Friday, July 27, 2012


It's been a while since I've posted on our blog. There are many reasons. We've been blessed to spend time with our dear friends, the VHs, who were in country for their adoption. What a blessing for us! We've been without power sporadically which poses challenges for using the computer, charging our computer, and accessing the Internet. We've traveled to several outlying villages and most of these require a full day of time commitment. We've been meeting new people providing new contacts for work here. We've been meeting with other missionaries to see how/if we can come alongside them to assist with some things. We've been planning for outreaches and loving orphans holding them tightly when we are with them. Reid's been gathering documents, signatures, and approvals for his work permit. We've been unpacking boxes from our container. We've been busy.

Mostly though, we've been seeking God.

With all of these things I've listed consuming our time, I could have written a post or two. I could have posted something about what's going on here. I could have shared what we are experiencing.

But there have not been words.

I'm wrestling. Struggling. Drowning at times.

Over the past few weeks, my arms have held children who have no one. No. One. And I struggle to let them out of my arms when the time comes for me to go. Who will hold them next? When?

We have met three brothers being cared for by their grandmother. Abraham, the oldest, has only completed the equivalent of first grade because he was then sold as a fishing slave. He is at least 14 years old, if not older. He doesn't know his age. Now Abraham lives with his grandmother and works on the fishing boats to support her and his two younger brothers. His two younger brothers are in school - most of the time. However, their spare time is spent working the fields farming because they must also contribute to support themselves. Yet, the boys walk to the mango trees to worship with the pastor trying to impact this community. It's a very, very long walk.

I've walked the streets of a village at night witnessing child prostitutes selling their bodies for someone's sick pleasure. Once a girl in this community grows breasts, prostitution is expected. Packs of children - ten, twenty, thirty - wander the dark streets in this community with no adult supervision. Children as young as two hold onto the hands of older siblings pulling them through the streets. Young girls, maybe 12, have babies wrapped on their backs. Most likely, the young one carrying the child is the child's mother. Dark rooms line the streets with men gathered outside the doors peering in to watch whatever is happening in the dimly lit rooms. Sick. Repulsive. I battled tears and queasiness as we wandered the streets almost afraid to take it all in.

There is very little Christian presence here in this community. 80-95% of the people worship at the shrines located throughout the town. Children serve as shrine slaves. Darkness shrouds this community with evil. None of the shrine worship convicts people's hearts. The use of children seems okay - for anything.

We walked through a different village lined with mud huts. The royal house where the chief lives, was one of the few concrete structures I saw. Most other buildings were stacked red mud bricks. The condition of the children is haunting. Most have protruding bellies. Many are unclothed. Some only in underwear. I think of my closet here in Ghana and realize that I have more clothes hanging in my closet than most of these children would see in ten lifetimes. I didn't bring an overabundance of clothes, so guilt strikes me as well. One of the children's filthy torn shirts is hanging on her body wrong-side out. The tag reads "Disney." Again, I am struck by the excessiveness of my own culture. "Disney." Then I remembered seeing a young girl at church a few weeks prior wearing her best Sunday dress. Guess what it was? A Cinderella Disney dress up costume which was torn and open on the sides. This day, the Disney tag hangs by one thread on a shirt that I would regard as trash because of the multiple holes, stains, and filth. Yes, this is "Disney" here in Ghana. The contrast to the "Disney" I have known feels very heavy.

Sometimes I am able to get onto Facebook. Over the past few days, I've seen many posts encouraging people to "support Chik-fil-A." "Go buy a chicken sandwhich to show your support of this Christian company promoting family values." I'm sure if I were in America, I'd be taking the boys for a special day at our favorite restaurant. But I'm not. I read posts like this, and I'm spending the day witnessing children who have nothing to eat. I'm craving Chik-fil-A, and there are children who need something to sustain their lives. I don't know how to find the peace in the middle of the constant contrast in front of me. Sometimes this is very, very hard.

While in one village, we had nothing to "give" the children. No candy. No pencils. No bubbles. Nothing tangible to give. I complained to God confessing that I wish I had "prepared" more to come see these little ones, because I felt I had nothing to offer. Then I looked around and saw a small shrine built in front of many of the huts. Nearly every hut had a shrine in front of the doorway. These families worship at these false altars. They give offerings - even of food to these false Gods they worship. Some of the wealth they could potentially accumulate to better their life is eaten up by their worship practices. Then it hit me hard. This day, the only thing I have to offer them is Jesus. No clothes. No food. No pencils. No candy. Only Jesus. So that is what I tried to offer them. Jesus. In hugs, in laughter, in playfulness, in prayers lifted over them. Only Jesus. And, that is what each person needs the most. Jesus. Why did I not see Jesus as a tangible offering to give them? He's the most powerful, life-changing need they have.

In all of these situations, what is the best help our family can offer? How can we help without creating dependence for something sustainable long term? How do we offer help without it being received from "Americans" or people with white skin who have unending money? How can it be understood fully that help is from Jesus alone? How can we lift the value of the individual's understanding of his/her worth in the eyes of Christ? How can we be a true reflection of his love and compassion? The needs are so great, where do we begin? It all feels so overwhelming.

While struggling with all of the need surrounding me daily, I return home to my family. There are great needs within our home as well. We've battled illnesses - three recently down with malaria, three boys have already had staph infections, Mason thinks he's cracked/fractured his tailbone, our electricity is unpredictable and when we have no electricity we have almost no water because we can't run our pump, we stand in ankle deep mud to hang our laundry, etc... All these things are our minor needs now. We are learning to adjust to these bumps in the road. We can not allow these little things to slow us down. Our biggest need is the emotional weight we are processing.

Recently, I asked the boys to come up with one word to describe where they were emotionally. My word was "wrestling." (As you can probably tell by this post.)

Mason - Adjusting
Godwin - Good
Franklin - Trying
Weston - Glad

But, Braden. My precious Braden, without batting an eye, said - Lonliness. How do we comfort his heart? How do we meet him here? Lord Jesus, please come fill in the holes in his heart.

This is where we are too. We took our friends, the VHs, who were with us for a week to the airport in the middle of the night to say Goodbye. On the way home, the car was full of crying boys. We are sooooooo happy for them! Thrilled they are going home to be with their family and friends, but we are left here - on the other side of the world from those we hold dearest. A few days ago, I saw that the pictures of the homecoming of our friends was posted on Facebook. I couldn't bring myself to look at them. It's too much emotionally to even see pictures of our friends at home right now. The tears come.

My sister and her husband leave next week to meet my nephew, Christopher, who is waiting for them in Ethiopia. Our prayers for their family are fervent. We want to be there with them. Encouraging. Cheering. Praying with our family to send them off. As much as it hurts to not be with them for this momentous life event, we recognize our role to join everyone in prayer for this adoption. Even as I type this, it is hard to take my eyes off of myself and what I am missing because we are here. Good grief! This precious little boy is joining a family! For the rest of his life, he will have a mommy and a daddy to love him, comfort him, assure him! What a praise! My heart must turn to praise over sadness for what we will not physically be a part of in seeing him come home.

Then I remember a few nights ago, being at an orphanage when two children left to go home to their family in the United States. Crying is shameful here in Ghana, so if children cry they open themselves up for ridicule. One little boy, P, had been very emotional for the entire day. P has held a very special place in our heart for a long time and tears had come more than once during the day for him. As we left, P was crying hard. Sobbing. Franklin, our 14 year old, was the one holding him. Franklin was offering P what little comfort he could. I prayed over P with my hand on his head, and my face tucked against him. My heart broke to see him in so much pain wondering what all of the triggers must be behind his emotion. It was such a gift to see Franklin loving him so well...holding him, comforting him, wiping his tears away.

I've realized how hard it is to attach...then say goodbye...attach...then say goodbye...attach...then say goodbye. Our hearts are still raw from all of the continual goodbyes we said to friends and family before coming to Ghana. Now we find ourselves doing more of the same. It hurts to see people we love go back to the place we have known as home.

But it is also a reminder of why we are here. I think of little Christopher in Ethiopia. I am praying that someone is there now - holding him and showing him the love of Jesus. I think of precious P at the orphanage. I know we will be back playing with him. Maybe our family provides some stability and assurance to his little heart when he sees us the next time. We've seen some of the dire need in villages near us, is God calling us to help meet some simple needs such as clothing or medicine?

I don't know. Does our presence make a difference? I do know that is what I want to believe. God has given us a purpose for being here. Right now, all I can clearly determine is that our purpose is to love like Jesus. How to do that well seems fuzzy sometimes. Especially when it requires stepping into the pain. It's overwhelming for us. But it's not for Jesus.

That's why we are seeking God.

For clarity.

For understanding.

For discernment.

For the ability to love, and love, and love, and love, the way He would.

I always close my posts with a Bible verse. It's usually a reflection of what's been written drawing me back to God's assured promises. I've had some good, long, hard cries recently. Just honestly crying out to my Savior about all of these questions and uncertainties. I know Jesus understands. He has felt the overwhelming need. He knows the exceeding desperation around Him for Hope. He feels all of this through his unending compassion. He is with us in our emotion from all we are experiencing. And He is good.

Jesus wept.
John 11:35

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Mission Giver

“The mission must never become greater than the Mission Giver - Jesus.”
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to blog.  Some of the many reasons for my Internet absence has been no electricity, malaria, unpacking our container and trying to make our house a home, and, honestly, realizing my mission here at times is vastly different than what I’d expected.
However, since my last post, God has done great and marvelous things for our family.  
1.)  God is building our immune systems!  Reid was struck with malaria first, then Weston, then me.  This illness truly knocks people down.  For several days, I stayed in bed and could not be up for more than a few minutes because my head hurt so badly.  It was a declared time to rest - completely.  We were amazed by how people around us reached out to us to care for our family.  Our neighbors, the Devroys, helped us greatly with the boys.  They even bought ice packs for our fridge hoping to help salvage the food because we had been without electricity for so long.  Also, our friends from City of Refuge came by with homemade chicken noodle soup.  Even the noodles were made from scratch! (Thank you Stacy!) On the evening they came, they prayed over each of us asking God for complete healing.  It was precious.
Every time we told a Ghanaian that we were down with malaria, their words to us were, “Welcome to Ghana!”
Welcomed, we are.

2.)  Our container arrived last Tuesday.  We were blessed with neighbors, co-workers and friends to help us unload and unpack.   There were many times I had to look the other way when I saw how these African men removed things from the truck.  They are very strong and lifted our refrigerator off the truck by hand!

 It’s been like Christmas for our family.  Oh the reminders of home have been so fun to unpack.  For me, there has been an internal struggle with the amount of belongings we now have.  By American standards, we have little, but by the standards here, we have an abundant amount!  When I shared this with a missionary friend, her words to me were “I used to think I didn’t need things like this, but after being here as long as we have been, I’d like to have them.”  I'm not sure how to reconcile this to avoid the "guilt" that occasionally I feel when I look around me.
Over time, I think we will become more and more thankful for the things we chose to send over.  It’s been wonderful to see our boys reading books.  It’s been great to see them teaching the kids from the neighborhood new games from the container.  It’s been a huge blessing to wash clothes in a washing machine!  (For our family of seven, this is a tremendous gift!)  It’s been fun to add some touches of decor to our house that some sweet girls bought for us before we left Knoxville.  Additionally, as long as Reid is able to find everything here to hook it up, we now have our battery pack for when our home is without power.  I have loved hearing the boys play music again.  With their instruments now unpacked, they are now jamming and hopefully will play somewhere here soon.  

Our family has been grateful for the tastes from home!  Franklin unpacked his gift from Grace and Graham Peters then carried it like a true Ghanaian!  
Please know that we are sharing the tastes of home with other missionaries serving here.  You have no idea how wonderful it is to receive a taste of home.

3.)  As we’ve unpacked the container, it’s been wonderful to “give away” the donations that were sent here.  

Because of donations to Feeding the Orphans of liquid and dry formula
and other nutritional supplements, children will now be receiving
adequate nutrition.

 Feeding the Orphans is donating all of these supplies to two
organizations in Ghana - West Africa AIDS Foundation and City of
Refuge.  West Africa AIDS Foundation works with mothers who have tested positive for HIV.  These women are unable to breastfeed, so all of the formula will be nourishing infants from birth.  It's a
wonderful gift to help these children begin their life with the
vitamins and nutrients their little bodies need!

City of Refuge is using the nutritional supplements to nurture the
growth of children who have been rescued out of a life of slavery.
Many of these rescued children are extremely malnourished with
multiple nutritional deficiencies.  All of these donations will spur
these children on to stronger health and development.  Many of these
children will be living in the FTO Safe House, so it's doubly exciting
to know they will be recipients of these donations.

Thank you for donating these supplies to children who are in great
need of help.  We are grateful to all of you who have given.  If you
have any donations to offer children around the world, please contact
Feeding the Orphans.

4.)  As we unpacked, many boxes of school donations were given to Faith Roots Academy!  Before we left Knoxville, several homeschooling friends and a large public school in Maryville donated Math Manipulatives, Hands-On learning tools, and curriculum for the children here to us.  One donation was filled our van!  All of the supplies are now in the hands of teachers where it will be used to help teach the children here.

5.)  We also received several donations of Bibles.  Our desire is to place these in the hands of those who will use them as soon as possible.  As we unpacked, there were six brand new beautifully wrapped leather bound Bibles.  When I saw them, I felt like they needed to go somewhere special, but quickly moved on toward unpacking the next box.  That night, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about those six Bibles.  Actually, I should say God woke me up with those Bibles on my mind.  

This summer there is an FTO volunteer here serving at a home filled with boys.  His name is Michael Lown and he has been very intentional about teaching the boys the Word of God.  Every evening he hosts a Bible Study in his tiny room for the older boys.  He's challenged them with scripture memory and they have stepped up to the plate.  Most of the boys now have TEN Bible verses memorized within a few short weeks of time!  TEN!  

As I woke up, God told me to ask Michael about how many boys were in the Bible study.  Early the next morning, I called Michael to ask.  He began naming the boys, and guess how many are in the study?  Yes, SIX!  Can you believe it?  God already knew where those Bibles belonged.  Michael will be giving the boys their new Bibles with hopes they will continue growing in God's Word even after he returns home.  

6.)  We hosted our first ladies Bible Study here in our home.  Seven women came to the Bible Study - eight total.  Surprisingly, all were American.  Four were volunteers serving short time periods here on mission trips - the other four, including me, were missionaries.  In the short time I've been here, I have recognized the huge need for encouragement from others serving from overseas.  

Everyone arrived and enjoyed some snacks and fellowship.  (I made my famous Ranch Popcorn!)  After some visiting time, we gathered to have our Bible Study.  As soon as we were about to open God's Word, the power went out.  I am not kidding!  It was so clear that our enemy didn't want us to read the Truth!  It was pitch black in our den - total darkness.  

Quickly, I scavenged around our house to find light.  I grabbed our flashlight and found two candles that had been unpacked only a few hours prior!  Both the flashlight (thank you Kelly!) and the candles (thank you Bekah, Abby, Maddie, Hannah and Abby - photo right) were gifts to us before we left!  God knew we would need them!  So, all eight of the women scrunched around the light and we shared opened God's Word together beginning a study through Hebrews.  

As we gathered around the tiny lights on the floor, I kept thinking, "I can't believe I am in Africa having a Bible Study by candlelight!"  Oh, the light of Jesus filled the room!  It was a beautiful night full of encouragement, hope, and truth.

7.)  We received word today that our vehicle is in port!!   This is a HUGE PRAISE!  For over a month, we have been completely dependent on others for transportation.  God has beautifully provided - as He always does - but it will be nice to have transportation for our family.

Thank you for the continued prayers for our family.

I'm learning to embrace whatever mission the Lord places in front of me.  The Mission Giver knows what He wants me to do, I don't.  I'm learning to surrender my plans to His.  Whether I am chopping vegetables, unpacking a box, caring for a sick family member, setting up bunk beds in the FTO house, holding an orphan or holding one of my own boys - it glorifies God.  I'm thankful to be on mission with Him - whatever that looks like.   I'm so thankful for Jesus.

They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.
Hebrews 1:11-12

Friday, July 13, 2012

Follow You

Today we sent out our latest newsletter with an update on how God is moving in our lives.  It's such a privilege to share His Story and to know people care to read about what He's doing.  (If you are not receiving it, and would like to, please email me.)  

It is such an encouragement when people jot a quick sentence or two of encouragement and send it to us.  Many days those surprise emails are life giving!  Or when I have a post on Facebook and friends say, "We're praying for you."  Or when one of us writes a blog post, and someone says, "Hey, we're with you.  Keep saying YES to Jesus."  These things remind us that all of God's people are a part of His work around the globe, and honestly when we know people are praying, we FEEL THEM!  Your words of encouragement spur us onward!  So, thank you to people who pray, who send encouragement, and those who let us know we are not alone.  We are grateful.

For today's newsletter, our son, Weston (age 12), created a video to capture our heart's cry in coming to serve here.  This song was sung by our boys at our Send Off Party in Knoxville, so the lyrics are something we strive to truly live.  We hope you enjoy this glimpse into our hearts, and, we believe, the heart of God.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
Mark 8:34-35

Friday, July 6, 2012

All Over the Place

I'm reading about all of the families in Tennessee without power.  Numerous posts on Facebook let me know to pray for power to be restored.  And, I am praying.  Especially for elderly people and families with little ones.  Living without electricity is challenging.

So many things going on in my heart right now, do I dare share?  Am I willing to be vulnerable?

Struggling with the answer....


Yes, I will write it.  (I hope you encountered the emotional tension I am feeling.)

In America, when our family lost power due to storms, we always tried to make it fun.  The boys would play games.  After a terrible storm in High Point, we had friends come live with us for a week while their home was without power.  When I was little, I remember sleeping by the fireplace for a few nights while the snow kept the power off.  I remember being creative in my cooking in order to feed our family when electricity was not an option.    For some reason, there was never panic because I knew it would come back on.  I knew the electric company had people out in their trucks working nonstop in order to restore power.   Losing power was kind of an adventure until it unexpectedly came back on.

It's not like that here.

Right now, for me, every experience is compared to America.  Over time, I hope this will subside, but now, I think of how things would occur in the states, then how things happen in Ghana.  Everything is radically different.  Nearly always, I like the way things happen in America better.

Losing power in America is a rare occurance usually due to a storm or accident.  Here, the electricity is rationed as well as the water.

Yesterday we were without electricity and water.  Thankfully, today we have electricity (and I do mean THANKFULLY!) but our water tank is empty and not to be refilled until Monday most likely.  Dishes pile in the sink until we have water to wash them.  The boys have walked to a nearby house and carried buckets of water for us to flush toilets.  We lose power about every three days for some period of time.  The timing is unpredictable.  For Franklin's birthday, we sat in our living room with guests in the darkness having our only light stream out from a flashlight on the floor.  There are evenings we go to bed in complete darkness without fans to swirl the hot, humid air.  Our clothing sticks to our bodies.      

As time progresses, I realize we are not on a short term mission trip.  We live here.   Things that seem exciting to experience for a short period of time on a foreign mission trip are now part of our daily life.  Water, electricity, transportation are not givens.  I struggle to figure it all out for our family and our home.

I don't write any of this for pity.  And, I am not trying to say, "Life is so hard here."

No, not at all.

God is using all of this for His glory in my life.  My compassion for the people here has grown because we are tasting their difficulties.  How would I know what life is like without water if I'd never experienced it?   How would I appreciate fans if I'd never gone without?  How would we appreciate the work that goes into washing clothing by hand if we had never done it?  Yes, God is helping us to grow in our understanding of life here.   These challenges are tools from His tool belt.

I think that God is revealing to me all the things that I have never treated as a gift from His hand.  Now, I am learning that when we have electricity - it is a gift.  The fan blowing over my head - is a gift.  Writing on my computer - is a gift.  Internet access - is a gift.  A toilet that flushes - is a gift.  Clean dishes - are a gift.  The ability to bathe - even from a bucket - is a gift.  Water - is a gift.  Knowing there is someone out there working to restore power - is a gift.

A healthy family - is a gift.  (Reid is down with malaria today.  He's in bed now.  Mason is battling a staff infection.)

Last night, Franklin was taping pictures to the wall beside his bed.  He was pulling out pictures of his cousins,  his friends, and our family.  (Until last night, his only wall decor was his favorite candy wrappers he had taped on the wall.  Big League Chew and Air Heads wrappers are still by his bed to remind him of home.)  Anyway, as I watched Franklin meticulously examine each picture, my heart hurt inside.  It hit me how much our boys are sacrificing to be here.  They, as children, have been asked to leave all they have known to enter a culture where they look, speak, and act differently than everyone around them.  Braden has told me daily how much he misses his cousins and friends back home.  Many nights, Braden is in tears struggling with the fact that he is so far away from those he loves.  How can I meet him in his grief?

How do I live this out?  How do I point to Jesus when things around me are so hard?  How can I sing in the storm?  What does my worship of my Savior look like when I'm struggling to adjust knowing my children need me to be stable for them?   How can I reflect Jesus?

I am so weak.

I'm not sure, but I think I'm going to have to learn to trust one moment at a time.

(As I am typing, our fan just quit.  No power.  Second time today.  Sigh...  Oh Lord, let me praise you right NOW for you are my Refuge and Strength!)

In this moment, let me trust.  Teach me.  Let me learn.  Let me grow.

Lord, I confess I am such a weak vessel.  Forgive me for, even now, wishing the comfort of the fan would return.  Oh, I see my spoiled heart that desires comfort.  Lord, I'm unworthy of your love and mercy but you tenderly pour it upon me.  Thank you.  Help me, Lord.  I need your help.

Last night, while Reid was in bed with a fever, I led devotions for the boys.  We read Psalm 62, and today it continues to be my prayer.
 "My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My STRONGHOLD, I shall not be greatly shaken."
Psalm 62:1-2

HE is my only security.

Our dear friends, the O'Learys, called last night and prayed with us.  We were grateful for friends who point us back to the cross.

Anything done here is in vain if we are not walking in praise and adoration of the One who gave everything up for us.  My praise must flow by adoring HIM, and not complaining about challenging circumstances.  Standing in the mud, hanging clothes on the line, I must be reminded that dirty feet are beautiful feet.  (Right, Mickey?)  Listening to my boys walk through the house singing praise songs from their heart is a more beautiful sound than songs flowing from speakers.  HE is pouring out blessings upon us - right now, there is a breeze flowing through the window.  Oh, HE is good!

Finally, since this post has gone all over the place, I will share one more thing.

People have said for months, "Oh, you are such an amazing family to do what you are doing."

I need to set the record straight.  VERY STRAIGHT!

The truth is we are broken, empty, sinful creatures that HAVE AN AMAZING SAVIOR!

We are the same people here that we were in the States.  It's just us.

We are not amazing people.  We are not even out-of-the-ordinary people.  We are simply servants trying to follow Jesus.  He's the only AMAZING one!

We are doing some serious faith-stretching as we acclaimate here.  Pray for us.  I've written from my heart today because many times, I do not feel capable of the task at hand.  I can do nothing without Him.

Pray healing for Reid too.   We would be grateful.  I need to go because my computer is almost out of battery and we have no power to charge it.  Today, I wrote from all over the place because my heart is bouncing everywhere these days.  My apologies for so many random thoughts.  Blessings to you all!

"From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
Lead me to a rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy."
Psalm 61:2-3

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Living In Shadows

It would be silly to give the height of our attention and the exuberance of our celebration to the Olympic trials – they are only a foretaste of the real thing. It would be foolish of us to spend a week staying at the coast watching videos of people enjoying the beach and return home to say that we had a great time at the ocean without ever having gotten any sand between our toes or salt-water on our skin.

The Spirit of God teaches us the same things about religious observances which are like mere shadows (Col 2:17) of the Person they signify. The main thing is Jesus but we miss him altogether if we give the substance of life to "Christian" habits.

Jesus has given us commands that are to be obeyed but if we do not enjoy the person of Jesus intimately through His Holy Spirit, we are trying to enjoy a relationship with the shadow of a person while convincing ourselves that we really know Jesus personally. Without the fellowship of the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7, 2 Cor 13:14), we are relating only to the shadow of Jesus. 

"Rules like this are concerned with things consumed by being used [not by being avoided!], and they are based on man-made teachings. They give the outward appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed religious observances, false humility and self-denial; but they have no value at all in restraining people from indulging their old nature" (Col 2:22-23). "it is in union with him that you have been made full" (Col 2:10).

Do you know Him? Are you enjoying Him? Are you full? He wants you to be. He died and was resurrected so you could be whole with Him. He has gifted us with His Spirit for this very purpose. Don't settle for smelling the aromas of the feast. Pull up a chair and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wartime Mentality

Today has been a great day.  I was at home with the boys for most of the day.  We went for a walk this morning, and then spent the afternoon making some "American" dishes to take to a July 4th party hosted by our friends at City of Refuge.

With the challenge of finding American commodities to cook with, our family took green jello, fried potatoes, sweet tea and rice krispie treats -which were an enormous hit.  (So, please send more marshmallows!)

Tonight we gathered with other American families serving here in Ghana to celebrate the Fourth of July.  I kept pinching myself because I couldn't believe that we are in Ghana, West Africa celebrating our country's Independence Day.    We gathered and prayed for our nation.  We prayed for the leaders and the upcoming elections.  We prayed for people to steward their blessings to help others.  We prayed for our families back home.  We prayed for the wildfires spreading in the west.  We prayed for America.  We prayed.

Then we enjoyed a taste of home.  We even tasted homemade corn chips with fresh mango salsa.  (Autumn spent the day frying corn tortillas in order to have chips to share!  Neither chips or tortillas can be purchased here, so Autumn rationed out the tortillas her mom brought her to share with us.  Autumn is now my HERO!  I didn't know how much I missed chips and salsa until I tasted them tonight!  Wow!)

I spent this evening in awe that I was sitting under the African sky celebrating with new friends.  On my arm was a bracelet from my friend, Kristie.  It is a spiral bracelet made in Ghana colors.  I realized I was sporting the Ghana colors instead of red, white, and blue!  Though not intentional, it did signify to me the slight confusion in my heart between America, the land I love and call home, and Ghana, the land I also love and now am calling home.  ???

The meal we enjoyed took all day to prepare - literally.  Everything was made from scratch - no shortcuts.  We weren't watching fireworks, but Johnbull, one of the missionaries at CORM, did surprise the kids with some sparklers!  What a treat!   Our boys were running around with children who are rescued slaves...and they were loving it!  I was holding a precious little girl Portia and another named Edwin.  This new way to celebrate felt good.

After dinner, it was time to leave.  Our new neighbors drove us home.

(I should insert here about our new neighbors.  Remember the family we met on the plane when we were moving over?   The family that was also moving to Ghana on the same day?  As we were getting off the plane, Beth, the mom, told me they were looking for a house and to please call her if I saw anything that might work.  Long story short, I called her about a house down from us.  Now they are our neighbors!  Can you believe it?  God Sightings continue!  In fact, their son, Daniel, is spending the night tonight as I type this.  We are making friends fast.  We are so thankful to have this family transitioning to life here alongside us!)

We were in two cars as we left CORM.  Reid, Mason, and our neighbors were in the smaller car.  Because of the mud on the road, they had to get out twice to push the car out of the mud when it became stuck.  Ahhh...Africa.  We will be washing shoes tomorrow because the mud is thick!

Once we arrived home, we were given another surprise.  Our water tank is empty.  E.M.P.T.Y!  No water to wash dishes, bathe, flush toilets, etc...  N.O.N.E.  Ahhh...Africa.  

I posted this John Piper quote on Facebook earlier today:
"I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves.  I start to fit in. I start to love what others love.  I start to call earth 'home."  Before you know it, I am calling luxuries 'needs" and using my money just the way unbelievers do.  I begin to forget the war.  I don't think much about people perishing.  Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind.  I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace.  I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do.  It is a terrible sickness.  And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set."

Sadly, as I posted it, I realized that I have not lived with a wartime mind-set often enough.  Right now, my daily life is figuring out survival in this new culture.

Everything is so difficult - nothing is easy.  Few roads are paved, so we push our car out of the mud or must sit in traffic for hours to travel a few miles.  Our internet is very, very, very slow which makes communication challenging.  There are days I am unable to even access the world wide web!  Our water - when it does come from the faucet - is not safe for drinking, but we can use it for bathing and cooking if it is boiled.  We purchase water in plastic bags, haul them to the house, then bite off the corner to drink them...most of the time at least one bag is punctured on the trip home leaving the car or the floor wet from the spill.  Our electricity is unpredictable - shutting off for hours at a time.  Our flashlight provides our only light when this happens.  Gas for our stove must be refilled and the refill depot was "out of gas" last week.  We have learned to wash clothes by hand and hang them out to dry on the line.  However, because of the rainy season, there have been nights that I have awoken from sleep to go feverishly work in the pouring rain to bring our clothes inside so they would be wearable the next day.  Right now, we have no water at the house except for the satchet bags we have purchased that are sitting on our porch.  We turn on our faucets and not even a drop of water falls.  And, I go to bed this evening without any idea of when we can have our tank filled.  Yes, right now my life feels like the focus is survival.

But it is not.

My God has allowed this.  Life for our family is actually much, much easier than the millions who live in this country.  We are blessed.  We can not be in "survival-mode."  We must be in "trust-mode."

I find these new challenges just that - challenging.  At times, very, very challenging.

I've lived in a life of comfort and ease for my entire life.  And, I am grateful.  However, I don't think I ever thought about what a blessing it was to live in America where life is so easy.  Tonight I am wondering if it really is a "blessing" if the ease and comfort moves me to a place of complacency toward the needs of the rest of the world.

Daily life here forces me to live in complete dependence on God for everything.  I can not "expect" water, electricity, internet, transportation, etc...  I have to "trust" for it.  I am recognizing what my true needs are, and how many luxuries I have lived with most of my life.  (Do you know I was passing out a ration of M&Ms to the boys for dessert after dinner the other night?  I am now counting out M&Ms to my children because we now view them as a precious gift!  Isn't that funny?)

My mind must maintain a wartime mindset with full recognition that we are in a war.  The prayer calls echoing from the roofs around us reminds me of the spiritual war that is waging.  The child slaves who have been rescued that we ate dinner with tonight point to what God can do, but also serve as a reminder that we have an enemy who would choose to keep them in bondage.  The orphans who are without a family need someone fighting for them.  The man I saw on the side of the road yesterday who had been hit by a car may have never heard about Jesus, and he may not even be alive tonight as I write this.  Tonight our family is without water, but there are MILLIONS who go without water every, single day.

We are in a war.  

And we are the warriors for Christ.  We are the soldiers for His Kingdom.  We are the Lord's Army.  HE is the one who has chosen us for the fight.   HE has commissioned us for battle.

Friends, don't love what the world loves.  It's too easy.  We are called to do hard things.  We are called to make sacrificial choices.  We are to be burdened because there are people on this earth who have never heard of Jesus.  Our hearts are to break for what breaks God's heart.  And, we are to fight for truth, honor, justice, goodness.

We are in a war.

Tonight I am in a foreign country praising God for the independence of America.  Tonight, I am also challenged to put on my armor for the war raging around me.  One day, may God count me a first-class soldier worthy of a Medal of Honor.   May you be worthy of the same.  Will you enlist for the war?

So you, my son, be strong (strengthened inwardly) in the grace (spiritual blessing) that is [to be found only] in Christ Jesus.
And the [instructions] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also.
Take [with me] your share of the hardships and suffering [which you are called to endure] as a good (first-class) soldier of Christ Jesus.
No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:1-4

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Where Do You Go For Fun?

There are several neighborhood children who hang out at our house a lot.  Kofe, Prince, Jospeh, Nana, and Kate are with us nearly everyday.

Yesterday, we were gone for most of the day.  Within five minutes of coming home, there was a knock at our gate with five pairs of wide eyes peering over the metal bars, hoping for an invitation.  We invited them in and the kids played "capture the flag" for a while.

Soon it started raining.  I used the "down time" opportunity to get to know them better.  I asked about school, what they liked to read, what they enjoyed doing, etc...

One of my questions was, "Where do you go for fun?"

Guess what their answer was?

"Here," they said. 

"Here?  Our house?"

"Yes," they said. 

In my mind, I couldn't believe that our home was the only place they could name where they went to have fun.  Wow!  What a responsibility we have for the community where we live.  I hope God will continue to lead us here.  I pray He will lead in relationships with others.   I pray He will be glorified in our home.  

Please pray alongside us.  We would be grateful.

"You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill can not be hidden."  Matthew 5:14