Thursday, October 18, 2012

Weekend Ghana Challenge

Dear Friends,

It seems recently we have started every post with reasons why you have not heard from our family.  We apologize.  The truth is that we are overwhelmed by the enormous need surrounding us.

Over the past ten days these are some of the needs that have come to us:

1.)  A young boy with an unemployed father - no food in their one room home, and little of anything else.  The young boy is a step-child an unwanted by the step-mother.  The day we met him, he was out begging for fish so he would have something to eat.

2.)  A single mother who works to provide for her 8 month old son and herself.  Her monthly salary is 70 cedis ($35 mo.) to provide for both of them.  She only eats one small bowl of porridge per day because that is all she can afford.  Much of her income is spent on public transportation so she can go to work with her baby tied to her back.  Although she is nursing her son, she weighs no more than 95 pounds and her body is the shell of a woman.  She is an orphan herself with no mother or father.

3.)  An orphanage with 115 children.  Fifty-one boys share one room with 16 beds.  The day we visited there was only one bag of rice left for food.  They had been eating rice alone for several days - mostly in porridge form (more water than rice).  Kids skip school to go beg for food because they are hungry.  Many of the children here have stomach aches because of hunger and parasites.  No deworming has taken place here in over two years.

4.)  Seven children who are not in school because the single mothers can not afford the school fees.  One mother leaves her three young children in her one room shanty alone for the day so she can go to work.  Her pay 50 cedis per month ($25 mo.).

5.)  A school trying to help the poorest children in their community by providing education services at the lowest rate possible.  Because many of the children come from extremely poor homes, the kids are hungry when they come to school.

6.)  A single mother who lives in a kiosk with her youngest child.  Yes, she sleeps in a room no larger than a closet where she cooks rice during the day then sleeps there at night.  Her older two children have been sent away to work as child laborers for someone because this mother can not afford to care for them.

7.)  Three boys living with their grandmother who are out of food.  The grandmother has previously provided .30 peswas for the boys to live on every day - that equates to $.15 for daily nourishment.

8.)  A boy living near us who has not been able to go to school because his father has not been paid.  This bright young man is the age of one of our boys and he has begged us to help him go to school.

9.)  Three orphans taken in by a local pastor who is caring for them out of his own scarce resources.

10.)  A pastor seeking some funds to place a roof on a structure so his congregation will be able to meet in a safe place.  Until the church can afford a roof, this congregation meets under the trees outside the King's home.  (In Ghana, Chiefs rule over small regions, and King's rule over larger ones.)   For the past three weeks, the Priests and Priestesses of the tribal gods have offered sacrifices and offerings to the local idols while the pastor is leading worship services.  These are done within sight and ear-shot of the congregation.  Drink offerings (libations) are poured on the ground while the service is happening.  This past Sunday, the pastor gave a message while two rams were sacrificed within 30 yards of the outdoor service.  The spiritual persecution escalates, and the battle is real for this pastor in this dark village.

I'll stop there, but will throw in that none of the homes listed above have running water.  None.  The orphanage pulls water out of a well in the middle of the compound.  No, it is not purified.  I think only one of the homes above has electricity.  The orphanage only has electricity when they can afford to pay the bill.  The evening we were there, there was only one light bulb lighting the compound housing 115 children.  The church structure needing a roof consists of wood planks that have been raised to hold a roof - there are no walls and no floor.  (Tarps were rented for the outreach below which was held on-site for the new church structure.)

Daily, we feel the weight of this.  This is what our family is living, seeing, hearing, and breathing 24 hours per day.  The US presidential election, weekend football scores, current movies, newest restaurant openings, latest fashion trends, the newest Apple products, or choosing a paint color for the bedroom, etc... seem a world away for us.  It's not that we do not care about these things, but the needs surrounding us seem more urgent for our focus.  (Again, we do care about who will be elected in a few weeks.  Truly, we do.  But at the same time we are trusting our sovereign God who already knows the outcome of the election.  Does that make sense?)  It is hard to explain, but I am being honest.  We are on our knees before the Living God for the beloved people of Ghana that God continually places before our family.  And we are also on our knees for all of our friends in America as well.  It is our homeland, and we pray that our nation would draw close to God.

As difficult as it is for you to wrap your mind around what life is like here in Ghana, it is quickly becoming a challenge for our family to wrap our minds around the luxury of our previous life before moving here.  We grieve our own ignorance about the desperation of millions of people on the earth, and previously doing so little to respond to it.  As church-going Christians, I wish we had heard more about what was happening in the rest of the world.  Frankly, I feel we should have heard more from our church leaders.  However, we also should have been more diligent to find out, and diligent to keep the needs in front of us.  Too often, we would feel a slight twinge of responsibility, pray, respond to a small degree, then move on.  It's sad how we led our own family in fairly comfortable and invincible bubble.    We regret our lack of pursuit to care for the "least of these" in the name of Christ.  Reid and I feel sorrow for this now.

Hungry children without food, many with no clean water to drink, families living in tiny, horrid conditions, children deprived of education, orphans with no one to love them, millions who have never owned a Bible but memorize scripture so that it is hidden in their hearts, Christians who face persecution daily at the risk of their lives because they believe in our Savior, millions who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, etc...  Well...we never "got it."  It never sank in that these were real people, real children, real babies that in some way we, as Christians, must love as our neighbors.  We should be loving them as our brothers and sisters.  These are the real souls destined for eternity that God has told us to "GO," and "make disciples of them."  God has commanded us to "care for the least of these" and, in doing so, "we are doing it unto Christ."

This morning, I wondered if some of you might be up for a challenge.  It's the weekend, and I know many of you have this time for "relaxing."  We receive many questions about what life is like here, and what a typical day looks like, etc...  Why not take this weekend to teach some life lessons to yourself and your children?  Why not spend the next two days living like the people here?  Maybe even group of friends could do this together...  Homeschoolers, maybe this could be an activity for you and your children to do together.  Teachers, what if your class experienced this for a weekend?

If you choose to take this challenge, I'd really love to hear from you.  We are finding that even though we are missionaries here, we can not truly relate to the desperation of the people because we have never felt it.  I doubt many of you have either.

Here are your parameters for the weekend challenge:

1.)  Based on the pay for the single mothers above, you have $1.50 per day to live on.  (Because you are hardworking people, you are being given a raise over the women working here.  Many of them live on less.)  You must buy everything you need for yourself with that $1.50 - food, medicine, supplies, etc...  No cheating.  Remember that $1.50 is for your entire family, not $1.50 per person.  Single mothers are supporting their kids alone on this salary.

2.)  Park your car in a trusted friend's driveway.  You will not have the use of it.  Recently, I sat on a mountaintop and counted the homes in the village below me - there were 54 homes and two vehicles for the entire village.  Only 4% of the homes in this village had use of a car - if they worked.  If you must take public transportation, your daily $1.50 will have to cover it.  If you go anywhere, you must either walk, take public transportation or find a ride.   Each phone call to find a ride will take $.20 of your daily $1.50.

3.)  Shut off your electricity.  Remember, there is none in the homes above, so to empathize them, you need to live without it as well.  You can not use electricity for anything - phones, computers, television, appliances.

4.)  Choose one outfit to wear for the weekend, and one pair of shoes.  You can hand wash your clothes if needed.  If you plan to go to church on Sunday, you might want to choose a nicer outfit to wear for the weekend.  One outfit will need to last several days.  (Over the past four months, please know we have seen children here in the same outfit every time we see them.  Five months.  One outfit.)

5.)  Clean out a large trashcan and fill it with fetched water.  Ask a neighbor who lives a mile or so away if you can come to their house for water.  Do not take it out of the sink in your own home.  Most here do not have that luxury.  Grab a bucket or two and send the women and children to fetch the water.  (People here must buy the buckets out of their $1.50 per day.  However, you may use what you own, or borrow from your neighbors.  Consider it a bonus.)  Throughout the weekend, you must use this water for your cooking, your bathing, your washing, your cleaning, and your drinking.  Because it will sit out for a day or two, you will need to boil it before drinking or cooking with it.  You will need to build a fire to boil your water because you do not have electricity and can not afford gas cylinders.  Send the children to fetch firewood.  From your kitchen you are allowed 1 pot for cooking.

6.)  Your day will draw to a close sooner than usual because you will not have lights.  Once it is dark, you may only use candles to light your room.  Each family may have one flashlight throughout the weekend.  Again, the flashlight is a bonus.  However, any candles or batteries purchased must come from your $1.50 per day salary.

7.)  You will need to choose a small room in the house for your family to sleep in.  Perhaps a master bedroom closet or a small bedroom would suffice.  (One family here has 12 people in one room, and it is not uncommon.  If you really want to be Ghanaian, you might want to invite your grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews to join you in the room for the weekend.)  Have each person choose one item to bring with them for this will be your only item to own for the weekend.  No cheating by grabbing things from the rest of the house throughout the weekend.  Each person's one chosen item is it.  Everything should be contained in the one small living space, and it should be the only space your family stays unless you are outside.  Mom and Dad are allowed a camping mat, but the children sleep directly on the floor.  If you can section off a portion of your garage for your living space, the bare concrete floor would be indicative of children's beds in many homes here.  A few blankets should be shared by everyone.  At least two people should share each blanket.  You can choose if you cover with the blanket or if you sleep on top of it.  It's up to you.

8.)  Throughout the weekend, you must have a joyful heart and spirit.  The people here do.  Don't complain about how little you have.  The people here don't.  Praise God for everything you have for the weekend.  The people here are very thankful for the little they have.  Take time with each other.  Enjoy relationship.  Laugh a lot.  Don't be in a hurry.  Though the work is hard and time-consuming, you might find you enjoy the simpler days without the distractions. This is how the people above are walking though life.  Even in their desperate situations, they are trusting God.  Don't tell anyone if you are hungry, or if things are hard, or about the long walk for water.  You can share only if someone asks.  Don't' complain, but share your difficulties it in a way that conveys, "that's just how it is."  Be dependent on God to meet your needs throughout the weekend.  Pray for Him to provide.  If your children are hungry, you may need to give them your portion of food.  If one of your children become sick over the weekend, you will need to call someone to see if you can borrow money to take them to the doctor. because your current daily income isn't enough to save for emergencies.

That's how the people here are living.  I challenge you to take a few days and live life with them.  Use the time to PRAY for them.

Even as I type this, I am not sure our family could step into this challenge yet.  Yes, we live in Ghana, but we live in comfortable surroundings.  Our standard of living is not what I have described.  Could our family of seven live like this for a weekend?  We do experience the loss of electricity often, so that would not rattle us, but lack of food?  Feeling hunger?  A one room home?  A tiny amount of money to provide for our family - and really live on it?  No car?  AND a joyful heart in this circumstance?  In brutal honestly, I wrestle with the fact that I don't think I'm there yet.  But OH, I want to be.  I want my heart to be broken for what breaks God's heart.  Continually.   Should I desire not to feel the desperation of the need?  Should I desire to ignore it?  If I said "yes" to these honest selfish desires, I would choose to give a blind eye to what God has placed in front of me to SEE.  

And SHARE.  So you will SEE and FEEL too.

Ignoring the vast need is the easier way, but I don't believe it is God's way.

God hears the cries for help.  He alone is their help.  He is their refuge and strength.  He is their true HOPE.  I continue to find my own peace when I can rest in this truth.

Friends, please let me know if you are up to the challenge above.  Our family WILL be doing this.  I'm not sure when, but we will.  Hopefully, we can share some of our journey in the challenge.

Following Christ is a challenge.  At times, He takes us to places where we would never willingly go.  But He is our guide.  He's the one we follow.  So, if that means following Him into a depth of understanding of the life people face here that I currently do not have, then I need to follow.  Right now, I can relate to people only through my own grid of experience.  I'm realizing I need to feel, understand, and experience their life.  After all, the standard of living above represents an enormous portion of the world's population.

Now, I must end this post with PRAISES to God.  We rejoice in what He has done over the past ten days!  As needs were coming to us, God was already ahead.  He's the one who promises to provide.  Because of people who are choosing to "bear one another's burdens" and generously giving of their resources, we do rejoice over what God has done.

1.)  An unexpected gift was used to provide food for the young boy (Need #1) and the single mother with the 8 month old baby (Need #2)!  God is so good!
2.)  Feeding the Orphans was given the money needed to deworm all 115 kids at the orphanage (Need #3)!  This will be done in the coming weeks!  God is faithful!  Money also came through FTO to provide for the immediate need of food for this home!  The children's prayers were answered!
3.)  A surprise gift was given to provide for the seven children to attend school (Need #4)!  They are being enrolled this week!  God provided through His people!  He holds the future of these children in His hands!
4.)  Our monthly support through the provision of His people is providing for our family and enabling us to provide for urgent, immediate needs. We are grateful and we praise God!

In the same ten days these needs came to us, God already provided for nearly half of them and He provided for our family!  Can you believe it?  Nothing is too difficult for Him!  God is already working in all of these circumstances.   Can we do anything less than praise Him?

I am no longer anxious about anything...for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine.  It makes no matter where He places me, or how.  That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace sufficient.  It little matters to my servant if I send him to buy a few cash worth of things or the most expensive articles.  In either case, he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases.  So, if God should place me in great perplexity, must he not give much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength?  No fear that His resources are mine - for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.   - Hudson Taylor

You can contact me or one of our partners - Feeding the Orphans or Meaningful Life International if you want more information on ways to help.  Most of the children listed above will be needing FTO sponsors soon.

I won't end this post with a financial plea.  I won't end it with an "urge to respond" to the above needs, I feel I do that too often.  God is the ultimate provider.

I will end this post with the words of Jesus praying we will all stand together on His right side as sheep before His throne...

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31-46

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