"We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1:3

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


It's amazing how easily I loose my eternal perspective and forget to trust God.  How many times has He proven to me His unfailing love?   And how many times has He made it perfectly clear that He desires for all of us to be in heaven one day?  That is the point.  How do I forget?  This week, God has really renewed an urgency to share my faith with people He allows in my life, and to minister through sharing God's love with my Christian friends and family.

"Remember, then, what you received and heard.  Keep it, and repent."
Revelation 3:3

We are commanded to remember our eternal perspective and goal on this Earth.  We are commanded to take it to heart, and to allow His word and the Holy Spirit to change us, molding us into the image of Christ.  And, as we wait for God to move, it is our choice to work for our sanctification, to work out our salvation, to allow God to change us to become more like Him.

"Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation."
2 Peter 3:14

So, I have been worrying about friends and family at home.  I have been overwhelmed with news from home, and I have learned all over again that our great God is in control.  Anyone who is reading please put my college roommate, Erin Scott Prielozny, on your prayer list.  She has been diagnosed with squamos cell carcinoma, and is traveling to Birmingham as I type this for treatment at UAB.  I do not know tons of details, but she is going to have to have part of her tongue removed, and may not be able to speak for a while.  She will begin radiation, and possibly chemo after surgery.  I feel  certain that she would appreciate an encouraging email from anyone erinprielozny@yahoo.com      

"For Thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river'" 
Isaiah 66:12        

I have been overwhelmed this week with the outpour of love and support from my college group of friends, for all of our different prayer requests.  And I have been overwhelmed by the love and support given by my Birmingham friends.  I am finding it very difficult to be so far away right now - but I am learning so much about trusting God and learning so much about how the body of Christ should be.  It is such an encouragement to me to see us lifting each other up in prayer.

We were able to go to the orphanage today, and I attempted my first "art" project.  And it was a disaster.  The orphans do not listen to anything that we ask of them.  Maybe they were just too excited at the thought of paint.  We let them make hand prints with paint for butterfly wings, and we talked about becoming a new creation in Christ - and I promise we had it ALL planned out.  All the people at the orphanage could say is that we should be more firm and yell at them.  I CAN NOT go to the orphanage to love on these kids and then yell at them.  No way.  So, next time, my plan is to take a few away from the group and do a project with just a few of them inside the school room.  Please pray for guidance.

Last night, Christina (the most amazing cook ever) made fufu for dinner.  As I have said earlier, fufu is not delicious.  Hers was not bad though.  It was in delicious peanut soup, but you are not suppose to taste the fufu, you are suppose to just swallow it - like a pill.  So, I don't understand the point of eating it, it you aren't suppose to taste it? Anyways - this is how they make the fufu - they pound it with a stick. Looks delicious, right?!

Saturday night was almost a normal night! We went out to eat Chinese, and it was delicious, but it was still in Africa!  So fun to be in a large city, so that I can experience all the other cultures here!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Remember me, O my God, for Good." Nehemiah 13:31

Well, I am finally "busy" in Africa.  I am no longer figuring out the little things.  I am fairly confident that I can get around wherever I need to go, by foot, bike, or taxi.  We have outings with the teachers often: "fan-ice" parties, Bible studies, birthday parties, etc.  At school, I am a little overwhelmed with planning for 12 grades.  I see the kids twice as often as I did last year, so I am accomplishing at least twice as much - so besides having 7 new grades to plan for, the elementary classes are quickly going through the lessons that I have planned!  I am working to get paints and see progress in the mural projects.  It looks like I will be moving into the pink house some time this next week, so I need to start packing back up and getting ready to move!

It's so funny to realize the pace here just does not keep up with our american standard of busy-ness.  No one here plans on accomplishing anything, I don't think.  I could make a list, the same as people in America, perhaps consisting of refilling a prescription, buying bread, getting money out of the ATM, and buying a notebook for school.  These things could probably all be done at a Publix.  But, there is no Publix here.  So, I need to know which pharmacy sales real drugs, and what the drug is called here.  Then, I would need to chance find a person selling loaves of bread walking on the street, or make it to the A&C shopping center, near the school.  This is also where there is a trusted ATM, so that could be two things on the list at one stop.  Then, the notebook: there is one place to get things like this all the way downtown, and the only notebooks you can get only have two rings, instead on three.  The point is, it takes a lot of work to keep one's self "busy" here, we are ALL the time speeding up to wait on something.

While figuring this out, I have had some time to check emails and skype with people at home.  This week is the first time that things have happened, mostly sad things at home, that have really affected me here.  I think that none of us realize the importance of our actions and decisions.  It ALL matters.  Everything on this Earth is part of God's plan.  When one of us is hurting, the pain is felt throughout the body of Christ, even across the globe.  When one of us chooses to praise God regardless of the situation, the joy is spread throughout and builds up the body of Christ.

So, I am here, and I am really affected by the bad and sad things that happen to Godly people at home.  I am affected by the sinful choices of people who I have looked up to.  And I am encouraged by the stories of kindness shared and celebrations planned.  In this fallen world, how do we make sense of our human nature, our sin nature, and the holy spirit all being a part of us? It's a battle, everyday, to choose joy in all circumstances.  Sometimes I find myself wishing away the free will that God has so graciously given us- how easy it would be to live in the spirit, if He had created us just to follow him without question? But; because we have been given the gift of freedom to choose to follow Christ, it is inevitably a daily battle.  Because I seem to all the time fail, and become sidetracked from Christ's will (by trying to find a three ring binder, or canvas and paint) this has become my prayer:

"Remember me, O my God, for Good." Nehemiah 13:31

I pray that God can still use me for good, to build up the body of Christ in this world.  I ask for forgiveness, and ask the Lord to change me and fit me back into His will, everyday.  Aunt Dixie says, "It's all about learning to recover."  Learning to recover from things we have done, and things that others have done, and CHOOSING to praise God in ALL things.  So, I pray that I can be used for some good on this Earth, that my life can somehow encourage others.  I hope that anyone reading will choose the same - that they will choose to follow and praise Christ through all situations.

So, last night, we were invited to the Korean church in Tema for their charity celebration! The Korean students make up the third largest nationality present in our school.  They were all so excited to see us - it was really fun to see into their world for a night!

The food was A-mazing.  We had "kim-bob" which is Korean sushi, and delicious noodle soup, and cotton candy (totally American and delicious), and these delicious fish pancake things filled with a "bean paste" that tasted like cinnamon filling - yum.

The Koreans put on a show for hours last night.  It was amazing.  They were singing and dancing.  I felt like I was in China again.  The asian cultures are SO influenced by "pop culture" - the youth groups did these dances to rap songs in really exposing outfits and the parents were cheering the whole time. This would not fly at a church picnic in Alabama!  We heard Korean versions of "Oh, Happy Day," "Memory" from Cats, and some Eric Clapton songs.  Good stuff.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Pictures!

So, I made it through school today and decided to post some more pictures from the weekend! Here is another amazing picture of the beach!

Here is the place right next to the castle where we ate lunch.  I was disappointed because I asked for ketchup like ten times, and they never brought it to me.  But the kids on the beach put on a great show for us to watch the whole time!

Here are some more culture pictures.  It was so interesting driving up and down the beach.  Each small community was so different from the next, based on what resources were available right there.  These are the first straw huts I have seen.  Most of the walls looked like they were simply made with mud.  Even though Accra is on the coast, because the water is polluted and no really uses the beaches, there is very little of the "tropical" feel that was in Cape Coast.

I can't believe that I didn't put this one in last night! This was our "bushman" guide through the Rain Forrest in Kakum.  His name was "Still Alive" - ha.

And here is a cool picture of the trail leading up to the canopy walk.  The trees are so different and interesting.

The week here is off to a good start.  Tomorrow I am headed to the orphanage to do an art project.  Please pray for my time with the orphans, that they will see Christ's love for them.  Then, the teachers are starting a Bible study on Acts.  So, busy day ahead!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Here is the road in front of the school this past week.  They are "paving" it - it added lots of interesting obstacles to my morning bike ride!

This is at the Children of the Light ministry outside of Accra - it is led by the preschool teacher at AIS who is from New Zealand, Auntie Jean.   I rode up and around the mountain with another teacher from school and a canadian missionary couple who have a "clown" ministry.  The kids here loved the clown - but it kind of a bizarre situation to watch this clown performing for the Ghanaian kids, who had never seen a clown before.  After the performance, we turned on music and danced and played with balloons, I was asked to pray for the group, and we traveled back down the mountain to our homes.

Since today, Monday, is a national holiday because it is Nana Ankruma's birthday (the first president of Ghana) we had school off! It is also the end of Ramadam, so all the muslims were celebrating the end of their month of fasting.  I am so thankful it is over - it is so hard on the kids in school that aren't able to eat during the day.  So, sunday morning, we woke up early and headed to the bus station, to catch our bus to cape coast! We got there around noon, and headed for the castles on the beach.

The castles were beautiful, but touring them was humbling and surreal.  This is a picture from the Cape Coast Castle, which was built by the Swiss, and later taken over by the British.  Christopher Columbus actually came to this castle on a trip before he discovered America.  While the British were here, the Ashanti tribe (which is still present in Ghana, and still does not have much interest in human rights) captured other tribes in West Africa, and traded them as slaves to the British.  The typical trade was three guns for one male slave and one gun for one female slave.  The Ashanti would use the guns to continue terrorizing other tribes and capturing more slaves.  The slaves were brought to this castle to be traded.   We toured with people of all different nationalities and races, through this place that on the surface should divide us - but somehow seemed to bring us all together.  No human life should ever have a price.

We walked through the small rooms where thousands of slaves were packed in.  We were all led into one smaller room with no windows or ventilation, where they put/left anyone who was "defiant."  None of them were given a chance to live.  When the others were sold, they were branded on their faces, taken out this door, which reads "The Door of No Return," and put into boats to ship to England, Spain, India, and later to the Americas.

Being from America, and especially being from the South, we only hear parts of this story.  It was really enlightening to hear the story from an African perspective.  I always found it hard to believe that human beings were thought of as property, but I think that it would be even harder to be a Ghanaian and hear that your own people sold each other.  We still hear of slave trading here.  I have heard several stories, mostly of young boys, being sold by their own families into slavery, as workers or fishermen.  I can not even imagine.  Our guide at the castle brought the tour all together at the end - saying that we can all learn from this and never let anything like this happen again.

Everywhere I look in Ghana there is a huge culture contrast.  There are so many beautiful things and places, yet so much pain and poverty.  This castle is made from limestone from seashells, so it would be very bright white and reflect light, so that boats could see it from the ocean.  Now it is something that no one wants to know about - or at least no one wants to think about.  Heavy stuff.  So we left in a state of thoughtfulness and sorrow, to eat lunch at a local restaurant on the beach, watching the waves, and the children play in the water.

This is the first time that I have enjoyed the smell of Africa - it is far enough outside of the city to be polluted and so it actually smells like the beach.  For an even further contrast,  we pulled up to our hotel resort called "Coconut Grove."  It was great - the pool was nice, and we took a long walk on the beach.

The beach is beautiful.  We walked far enough that there were no people any way we looked - it felt surreal - like we were in an episode of Lost.  Another great thing we discovered about the beach is there are no mosquitoes there! So we ate dinner at the restaurant outside on the beach, and sat by a fire to keep warm!

This morning, we woke up early and headed to the Kakum National Forrest.  We missed all the Elephants - but loved the canopy walk!  The only wild life we saw were insects and lots of iguanas.  It was beautiful and it was so nice to be in nature - or in the "bush." I didn't realize how far we are living in the city, until we were out of it.  It was really relaxing to get out, even just for a day!

On the way home, we stopped to see some crocodiles.

Then, we got pulled over by the police.  Lots of Prayers.  Our taxi driver, apparently did not have a license, and the policemen were trying to get him to "dash" or bride them to let him go.  We had to get out and back in the car, and they miraculously just let us go and he didn't end up having to pay them.  But, that is just how corrupt the police and government are here.  Craziness.

We made it to our bus on time, and rode home packed in a "Ford"van - which the Ghanaians seemed to be excited about just because it is American.  When we got back, I had time to climb on the roof (my new favorite spot) and read in the sun for a while.  Then Madam Laurie served us all chicken and stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, fruit, and salad.  If that wasn't enough - we had cheese cake and mocha/cookie/ice cream cake for dessert - I felt like it was Sunday lunch at Deedee's!

It has been a delightful long weekend, and I am not ready to go back to school tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The little things that make me smile

While teaching 7th grade about the color wheel today, one student said, "Miss LJ, you like, love art ... it's like, oozing out of you fingers and toes." I feel like this is maybe the very best thing that a teacher could ever hear from their students - totally made me smile.

And later this afternoon, a high school student said to me, "I love that you ride your bike to school AND still wear make-up."  As if I should only be allowed to to one or the other - made me smile. 

First  grade today said that my examples in class were "beautiful."  Yesterday, the same class was making me crazy - talking while I was talking, and when I asked them to stop, they began to "cluck" like chickens. So, they had to have "silent art" the rest of the class.  Later, my mailbox was full of the most precious apology notes:

Dear Miss Johnston,
I am so sorry for talking like a chiten.

The notes with first grade spelling made me smile.

I also smiled last week, when a british student said that I sounded like a "cowgul."

Yesterday, we went by the pink house - and it is so close to being finished and ready for us to move in! It's funny though, now, I am getting sad about leaving the family I have been staying with.  The project manager at school/Nurse at the US embassy/the mom that I am living with said that they would screen in the porch at the house, so that we can sit outside and not get eaten my mosquitoes at night! :)

We found out yesterday that we don't have school Monday! I am hoping to plan a trip to a beach or something!  Also, on Saturday I will be trying out for a play at the British school, which apparently everyone tries out for and is hysterical.  Then, I am headed north to help our preschool teacher with her ministry, "Children of the Light"'s art show!  

The painter at the school bought me the paint to begin murals at the school, and he is in the process of getting me paint for the murals at the orphanage.  The kids are practicing mixing colors and hopefully next week we can begin painting the world map on the hallway at school.  I am really excited to get these projects underway! Lots of things to smile about this week! God is good.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So...we went bowling at this Chinese/pizza restaurant/bowling alley/video game arcade to celebrate Meg's birthday Friday night!  It has been quite the birthday season - HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Lydia and Gray and Elizabeth and Deedee - y'all try to skype this afternoon - I would love to see you!!  The bowling alley was owned by chinese people, staffed by Africans, and we, the "obroni" were the only customers.  I always think that the culture clash is so interesting here - while most everything is African - there are places here that are very "international" - these places have SO many cultures coming together.... with a little African flavor.

Another example is at the most glorious pool I have found in Accra.  I made my first visit to the Shang-ri-la Hotel pool yesterday (yes, Birmingham friends, Shang-ri-la, just like the Chinese place in crestline- ha!)  Here, I found the most interesting mixture of cultures.  The ghanaians were plenty, and very chatty.  There were Asians, Indians, and a ton of "obroni" - of which we were the only group speaking English!  It was so interesting to guess where the people were from and why they were in Accra.  Yesterday at the pool might have been one of the most relaxing days since I have been here.  The pool was beautiful, the weather was amazing, food was delicious, book was delightful, and I was only a little sun burnt!

As you can see, the pool looks nice - and if you look closely - in the background of this picture, is a polo field - and there are people riding horses.  It's almost like my dad's back porch! Just kidding - nothing can compare to dad's back porch!  Maybe, if he had some gianormous iguanas it would be the same...

It was very enjoyable.  I went to dinner and watched a movie with some of the other teachers - just a regular Saturday!

Today, we went to Asbury church in Accra - the church where the worship is so amazing.  They started with a song about "Blessing God with this beat, and with dancing...." so fun - we sang several songs that we sing in America - but they just play them different here!  The women were waving their scarves, and everyone was dancing!

Psalms 140 - 145 has been a theme in my life this week - it's funny how God does that - and how it takes us so long to catch on!  I have been learning so much about the character of our God since I have been here - I am learning to pray for Him to change me, to change my heart more and more everyday:

"Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your Spirit lead me
on level ground!"
143: 10

And I am learning to praise Him in ALL things and in ALL situations - sometimes we perceive His greatest blessings completely incorrectly because we forget to look to Him for "the peace... that surpasses  all understanding." 

"Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and His greatness is unsearchable."
145: 2-3

I wish everyone a blessed Sunday!  I will try to be on skype later today - Hope to see you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We are making African masks in class this week! This is a project I did last year - but this year - I am actually IN africa!! So, I have researched the tribes that are present in and around Accra and we made masks and mask prints, with the inspiration from right here! So fun!

This is a second grader working on a large mask stamp, to create a print of her design - the kids loved getting to draw with their hands in the paint!

Lunch at AIS is one of the most glorious times! The cultures of the children we teach translate into the most diverse packed lunches you have ever seen.  The Ghanaians bring chicken and rice, almost always:

The Koreans bring the neatest little dishes with tiny compartments for each type of food, and of course chop sticks:

I fell in love with this Korean treat last week during the Bake Sale at school - it basically a giant sushi roll, it is so yummy!  One of the kids brought me one at lunch today! I was so excited!

And then there are the Americans - sandwiches, chips, carrots and juice boxes:

All the kids are so precious and I am having a great time getting to know them and their cultures!

I was able to go back to the orphanage today - those kids are amazing.  Two brothers are getting adopted next week by a relative of the family I am living with.  They are so excited to meet their mother and to move to the US.  I can not even begin to imagine what that would be like, to know your life is about to change so drastically in just a matter of time.  

I am still working out sketches for murals at the orphanage.  I am planning on the first mural being inside some of the children's bedrooms.  Hopefully later, I will be able to paint on the walls around the house as well.  As I am planning, please prayerfully consider supporting a mural project or after school art class at the orphanage.  You can donate online on the NICS website: https://nics.org/donations/donate.php My support number is: 003331.  Anything donated comes to me in Africa, so that we can love on these children, and bless the orphanage that cares for all of them.

Thank you for reading - I love hearing back from you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

World Cup 2010!

So...the Ghana Black Stars won their soccer match against Sudan and they are headed to the World Cup in South Africa this Summer! The game was fun - but totally overwhelming!  It was really interesting comparing it to the Auburn game that I am sure most everyone who reads this attended this weekend!  I checked the score for the Auburn game when I woke up Sunday morning - I am soooo glad that we are off to a good start!  Dad - answer your phone when I call! I want to hear what you thought!

Anyways, the obvious difference is that football here is really soccer, which I played for fun a few years in High School - but I still needed a refresher on some of the rules!  Also, there are no lines here, so when coming into the stadium, it was a free-for-all, everyone pushing their way to the front!  Anyways - once inside the stadium - we were on the third row up, the stadium is super nice, while probably only half the size of Auburn's stadium.  Which I was surprised about - I would have thought the national stadium would have been bigger.  

The next thing that I notice is the "medicine man"doing his voodoo or whatever stuff to the other team.  He was throwing powder stuff and chanting and had plants and birds and was doing crazing spells. It was totally freaky to watch and to know that this practice really goes on all over africa. I heard at church about a missionary to somewhere (North of Ghana - but I will have to get back to you about that) where their welcome/bragging sign (like the one with the pretty eagles in Auburn, or the one to Ft. Payne "Sock Capital of the World") actually says "Welcome to -------, the birthplace of witchcraft." The school I am teaching at has had to expell students for practicing "joo joo" on other classmates.  CRAZINESS.  Stuff that doesn't typically happen in the states! It is interesting to think of the implications of such open sin like that here, as compared to the sin in American that is socially accepted.  Hm. 
But some things were the same!  Like..... 

peanuts for sale, and 

there were "cheerleaders," I think.  These guys were really kind of amazing, they would pose standing still for long periods of time, and they actually looked like terra cotta people with the paint on their faces. 

The game was fun, but I was so tired Monday! I think I am still catching up on sleep from this weekend. Today at school I had a great debate about all sorts of things in the Bible with some students - it was really fun! I love debating and "defending" my faith - it challenges me to read more and to really think about so many little things that I may have taken at face value about God.  Please be praying for my students, that they will continue to feel comfortable talking to me about what they are going through - and that I would continually be prepared and open to sharing truth with them!

I got my plane ticket home for Christmas today! I have planned to travel with one of the other teachers to Israel for a week and then fly to Atlanta on December 23! Yay!


Here is The Ghanaian National Orchestra we heard this weekend! The concert hall did not look like much, I can not get the image of the broken stained glass windows out of my mind.  I did not know until I was there, that the concert was a benefit for Matthew 25, which is a refuge for people with the HIV/AIDS virus. As most of you know, this affects tons of people in Africa - largely because of the lack of education.  A group of teens from the house did a skit during "half -time" of the concert.  While, it was not the best acting I have ever seen - it was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed.  These teenagers who are infected with HIV (please note - these kids were too young to have contracted the virus - so, I would assume that most of them were born with it) I couldn't help but compare the day to day challenges of these kids to the kids at AIS, or kids back in the states, that are consumed with social events or facebooking (often I am consumed by these things as well) but these kids we saw put things back into perspective for me.

The orchestra was unbelievable! They didn't appear "professional" their outfits actually reminded me of old jail uniforms with black and white strips.  But, I have to remember this is third world - its just the way it is here - and they were amazing.  The singers were phenomenal.  Pretty impressive.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it ... how AWESOME is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate to heaven."
Genesis 28:16-17

It's so awesome to see how God is in all things, in all places.  It is easy to see Christ in these precious orphans, while much harder to see him in paperwork and lesson planning at school.  But HE is here, and He is there and He is in all parts of His creation.

Yesterday, we planned to go back to the orphanage.  We had not planned any activities to do with them, so quickly I drew a coloring sheet for them to color and we decided to teach them "He's got the whole world in His hands." I took a simple Bible verse the preschool had recited at Chapel that morning, and made some copies, and we were off.  I felt bad for not spending time planning, thought the coloring sheet would last only a few minutes, but we could spend time with them, and then plan it out better for next week.

So, we got there and they ran up to us, hugging us and climbing into our arms.  We got them to spread out, so that we could sing together.  They loved the song, and made up new verses - about the "elephants and the giraffes, in His hands."  Then, we passed out the sheets for them to color, and some old broken crayons.  You would have thought we gave them gold, they colored and colored and showed each of us every step of the way, and colored and asked us to write their names and colored and asked for more sheets, and colored them, until they were gone.  The kids colored for almost two whole hours. Unreal.  

It is so easy to show these kids love - even through the littlest things, my quickly drawn coloring sheets.  My two future roommates and I plan to go to the orphanage every week.  Each week we will rotate planning activities and the other two will help.  Since I have kids at the school who want to help, it is my goal to organize an after-school art group who will go with us to help with the kids, and hopefully help them see how they can give back to the community where they live.  I hope to have these kids help with the mural painting as well.  Please let me know if anyone would be interested in helping to sponsor a mural project at the orphanage.

My days are busy, but my heart is well.  I took time this afternoon to sit in the sun and read - good for my heart - I need to do that more often.  Tomorrow is parent day at school, so our classrooms will be invaded, but they are bringing delicious baked goods, so I am excited about it! Saturday night, we are going to a Ghanaian symphony downtown, and Sunday night we are going to a futball game! The Ghanaian "Black Stars" are playing Sudan.  It's a World Cup qualifying match - so it should be interesting!  I don't know how it will compare to the Auburn game this weekend - can't wait to hear how the season starts! War Eagle!