"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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Friday, January 29, 2010

This was the scene my whole run yesterday!  It was the most pleasant run ever - no one yelling at me, the streets were oddly quiet.  Where were all the "obibini?"  They were watching Ghana play Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations!  While I was running, I passed several places like this, where 50 or more people were crowded around one small TV.  This one is right across from our school, many of our teachers and students were inside.  I promise there really was a TV in there...

Can you see it?
And when Ghana won...

So funny.  All the cars are honking their horns - people dancing in the street!  If you want to keep up with the matches here's the link for the African Cup .

On a totally different note, something really stuck out to me in my reading this week - from 2 Timothy 3:

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power."

I think this really speaks to my, our generation.  So many of these things are characteristic of who we have become.  I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me, especially in the last lines here - "having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power."  If you had given me the first part of that and asked me to fill in the last word, I would have thought it would say "denying its truth," or "denying its holiness," or "denying its goodness," or even "denying God himself."  But it didn't, it says denying its POWER.  I think our generation is taught to be logical, to base thought on proof, on things we can see.  Can we see God's power? Sometimes God's power hits us in the face, but more often its something we have to listen for, to look for.  

In Jerusalem, rulers and elders, high priests and scribes questioned Peter,"By what power or by what name did you do this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead - by Him this man is standing before you well." - Acts 4:8-10

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." - Romans 1:16

God is the creator of all things, He is the author and perfecter of our faith, He knows our hearts and minds, He even knows what we are going to say before we say it.  So, let's all be challenged not to just "have the appearance of godliness," but to take time to see God move in each of our lives, to see His power change us.  To see His power allow us to do things we could not before; to love and forgive others, like we cannot not on our own.

"Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
His understanding is beyond measure."
Psalm 147:5

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grace like rain,
Falling down on me.
All my stains are washed away,
are washed away."

I walked into the orphanage, rain pouring down all around us.  All the children are on the back porch, not quite knowing what to do.  One small boy is laying on the ground crying crying crying, not understanding the rain, no one holding him, curled up on the cement porch.  I snatch him up, trying to comfort him, he holds on so tightly.  He quiets after a few moments, never releasing his grip around my shoulders.

I begin to speak to the children about the “wata” falling from the sky.  Where did it come from? Who sent it? God sends the rain down.  The rain is good. 

Genesis 9:8-17 was the reading I had prepared.  Coincidence? Nope.  Jesus?  Absolutely!  We looked at all the water around us.  If there is this much water from only twenty minutes of rain, how much more water would there be from a whole day of rain? What about forty days of rain?! Oh, “plenty wata” they said, enough to wash away many people.  Will God let that happen to us?? No.  The rainbow was the sign of God’s promise to us, that He will not let that happen again.

A few of us went to the schoolroom to make rainbows, while Kim read to the rest of them on the porch.  With only a few children, we were able to have some really good conversation.  Many of the children are being adopted, Praise the Lord! Most of them to families in America.  Good news, to those hopeful of the new life ahead of them.  Heartbreaking to those who do not have a family yet.  Harsh words were spoken between some of them – one talking about her mother who had just come to visit, the other who’s mother had recently sent pictures.  Others upset because their friends are leaving.  One who is leaving said that God had heard her prayer and given her a family, and the one next to her asked me why God hadn’t listened to her same prayer for a family.   They wanted to send their artwork to their families in the states, some who don’t have families yet.

What to say? I asked them if they knew what jealousy was – and they did not.  I explained that jealousy is when we want what other people have.  God gives us what WE need, in His time.  I said that God does not give you what someone else needs – does she need trousers like He does? No.  God answers us each individually.  But don’t we all get families?  Isn’t that the point?” they asked.  Right now, we are each other’s family, and we have to trust that God will hear our prayers, and we need to continue to ask Him, because in the Bible God says that we should ask. 

Wow.  I can only begin to understand what these precious children are going through.  Real life to deal with, and they are so young.  Please pray that they will hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them through all the volunteers and workers at the orphanage – that they will build their new and uncertain lives on solid ground.  Please pray the Lord will lay on all of our hearts the right words to say.

I took a video in a taxi the other day - I think its a great representation of how most of Ghana looks, so if you want to "experience"Ghana...Click Here

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Oh, how my perspective has changed here. I had always loved rain, but oh, how it refreshes my spirit, parched and tired from the heat here. Hearing it pour down on the roof, even for just a few minutes, is so calming and soothing. It pours down to cool the land, to settle the dust for a while, to renew life. I feel like I can even breathe better. I am so thankful for the rain.

If the rain pouring over me gives such hope and renewal, how much more does God’s outpour of grace and love and forgiveness give me, give us. His love pours out over us, washes us, renews us, changes us. It gives us the strength and the joy and the peace to face life each day.

“My lips will POUR forth praise, for you teach me Your statutes.” Psalm 119:171

I'll admit I poured forth praise over a kitchen appliance this week. I have never realized how much I loved refrigerators. Just think for a minute: what do you do that requires a fridge?

Cereal (milk) – check, if I can’t have cereal, scrambled…
Eggs – check, well then maybe…
Cheese toast - check
cold water – check, well, then, I’ll just reach for some
ice – check
lunch meat – obviously, check
vegetable sandwich – last only for a day in the heat
bread – molds in a day in the humidity

It leaves you thinking – what can I eat?! I ended up taking some cereal and milk to the school, and ate cereal for breakfast and lunch, and then went to get chicken and rice off the street for dinner. NOT healthy. ONE WEEK without – and I almost cried when we got it back. Seriously – I never knew how much I loved that appliance. Thankful.

I almost cried with excitement when the power came back on, just in time for bed on Monday. It was out – we were sweating and cranky because without light, none of us were able to do anything of the things we had brought home from school to prepare for the next day. It came back on just in time to cool off our rooms, so that we could sleep. Talk about relying on God ONE MINUTE AT A TIME. What peace there is in knowing that God knew this was going to happen – that I was somehow prepared for all of this – that He is going to get me through it. He knows exactly what we are going through ALL the time, and He is there with us.

“Oh, Lord you have searched me and known me. You know when I rise up and when I lay down, you discern my path from afar.” Psalm 139:1

Friday, January 22, 2010

Just a few of the risks you take, letting first and second graders paint upside down!  We were learning about Michelangelo, specifically the Sistine Chapel.  We brainstormed lots of Bible "stories" and drew them.  Then, we turned our best sketch into a huge "cartoon" to paint on the ceiling.  This week, the kids have come in, and put on their tall boots, just like Michelangelo, and we crawl into the chapel (all the tables pushed together in the art room) with only a candle burning - because Michelangelo wouldn't have had electricity!  And tape our cartoons on the ceiling to paint. So fun.

Here are some pictures from dinner at my birthday requested Sushi restaurant, Monsoon. Yum!

This last one is all the roomates - we just got a new one this week!  She is a volunteer for the semester at the orphanage - awesome.  So, this is me, Sarah, Anne Clair, and Kim - The Pink House!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So, I finally got around to teaching kindergarten about my wall map yesterday!  I love teaching them!  They are just so young and cute and their minds are so wide open.  So, I was explaining the map to them and where Africa is, and where we are living.  And then...I asked them to share where they are originally from.  And they have no idea!  I had to tell most of them where they were from, or ask their teacher!  Many of them claimed to be from all sorts of places in the world.

The best story I got was from a Ghanaian kindergartner.  I actually know his family is for sure Ghanaian - he has two older brothers in our school, who have both already painted their dot inside Ghana on the wall map.  So, when I asked him where he was from, and he said "America,"  I said, "Are you sure?" He continued to say that he was American.  I said, "I really think that you are Ghanaian, both of your brothers said they are from Ghana."  When he continued to insist that he was American, I finally said, "Well, then, what city in America are you from?"  And he said, "Disney Land." Ha! Got to love that!

"Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy"
Psalm 126:2

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

For another good laugh... (I kind of can't believe that I am telling you all about this - much less that I am on youtube - and even less that this is a video of me singing!!!! But it is very very funny) ... please view our "Christmas Card" from Israel.  We (Meg Bauhof and myself) sang while standing in front of several important historical sights in and around Jerusalem!  Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, January 18, 2010

When two separate readings collide in theme – I just feel like God is speaking through His living word. And, no, I just don’t believe in coincidences – I believe in Jesus.

The two stories, and I hesitate to call anything in the Bible a “story” – I think this is new from traveling to Israel and seeing the once “mythical” places from Bible “stories” in real life – the Bible is just no longer filled with “stories” it’s truth, it’s history, it’s our heritage, and yes, it is God’s living word filled with the power to change those who chose to read it.

So, the two accounts of "Biblical history," one from Job and the other from Galatians put emphasis on our flawed human nature.  We all know about Job, a man "blameless and upright, God fearing" - God allowed satan to attack different areas of his life - to the point where Job's friends question Job's righteousness, and in turn Job begins to question God.  Job is finally confronted by Elihu, who has been to timid to speak until this point, that Job should not question God.  "Behold, in this you are not right, I will answer you, for God is greater than man." 33:12  The other is Paul confronting Peter in his letter to the Galatians for  being a hypocrite.  Peter was preaching the truth, that Christ has freed us from the law, while at the same time enforcing Jewish law on the Gentiles.  

Both accounts have people who are following God, who are living out their faith, but who make mistakes and need confrontation.  Yes, IN THE BIBLE PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES!!! News flash, right?  I mean, I knew Judas betrayed Christ, and then Thomas doubted Christ’s resurrection, and Peter again when he began to meet Christ walking on the water. I guess the list is longer than I thought, and it’s kind of comforting, knowing that all of my mistakes are in good company.

(Sea of Galilee - where Jesus, and sort of Peter, walked on water!)

The point is, that we are all human – we all make mistakes.  We believe in Christ and worship Him, but not because of what He does for us, or who He makes us into, or because He keeps us from making mistakes, or because He keeps us “safe,” or for the lessons He has graciously taught us or even because He blesses us by allowing us to live out our passions (per say – living in Africa, teaching art, loving on kids, teaching them about Christ) – while all of those things are His blessings on our life - we believe and worship Him because of who He is – and He is truth.

The “blessings” will come and go, in a sinful world.  I will not always be able to keep everything together or “safe” – and I feel like I rarely keep anything together – but that’s not the point.  Christ died as atonement for our mistakes, poor choices; for our Sin - as well as everyone else’s – we just sometimes notice other people’s more often – and count them as “injustices” God has somehow allowed or even planned for our lives.  He wants us to learn from our circumstances, to grow and change from them, and ultimately, to learn to depend not on ourselves, but on Him – the source of life its self. 

"I am the way, the TRUTH and the life." John 14:6

Among many things, “LOVE…rejoices with the TRUTH.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Our school has been impacted greatly over the past few days - dealing with tragedies all over.  We have two Haitian students, and  hearing about life over there right now makes our problems seem so insignificant.  There has been lots of fighting in Northern Ghana - tribal conflicts.  And in tragedy in Angola, around rebels attacking a team there for the African Cup.  God is really putting things in perspective for many of us here - who have been grumbling about circumstances since we have returned from America.  Our refrigerator stopped working this weekend and many of our groceries spoiled, the power was off several times, our water didn't work for most of the week last week - but we are blessed.  We are safe and we have food and we are free to worship the one TRUE God.  You are too, so Praise Him!

Friday, January 15, 2010

How do you Praise the Lord?!

(Research for the orphanage mural)

"I will praise Him with all of my heart
And, I will praise Him with all of my strength
With all of my heart
With all of my strength
All of my life is in YOU!"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Visited the orphanage yesterday, took pictures of the kids to start working on the wall!  They got hold of my glasses, or "specs," as they call them - so cute!

And they were lovin' it!

There was a beautiful sunset - I think harmattan has finally come! This is when the dust from the Sahara desert comes and fills the air - it actually looks cloudy outside and feels cool. Craziness - but it is a nice break from the heat.

Everyone was hot and tired (yes, the "break" from the heat means it is still hot, it also means the electricity and water are finished - so showers and cold drinks are not happening right now) - so ice cream cake for the birthday was exciting - but pictures were not - I took some anyways!

The cake was delicious - a layer of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate ice cream, mars bars, chocolate ice cream, marshmellows, and then peanut butter - Mmmmmm!

On a personal note - I've needed a break from reading the Old Testament - I am getting bogged down in the laws and hardships of Job - remembering our Savior who loves us despite our human nature, who came to Earth to set us free from the law is all the more exciting!  It is SOOO awesome to know we are free from the law and forgiven for our Sin!!  I am all the time forgetting -  all too often I put people or things or schedule before God in my day.

"For I am now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."
Galatians 1:10

"For FREEDOM Christ has set us free,
stand firm therefore, and so not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's a Birthday!

I was asked how old I was in the teacher meeting this morning, and I said "22" - and people believed me! Ha - Happy Birthday Me!  Sweet Nichole Wright sent this amazing cake to school for me today - so nice! It was delicious and so colorful! Love it!

Here's a video of the first graders singing "Happy Birthday."  The Birthday song here has a million verses! I cheated again, and said I was 7!

Ghanaian Birthday Song

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bible Challenge

My roommate, Kim, and I are keeping each other accountable for reading the Bible this year.  Our goal is to read the whole Bible chronologically.  We are only on day 11, so if anyone is up for the challenge - please join us! More people keeping each other accountable means we have a better chance of success!  So, if you are interested - here's the link:

Reading Schedule

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pictures from Israel!

So, my amazing travel buddy and co-teacher, Megan Bauhof, has put all of our pictures from Israel together in albums on Facebook.  Here are the links if you want to see them!

Back to Africa

Back to whole-starch meals ... yea, I'm back in Africa!

So I flew out of Africa…to visit the Biblical “Land of milk and honey,” then to the modern “land of milk and honey”…. And now I am right back in Africa.

I love traveling to new places and figuring out the similarities and differences between cultures. Each culture has its own little twist on table manners or conversation etiquette.  But Africa is just in a category of its own.  There are almost no similarities between the culture here and the culture in America – for example there are no “twists” to table manners here – there simply are no table manners here – Ghanaians with forks just don’t happen.

Going on my walks and runs the past few days the culture here has been shocking – and I know, I have been here for months before – and I can’t really make any sense of why it is so shocking this time.  I knew exactly where I was going this time – right?

Even so, I came home almost in tears today, after walking through some of the surrounding streets.  There is literally trash everywhere.  The streets are lined with people tired and tattered by life looking to sale their few goods to maybe make a few pesewas (like cents) a day – which is barely enough to buy fufu for dinner.  They sit. They talk. They laugh.  They laugh a lot.  They call me obroni. They laugh when they call me obroni.  The men say to me “I like it” or “May I join you, but tomorrow?” or “Are you making excersize?”  They laugh again.

I run on and off the streets, around the open gutters, full of the most disgusting mix of bodily fluids and trash, I try not to look, I try to stay far enough away that I am not overwhelmed by the fear that I may fall in, but can’t do anything about the smell that comes out and hits me right in the face.  I run around vendors on the streets.  I run around burning trash heaps, coughing. 

I try to greet every person I pass – the Ghanaians rarely initiate conversation with an obroni they don’t know – so if I don’t speak to them, even though they wouldn’t speak to me, they would think that I think that I am better than they are.  So I do my best.

More shocking than any of that is that everyone is African.  I look around – I am the only obroni.  I had forgotten how that felt.  I had forgotten how they stare at us, or is it worse this time? There are plenty obroni – and we have been here, and there were others here long before us – and still they stare, as if they have never seen a white person in their life.  Three weeks and I had forgotten. 

Three weeks.  I adjusted right into being a tourist in Israel.  That was easy, and exciting.  I adjusted in a few hours back to American culture, someone even told me, “You haven’t skipped a beat.” I was excited to see Starbuck and thrilled to walk the aisles of Target.  So many choices in America.  It’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time.  I guess it’s easy to adjust to American life because it is an easier life than life in Ghana.

I am here, working, teaching at a nice international school, living in a nice brand new house with air conditioning and bathrooms and a bed and a kitchen.  I can leave and go back to my home in America for Christmas and weddings and the Summer, or whenever I need or want to go.  These people I pass when I am running know no other life than this.  They are not here for a while and then get a break.  This is it. This is all they know. 

Overwhelming. Culture shock.  Love for people; all people, everywhere.  Everyone should have a chance to make their life “better,” to get off the street, or to start a business to support themselves, and their families.  It wouldn’t be fair any other way, right?  How do people get out of this?  How is this fair?  I ask God, and hear Him answer me, in the words He answers Job:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements – surely you know!”

God is sovereign and God is good.  We don’t know how He created the Earth, but we know He did.  We don’t know how he is working in these people’s lives, but He is.  God is bigger than any script we can write for Him, for ourselves, or for others, in any circumstance we encounter.  Wherever we are, whatever circumstance we are in, we should learn from the Ghanaians, to laugh and to be present in life.  We are not promised tomorrow – and they know that all too well.

Friday, January 8, 2010

World Map!

I finished painting a huge world map in the main hall upstairs in the Elementary/Middle School Building just before we left for Christmas.  So - our first project coming back to school has been to have all the kids find where they are from on the map and mark their home by painting a dot on the map.  Asking students in America "Where are you from?" seems simple enough.  At an international school; however, this question is very complex, confusing, and often very emotional for the students to answer.  Almost all the students in our school "claim" two or more places that they are from - and I don't mean like I would say "I grew up in Auburn and then went to grad school in Birmingham." I get answers like "Well...My mom is British, my Dad is from Canada, we've lived in several places in Africa, and now we live in Ghana and I have a Canadian and an American Passport."  - or- "Well, I was born in Morocco, then we lived in Colorado for a while, and now we live in Ghana." Most of the students I teach have more than one passport - and speak two or three languages - their lives are so interesting!

That being said, I am one of the very few people in our school that has only painted one dot on our map! Of course, it's on Auburn, AL - Maybe I'll start to claim Ghana as my "home" sometime next year - we'll see!

I think that we have students from every continent, except South America - and, obviously, Antarctica!

The third grade class made a movie after painting their dots today - they were a little camera shy - but this will give you a glimpse of how diverse our school is!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's funny coming back to a place so "foreign" only to find it so familiar this time.  Back to my own room inside the gates and walls with razor wire, off the dirt roads with the gutters open, past the Ghanaians yelling "Eta Zaine Obroni!" Being back, my whirlwind of Christmas travels almost seem like a dream! Good thing I took pictures!

I started in Jerusalem for a few days - Here's a view from the Mount of Olives:

And a sunset right outside the wall:

Then, trips to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee and Cana

Then, a trip to Bethlehem

Then, a trip South to Masada and the Dead Sea

We even had time to stop by the Zaccheaus Tree (yea - like Zaccheaus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he, he climbed up in (THIS) sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see)

And this is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found:

We climbed the Mount of Olives and walked around the old city on the city wall and ate TONS of the most delicious hummus I have ever had!

Then, I was "snowed in" in Tel Aviv for two days, here is the view from my hotel room:

I made it in time for Christmas Eve in Auburn!

Then, off to Columbus Christmas Day - then back to Auburn

Back to Columbus to be with Erin - this is after her LAST radiation!!! Yay!

Up to Birmingham to visit friends for an evening

To Auburn New Year's Eve

Columbus New Year's Day -  War Eagle and Happy Birthday Mom! - Went to see Avatar in 3D - interesting movie.

Back to Auburn before heading to the Atlanta Airport!

Detour in Dubai - I took a picture to "prove" I was there - couldn't find anything that said Dubai - so I figured the Starbucks sign in Arabic would do!

And, now I am here - exhausted and jet lagged - but back to work and life as "usual" here in Accra, Ghana!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back in Ghana!

Christmas break this year was amazing! Even with all the snow traveling - I was blessed with safe travels and time with my family and so many friends.  From Ghana to Israel to Atlanta to Columbus to Auburn it was a blessed Christmas!  I want to sit down and expand more on Israel but I couldn't wait to show you some highlights!

Here is the Wailing Wall/Dome of the Rock etc on the last night of Hanukkah.  It was beautiful! So many people came out - the orthodox jews in full dress - there are actually tons of Russian jews who have moved back to Israel - and they had the coolest hats - huge fur cylinder hats.  

Here, my traveling buddy, Meg Bauhof and I are sitting in Qumram (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found!) looking at the Dead Sea.

Here is the window in the Chapel "Dominus Flavius," where Jesus wept over the city on Palm Sunday riding a donkey down the Mount of Olives and into Jerusalem.  This was one of the most relatable places for me to relate to Jesus.  You can see the whole city that he loved, and I have fallen in love with - and He wept knowing this place was going to be destroyed.

Here we are jumping in the tower of David at Sunset, after a day of walking around the Rampart's walk and up the Mount of Olives.   Amazing day walking around the city.

The trip was amazing.  Home was amazing.  More to come...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Christmas Adventure Continues!!!

Yea, so I am totally in Dubai right now!   Was not suppose to be here - NOT flying Lufthansa in the winter ever again!! We got to Frankfurt yesterday on time - and there was too much snow to land - and we circled the airport and then diverted and landed in Cologne - waited in the plane there for a few hours for refueling - then flew back to Frankfurt - missing our connecting flight - allowing for us to stand in the longest line I have ever stood in ever in my life - at least 5 hours - all to find out that there is only one flight every few days into Accra.  Anyways this was our best option - flying through Dubai - which is cool to say that I have been here - and we got our passports stamped in Germany! Yay for passport stamps. I am, and have been traveling with Megan Harris - the Kindergarten teacher from Enterprise - and the High School principal and her husband from Texas.  So...WE are getting to Africa - some time! Only one more flight .... we think!