Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday in Yipieligu by Jillian

During breakfast we talked about the importance of teamwork. In America we are so used to doing things for ourselves. In America it is a social norm to refuse help from others, revealing confidence in ourselves. Being in a different country, with different social norms, it is important to work as a team with our Ghanaian translators, as well. After breakfast the six of us (Jackie, Colton, Joseph, Tayler, Mrs. Read, and I) hopped in a van and headed down the long bumpy road to Yipieligu Village.
After arriving, we learned one hundred and fifty children attended primary school (K-4) in Yipieligu. We split the children up into three groups. Colton, Mohammad, Suyuhini, and I shared a story with one group. The story told about creation, the fall of man, Abraham, the prophet Isaiah, and then Jesus. More importantly, we stressed the need for this Savior named Jesus. Because Jesus died and rose to life again, we could have a good relationship with God despite our sinful nature. Tayler, Jackie, and Drusilla sang songs with one group of children. The kids were singing and dancing... I could tell how excited they were by how loud they were. I can just imagine children singing- or yelling ;) - "Hallelujah" being music to God's ears. Joseph and Peter played futbol outside. Yesterday when my group asked if any of the children had any questions, one raised his hand and said, "can we go play futbol?" Not the type of question we were looking for, but I was happy to hear they enjoyed it so much.
We drove back to Tarikpaa village, and we had lunch with our Ghanaian teammates. Right before lunch a phone rang and Peter (one of our translators) tapped me on the shoulder. "It's Uriah," he said. Uriah was one of my translators during hut-to-hut evangelism last year, and I was very excited to hear from him that he will be travelling back to Tarikpaa from school this Sunday to see our team. I have loved reconnecting with people from last year. I met a shy little boy named Isaiah last year who stole my heart. I saw him a couple days ago and gave him a picture of us that I took last year. As I gave it to him, I watched a smile creep on his face.
These kind of special relationships make coming back to Ghana so much sweeter.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday in Zugu

This morning I scrambled the guinea fowl eggs that the Sankpem Chief gifted us with.  We also had oatmeal and fried cinnamon toast.  Preparing food here is not an easy task as we are cooking on a very small gas stove and we also have to figure out what food we can get from the market that we know how to prepare.  We are so thankful for our dear friend Cynthia who has already prepared several meals for us.  Tonight she made us Red Red, which is fried plantain (very sweet) with a red sauce poured over it.  The red sauce consists mainly of tomato paste and black-eyed peas, along with a few spices.  I think it is my favorite Ghanaian food.  We also had fresh watermelon and mango.  While we were having Red Red, Cynthia was having a piece of bread with peanut butter spread on top (at her request).  Seemed kind of funny that we were eating Ghanaian food and she was eating American food.

Today we went to Zugu village to do VBS in the school.  There were over 300 children there, but the team jumped right in and made it work.  We were there for over two hours, telling Bible stories, playing futbol and singing songs.  In one of the classes for the older students, a few of the Muslim boys began challenging what we were saying about Jesus being God's son and born of a virgin.  Pastor Mohammed took over the lesson, mainly because we did not want to cause problems or say something wrong.  The end result was a very good lesson for us that we should know why we believe what we believe.  As Americans, we rarely, if ever, have to defend our faith.  Here, the Christians are greatly outnumbered and many of them are persecuted for their faith, so they know why they know what they know.

Some of you may remember that about 1 1/2 years ago Pastor Mohammed discovered a little boy named Ishawu and his sister Adijah who were near death due to starvation.  He took them to the hospital and got them nutritional supplements, which helped tremendously.  Last year we saw Ishawu walk for the first time.  He had been laying down for almost six years.  Adijah had been laying down for 2 years.  The mother was a widow and near starvation herself.  Through the Widow Care Program, Ishawu's mom received two goats last year and some funds to expand her small business of making a local cookie to sell.  Today we got to see the result of that.  She is now able to make and sell the "cookie" every day, bringing almost 5X as much income as before.  The difference was apparent as there was food in the cooking pot and healthy smiles on their faces.

Perhaps the highlight of the day (for me at least) was seeing Ishawu at school!  He is still so tiny for his age, but his mind is good.  I had wondered about that because he had been sick for so long and his head was large for his body.  I had a conference with his teacher who told me that he knows his letters and is doing quite well.  He also asks questions, which shows that he is thinking things through.  We also went to his house (mud hut) and visited with his mother and sister.  They are doing well, praise God.

After going back to Tarikpaa and having lunch (us - peanut butter/bread, them - rice/beans) and fellowship, we returned to the guesthouse for dinner and few more hands of spades.

Right now a I type (8:15pm), I am listening to the gentle African rains that often come at night.  The weather is mild and we haven't lost electricity once since we arrived, which means air conditioning at night.  After a long day on a dusty road it feels SO good.

Thank you all so much for your prayers.  We need them, we feel them and we depend on them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday in Sankpem

Last evening on their way home from our guesthouse, our dear friends Paul and Cynthia were in a one-car accident.  We thank God that they are okay, although Cynthia as a sore knee and the vehicle was damaged too much to drive.  We are hopeful that it can be repaired without too much cost.  Since Paul was our driver and we were using his vehicle, we had to find another means of transportation.  We were very thankful that Mr. Nash, a former driver for me, was available.

We headed out to Tarikpaa around 9:00am to meet with our Ghanaian team for prayer and devotions.  Since we now have a 12 passenger van we were able to transport our Ghanaian team to Sankpem instead of them riding their bicycles.  Sankpem is several miles away from Tarikpaa.

Sankpem village is a hard place to live.  They do not have a water source except for a pond that looks like coffee with creamer in it.  The villagers there suffer a great deal.  Two bore holes have been dug in the past few years, but no water.  Now there is a major water pipeline that has been laid down the Kumbungu road, which could be one way to get water to the village.  Chris will be meeting with the District water manager in a couple of weeks to see what can be done about that.  We met with him last year, but he wasn't much help.  We are hoping that now that the water pipe is in, he will work with us in getting water to Sankpem.

The first thing we did was to meet with the Chief.  He remembered me from years past and said he was thankful that his village has not been forgotten and that we are trying to help.  He gave me about a dozen guinea eggs as a token of friendship.  He also extended an invitation of marriage of Jackie, my youngest team member.  We all had a good laugh about that.

After that, we went to Hope Baptist Church for a VBS type program.  Jillian, with Colton's help, did an outstanding job telling the panorama story to the children, using the puppets.  When the children saw her carrying the puppets in (in a clear plastic bag) they were pointing and saying, "Babies!  Babies!".  They had never seen puppets before.  Jackie and Tayler sang songs with them for a long time.  It was so cute to see them do the Hokey Pokey and it was really funny to see them try to teach them how to do The Wave.  Joseph was not able to play futbol with them because there wasn't a field close by, so he went outside and made friends with a young farmer boy.  Joseph is like a gentle giant and even though some of the kids are afraid of him at first, they usually warm up to him in just a few minutes because of his gentle spirit.

After our visit to Sankpem, we went back to Tarikpaa and enjoyed fellowship with our Ghanaian teammates.  They ate their local food and we ate ours (bread and peanut butter).  We can't eat their food because of the water it is cooked in, but they wanted to try peanut butter and they loved it!  Ground nuts (peanuts) are a huge commodity here, but they have never had it in creamy form.  Of course, there were lots of little children coming around to play and the team didn't disappoint them.

We came back to town around 4:00pm and then went to Quality First supermarket (think 7-11 about 50 yrs ago).  I found some frozen green beans that had Hebrew writing on it and some antibacterial cleaner for our kitchen countertops.  Of course, Joseph found the Fan Ice.  We had spaghetti/green beans/mango/pineapple/banana for dinner.  Oh, and I can't forget the fried garlic toast.  (no oven remember?)  I put Joseph in charge of cooking it and that was an experience all on its own.

Today was a great day.  Tomorrow we will go to Yipiliegu village.

P.S.  I tried to upload pictures but after a couple of hours, I gave up.  Maybe next time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27 - Our first day of village ministry

We began our day with breakfast/devotions at 8:30am.  Colton brought the devotion and he reminded us of the importance of doing what we do for the Lord, and not for ourselves.  We had oatmeal, toast (toasted in a frying pan - we have no oven) and boiled eggs for breakfast.  No one ever complains about the food, which always amazes me.  Teenagers in the US are so conditioned to eating what they want, when they want, and how they want but when they come to Africa, they just eat whatever is there.  I love that about student teams.  Of course, if your name is Joseph, you bring an extra suitcase with nothing in it but packages of Oreos, crackers, pop tarts, Starburts, candy, etc.  Seriously!  That boy could open a small market inTamale and make good money.  Hmmmm...

Today was also the day we met our Ghanaian team members at Shalom Baptist Church in Tarikpaa.  Since school is still in session, our team is mostly comprised of university students on summer break and adult team members.  We were so happy to see Elisha, Mishael, Eunice, Suyuhini, and others.  While the American team drove by SUV to the remote village of Kushibo, our Ghanaian counterparts rode their bicycle down a dirt path.  They beat us there, of course.

The students did an outstanding job teaching Bible stories, singing songs and playing futbol (soccer) with the kids at the Kushibo school.  While they were doing that, Eunice and I walked through the village and did Bible storytelling with small groups of women.  One woman that I've known for about five years, listened to the story and told me that she knew that Jesus was King and that everything I said was true, but she was a Muslim and could not change that.  I hear that a lot.  There's no easy answer or quick fix to that way of thinking.  It just takes prayer and more prayer and lots of perseverance in continuing to share Christ with them.

This afternoon we went to Anfaani Children's Home.  I love everything about Anfaani, except the fact that the children there are orphans.  It is well-maintained, meaning that the children are well cared for and the place is immaculate.  Tayler had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours playing with Nathan, her sponsored child.  The rest of us played with all nine babies and I had the special privilege of holding and rocking a two weeks old baby girl.  There is just something so right about visiting orphans.

We once again enjoyed a wonderful dinner (spaghetti) prepared by Cynthia.  Tomorrow is another day of village ministry and we are looking forward to it.

June 26 - Worship at Shalom

Today was a beautiful Africa day.  It is the rainy season here so the weather is fairly mild, which means it was in the 80's.  We enjoyed a breakfast of omelets and yeast rolls before heading out to Tarikpaa village.

Our first trip to the village is always filled with anticipation knowing we will see old faces and make new friends.  African church worship is so unique and different than most American church worship. There seems to be so much more freedom of worship here and we enjoy every minute of it.

Last year, upon returning home, one of our team members, Jackie Castro, wrote and recorded a song about her experience here.  It was called "Rescue the Perishing".  Today Jackie, along with Joseph, Jillian, Tayler and Colton sang that song for the church members.  They loved it.  Jackie commented later that it was very special to her to be able to sing the song she wrote about these people to these people.

After worship and fellowship with our Shalom friends, we headed back to the guesthouse for lunch and rest. 

Later on in the day we went to meet with Rev. Baba Elisha.  He is of the Kasena tribe.  As part of our mission this year, we are going as a team to do some research and make contact with this tribe to see if there is a possibility of doing a church plant there in the future.  The tribe is located further north, almost to Burkina Faso.  We would appreciate your prayers as we seek God's favor in this situation.

Cynthia Napari, Paul's wife, cooked dinner for us.  She made chicken and jolof rice.  The fruit here is amazing, so we always have mango, pineapple, banana,, watermelon and/or oranges with our meals.

We are really excited to see what God has in store for this team and the people in the villages.

June 24-25

We thank God for a smooth flight and safe arrival in Ghana.  We were greeted at the airport by our dear friends, Francis Osei and Pastor Mohammed.

Our first night was spent at the GILLBT Guesthouse. We were so surprised when they served us chocolate cake, meat pies and popcorn upon arrival.  I've never had popcorn in Ghana! After 17 hours in planes and airports, we were happy just to have our feet planted on African soil.

We were all jet-lagged so we retired early.  The weather was so mild that we slept with our windows open, enjoying the quiet rains and cool breeze that came in the night.

We were up at 3:30am to catch a 5:30am flight to Tamale, in the Northern Region.  We had another smooth flight and again we were greeted by a special friend, Paul Napari who transported us to the GILLBT Guesthouse.  I've been bringing teams to here for so long that it feels like home.  We spent the remainder of the day resting, getting acclimated and participating in team orientation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Going Scared

A few years ago I was sitting in a large group of Believers on a Sunday morning when suddenly the leader stopped and said to me, "You have been going to Africa for several years, so you go with complete confidence and no fear, right?"  My head knew the answer he was seeking, but my heart jumped into my mouth and said, "I go scared every time."  The class erupted in laughter and the point he was trying to make dissolved into oblivion.

I've thought about that moment many times since then, realizing that it is not really fear (lack of trust in God) that most team members experience as much as it is a humbleness of heart and a sincere desire to follow after the things of God and not after the things of man. It's a feeling of not wanting to fail Him and wanting with every fiber of our beings to glorify God in all we do. You see, it is easy to become enthralled with the "coolness" of going to Africa.  After all, we're treated like rock stars there, mainly just because of the color of our skin.

I really like what Chuck Swindoll has to say on the subject of having a humble servant's heart.  He writes, "When you have a servant's heart, you're humble. You do as you're told. You don't rebel. You respect those in charge. You serve faithfully and quietly without concern over who gets the credit." He continues with, "A servant has one great goal, and that is to make the person he serves look better, to make that person even more successful. A servant does not want the person he serves to fail. A servant doesn't care who thinks what, just so the job gets done." (Click here to read the entire article)

Our goal with this mission is to serve God in such a way that only He gets the credit.  We want to exalt and glorify the name of Jesus for it is only by His great grace that we are able to go at all.

O Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear.
Ps. 10:17