After my post about people from Michigan, I thought I'd better give some credit to the people from other states. (Ha!) I received lots of messages from folks telling me they were from Michigan, they knew someone from Michigan, they were moving there, born there, they knew someone whose grandma's niece's brother-in-law traveled there for vacation, etc...
It seemed everyone wanted to claim Michigan as their home state!
Well, other states are represented as Kingdom Impacters too! Before I talk about them, I should say that friends from Ohio are amazing encouragers for missionaries on the field. (How's that Cindy?) Hooray for Ohio!
This summer, several people have shown us what it means to "give your life away" daily.
Through FTO, Kentucky sent three volunteers here this summer. Anna Stepp, Olivia Brainard, and Hillary Anderson. Sadly, we weren't able to spend as much time with Anna and Olivia because they left just a few short weeks after our arrival. The two of them were usually holding children when we saw them though. However, Hillary chose to stay here for an extra month.
Even though she has faced numerous challenges physically from her time here, she chose to stay longer to have more time with the children. She has been invaluable to the children through the love and attention she has shown them. She's been the hands and feet of Jesus. Her warm smile captivates the children and it always reciprocated. Kentucky folks have loved well!
I love my home state, Tennessee. The University football team in my hometown of Knoxville is known as the TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS! I love it because Tennesseeans have always led the way in volunteerism. From the Alamo to current day, Tennesseeans know what it means to lay down their lives and volunteer to help others.
Emily Marshall is one of those great Tennesseans! GO VOLS GO!
Emily has served here in Ghana numerous times at the same orphanage. The children know her and trust her. She loves the kids, kisses their boo-boos, gives them their vitamins, takes care of them if they are sick, and tucks them in at night. In many ways, she's a mommy figure for the children. Our family has learned a lot from her sacrificial actions of choosing to come back again and again. She encourages us with her true concern and care of the children in this home. What a beautiful picture of Christ.
Another hometown boy, Michael Lown, has earned the high admiration of our family.
GO VOLS GO!
GO VOLS GO!
Michael has lived in an different orphanage for over two months. No one serves there with him, so he "goes it alone" daily. He is self-motivated to help these children and, along with loving daily on the children here, he has worked all summer long on a water project for the home. He will complete this, Lord willing, before he leaves and the home will have running water within its walls just days before he departs. You can read more about his project on his blog.
Michael started a daily Bible study with the older boys here. He's discipled them well, and his time here has yielded much fruit. He was willing to stand in the gap for these kids and fight the battle in the spiritual realm. We thank God for the example of Jesus we see in Michael's comforting hands around the kids. The children in this home all look up to their Uncle Michael.
I'm sorry to give Michigan more bragging rights, but it wouldn't be right for me not to mention the "Ghana Grandma" in this post. Lola Crain flew to Ghana from Knoxville but she is from Michigan. Therefore both states can claim her. Ha! GO VOLS GO!
Lola gave her heart away to precious children for nine months here in Ghana. She spent several days with our family as soon as we moved into our home. We learned months worth of knowledge from her in a few short days. Lola has recently returned to the states where she is now raising support to work full time for Feeding the Orphans. Too much of her life is bound here. She is now tied to these children so she continues to give her life away in new ways to help them.
Finally, I must talk about the O'Learys - the founders of Feeding the Orphans. They are true Tennessee Volunteers. (Kristie was actually raised in Kentucky. Here's another two-state claim on bragging rights. GO VOLS GO!)
help them.) We've seen the O'Learys lives up close. They are the real deal. Their lives are totally surrendered to Jesus.
The last meal we shared with the O'Learys before leaving for Ghana was beans and rice. Our two families sat sprawled out on their back porch spooning beans into our mouths. How fitting. A Ghanaian meal prepared in an American home. The simple meal was such an example of where their hearts are - here in Ghana with the children.
All of the current FTO volunteers here in country depart within the next few days. After that, our family will await the new volunteers planning to arrive in September. We are grieving saying goodbye to all three of the people who have helped us settle in here. Hillary, Emily and Michael have made our lives richer because of opportunities to serve together. We have grown through watching them serve.
Tonight our family is taking the three volunteers out to dinner for one final meal together. Although they deserve so much more, it's a small way our family can say "thank you" to them for their time here. What an impact each of them has made on the children surrounding them.
Tonight, we will probably have something semi-American because Hillary, Emily and Michael have been eating beans and rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice for months. :-) Ghana Grandma and O'Leary family - we wish you were here to join us. You will be with us in spirit.
Finally, I want to say thank you to Daniela Leipold who "gave her life away" and loved on our son before we even knew he would be ours! She loved on him for one full year of his young life. We are so thankful for her love for Godwin. She has sent him gifts and still stays in touch with us. She even sent me baby pictures of him that I will cherish forever! (What a gift for a momma!) Godwin had people loving him before he even became part of our family! The impact of her volunteerism continues. Thank you Daniela! (By the way, Daniela is from Austria! But her actions say she should be from TENNESSEE!)
We thank you all for GIVING YOUR LIVES AWAY to inspire others, ourselves included, to do the same.
We love you all!
"The King will answer them and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to ME."