"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, October 28, 2009

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.  In this love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us."

1 John 4:7-12

The Lord keeps bringing this passage back to me.  I hear my Deedee every time I read it saying "I can love because I have been loved, and I can forgive because I have been forgiven."  I am learning every day here - to spend time abiding in God's love, so that I can share that love with others.  I think that's the point - to learn to love and be loved, even when all of us are all the time "messing up."

AIS has chapel every Wednesday morning.  It is one of my favorite times - bringing everyone together - children from literally every tribe and every tongue and nation.  We meet outside, under this amazing cross - made of all the flags from the countries represented in our school.  Muslims, Christians, agnostic children stand together to worship the true God.  It's pretty amazing.

My eighth graders are working really hard right now - and I wanted to show off some of their drawings! They are creating a "floating art museum" using correct 2 point perspective - some of them are looking really cool!

We had a meeting with a parent go on too long after school, and so we didn't have much time at the orphanage today.  I did have a chance to run up and show the director a sketch of my idea for a mural on the outside wall.  We will see what she thinks!  I want to get the silhouettes of the children at the orphanage now - hands lifted in praise.

Please keep my friend, Erin in your prayers. Her cancer has spread into the tissue surrounding her lymph nodes - and she is going to start radiation as soon as she recovers from her surgery last week.  She and her husband, Matt are trying to decide where to receive her treatments.  Please pray for their decision, for joyful and peaceful spirits, and for her physical healing.

Love you guys and miss you tons.  Blessings.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Week of "First"

The first Johnston girl got engaged! Yay!   I am so happy for you both, Elizabeth and Paul.  I love you both so much - and I was so glad to be one of the "first" to know! A Christmas wedding would be so nice!! I can't wait to hear about plans - I know Deedee is already on top of this one!

I had the first successful painting project at the orphanage! I took a few of them to the school room inside the building.  We drew and painted ourselves under an umbrella with the rain - or "wata" falling around us.

We painted, and then colored our Bible verse:

"For the JOY of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

The fourth grade earned the first "free day" in art for good behavior! We had free painting time, watched Lilo and Stitch (LOVE that movie!) and ate snacks afterwards - so much fun!

One of the kids brought this for me - made me think of Tracey!

I took the Seniors at AIS on our first field trip this week! It went well! We needed to get out of school to take pictures for inspiration for the next series of paintings and drawings we are going to be doing.  So, we went to the market nearest the school and walked around and took pictures.  We have been discussing formal elements of composition.  So we all tried to take pictures with balanced and interesting compositions.  It was really hot - but we all got some nice pictures!

Here are the three senior, from Ivory Coast, Minnesota, and Puerto Rico.

Friday, some friends had everyone over to play volleyball and wii!  Saturday we went to a flea market/bizarre put on by one of the other international school - that was fun! I got a few Christmas presents.  Saturday night I tried ethiopian food for the first time - and it was nice, a little spicy, but nice.  I would eat it again.

Today we went to a true Ghanaian church.  We went to hear a pastor preach that I have heard a ton about, Mensa Otabil.  He has several churches in Ghana and he is commonly considered the "Billy Graham of Ghana." He preaches to the spiritual and social and economic needs of the Ghanaian people.  I have read his writing about how Africans view Christianity as an "outside" religion.  That the Africans do not feel a part of the Bible, or God's plan.  This, he explains is partly because of the images the European and American missionaries brought to Africa with them; of white Jesus and white God.  Interesting.  His preaching is very biblical, and contrasts with the typical "prosperity gospel" that is preached in Ghana.  He has gone through the Bible and found places where Africa is part of God's plan - and preaches about Africa's place in God's plan.  Today the message was about "Changing what has been written." The change from the law God wrote in stone for Moses, to the new covenant brought by Christ and the Holy Spirit.  He was challenging the Ghanaians to change what is socially "written" for their lives, and instead to live by the Holy Spirit.  This encompasses many things - including changing African's role in economics, most commonly as takers or beggars of wealth, to working to provide for themselves.  He, like many preachers here, had everyone affirm their neighbors - this time instructing us to say "You will not be a beggar anymore!"  He was proud to share that his church had not had any help from foreign missionaries getting started, and that his church didn't owe any money to anyone.  It's a good sermon for anyone to hear - we don't have to live according to the "Script" society hands us - we should follow the Holy Spirit.

I thought the picture on the back wall was interesting - today it didn't have the "Happy New Year."  To see a part of Michelangelo's painting from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, next to that warrior angel, in this huge un-airconditioned mecca of Ghanaian Christianity was quite an interesting scene.

After church, we went to a British sports bar called "Champs" for lunch.  I had a diet coke and a fajita salad, and we watched soccer. Delightful.

I heard about the Auburn game - so sorry Dad!  I hope this season will get better!  Miss everyone! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and letters! Congrats again Bebe and Paul!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And also...

Friday night all the teachers got together for a fiesta - yum! And we watched the 20-under World Cup Soccer match between Ghana and Brazil.  And Ghana won - and it was a really big deal here. I don't want to offend anyone, as I know there are many avid football fans reading this - but the celebration on the streets in Ghana that night on the way home far outweighed any Toomer's corner celebration I have ever witnessed.  I mean, it was unreal - I heard people were literally convulsing on the floor at the mall when Ghana won.  Wow - that is intense - and I hope that never happens at Toomer's corner - and even though Auburn lost I want you all to know that I am still far more excited to say War Eagle! than "Go Ghana!"

Love from far away...

I made this for my friend Erin - who I have heard is looking amazing and TALKING after her surgery this week!!!! Praise the Lord!  Being away during her surgery has made me miss everyone at home this week! I wanted to post it - because it is how I feel about everyone - I am praying for you and thinking of you, even worlds away.

The orphanage was amazing this week! We talked about ideas for the murals on the wall outside and in the baby's bedroom.  I am so excited to get those projects underway!  We all sat around and played with the kids, and some of volunteer teachers at school were there playing praise music on their guitars - which was amazing.  I was able to love on a new baby, just brought in from a village.  He was totally void of emotion - needing some love - but had the most amazing chubby cheeks!

Saturday was Levi's 7th birthday  - he had been preparing everyone for this since we arrived in August!  He had a huge soccer game for the boys and I helped at the bead table for the girls - which was super fun!  Saturday night, some of the teachers got together to watch "The Office" - good stuff.

This morning I taught sunday school at an international church and was able to hear preacher Jeff (whom I have the honor of living with) preach! It was amazing to hear a sermon that I could understand and relate to, after last week - It was a good Sunday! I know I say this every week - but it might actually happen this week - that we may move into the pink house! I am excited - we went out and got curtains and glasses and stuff to fill it up a little bit! Please be praying that we can get in soon and we will be safe there and that God will show us how we can bless the staff with fellowship there.

I have been trying to call my Dad to wish him happy birthday - I hope I can get him tomorrow!  Love you all and miss you tons!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Good Morning!

Thanks for your prayers - devo went well yesterday.  I spoke about my inspiration from watching The Lord of the Rings and X-Men (I surprising really enjoyed all of them!) - how the characters in those movies prepare and practice for their respective epic battles.  The scenes where everyone is putting on their armor or costumes and sharpening their weapons really made me think about my preparation for the spiritual battle we all face each day.  We read from Ephesians 6:10-18

"....Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand firm...."

And from 1 John 4:11

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

I challenged them to prepare for their daily battle at school, where everything in this world tries to divide us and makes it hard to love each other, and sometimes really hard to love certain students.  God has called us to love Him, and love others.  If we prepare ourselves each day - we can love each day.  Please pray for our faculty, that we can put on our spiritual armor and fight to love these kids and love each other each day.

I also want to ask for your prayers for my friend Erin today.  She is having surgery in Birmingham this morning.  They are going to remove the lymph nodes from her throat.  I think this is pretty serious surgery - she said they are cutting her "ear to ear."  After today, they will know whether she needs radiation or not.  Please pray for her body to heal and for her peace and comfort during this time.

Thank you  - have a blessed day!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mail!!!! I got mail! I never knew I would be so excited about receiving a package filled with fun things - things that I don't need at all - but so many fun treasures and things that make me smile!  I got a package and two letters!!! Thanks so much for your thoughts and letters and pictures and treats!!!

I took the package of expanding sponge thingy-things to school and let the preschool kids watch them expand in the water! Then, we used them to make sponge paintings! They loved it! Aren't they cute?!

My sixth graders just finished these amazing Chinese dragon paintings! I thought they looked great in the hall!

All the kids made self portraits - but these "Henri Matisse, the Wild Beast" ones were my favorite! This is a fourth grade oil pastel self portrait - it actually looks like her!

One of the other teachers and myself have begun playing tennis on thursday nights.  It is great evening weather to play in here - it kind of cools off then!  The courts are decent - but there were bats flying over us the whole time.  I really don't think that you can see it in this picture - but there is a lady playing in the back right court -- with a fanny pack on -- amazing.

This Friday we all went out for one of the teacher's birthdays! We had a big group and a delicious dinner.

Then, we ALL piled into two cars for the ride back to the "palace" or one of the houses where teachers live for the most amazing ice cream birthday cake ever!

Saturday morning, we all went to brunch on the Ghana Christian College Campus.  Two of the teacher at AIS's husbands are professors there.  After our delicious brunch, we walked down the road to a bead factory - to see how they make the beautiful beads here.

It was so interesting - they are recycling - they break up different kinds of glass bottles and put the tiny pieces into molds and then put them into these mud ovens to melt back together.  It is so resourceful - they are making money off of "trash." Pretty cool.

It was really amazing - and they were making really beautiful beads.

Last night, we all went to "Chez Afrique" for dinner.  It is the best Ghanaian food I have had here! They had a band that was great - they played American music with a little African flare - including Ace of Base, Phil Collins, Lionel Richie....amazing.

A bunch of the teachers came to the house where I am staying to play "Killer Uno" - which I must teach you all when I get home - and eat chocolate chip cookies - again amazing.  The family I live with is wonderful.  Here they all are, with their newly adopted nephews!

Today we tried a new Ghanaian church - but it was kind of a flop.  We left before it was over because we couldn't really understand it and it was ALL prosperity gospel and not scriptural - we were late and missed the worship - which is what I REALLY want to experience at a true Ghanaian church a some point while I am here - so, I had my "church" on the roof later this afternoon!

Please say a prayer for me tonight - I am giving the devo at faculty meeting tomorrow - I always get a little nervous speaking in front of peers.  I don't know why I can't have the same confidence I do when speaking in front of a whole classroom of kids!  I was able to skype with so many people tonight - what a blessing! Love you all and hope to talk to you soon!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Today was a good day ... even though the power was out all day!

I went to church, and sat next to the woman who runs the orphanage, who gave me the most amazing chubby orphan baby to hold.  I just kind of wanted to cry.  I was singing and dancing and worshiping the Lord, and sharing God's love to this precious child at the same time.   And then, miraculously, he fell asleep amidst the singing and dancing.  It was communion Sunday - I am always humbled by this reminder of the redeeming grace that our great God gives so freely to us.

I graded my first set of essays this afternoon! Very fun - I think the kids are learning something!  This evening we had dinner and devotion time at the Wright's house. They have 5 kids at the school, and the dad it the business manager.  Their family is such a blessing to our faculty - it was so refreshing for all of the teachers to be together just to fellowship and worship together.

Good day, blessed day.

My new phone number, in case anyone is wanting to call or send a package: 0543545498

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sweeping the dirt ... and blessings!

I had heard the myth of africans sweeping the dirt, but to see it, over and over again begins a whole cultural dialogue.  The ghanaians say they sweep the dirt to clear off the leaves.  Yet, they leave plastic trash anywhere it lies, and the dirt on the road or driveways (where we might feel inclined to sweep the dirt back into the grass or wooded area) does not seem to bother them.  So, everyday, while I am running or biking, I see the Ghanaians killing the tiny patches of grass that are stubborn enough to grow in the climate here.  They hit it with "brooms" made of twigs strung together.  They literally sweep the dirt, allowing for no vegetation to grow.

So, I begin to think about how I "sweep the dirt?" What do I do because it is cultural norm, but doesn't really matter, and could actually be counter productive?  Hm.  Maybe exercising? Everyone does it at home - I didn't realize how often I liked to exercise until I was here - and the Ghanaians don't exercise - and why would they? They walk everywhere, and barely get enough to eat.  Exercise is as bizarre to them as sweeping the dirt is to me.  Hm.

Yesterday, I went straight to the orphanage after school! Patty and John (Mrs. Laurie's brother and sister in law) has been here for a few weeks getting paperwork ready to adopt two brothers from the orphanage - and Friday it happened! They had been pushing paperwork through the US Embassy for weeks, getting medical check ups and spending lots of time with their boys at the orphanage.  Yesterday there was a prayer ceremony for the two boys leaving.  Luke and Nathan were smiling ear to ear about moving to America!  They had their backpacks and ball caps on, ready for their new life! The prayer ceremony was the most humbling, breaking, amazing, God glorifying thing ever.  Overwhelming.  All the orphans sat around the boys and their new parents and each one prayed for them.  Then, they sang a song about God's love being with them, and they all began to cry and hug on the boys leaving.

I could feel these kids hearts breaking all over again.  And they know these aren't the last people in their lives they will loose - everyone is transient in their lives.  It broke my heart - but it was also awesome to be able to say that I would be back.

Here is Patty and John, and their oldest son Mark's blog: http://ourghanaadoption.blogspot.com  (They have GREAT pictures from the orphanage)

I am hearing good news from home the past day or two!  Erin's surgery went well and she has another one scheduled in a few weeks.  It sounds like they are still unsure of the magnitude of the situation.  Keep her recovery in your prayers.  Two friends found out they are pregnant!!!! I can't wait to be aunt Lauren! And, I hope to see you both over Christmas break, Susan Carothers, and Katie Heard Howell!!!!  Yay! I love good news!