Friday, May 30, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
I had children in trouble in my office in droves.
I had crying children out the wazoo.
I went into my Bible class that I teach on Thursdays so frustrated that I warned them my grouchy mood would result in points lost if they were late or misbehaving. (They are a wonderful class and I almost never have behavior issues with them!)
I texted Stacy around lunch time and told her I just needed a good cry, I was so overwhelmed.
She brought me chocolate (God bless her!).
So tonight, I have nothing to offer. No wisdom from my time in Ghana. No clarity on a day well-lived (in fact, I did my fair share of shouting at children today...not my finest moments as a principal). I don't have anything, but...
For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
1 Corinthians 13
The Message (MSG)
The Way of Love
13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Clinging to the truth that it is OK to take care of myself. It is ok to just be loved on in sweet and relaxing ways. It is ok to spend time with friends. It is ok to take time away. It is necessary and it is good and it is Godly.
Remember that in the future, Autumn.
Let all the other words go.
So, when we planned to go into Accra today, a day away with Stacy and our sweet friend, Angie, I knew it was much needed. God loves to love on us in that way. I don't love on myself very well sometimes. I forget the need to rest. I tie myself up into knots, my mind whirring with the hundreds of "to-dos", with the responsibility of the school, our kids, the Kingdom. I forget, sometimes, that it's not in my strength that any of this is done. I forget that it isn't about me. I forget and let worry get the better of me.
But, I was reminded today. Some days, God just loves to spoil His kids. He pours His love down in friendships and truth and pedicures and hair cuts and ham and cheese and rocking chairs. It's unexpected and lovely and so filling.
Even with the fun of a day away, today was a typical adventure in Ghana. Transportation is never easy here and as we face another rainy season with very unreliable vehicles, we were unsure of our transportation to and from Accra today. We decided to go in our Sequoia, despite its many leaks and the worry that it may or may not make it there without overheating. When Stacy and I hopped in, we knew right away we were in for an adventure as the battery was dead and John jumped the car and then added cables to our car "just in case".
When we were finally off, we picked up Angie in Tema and made our way into Accra. When we arrived to Accra, our brakes, well, let's just say that they didn't go completely "out", but it probably wasn't the safest vehicle. Even pushed almost to the floor, the brakes barely engaged. This is dangerous in America, but if you knew how driving works in Ghana, it's crazy-dangerous here. So, we headed to a mechanic to fill up our brake fluid in hopes that would solve the problem. (It didn't, but that's ok.)
In any case, despite the very serious lack of brakes, we decided to continue on our adventure and went to a store called Orca. Now, we literally cannot afford just about everything in that store, but it was fun to visit. It was almost like an IKEA, with furniture set up in various living room and bedroom settings. We went from scene to scene, trying out each couch and chair (which are known for being notoriously hard here in Ghana), trying to find the perfect one. And find it we did! We found a rocking chair recliner with the perfect amount of soft, cushiony corners. It was beautiful and so soft and I could have slept in that chair over my own bed. I'm sure the saleswoman, keeping a close eye on our behavior, was wondering how long we were going to stay in her rocking chairs. But, it was glorious and when you find that perfect little piece of heaven on earth, you want to stay in that moment for as long as possible!
When we went outside after exploring all of Orca for hours (we lost track of time), our car's battery was dead. (I forgot to turn the headlights off...my bad.) But, a wonderful, friendly, French-speaking family pulled in next to us just in the nick of time and jumped our car. GRATEFUL!
After Orca, we headed to one of our new favorite restaurants, La Gallete--a restaurant with cheese...I mean, real cheese, and delicious pastries and...just all things deliciousness. We had nachos (with sour cream, guys! Sour Cream!) and I ordered a Chef Salad with HAM...HAM!!! Are you hearing me? Actual HAM! I don't think you understand...the amount of pork I eat here in Ghana is ZERO, so when you can get a salad with ham and olives and cheese and egg and all kinds of veggies...it was perfect.
Then, it was off to a local hotel for some beautifying. I got my hair trimmed, a true luxury here in Ghana as most people don't know how to cut Obroni's hair. She cut and combed and it was so quiet. So quiet. I felt as if I could just fall asleep in that moment. She cut and styled and combed. And with every swipe of the comb, I felt myself relax.
And then, the pedicure. Soft and gentle and just right and my feet still feel like they are walking on clouds.
We ended our little adventure with apple pie and onion rings (don't ask...it was OUR DAY and we are going to eat what we want!).
Today was just perfect.
And days like today don't happen often, but when they do...even with all the issues with our car today...I recognize Daddy's voice...His love...when I won't do things for myself, when I won't rest, He showers down days with rocking in soft chairs, or laughing with friends, or eating cheese, or getting pampered.
Friday, May 23, 2014
And after posting last night, our plans for youth group fell through, again.
So, we had a back up plan. We decided to talk about baptism with the kids, something we have been wanting to discuss with them for awhile now.
We started out with a little worship and prayer. It was nice to be able to lead worship again without losing my voice or having it crack. We sang together a song we all know well, and then, I decided to introduce them to a new song, Bryan and Katie Torwalt's "Weight of Your Glory".
We have seen the way you move
Full of goodness, full of mercy
We can never get enough
Oh god of grace, great god of love
Let the weight of your glory
Come settle on us now
We stand in awe for you are holy
And your kindness overwhelms
As we see your signs and wonders
Signs from heaven up above
You draw us in
You pull us closer
Into the depths of your great love
Be lifted up, you heavenly gates
Be opened wide, you ancient doors
Little did I know that the room would be flooded with His presence in such a way that every knee would bow, that shoes would be removed because we were there on holy ground, that hearts would be ministered and spoken to and filled up.
My weary post...just an hour before...it felt as though it were years away. The words soaring through my spirit. New songs being formed on my lips. My voice, strong and new, bursting forth with such urgency.
And when John came around to pray for each person in the room, in the midst of His presence and His glory coming to sit with us there, God spoke about rivers of life-giving waters flowing into me, providing life and fruit to many.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Invitation to the Lord’s Salvation
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
4 See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
5 You also will command nations you do not know,
and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
Call on him now while he is near.
7 Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 You will live in joy and peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song,
and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
And that's it, isn't it?
Friday, May 16, 2014
Listening and Doing
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.20 Human anger[g] does not produce the righteousness[h] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
And I felt so strongly that our staff, not all of them, but some, were not living in this place. They know the truth. They may have even memorized this very scripture. But, when it came to living it out, they looked in the mirror and walked away and forgot what they looked like. The first opportunity of testing, they forgot the truth.
When I began to talk to them about God's dream of this place, tears filled my eyes. I long for this place to be so filled with the presence of God that when people even step foot on our land, they can't help but fall to their knees in worship. This picture breaks me because I know that God must work through his people to make this happen...which means his people MUST remember what they have seen in the mirror, must walk in the truth for Gods presence to be made fully known on this land. It has to be made known in me...in them...
And I was reminded of Hebrews 11, which talks about the many men and women of faith who walked before us, living into the very promises of God. I love what verse 13 says,
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.
Abraham, Noah, Enoch...they all walked in the promises of God...they didn't turn away and forget...no matter how silly they sounded or how foolish it made them look. But the truth is, they didn't live to see the promise fulfilled. They walked in the promises of God KNOWING that they wouldn't see the end of the promise, but still trusting it would be fulfilled.
Because it's not just about the promise, but about the legacy.
And that is what it's all about. Everything that God has used me to do here...it's not for me. I won't change this world. I just won't. But these kids. They might just do that. They might just change this world. If we give them the tools they need...love them unconditionally...and God gives them the full revelation of who He is and who they are...they will.
So, I long for us to be transformed. To teach them how to look in the word and walk away changed with the truth. To walk fully in the miracles of God. Because it's not for us. This life isn't for us. It is for us to give away. It is for the Kingdom.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Friday, May 9, 2014
1 Kings 19 (MSG)
11-13 Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?”
On the way back from the Volta last week, I started getting a sore throat. This week, I have been coughing this hard, deep, hacking cough. And today, I woke up with no voice. This kind of cold hits me every now and then, but it always brings about a bit of fear as a singer and a teacher. Will this effect my vocal chords? How long before I get my voice back?
But as I was thinking about all this today, this passage came to me. While we are seeing God in some really powerful ways lately, there is something to be said for quietly sitting before The Lord and simply listening for that gentle and quiet whisper.
And while my voice has been taken for the day, this afternoon, I came home from school this afternoon, put on the newest Bethel album, You Make Me Brave (it's a good one!), and just rested in His Presence.
Allowing that quiet voice, speaking His love over me. Reminding me. Asking me why I am here, what is next.
I love those moments where God is simply...in the margins.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
But this time, we didn't bring children home with us...we brought children back to their homes, to visit family and friends. And that is why this trip was, perhaps, the most powerful trip I have been on so far.
Our journey started on Tuesday evening. Due to the fact that we normally have to meet a ferry to cross the lake almost 10 hours north of where we live, we typically leave at midnight and meet the ferry at 8:00 am. It's a long, hard journey through the middle of night.
But, recently, the Akosombo bridge began repairs. This bridge, which crosses the White Volta River, put a wrinkle in our plans and we had to look up the ferry schedule to cross the river. Now, the line to wait for the ferry extends sometimes for hours down the road. Its last crossing is at 8:00 pm and if you miss that one, you have to wait until 6:00 am for the next crossing.
So, for this trip, we left at 6:30 pm on Tuesday night, preparing to meet the ferry to cross the river right at their last ferry crossing. We loaded up the van with mattresses, enough food to last us four days, all of our luggage, and medical supplies for our clinics and medical assessments, and then all of us--9 kids, 5 members of the medical team, and 8 of us staff members here at CORM. Let's just say, we were fully loaded.
We made our way across the Akosombo Ferry and drove through the night, being stopped about 8 times at various police barriers and a couple of times for some who didn't know that dehydration was key for long trips like that.
It was around 3 in the morning by the time we made it to Dumbai and we pulled over to sleep in the bus until our 8:00 am ferry appointment. With so many people and so little room, seats that didn't recline, and grumpy kids (and adults too), we didn't manage to sleep very well. By 6:00, we were up, gassing up our vehicle and taking our turns at the squatty potty before hurrying down to the lakeside to wait for the ferry.
The kids wandered around, some meeting family members that had traveled over to Dumbai, some discussing their first journey over on the larger ferry (now out of commission), some watching our sweet Heartbeat for Africa medical team members meeting the local children and sharing Bible verses and God's love with those who would listen.
By the time we made it over the lake, we were ready for time out of our cramped quarters, but we had another couple of hours along a bumpy, red, dirt road.
Our first stop on our way to Benjamase, where our home base would be located for the next few days, was a small village called Bruaii. There, we met with the family of one of our kids. Family and friends gathered around, celebrating her homecoming, shedding tears of joy. It was beautiful!
|Walking back from visiting one of our kid's families|
|The CORM Staff sits in Dindor, waiting to meet the family of some of our children.|
|Mershak speaks to his community, sharing the Gospel of truth with them, and thanking those who have poured into his life.|
|The team gathers for a photo opportunity--all happy about meeting the family members of our kids|
Thursday morning, we woke up bright an early, and were greeted by more family members of our children. It was such a joy to see our kids interact with their families, so happy to be home, even if it was just for a few days! We sat down, heard stories, allowed our children to speak to their family and share with them the many things that God has done in their lives, and open the door of invitation to come and visit us at CORM.
|Meeting with family members at our Benjamase compound|
|You are always welcome--you are our family|
|A morning greeting to family we are meeting for the first time|
|Crossing over to Hausakope|
Finally, we were given the signal to come and set up camp under a large grove of trees. We called for tables and chairs and benches to be brought in, delivered via head on bikes and motorcycles. While we set up, Stacy told me about the chief's house--an idol set up in the center, various amulets hanging from the tree, inviting spirits in to "protect" the house. She said that she could sense the evil of that place. The chief had invited so many evil things into that village, and as the leader of that place, those things had invaded that area. We knew we were in for a battle that day.
And we were. The medical team saw over 100 patients that day. I was on vitals, taking blood pressures and temperatures and doing the various tests requested from the doctors. We saw some severe cases of malaria, entire families infected with HIV, malnutrition, blood pressure, spina bifida, and various other diseases and disorders. It left the team heartbroken, especially with the hopelessness we saw in a place that doesn't have access to proper medication, clean drinking water, the very things we take for granted so often.
And when we headed into our crusade that night, I have to admit, I was anxious. I had never stayed so late on that side of the lake, so I was worried about staying late and crossing in the dark. But, when the Jesus Film started, we started with just a few children and then more and more started to come. They clapped at every miracle, in awe of Jesus' power and grace. By the time the film reached it's climax and we paused it to speak to them the message of Hope that is Jesus Christ, hundreds had gathered. As Stanley and John began to speak out the gospel of Christ, hundreds raised their hands to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. Then, as the movie continued, our staff and kids gathered to pray over those who had accepted Christ--praying with passion that these new believers would walk in love and true change.
One of the most powerful stories I heard during our time there happened in the middle of the movie. Our staff gathered to pray during the movie, praying for release of the captives, that God would move in the hearts of the people, that there would be hope offered in new ways for these people. Johnbull kept hearing the word HOPE from the Holy Spirit and went and told Stanley that he felt like that is what God was going to bring for the people of Hausakope. And Stanley led him to a young man who had spent the day with us, carrying benches to and from the village, praying heartily with the team during the movie. A man only 32 years old, living in Hausakope for 20 years, introduced himself to Johnbull. His name was Hope. And we fully believe that the hope of God in that community will be brought by this man. We are praying about how to equip and raise him up as a future spiritual leader for that community.
That night, as we headed back in the boat, we gave our highs and lows of the day, laughing at the funny comments of the kids (especially Michael) and the staff in their observations of the day, mourning the hopelessness of the medical conditions found in that village and the evil that was so pervasive, and quietly celebrating the love of our good God who met them where they were at in the life of Jesus seen in the film that night.
The next day, we had our clinic in Benjamase. Families had already gathered by the time we made it there and we were excited to get to spend one more day ministering to the people of that area. The doctors taught some CHE lessons (Community Health Evangelism) to the people regarding back pain and HIV.
|Dr. Troy teaches his CHE lesson to the waiting patients|
|Dr. Jammie assesses every need of her patients|
|I became a blood-pressure pro!|
|Playing Red Rover|
As we laid down to sleep that night (the hottest night up there by far), it took me a long time to fall asleep. I thought of the experiences I had had, the things I had witnessed, the ways that God had moved--but mostly, I thought of our kids. I knew that they would miss their families, but I also knew that what I saw this time in them was the future for these communities that they call "their village". And it will only come through them.
The next day, we said goodbyes to families and were on our way to Dumbai. But, our late start meant that we didn't make it to the ferry in time. By the time that we got to the ferry in Dumbai, they were already boarded and about ready to take off. John hopped off our bus and ran to the ferry, asking the captain to allow him to come aboard to arrange transport. Again and again, the captain told him that we would not be allowed to bring our bus on board--they were already full. So, John got off the ferry and began to pray. Meanwhile, disappointed, we all left the bus, thinking that we wouldn't be able to take the ferry until that afternoon around 2. The captain tried to move the ferry, but little did he know, John was praying that the ferry would not be able to move unless our bus was on board. The captain maneuvered and maneuvered the ferry, but it was stuck in the mire of the shoreline and wouldn't move. So, he stopped the ferry, took off a couple of buses, and tried again. He moved it back and forth, back and forth, and still, nothing. Finally, he moved a truck load of yams off the boat and called John on board. He asked John if he had placed a curse on the ferry making it unable to move. John said that we were just Kingdom people wanting to make it home. We had to be on the ferry! Others gathered around, angry that he was being given passage. But, one of them recognized John and told the crowd that he was a pastor. And soon enough, John motioned for the bus to move on to the ferry. We boarded and the ferry began to move easily across the waters! God had answered our prayers!
The trip home was long and tiring, but it was fun! I sat next to one of our staff members, Ajata, and we joked the whole way home. We got caught up at the ferry in Akosombo (almost a 3 hour wait in the traffic which also included a minor fender bender), but we made it home around 6:00 pm on Saturday. The kids from the house gathered around us, some not wanting to hug us because we smelled, but I gladly hugged them anyway.
One of the mornings I was up there, I was spending time in the Word and came across this passage of Scripture--one that I had read many times, but it seemed to have new meaning to me now:
and two against three;
Father against son,
and son against father;
Mother against daughter,
and daughter against mother;
Mother-in-law against bride,
and bride against mother-in-law.”