Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Our Daily Blessing

Guest Blogger: Victoria Vazquez, Age 18 years

I have no words to even fathom the last week and a half. I have tried to write this blog post a million times and currently I am asking for God to give me words when I have none...
Last Thursday night, we went out for a market outreach. My heart was heavy as we pulled in and I saw many children living by themselves in this tough environment. There was a young , pregnant girl being dragged away by her abusive boyfriend. There were many fights breaking out among boys my age. There were children having to appear tough because the older boys would brutally pick on them...
Meet Emmanuel. He is a young boy who lives in the market. He and an older boy of age 12 have partnered together in the hope of helping each other survive. When we arrived with meals to eat, this boy ate for the first time in many days. We went to the market with two orphanages, GMI and Nyame Dua. One of the boys from Nyame Dua heard Emmanuel's story and gave Emmanuel two cedis. That was all Zubel, the boy from Nyame Dua, had. I am reminded of the story of the widow who gave all she had and Jesus said that she gave more than all the other rich people because it was everything she owned... What a humbling experience.  What more can I give, because I certainly have not given everything I have? What more can we, the American church, give to the rest of the world? The answer is very straight forward: We can give so much more...
Meet Grace. Her parents are pastors and she sings in her church choir. She was at the market looking for answers to life. She wanted to be "cool". So many are fooled by the allusions of freedom, when in reality these children are then bound by the chains of starvation and abuse. I was able to talk to Grace and tell her the precious gift of family that she has. She agreed to continue in her church and to stay with her family. Grace said I was like a sister to her and the only sister she ever had was deceased. Her sister was named Victoria... What a powerful moment. We never know how God can use our words, even in our weakness, to impact other's lives.
(Grace is far right)
Two days after this market outreach, we received terrible news. That Saturday morning, one of the Feeding the Orphans sponsored children had been admitted to the hospital. He was a precious baby named Atsu and he was only 15 months old. They would not treat him, though he needed urgent attention, until there was money. Since his mother, Esther, had no money, she was left watching her son get sicker and sicker. Later that day, money arrived, and they did all they could do to save this little boy... But his heart stopped and the BEST teaching hospital in the COUNTRY did not have the BASIC instruments in the EMERGENCY Children's ward to notice his stopped heart or do anything about it. Mr. Ochs tried CPR on this little baby, but Atsu went into his Heavenly Father's arms that night.  Atsu's brother, Etse, was admitted to the hospital that day with the same symptoms. We praise God because He is doing better, but the loss of Atsu is still heavy on many hearts.

Esther told us in the hospital that if it had not been for God bringing Feeding the Orphans into her life, she would not even be alive. Now she works making different things that are sold by Feeding the Orphans to support herself and her two, now one, baby boy. 
A week later, we received awful news that my pastor had died tragically the night before. Once more, I was face to face with the concept of death. I did not know how to fathom it and I still have no idea how to grasp it all... All I recall is simply holding on to Reid and Robin and crying. Pastor Robert was by far the best pastor I've ever had. His jokes, wisdom, and realness were things I greatly admired. He was always welcoming during my random pop-ups in the church office. He is missed and the loss of His life is heavy on my heart. Community Bible Church has become my church family in so many ways and in every extent. I long to mourn and grieve with my family in this, but I know God has placed me on the other side of the world during this time for a reason. So instead of asking why, I ask God what He is teaching me with this.
Two days later, it was time for little Atsu's burial. Due to the fact that white people had been seen, the process of obtaining this little boy's body had been made much more complicated so that more people would have the opportunity to be bribed. After this affair, it was finally time for a moment I had been dreading. We were to obtain the body and it would ride in the car with us to the burial site...
I went with Reid and Mason to the morgue (the doctor had called it The Freezer). The morgue was just a couple run-down buildings with a constant smell. After an hour of waiting in this place, we were able to obtain Atsu's body and drive to meet everyone else. As we rode to the other side of this huge hospital, all I could think of was the fact that there was a dead baby in the same car as me. My stomach churned and stayed in a knot the rest of the day.
The cemetery was not a respected place. Many just hung out there and I assumed they were waiting for jobs to dig more graves... We wept as Atsu was lowered into the ground and covered with trash-filled dirt. The cries of sweet Esther, Atsu's mother, are so vivid in my memory. My heart is so heavy at the loss of Atsu, but the pain she is experiencing is at another level that I cannot understand...
Right in the middle of this week, I celebrated my 18th birthday. My precious family here made the day quite special. Throughout the day, I constantly wondered how I could get the joy of celebrating 18 years, when Atsu barely got 1...

God has taught me the reality of how short our life on Earth is. He has shown me that at any moment, that life can come to an end. He has also shown me that I need to be raw and real with Him because He understands me better than I can understand myself. He has also begun to reveal the calling for my life. My desire to give my whole life to Him has grown in astounding ways.
God has given us all the blessing in that His plans are much better than ours. In the big ways, like death, or in the small ways. Yesterday we learned this in our day that didn't go as planned. The day consisted of 5 hours in market traffic and only 20 minutes out in the market. We experienced the joy of seeing an excited face of a Feeding the Orphans lady when we bought her new sewing machine. We saw the heartbreak in young girls carrying lots of weight on their heads and the heartbreak of young hawkers who should have been in school. We also experienced joy in simply spending time together.
This week was also my last week of teaching at Faith Roots International Academy. The bond I have made with the teachers and students there is so sweet. These kids and staff have taken a special place in my heart. I know I will miss them terribly. Their passion to learn and overcome is something that I admire. God has taught me a lot and humbled me in even more ways with these sweet kids. 

Every day is a gift, but it is our choice whether we use that gift to glorify God. I am at peace because I know little Atsu and our dear Pastor Robert are in Heaven. They have renewed strength and are soaring high with wings like eagles in my Heavenly Father's arms. God is good, ALL THE TIME, He is good, for His ways our much higher than ours. He loves us with a love no one can fathom and the hurt of the world is something He has seen since the beginning of creation! He is giving me the gift to see this hurt and to have my heart break like His, so that I can go and glorify Him with a passion that comes from above. I love my Heavenly Father so much and without Him, I would be nothing. I praise Him because He experienced the greatest tragedy of all: Jesus' death on a cross, so that I, who constantly fail Him, can be forgiven. WOW!!! To God be the glory, forever and ever.
"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Commandment, Not A Calling

Guest Blogger: Victoria Vazquez, Age 18 years

What would happen if, as Christians, we all got up and made disciples of all nations? What would happen if we all went and cared for the least of these? What if we fed orphans and gave them homes? If each one of us who claim to be Christians proceeded to go, as we are called, then there wouldn't be thousands of fatherless, starving children... The bible tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. It tells us to care for the widows, orphans, and the least of these. It tells EVERYONE to go and do this. 

I have always lived in America with a mindset that I was not American. I did not believe myself to belong to a culture that always wanted more. I did not want to belong to a culture that had a passion for comfort. My heart would break as I was reminded of the starving children in the world and my overflowing table. I would be reminded of the fatherless children and the way I many times took my own father for granted... So now I am in Ghana and I feel more American than ever before because I feel as if I am not doing enough to share the love of Christ.

I have been pushed beyond my borders in my fears, hopes, failures, and everything one can think of. I have cried and wept for a hug from home thinking I could not take on anymore. I have curled up in the arms of my Heavenly Father countless times seeking a comfort and peace that only He could provide. But there are others who die for professing the Gospel... There are others who are persecuted, killed, tortured... I want to do more, but honestly I do not believe I can take on anymore. In reality, I could not even take on this trip in itself. God has shown me that I am no longer in control, but have to render control to Him, the Great I Am; and honestly, I would have it no other way.

A few weeks ago, the older Beebe boys and I stayed at Nyame Dua, an orphanage in a rural village. We were able to love on the children there and play with them. It was a blessing to be the hands and feet of Jesus there. The night we stayed there the power went out. I recall already being a little freaked out to sleep in a room by myself with the Muslim prayer call going off right outside my window, so this power outage was NOT in my plans. We sat outside in the dark night with the kids and watched the bright lightening in the sky. This was the same beautiful sky in America. God is the same there as He is here. That night I rested peacefully knowing that no matter what was to come the same God who had taken care of me all my life would continue to take care of me in Ghana.

The next day was one of tremendous humility and heartbreak. We were able to visit a little girl named Victoria who has a powerful story. Let me tell you about Victoria...
Victoria's grandmother was carrying baby Victoria when she fell into the sewage-filled gutter. The grandmother continued to have problems after the fall, so it was assumed that little Victoria was a witch who had caused this turmoil. Victoria was not fed by her mother and grandmother; they would simply send her out to collect water sachets to sell and feed them. While Victoria was out collecting and doing this gruesome work, she would beg for food to survive. Victoria has since then been sponsored and now attends school. Victoria has hope now!
When we went to visit Victoria, we asked to see her school. As we walked through the village to see her school, she was sneered at. Many did not believe someone as poor as her deserved to even walk with "Obruni's", white people. As she was sneered and jested, the little girl did not say a word; she took the abuse silently. This little girl has a tremendous story of despair yet full of hope... A young girl with the same name as I, a totally different story, but loved and cherished by the same Almighty God!!!!

After returning to Nyame Dua, we asked a beautiful thirteen year old, named Sophia, if she would share her story. She responded with silent tears. She could not even fathom to put her story to words because there was so much pain from her past. She is only thirteen years old... I do not know her story, but I can see the pain and hurt that still haunt her. This young girl is now sponsored and attends school! During my stay at Nyame Dua, I was able to go and see the classroom where my young friend learns. I was also able to help her with her schooling. Her passion to learn is extraordinary.

Every month, we celebrate the birthdays of the children at the orphanages GMI and Nyame Dua. Something so simple, but yet it makes the kids feel so special. This past Saturday we were able to take the younger kids to the beach for this special celebration. The beach did not have the expected clean, white sand, but on the contrary, it had trash filled waters and a seaweed, trash covered sand. Personally I found it very gross, but yet these children were having a blast! So many times I take that cleanliness for granted, yet these children were thankful for the opportunity to simply swim. WOW!

As we were at the beach, I watched young Cynthia (13 years old) act as a mother to this little girl. She didn't really know the little girl on her back, but all she knew was that she was crying and needed to be held. When little Sarah fell asleep in Cynthia's arms, Cynthia backed her and that was that. Cynthia is a skinny, 13 year old and to carry a kid on her back for a few hours was extraordinary. I pictured my 13 year old sister back home and realized culture hadn't made her step up like that. The perspective and contrasting pictures were something that made me desire a deeper understanding of Ghanaian culture.

After the beach, we returned to GMI and simply spent time with the kids. One boy was glued to me for most of the afternoon. This little boy was named Emmanuel. He wrote me a letter and simply talked to me. Emmanuel was used to stir something in my heart that I simply cannot explain. So many kids are like him, tender, sweet, and loving, yet they have no family. How much would it take for us, "The Church", to step up and give a family to these kids? Why can't we depend on God and go for it? I pray that we can not only continue to sponsor children, like my young friend Emmanuel, with food and schooling, but that we can step up and offer a family to them.

Being in Ghana has changed my perspective on the world. It is no longer my safe zone to step up only when I am convenienced by it;  it is my mission field. And what is my mission? To love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, and soul...and then to love my neighbor as myself.  We are called to care for the widows, orphans, and least of these. We are called to go and do something about the brokenness in the world. We are called to care for these children like Emmanuel, Cynthia, Sophia, and Victoria. Followers of Christ, it's time to step up. Let's do something.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline." -2 Timothy 1:7

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said, 'Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." -Mark 10:25

What If There's a Bigger Picture?

I found this blog post that was written after in January of 2013.   (Yes, over 1 1/2 years ago!) Since it was never posted, I thought it would be a treat to look back on God's goodness today.  Enjoy...

My sister, Kelly, and her entire family spent two weeks with us over Christmas.  We ministered side-by-side and spend long days together at outreaches, orphanages, and with children in various parts of the country.  Having them here was refreshing for us because it was the first time we have had with family in over six months!  Oh, it was such  blessing to be together.

Sister and sister
Father and son (and a baby that needed to be held)
Cousin and cousin

The entire time they were here, our family was blessed to serve alongside them.  Every day we shared devotions together, we talked about what we were seeing and experiencing together, and at times there were a few tears.  Serving the needy at Christmas, in a country where Christmas is "just another day," caused us all to look at the holiday with new vision.

Christmas Eve, we showed the Jesus Film in a local fishing community, Maamie.  This village is located on the borders of the capital city of Ghana, but you would never know it.  This community is known for its "free sex night."  People come from all over to participate in degrading acts on this night set aside for sin.  Sadly, this has caused the village population to be strewn with children many times more numerous than the adults.  Most doorways are scattered with 4-6 children to the one mother living in the room.  It is a very sad area.  During the Jesus Film, hundreds of people gathered for the viewing. Children dressed in rags squatted on the ground to watch the film.  A few older children arrived in only their underwear - the image of one older girl in particular, has never left my mind.  Kelly was handed a baby as we arrived, and she spent the evening holding a mother's newborn.  I sat on the ground with the children - one on top of another.  The little ones were fascinated with our skin and kept poking our arms throughout the movie.  Even with all the distractions, I prayed.  During the film showings, this is my main job - to pray.  With Godwin on my lap, and Braden, Sam, and Wes close beside me, I prayed in my spirit for all of the souls around me.  At the end of the film, the pastor gave an invitation and many received Christ on Christmas Eve.  Friends from Fairview UMC had donated Bibles, and we distributed about 30 to the new Believers.  We pray God's presence will ultimately change this community for His Glory.

On Christmas Day, our families served together all day long.  We didn't stop to open gifts in the morning, but we did peek into the stockings Etornam made for all of us!

Everyone's favorite gift was a new Ghanaian scrubbing sponge!

On Christmas morning, we served at an MLI Outreach back in Maami - the fishing village desperate for Christ.    On Christmas morning. we walked through the community inviting people to come to the Outreach - evangelizing as we walked.  We played musical chairs with the kids, helped serve a warm meal, played soccer with the kids, helped organize clothing before it was distributed, etc...

The silly band bracelet from Sam is the only gift these kids will receive on Christmas day.

Follow Leader Lenusia and dance your heart out!

What a FUN Christmas Day!

Wes playing Musical Chairs with all the kids.

Braden lasted until the very end.  He was second in the Musical Chairs Competition!

John tries to maintain order in the chaos while holding a baby on his hip.

MLI's Wahab and Patrick greet everyone and make the children feel so special!

Faces of beauty surround us Christmas Morning!  What a blessing!

Walking onto the futbol field.  Precious!

Christmas outfits are rare in Ghana.
Thankful these children received needed new clothing at the Outreach.

After leaving the Outreach, we headed to GMI Children's home to spend the afternoon with the kids.  Going to an orphanage on Christmas Day was very fitting.  What a reminder that God, in His grace and mercy, came down to us and adopted us into his forever family?  We are no longer orphans because of Jesus Christ.

The table is set, the food is served, the Christmas dinner feast is about to begin.
 Zach enjoys the mango.  Yum!
The tiny GMI Christmas tree with a paper star and two ornaments!

Ryzach and Kofi - overjoyed on this day!

Blessing and Believe celebrating Christmas!

Johnson and Cynthia are excited!

The beautiful gift from the O'Leary family was on display.  It is a collage of all the children from GMI who have been adopted and are now home with their families.  Precious!

The way boys play!  Flying!

Christmas dinner - pineapple, mango, rice, chicken, and avocado!  Wow!

Mason and Peter - big buddies!  Always!
All of the children received new hand-sewn outfits from Feeding the Orphans.  Thanks to everyone who sponsored kids this Christmas!!  What a blessing to receive a new dress.  You made it possible!

Through the generosity of God's people, gifts were given to everyone at GMI.
Every child, no matter the age, received a gift.
Every auntie and those working in the home received a gift.
Everyone in this home felt the love of Jesus on this special day.
I've never seen so much JOY!
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Son.  
His love abounded today.
 Everyone was blessed!

All of the children were so happy.  Sylvester held his new blanket as a cherished gift and loved his new Christmas outfit, thanks to FTO.

This Christmas was set apart from every other one in my life.  The only one that could vaguely compare was when Reid's father, his sister and her husband and Reid and I stood in a soup kitchen serving the homeless on Christmas day.  We'd skipped opening gifts to go out and serve others.  That day was 16 years ago.  We've enjoyed our friends from downtown spending the last three Christmas's with us in our home, but being in the soup kitchen 16 years ago is the only Christmas I can remember going OUT to serve others.

On this Christmas day, we spent all day OUT serving others.  Our family had been immersed in poverty serving the least of these.  We had been blessed to experience it with my sister and her family.  The children in Maamie had so little.  Yes, we had served them warm food today, but what about tomorrow?  The nearly naked children received needed clothing.  But what about when they outgrow it?  For the children who received Christ, who will take them to church?  Who will encourage them to grow in the Lord?  Who will train them and equip them?

As it was time to depart GMI, all of my emotions came to the surface.  While at the orphanage, my mind raced to thoughts of my own boys and tucking them in,  Will the children here be tucked in on Christmas night?  Will someone kiss them on the forehead and tell them each Jesus loves them?  Will they be told they are special and created for a purpose?  Will these children know the depth of the love of Jesus?

The children in Maamie and the children at GMI all received a Christmas gift, but the tears silently dripping down my face made me realize that the ultimate gift every child needs is the gift of Jesus.  No earthly provision compares to the eternal gift of a life with God.  Rust and moths will ultimately destroy everything of this world.  Nothing else lasts.  Only Jesus is forever.

I didn't want to leave the orphanage.  I wanted to stay and tuck the children in.  I wanted to tell them more of the Christmas story.  I did not want to leave them as orphans.  (John 14:18)  It hurt to walk through the gate and step into the car.

Everyone else must have felt it too, because it was a long, quiet ride back home.  I wondered what everyone was thinking, but I was wrestling with my own thoughts so I never asked.

What if there’s a bigger picture?
Find More lyrics at
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
That I could be living right now
Outside my own little world oooh, ooh
My own little world woooh

Father break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your Light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
That I could be living right now
I don't wanna miss what matters
I wanna be reaching out
Show me the greater purpose
So I can start living right now
Outside my own little world whoo
My own little world yeah yeah
My own little world whoo whoo

Today, April 10, 2014 - After Kelly and John returned home, their hearts continued to break for the least of these children.  They are now pursuing the adoption of a little boy, Gobi, from Uganda.  We are praying for everything to happen quickly so he can come home to them soon.  It will be a blessing for God to grow our family, yet again, with another child through adoption.  We praise Him!

What is there is a bigger picture that my own little world?

The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.  
Psalm 33:11