Sunday, June 17, 2012

Margaret


I want to introduce you to Margaret and Hannah.  I want to tell you their story.  I would like to say their story is unique, but the truth is they represent thousands in similar situations.

We met Margaret a few weeks ago when she attended the Passion and Purity class.  She was quiet and sat separate from the rest of the class.  She has a noticeable abnormality in her cheek and bump on her head.  She looked sad, and our hearts went out to her.

We told our friend about her and that we wanted to help, but none of us knew who she was or how to locate her.  Two days ago, our friend ran into Margaret and her mother.  He came back to tell us more about them.

Two years ago, Margaret began to develop a growth on her head.  It was small, and they had made arrangements with the doctor to have it taken care of.  Sadly, her father died before she could have the procedure. 

Her mother was now faced with making sure Margaret and her other children were fed, cared for, and received an education.  (Margaret is the youngest of eight children.  Three are still living at home, the others are grown and married.) Nothing was left over for medical care. 

Yesterday, Hannah and Margaret came to visit us.  They told us their story.  What began as a small growth on Margaret's head has developed into five large growths on her head, face, back, arm, and ankle.  The ones on her head and face often cause her pain and sometimes nose bleeds.

The physical pain is not the only pain. Margaret is shy and embarrassed.  She told us she is often made fun of.  She often comes home crying.  Hannah told us she cries often, too.  "It hurts to see her in pain, and not being able to do anything about it.  I pray for God to help me!"

We asked how much it would cost to have Margaret seen by a doctor, and the growths removed.  Hanna told us she doesn't know now how much it would be.  Two years ago when there was only one and it was small, to remove it was 50 Ghana Cedis. (That's about $30 USD.)

We want to help Margaret.  We want to help Hannah.  God has heard her prayers, and has answered them by setting up this divine appointment.  This week, Margaret will visit the doctor.  The initial visit is 20 Ghana Cedis. ($12USD)  We don't know what tests or procedures she will need or how much they will cost.  We estimate that everything will add up to about $500 USD, possibly less.

We have the chance to change this young woman's life.  Margaret is smart and kind.  She is a good student and wants to study to be a medical doctor.  If you would like to help us help Margaret, please contact us (info@afnministries.org) for more information, or visit our website (www.afnministries.org) for instructions on how to give.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homaenase


Accra and Kumasi are poor.  At least by American standards.   Both cities have their places of extreme poverty---the slums of Accra, various neighborhoods of Kumasi.  The cities offers opportunities--jobs, modern conveniences---and so many citizens flock to them.  The real poverty lies in the villages found outside the cities, and the further North or East you go (into Muslim country) the worse it gets.

Last time we were in Ghana, we spent much of our time touring the Nation, visiting and encouraging the village churches.  The first church we visited three years ago was just a few minutes’ drive from our home.  The church had only half its floor cemented, and its sound system was a bullhorn attached to an amplifier.  (I don’t even know how that works!)   

We went back two weeks ago, and the church floor was complete, and the sound system upgraded!  
The Lord is blessing them, and now they are looking to bless their neighbors in Homaenase by building them a school.

The small village of Homaenase has a population of about 1,000 and is very poor.  They have only a grade school, which means after grade six, if you can’t afford to go into town to school, your education is complete.  There isn’t much to do in this middle-of-nowhere town.  The young men have no purpose and are wrestles, often causing trouble.  There is very little hope to be found.  Without a miracle, without a move of the Holy Spirit, the cycle of poverty will continue through the generations.

We visited this little village while my parents were with us. We passed out candies and small toys, read Bible stories, and sang songs.  It wasn’t much, but something to break the ice and get the conversation going.


I met a young man.  His name was Gideon.  He wants to be a medical doctor.  Without God’s intervention, he won’t ever get the chance.   Still, I told him to continue to study hard and get good grades.  Perhaps by the time he reaches high school, things will be different.

This is not the first poverty stricken village we have visited.  But the Lord was tugging on our heart strings, and we knew instantly He had something in mind for them and for us.  We will be back, to do what we can to love on them, offer hope in the form of job skills and opportunities, and tell them about our Savior.

As we were getting ready to leave, Tesia noticed a little boy.  He had no shoes.  (Most of the kids didn’t.)  He had a stubbed toe that looked infected, and was attracting flies.  She pointed him out to me, but all we had with us was some wet wipes, Neosporin and Band-Aids.   Better than nothing, I guess.  We asked if we could clean his wound, and his mother said yes.  We did our best to clean and bandage it, and prayed for healing.  Then, because it was all I had with me, I gave him my socks.  Hoping they would provide a little protection from the elements while his foot healed.


I walked away broken.  All the worries of things that really don’t matter were gone.  What truly matter was right before me; a little boy with nothing.  His lack isn’t just material things, but knowledge and understanding of the eternal truth about a Savior---when we asked the kids, after our Bible lesson, who had asked Jesus into their heart; who had given their life to Him not one raised their hand!

It is moments like these that I am convicted and reminded of how much I live to satisfy my flesh.  It’s moments like these that stay with you; God’s reminder of His Eternal purpose---people.  We are here on earth for such a limited time, and the only thing we can do that will last beyond our death is love and be love by Jesus, and to show others how they can experience this great love, too.

Highlights of an Easter Celebration and Visitors from Afar


My blogging skills don’t hold a candle to those of my mothers.  She so beautifully penned and photographed her time here with us, that I will not try and re-do what she’s perfected.  Instead, I invite you to visit her at www.justfollowingjesus.com.  Search Ghana to read the several entries covering the convention and her visit with us.

With that said, here are a few of my own thoughts and reflections about the past two weeks…

Every year Bishop Frank gathers all of his churches from around Ghana for an Easter Convention.  Both of our previous visits have missed the convention by just a few weeks.  This year, we were finally able to attend. 

Bishop has long since wanted my Dad to come and be a guest speaker. It hasn’t worked out, but this year it did!  Both my parents were able to come as guest speakers for the convention.  

In the weeks following up to the convention, their fame preceded them.  Their pictures were plastered all over the city, and all over Bishop’s car.  After their arrival, a man standing next to a poster looked up, and to his surprise looked right at my mom!  



The convention was held Thursday evening through Sunday morning.  Oh, how I love to worship with the Body here.  Having all of the churches together was an added treat!  Like anywhere else, the church has its traditions and routine-like flow to the service.  But oh, the joy!  The fun!  The sense of celebration and freedom!  They enjoy being in the house of the Lord.  They enjoy His presence. Saturday evening the celebration and dancing was so intense that a haze was seen across the sanctuary; a cloud of dust rising from the floor.


During the day on Friday and Saturday, Elizabeth (mom) taught a workshop for women, and Pastor taught one for the pastors. Elizabeth spoke about knowing God’s Word.  It’s His love letter to us.  It’s life. It’s nourishment.  It cleanses us, renews, and transforms us.  I could tell the group had been listening intently, and at the end they had questions.  Most of the questions were about how to get the Word in your heart if you don’t have a Bible or if you can’t read.  The realization of their questions was sinking in.

I knew illiteracy and lack of Bibles was an issue in Ghana, but it’s one of those things that is easy to ignore until its right in front of you.  I can’t even imagine not being able to read my Bible and meditate on its Words by myself.  I have well over 20 Bibles, four in my possession now.  Plus I have a few on my phone, ipod, and ipad.  So easily and abundantly accessible, yet so often taken for granted.

The women’s hunger for the Truth was evident.  Among the suggestions for the illiterate was to have a friend write down the verse (from a church service) and then have your child read it to you, over and over until it’s in your heart.  Others suggested creating songs for memorization.  For those who could read, but didn’t have a Bible (either at all or in their language), sharing with a friend or copying passages from church was the offered solution.

Easter Sunday began at 9am with Sunday School.  Church ended at 2:30. That’s right.  Five and a half hours.  Can you imagine if church went that long in America?!?  We would be fit to be tied!!!  But not here.  Every moment was savored.  There was no rush.  Christ’s resurrection was celebrated with worship and dance, special offerings of singing and praise.  Declarations of His resurrection power through the preaching of the Word.   It was a very memorable Easter.


The remainder of my parents time here was split between looking at future humanitarian projects with our friend Gary---a member of their church who joined us after the convention---and fun tourist activities.  We went up north to the monkey village and waterfall, then down south to modern Accra.

Our time in Accra was heavenly. (THANK YOU, Truelife Church!) A nice treat to celebrate being in Ghana for one month; a time to rejuvenate in preparation for the five months ahead.  We stayed at the Ramada.  Ramada in America is rather dumpy, but the resort here was very nice and upscale.    

Located right on the beach, they had a spa, pool, and best of all HOT running water.  The feeling of clean from showering with hot water can’t be beat.  It was the highlight of the weekend for me.  To get a hot shower in Kumasi, you have to time it just right, taking full advantage of the afternoon sun heating the tank. Of course we never do this, because who wants to take a shower in the middle of the day when you’re not done sweating and getting dirty.

We enjoyed the mall, too, and discovered Game, a partner store of Walmart!!  It was nice to see many familiar brands.  What wasn’t so nice were the prices.  Most definitely not the “everyday low prices” found at home.

Shoprite was our favorite store.  A supermarket with real cheese, ground meat, peanut butter, Doritos, and Skittles!!  I do believe our friend and driver thought us crazy as we drooled over all our familiar US foods.

Putting aside all the fun things we did with my parents and all the spoiling they did of us, the best thing for me was sharing with them our world; the Ghana we love so much.  You can describe West Africa (which is nothing like the East and South Africa you see on TV) all you want; show pictures, share stories.  But until you’ve been here, you don’t really get it.  

Experiencing the extreme poverty, lack, and hardships endured by the people, and then watching as they offer up thanks for all their blessings and worship with joy over flowing, it does something to you.  It changes you.  Going into a village of children dressed in rags, discovering that they have no understanding of a Savior who wants to know them personally, it does something to you.  It changes you.   You are never the same.

Making Hamburger in the Dark


If you know me, you know that I don’t like to cook.  I can cook, but I don’t enjoy it.  If I never had to cook again, there would be no void in my life.  I do like to provide healthy food for my family, so I do make effort to avoid processed stuff, but I am a far cry from Mrs. Cleaver and making everything from scratch. In Ghana, you don’t really have a choice but to cook from scratch.  In fact, usually you’ve even got to take it a step further than that, often making each ingredient from scratch!!  

We enjoy Ghanaian food.  And we are learning to cook several Ghanaian dishes.  However, we still like to have foods that are familiar to us, even if it means a lot of extra work. (Humans and food, it’s a strange thing.  We all like and gravitate to what is familiar.  It makes us feel good, safe, and connected to home.)  And what’s more familiar than a good ol’ hamburger and French fries. 

We found the beef (see previous post), but now we’ve got to ground it into hamburger.  So, off to Wal Mart……I mean Melcom’s we go.  We purchase the last meat grinder they have--the display model.  I am glad because once something is gone who knows when, if ever, they will get it again.  (Can openers have been “finished” for over a month!)

We get home with our new purchase and prepare the meat.  This process takes a while, as all our knives seem to be dull.  Finally, we are ready.  Everyone is gathered around.  The big moment is approaching.  We put the meat in and start to turn the handle.  We see the very beginnings of our ground meat coming out the other end.  Hamburger hope is alive!!  ...and then the handle breaks. 

Apparently, the screw (the most important part of the machine) they included was too small.  The handle, which turns the ‘thingy’ inside that pushes the meat through the blade, keeps slipping.  This is an obvious frustration.

We try all sorts of remedies: holding it in place, using toothpicks to make the screw fit better, searching for other screws around the house that might fit.  You name it, we tried it.  In the midst of our attempt to fix what shouldn’t be broken, the power goes out.  So there we are, meat strewn all over, half of it stuck in the grinder, and we can’t see a thing.

After we fumble around for our flashlights, the quest to conquer the meat continues, but to no avail.  So, we give up and try to get the meat out.  No such luck.  It is stuck and stuck good.  We stick the whole mess in the freezer, and decide to wait until tomorrow when we can see.

The next day, Jody manages to get the stuck meat out.  He is determined to make this grinder work.  His solution:  weld the darn handle on; it won’t be able to slip then!  He was right.  It makes taking the machine apart a little more difficult, but it works, and we’ve got hamburgers.

Dinner was an All-American treat: fries, burgers, sodas.  The only thing missing was the pickles...akd the power, which went out again just as we sat down to eat.









Thursday, April 26, 2012

To Market, To Market, To Buy a Cow's....What???


To Market, To Market to buy a cow’s…what????
With all my heart I wish there was a Super Wal-Mart in Kumasi.  I’d even settle for a Safeway or Food Lyon.  Oh, the convenience of having everything you need located in once place.
Funny, that the thing I consider convenience----being able to park my car, go inside a store, and purchase everything I need at one time and in one place---is the very thing many Ghanians consider an inconvenience.  

I was discussing the glorious invention of the supermarket with my friend, “Mr. F.”  I was telling him that most of our stores are enclosed, not open-aired, street side vendors.  He said, “In Ghana, we believe it (going into a supermarket) takes too much time.  Here, you can just shout what you want, and storekeepers will bring it right to your car.”  A nice idea in theory, but this concept usually results in a lot of driving around in heavy traffic with a car that has no air condition. 
My first trip to the market (to purchase groceries for our family, not my first market trip ever), was with our dear friend, Bishop.  I told him what we wanted and he drove me around to all his favorite vendors.

Our first stop was chicken.  I’ve always wanted to catch and kill my own chicken. (Don’t ask why;  I’m just a little bit strange that way.)  Perhaps someday, but this was as close as I’ve gotten so far.  We picked out our chickens, and watched them kill and butcher it.  It was quite an experience, and very educational for my son.





Then, it was off to get vegetables, fruit, rice, etc….   Four hours, and a million stops later, we had everything we needed and were headed home.

Flash forward to two weeks later, and it’s time to hit the markets again.  This time, we are on our own.  Bishop sends us out with our driver and Mr. F, who is new to Kumasi, and not so aggressive with bartering.  We are a bit nervous.

See, for most everything in Ghana there are two prices: a local price, and an Obruni price.  Our price is usually twice what the local price is.  If you have a friend who knows how to barter, you can usually get the price down to somewhere between a reasonable price and a local price.  

Off we go.  First, we find the right market on the first try.  This is a good sign, because our driver isn’t that good with English or directions, and has a tendency to take us to his best guess of where he thinks we said we wanted to go. 

Things are going well.  I compare prices to what we paid last time.  For new items I just try to not pay more than I would in America.  I know often this means paying more than the locals, but when it comes to bartering, I am just not good.  My guilt complex goes into over drive and I have this overwhelming sensation that I am ripping people off.  In reality, I am the one being ripped off, and I am being ripped off simply because I am an American.

I go to the same vendors as last week, and promise to keep returning if they treat me right and offer fair prices.  Let’s hope this works!  I’ll let you know.

The next stop we make is for “cow”.  We’re kinda chickened out, and we’re still on a fish strike from our last stay in Ghana.  So, to the cow market we go.  The cow market----aka butcher alley---offers fresh meat, still in the process of being dissected into all the proper cuts.

We hit the first vendor we see when we walk in.  Mr. F begins to barter.  He quotes a price of 40 Cedis, and is giving me a look like this is too much, but the butcher isn’t budging, and I really want some cow!  I ask the man what part of the cow is it, and he hits his side.  Rump roast, I assume, and calculate that this is actually a pretty sweet deal, in American terms.  I pay the man his money.  I end up with two pounds of ground beef (which we ground ourselves---another story for another day), and two nice size roast, for about $25 USD.  Not bad.

Then, rather than do the sensible thing and just leave, we decide to have a look around.  What we got was an education.  Did you know that EVERY part of the cow is edible?  It is! And EVERY part of the cow is available here, at butcher alley. (What a day to leave my camera at home. :-( )  

We ask Mr. F if Ghanians eat every part of the cow.  He looks and us and says, “Yes!  We eat everything but the sh*t!”  And he was not kidding.  Want some cow tail or hoofs?  No problem.  How about some liver, kidneys, or stomach?  On the go, no time to make dinner?  Grab some stuffed, barbequed intestines on your way out.  Perhaps brains, tongue, or eyeballs are more to your liking.  We got that, too.   

However, if you’re in the mood to eat the cow’s “family jewels”, you’re just plain out of luck.  There’s a waiting list for that.  When it finally is your turn to purchase this delicacy, you’re gonna have to pay the price, because it is EXPENSIVE!  But, from what I’m told, very worth it.  I think I’ll just take their word for it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Update from Ghana and Funny Obruni Tales


A whole month has passed without a blog post from me!  Thankfully, Tesia and Elizabeth, have kept you up to date with many of the happenings here in Ghana.  Living, literally, like a fish out of water, is bound to bring about some very funny situations.  So, rather than bore you with the day to day details of the past month, I’ll share some of the funny “Obruni” moments we’ve had (Obruni means white person or foreigner in Twi), and then give you a brief summary of what we’ve been up to.  It’s gonna take me a few days to catch you all up, so be sure to check back daily.

Fetching Water
Jody, who is in charge of all things maintenance in our family, had left to fetch my parents from the Accra airport.  A five hour drive from us, he would have to stay the night in the city. Since company was coming, we spent all day getting things ready.  We were hot and in serious need of a bath.  No water.  No Jody to go fix the problem.  It was too late at night to tell the retreat manager or Bishop. Oh well, we’ll just sleep stinky.

Next day, still no water.  The pump has been turned on, which means water should be coming in about a hour.  We continue on our quest to get everything ready for our soon-arriving guests.  Late afternoon has come.  Guests will be arriving soon.  We stink.  Bad.  No water.  Something is wrong.  In our desperation, we decide bucket showers will have to do.  

For the non-camper, non-international traveler, let me explain what a bucket shower is.  It’s simple really.  You get a bucket of water.  You get a cup or bowl.  Fill the cup, pour it over your head, and proceed to “shower”.  

So, we ask the retreat center manager (Who we will call Ms. O.) to help us get some water from the well across the street.  We need her to help us explain to the well owner why two Obrunies (Tesia and myself) are in desperate need of his water.

The well owner kindly obliges.  Ms. O, a beautiful young lady in her mid 20’s, is having trouble fetching the water. She’s never used this well before.  She says, “There is another well down the street, I will get you water from there.”  Being kind, independent Americans, we can’t let her get our water on her own, so we insist on helping her.  She insist that she is “OK”.  We insist more.  Down the road we go.   The second well owner is not home. 

Ms. O says, “There is another well, but it is far.  I will get you water, and bring it to you.”   We, assure her, we can handle it.  We would feel bad if she had to bring the water back on her own.  It would mean many trips for her.  So, down the road we go.  Thankfully, it wasn’t really that far.  We were only about a quarter mile from home.  This is a public well that is not very deep.  You could bend over and reach the water.  Perhaps it’s more of a rain water reservoir than well.  The water sort of has a slight milky tint to it.  Certainly not as pure as we would like, but it’s either take our chances with the only water source available at the moment, or repulse our guests with our overwhelming stench.  

We fill four buckets.  Ms. O gives the first one to a young girl, about 8.  She hoists it on top of her head and takes off for home.  Ms. O puts the second bucket on her head, gives us a hopeless glance, and heads for home.  No worries. We got this.  We can carry two buckets of water a quarter of a mile.  

The next 30 minutes will be alive forever in Ghanaian folk tales.  Passed on for generations, the story of the Obrunies who couldn’t carry water.  We begin our journey, bucket of water in hand, and are plum wore out fifteen feet later.  A near-by lady, speaks to us in Twi, and pats her head.  Signaling us to put the bucket  on our head.

For generations, Ghanaians have carried heavy loads on their head.  They say, it is because for many years they did not have vehicles, and would carry things on their heads so they would not tire.  It is a known fact to them that, after just a little bit your arms will tire, but if you carry it on your head, you can go a long ways.  Must have to do with the whole center of gravity thing….I don’t know.  All I know is that they are right, because here we are, just five minutes in, and it feels like our arms are going to fall off.

We kindly tell the lady, although I doubt she understood, that we can’t put the buckets on our head.  We don’t know how.   We would just end up drenched, or worse, leave our weak American spines forever damage.  We trudge on another 15 feet, feeling the eyes of the lady on us, hearing her giggle to herself.

We pass a group of women, and they give us the same advice with the same gestures.  We give them the same answer, and keep on walking, struggling all the way.  They do not giggle to themselves, they full on laugh at us.

Soon, people from all around are coming to witness our humiliation.  They all offer the same advice, and laugh at us as we struggle.  And struggle we do.  We are panting, dripping in sweat, sloshing water everywhere, and stopping to take a break about every 10 feet now.

In desperation, I tried to pay a young boy to carry my water for me, but he just laughed.  Finally, when home is about 100 yards away, Ms. O comes to our rescue.  She and the little girl have already delivered their buckets of water, and have come back to take ours.  They make it look so easy, as they put the buckets on their head.  A skill we are too old and too weak to ever master.

So, if you are ever in Ghana, and you need to get water from a well, do not for a moment hesitate to take the help that is offered to you.  Chances are, the person offering to help knows what they are doing, and is saving you from a very embarrassing situation.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dancing Boy


Dancing Boy

Before the wedding ceremony began, when it was still the church service, my Dancing Boy decided to be brave and join the group of men praising God and dancing. They were happy to have him join, and taught him Ghanaian moves. He was quite a pro at the end.