God will breathe on me his rest. I'm praying IN FAITH, that in this new year, we will see AMAZING things pop up at City of Refuge that even we can't understand--opportunities for exposure, for ministry, for evangelism, for prayer, for development, for God to be made known. And I'm even moved to pray (due to a sermon I heard this Sunday) IN FAITH for my future husband.
God, expand my faith. I want to believe in You for the biggest of the big!
Friday, December 3, 2010
*A whole nights sleep with Edwin led to a smiling boy (and a smiling Autumn) in the morning.
*Paul and Robert helped me clean my bathroom and mop my room. They were just working together so well and were so cheerful cleaning together. So proud of the boys!
*Stacy came to get me to snap some pictures of the babies outside. John and Stacy bought a blow up pool yesterday at the market and you should have seen the fun that the babies had. Oh my goodness! Justice was a little fish in that pool. And Edwin kept putting his head in the water and then coming up sputtering and laughing. And Portia and Caleb loved to splash each other and then float around on their backs or tummies. It was adorable!
*We brought the NYU students here for their last day with us for the semester. Deloris and Tanji had a presentation prepared for the kids. They talked about loving themselves and having a vision for what they want to be when they grow up and going for that vision. The kids were really into it and they just LOVED it! It was awesome. And Rosemary really enjoyed it. She needs to be reminded of the truth she heard today from these girls!
*Stacy and I worked with Lucy, Lydia, and Anas to make our mexican burritos. I have to say that it was a hit!
*We got to chat with the NYU students about their experience and what to do for future volunteers. I think what they talked about will really help us put together a handbook for them and help us to develop our volunteer program even better.
*Eventually, the NYU students had to go back to Accra, so the kids gathered around around them and prayed over them and then John gave words to each of them. It was powerful. He really had it right for each of them. . .he knew of Jess's quiet and gentle spirt, Leila's intellegence and living from her heart, Tanji's passion for writing and the gift that it is, Candace's miracle of a life and to continue to live it passionately, and Deloris' love for others. It was just such a sweet time. Robert, my tender 15 year old, was crying. And Aaron, who hates goodbyes, was not enjoying being out and having to say goodbye to people who had really created a good friendship with him. We are so glad to have had these beautiful people as part of the CORM team this semester.
*On the trip back home from Tema, I was just reminded that God really does know me well. I love spending time with Stacy and John and he knew that he would be bringing me to my "heart" family when he was bringing me here!
*Our dinner time convo was about the Holy Spirit's work in the church and in the lives of people. It was such a good conversation and made me excited to see more of what God is going to do this year. One of the things that was spoken over me before I came was that I would need to have faith that God would do some supernatural things in my time here. I'm still living in expectation for that and am praying for more faith to see the Holy Spirit at work in my life and the lives of these children and the people that we minister to.
*Edwin went to sleep with no troubles tonight. Not a peep. He just went to sleep and I'm praying that he'll stay asleep til morning!
I loved my day of beautiful Ghana moments!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The past couple of mornings, Edwin has been waking up at 4:30 am thinking it's time to play, so I've been awake a little earlier than normal. Around 5:00, I start hearing the swish, swish of the broom outside my bedroom door. The kids all have a designated area to sweep each morning. As soon as their eyes pop open, they are out and about sweeping up. When I come out with Edwin, all the rooms are swept and mopped, the front of the house is swept clean, trash is thrown in the trash pile to be burned, and shoes are all lined up in front of the step ready to be put on for the walk to school.
So, my challenge for you, grab a broom first thing in the morning. Do a quick sweep of the house. For those who have carpeting EVERYWHERE (which is practically non-existant here), grab a vaccuum and do a little "sweeping up" with the vaccuum. Or, even better, grab your broom and find some dirt that needs a little straightening out!
As for some other thoughts about life lately, it's been busy. Here are a few random notes about some of things that have been going on lately. I haven't been able to access my email or blog very regularly lately, so my posts are a little farther apart than usual. In any case, I'm hoping this one posts so you'll get to hear what's been going on with us lately!
We're getting ready for our final exams for the term next week. For me, that means getting tests ready for all the leveled students in my class and teaching the teachers how to use the new report card system and putting together standardized report cards as well. Ack!
We met with the chiefs of Doryum yesterday about an issue we are having with the land registration. It went well and John and Stacy will be meeting again with the chiefs tomorrow at 7:00 am. We are really praying that God comes through in a powerful way and brings the land registration forward so that the building permit can be processed.
As mentioned above, Edwin hasn't been sleeping that well. He's usually up at least once in the night and then up at 4:30 in the morning ready to go! So, I've been up early too. Tonight, I've turned on some worship music and we'll see if that keeps him asleep. He's a tosser and turner for sure and sometimes that even wakes me up because I think that he's gotten up, but he's just rolled another direction on the bed. Anyway, I'm hoping for a little more sleep tonight.
Some exciting news. . .My Aunt Peggy sent me this HUGE box right before Thanksgiving. It was AMAZING! All kinds of things for the school, and cake and brownies for us, as Velveeta cheese for us Americans who are missing it like CRAZY! The kids were so excited for the box to be opened (I kept them in suspense!). It was such a nice package and the kids have been excited to get their hands on some of the prizes that Aunt Peggy included in the box when they go to the treasure chest tomorrow with their Kind Cash (our money system). She sent those plastic rubber bands that are shaped like animals and all those different shapes. You know what I'm talking about? And all the kids trade them? Yeah, the kids are super excited for those.
In other news, I can't believe I'm leaving in just a little over a week. Today, Miracle and DK helped me empty out some suitcases and start filling them up with some of the gifts and items I'm bringing home with me to sell. Just can't believe that I've been here for almost 5 months. So crazy!
I've got to tuck myself into bed. The early mornings are getting to me about now! Goodnight!
Monday, November 29, 2010
Tonight, Robert, the tailor, brought by my dresses! They turned out beautifully. When I came walking out of my room, the kids just giggled and giggled. They started calling me African Obruni. Abby was seriously so excited about me wearing the dresses to church on Sunday. She kept mentioning it to me over and over and then drag me room to room to make sure that all the kids and staff got to see my dresses. She's so cute!
So, when I come, you'll get to see my beautiful African dresses. And hopefully, by then, I'll have my hair all braided too so I'll really look like an African obruni. Watch out America. . .here I come!
P.S. If you want to look like an African obruni, you are in luck! I'm bringing some beautiful linen shirts back with me and some pajama pants made out of some really nice cloth. I am also bringing back some jewelery. If you're interested, I'll be posting prices soon and pictures of the items when I return back to the States. All proceeds will go to benefit City of Refuge Ministries. Those items that don't sell via internet, will all be brought back to the Bay area to be sold there. Keep your eyes open for pictures and prices!
Every Saturday is movie night here. The kids look forward to it all week and once the weekend comes around, they are constantly asking what movie we'll be watching on movie night. Most of them want to watch "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" since we read it in class, but have never seen the whole movie at one time. Instead, we've been watching different movies and they seem to be enjoying it!
This week, we watched Peter Pan. The boy who never grew up. The kids loved it. And all day Sunday, they stomped around the house saying "I do, I do, I do believe in fairies". And it reminded me of the whole point of Peter Pan! The story is all about children, imaginations, good versus evil, growing up or staying the same.
Last spring, I went to see the play Peter Pan in San Francisco. It was in a round tent and CGI effects were put up on the walls so that you felt like it was night, or that you were flying, or that you were underground in Peter Pan's house. It was a beautiful performance! And when the part came where Tinkerbell dies, everyone in the house (almost all adults, mind you) chanted at the top of their lungs that they believed in fairies. There is some kind of magic in the imagination, in the innocence of children, and in the love of a good story.
Take some time today and live inside a children's storybook or movie. I think you'll be surprised at the smile that it will bring to your face!
Friday, November 26, 2010
After those first few nights, he has been sleeping like a dream. A few mornings, I woke up before him and was able to get some things done before he woke up. And then the past couple of mornings, I woke up and he was already awake. He didn't come to my bed or anything. He was just laying on his bed, staring up at me waiting for me to wake up. It's so cute! And then, as soon as I say good morning, he just smiles at me.
Each morning, we've had a little wake up routine started. As soon as he (or I) wakes up, we smile and chat a bit (me doing the talking and him doing the smiling, since he hasn't said much yet). Then, he comes over to my bed. I check his diaper to see if anything is leaking (the trouble with cloth diapers). If he's leak-free, he comes and hangs in my lap for a little bit. We sing some songs, tickle his toes, and just have a little cuddle time. After that, it's off to the bath. After he's clean and smelling good, then we get him dressed and it's out the door. Usually, all I have to say to him is "Go eat" and he's running out the door for food. He LOVES to eat!
Even though it takes up a little bit of my morning time, I love my waking up with Edwin. That cute little face is enough to make anyone happy to wake up in the morning!
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Stacy and I worked hard yesterday and today getting everything together for our Thanksgiving meal. In the end, we made sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, green salad, fruit salad, snickers salad (it's pudding, whipped cream, milk, and snickers--and it's awesome), turkey, and then came dessert--pumpkin pie, apple pie, and chocolate cake. Yummy!
The guests started showing up mid-morning today and we decided to have a 2:00 lunch. So, by 2:00, everything was on the table, we were all dressed in some nicer clothes, and we were ready to chow down. I had the kids work this week on wall decorations (some different things that they were thankful for), so we had put those up on the wall. The power was out all day, so we had to start up our generator for the songs that the kids had prepared. Then, they each told everyone what they were thankful for. They were so nervous about it and had been practicing all morning, but they did so well and everyone loved it!
We all chowed down on a mixture of American and Ghanaian foods. And it was awesome! It really hit the spot! Miracle was sitting next to me and the whole time, he kept telling me how good the food was and how much he liked it (but then, he ended up giving me some of his American food so he could go get some jallof rice). And once the desserts were brought out, WATCH OUT! Especially our staff girls. . .they were so funny! Everyone loved the chocolate cake (thank you Aunt Peggy) and the apple and pumpkin pies turned out perfect (even if the crust was a little thick). It was a delicious way to end the feast.
After eating, we all hung out chatting and the kids turned on some music to dance to. Everyone just enjoyed a good time eating together. Later, Auntie Letitia's girls taught our girls the dance that they will do for the Christmas program. It's beautiful! And then, clean-up began.
By the end of the day, you saw us all in groups of a few here and few there, everyone tired and dirty. I mean, you should have seen Edwin and Justice. They just had a ball today! They were so dirty and both of them just cried and cried when they had to go get a bath. BOYS!
So, now, I sit here in my room (the power came back on about an hour ago), and I'm tired and weary, but I am SO GRATEFUL for my Ghanian family here. There were moments today that I really missed the Roberts (who I've spent the last few Thanksgivings with), and the other Beatniks. and friends A few moments today where I really wished my family were there. And then, there were these beautiful moments when I realized that these people have really become such a part of my life, that I felt at home. I don't think I've EVER sweated so much on a Thanksgiving. And I don't remember seeing fufu and green bean casserole on the same table before. But, these people have become family and today, I felt at home. I'm so grateful for this place that has really just embraced me!
And, I give thanks for YOU back in the States. You are the ones who love and support me. You, amazingly, know when I'm down and need to hear from you in an email. You send me packages and cards that blow me away. You encourage me, uplift me, and the thought of seeing you in just a few weeks is so exciting to me! It is amazing that I have such a wide-spread, world-wide family.
All in all, I recognize that God has given me joy because of the gifts of people in my life. Thank you for being a gift to my life. Tonight, I am worshipping God for this faithful love that is shown to me by his faithful people!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In any case, I wanted to give you your Wednesday Challenge. So, here, they don't drink water from the tap as it isn't purified water. Instead, they drink water from little plastic sachets. We just grab a bag, bite off a corner, and suck from the bag until the water is gone. We use these for drinking water, sometimes to wash hands if water isn't readily available, and even to brush our teeth.
Your challenge? Fill up a plastic baggie with water. Zip it closed. Then, bite off the bottom corner and take a sip. Use this bag to brush your teeth. And use it throughout the whole week to drink water. Let's see how well you handle this. Maybe it will save on your dish consumption during the week as you won't be using cups anymore.
Well, gotta get back to my pie. Thanksgiving tomorrow! Yummy, yummy, yummy!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
--running water (we have it, but there's not enough pressure to actually shower, just enough to fill the tank outside)
--washing machines (Here, clothes are washed by hand. I have been lucky to have help washing my clothes since my days are filled with teaching, but imagine--especially you new moms who are trying out cloth diapers--washing everything by hand--wow!)
--ovens that mark the temperature (we're experimenting with our ovens this Thanksgiving. The ovens here are just fires lit inside a metal box pretty much)
--paved roads (you should see the road we take from our house to the main road after a rain--it's pretty nuts)
--reliable electricity (the lights go out, well, whenever they want to here--whether it's convienient or not!)
--internet (yeah, I can get on, but it takes me about 10 tries to finally get anything posted. The internet won't load things very often because of the slow connection speed)
I love Ghana, don't get me wrong. I love that life is, well, simpler here. I love the walks home from school with the kids and the dancing in the living room and the hugs and kisses and the way that I never leave a day wondering if I'm loved by the kids--it's just obvious. I love that I've been loved into this family. This life is beautiful--even though I miss some of the easy things in life that I took for granted when I lived in America. Yep, it certainly is a beautiful life.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Malvin is a year old. He came to the Freedom Center in February and Mama Theresia and Daddy Joseph took him in as their own son. The funny thing is that he really does resemble Daddy Joseph! I guess that is something that love does--changes people. Love really changed Malvin.
When Malvin first came to the center, he was so malnourished that he was basically all head and no body. Social welfare was assuming that they were dropping him off to die in peace. But, Mama took him in under her wing and within two weeks, he was gaining weight, his hair color had turned into the black hair of a healthy child, and he was beginning to look more like a normal baby.
Now-a-days, it's rare to see Malvin far from Mama Theresia or Daddy Joseph. They really have loved him back to health and they continue to care for him as their own son. Even though he is over a year old, he is just now starting to learn how to crawl and move around. Today I watched his tiny little legs crawl him over to Mama's lap when she came home from the market.
The funny thing about Malvin is that he isn't really fond of obruni's. Where Justice and Edwin come running when I come home, Malvin is usually okay with just a high five. I think the number of times that he has allowed me to hold him without screaming can be counted on one hand. But, he loves when I give high fives or tickle his belly--as long as he is on Daddy Joseph's lap while I'm doing it!
Malvin really is a Daddy's boy. He would sit on Daddy's hip ALL DAY if he could! But, since coming to Doryum, Daddy has been really busy with different building projects and he only spends his evenings with Malvin.
I'm excited for the day when Malvin will take his first steps. This cutie will be hanging with Justice and Edwin before too long!
Our power went out midway through the night on Saturday. Edwin got scared and I think he was a little hungry. So, I was up with him for quite a few hours. That left me with little sleep and a little foggy-headed as I headed into my Sunday. Lack of sleep effects me so strangely, usually making me an emotional wreck. It was no different Sunday morning. I kept telling myself to hold it together during the worship service. But, perhaps it was just what I needed. The worship was so powerful and I felt like God really ministered to me and spoke exactly what I needed to hear. That this life. . .it isn't for me. It is a life of total surrender and dependence on God. He leads, I follow. Only he is holy, worthy, and wonderful and my testimony is a witness to a life sacrificed to him.
So, Sunday afternoon, instead of being social with the kids much, I spend the majority of my time napping, prepping for school this week, praying and worshipping. I think that even though I was so tired from the lack of sleep the night before, God knew what I needed to bring me to a place where I could just rest before Him. He's good like that!
Friday, November 19, 2010
*Ghana is a peaceful country.
*Our move to the village was successful and everyone is healthy.
*Even though we have to haul our water, the fact that we have access to water is a beautiful thing.
*They have three meals a day, access to free education, and many mommies and daddies who love them and give them anything they need.
Because of that, we want to teach them the value of gratitude. This coming Thursday, we are going to have a Thanksgiving feast. We're inviting people that have really blessed City of Refuge with gifts and time and money. We are going to be hosting this huge feast (we are thinking of around 60 guests) and honoring those who have been such an important part of the life of CORM in the past 2 years.
As we have begun to put together the parts that will make this feast successful, we have realized how EXPENSIVE it is to feed 60 people. If you are interested in partnering with City of Refuge ministries this Thanksgiving to help us purchase some of the food items that we need, we'd love for you to go to our website at www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com and make a donation there.
I also wanted to remind you of our Christmas project. We're trying to purchase items for our children for Christmas presents. I will be bringing back these items when I return in January. We're trying to buy them useful items, but also things that they would enjoy! Here is the information about our Target List:
List Name:Christmas List
Created For:City of Refuge Ministries
City of Refuge Ministries
402 Ivy Dr.
Menlo Park, CA 94025
If you live in the Bay Area and would like to just drop off gifts, please bring by your UNWRAPPED donations to the student ministries department at Peninsula Covenant Church (3560 Farm Hill Blvd., Redwood City, CA 94025). You can contact Kristin Fabbro for drop off times (email@example.com).
Thanks for your willingness to partner with us and love on the kids I am priveledged to work with on a daily basis! What a joy these holidays will bring to my family here in Ghana!
If you would like a list of items and names for each person that they are for, please respond to this post with your email address and I'll email you the list of what/who each item is for!
We've been facing crowding issues here at the Freedom Center--our new home in Doryum. With 30 people here and water coming to the tap only every other week, we've run out of water quickly. There isn't enough room for beds for all of the staff, so we have people sleeping in our van, on our living room floor, and in our office. We were looking at renting an empty house just around the road from our own house. The man said he'd rent it to us for 150 Ghana cedis, and then changed his mind and wouldn't take less that 400! Rediculous! So, John and Stacy have been out searching for another house, but there isn't much here. We're just kinda stuck in a financial conundrum--pay the man a crazy amount of money for a house that's only worth 150, or stick it out all here together.
We've also been working with a man who has been the mouthpiece of the village chiefs this past year. Yet, now, he's holding us back from getting our land registered because he wants to be in control.
Ultimately, it all comes down to money. . .but even more, it comes down to trust. And when you find those people that you can really trust, you hold on to them with all your might. We've found some good, trustworthy staff that we don't want to let go of--our teachers, our caretakers, our houseparents, our night guard, our maintenance man--all of them are men and women with whom we can trust, and that is where we place our time, and resources, and energy. If only these others would see that investment comes with TRUST, then, in the long run, they would be more than rewarded.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Well, yesterday, I got a vegetable surprise! The stew that we ate with our yam at lunch was made from the leaves of the coco yam. It was cooked, so it wasn't a raw veggie, but it tasted a bit like spinach. Yum!
Then, later today, John and Stacy and I headed to a dinner reception for NYU's New York Campus provost. Since we do volunteer work with NYU, they had invited us to come. On the way over, we stopped at a vegetable market to see if we could find some things that we'll need for our Thanksgiving dinner. While we waited to list out all the items we would need, we bought some carrots and chomped on those. I hadn't had raw carrots in a long time and they were delicious!
At the NYU dinner, the table featured some rice, fish or chicken, and bowls full of different vegetable salads. I tried almost everyone!
Yesterday, I was in vegetable paradise! We'll see how it effects my body though, going months without any fresh veggies to one day only eating veggies. . .hmmmm!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Now, I know that this is a really challenging Wednesday challenge, but here in Africa, everything runs with a little more laid back feel. Most people are NEVER on time, many take siestas during work hours, stroll instead of speed walk, and spend a lot of time sitting around chatting around the cooking fire or over a plate of food.
Here are some common ways that I spend my flexible schedule.
1) I wake up pretty early in the morning (around 5:30 am) and spend a few minutes just staring out the window and my amazing African landscape view. Then, I spend some time reading my Bible and journaling. By 7 am, I'm dressed and out the door to get some breakfast. I spend some time relaxing in the morning sun (by that time, it's usually creeping close to 90 degrees already) and eating my bread and drinking my tea.
2) When we lived in Tema, Stacy and the kids and I and occasionally John, would go for a walk several times a week. The walk to town is a little longer now, but Stacy and I walked into Doryum tonight. Only problem was when we were headed back, there aren't any street lights and we hit a bit of muddy road, but all in a night's walk, right? Spend some time walking with a friend this week. Night walks are beautiful and they're the perfect time for good conversations.
3)Usually once a week, something will come up where a teacher has to leave early or I have to leave early from school. We just cover the other person's class and off they go. Easy as 1, 2, 3. And speaking of school time (sorry for those of you who aren't teachers, just ignore this part), even school hours are pretty loosy goosy this year. Our break is supposed to be 15 minutes, but if all the kids haven't used the toilet, then, it's a little longer, or if the teacher's haven't finished up a conversation, then that's finished before the kids come in. And lunch, it can be up to 30 minutes late, so if that's the case, the whole schedule is pushed back a bit.
So, my advice. . .wake up early this week and spend some time with your eye pod, a good view of the outdoors and your journal. Go for a walk with friends. Take off your watch and really listen to the people around you.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Yesterday, at our staff meeting, John and Stacy and I talked about the importance of a Thanksgiving celebration. We talked about the time of year when friends and family travel from all over the country to be near one another. We talked about a time of thanking God for the things that he has done throughout the year. And we talked about the foooooooooood!!!
This year, we wanted to teach our children about the concept of thanks-giving. They really do have so much to be grateful for! They have so many mothers and fathers that love on them all the time here at the center, they are recieving a quality education, they are living in a country that doesn't face conflict, they have been freed from slavery (for some of them) and rescued from an orphans life and given a family here. They really are so blessed!
We also want to thank others who have really been a valuable asset to City of Refuge Ministries. There are doctors and lawyers and friends who have donated their time, energy, and gifts to bless this ministry. We want to invite them to come so they can be honored for their gifts as well!
We would love for you to be a part of our Thanksgiving Celebration. We would love to put together an awesome buffet of food for our special guests--both Ghanaian favorites and some American ones too. We would love your help in providing funds for our special day. Would you pray about a one-time small donation to City of Refuge Ministries for our Thanksgiving celebration? About $35 USD would cover the cost of a goat. A little less than that would pay for a turkey. $15 would cover a green bean casserole or a sweet potato dish. $10 would cover the cost of a pumpkin pie. Please consider a small donation to help make our day possible!
Donations can be recieved by going to www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
And yet, today, we had an over-abundance of water! While we were in our worship service in Tema (where the worship leader gave this obruni a tough time today--noting that I wasn't singing some of the Twi words to the song--he came right up and fed the line to me, so I could sing along!), it was raining here in Doryum. And I mean, it must have been really pouring down because on our drive back home, the sides of the road were flooded. There were streams of water where none used to be. And when we turned down the road to our house, we didn't get very far in at all, when the tires began to spin and we were stuck. John tried to power his way through the slick mud for awhile before we all decided to walk back while they dug the van out of the mess. We took off our shoes and went tromping through the slick mud--and I mean SLICK! This clay is like walking on ice when it's wet! Anas and Edwin went down, and Evelyn and Justice too. And even Caleb took a nice seat in a puddle of mud (though I'm not sure if his was on purpose or on accident!). We went slipping and sliding down the road and finally made it to the house. The van followed after about 30 minutes of digging and powering through the mud! Whew! Today, all I could think was that we NEEDED a 4-wheel drive vehicle. . .ASAP! And when I got home, all I could think was, "Thank you Jesus for the water I can use to wash off my muddy feet!"
Awww. . .water. . .
Saturday, November 13, 2010
This was the fourth feeding program that we have done since I have been here. Each time, the food preparation gets easier and easier, even if the numbers are bigger and bigger. This time, we worked together like a well-oiled machine. We were able to get about 36 boxes filled in about 2 minutes. It was pretty impressive! We were able to pack all 1,300 boxes of food before 11 am. I even had the chance to have a little rest time in the afternoon.
When the O'Leary's showed up (Remember Sydney who raised all that money for feeding orphans? They were the ones who raised the money again for this feeding.), we packed everything into our two vehicles and took off for Kpone. It was a bumpy road getting there and I wasn't sure if the 900 boxes in our car would survive. I kept thinking that I would suddenly be showered with rice if we hit a bump too hard. But, we made it Kpone and the children were so happy to see us.
When we got there, we wanted all the children to sit down. The last two feedings, they pushed up against us so hard that, we couldn't hand out the food very effectively. So, we got the children quiet and seated, but this time, the moms were the ones who really caused the problems. They started telling their kids to push forward to get the food and it caused a big problem. The kids wouldn't stay seated. They kept moving forward. And when we would go to hand out food, the moms would even grab food out of our hands to take for themselves. It was crazy! At the end, I had people stepping on me, pushing me, pulling me, and even pinching me, all to get a box of food.
Then, when the food had finished. We tried to hand out water sachets to the remaining children who had stayed behind. Some of the older boys were mad that they were not able to get food (we tried to limit the distribution to the really young kids this time), they took some of the water sachets from the other kids and started throwing them at us. Mama Theresia got hit twice! That was when we knew it was time to leave.
All of that made me wonder if it was really helpful to serve these children a boxed meal. The mother's in this village had such a poverty-mentality that I am not sure what good we did for them, or if it was more harm than good.
We need to figure out a better way to do this. Has any one of my readers ever had a successful feeding program like this in Africa? I would LOVE some ideas for a better, more organized way of distributing the food. We know that we need to show up much earlier than the children. We'd like to set up lines of some sort, but after today, we're not sure that the mother's would honor those lines. We need some ideas so that each time we do this program, it would be easier on us, and ultimately, more helpful to the children. We don't want anyone getting hurt because someone is pushing to the front to get food.
On another note, yesterday, I finished a book I've been reading for awhile called "Cold Tangerines" (Corinne, I'll email you about it in a bit!). I started a book that Donald Miller recommended on his blog, a book by Max Lucado called "Outlive Your Live". He said it was a must-read and he was right. Even in the first few chapters, I have highlighted and written notes and was reminded about my purpose here and the ways in which I want to leave a legacy.
The book begins with a fable called "Father Benjamin" and I'd like to share it with you here:
"Unfavorable winds blow the ship off course, and when they do, the sailors spot uncharted islands. They see half a dozen mounds rising out of the blue South Seas waters. The captain orders the men to drop anchor and goes ashore. He is a robust man with a barrel chest, full beard, and curous soul.
On the first island he sees nothing but sadness. Underfed children. Tribes in conflict. No farming or food development, no treatment for the sick, and no schools. Just simple, needy people.
The second and following islands reveal more of the same. The captain sighs at what he sees, 'This is no life for these people.' But what can he do?
Then he steps onto the last and largest island. The people are healthy and well fed. Irrigation systems nourish their fields, and roads connect the villages. The children have bright eyes and strong bodies. The captain asks the chief for an explanation. How has this island moved so far ahead of the others?
The chief, who is smaller than the captain but every bit his equal in confidence, gives a quick response: 'Father Benjamin. He educated us in everything from agriculture to health. He built schools and clinics and dug wells.'
The captain asks, 'Can you take me to see him?'
The chief nods and signals for two tribesmen to join him. They guide the captain over a jungle ridge to a simple, expansive medical clinic. It is equipped with clean beds and staffed with trained caretakers. They show the captian the shelves of medicine and introduce him to the staff. The captain, though impressed, sees nothing of Father Benjamin. He repeats his request. 'I would like to see Father Benjamin. Can you take me to where he lives?'
The three natives look puzzled. They confer among themselves. After several minues the chief invites, 'Follow us to the other side of the island.' They walk along the shoreline until they reach a series of fishponds. Canals connect the ponds to the ocean. As the tide rises, fish pass from the ocean into the ponds. The islanders then lower canal gates and trap the fish for harvest.
Again the captain is amazed. He meets the fishermen and workers, gatekeepers and net casters. But he sees nothing of Father Benjamin. He wonders if he is making himself clear.
'I don't see Father Benjamin. Please take me to where he lives.'
The trio talks alone again. After some discussion the chief offers, 'Lets go up the mountain.' They lead the captain up a steep, narrow path. After many twists and turns the path deposits them in front of a grass-roofed chapel. The voice of the chief is soft and earnest. 'He has taught us about God.'
He escorts the captain inside and shows him the altar, a large wooden cross, several rows of benches, and a Bible.
'Is this where Father Benjamin lives? the captain asks.
The men nod and smile.
'May I talk to him?'
Their faces grow suddenly serious. 'Oh, that would be impossible.'
'He died many years ago.'
The bewildered captain stares at the men.
'I asked to see him, and you showed me a clinic, some fish farms, and this chapel. You said nothing of his death.'
'You didn't ask about his death,' the chief explains. 'You asked to see where he lives. We showed you.'"
I love this story and it reminds me of the legacy that I want to leave behind. Even when I was living in Menlo Park and working in EPA, even with my family and my friends, even working in low income areas in Southern California. . .I want to leave behind a legacy that is lasting. I love that working here with City of Refuge, I get to see these sustainable projects take form in our minds--fish farming for the fishermen of the Volta, work for the single mothers through a fair trade company, feeding thousands of children, farming and rain harvesting and solar energy to make the Children's Village that we'll begin building soon a self-sustaining project, taking care of the orphaned, trafficked, and vulnerable children of the North Volta region--all of these things are touches of God upon this land. Father, will you help us, help me, make a lasting legacy in YOUR name!
Friday, November 12, 2010
The drama never seemed to end this week at the house. We have had some staff issues and that hasn't been the easiest thing to deal with. I guess it's all a learning process, for the staff, for John and Stacy, and for me. Sometimes, things just aren't easy when you're dealing with people, and cultures, and all that comes with working and living together.
In any case,tonight, the kids begged for it to be movie night since we'll be doing our feeding program tomorrow night and are expected to be out late. Right before I started the movie, John came running in from outside and said that he needed medical attention outside. Our night guard, Atta, had fallen and cut himself and was bleeding badly. Blood is not John's favorite thing to deal with, so he was a little frantic to get help. Stacy and Mama Theresia got the first aid kit and came running with all the gauze they could find and I finished setting up the movie for the kids so they would be occupied while we worked on the man. When I got outside, he had bled through a whole roll of gauze. Apparently, Atta had just arrived and bent down to pick up his suitcase and somehow fell on this iron canopy that we have outside on the ground. It scraped off a layer of his skin on his arm and punctured his arm, severing a vein. (Joanna, I was wishing you were there for this one. The amount of blood was crazy, but let me know if we did the right thing!). Stacy and I put a tourniquet on the guy's upper arm since he was bleeding so much. We rinsed his arm off and then wrapped it in gauze and then had him elevate his arm up above his head. Then, we put him in the van and John and Stacy and some other staff took him to the hospital.
The ladies all stayed home to work on the prep for the feeding tomorrow. We're planning on feeding 1, 300 kids in a fishing village called Kpong, thanks to Sydney O'Leary and all of her fundraising. Her family is back to pick up their kids (they're adopting two) and wanted to do a feeding while they were here. It seemed like the second the van left the driveway, the storm that was coming through tonight turned off our power. The kids, all watching the movie inside, were cast into the dark and craziness then ensued. I ran inside and found Justice crying in his high chair. Mama Theresia was trying to find a flashlight and candles and we were all trying to calm down 20 kids who really just wanted to watch the Hannah Montana movie. Needless to say, the power stayed out for about an hour and a half, just long enough for the kids to almost destroy each other and then to get ready for bed! Yeah, telling 20 children to stay away from fire is just. . .well, playing with fire.
Eventually, the power came back one, John and Stacy returned with Atta (he needed stitches) and everything calmed down. Justice was put to sleep, Edwin went to bed, and I got to pray with all the kids before they hit the hay.
What an eventful evening. Now. . .on to tomorrow. Should be quite the day!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
This week, we were running low on water (did I tell you it's a week on and a week off here??) and so when the rain came, the guys went running out with our water buckets and our shower in the morning was rain water. Ok, I might be living in a place that is pretty much 90 degrees all day and all year round, but rain is still cold wherever you go!
Enjoy your cold shower and a great way to wake yourself up for the day!
In any case, this afternoon, the house was filled with wonder and laughter. When we got home, the children all gathered in the hallway staring at something on the wall. The side door at the end of the hallway has a peephole and when the sun shines through, it casts a prism on the wall. The kids were amazed at the rainbow on the wall and took turns stepping in the way of the light so the prism would fall on them instead. They loved it! Especially DK, who seems more and more interested in learning every day! (In fact, today, he created his own homework, writing down the months of the year and putting them in order over and over and over again).
Once the kids finally got started on their homework, the babies were reaking havoc on colored pencils and exercise books, so I took Caleb, Portia, Edwin, Justice, and Malvin (Malvin didn't stay very long--he still isn't used to this incredibly big obruni--I scare him quite a bit!)into my room. I brought down a suitcase and the box my guitar came in and opened them up on the floor. Talk about not having to entertain anyone--that was fun for them for about 30 minutes, until the kids had finished their and Edwin needed a diaper changed.
Mid-box playing, chickens started coming in the house, maybe for an escape from the heat. The side door was open, and every time I turned around, I saw another chicken escaping down the hallway. One had the nerve to come almost to my doorway, before he went in the hall where we are storing a bunch of our unopened bags of stuff. She must have been too excited because she laid an egg right there before DK caught her and sent her outside. Then, the next thing I know, I hear laughing coming from the boys room. I guess that one of the chickens made her way into the boys room and thought that DK's cupboard would be the perfect spot for her new nest. Miracle came running to my room, laughing so hard, to tell me the story.
Ahhhhhh. . .the joy of children. . .and prisms. . .and boxes. . .and chickens. . .
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Today, I was thinking about a family that I've been so blessed to get to meet, the O'Leary's who are adopting from Ghana. They felt called to care for the orphaned as Jesus asks us to, so they are adopting a couple of children that were orphaned and vulnerable (they lived in the Volta region). As I looked at every face of the kids I was teaching today, I thought about the call of God to take care of the widowed and orphaned. Almost every child in our care, except for John and Stacy's biological children, are orphaned, some trafficked into slavery. And when I think about the struggles we're facing with discipline, and with teaching them what they need to know to be on level, and learning how to communicate best with my accent (yeah, our phonics lesson on "ir", "er", and "ur" wasn't too successful today), I think, "What a priveledge it is to get to be the hands and feet of Jesus" and I pray that God will continually be remolding and shaping me so that I am a better image bearer of Jesus so that I can love them more.
Monday, November 8, 2010
After dinner, the kids came outside to enjoy the cooler night air and some of the bigger kids put the little ones in all of our little push toys and pushed them around the yard. It was so cute! They little ones were just giggling and giggling when the big ones pushed them around.
Afterwards, we all gathered in the living room. At first, I thought the kids were just going to be begging me for a movie night (they love watching movies with the projector), but they didn't. Instead, we just played together. It was so fun!
After last night, I knew that this move would work out. I think I just needed that little reassurance that it wasn't just going to be crowd control, but it would also be fun and I would have the time to myself that I needed as well.
Today, we spent the day getting the school set up. We got it mostly put together, except for Uncle Mark's class (since he has no furniture yet). The rooms look so cute, much more organized, and I'm looking forward to the new space.
School tomorrow! We'll see how it goes in the new place!
Saturday, November 6, 2010
We are finally moved into our home in Doryum. It was a crazy couple of days, with all of us waking up with aches and pains and suddenly muscles were sore where we were certain there weren't muscles before. Our first night in Doryum, I was more than a little overwhelmed at the task we had ahead of us. We had arrived at 8:30 in the evening, and as we drove into the compound, there wasn’t a spare foot that hadn’t been covered in tables, chairs, wood, bags of clothing, and children. The electricity was only at ½ current, light so dim, it wasn’t even worth it to have it on. The fans weren’t able to spin and night was hot and humid. I honestly thought, “What did we get ourselves in to?”. Everyone took turns in the bathroom, all lined up with our buckets of water (for water has not yet been brought inside the house) and sponges in hand. I watched the dirt of the day slip down the drain, the dirt of Tema, which I’ve called my home for the past three months, and imagined what our life would look like here in Doryum. As I laid down to sleep on a mat on the floor, my body was so weary, yet it took a while for my brain to slow down as I lay processing all that a move to the village will entail. Finally, sleep overtook me, and despite the heat, my first night in our new home ended in peaceful dreams.
When I woke up, I looked out the window of my new room. There wasn’t another house to take my view. No sound of cars driving by. The voices outside my window were those of little children just waking, and of breakfast being prepared, and of chickens (always the chickens). The view out my window was that of Africa. There isn’t anywhere else in the world just like this place. Trees that only belong in this landscape. High grasses. Bushes as green as if it were spring (though it seems to be summer here all year round). And the mountains, the beautiful mountains of this place. And I thought to myself, despite all the challenges that moving to this place might bring, this is just where we need to be.
The past couple of days have been a flurry of busyness. . .settling into our new rooms, unpacking, moving things around, creating room, and creating a home. It's definitely not quiet here in the house. The voices of 20+ children echo all the time, except for when it's time to sleep. I am never for want of company or a hand to hold. I get to spend more time with my little Edwin too. Every morning, his two hands that reach up for a morning hug are all that I need to remind me that this isn't about ME and space and so many living together, it is about THEM and their healing and loving them with the love of their FATHER in heaven. And now, with the house settled in, it is beginning to look more like a HOME. I loved the houses in Tema, but they were big and cavernous and now this is more like a home. Together, sharing the duties and living together as a family.
The other day, the NYU students came by to spend some time with the kids. Trevor and Sam said something about being recharged everytime they come to spend time with the kids. I replied telling them that I was glad that they were able to recieve so much from the kids. Often times, I feel drained after a long days work with all of them. And as I thought about it, I realized it wasn't because I didn't like spending time with the kids, but it is because we are a FAMILY now. I'm part of their family, not just a passing fad in their life. It's easy to laugh together, and it's easy to get tired with them, because that's what it's like when you live together as a family. I love that I get to be in this family for this season. What a gift!
Keep your eyes looking for pictures on facebook of the new place!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
This past week, here in Tema, we haven't had any water. Usually, we have water everyday here, so it's a little weird to not have access to any water. So, we get some water from our polytank to do our bathing and cooking. You just dump water on yourself to get wet, lather up your soap and shampoo, clean yourself off and your out of the bath pretty quick! I think it's something I'm just going to have to get really used to as Doryum has water access only every other week. Yesterday, we bought a huge polytank to hook up to the house for our water supply, but I don't know how well that will last for 30 of us in a house! We shall see, huh?
The move is going well. The Freedom Center is getting closer and closer to finishing. I think we'll finish it up today. Now, begin the setup process. The new house is just a mess. But, today, we'll be putting up curtains, setting up bunkbeds, laying down flooring, and all that jazz. Tonight will probably be the last night in Tema. I'm pretty sure that we'll be out in Doryum tomorrow night. So, after tonight, I don't know what access I will have to internet for awhile.
Yesterday, we discovered that we will definitely need a generator to run the house. The power is frequently off, but with large freezers and 30 people in and out of the house, we have to have access to power. We're discovering that we really are moving to the bush. Doryum is considered a developing area, but in some ways, Northern Volta is still ahead of Doryum with it's access to water and power. But, part of the reason for moving there is to help with community development. We'll see what happens once we move to this new community!
Monday, November 1, 2010
The other night, we got a call from the landlord of the Freedom Center and he wanted us out ASAP. He wouldn't budge on the time frame for us to leave, so instead of heading to Accra to work out visa/work permit things, we headed to the Freedom Center to move everything out. We had a busy morning, moving things outside the Freedom Center to be loaded into trucks later. When the truck finally came, we loaded up in the van and took off for Doryum.
Once we unloaded the first truck in Doryum, we had to wait for the second truck to arrive. It took about 3 hours of waiting, but the truck finally came. Today, we should have more supplies that we need to reassemble bunkbeds and hang up curtains and all that jazz so that we won't just be waiting around.
It's going to be really different living in the village. The water is only on every other week, so we have to bring in a huge storage tank so we'll have a water supply at the house. The power is kind of come and go. And there will be almost 30 of us living in one house for the time being. Internet access will be limited, at least for now. But, I know that God has called us to Doryum, so we're headed there. It really is quite a beautiful place. It's surrounded by mountains and sometimes the clouds creep down lower on the hills and it reminds me a bit of the 280 in the bay area where the clouds roll in over the hills. It's so pretty! And it's cooler there, which is nice, since it's been so warm here lately.
So, even though life is going to change a bit for us over the next couple of weeks, I think it's a good change. Hopefully, it will bring about a sense of great community between the two houses and we'll continue to see change in the kids as they go to school!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
It reminds me of this verse:
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (New International Version)
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
The italics were mine!
I have recently been reading a book by Shauna Neiquiest called "Cold Tangerines". It's just a collection of stories from her life (at least the parts that I've read so far) and then what God has taught her through these stories. One of the chapters talks about friendship. Here are some of Shauna's thoughts:
"Friendship is acting out God's love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other's lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God's love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God's behalf in the lives of the people that we're close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can't always see from where we are."
This quote reminded me of the Young Adults of Peninsula Covenant Church and my mini-family that I have there, the ones that I live my life out with on a day to day basis. I was reminded of the fall retreat last year where we talked about what God's love really looked like in relationship--totally sacrificial, for the benefit of the other person. And I remember living that out in the days that followed the retreat and how HARD it was and it was messy and it wasn't easy. . .and it's still not easy, but it is GOOD! I love that my community in the Bay area lives that out for one another, especially my little mini-family. We love and support each other in ways that don't make sense because we love each other with God's love. . .we are showing God to each other and that challenges me to be less of me and more of more the image of Christ to other's I'm in relationship with.
"True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they'll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it's something else, but if it's really love, really friendship, it's a little scary around the edges."
This quote reminds me of my group of friends from college, the Beatniks. When we first started hanging out, we did so in the name of fun and laughter and friendship. But, now, as I look back over our seasons. . .the sorrow of death, the grief of lost friendships, the joy of new additions (husbands and babies), the frustrations of lost jobs, infertility, lack of eligible males (*wink, wink*), crisis of faith, etc, I see that we really did take the risk of living out our lives with each other. We have crossed over into those "broken, and fragile parts of ourselves" and we haven't turned back. We won't allow it. We can't go back to how we first started because now it's real love, real friendship, and even when it's scary, we don't run away, but we run to each other, and to the foot of the cross!
Here are just a few of my beatniks, along with the most recent member, Brylie. She's soon to meet Isabella, who will be born today or tomorrow.
At the end of her chapter on friendship, Shauna tells a story of a friend who came to live with her and her husband for several months before finding a house of their own. When they left to their new home, they left behind a key to their new home, inviting them to be a part of their house just as they had been invited into Shauna's home.
This week, as I was home sick, I did a little packing. Rooting through some of my bags, I pulled out my keychain from home and what should be on the chain, but my friend Yona and Eric Roberts' home key. I don't know why I brought it to Ghana with me, but it reminded me of Shauna's story. I haven't lived in Southern California in over 3 years, yet when Yona and Eric bought their home, they gave me a key and each time I came to visit, I put it to use. Even now, Yona and Eric are in the hospital as Yona is giving birth to their first child, Isabella. My heart is in that tender place, longing to be there with them. I've lived through so many things with this couple and it hurts not to be there to celebrate the homecoming of their little girl. But, I know that even though I'm living an ocean away, I still have a key to their home and their lives.
Friends. . .what a blessing I have to have been given such friends!
Friday, October 29, 2010
Today, I spent much of the day hanging with one of my favorite little guys, Justice. He's been sick too. . .teething, so he spent the day at home with Auntie Autumn and Auntie Helene (our house staff). He is so cute. When he is sick, he's really grouchy, but today, he wasn't too bad. He was just a cuddle bug. He'd snuggle up next to my neck and just hang out there. It was so cute! And today, I got to chat with my roomies (Jenni, Blabe, and Kirsten) and he joined me there too. When I would set him down, he'd just climb back in my lap or set his head on my lap. I kept thinking of my friend Christina who is a stay at home mom right now and how loved she must feel by such little trusting hands always loving on her! Little hands of love just make everything feel better!
Tonight, we made a quick stop by the Freedom Center to drop off some medication for one of the kids, and little Edwin met me at the door. The kids have missed me. It's nice to be missed. And I missed their faces! And Edwin's sweet hugs. And Portia's kisses.
Now, I'm in bed. Getting more rest is just what I need to kick this thing out of my system. And as I'm getting ready for sleep, I'm praying for another little girl who is going to be making her appearance tomorrow or Sunday--Yona and Eric's little Isabella. Can't wait to see that little face!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I found out about Brooke Fraser when she came with Hillsong United to San Jose a few years back. I'd heard that she was putting out her own album, but kinda forgot about the whole thing until recently. My friend Evan Kolding posted something about her on facebook a few days back and I always enjoy his musical choices, so I found her album and since then, haven't been able to stop listening.
Today, since I've been sitting around at home, I decided to check out her videos on youtube. I found this amazing interview with her about her album entitled "Albertine". It struck close to home. Wanted to share it with you. It's just so true. . .once you see, you can't NOT do something about it.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
TURN UP THE HEATER IN YOUR HOUSE! And in your car for that matter. On a normal day, my room in the house is about 86 degrees F. So pump up the temperature in your house. Take off the blankets and snuggle up only under a sheet (even that will feel hot in that temperature). And in the car, get the heat blowing and then roll down the windows to let it out (so, maybe you shouldn't try it for too long--it'll waste your gas), but both of our vehicles don't have air conditioning, so sit in the warmth awhile and see how you feel. When the sweat starts dripping down your legs, you'll know you've got it hot enough. I know a few people who are really going to love this challenge (sorry Evan, but T is pumping up the heat!).
As for an update. . .whew! It's been busy. We've only been having 1/2 days of school so we have time to pack. But, so far, the afternoons have been pretty uneventful as stuff in Doryum in taking longer than expected (welcome to village life). But, hopefully, tomorrow, we'll get some things moved over to Doryum.
Me, on the other hand, am going to stay home, get some rest done and do a little packing myself. I came down with some kind of bug, so I'm on medication and we'll see if I feel better tomorrow. Just hate sore throats, fever, aches and pains. . .all that jazz. Pray that it will be a fast illness so I can get back up on my feet with no problems!
Also found that there is some internet service in Doryum. We're trying to figure out how to do it for multiple computers, but we'll get some limited access. My posts here and on facebook might be farther apart and I'm not sure if the speed will work for skype, but we'll give it a try!
Until next time!
Monday, October 25, 2010
Evelyn is 13 years old and she is a funny girl. She loves to cook and, if she could, she would spend all day in the kitchen.
Evelyn is learning how to read. She really doesn't believe that she can do much. She's been in school awhile and I think that she has just cheated her way through on tests and things, but now, we're really seeing what she's capable of. There's no more hiding. So, all we can do is start from the beginning, build her confidence that she is capable, and then, see her fly!
Evelyn loves to dance. She won't admit it, but she actually has some pretty great rhythm and how she dances is so beautiful! She just smiles from ear to ear!
Evelyn loves to laugh. Most of the time, I can't get her to stop laughing so that she will focus on her work!
Evelyn kind of takes a quieter role around the house. She is kind of unseen in a lot of ways, but she really is such a valuable part of the home.
I pray for Evelyn all the time. That God would speak to her about her value, how much He loves her, how special he has created her. I long to see her living out of who she is, not who she believes herself to be!
Here's a pic of Evelyn from facebook. Enjoy!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
*Spending a lot of time lesson planning and grading tests.
*Went to Doryum a few times this week as we prep for our big move. Monday we took the kids there to paint the school. We didn't finish, so we hired a couple of guys to finish up. It will be fun to have a building rather than just a couple of rooms in the house. That will help with the behaviors a bit, I think.
*Tuesday, we went to the Accra mall for chicken sandwiches and to meet with a possible donor. It was fun to get out a little bit, even though the donor didn't really work out.
*Thursday was another trip to Doryum with Taz and Sophie (two volunteers) to check up on some of the buildings that we were renting. It was a quick trip, though we got caught in some pretty crazy traffic on the way back.
*Saturday, we got over to the Freedom Center early to pray for Taz and Sophie before they left off for Togo. After seeing them off, we took off to Doryum. We brought some wood to the carpenter who is working on framing out the windows to our rooms in our school in Doryum. We also stopped by the house that we're renting. We don't have a second house yet, so we are all planning on living together for awhile at least. It's going to be a little crowded, but you gotta do what you gotta do! It'll be a new adventure. After stopping by the house, we took this guy to our land to figure out what it would take to clear the land and build a road. The walk to the property started out beautifully. The land had dried out to begin with and it was easy to walk. Then, once we got into the fields, it was definitely flooded! We slipped and slopped around for about half an hour before getting to our land. It was a fun journey. . .a muddy one. . .but it was good to see the land! When we got back, it was time for a bath and a movie. It was a fun day!
*This morning, we went to the church service and then, John and Stacy and I went to the Accra mall for some pizza. We added extra cheese and it was absolutely delicious! Just a little dose of something "American" delicious before our big move to the village. We checked out internet connections too for Doryum and didn't find anything yet. We are going to talk to another company, but I'm not sure what internet access is going to look like for us there. I'm hoping. . .
*A note for Joanna Suckow. . .I took my first dewormer since coming here. Every three months!
*This week will be a little crazy busy--well, not even a little crazy busy--it will be really crazy busy as we move everything to Doryum and a week from today, I'll be living in the village of Doryum. Crazy!