Monday, November 26, 2012

Top Ten Positive Changes Since Moving to Ghana

Top Ten Positive Changes Since Moving to Ghana

10.)  I wear skirts almost every day and enjoy dressing with a feminine flair.

9.)  Our family entertainment is virtually always free = playing family games, going to the beach, hiking the nearby mountains, driving a few hours in the car together to run one errand...  We enjoy our family time together more than we ever have.

8.)  Upon meeting new people, I focus on the ways we are similar more than the ways we are different.  Before moving here, I easily became caught up in the differences between myself and others.  Now, my focus is on the similarities.

7.)  The daily pace of life is typically slower so there is more time for conversations, walking to the nearby stores when we need something, and watching sunsets.  No television access has been blissful.  The peace and quiet in our home was uncomfortable at first, but now is relaxing.

6.)  The food we eat is much fresher and healthier.  Reid and I have both lost a lot of weight since our arrival, but we feel better than ever.  

5.)  I’m grateful for the little things I used to take for granted.  Electricity, water, food, health, the ability to read, shelter, a bed, my own Bible...  I will never look at these things in the same way.

4.)  I don’t worry about money and we are holding onto earthly things very loosely.  God grows our faith daily in this area.

3.)  I had a very difficult time coming up with anything I “wanted” for Christmas, because I couldn’t think of a single thing we needed.  

2.)  I’m appreciating qualities in each person in my family that I’ve never noticed before.   My husband and each of our sons all are uniquely gifted for God’s purpose for their lives.  I have found great freedom in living “outside of the box” as a family.  I'm thankful God has created each of us differently.

1.)  I crave time with the Lord, and it is constant.  My relationship with Jesus is deeper than ever before, because I am more dependent on Him than ever before.  Daily, I fall more deeply in love with my Savior.  

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Family Movie Night

Tonight our family watched old home movies together.  After my surprise at what I was viewing on the screen, I posted a play-by-play on Facebook because I wanted to remember the experience.

Dear Friends, this is life with five boys...

Post #1
Watching old home movies tonight with the boys.These are movies they have taken on their own and ones I had no idea existed. One bonus from tonight was seeing our homecoming with Godwin from the passenger side of the gate. Very cool. AND I have heard Braden sing a song for a Snickers bar, viewed the outside of the car window over and over again on different trips, watched Franklin throw a paper airplane off the deck, viewed the front and side view of about 400 lego creations, seen a florescent light bulb destroyed by a bb gun, watched the boys throw a rock into a lagoon, watched the boys drop a waterproof camera into the water just to see if it would work, I've witnessed what really goes on when the boys wash the car, enjoyed every angle of lego men going to battle AND I have gotten to see the insides of a dead bird. Oh, will I ever understand boys?

Post #2
Now, fifteen minutes after I posted this, I have seen about forty takes of a nerf gun war that begins in a pitch-black closet and then Franklin and Weston shoot each other. And it starts again...Franklin is what? Oh boys!

Post #3
Oh, lets NOW add the video of...a huge spider, a very loud Burp Fest, Franklin balancing on Godwin's scooter on a rolling log, Franklin standing on the roof of our house and shooting the basketball into the goal on the driveway...again I had no idea these videos existed, a farting fest, a remote control car demolition derby, a video of what the view is with the camera strapped to the top of the remote control car...these were numerous different videos...Godwin working a puzzle but I never saw his face, only his hands putting the pieces in and it was zoomed in, a tornado of water going down our bathtub drain...another great shot with the water proof camera that they proved really works underwater, mouths moving to the twangs of musical instruments, and milk moustache contests!!! It gets better and better!!!

Post #4
Oh good grief! Now I am looking at the numbers on a digital clock AND seeing the amazing glow in the dark qualities of bendaroos as the light goes there are dead fish on the screen... World, there are times I do exaggerate, but this is not one of them! Give a boy a video camera and he will surprise you for a lifetime!

Post #5
You know it is time for bed when you are looking only at the top of a speaker cover and hearing the song, "Grandma got run over by a reindeer!!!" Nope, no faces, just the top of the speaker with the song playing in the background... Sigh. I have laughed so much tonight, but oh my! I do not understand boys!!!!

Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
Psalm 127:4

(Oh goodness, I am wondering about our precious "arrows???")

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hawking in Ghana

Last Wednesday, one more item was crossed off my "bucket list."

Mason, Franklin and I went "hawking."  What is "hawking" you ask?  It is the selling of wares on the streets.  In Ghana it is very common.  You can buy everything from the convenience of your car window - a cold Coke, toilet paper, batteries, watches, bread, apples, flags, maps, ironing boards, tables, etc...  Many items are toted from car-to-car on the heads of the sellers.

The women in the photo below are selling (in the center) Bowlflute which is similar to a deep fried doughnut, (woman to the left in the off-white shirt) bags of water in which you tear off a corner of the bag with your teeth then suck the liquid out, and (the woman in the brown striped shirt) plantain chips which are delicious by the way.

(This was a google image, we didn't take any photos of our selling.  Sorry.)
Hawking in Ghana

Since coming to Ghana, I've joked about going "hawking."  However, the longer we have lived here, the more I've wondered what it must be like.  Plans were made to go on Wednesday night and Mason and Franklin decided to come along for the experience.  Two of our neighbors also accompanied us, Beth, and her daughter, Maria.

We debated on how to do this and tossed around several ideas -
1.)  Should we buy all of the items from the hawker then give them away?  No.
2.)  Should we pay the hawkers to let us hawk with them?  No.
3.)  Should we buy all of the items from the hawker then sell them ourselves?  No.
4.)  Should we sell something different creating new competition?  No.
5.)  Should we try to partner with a hawker then help them sell their items?  Yes.

And that's what we did.

I partnered with a bread seller.  Balancing a loaf of bread on my head at times, I shouted to buses, cars and trotros (public transportation = overcrowded vans), "BUTTER BREAD! 2 CEDIS 50 PESWAS!  SUGAR BREAD! 3 CEDIS! FRESH BREAD!  BUY IT NOW!"  (For those who know me, well, yes, I did it in my LOUD ROBIN VOICE!)  I even ran beside the trotros trying to sell bread to the crowded passengers inside who could not seem to stop laughing at the sight outside the window.

Mason sold plantain chips.  He sold several bags, but he was not as loud as his mother.  Franklin sold phone credit with our friend Tony.  Franklin also had a successful night selling.  I, however, did not sell anything.  Not one loaf of bread.

My neighbor, Beth, was the master seller of the night.  In the 90 minutes we sold, she parted with 5 bags of plantain chips!  Impressive!

After experiencing this way of selling, I appreciate the business effort of the hawkers.  It is hard work.  My arms hurt from holding the bread.  My eyes stung from the diesel exhaust and red dust being spit upon me.  My feet were tired from running beside vehicles.  Geez, my voice even hurt from yelling over-and-over, "BUTTER BREAD! 2 CEDIS 50 PESWAS!  SUGAR BREAD! 3 CEDIS! FRESH BREAD!  BUY IT NOW!"

Again, most people enjoyed seeing us participate in "hawking." Some laughed.  Some pulled out their cameras and took pictures.  Some Ghanaians joked around with us.  But not everyone.

In Ghana, there are times I can feel the animosity toward the color of our skin.  Daily, it seems, we have police encounters simply because the officers want a bribe.  They pull us over and then try to find a reason to arrest us.  It's tiring and it's frustrating, but it's life for us here.   Our white skin seems to indicate money to some people here.

As cars drove past, there were some people who looked at us with disdain.  Some stares were so fierce it made me uncomfortable.  During the night, twice I was given the hand motion to indicate a sale, so I ran beside the two trotros to make the transaction.  Both times, the person wanted to take the bread for free instead of paying for it.  I suppose both men thought they should not have to pay the purchase price if they were buying from a person with white skin.  Why?  It's very sad.  As the sun set, people were urging us to get off the road for our safety.

Perhaps the people who were offended by our hawking efforts thought we were poking fun at their culture or making this profession into something glamorous.  This is not the case.  We simply wanted to learn what it is like to "hawk."  After all, a majority of the spontaneous purchases we conduct here are done through our car window.

When I see children selling, my heart breaks because I know they should be in school.  Ghana has cracked down on this in recent years so the number participating is fewer, but there are still children out selling everyday.  They should not be.  However, for the adults making a living this way, I am thankful they are willing to work.  These are intelligent men and women who speak multiple languages and can compute difficult math transactions in their heads producing correct change.  Basically, they are running a commission-based business so if they don't sell, they don't make any money.  They start at sunrise and work until after dark.  These people seem to have a strong work ethic.

There are more questions I plan to ask the next time I go "hawking."  How much profit do you make in a day?  What are the best times to sell?  Where do you buy your items?  Etc...  Oh, yes, I will do it again because I have several friends who wanted to go but were unable to do so this time.  (Right Bible Study gals?  Ha!)

We've experienced one great benefit from our evening selling on the street.  Now, when I pass through the place where we partnered with "hawkers," I now know many of the sellers names.  Smiles and waves are given freely to our family every time we pass.  Even though I didn't sell any bread, the new relationships made it worth it!

The next time you are walking down the bread aisle at the grocery store, just picture me with a loaf of bread on my head yelling, "BUTTER BREAD! 2 CEDIS 50 PESWAS!  SUGAR BREAD! 3 CEDIS! FRESH BREAD!  BUY IT NOW!"

She is a hard worker, strong and industrious.
She knows the value of everything she makes, and works late into the night.
Proverbs 31:17-18

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's the Simple Things

Sometimes it is the simple things that make me smile.  Yesterday was a day full of simple things.

The day after Katie left to return to the states, we moved a young single mother and her son in with us.  The mother's name is Etornam and she is a vibrant woman who yearns for nothing more than to care for her 11 month old son, Elyon.  Our family has quickly attached with them both and we love having a young chattering child crawling around the house.

 After watching the David Platt / Francis Chan "Multiply" simulcast Friday night, I've been reminded to take discipleship seriously.   Since Etornam moved in, she and I have been doing a daily Bible Study on our identity in Christ. My time in God's Word with Etornam, and another orphaned young woman, Naomi, is a highlight of my day.  Right now, Etornam and Naomi are people God has placed in front of me to intentionally disciple.  In my weakness, I am trying.

Our family is trying to help Etornam make a fresh start for herself and her young son.  We are trying to help Etornam establish herself as a seamstress to pursue her trade of sewing.  We are working through Feeding the Orphans to give her and her son a new beginning.  Etornam has no parents.  No grandparents.  No husband.  However, Etornam is blessed to have an elderly man in her family who will speak on her behalf.  This wise elderly man visited our home yesterday.  We are thankful for his role as family leader.

However, it's hitting me that orphaned children eventually become adults.  They continue through life without a parental figure unless they pursue relationship with an older person or unless the Lord brings the two together.  By God's orchestration, Etornam is now in our life.  We are thankful and submit to God's leading for whatever our role in her life may look like in this season.  We say, "Yes, Lord."

Yesterday was Elyon's first birthday.  And, of course in the Beebe house, we celebrate!

Yesterday, I helped Etornam learn to bake a cake from scratch.  Although cake mixes can be found here in Ghana, they are extremely expensive. (Like $9 for a box of mix and $14 for the frosting!)  So, we used what we had and made a cake with basic ingredients...flour, sugar, butter, etc...

Etornam had never used an oven.  She said she had always seen cakes but never knew how they were made.   Today she leaned and she giggled the entire time!

Our only obstacle was finding our flour infested with bugs.  When we moved here, some missionary friends told us that one day we would be sifting the bugs out of our flour and eating it.  I can honestly say that, yes, the day has come.  We spent the first 20 minutes of our "cake-baking lesson" sifting bugs out of the flour.  (Oh goodness, I am sharing this on the blog!  What am I thinking?  Friends, don't judge me.  I did eat the cake and it was delicious and I am still alive today.  Praise God!  No, I did not tell our boys about sifting out the bugs until they had eaten the cake.  Yes, they are all still alive today too.)

After baking the cake, Etornam decorated it.  We even shared some of our special candy from home - Skittles - to decorate the edge.  Here's the finished cake - baked and decorated by Etornam.  I love that the first cake she ever baked in the 28 years of her life was for her son's birthday!  Precious!
Last night we had a birthday celebration for Elyon.  It was just our family and a few friends.  We played simple games and Elyon's day was filled with fun!  Again, it's the simple things...





(Our power was out by this time, of course, and we were all drenched with sweat because it was very, very hot in the house.  Without fans, the temperature rises quickly.  Our home was at least 90 degrees.  Just wanted you to know why my neck is glistening in the photo...Whew!  Also, you will see Naomi in this picture in the teal shirt.  Reid should be in the photo, but he's holding the camera!  Thank you, Honey, of taking the picture!)



I'm quickly realizing how fast we accept people into our family here.  If people are with us, relationally, they become like one of the family.  Whether it is a volunteer, like Katie, who lives with us for a few months...

Or friends who travel into country and stay with us for a few weeks...

Or missionaries serving here in country...

Or a young orphaned single mother who comes to stay with us until we can find a place for her to live,
I'm thankful for God's family.

Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Sister, Brother - we truly are all one family within the body of Believers.  

Without trying to complicate things by defining relationships, it makes me happy to see Etornam with us.  Reid and I are not old enough to be her parents, but in some ways, as she navigates some life decisions, we are standing in the gap for her in a parenting role.  It's a blessing and an honor.  

As I hear more people call me, "Mom," I'm thankful.  When I think of how God brought Mathiang into our lives as a son, I'm overwhelmed.  He entered our life calling me "Mom" too.  Reid, "Dad."  Sometimes, I've even wondered if that is my role in ministry here in Ghana?  Just to be a mother figure to others.  A Mom.  Who knows?  Even as I type this, it sounds small.  In the world's eyes, at times, it even seems small.  "Mom."  Right now, it seems complicated to me to define a ministry "role" for myself.  I'm praying through this, and have been for several weeks.  For now, I'm trying to take the people God places in front of me as assignments from Him and forget trying to "define" too much.  It's humbling.  

What I do know is that I'm thankful for what I see God doing around me.  He's making our family larger.  He's adding people to our lives who love us and for us to love.  What a gift!  I'm thankful!

As of today, we have lived in Ghana for 156 days.  (I can't believe it!)  We have lived in our home for 149 days.  In the days we have lived in our home, we have had overnight guests 90 evenings!  This includes Katie and Etornam living with us, but even as I type the number, I am amazed that our house is continually full!  Out of the 149 days we have lived in our home, 90 days have been filled with others as part of our family.  90!  I love that!   Sometimes there are numerous folks here all at the same time.  Last Friday night, for the Multiply simulcast, we had 16 people sleeping in our house besides our own family = 24 people total!  Crazy good!  The Brownings stay with us overlapped with Katie's departure and Etornam moving in.  Friends from GMI sometimes have spent several days with us.  If outreaches go late into the night, men who work with Reid at MLI spend the night.  Oh, God is good!

As God grows our family, I see more of Him reflected.

It really is the simple things that bring me joy.  

Happy Birthday Elyon!
May God bless you abundantly, and may you grow into a man who follows hard after God!

Behold, children are a gift from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Psalm 127:3

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hard Ground

Two nights ago, our Meaningful Life International team had the privilege to visit Aburi (a-bree) at the invitation of a pastor there who heard about one of our recent outreaches. He wanted our help to reach as many people as possible in his town. This pastor has been serving there for over 15 years and like so many places in Ghana, it is "hard ground," a spiritually dark place.

This isn't always obvious because you will see lots of churches in Ghana and many of the businesses (roadside kiosks) have biblical references in their names and often refer to a Bible verse - even the bars or "spots" as they are called here. There is the appearance of a Christian presence but quite frequently the people who confess their devotion to Jesus mix their Christian worship with their traditional forms of idolatry. (This happens back home in the US but it is even more subtle there.)

The drive into Aburi from Accra is beautiful. It reminds me of a drive into the Smoky Mountains. The road is narrow with frequent switch-backs as you climb the mountain. This particular road looked very modern. It was clean and well paved with attractive developed areas on either side of the road. We passed the presidential lodge, which has a stunning view of the valley below. With just a bit of daydreaming, I could forget that I was in Ghana and imagine a place of much greater comfort. The visions of comfort didn't last long. Soon we were in the center of Aburi.

The heartbeat of the town is the chiefs palace. It is an old structure with a more modern building next to it where the chief holds his council meetings. Downtown is congested with people and structures. The roads are very narrow and difficult to pass because of the open gutters that line both sides of the roads.

We found just enough room in the parking place by the chief's quarters to set up our projector, screen, computer and speaker. The power was out, so we had to use a generator. The only problem was, it wouldn't start. We quietly waited and prayed while someone from the town made some repairs. Just before the light of day vanished the generator started and we finished checking our equipment.

Smoke began to flow from the projector and we quickly unplugged. The generator was running but in a way that the voltage was spiking. Again we worked and prayed and waited but we were unsuccessful in getting the generator to function properly.

By God's grace, the power came back on and we had a backup projector. Now it was completely dark and a crowd began to form, curious about what we were up to.

We showed a film telling the story of four people who had died and were on their way to final judgement. Satan was there making his case that they all belonged to him. The people were riveted to the screen as the pastor added his commentary and gave everyone the opportunity to receive Jesus. From this "hard ground" about 50 people responded and provided contact information so the pastor could do follow-up with them later in the week.

We were thrilled to see the Lord move in the lives of these people. The thought of one young man has stuck with me - he was broken and frustrated by his addiction to alcohol. He wants to quit but can't seem to win the battle. He appeared sober but I could smell the truth of what he was telling us. We prayed intensely over him and trust that he will find complete freedom in Jesus.

In the last picture above, you will see a portion of a round, white structure in the bottom left corner. This is the shrine where the chief and villagers pour out their drink offerings to their idols. The middle portion of the shrine is filled with fragments of the glass bottles used in the offerings. You may think the generator and projector problems were merely equipment issues, but I am convinced it was spiritual.

Satan works to keep those who are his and he wants to frustrate the work of God's people because it is through our work that the Lord redeems His children from Satan's slavery. In every village that practices idol worship at shrines like the one above, we have had serious equipment challenges when these shrines are the film show.

As we drove out of town, our vehicle drove extremely rough - as if the tires were horribly out of balance and the brakes were struggling to do their work. We prayed and gave thanks to Jesus for His victory that night and as we came down out of the hills to the valley floor, our car once again drove as smoothly as it had earlier in the day.

We praise God for allowing us to see His work and victory over the darkness!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Streams in the Desert

Blog post started on October 5, 2012
Blog post completed and posted on November 8,2012

Sometimes we need to sing a song, even if we feel like we are in a desert.  A friend sent me this video today after I emailed her my heart's cry this morning.

Yesterday was a wonderful day, and I rejoiced in my heart for so many things.  My sister, Wendy, and her husband, Adam, returned home with her son from Ethiopia yesterday.  This precious little boy that we have been praying home for 2 1/2 years is finally home.  My sister and her husband started their adoption few months after we began our adoption of Godwin.  She has watched so many children come home while she has continued to wait for God's perfect timing.  (My friend who sent me the video above is experiencing that now as well.  She started her process at the same time as my sister, but her child is still on the other side of the world.  My heart goes out to her as another child comes home while she still waits.  It is hard.)

After such a long, difficult wait, it was a blessing for Christopher to finally come home.  When Wendy and Adam arrived in Ethiopia to bring him home, Christopher was sick and was not cleared for travel because of his fever.  However, God answered prayers and he flew toward Knoxville on schedule.

Everyone gathered at the airport to welcome him home.  Oh, if there is one thing I love, it is an Adoption Homecoming!  What a celebration!  My youngest sister, Kelly, enabled our family to be part of the welcome home gang through FaceTime.  My precious nephews, Zach and Eli, walked throughout the crowds holding up an iPad to capture the moments for us.  It was wonderful to be a part of it as much as we could be.  We couldn't hug.  We couldn't cheer loudly.  (I know Wendy was probably happy about that!)  But we could see the joy, excitement, and true wonder of Christopher finally being home.  It was such a blessing to witness, even on a screen, the moment I longed to be a part of.

Godwin kept all of my emotions in check though.  He kept saying, well cheering really, "I have a new cousin!  I have a new cousin!"  Now that Godwin has two cousins from the African continent, he is overjoyed!  (Reid's sister, Margaret, has adopted from Ethiopia as well.)  Godwin's oldest brother is our surrogate son - Mathiang from Sudan.  Eyob, Christopher, Godwin and Mathiang all make our family one of great diversity.

Our power went out moments before Kelly called from the airport.  We watched everything in the darkness of our home.  It was pitch black.  I'm a little thankful for the shroud of blackness because it hid my tears to some degree.  I was so happy for my sister.  But I longed to be there.  Physically and emotionally, it hurt to be on this side of the world while most of my family was gathered together celebrating this event we have all unceasingly prayed would finally happen.  We witnessed hugs, kisses, smiles, cheering and in our hearts we were doing the same!  Our cousins, grandparents, friends and family were all celebrating at the airport, and we were celebrating, but emotionally feeling many things as we watched everything unfold on the screen.

We felt so distant.

After we disconnected the call, there were varying responses here at home from viewing everything on our screen.  "That was so cool," quipped one son.  "That was hard," another honestly shared.

Then I heard it.  Wailing.  The heart wrenching cries of a wailing child.

I headed to the back of the house and Braden was there on his bed sobbing.  Hard crying with body convulsions.

Buckling emotionally myself, I crawled in bed beside him.  He didn't stop.  It hurt me to hear his cries of deep pain.  Braden misses home so much.  The sight of his new cousin and seeing everyone together was more than he could bear.  There are so many times here that I simply feel helpless as a mother.  I prayed to God to give me words to share with Braden that would comfort his heart.  With him lying beside me, I told him about his own Homecoming when he came home from the hospital.  How his brothers fought over holding him.   How my mom and dad came to be with him when he was born.  How my friend Amy brought him an outfit to wear home from the hospital.  How Todd and Ansley came to see him at the hospital.  How his brothers made a "Welcome Home Braden" banner for him.  How our friends, the Porters, from down the street were his first visitors at home.  How Mathiang came over and held him for a long time on the sofa.  And on and on, I shared about Braden's homecoming realizing how far away and distant it felt as I talked about it.  So long ago.  So far away.  Nearly nine years ago, Braden was our baby.

Early the next morning, my mother called and shared that Adam's father had died.  Within 24 hours of bringing his son home from Ethiopia, his own father left this earth.  The Lord gives and takes away.  I called Adam and Wendy's house and prayed with Adam.  I cried, but I think Adam was still processing the reality of his father's death.  Later that evening, I finally talked with my sister.  Honestly, it was the hardest conversation I've had with anyone since arriving here.  We both cried.  I hurt more than ever before since our arrival on this continent.

Blog writing abruptly ended due to our power outage.  Emotionally, I don't think I could have continued anyway.  Our entire family was at a very difficult place of struggle and longing to be home.

Today I continue writing, November 8, 2012...

I don't write about homesickness on our blog very often.  But we feel it daily.  Missing life events like Christopher's Homecoming cause us to grieve deeply.  We are so far away.  Separated from so many we love.  It breaks our hearts.  We cry.  We feel lonely.  We pray for God's strength to sustain us.  And He does.

Honestly, I miss my family.  Reid misses his.  We miss our friends.  We miss our relationships.  Our boys miss everyone too.  It is hard.

We skyped with my family recently for Braden's birthday.  They lit candles on a cake then held it below the screen as he blew it out from Ghana.  Then they lifted the cake with unlit candles up to the screen,  It was so sweet!  Braden has giggled about that for days.

On this Skype call, I saw my grandmother for the first time since we moved here in June.  My Mamaw is 94 years old and her health continues to decline.  Her memory is fading and she is losing the ability to identify some family members.  However, through God's grace, my heart is strongly connected to my Mamaw's, and she still remembers me.

When she saw me on the screen, she could not hear my voice, but I could hear hers.  She said to me in her weak, frail voice, "Robin, I wish you were here, Honey.  I wish you were here."  Mamaw was crying as she said these words...which of course made tears come to my eyes as well.  Then my Mamaw leaned down and started kissing the screen to give me kisses.

Here I am in Africa and my 94 year old grandmother is kissing a computer screen so I can know she loves me.  Sometimes it is hard to cope with the reality of the distance.  Will I see her in person again?  Will I?

The next day I received an email from my mom telling me that my Mamaw kept touching the screen because she thought I was there.  The black screen was blank because we had already disconnected.  Things like this make my heart hurt.

For this Skype call, our entire family was gathered to celebrate birthdays.  My Aunt Kathy had even made Ground Nut Soup in honor of Africa.  (Ground Nut soup is a soup we eat weekly for dinner.  Way to go Kathy!  Thank you for celebrating Christopher and our family together!)  Christopher was there giving smiles to everyone.  The cousins were laughing and playing.  Everyone was together celebrating.  We joined them on Skype through the miracle of technology.  As much as I want and need to communicate with my family, sometimes it is heart wrenching to do so.  Yet, I don't want to miss the celebrations either.  Another paradox of living our life overseas in a third world country.  There is a constant tension of emotions from opposite ends of the spectrum.  

I am so happy to see everyone.  I am so sad to see everyone.

God does bring the water to the desert.  He promises to do so.  Life goes on.  "Tears may flow in the night, but JOY comes in the morning."

One month after this blog post was started, this is some of what the Lord has done -

Christopher is doing so well.  He is acclimating to life with his family.  He's being held and loved on constantly.  Over time, he's becoming more comfortable with his surroundings confident in the love poured upon him.

Adam has celebrated the life of his father surrounded by his family.  He traveled to Colorado recently for the service celebrating his father's life.  Even in Adam's grief, he continued to praise the Lord.

Braden has overcome missing home and has celebrated a birthday here with new friends.  He's beginning to verbalize his homesickness in healthier ways, and we are thankful that he is making new friends to help fill the void in his heart.

We've said a difficult goodbye to Katie Batchelor who blessed our family with her presence for the past two months.  There is a definite void in our home without her, but we trust God has new things in store for her now that she is back home.

We've been blessed by two weeks with our precious friends, the Brownings, who traveled into country for their adoption.  Our boys received the blessing of having a friend with them for a few weeks, and Reid and I rejoiced to have them with us.  What a gift to see God grafting their new son, Richard, into their family.  We hiked, we swam, we enjoyed family time together as the Brownings bonded with their new son.

God had brought new needs and NEW OPPORTUNITIES to share the HOPE Christ offers.  God continues to expand ministry here in Ghana.

A single mother and her son have moved in with us.  We are praying God will provide a fresh start for her as she returns to her talent of sewing.  Our home is filled with the chattering of a baby beginning to talk, and we are trying to love this young mama who has experienced much pain in her life.  

Our boys have enjoyed having a younger brother to play with. 

We've faced some challenges with travel.  Numerous police encounters with threats of arrest, court appearances and even the confiscation of Reid's license which was returned later have plagued us recently.  However, God has protected us in every stop.  No bribes have been paid and we have always been released even if we must wait a while for that to happen.  Additionally, our boys have become experts at pushing vehicles to get them going again.  We praise God for his continued protection!

Outreaches continue in the outlying villages and people are choosing to surrender their lives to Christ.

God is moving.  Joy is coming in the morning.

Finally, our friends who sent us the video at the beginning of this blog post, now are rejoicing their new son is home.  One month ago, they were waiting in the desert.  Today, they are celebrating the addition of their newly adopted son into their family.  Our friends, Gads and Melissa, waited for over 2 1/2 years to bring their son home!  Now he is there!  Oh, there is so much to rejoice about!  God is doing so much in and around us!  How can we not choose to praise Him?

We still wrestle with the longings for home.  We still hurt as we miss more of what is happening in the lives of our friends and family.  However, we know God is continually at work for His purposes.  We are choosing to SEE HIM AT WORK in all circumstances.  He is faithful and sovereign.  We rejoice over everything He is doing.

We must trust Him.  He is at work.

"Behold I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
The beasts of the field will glorify me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to my chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare my praise."
Isaiah 43:19-21