"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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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day Dreaming of...Tacos...Burritos...

The power's been out since sometime Monday.  I promised myself not to complain ... so here's my "daydreaming."

Last night, we got the generator going - Praise the Lord - We didn't think it would work for a while - and it stayed on all night and was still on when I went home for lunch today.  It kind of feels like Hannukah, like the oil should have run out by now.  While the fridge had cooled off, most of the food was bad.  I threw out so much rotten, spoiled, or moldy food today.  It brought tears to my eyes to waste food like that.  Ninah has become a constant reminder of the huge hunger problem here.  I just don't even look at food the same.   So, I was hungry, and there was no McDonald's to run to, no vegetables in the fridge to chop, no red red to heat up.  I don't want to be over dramatic, and I could have walked just ten minuted down the road to buy chicken and rice, but it's the feeling I am trying to convey.  I looked in the pantry and heated up some red beans, added some spice, and cooked a hand full of rice, on a gas stove.  Lunch was fine, and I was thankful (it would have been nice to have a taco or burrito beside it, and some cheese on top).  But, it was such a strange feeling, to not have food readily available.  If I, having a job and everything I could ever need here somehow find myself in that position - how much more easily it would be for a Ghanaian with minimal income to be, and not have extra rice and beans in the pantry, or the house, or wherever they are presently "squatting."  

I sat down, and opened my Bible to my reading in Leviticus (a little behind in the chronological reading) and never in all my time reading through the monotony of the laws in the Old Testament, have I understood the full impact of the sacrifices God asked of the Israelites in the wilderness.   They were not just monetary or commodity sacrifices, they were also emotional and physical sacrifices.  Israel was living in tents, constantly moving, the Lord was providing for them only what was needed.  They did not have a McDonald's to fun to, no vegetables in the fridge to chop, no red red to heat up.  From what little food and other resources they had, God asked them to sacrifice the best, or the first, or the best parts to Him.  It would be so hard, if I was trying to, for example, feed a malnourished child, to choose to give the best of my food to God, and to Ninah next.  Even now, fully acknowledging and believing that God created all things and is in control of all things - I have a new respect for the Israelites who were able to keep the law, and keep God first.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pouncing Goats and Comfort in the Desert

So, we were on our walk this morning before school, and we were almost back at the house, and there was a goat in the middle of the road.  Goats are quite common here - but this one was strangely growling at us, and we debated turned around to walk another way, but decided to just speed up and quickly past it.  Then -- it started crying louder, and then it started jumping or more like pouncing at us! It jumped higher than my head (I, know - haha - that's not very high) but it was so frightening! We sprinted down the street, then started dying laughing.  It was the craziest thing, the goat was totally possessed.

I did some research and it is a fact that a goat can jump 5 feet high! Here are some pictures to prove it!

So, on to the desert.  I feel like I have just come out of a spiritual or emotional "desert," where I have been discontent with being here.   Or, perhaps just straight up acting out of selfishness a sense that I have been focusing on the fun things and "comforts" my life here lacks.  Right now, I am walking out of it and enjoying being present in Ghana, but I learned so much while I was in the "desert."  It's when I am there that I so thirsty seeking the Lord's will.  It feels, at the time, like something is wrong, or I feel exhausted, or I am just plain unmotivated to do the things the Lord has called me to do.  I have always disliked these times, as if they are times where I am too far from God or somehow removed from His will.  But really, those are the times where I am at His feet. 

And as we know, because the desert is such a harsh and dry environment, there is limited plant and animal life - it is a place where life is not abundant.  There is very little in the desert, which is why it is so hard when we are there, but that also means there is little distracting us from seeking and waiting on God.  What a great place to be.  On our knees, seeking our Creator.

I am learning to be more comfortable in the desert.  I don't mean I want to hangout in the desert, or create  deserts for myself or others - we already have enough deserts in our lives to do that!  But, the deserts that just happen in life, for all sorts of circumstances dry up all the stuff that doesn't really matter - so that we can see The One that does.  And when we come out, we appreciate the life we have been given so much more.  The deserts in life help us appreciate the "rain forests" and "grasslands," they help us appreciate the rain and the wind, the people in our lives, the place we have to live, the love and forgiveness our Father continues to give us.

"For His anger is but for a moment,
and His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but JOY comes with the morning!"
Psalms 30:5

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Inspiring Peace

"Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine and you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing...By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much FRUIT..." John 15:4-8

"But the FRUIT of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self control, against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22

What inspires peace?  
I am learning through "Living Beyond Yourself," that true peace comes from being at the feet of Jesus.   Peace comes from the hope in the authority and goodness of our Savior, the Prince of Peace, the hope that our Redeemer lives!  Realizing that God is in control, not just of this huge world, but He is also in control of our day, today, He is in control of this forty minute class I am teaching, He is in control of my attitude this moment, He already knows what will happen, and He already sees how He can use this moment for His glory.  Waiting on God.  Rest.  Peace. 

"And let the PEACE of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful." Colossians 3:15

I grow continually more thankful for Christ's sacrifice for us reading Leviticus.  There are whole chapters on the different sacrifices the Israelites were to make as atonement for their sin.  There are whole sections on exactly how and what to sacrifice as a PEACE offering.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, we have access to God.  If we abide in Christ, continually submitting to His authority and goodwill, His word says we will produce FRUIT - PEACE.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I feel like I am just now settling back into life in Africa and again loving the work the Lord has planned for me here.  Friday at school was International Day - and wow - what an international day it was!  I was overwhelmed in the moment - what a beautiful place - where so many cultures come together - Love it.

(Ghanaian, Lebanese, Nigerian, Korean)


(Some of the South Africans)


(Lebanese, Ethiopian)

(Ghanaian, Korean)

(Lebanese, American)

(Dutch/Zimbabwe/Ghanaian, Scottish/British, Togolese/American, Ghanaian)

(Lebanese, American)

Laba family - originally from Togo - but have been living in Homewood in Birmingham, Al for the past few years! LOVE them - their family works for Compassion International.

This is Lyle Folorunso and her "sister."  Lyle is a clothing designer and designed and gave me the dress I am wearing for Christmas this year.  So, I dressed Ghanaian, taught the kids about Mexico all day, but am in fact American - I know, shocker.

(a bunch of the teachers trying all the interesting, but mostly delicious, food from literally all over the world)

After school, I headed to the orphanage to start drawing for the mural on the wall.  The sun was perfect to trace the kids shadows - it was so much fun!  Today, I finished drawing and got most of the painting done.  I had lots of "help" - so there are plenty of touch ups to make later this week.

(The very beginning)

(Me with Akyini - my student and buddy - and daughter of the lady who runs the orphanage)

I am very pleased with it so far - but I am not finished yet!  Most of the shadows need some help.  Tonight we had friends over for ground nut soup and red-red, yum!  I am exhausted, so I volunteered to stay in...so I am in the air conditioning typing write now with our baby girl sleeping right next to me.  

Content.  Thank you Jesus.

Friday, February 19, 2010

In All things...

Reading the Old Testament, through Exodus and on to Leviticus now – I started to get really frustrated reading the specifics of the tabernacle tent. I know it wasn’t easy for Moses, he had the obvious of hardships of wilderness living and plagues and such.  Even so, I found myself feeling jealous of the way he was able to communicate with God.  He used to sit and talk with God.  Moses climbed up a mountain and spent 40 days in God’s presence, and God told him specifically what to do, how to govern Israel, and so ridiculously specific how to build the tabernacle. 

I assure you, I would climb any mountain to talk to God and have Him tell me specifically what I needed to do, and give me a copy carved into stone to keep with me.  Sometimes it is just so hard to discern what we are suppose to do, where we are suppose to be going.  The Bible says over and over again to WAIT on God to BE STILL and know that He is God.  It is so awesome to realize that I, that we all, have that same relationship with God that Moses did through the Holy Spirit.

We just have to listen and look for God. He is everywhere.  As I continued reading, it really struck me this time how God said over and over again in his instructions for the tabernacle – that there were specific people whom he had “filled with a spirit of skill.” For each part of the tabernacle, God had in just the right time, given the specific skill to the specific person to do a specific work of weaving or sewing, or carving – ART.  How cool – God has filled us with a skillful spirit for specific tasks.  God is in all things: he is in my teaching at school, and in my painting, in my eating, drinking, walking, running, breathing…He has planned and appointed it all.

Earlier this week, for in-service day, we watched a talk given by Louie Giglio.  He was talking about God’s creation – about just how big the stars are in comparison to Earth – and in affect how BIG God is, and how small we are, and even so how our God is a personal God.  He knows our names, he knows how many hairs we have on our heads, His word says He even calls the stars by name.  That is the great God I serve.  His talk concluded with Laminin – a protein in our bodies that keeps all of our molecules “glued” together.  He showed us this picture of it:

Isn't God amazing - He binds us together, and He is truly in ALL things.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's a girl!!

We definitely brought home a baby to foster for a while.  She is amazing.  She was just rescued from the North.  She is eleven months old, but only weighs 8 lbs - the size of a new born!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Ah, hello Laurens, you look so nice and big!"

This is a common compliment I  hear from Ghanaians.  In a taxi yesterday, I was telling my roommates about someone saying this to me, when they saw me after Christmas break.  The taxi driver overheard us, and I began to explain that white ladies don't like to be called big.  He didn't understand.  I said if you are big, then you look unhealthy - like you don't exercise enough, so you become big.  "Oh, it makes you look lazy." - "Yea" - "Well, there's a problem with hunger here," he said.  While I know there is a problem with hunger in Africa - I had never really had a conversation like this before. He explained that if people become thin, that means they haven't eaten, or they are very sick.  If they get too thin, it is too hard for them to become well again.  He said "that is how we loose so many people."  His wife carries more than 50 pounds of cassava in a bowl on her head everyday, trying to make a living, AND he adds the side note that she always carries an 8 kilo (over 17 pounds) baby tied to her back.  She is getting too thin, she takes a pill every night to help her keep on weight to sustain herself for another day of work, doing hard labor, barely being able to care for her child.

Even here in Accra, I forget to be thankful for the food I have.  Instead, I wish for other food - I bring food from the states - I bring and eat so much food that I have to jog it off - and so many people around me don't have enough to eat.

James Kofi Annan just finished speaking at Chapel this morning.  He was sold as a child slave here in Ghana when he was 6 years old, by his own parents.  He worked fishing all day, being beaten and barely fed.  He escaped when he was 13, went to school and became the only literate child out of 12 in his family.  He earned degrees and had a career, and now has an NGO to rescue and rehab the children in slavery.

Today in Ghana, children are being sold for around 50 Ghana Cides, about 35 American Dollars into slavery.  Their uneducated, uninformed, illiterate, poverty stricken parents sell them, to the deceiving slave trafficers - for the promise that they are buying a better future for their children.  Everyday more children are being sold, boys to fishing villages, and girls into brothels.

There are some government laws in place against slavery, but even more there are bribes and corruption to turn a blind eye to the slave trade.  James' full time work now is going to the villages and rescuing these kids. He rescues them, has a home for them to get rehab and tries to educate the parents before returning them home.  Here is his website - they need prayers - the situation is big.  He said the slave trade here and now is exponentially larger than the Trans-Atlantic slave trade ever was.  Can you even believe that?  And it's right here in Ghana.

Challenging Heights

I remember seeing an Oprah about a family who rescued children from slavery in Africa years ago.  They were in Ghana.  The missionaries here know them, and the children they saved.

Oprah - Sold into Slavery

I am done complaining about the heat, and not being able to stay in shape -   Thank you Jesus for life.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"If the trumpet should sound right now...

...we would be the first in heaven" - William (our friend/driver/translator 
when we reached the top of Mount Gemi)

We drove hours on road that was so bumpy and in need of repair 
- this picture dosen't even do it justice.

To "Paradise Mountain" Hotel.  It was the most serene, beautiful "get-away" place.  It was simple rooms and camping grounds halfway up the mountain - with seriously nothing within miles of it on any side.  We arrived early Friday, and packed our bags and began climbing Mt. Gemi, the second tallest mountain in Ghana.

We walked past the neatest villages, everyone welcoming us.  The paths through the woods felt more like rain forrest in South America, than the Ghana we are used to!

We climbed for 2 and a half hours, ate a snack, took some pictures on top and then headed back down.  

From Mt. Gemi, our hotel is the three white buildings on the lower mountain - nothing around - awesomeness.  

It was shady when we started, sunny the entire climb, and then down poured rain almost immediately when we got back.  

It was so relaxing - this is our porch - you can see Mt. Gemi in the distance.  We rested and read, and when it was time to clean up for dinner - I realized I had a very nice tan from the day...

Can we say, "Maid of Honor in a strapless dress in one month!" - Sorry Elizabeth!  After dinner, we sat out on the porch and sang worship songs - Thank you Jesus for safety and rest!  The coolest part of the night was the African drumming and chanting we could hear from one of the villages somewhere below us.

The next morning came all too soon - I had the most organic coffee I have every had - and enjoyed it thoroughly, and then we began our drive to our next challenge, climbing up to a waterfall high on top another mountain close by.

This climb was much much harder than the previous day's journey - we endured "blood, sweat, and tears" this day.  The path was very narrow and on the side of the mountain - it is so interesting to see all the different reactions people have to a challenge like this.  It took us a little over two hours to climb the steep path - but we made it! The waterfall was beautiful - and the mist from the water was so refreshing. 

The river from the falls - meanders through the path we took - here are some of the local women and children collecting water for the day.  Talking to women here - it takes them, on average, a few hours just to get the water they need to the house for cooking, cleaning, washing clothes.  The next few hours are spent washing clothes, hanging them.  If they are to cook, they might walk an hour or more to the market to get food to cook, then the rest of the evening is spent cooking.  Can you even imagine? I complain because something small gets in the way of me checking off every detail on my "to do" list."

After the climb, we went to see some ostriches - they were kind of scary - didn't one get out of a zoo in America not that long ago and chase people? Their eyes are so big and they followed us with every move.

The village William is from is in the Volta Region, near the falls, so we were able to go with him to visit his family yesterday afternoon.  He was so grateful.  I love the way Ghanaians speak - it is always so poetic and profound: "I thank you that you have allowed me to go and visit my village, and have not denied me the right."  He was so excited - he hadn't been to see his family in over a year.  This is some of his family members - they were cooking and eating - this is my first experience in a "village" - or REAL AFRICA.

Everyone was really nice.  When we got more into his village, everyone was running out to greet us, but many of the children were crying.  I asked why they were crying, and the adults said the kids were scared of us, because we were white.  I asked if they had really never seen a white person before - and they responded, "I am sure they have seen white people before... on the tele."  I reached out my hand until one of them came to touch me - and then the others did the same - and then I think they were more comfortable. They still didn't get very close, but they followed us everywhere we went, just watching.

They ran after us, as if they had somehow heard we were arriving.

As we met different family members of William's, each one gave him some rice, or some bananas, before I knew it we had become a whole train of people and goods, walking from tiny path to another tiny path through farms or woods to get to another mud house.

These are William's twin nephews, both names Elijah.  When I asked why they were both named the same thing, they all laughed as if I had just asked them the craziest thing, like why wouldn't we name them the same thing?

It was amazing to see these people's lives.  We met the chief of the village, all the "important" people were sitting in a circle and we were invited to go in and greet each one of them.  The whole time, the children were watching and following us.  We were able to see his church and meet most of his family.  Africa is pretty cool.  I need to get out of Accra more often.