Friday, August 31, 2012

The Secret Link to God's Glory

This morning I was convicted in my quiet time with the Lord.  Gently, He revealed a habit I’d fallen into.  

Today I began my quiet time in 2 Chronicles.  (I’m reading through the Bible again, so this was where my daily reading was assigned.)  Yesterday, I was amazed to be reminded that although the instructions for the temple were given to David, they were relinquished from David to his son, Solomon. The building of the temple was ultimately led by David’s son.  Not David.  (1Chronicles 22:8-11 and 1 Chronicles 28:1 - 29:19).  

As I read about this, I realized that right now I am seeing the fruit of ministry in our boys’ lives more than in my own.  (My perception only.)  Today I realized that the most impactful work here may not come through Reid or myself, but it may come through our boys. God has given our boys opportunities to do things that I could never do.  Our boys are His vessels for tremendous ministry here.  Through reading this passage, I was thankful to see God has commissioned them for His purposes here.  Could a mother be more thankful?  I don’t think so.

Today I began reading in 2 Chronicles because I’d finished 1 Chronicles yesterday.  After I’d read for a while, I realized that I had not prayed before starting my reading.  Then I realized to my dismay that I had not taken time to intentionally pray for some prayer requests that have come to me over the past few days.  Although I had taken time to offer up some “flare prayers” on their behalf, I had not spent time before my Father really seeking Him on their behalf.  I had only been praying from the surface without any depth.  Then God gently helped me realize that my prayer time had diminished while my study time had increased since our arrival in Ghana.  

Hmmm...not an equitable equation...

I stopped my reading and bowed my head before my Father.  My heart began to pour out in words as I prayed aloud in the solitude of our home.  I lifted up request after request after acknowledging His goodness.  I prayed for family, friends, sick babies, hungry children, healing of infections, those living lives without the knowledge of Jesus, missionaries facing discouragement, waiting children for adoption and the parents waiting for them to come home, the staff of orphanages who care for the children before the adoptions, people needing encouragement, unity within relationships, our boys, FTO volunteers arriving in country soon, provision for needs of others, my homeless friends in Knoxville, support to come for those moving into full time ministry, continual movement toward deeper relationships here, church growth in a dark community needing Christ, healing within marriages of friends, the clear leading of people to know from God if He desires for them to come serve here in Ghana, provision for a medical center here, provision for a church here, children to be walking in the Truth, protection for our family, for us not to grow weary in doing good, for a granddaughter who can't attend church right now, for peers of my boys to grow in Christ, for relationships to be restored..., etc..., etc...

My prayer ended with, “Lord, forgive me for not coming to you as often or as fervently as I should for these things.  My greatest desire is for you.  I need you.  I am desperate for you.  Oh, please fill up the dry places in my heart.  Lord, I only want to reflect your presence in my life.  Lord, please let your glory shine in my life, and let it shine brightly.  Amen.”

I ended my prayer with a few tears as I said those final words.  I opened my eyes and glanced down to my Bible on my lap.  My eyes fell to the next verse from where I had left off reading.  (Notice the words in bold because these are the ones that leaped off the page to me!)

“Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down form heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house.”
2 Chronicles 7:1

WOW!  “When Solomon finished praying... the glory of the Lord filled the house.”  These were almost exactly the words I had prayed for my life!!  I felt like God was saying to me that His Glory falls on me as I pray, or as others pray.  His Glory will always come after prayer.  Prayers beckon His glory.  WOW!

God takes prayer seriously.  He desires to hear our hearts and then speak right back.  Prayer should not be rushed.  Prayer should be intimate.   Then the glory of the Lord will fill us!  It’s a beautiful thing.

I’d like to thank everyone praying for us.  We know you are covering us, because we feel it.  When we find it difficult to pray for ourselves, we know others are interceding for us.  (Honestly lately, Reid and I have both found it difficult to be praying for our own needs.  We are sooooo grateful for those of you who pray for us!  You have no idea!)  One couple is praying for one member of our family each of the seven days of the week.  Reid, Robin, Mason, Franklin, Weston, Braden and Godwin = seven days of prayer.  Knowing prayers are being lifted is such an encouragement!  Thank you!  

All of the prayer warriors out there are doing the greatest work for missions.  “The prayers of a righteous man avails much.”  Prayer wages victory in the spiritual war raging over us.  Thank you.

Please know we are praying for you too.  It’s an honor to be lifting you up to the Father as well.  After this morning, growing my prayer life is a priority.  If you have specific needs that I can be praying for you, you may email them to me, and I promise to pray for you.  Really pray.  Really intercede.  

A friend of mine here, Autumn Buzzell, has a “Prayer Wall” in her room.  Names of family, children at CORM, friends, etc... are written on index cards with prayer needs surrounding each name.  Autumn has these taped to her wall as a reminder to constantly be in prayer.  (I think I’ll borrow this idea for our family!)

We have been studying the book of Hebrews in our Bible Study.  This week I was struck by the “job” Jesus holds now.  I knew it, but the reality of the magnitude of His work has hit me powerfully.

“Therefore he is able to save those who draw near to God through Him, 
since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
Hebrews 7:25

Jesus lives to make intercession for us.  That is now His full time job.  Wow!  I am amazed.  After the power time of prayer I encountered this morning, I am forever grateful that He lives to make intercession for me...for all of us.  

Jesus, thank you for interceding for me.  Thank you for never ceasing to do so.  Thank you for speaking on my behalf to the Father.  May I learn from you.  May I intercede seriously.  May I pray with my whole being.  Thank you for hearing and answering my prayers. May Your glory fill my life and the life of my family.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Little Things

Guest Blogger:  Mason, age 15  

     What an experience this has been is just under three months. It is crazy to think that I actually live in Africa. I would have never guessed that I would someday live in another country. I keep telling myself, "This is so cool." How many Americans can say that they have lived in a third world country? How many youth can say they have lived in a foreign country? I have a really cool life, but it is hard sometimes.

     Before we arrived in Ghana, I thought the hardest things about it would be the big noticeable things, such as everyone here being dark skinned, different languages, food, and missing family and friends. I have found that those things are hard, but the little things are what really get to me. I knew that there would be small things that would be different, but I had know idea how many little things there are.

     Note to children in America: Never complain about doing the dishes again. Note to parents in America: Never let your kids complain about doing dishes again. In Ghana, dishwashers are non-existent. Everything has to be washed by hand. We recently had some people over for dinner. We spent almost the whole next day, and I am not over exaggerating by much, doing dishes. I always thought doing dishes in America was bad, but I obviously had not lived in Africa yet.

     It is very dusty here in Ghana. We leave our windows open, so that our house does not turn into an over-sized oven, but the problem with that is we then have lots of dust blown in through the open windows. We have to sweep at least every other day and mop about twice a week. Another convenience in America is vacuum cleaners. I did not think I would ever miss vacuums, but again, I obviously had not lived in Africa yet.

     It is so nice in America, that you can simply plug things in. Since we brought many items over on our container, we have many items in our house that have American plugs. If we want to use them, we have to find an adapter that is not being used (we don't have many), plug it in to the outlet, plug in whatever we are using, and then manually turn the outlet on. To make things even more complicated, if what we are using cannot handle the power voltage used here (they use a different amount of volts and hertz than we do in America), we have to use a transformer to step the power down.

     Everything in Ghana is prepaid, even electricity. Instead of receiving a monthly electric bill, we have a card that we take to an ECG (Electric Company of Ghana) sales-point. You give them the card and the amount of money you want to put on your card. Every home that has electricity has a meter on the front of the house. When your credit is finished (that is how Ghanaians would say it), the meter will beep until you stick the card in and replenish your power credits. I think it is a lot easier to get a bill in the mail each month saying how much you need to pay. On top of that we have random power outages lasting anywhere from five minutes to four days.

     Alright, here is the last thing I will list, although I could keep going for a long time. Water is rationed here. We only get running water every other week. We have a big black plastic tank in our backyard called a Polytank. We have another Polytank on the roof. The weeks when we have running water, the tanks are filled up, and we have to live off of the water in the tank for the following week. The weeks when we don't have running water is no fun if we don't have power. When we don't have running water, we get our water pressure from gravity. In other words the water level in the tank has to be higher than the faucet that is being used. We do have a water pump, but it doesn't work if we don't have power. So on weeks when we don't have running water and we lose power, we have no running water.

     In other words, America has a lot to be thankful for. I would say almost every home in America has running water all the time. If an American is without power for more than an hour they call the electric company and most likely have power again by the next day. Things can be plugged straight into the wall without having any doubts about whether a transformer is needed. These small things are the things that bug me. These are the things that I miss (other than family and friends of course). Please don't hear this as me complaining. I just want to give you a glimpse into our lives. Plus, without challenges, it is no fun. If you think about it, nothing is fun without challenges. The challenges are exciting, because we have to find ways to get past them.

     To end this, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who is supporting us. I would not be able to live this exciting life if it was not for you. Thank you for making my life exciting, and for letting me experience these challenges.

P.S.  My mom just read this and said she wished she was a guy because we have such different perspectives.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Sydney

(Sydney O'Leary is celebrating her 13th birthday today in Knoxville.  Here's a special birthday gift for her from Ghana.  We love you Sydney!)

Guest Blogger and Artist:  Franklin, age 14

Happy 13th Birthday Sydney! These are some pictures of me drawing and painting a tree in the Feeding the Orphans house at City of Refuge. I call it "Tree of Hope" because the kids that are going to live in this house came from nothing, but are given hope for their future lives.  I hope this tree will be a reminder of that.

Since art is kind of my hobby, I loved doing this project. It was my first mural I have ever done and one of the few paintings I have done. I usually sketch and draw but painting is much more interesting. In drawing if you mess up you can erase it, but in painting if you make a mistake you can't erase it, you have to make do.

I was very focused.
I had to make my own palette because I didn't have one. I put a piece of plastic around a board and used silly bands to hold the handle in place and also to hold the plastic down. It worked great!
Here, I had to be creative and use what was available.

The tree of hope is still being painted. It didn't take me just like a couple hours, it was a four day process.

I am getting the color brown just right for the tree.
I had some people watching me while I shaded the tree.
You can see it better in this picture where I am making it darker on one side.

Portia was avery good helper. She put the paint bottles away when I was done with the color.  She helped me clean out my brushes and she helped clean up when I was done for the day. And if you know Portia, well, lets just say I had someone to talk to while I painted. I loved it.

These two boys will live in this home.  Bismark and Moses were recently rescued from spending their lives as fishing slaves.  It was fun to see them in front of the Tree of Hope.
Braden, Portia and Bismark.
Standing with my Dad in front of the tree.  You can see how tall it is.  My Dad is over 6 feet tall.
I asked my mom to send Sydney and Kristie O'Leary an email asking them what their favorite flowers were.   Sydney likes colorful daisies and sunflowers.  Mrs. O'Leary likes tulips and dogwood blossoms.  Because Sydney and Mrs. O'Leary started Feeding the Orphans and they raised money to build this house, I wanted their favorite flowers to be on the wall.  With some help from my mom, we added tulips, daisies, a sunflower and some dogwood blossoms on the tree branches.  It was special to have a reminder of Sydney and Mrs. O'Leary in this FTO house at City of Refuge.
My mom painted in a different position than I did. I just think she was tired.

The flowers are almost done and I still have to do the dogwood blossoms on the tree.

I am putting the finishing touches on the sunflower. That was my favorite flower to paint.
Once I finished the tree, I had to have some fun climbing it!
The dogwood blossoms are fun to paint and I enjoyed doing them.  They reminded me of Tennessee!

All I have left to paint is a few dogwood blossoms, then the Tree of Hope will be completely finished. Happy Birthday Sydney!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Other Side of the World

Real thoughts from a real ain't pretty...but it's honest...

It's hitting me.  We live on the other side of the world.  The.  Other.  Side.  Of.  The.  World.


Everything familiar is gone...sights, smells, language, tastes, conveniences, and, even to some degree, the relationships, are gone.  Living here is H-A-R-D.

Over the past week, I've missed home.  Our honeymoon phase is ending, and the cost of the decision to follow Christ here has seemed magnified.  Jesus said there is a cost for following Him, but now I'm recognizing the true cost and sacrifice to follow...and, I confess, it is H-A-R-D.

My Dad celebrated his birthday and my family went to great measures for us to be able to FaceTime with him.  Although he could hear our voice, we could not hear his.  (Our computer and phone connections here stink!)  It was our one time to talk to him and I couldn't even hear my father's voice.  As we were trying to converse, we would ask questions and he would write down an answer and hold it up to the screen.  (It felt so impersonal communicating this way, but it is all we could do!)   I asked, "Dad, what can I send you from Africa for your birthday?"  Dad looked down and wrote something on a piece of paper, then held it up to the screen.  "You," was the answer.   I wasn't prepared for this response.  I almost burst into tears in that moment, but knew I couldn't.  "I can't send you me," I thought, "but I want to."  Then on my dad's birthday, I couldn't reach him.  I tried to leave a message for him at home, but do not think the call held so he may not even hear his birthday song I attempted to sing for him.  I miss being there to celebrate my Daddy.

My sister is preparing to bring her son home from Ethiopia.  Her friends hosted a shower for her last night.  Everyone was able to shower her with gifts for Christopher.  I hate missing special moments like that!  I long to celebrate this with her so badly - she has waited for him so long!  But I was here while everyone was celebrating there.  It made me homesick.

Thursday Connection started this week, and I was not there to hug my students.  I miss them.  There are friends facing difficult things at home, and I can't do anything to help them.  My grandmother's memory is slipping, and I don't know if I will ever see her again.   My other sister, Kelly, just started a new job and I don't know how it is going.  Friends are facing new things, and I'm not there to walk through it with them.  I miss home.

When I climbed in bed last night, I had a little pity party thinking of all the things I was missing at home...Sigh...Tears...Sadness...

My love language is "gifts" and I've wanted to find a gift for my dad and one for my nephew.   As I look around here, I can't even find something to send home for them.  I don't want to send home a "souvenir," I want to find a perfect gift for both of them.  I haven't been able to find anything.  I don't want to buy something used.  What about a piece of fabric?  No, I can't see my sister carrying Christopher with fabric tied to her back.  I don't think my Dad would appreciate any tools from here, Home Depot's selection is more than I can find anywhere here.  Ahhh...this world is so different.  I can't even find a birthday gift for my Dad or a baby gift for my nephew!!  Sometimes it can be frustrating!  (On top of this, I wrestle with the thoughts of, "Do they really need a gift when everyone around me is in such great need?"  Oh, it is such a struggle and my head swims from it all!)

Maybe this post is too honest...again, I'm only sharing MY PERSONAL WRESTLING, I AM NOT ATTEMPTING TO IMPOSE GUILT ON ANYONE.  (Why do I always feel the need to include this disclaimer when I am sharing from a raw place?)

This week I had a conversation with the mother of a missionary.  We both shared tears for everything we miss.  She shared about her daughter and grandchildren living here and how hard it is to miss seeing them grow up.  I shared about missing my family and friends.  At times, we both just looked at each other with tears coming down our faces not knowing what to say.  Because really, what can you say?

I talked with a dear friend on the phone in the States and our call was dropped four times.  The fourth time I called her back, she shared she was out in the store buying birthday supplies for her daughter. Even this was another reminder of what we are missing because we won't be there to celebrate her birthday.  Then the line went dead again.  Our power was out and I found myself in total darkness holding a cell phone slapped in the face by the contrast.  I hadn't even shared with my friend that I was speaking to her in the black night because that is simply the normality of our life here.  She is out shopping and I am sitting in the dark without power.  The world my friend lives in is no longer my world.

We had friends here recently, and I was so blessed by our time together.  They breathed some life into us...and then they headed home.  We saw great needs of people together, and then they got to leave it behind...while we are still here wrestling with it.  I'm jealous to some degree.  There are times I want to go home too.  I want to escape from hungry children, needy families, etc...  There are moments I want to climb on a plane too and go home.  I admit it.  But I know we are not supposed to go home.  We are called to stay here.

I am trying desperately to make it work living in both worlds.  I want to live here and I want to live there.  I miss what I know.  I miss my family.  I listen to my boys daily tell me they miss their cousins and friends.  I wipe their tears.  I miss my friends.  I miss the ease of Internet.  I miss paved roads.  I miss being able to have a conversation without straining to read lips and understand.  I miss Breyers Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream.  I miss drive thru windows.  I miss not sitting in traffic.  I miss having a yard that is open to my neighbors and not surrounded by a concrete wall.  I miss windows without bars. I miss my family.  I miss my friends.  The boys miss their cousins and their friends.  I miss my family.  I miss my friends.  But didn't I already say that?  Twice?

Living here is H-A-R-D.

Yesterday we intentionally tried to spend the day as a family.  We went to a local beach hoping to enjoy the ocean waves.  We needed some family time.  Within 30 seconds of setting our things down on the sand, we were surrounded by eleven boys.  Eight were in their underpants and three were completely naked.  The boys were all between 8-12 years old.  These boys were far too old to be naked - or even in their underpants - on a public beach.  My honest response was, "Please, please go away.  Please just let us have some time as a family.  Please give us some space."  (I'm selfish, aren't I?  My eyes were tired of taking in naked needy children.  It's constant.)  As soon as I had this thought, a man behind me yelled at the boys and they scampered off in fear.  Of course we were the only white people on the beach, but sometimes I long to just be like everyone else.  (Not gonna happen here...)  I didn't mean to wish the young boys away, but my heart felt so heavy to take in more.  Three naked boys seemed like too much on this day.  At times, we feel we have no where to go where we can simply "be."

We walked down the beach and two new boys walked with us.  They appeared from nowhere, but were by our sides while we walked.  One boy's flip-flops were completely worn through.  These shoes were all he had, I'm certain.  Their clothing was ragged, torn and stained.  "They are probably fishing slaves," I thought to myself with anger and numbness sweeping over me.  How can I make sense of this world I am now living in?  It doesn't make sense yet.  As I'm processing these thoughts, my own boys are hunting for shells among the rocks, debris, and trash along the beach.  Braden comes to me to show me a new collection of shells and crabs. The flip-flop boy hands me a sea-urchin at the same time.  Two boys battle for  my attention, but one is my own child.  Braden's eyes tell me he wants the other two boys to go away.  Selfishly, I do too.  Trying to communicate this is defeating because neither boy spoke English.

On the walk, I stopped and talked to a man.  He looked at me strangely then motioned that he could not hear.  He was cleaning the inside of his ear with a stick as he said this.  (Yes, a stick.  Two days ago, I saw a woman stick a thumbtack inside of her ear.  Yes, really.  This world is so different.)  This old man lives in a silent world, and, based on how he was dressed, I doubt he even has a home.

This was our "family day" at the beach.  We did give the two boys some juice as we were leaving.  They stayed with us the entire time.  A security man shooed them away like flies before we could do anything more.  Heartbreaking.

Everywhere we go, people conspicuously stare at us.  We are different.  We look like aliens here.  My guess is that 0.0001% of people here look like we do, talk like we do, and think like we do.  We are different, and that drains me sometimes.  I don't want to pay more because I am white.  I don't want to be pulled over by the police because I look this way.  I don't want to be cheated because people think I am a tourist.  I don't want to be give special treatment because of my skin color either.  I want to "blend in."  I want to feel "normal."

I told Reid, I constantly feel like I am being "jarred."  Emotionally jarred by the needs surrounding us.  Spiritually jarred by the misunderstanding of our faith that is so prevalent here, and the other deities people openly worship.  Physically jarred by riding on the rough roads - sometimes riding sideways because we are giving rides to people.  Mentally jarred by trying to understand customs and language I find so foreign.    

Coming here on a trip for a few weeks, it's easy to find the differences intriguing.  Living here however, the differences are something we must navigate daily.  And, how do we live here but still hold on to our own identity?  Our challenge right now is figuring this out.

A missionary friend told me that "we will think of our friends/family at home all the time, and sometimes they will think of us."  Oh, I am finding that to be true.  Everyone at home is constantly on my mind and heart.    Honestly, I had no idea how isolating or lonely living here would feel at times.  I yearn to bring everyone into my world or step back into theirs.  There are days one email from home will lift my spirits because I know someone has thought of our family.  Words from home are like bringing water to the desert on some days.  When I say that you have no idea what your encouragement  means to me that you have no idea.  Words are inadequate to describe what it means to us when we hear from home.

This morning we attended a worship service under the trees.  The pastor leading this congregation is intentionally planting a church in an idol-worshipping village.  The Chief of this area has told him not to use his speaker system because it "disturbs the gods."  This pastor and his congregation meet on Tuesdays and PRAY for this community.  There are new converts weekly.  This morning we worshipped God beside these faithful followers.  It is time of the annual festival in this community and the idols are being worshipped in horrific ways.  Drink offerings and animal sacrifices are common, not to mention the nightlife.  The pastor spoke of birthdays, festivals, and anniversaries as a time to "give a sober look back" to see where we have grown.  He challenged the congregation to mature, and not remain fixed in ways that are comfortable.  He addresses spiritual laziness talking about all the things that will steal our time and energy.  Then he encouraged the congregants to immerse themselves in what is best.  This morning, I was thankful to be right where we are because, honestly, I was challenged by the message.

As I give a sober look back today, I can't believe where we are.  I am amazed that our family is living in Ghana, West Africa.  I am astounded that the Lord has brought us here through His provision.  I am encouraged by the spiritual decisions I witness in our boys.  I am thankful that God has moved us from the comfortable into a life that requires more faith in Him alone.  I am grateful that God is requiring us to be spiritually "fit" living here; laziness is not an option.  It is evident here that our life is a breath, so we strive to make every day count.   I'm thankful that God is drawing us closer to Him and forcing us to lean hard on the members of our immediate family.  So, even though it is hard, I praise Him.  We are where we are supposed to be.

I hope to learn from Katie Davis who writes,

I would like to say that as I become more and more surrounded with sorrow and destitution, it gets easier or less painful.  But it doesn't.  The brokenness of this world does not become any less sad.  Each and every time, it is overwhelmingly devastating that people have to live, and die, like this...While it does not get easier, I have found that I am able to face each situation with a little more hope.  I always hope my friends will live hear on earth with me, but I tell them with a new sense of urgency about Jesus because mostly I want them to live with him, experience His profound, unconditional love, whether here or in heaven.  I see the sadness, but I also see the redemption.
Kisses from Katie, p. 251-252

Over time, I hope to become more like Jesus on this journey.  He faced everything we are facing now, but the cost was so much greater for him.  May God continue to give us His mercy as we confess our struggles - like I have done in this post.

As I've wrestled with these thoughts this week, I continue coming back to Psalm 139.  When we attended MTI training, our boys memorized the entire passage.  Right now, these words are providing the promised assurance of God's presence with us.  I'm thankful He is here to lead us and help us.

Where could I go to escape from you?
    Where could I get away from your presence?
If I went up to heaven, you would be there;
    if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there.
If I flew away beyond the east
    or lived in the farthest place in the west,
10 you would be there to lead me,
    you would be there to help me.

Psalm 139:7-10

P.S.  If you see my Daddy, will you sing him HAPPY BIRTHDAY for me?  (Trust me, he will be glad his birthday is lasting longer so don't worry if you are singing a month from now!!)  And if you see my sister, Wendy, will you give her a big HUG from me letting her know how much I long to be there to experience Christopher's homecoming with her?  Pray with her, encourage her, love her, support her!

P.S.S.  Please know that we are OKAY.  Just because things are hard doesn't mean we are doing poorly.  It's just challenging, so that means we are growing.  This is part of our journey.  We are grateful for your prayers for us though.

Update:  I wrote this post late last night.  Today I was sharing with our boys about how I want to "fit in" here and be "like" everyone else.  Braden looked at me and said seriously, "Mom, we should just paint our skin brown.  I mean we DO have brown paint here!"

Oh goodness!  My boys help give me some perspective!  I love my boys!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shining Stars In Ghana

(This post was started a few weeks back...  Sorry for the delay in posting...)

When we lived in Knoxville, our family was blessed to serve at Water Angels Ministry.  We found out about it from the O'Leary family, who now runs Feeding the Orphans.  One of our favorite ways to serve was to help with their Saturday ministry to the homeless children in our community.  This special time with the kids is called Shining Stars.  Each week, the children come and participate in worship, a Bible lesson, a craft and some games.  The photo above was taken several years ago when the boys were leading worship at Water Angels.  Yes, that is Mason playing guitar.  Doesn't he look tiny?

As we were preparing to move to Ghana, we had a conversation with Righ and Kristie O'Leary.  We asked them how we could serve them best here in Ghana.  Righ quickly answered, "Do something like Shining Stars with the kids there.  You know, like we do at Water Angels.  Do something like that to show the kids the love of Jesus."

So now...we are taking Shining Stars to the children of Ghana.

Recently, we led a Shining Star day at one of the orphanages here.  On this day, Mason came with his guitar and led the kids through his strumming.  I sang along and even did the motions to "Every Move I Make."  Now that's a blast from the past!

The children clapped, sang along, and LOVED it!

After the music, we did a Bible lesson.  The older boys found the scriptures and we talked about how much God cares for them.  God knows their names.  God knows the number of hairs on their heads.  He knows their every thought.  And, He loves them.  Some of the children were wide-eyed as we shared Truth with them.

On this day, Reid held Godwin while we did the lesson.  Godwin was battling malaria, and running a fever.  Bless his heart, we were well over an hour drive from our home when we realized he had a fever.  Godwin stayed in Reid's lap the entire time.

This summer, an FTO volunteer lived at this home and shared a story with us.  The volunteer had brought his malaria medication in his prescription bottle to the home.  One of the boys saw the bottle and was literally amazed that his name was printed on the label.  In fact, the boy said he had never seen printed name.  For three nights, the boy could not sleep because this "printed name" intrigued him so much.

After I heard the story, I wondered if the children own anything with their name on it.   It seemed doubtful.

Several years ago, I was really into "stamping."  As we weeded through things to bring here to Ghana, one of the things that made it to the "take to Ghana" pile was some of my alphabet stamps.  I figured we would be able to do several things with them and they were non consumable.  This day showed me what a blessing these little wooden blocks would be.

The children received paper, scissors, etc... and were able to stamp their own name!  The kids were so excited!  After each child stamped their name, we found a special verse for each child.

As soon as the boys finished stamping their names, they wanted to hang their creations up in their rooms!  Oh, it was precious!  Even the older boys were thrilled with the project!

The children took such pride in their artwork.  Concentrated eyes focused on making their paper perfect.  Every child was so happy to have something beautiful with their name on it and a Bible verse to remind them of God's love for them!

Desmond is happy to show off his special creation hung on the wall beside his bed!

After the craft comes snack time!  The boys were thrilled with Beebe popcorn!

Abigail squared!  Love it!

Joseph came to join us at the end of our day.  It was such a gift to have him participate because it was the first time he has engaged with us.  Joseph was so intense stamping his name.  I loved seeing him make something for himself.

At the end of the day, we received a special sign for our wall as well.  Joson made us this hand-stamped message of love and it now hangs in our dining room.  I love it when God sends us special gifts like that!  What a wonderful day with the God's precious children!

Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my past and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
YOu hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Psalm 139:1-5