Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interesting year - Open Doors - Ask Seek Knock

It's been an interesting year.  There's that word 'interesting' that people use when they talk about my book or my life.  Makes me laugh... nervously.

I remember at the beginning of this year, a friend asking what vision God had given for the new year.  I thought about it for three days and came to the conclusion that there was no vision.  We had been toiling the soil and planting the seeds the previous two years and this year was one to watch God do His thing.

Our annual mission to Ghana was the largest to date.  In fact exponential growth by a factor of three.  Any time a ministry experiences increase, it's a good thing and we're thankful.

Some how in the aftermath of this growth, we've felt a gnawing for more.  Which is dangerous.  The last time I prayed for more (which I added and please don't send me to Zimbabwe, for fear of spending the next 30 years of my life in Africa) I went to Swaziland on my first mission to the African continent.

So, we wondered, do we tarry?  Do we just keep doing what we were told to do some years ago?  Be obedient to the last instruction until further notice?  Some what perplexing, but ask, seek, knock and you will be answered.

We were more than willing to continue but laid out a fleece and had some specific areas in mind.  One being Kenya, another being India.

Well, once again, be careful about what you ask for.  We were contacted by a friend who is a full time missionary in Kenya and that door has opened wide and we're going through it without reservation.

We see the door for India and someone is there doing research already and the way I see it will be our guide there a couple years down the road.

Does this mean the door to Ghana is shut?  Absolutely not.  In fact, we just today spoke with a gentleman that drills wells in Ghana and have requested him to contact our folks on the ground there and see if we can get some villages some much needed access to clean drinking water.

It may be that we have groups going to Ghana and Kenya alternating years, or simultaneous or one after the other in the same year.  We'll follow God's lead and timing in all of this.

We're excited and ready to expand our territories.  People every where need to be empowered to purify their source of drinking water.  To restore their health and have Hope for the future.

I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. Mark 9:41

I pray, you Ask, Seek and Knock.  That you are prepared to go where God leads.  I promise there is no better plan for your life.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Friday, August 13, 2010

Culture Shock

As we emerged from the plane into the busy Atlanta Airport, my senses were immediately assaulted by bright lights, flashy American advertisements, noise, and the usual US rush-rush hustle-bustle. I literally gasped in shock. Too much noise, too much "slickness," too much consumerism....

Driving home on smoothly paved roads, I don't feel any bumpy potholes. The other drivers stay in their lanes, come fairly close to maintaining the allowed speed limit, and don't blow their horns constantly. Quite a change from my experiences of the last couple of weeks.

Once home, I looked at our neighborhood. There were no high fences topped with constantine wire or broken glass to deter robbers as is common in the cities in Ghana. A neighbor, on his riding lawnmower, waved at us. I remembered seeing some men with machetes, hacking at the grass in front of a home in Tema...

I take a deep breath and smell....nothing, really. But the scents of acrid smoke, sweat, sea, animals, and fumes from vehicles all linger in my mind from Ghana.

I loaded the washing machine, added detergent, turned it on and walked away. Then I remembered Aggie and Maggie, sitting on low stools, scrubbing our clothes in a tub and hanging them across the fence to dry.

Ahhhh......hot water and a long shower, feels absolutely delicious. Though the tepid-cool showers in Ghana were a pleasure there, cooling my skin temporarily.

Gazing into the mirror, I suddenly realize that this was the first time I'd seen my image in nearly three weeks. Didn't have a mirror in Ghana; didn't need one. It didn't occur to me that it would matter what I looked like.

Taming my hair with hot rollers to make it conform to my "American standards"... why do I not think I can just let it go here, like I do in Ghana? The breeze blows it dry, the little bit of natural curl I inherited makes it wavy.

My husband comes in, bringing some groceries. We put things neatly away in cupboards and in our refrigerator. There's a gracious plenty of food -- we could live off of the food in our cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer for quite some time and not even have to go to the store. There is very little refrigeration in Ghana, even in the urban areas that have electricity. Most meals take a long time to prepare: peeling and cutting the fresh fruits and vegetables, slaughtering the goat or chicken or cleaning the fish, simmering the spices over a stove or a fire all take a long time.

On the counter, David places two ripe fresh plantains. Neither of us speaks -- but we both smile. We'll have a taste of Ghana at dinner, tonight, just to help us remember.....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer in Ghana

I found the blog of a new friend I met in Ghana this past July.  She relates a couple of days in July at the following links -



I always hope GOD does to others what GOD does to me.  The Dump is a kick in the gut.  I hope you can experience it with me one day.

These student/teachers from Dartmouth College are a rare breed that have answered the call and are making a profound difference....

From Ghana_2010_Day 17
and I'm honored to know them, and call them friends.

Heres a link to some photos from that day - http://picasaweb.google.com/weministry/Ghana_2010_Day17#


You hear the wind, yet you do not know where it comes from or where it goes to; so it is with the Spirit.


David Lee Waters Sr.,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What It's All About

Our game plan was to spend Monday through Wednesday after the team left evaluating the trip, visiting with friends, and relaxing. However I'd begun to feel a bit bad over the weekend. Saturday I nursed a scratchy sore throat; Sunday found me sneezing and sniffling. What I *thought* was going to be a simple summer cold turned very ugly. By Monday morning I was in the middle of a full-blown "asthmatic episode" which left me literally gasping for every breath. As soon as a pharmacy was open on Monday, our friend Stephen took us to get some medication for me. It was pricey (about $90 USD) but at that point I'd have maxed out every credit card I had to get some relief. I spent most of the day doing absolutely nothing. By evening I was feeling MUCH better.

For me, Monday and Tuesday is sort of a blur. I'd get up and go a while, then nap a while. But David managed to get a good bit accomplished and I joined him as I could.

David took the time to go back to the dump, taking Bishop James with him to witness the conditions there first-hand. They discussed several options about ways to help those children. Besides the obvious issue of massive poverty, they face other problems. For example, often the parents do not care if their kids go to school or not; sometimes the kids have to work picking through the garbage for items to recycle. Another big problem is that the schools closest to the dump are still about a 2-mile walk that includes crossing a major 4-lane highway.

Ideas that we are considering include purchasing a van to transport the kids to schools in and around Community 25, or perhaps trying to get a school started at the edge of the dump itself. Given the transient nature of the residents, it can be difficult to keep track of the children themselves. It is a huge problem -- and a huge burden on our hearts.

Early Monday afternoon, we walked to Jerusalem Gates Academy, where donors helped us sponsor several children out of the dump last year. We took some candies to share with the children. We were sad to see that the number of students was significantly smaller this year; the headmaster indicated that since the school was relocating, many students were going to different schools. After more discussion and prayers, we decided to look for different avenues for the dump children's education.

We stopped by Manye Foundation Academy on Tuesday. There we met five volunteers, students from Dartmouth College in the US. We spent some time talking with them, and with the headmaster. The college students were about as excited to see us as we were to see them! Before we left, they'd agreed to stop for a visit on Wednesday, and David planned to take them to the dump for a look around.

We agreed to sponsor four children into this academy. Later I'll tell you their stories, so be watching in the coming days for information about Racheal, Comfort, Raphael, and Joseph.

Also on Tuesday, David pounded fufu with Mary and Emmanuel! He later feasted on that fufu at dinner! They also made my favorite fried plantains! YUMMY!!!

Tuesday evening, I met Joann, who is heading up the Christ Harvests Academies. I am very impressed by this lady's professionalism and drive to help provide a superior education to children, and I look forward to working with her!

By Wednesday, I was feeling pretty good. It was our last full day in Ghana; we were scheduled to fly out Thursday morning at 1 am. We had a lot of things we needed to catch up with before we left, so we hit the ground running.

A few years ago we met a young man named Cedric Emmanuel who had been badly burned on his face, arms, and hands. His medical bills were covered through efforts by Waters Edge Ministries. Recently a friend of ours saw the young man's photograph -- then contacted us that he wanted to help the young man with his education. This benefactor is a graduate student at USC who is from a different country -- and has a huge heart for children. With Richard's help, we contacted the headmistress at the school where he attended. We drove to the school where she serves, and she accompanied us to the junior high school that the now 13-year-old young man attends.

Upon our arrival, Cedric Emmanuel was brought to the office. He recognized us and gave a slight smile, but did not speak much. He wears a jacket all the time to cover his scarred arms; his hands are scarred and the joints of his little fingers are immobile and twisted. One of his ears was burned off; the other is partially gone.

The school headmistress told us that before the accident, he'd been a bright and happy student. When he returned, his scarred face frightened other students and they'd run from him. She expressed concern that he seemed depressed. (Who wouldn't be depressed???) She also shared some information about his home life -- he lives sometimes with his father and other times with his grandmother; neither send enough money for him to purchase food during the day. Usually he brings about 80 pesewas -- roughly 50 cents -- which would not buy a pittance of food. The headmistress often takes him home with her and feeds him dinner at night.

We explained that a benefactor wanted to take care of his educational costs, and he smiled as broadly as he could. My eyes teared up; it was obvious that he was grateful that someone wanted to help him, that someone cared about him.

This is what it's all about:
Connecting people through the Love of Christ.


The Dartmouth students came over for a visit; it was fun sitting on the porch and talking with them. David took them for a visit to the dump. It is impossible to see that place and not feel moved...

The rest of the evening, visitors were in and out to tell us good-bye, including Pastor Johnson, Chief Takyi, Ben, Christina, Victoria & the kids. We packed our bags, and shared a final dinner together. I tasted one more slice of fresh sweet bread to hold me over till next year. Gave one more giant bear hug to Bishop James -- also to hold me over till next year.

About 8:30 pm, we loaded Richard's Jeep Cherokee with our luggage. He, Victoria, Little Anita, Christabel, and Junior all piled in to drive us to Kotoka Airport.

At 1 am, Delta Flight 185 took off. We were headed home.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weekend wrap up

Saturday and Sunday, July 17 & 18

After the long week "on the road" in the Volta region, everybody slept in on Saturday morning! I think we all needed the rest; we'd worked really hard and accomplished a good bit. Along the way we built some relationships that are precious and priceless -- and help to show others the Jesus that is living in our hearts.

The Grace Team needed to make another trip to the Accra Arts and Crafts Market and they spent most of the day there. David and I ran some errands and made some visits in and around Tema.

We spent some time in the Tema market -- searching in vain for Kingsbite chocolate. That's one of our favorite treats. However, the factory had been shut down for a few weeks for maintenance, so we learned, and nobody in the market had any of the candies for sale. Pastor Paul drove us to the Evergreen Supermarket -- a large store fashioned like those in the USA. There we found Kingsbite, and purchased several bars to share with folks back home.

We enjoyed a long visit with Richard's wife Victoria and their three children Anita, Christabell, and Junior. Last year, they moved into a different apartment. It's outside of Tema, and as we drove there with Pastor Paul King, we were frustrated at how "far out" the place seemed to be. But when we arrived and entered, we were excited about how nice the place is -- bright, airy, spacious. It is by far the nicest place they've ever lived.

Later that afternoon, we walked around Community 11 a bit. I showed David a house I'd stayed in several years ago -- just a couple of blocks from where we were this year.
As we walked hand-in-hand, my mind wandered back a few years....my friend Rita and I walked along these same streets, laughing like a couple of schoolgirls, happy as we could be. I smiled with the memory; then remembering how our lives have changed since those times, I gave thanks.

The Grace Team arrived back home just as we returned from our walk. Everyone was excited about their purchases, and their excitement was contagious. Mackenzie modeled her new dress; John played his new drum; Sydney was thrilled with the carved birds she'd found. It was just plain FUN!!! I giggled to see the excitement among the group, and it was fun to share in their joy.

Sunday dawned and we all got up early -- we were to speak at two church services, sharing a bit about our experience with those who'd hosted and prayed for us. When we arrived at Christ Harvests the Nations in Comm. 4, the place was alive with singing and dancing and praise! We joined it, smiling and clapping. Praising Jesus whole-heartedly is one of my favorite memories of any trip to Ghana! Each team member spoke about the experiences that meant the most to them: the worship, visiting the kids at the dump, going to Potwabin, touring Elmina, worship at Kpeve, seeing village life in Adigbo Tornu, bringing pure physical water and the Living Water to Bame Atome, the wonderful people, the hospitality....we could share forever....

We left Comm. 4 and drove to the new church facility being constructed in Community 25. The building is nowhere near finished -- but that does not stop it from being used for worship and praise!! We shared once again, then left for home.

We had a late lunch -- it was our Farewell Celebration meal. The Grace Team made pasta alfredo and green beans -- I realized how much I'd missed green beans as I helped myself to seconds! Saturday night, Kristy sat on a low stool in the kitchen, teaching Ruth and Esther how to string the beans and prepare them for cooking. Their efforts paid off -- YUM!!!! Our Ghana hosts prepared jollof rice, fried chicken, bread, pineapple, kontumerie (sort of like spinach with smoked fish), goat stew, and a huge salad. We enjoyed the meal immensely -- and the company even more. We shared this meal with everyone that had helped us -- our cooks Aggie, Maggie, and Christina; Ben, Richard, Evelyn, Doris, and Bishop Godlly; Pastor Johnson and Chief Takyi; our drivers Kofi & Yaw. Other friends from Christ Harvests the Nations dropped by just to say goodbyes.

The Grace Team was flying out that evening, so they began packing up and getting ready for a long journey back to the USA. About 9 pm, goodbyes were shared along with hugs and smiles and they boarded the bus. We followed behind them in the car and helped them unload their bags at Kotoka Airport. One more round of hugs and farewells-- and they entered the airport terminal. We drove back to Tema.

They were headed home....or so we thought!
We hadnt even made it back to Bishop James' house when we got a phone call that their flight had been cancelled!!! The airline provided them with a room and some meal vouchers, so they stayed an extra day in Accra -- then flew out Monday night.
Well...actually Tuesday morning.

Ahhh Ghana time.... you just have to learn to adjust!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Retreat at Logba Tota

Friday July 16, 2010

I woke up in the coolness of Logba Tota, remembering a childhood hymn my mother taught me: "God's beautiful world, God's beautiful world, I love God's beautiful world. He made it for you, he made it for me, I love God's beautiful world."

Logba is a natural retreat; it is the perfect spot to relax and unwind after the busyness of the week. And it is a perfect place to reflect upon God's creation and grace, and commune with the Spirit.

There are several lovely waterfalls around the mountain. Several years ago, I made the hike down to the falls and back -- quite a workout! A few of the Grace team mates laced up their tennis shoes and headed out to see the falls.

I knew that physically I was not quite up to that trek this year (maybe next year!). David and I spent the morning in the village of "upstairs" Logba Tota. We first visited the new school built by some Dutch philanthropists. It is a good sized school; the facility is solidly constructed and is a "jewel in the crown" of the town. The person who donated a good bit of the money for the school is having a home built beside the school. We explored the partially constructed house, which is built into the side of the mountain. Breath-taking views will greet them each morning once they move into the place: the master bedroom has a huge window that overlooks a valley stretching several miles before another rocky mountain rises from the red dirt.

As I stood in that partially constructed home, looking out over that valley, I remembered a song from my childhood -- "God's beautiful world, God's beautiful world, I love God's beautiful world. He made it for you, He made it for me, I love God's beautiful world."

Nobody spoke for several moments as we basked in the newness of the morning, looking across the African countryside.

Eventually, we continued our trek through Logba Tota. We walked back through the town, where we had worshiped the night before, and then continued up the rocky path toward the church building. Christ Harvests is sponsoring a nursery school that uses the church building, and we visited with the 10 children. They had no teaching supplies to speak of: Children took their naps on old cardboard boxes that had been split and laid out on the dirt floor. The teacher did not even have a chalkboard; she used drawings on paper that she'd created herself, teaching English words to the children. David gave the kids toffees (candies) as we said goodbye.

Next we paid a visit to my friend Agben & his parents. They live even farther up the mountain!! Agben's dad is crippled --I think he may have had a stroke a few years back-- and rarely (if ever) leaves his house. Each time I go to Logba, I try to visit this family; it is an important relationship to me. We shared some photographs taken last year, made a few new pictures, and then bid them farewell.

Walking back down the mountain, through this village, then back to Fount Hill, I marveled at God's goodness! And I am always struck at the difference between "needs" and "wants" that becomes so obvious when I visit this place. Life is simple here; yet people give thanks and praise to God every day.

Back at Fount Hill, lunch was almost ready. The Grace Church hikers returned from their trek to the waterfalls -- most of them tired and maybe a bit muddy, but glad for the opportunity to see the beauty of God's creation.

After lunch, we packed up the bus -- which meant taking our luggage and all of the kitchen equipment and supplies back down the hill where the bus was parked -- and headed back to Tema -- about a three-hour ride.

Tired, but joyful, we were "home" again in Community 11. The "work" part of our mission was complete. We give thanks to God for the group, for the trip, for the things HE accomplished through us, and for the opportunities we've experienced in this journey.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monkeys and an Angel

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We left Ho this morning by way of Pastor Thywill's home. He is in 9 days of fasting and mourning for his wife; we did not stay long but we wanted to tell him we appreciated the use of the house for the team.

After fueling the bus and car, we were on the road to Logba Tota -- one of my favorite places on earth!

Every year we wind up our trip by a visit to the mountaintop village of Logba Tota. It is a wildly beautiful and spiritual place. As we made our way through the countryside, I noticed men mowing the shoulders of the road with machetes -- back-breaking work, for sure. Fields of corn and cassava dotted the hills.

As a surprise, Chief Takyi arranged for us to visit the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. We turned off the main road and drove 5 km on a rough, dusty road through bush that was taller than the bus. At last we entered a clearing by a sign "You are entering the Monkey Sanctuary."

We gathered together as a young man introduced himself as Emmanual and said he would be our guide for the hike into the jungle. We began to follow him down a narrow path. We had not walked very far when he showed us a "strangling tree" -- a parasitic tree that was literally strangling a palm tree by growing around and over it. It almost looked like a giraffe's neck, along side the palm.

We followed him further into the jungle, listening as he explained the history of the village and the Mona Monkeys that safely live there.

The Tafi people migrated to this area from the Central Regino of Ghana by the Volta River. They were considered to be fierce fighters, and brought along their idols to worship. They built a shrine to the idol, then when they went to war, they'd leave their belongings in the forest at the shrine. Whenever they won the war, they'd find all of their belongings in the forest, safe and secure at the shrine, being guarded by the Mona monkeys. They decided that the forest was sacred, and made it a preserved sanctuary. The only trees felled were those needed to be removed for a roadway. The monkeys were not to be killed because they were considered messengers to their god.
In 1908, Christianity was introduced and they did away with their idols. Some monkeys were killed; some trees were cut down. In the 1980's, John Mason visited the area and began researching the monkeys. He advised the people of the benefits of conserving the forest and protecting the monkeys. Some non-governmental organizations got involved, creating an official sanctuary of 80-90 acres in 1996. At this time, five colonies of monkeys live here -- the total number of monkeys is about 300. Each colony has a leader.

As we followed Emmanuel deeper into the jungle, he began making a shrill noise to call the monkeys. Before very long we heard a rustle over our heads -- and suddenly there were several monkeys in the trees by the path! Their leader, Commando, was a HUGE fellow, and he kept his distance from us humans. Emmanuel gave us banana halves and we held them up for the other monkeys to peel and snatch the fruit from our hands. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! We laughed and took photographs until our bananas ran out. Then we heard a deep grunt: Commando was telling his "family" it was time to move along. And just as quickly as they arrived, they left us.

This was absolutely one of the coolest "treats" I've ever experienced! I want to return to Tafi Atome again!!

We boarded the bus and drove back out to the main road -- but crossed it: we were on our way up the mountain! Up, up, up we climbed; my ears began popping. About halfway up, the temperature noticeably dropped. The Kofi manuevered that huge bus around all of the hairpin turns -- except the final one up the driveway to Fount Hill, where we would spend the night. So all of the luggage had to be off-loaded at the base of the hill and we carried our belongings the last leg.

The views from Fount Hill are indescribable -- breathtaking African vistas; in one direction you can see Lake Volta in the far distance. Look in another direction, and you see high, rocky bluffs. Still another direction reveals the town of "upstairs" Logba Tota. Chief Takyi's family owns Fount Hill. There are two houses at the top of the hill; one is new this year and has three bedrooms with private baths and a living room. I learned it was built in just 3 weeks' time when family members needed a place to stay when their beloved aunt passed away.

We enjoyed the scenery, had some dinner, and then walked down the hill and up into the town for a worship service in the center of the village. The area was lit by some really bright fluorescent bulbs (we all know how stage actors feel -- we couldnt see a thing because the lights blinded us!). The drumming and dancing was rhythmic and many of us joined in the dance. Pastor John brought a message, translated by Pastor Bertrand; later Pastor Frank also spoke to the worshipers.

As the service ended and we started back to our home for the night, I saw my friend Agben. I always look for Agben; I met him at my very first visit in 2001. He has Downs Syndrome, and is in his late 20's -- Pastor Bertrand is his brother. We'd brought him a bouncy ball that lit up when it hit the ground. The pure joy on his face makes me smile, just remembering ....
He hugged me really tightly, and held my hand while we began to walk toward the house. When he left, he smiled again, then shyly gave me a kiss on the cheek. My eyes filled with tears -- what a sweet and gentle soul Agben is. I know that one of these days, I'll make that trek up the mountain and he will be flying with the angels. But for now, he's an angel here on earth and I am honored to be his friend.

Later that evening as we lay down to sleep, the misty fog turned in to a gentle rain, pattering on the leaves of the trees sheltering our Team 2010 in the house on Fount Hill.

(~~from The Silver Lining)