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