Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We are in Belgium!

We were very sad to say good-bye to part of our team today today as some of us continued on to Belgium for more mission work and some of us went back to the USA.  For the next four days, the Belgium team will be working with Kyle and Amy Goen, church planters from Tennessee, in an effort to help them in their ministry.  We will also get to do some sightseeing and have a fun day in Paris, France at the end of the week.

Our home this week is a YWAM guesthouse in Brussels, Belgium.

Today we celebrated 18th birthday of team member, Lissy Olivares.  Happy Birthday Lissy!  Tomorrow we will celebrate the 16th birthday of Jackie Castro. Happy Birthday Jackie!

Tuesday in Agobogbloshie

Today the team visited Agbogbloshie, a village just outside Accra, which is home to many Dagomba people.  Many times this village is referred to as Sodom and Gommorah because of the awful living conditions there.

But there is hope in Agbogbloshie!  As you wind down the sewer strewn streets you will see a small Baptist church tucked between chop shops and shantys.  Inside that church are some of the most joyous people on earth.  They love the Lord and serve Him with gladness, regardless of their circumstances.

Our time with our friends at Agbogbloshie was priceless and we are thankful to be able to encourage them in some small way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monday in Mahamakrom

After a delayed flight out of Tamale, we finally arrived in Accra around 11:45am.  Our driver took us to drop our things at the guesthouse and then we went to a small, remote village about 2 hrs from Accra, named Mahamakrom.  The story behind this village and it's children is nothing short of amazing.

About five years ago, two American women from Texas found this village while on a church planting mission with a Ghanaian friend.  The school was in shambles and there was no water or electricity in the village.  God spoke to these ladies and they listened and a ministry to the children of Mahamkrom began.

Seeing this village and these children was very encouraging.  The different in their lives are remarkable. Only God could have woven all of these people and all of these good things together for His purposes.

Click here to read more about God's work in Mahamakrom.

Closing Ceremony at Shalom Baptist Church

Sunday was a special day for the American and Ghanaian teams, along with the members of Shalom Baptist Church of Tarikpaa village.  It was our last day to see them before we returned to the US. We enjoyed a wonderful Closing Ceremony that included special music by the talented Shalom Voices Choir and a message from Pastor Mohammed.  There were lots of smiles and lots of dancing.

Our Shalom friends gifted us with beautiful beaded bracelets, shea butter, clothes and shoes as a way of expressing their gratitude for our visit.  We struggled to say our good-byes and we took tons of pictures to remember them by.

One of the highlights of the day was presenting a Bible to a young man named Mishael.  The Bible had been sent with us by one of his friends in the US who was on a previous mission team.  He was so overwhelmed that he was at a loss for words.  He told us that he had just been praying about that very thing.  He had been asking God for a Bible and here it was!  His former Bible was falling apart and he did not have the funds for a new one.

We spent Sunday afternoon visiting with friends who dropped by the guesthouse and packing up our things for an early Monday morning departure to Accra.

Leaving our Ghanaian friends and loved ones is hard on them and on us.  We have grown very close to them these past few weeks and some of us having know them for several years.  We know that we will stay close in heart and possibly even be able to communicate via email, but face-to-face is so much better.

Please continue to pray for Pastor Mohammed and the members of Shalom Baptist Church.  They are doing a great work in the Northern Region.  They have planted several village churches and according to Pastor Steven, their head pastor, they are willing to go even further to reach the "uttermost".  We thank the Lord for the opportunity to engage with them in God's Kingdom work.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Navrongo Visit

Quick update:  Yesterday we had the incredible opportunity to travel to Navrongo to make contact with an unengaged people group, the Kasena.  Their lives are very difficult as they live without water and electricity.  Their area is very dry, so they also struggle getting crops to grow.  But somehow, someway, they survive.  And they need Jesus.  Our prayer is that God would direct those, including us, in how to reach them.  Would you join us?

Today is our last day of ministry in Tamale.  A few of the team members will be going to volunteer at a local children's home and the others will be going back out to do village evangelism.  Tonight we are being hosted for dinner by a friend of mine in Tamale.

Thank you again for your prayers and for all of your support.  Everyone is doing well and no one is ready to leave here. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Miss Mary Steele - A Modern Day Hero of the Faith

Last night after dinner, we had the incredible privilege of meeting and visiting with Miss Mary Steele.  Mary is from the UK and is an 80 something year old Wycliffe missionary who has lived in Ghana for 49 years.  She is a quiet, gentle, soft-spoken woman who doesn't like attention.  She is what anyone around would probably call ordinary.  But Mary is no ordinary person.  She's a modern day hero of the faith.

Mary came to Ghana to help translate the Bible into tribal languages.  In order to do that, she had to first go live in the village, build a relationship with the people and then learn the language herself.  After that, she had to develop a written alphabet, which included all the sounds (blends, tenses, etc) made by each letter.  Only then, could she and local tribe members begin translating the Bible into Konkomba, their heart language.  The first translation of the old testament took 17 years!  Can you imagine the dedication and perseverance it took for this? And that's not all!  She did it a second time with another tribal language and then she went back and translated the Old Testament for both languages.  She also helped write Bible stories, grammar books, and heathcare and hygience books in their languages.

Here's some information that will give you a glimpse into the impact Mary's work had on the Konkomba people:

In the first four years:
  • 2,325 communities set up listening groups
  • 96,915 people joined them
  • 6,375 of these believed
  • 2,931 people bought Bibles!

After hearing her story, we asked Mary if she had any words of advice for us as short-term missionaries.  She said, "Just remember.  God has a plan for each person and being here is part of his plan."

Mary is truly an amazing woman who has been one of God's witnesses to a lost and dying world.

 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

World Vision and the Witch Camp

Today we will be partnering with World Vision to serve the women of the KPatinga Witch Camp.  These old women are not witches.  They are just like you and me.  They have been shunned from their villages for various reasons and have made their way to this village to live with other women.  The journey to the camp is long and bumpy, but nothing compared to the journey they have made to just survive. 

Please pray with us for these precious women.   Pray for their health and for their well-being.Pray that we can be an encouragement to them in some small way and that our visit will be more about them and less about  us.

We are all looking forward to our time at KPatinga and hopefully we can write about it when we return.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Storytelling

Today was an incredible today for the team as they joined their Ghanaian teammates and translators in going into a mud-hut village and engaging villagers (mostly Muslim) in Bible storytelling. Many of the villagers prayed to receive Christ and others said they would think about it.  One team member even got to tell the Panorama story to the village Imam, who respectfully listened and politely declined to follow Christ. 

Chris and Jay, two of our teammates, traveled a couple of hours north with our Ghanaian friends and ministry partners, Baba Elijah and Paul Napari to the Navrongo area to make  initial contact with leaders of the Kasena tribe, an unengaged people group.   The entire team will have the opportunity to travel there and back on Friday.  We are all very excited about the incredible opportunity that God has placed before us to share Jesus with those who have never heard.  Please pray for the Kasena tribe leaders and villagers to know Jesus.

Please continue to pray for the health and safety of the team.  Also, pray for the villagers in Tarikpaa who will hear the Gospel tomorrow as we participate in more village evangelism.

We do our small part.  He does the big part...
Max Lucado - Live Out Your Life

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday in the Mud

Well, today was quite interesting!  It rained all.night.long. so we had to delay our departure to the village because some of the roads were impassable.  The roads are very sandy and somewhat rocky, so after some time, we set out for Tarikpaa and made it there just fine.  A few places in the road were washout out, but not impassable or even covered in water.

Today was the day we had planned to go to four different villages to deliver grain to widows and orphans.  This grain is from the maize field that was planted last season with the support and help of donors in the US and in partnership with Shalom Baptist Church.

We made formal presentations to three widows in Tarikpaa and then set out for Yipilegu, a village about 20 minutes away.  After going through parts of the path that seemed impossible to get through, we were driving along at a steady pace when all of a sudden the left side of the van sunk deep in the sand.  Two hours  and many village men later, we were finally pulled out by a tractor.  It was amazing to watch the teamwork that went into trying to get the van unstuck.  Men from all over just started showing up with shovels and machetes.  They cut tree branches and put under the tires, along with rocks that were picked up from the nearby field.  Many of them, including Pastor Mohammed and Pastor Issah, were covered from head to toe in mud before it was over with.

While the men worked on freeing the van, the girls, including Suyuhini and Dorcas (Pastor Steven's daughters) walked the short distance to a nearby village to play with the children.  Most of the older children were in school, so we had about 50 younger children to play with.  Someone (Tayler?) got out bubbles and the fun began!  I don't think I've ever witnessed such joy on the faces of children.  Watching the children run and squeal, trying to pop the bubbles as they floated in the wind, was priceless.  I don't know who it enjoyed it more, the village children or the team members!

After some time, the van was freed and we were able to visit two more widows and present the grain. It was an overwhelming and humbling experience to sit and listen to the widows explain the significance of receiving the grain and how it would help feed their children during the "lean" times.  They have such profound gratitude for something that seems so small to us.  It is not even possible to write much about this and explain it very well.  Things like this take time to process, so hopefully there will be a future blog post that can do it justice.

The day concluded with a revival service at Shalom in the evening.  The team had so much fun dancing with their African friends, especially Elisha and Mishael.  The preacher reminded us that we are witnesses, which was very fitting since today (Tuesday) we are going out to do village evangelism.

Please continue praying for the health of the team and for boldness, without fear, in witnessing.

One Team for God

Our remaining 8 team members arrived in Tamale on Sunday, a day later than expected.  There was a mix-up with date on the airline tickets from Accra to Tamale, so they got to spend their day traveling to Bodi Falls to see a beautiful waterfall and other sites.  The toughest thing for them was getting up at 3:00am two days in a row!  We are so happy to have them here.

On Sunday, Team 2 worshipped with our friends at Shalom Baptist Church in Tarikpaa, while Team 1 went to a Hope Baptist Church in Sankpem.  Sankpem is the village that so desperately needs water. The church is made up of mostly children and about 7-8 adults.  Most of the residents of this village practice voodoo.  Last year, we had the privilege of being here for the commissioning of their first church building.  Returning there for a worship service was very special.  When we arrived, there were about 40 children sitting under a big tree, singing songs with Pastor Issah, the children's minister.  The students, led by Jackie Castro, sang Rescue the Perishing, the song she wrote after returning from her first trip to Ghana last year.  The people were so happy to see us and it is our prayer that we were an encouragement to them in some way.

Before we left the village, we were asked to go see  a woman in the village who had requested that we come pray for her.  When we arrived at her compound, we found out that she was the oldest woman in the village and most likely the oldest woman in all of the surrounding villages.  She, nor her children, knew her age, but we estimated her age to be close to 100.  She had a hip problem and could only get around a little with a walking stick.  What a joy and privilege to pray with her!

The afternoon was spent resting and recovering from jet lag (for some).  Pastor Mohammed came to the guesthouse and shared his testimony with us later in the afternoon.  He shared how he had once been a Muslim and then heard an IMB missionary tell about Jesus.  His testimony is very powerful and it reminded all of us how much God loves each of us and the lengths He will go to to reach one of His children.

Again, we are so thankful for the arrival of the rest of our team.  We are no longer Team 1 and Team 2.  We are one team for God.

Thank you all for your prayers and support.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fridays at Anfaani Orphanage by Jackie

For the past two Fridays, Tayler, Jillian and I have gotten to work in Anfaani's orphanage. Anfaani's takes care of 10 precious babies. Our day there consists of playing with the kids, changing diapers, helping with the laundry and with feeding them, and doing everything we can to make them stop crying (this sometimes seems like an impossible task).
Our first Friday working there, July 1st, was such a great experience. They were so lovable and fun and really the happiest kids I've ever seen. I spent alot of time playing with baby Mona. She never stops giggling and holds on to you like she never wants to let you go. Tayler played lots of games with baby Nathan, the troublemaker of the group and the boy she has been sponsoring.
Usually the babies are so happy and easy to take care of but this past Friday, July 8th, we had a different experience there. They would cry if we picked them up, cry if we put them down, and peed on us about every 5 minutes. As soon as we would finish changing one there would be another baby waiting. By the 6th hour working there all I could do was laugh at the situation and I'm pretty sure Jillian and Tayler just about had a meltdown from all the screaming babies. It really made us appreiate the woman that work there 24/7. They spend all their time doing everything for these kids on little to no pay. There are very few workers there during the day and I can't imagine them doing all the work without any help. It's not an easy job.
The workers let me hold a baby on my back the way the African woman do, they tie a piece of material around you so your hands are free to hold even more babies. I can't imagine carrying a baby on my back all day with a bucket of water on my head while doing all the work the women in the village do.
After being soaked in pee and changing an endless number of diapers it was time for nap time. I almost cried tears of joy. We usually lay on the hard floor with the workers during nap time but we found out there was a volunteer room with a bed! At the end of the day we went home happy and thankful even if we were exhausted. Those sweet babies are such a blessing and thinking about them always puts a smile on my face.

July 5- Mole National Park by Jillian

We woke up at 6:30 this morning to begin the three hour journey to Mole National Park. Everyone, for the first hour and a half listened to music and attempted to sleep down the bumpy dirt road. After forty-five minutes of bouncing up and down, I gave up on sleep. After an hour had passed we heard a clank, and Mr. Nash, our driver pulled over. He got out of the van, muttered, "exhaust pipe," and kept driving. We could hear the pipe dragging against the road as we enetered a town. The village people's heads turned, wondering what that awful noise was. Joseph joked, "yes, look at all the white people." Soon we heard a louder clank, and Mr. Nash retrived the broken off exhaust pipe, and then continued driving as if nothing had happened.
We arrived at Mole- yes, the car in one piece (minus the exhaust pipe)- and saton the observation deck where we could see elephants bathing in the water hole a distance off. I was a little scared by how comfortable the monkeys and baboons were around us. As we were eating lunch, we saw a baboon jump on a table, and grab the salt shaker. He ran off with it, and we watched him pop off the lid and empty the salt into his mouth. We heard the baboons liked to open doors and go into people's rooms (a warning to keep our door locked).As we were walking to put our bags in our room, a guy told us a babook walked into his room, stole his cliff bars, leaving nothing but the wrapper on his bed. We also saw one walk into the ladies' restroom.
Our team took the 3:30 driving tour. Our guide (with a loaded rifle) took us to a watering hole and we saw a momma elephant with three of her babies. I didn't realize how huge the momma was until she got out of the water. She stood about 20 feet tall. It was such an experience to observe them in their natural habitat. I just kept repeating to myself, "wow, this is so cool."

Arrival and Delays of Team 2

We are so very thankful for the safe arrival of the rest of our 8 team members, including one who flew from Brussels to Accra, via Amsterdam.  They spent a few hours at the guesthouse in Accra, getting acclimated.  Most of them played card games, visited with some members of the Anankra family who came to greet them, and enjoying some popcorn and Coke. Oh, and don't forget th free Wi-Fi!  An added  bonus!

This morning they depart the guesthouse at 4:00am for their 5:30am flight to the Northern Region.  When they arrived at the airport early this morning, there was problem with their tickets and they were not booked on this flight. (TIA)  The plane only flies North once a day, so they will fly early Sunday morning.  Although we are all disappointed that we will not see them today, we know they will have a fun day in Accra.  They will be visiting Boti Falls, which is a short road trip outside of Accra.  This will give them a great introduction to the culture as they will watch Ghana go by as they travel.  They will enjoy meat pies for lunch and chicken and rice for dinner.  We were very thankful that GILLBT Accra could accommodate them for another night.

Team 1 will continue to prepare for their arrival today and also spend some time with Ghanaian friends.  We may even go shopping in the market for some goodies to bring back home.

In Africa, or on any mission, the number one thing a team member can do to be helpful is to be flexible.  That means letting go of control issues, completely trusting your leadership, being thankful for what does go according to plan and also thankful for what does not go according to plan.  God is never surprised by anything and we know He is in control of this mission and everything that goes with it.  We are thankful for His presence no matter where we are or what we are doing.

Please continue to pray for the team (we are one team now) and feel free to post comments.  We see them and read them to the others.

Friday, July 8, 2011

They Knew We Were Coming

I have been doing mission work in Ghana for nine years, and mostly in the Northern Region, so being in a culture that is predominantly Muslim is nothing new to me.  Just like many Christians in the US and other parts of the world, many of them are "cultural" Muslims.  The teams have always had easy access to the government schools in the villages where we go in and engage them in Bible storytelling, songs and games. 

Until now.

They knew we were coming. And they were ready.

How did they know we were coming?  Because they had their eyes and ears open.  Before our arrival, the local pastors approach the village chiefs and school headmasters seeking permission for us to come to the schools.  Most, but not all of them, are Muslim.  The local Imams are very involved with knowing what is going on with the children and they stay in close contact with the teachers at the schools.  It is not unusual to see the local Imam sitting on the school steps during the school day, keeping watch.

How were they ready?  Recently there has been a big push for Islam in the North like never before.  There are two organizations pouring  tons of resources into this area, and one of them is from the USA (shocking or at the very least surprising, isn't it?)  I've been in many rural villages in the past two weeks and every single one of them has a new mosque.  The local Imams are holding Arabic classes for all the children in the afternoons, after school dismisses and on Saturdays.  They have taught the older boys to ask key questions (we've heard the same questions in two village schools) that challenge the Christian faith.  These questions focus primarily on the virgin birth of Jesus and the Trinity.

Ho do we respond?  First of all, we don't debate.  Secondly, when this occurs we call in Pastor Mohammed, a former Muslim and the national pastor we work with, to answer the questions.  We actually thank God for these opportunities because it is a way for these children to hear the Truth.  They are free to ask any questions, instead of just the ones they have been trained to ask.  How amazing that the Lord gives us this opportunity to share the love of Christ with them in this way?

Does this worry us?  No, not at all (not because we serve a bigger God, but because we serve the ONE True God), but it has been a sobering reminder to the Ghanaians and Americans that we MUST DO MORE to spread the Gospel.  Not just here, but all over the world.  And we must train our children, not just send them to someone else once a week and hope they "get it".  We need to bind the Word of God on their hearts and hands (and ours as well).

All Christians should be able to defend their faith.  Can you?

Links to Pictures

In case you are not able to see the team pics that have been posted to facebook, you can click here to view the pics of our trip to Mole National Park.

You can click here to see some general team mission pics.  I try and add to this every now and then.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


(insert amazing picture of the storm here.  I tried for over an hour to get it to upload, to no avail)

Well, sometimes you are just too busy living it to write about it and that has been the case with our team.  I"ll try to do better the next couple of weeks.

On Sunday, we worshipped with our friends at Shalom Baptist in Tarikpaa.  Pastor Steven Napari preached and right in the middle of his sermon, a huge storm began to pass over.  We were thankful that the church had recently been roofed, but there are no window coverings or doors, so in came the fierce rain with the cool wind.  We were actually cold (and so were our Ghanaian friends!).  We had to wait awhile before we could leave the church because the Kumbumgu road is a dirt road and there are no drainage ditches.  We made it back to the guesthouse just fine, very thankful for the rain. It is planting season here and the rain is needed for the crops.

On Monday, we went back to Tarikpaa and did a VBS program for the lower primary students.  We have been going to this school every summer for several years so they know all the songs, which is really fun.  It reminds me that sometimes we reap the harvest that others have sown.  I am thinking of people like Audrey Salter, Elizabeth Mateer, Birgitte Obenchain, Amy Adams, Taylor Duggan and so many more who have spent their time in this field.  The children remember.

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Mole National Park, which was a four hr drive over mostly bumpy dirt roads, but so worth it.  Hopefully one of the team members will blog about that tomorrow, so please check back.

Please remember Team 2 in your prayers as they will be departing the US on Thursday at 1:30pm.  We have 8 more team members joining us and we are really looking forward to their arrival.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Saturday - Orphan Care and Shopping

On Saturday, Jillian, Jackie and Tayler spent the day volunteering at a local orphan home.  The orphan home now has 9 babies, ages 2 and under.  The girls played with, rocked, changed, fed and napped them.  The workers there spend long hours at their jobs, so when the babies nap, so do they.  When I arrived to pick the girls up at 4:00pm, I found all three of them, along with one of the regular workers, sprawled out on the tile floor by the baby beds, sound asleep.  It was so cute and funny.

Colton and Joseph enjoyed sleeping in and then wandering around town.  Of course, Joseph found some chocolate chip cookies at a store, which he gladly shared with us later.  We didn't care that they were smashed to smithereens and in about a zillion little pieces.  They were wonderful!  They also discovered another little treasure, but that will stay a secret for now until our reinforcement (Team 2) arrives.  We are going to surprise them with it.

I spent my day in Tamale running errands.  I was able to find some really good Ghanaian curriculum for the new preschool that is opening at Shalom in September.  I also found some good quality plastic bowls for a good price for the school children, which is important because the nutritional supplements (powder) needs to be sprinkled on individual serving.  In this culture, several children normally share food from one bowl.

Prayer Needs:
*Continued good health for the American and Ghanaian teams
*A young Muslim man who we met a few days ago who is wanting to follow Jesus but will suffer great persecution from his family when he goes public with the decision.  At great risk, he actually spent two days on the field with our team, helping translate Bible stories.
*Team 2 preparing to depart Thurs
*our families back home
*for everything we say and do to glorify God

Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.  It is so wonderful to know that you all are there for us.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Ishawu's family with colton and cheryl - this is the child who almost died from starvation last year
 Dagomba child - the marks on his cheeks are tribal markings
 Team with Chief of Sankpem - this is the waterless village.  They are so desperate for clean water.
 The Chief was very kind to gift us with guinea fowl eggs as a way of showing his appreciation for our help in trying to get water to his village.  There have been two attempts at bore holes, but there is no water. There is a pipeline that we could tap into, but the local officials are attempting to extort money from us in order to get it.  There are no words to describe the frustration this causes.  Please pray as we meet with the district officials again in a couple of weeks.
 Bunny ears on a Chief?  Really Jackie? oh my.