Wednesday, June 13, 2012

God Sightings - Mostly from Michigan

Disclaimer:  It is late.  I am tired.  I have not proofed this well.  If you accept the terms of this disclaimer, read on...

My heart is full of so many emotions.  There are so many things I want to blog about on our first evening in Ghana.  I've started a blog about leaving.  Words are begun for a post about giving.  I could write about all of my crazy emotions.  I could write about so many things.

Actually, I started writing about our departure, but to really explain it well, pictures need to be posted.  I've tried uploading them, but after trying to load one picture for over an hour, I gave up.  We're not in Kansas anymore...

Before we arrived at the airport, my sister, Kelly, gave each of us a journal titled, "Ghana God Sightings."  The special books are for us to chronicle all of the times we see God at work.

It seemed fitting that this be my first post from Ghana.  God sightings!  There have been so many!

1.)  At the airport, we were blown away by everyone who came to see us off.  Family, special friends, some new friends we met just recently, neighbors from our neighborhood, and even one of my high school friends whom I have not seen since we came home with Godwin, chose to spend their afternoon sending us off at the airport!  Wow!  I don't know how many people were there.  (I wish I'd thought to take a group photo with everyone.)  Our boys were surrounded by those who love them and Reid and I have felt sustained by the special hugs from others!  Thank you!

Additionally, in the chaos of checking in, the attendant never charged us for our extra bag!  Oh, thank you Lord!  The kind gifts of money people gave us for travel helped us once we arrived in Ghana.  Thank you!

2.)  The homeless community of Knoxville came to the airport as well.  Women and men from Water Angels showed up as a welcomed surprise to our family!  About 15-20 of our downtown friends surrounded us with love.  Country and Samuel broke out into a loud song, "The Lord is My Shepherd."  Psalm 23 - in the middle of the airport!  Love it!  (Because another friend had sung this same passage over me a few moments earlier, I knew the Lord was reminding me of the precious peace found only in Him.  He is my Shepherd.  Since then, I've even had someone send me these words on Facebook!  He is my Shepherd!  Psalm 23!)

When everyone gathered around us to pray, it was Country, Samuel, and Stephanie who prayed aloud!  The least of these in Knoxville are sending us to the least of these in Ghana.  The irony of it reveals the heart of GOD.  Isn't it like Him to do the unexpected?  When we sat down on the airplane Reid and I looked at each other and said, "What missionaries do you know who have the homeless community sending them out?"  Oh we love our downtown friends!  Thank you for coming to send us!

3.)  The encouragement from everyone at the airport helped my heart, but I felt like it was being ripped out of my chest during the goodbyes.  It was so hard.  Still is.  I even said aloud to my parents, "There is a huge part of me that doesn't want to get on the plane.  But I know I must.  God is calling us to GO."  As promised, I hugged my mom last, then we headed toward the gate.  I was a wreck.  Holding my eyes open hurt.  My thoughts were all jumbled.  My suitcase fell over onto a little girl in a stroller - twice.  Even something small as holding onto my suitcase seemed too much.

After handing my passport over, it was time to place everything on the conveyor belt.  Frantically, I was trying to get everything in its place.  I turned to the airport officer and apologized, "I'm so sorry this is taking me so long, but we are moving to Africa and I've just said goodbye to my family."  (As if he needed to know the whole story!)
"I know," the officer replied in a soothing voice.
"How?" I asked.
"I'm friends with the Persingers and I am praying for you."
Looking me in the eye, he continued, "And I will keep praying for you."
This gentleman had heard our story at the Persinger home!  He was praying for us!  He guided us through this portion of our transition toward the plane.  As we walked toward our gate, he again assured us he would be praying for us.

4.)  After we passed through the security area, I kept looking back to be sure my family was still there waiting.  They were still 100 feet near me.  They were still there.   Still there.  Still there.  Still there.  Then once everyone in our family had their shoes on, and our suitcases and backpacks were in order, I looked for them one more time.  They were gone.
"NOOOOOOOOO!" I silently cried out in my heart pleading with God,  "Not yet!  I'm not ready yet.  Please Lord, I still want to know someone near me!!  PLEASE!!  I don't think I can get on that plane."
(While this inner turmoil is happening to me, my boys are keenly taking in everything - including those passing through the security area.)
Franklin, our observant one, notifies me, "Hey mom!  Look, it's Craig Salvador!"
Oh, God heard my prayer!
Don't you wonder sometimes if God sends you to perform specific tasks just for Him?  Well, Craig Salvador, our dear friend from Michigan, was given the role of giving every member in our family our last hug in Knoxville.  The fact that this man was the one to do it is truly a miracle and reflects much of God's Glory!
God sent Craig to be one final piece of comfort and assurance.  Our two families have done that for each other as we've seen each other through some difficult things.  Craig was the ONE God chose to be the last person in Knoxville for our family to say goodbye to, and for us to receive comfort from.  Thank you Craig for standing near to the brokenhearted!

God is in the details!  Every single, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny detail.

5.)  We arrive in Washington Dulles airport completely drained.  Reid and I both letting it sink in that we are flying to Africa with one way tickets.  No longer do we own a car in the USA.  What is left of our belongings are separated from us, and we are taking our five boys to a foreign land!  What are we thinking?  Are we completely crazy?  We have just left our family without any concrete plans of when we will see one another again.  What in the world are we doing?
Oh, Lord, help us.  We feel so alone.  And scared.  Very scared.
Once again, I am in my own little world processing everything in the waiting area at the gate for our final flight.  La, la land.

"Excuse me," this soft voice says, "Can you tell me who you are with?  I noticed your shirts."
(Looking down at my shirt, I bring myself back into reality as I see my brown shirt with the orange GO emblem.)
"We are with Feeding the Orphans going to Ghana to help the children."  I answer.
"Oh my goodness.  Are you the woman with all the boys?  Aren't you moving to Ghana?"
Hesitantly, I answer, "Yes...that's us..."
"Oh!  I can't believe this!  I've read your blog.  I've prayed for you.  In fact, we were praying last night for God to bring us to people who need encouragement.  You see, we were missionaries in Russia for three years with our children and now we are adopting from Ghana.  I read your post about how hard this has been for you, and it's been on my "to do" list to respond.  I guess the Lord wanted me to tell you in person."
(By this time, my face in in my hands, because I am weeping at God's goodness to me!  God's orchestrates everything!  EVERYTHING!)
This kind woman continues, "It is all going to be okay.  It's one of the hardest things we ever did, but it's the best thing we ever did.  Everything you are feeling is normal.  Leaving is harder than you can ever put into words.  But thank you for your obedience.  Your obedience calls others to do the same.  You are faithfully trusting God and it will cause others to see what happens when you trust.  There is a ripple effect for the Kingdom.  Oh my goodness!  I can't believe I am meeting you!"

Our conversation continues for our families to meet.  Our children are near the same age.  This precious family is from Michigan (Michigan, again?) and they are were on their way to Ghana to bring home two boys through the gift of adoption.  (For my waiting friends out there, this precious family has been in process for 2 years 8 months, and finally, this is the trip to bring their boys home!)  We've exchanged numbers and hopefully, we will see them once more before they head back home to the States.

God is whispering..."You are not alone."

6.)  Anytime we board the flight for Ghana, our family skin color is in the minority.  As I walked back to the v-e-r-y b-a-c-k of the plane where my e-c-o-n-o-m-y c-l-a-s-s seat was located, I noticed another family who looked like we do.
After the young girl, Maria, complimented my Ghanaian bag, I asked why they were headed to Ghana.
This vivacious child, Maria, answered confidently, "We're moving there!"
So, on our flight to Ghana, there was another family, like ours, moving across the ocean.  We too exchanged pleasantries and phone numbers.  Wonder where they are from?  Yep.  Michigan.  (What is it with those Michiganites?)

7.)  Our last Ghana God Sighting was UPON OUR ARRIVAL IN GHANA.

As we stepped off the plane, I was praying that none of our bags would be checked as we passed through customs.  (15 suitcases, 7 carry-ons, 7 backpacks, 4 personal items = 33 bags!)  Guess what?  We were waved through without even so much as a pause!  Thank you Lord!

The boys wheeled the luggage carts down the ramps toward the exit gate.  (When I am on a mission, I'm oblivious to the surroundings - once again!)  We walked through a sliding glass door and heard screaming and clapping!  Then I saw a HUGE banner that read, "Welcome BEEBE Family Meaningful Life International."  All of our Ghana friends were waiting for us!!  Cheering for us!!  Welcoming us!!  What a homecoming!!

Lola, my precious friend here, ran over to hug me - we both cried.  (I hugged her once for Stephanie, once for Ethan, then Luke, and Christy, then Moses. Oops! Then I remembered I needed to hug her for Chad too, so I added one more!)

When I looked up again, I saw my boys all hugging Michael Lown.  He is serving here this summer as a volunteer with Feeding the Orphans.  My boys all admire this young man, and were comforted to see a familiar face themselves!  What joy to see these young men standing together!

David Gakson, the pastor of the church where Reid preached last year, was also there to welcome us.  Along with Wahob, Patrick, and Michael from MLI staff.  We had been in the country less than five minutes and felt such a warm welcome for our family!  Oh, God was assuring us that HE is with us!  These are other warriors on the mission field for Christ.

As we walked outside, Godwin arrived.  (Godwin is the Ghanaian missionary our son is named for.)  He had hugs galore.  What a welcome!  We were so excited to see him and he seemed so excited to see us!!  We snapped a few pictures, met Hillary and Olivia (also FTO volunteers), admired the banner a few more times, then headed to load everything into the vehicles.  We parted with the FTO volunteers, and headed to Godwin's house.

All of the MLI staff, Kathy - a woman from NY who is here on a scouting trip, and our family gathered in Godwin's den for a special prayer over us.  Godwin prayed - committing our time here to the Lord, asking for revival among the people, seeking God to use us in a mighty way for His Kingdom, asking for comfort for our hurting, grieving hearts for what we have left behind, asking God to help us begin to make home here as we "labor in the harvest field."

Americans could learn much from Ghanaians about hospitality, because Godwin then showed us the feast that had been prepared for us.  Dish after dish waited on the table.  We sat around his table amazed by God's goodness to us.  Jollof Rice, Beef Sauce, Potatoes, Mango, Fried Plantain, Etc...  Godwin truly provided a feast for us to enjoy upon our arrival in this foreign land.

Seven is the number of completion, so I will stop here.   It is complete.  We are welcome here.  We are not alone.  We have work to do and we will have the honor of working with others who are already doing it.

Country and Samuel sang Psalm 23 in the airport.  Kristin sang Psalm 23 over me before departing.  A friend sent me Psalm 23 as encouragement.  The Lord has kept this passage in front of me throughout the transition of the last 24 hours.  In Psalm 23, it reads,
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me on the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows."

(While our family was battling the enemies of pain, abandonment, fear, uncertainty, and sadness, God was already going before us.  He was preparing a table for us.  A feast.  People in Ghana have prepared for our arrival in generous, beautiful ways.  A feast!  We are in our first few hours here, but we taste His goodness.)

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23

We praise God for all He has done!
We praise God for all He is doing!
We praise God for all He will do!

P.S.  Thanks for the blog idea, Sis!  What a great way to start our stay in Ghana!
P.S.S.  From license plates to songs at the airport, God is still using Psalm 23 to speak to His children about decisions.  Right, Mom?  I love you!
P.S.S.S.  I just found out where the Feeding the Orphans volunteer, Lola Crain is from.  Oh, come on, just guess...  Yes.  Again, Michigan!!!!  (Maybe the state is only full of amazing people or something!  Geez!)


demp5 said...

Oh this makes my heart so happy!! What an amazing trip, and it is only the beginning :) Praying for you as you settle in and transition.

demp5 said...

Wow, what an amazing start to your trip!! It makes my heart so happy to read this. Thank you for taking the time to write it down. Praying for you as you settle in and transition.

Cindy P. said...

Glad to hear that you are all safe and sound! Praise the Lord!

This was a little hard to read - why? you might ask? 'Cause we are from OHIO! Lets hear it O-H-I-O!!
Please tell us that you have ran into some fantastic people from OHIO!! :)

Love You Guys!!

TheBowlingFamily said...

Crying, laughing, and crying some more! God is so good! By the way...I was born in MI...must be why I'm so awesome :)

Brenda said...

Oh Robin! That was so beautiful! You have a gift for storytelling! I could picture everything so clearly.

God is so fantastic! It is so comforting to see those "little things" (but big to us!) that He does to remind us that He is going before us and preparing the way. Everything just fit together , like a PUZZLE! (sounds familiar!)

I am so glad you have internet access! I've been thinking of you all a lot the past couple of days and was glad to read that you arrived safely and thrilled to read of your sweet "Welcoming Committee!"

I hope you all were able to sleep on the plane.

How is little Godwin doing? Was he excited to return to Ghana or was he a little apprehensive? It was great that the Lord had someone there who the boys knew!

Thank you for the wonderful update. I know everyone will be so glad to hear from you.

Get some rest and don't try to get everything done in a day. :)

Love to all,

wendy said...

I agree with Brenda, I could picture it all perfectly. Reading this crying, laughing and praying for you guys! Exciting God Sightings to come! Can't wait to hear all about them.
God Bless you and your family :)

Emily Rodgers said...

Oh, thank you, thank you, Lord! You are near! You are so good!

Beebe family, we love you and continue to pray!

cdagler said...

Robin~ I don't know if you remember meeting me last year at City of Refuge. As I was reading this post, I had tears flowing down my cheeks. Currently, my husband and I are raising support to move our family to Ghana. I can't imagine how I will feel when we say our goodbyes, but I'm sure it will be pretty close to your experience. THANK YOU for blessing me with the knowledge that all the fears, nerves and whatever else I may experience will be completely "normal" even when I know we are following God's leading!! I will be praying for your family :)

Shelly Forbush Bagley said...

You're not only in mission in Ghana - you're ministering through this blog to me in - you guessed it - MICHIGAN!

Love you. Know you are held in God's hands.

Shelly Forbush Bagley