Saturday, June 30, 2012

I Have Seen Your Faces


Sometimes God confirms His will by speaking to others.  Sometimes God speaks through means that we do not expect.  Sometimes God allows others to “see” things through dreams and visions.

The book of Joel speaks of this:
“It will come about after this
That I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.”
Joel 2:28

Reid and I desire to see God’s manifested power displayed on earth.  Reid has been fervently praying for God to pour out his Spirit by giving dreams and visions to His people.  We believe God speaks through means just as this.  Sadly though, we do not hear of it often.

When we returned home from Ghana last year, the faces of the children would not escape our minds.  Reid and I would go to bed at night and the faces of the children would haunt us as we drifted off into restless sleep.  Face after face blended one into another as we remembered orphan after orphan we encountered in Ghana.  So many haunting faces silently crying out, “Help me.”  At times, the faces I saw were ones I recognized. Other times, I wasn’t sure if the faces I saw as I closed my eyes were faces we knew.  Had we ever seen these children who were filling my mind? 

This week, our family traveled to an orphanage and God met us there.  HE had gone before us.
Our entire family loved being with the children.  They were precious!  All of our sons, played with the kids while I tried to hug each one and remind them that Jesus loves them.  Though we had never met these children, they seemed familiar. 

As we were preparing to leave, a young eleven year old boy named Prince came up to Reid and me.  He placed his hand on Reid and looked up at him.  Then he said,

“I have seen your faces.”

“You have?  When did you see us?”

“Oh I have seen your faces in my dreams.  You come to us in my dreams, but I did not know you were here.  I have had many dreams about you…”

Then he said,

“May I pray for you before you leave?”

Astounded by God’s overwhelming presence, I was in shock.  The Lord had spoken to this young child through his dreams.  God had incredibly shown him our faces.  Ours?  Our little family - simple people just trying to follow Jesus - we were the ones in Prince’s dreams?  We are so humbled yet amazed by how God speaks confirmation of His plans.  Wow!  Why does anyone ever doubt God’s existence?

We circled into a prayer with all of the children around us.  Prince prayed.  Powerfully.  Oh, friends, I’ve never heard a child pray with such fervency as this young man.  Everything was in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Prince prayed with authority and conviction.  Beautiful. 

Reid and I both prayed over the children as well.  As we were praying, I was still reeling from what Prince had revealed of the Lord speaking to him through his dreams.  As my mind engaged with the Lord, I felt a certain confidence that I had seen the faces before me in my dreams as well…and so many more children we have yet to meet.

Oh Lord, we pray you will continue to pour out your Spirit on all mankind.  May you give dreams and visions to your followers.  May we recognize when You are speaking!  Thank you for this amazing gift today.  We know you truly have “gone before us.”  May we remember how you have spoken about our presence here.  We know you have sent us.  We love you Lord.

“He gives to his beloved even in his sleep.”
Psalm 127:2b

“The favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands."
Psalm 90:17

Friday, June 29, 2012

14th Birthday - Ghana Style

Blogger:  Franklin, age 14 (Barely!) 
I had my 14th birthday in Ghana a few days ago. It was a very special and memorable birthday. We mainly celebrated it teh day before my actual birthday because my Dad had to go to the office on my real birthday . I didn’t mind at all.  I had a great time while we celebrated. My friend, Michael, came over.  We opened our first present from home - an envelope filled with hilarious jokes from Jacob Stock at Castle Ministries.  (Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Stock!)   
We went to a pool several hours away and had lunch there, then we went out to eat for dinner.  It was our first meal eating out since arriving.  I had fried rice which has probably been my favorite food so far. I also love Fan-Ice. It is Ghanaian ice cream (Vanilla) that comes in a plastic pouch, you bite a hole in the corner and eat the deliciousness inside. I had quite a few of those on my Birthday.
       On my actual Birthday, I got to do a few new things. I washed all my dirty clothes by hand which really wasn’t that bad, I kind of enjoyed doing it.  Since we don’t have a dryer, we have to hang them on the line outside to dry them. I thought I did a pretty good job considering it was my first time washing clothes by hand. I also woke up to a wall covered with letters from my parents and also a list of 14 things they love about me. It was a great encouraging present.

       We have a leak somewhere in our water pipes in the backyard. The crack or hole in the pipe leaks into our backyard directly under the clothesline. It had been raining all morning and there was a huge mud puddle under the line. As we hung the clothes to dry, my feet were sinking down into the gooey, wet mud. I thought it felt good having mud seep between my toes but my Mom on the other hand was screaming “EEEEWWWWW, THIS IS NASTY!!!  GROSS!!!” Once we were about ¾ of the way done hanging wet clothes I heard a snap and the clothesline we just filled up fell into the mud puddle. We had to rewash all the mud covered clothes… by hand.
       We had just finished washing the clothes again when another downpour started. The raindrops were huge! I hollered in the house to see if anyone wanted to go play in the rain with me. Braden and Godwin both volunteered. We all put on our bathing suits and ran outside. I was so eager to get out I forgot to take off my shirt. It didn’t matter now, it was already drenched.  We ran around the house chasing each other for about ten minutes
       Remember that huge mud puddle that all our clean clothes fell into? Well, that was where the fun was. We would run, jump, and then slide and see who could slide the farthest. Godwin loved it! He was giggling and laughing the whole time.  It was the most fun I had had in a long time. After about an hour or so, we were all three shivering so we went in and showered and warmed up. I had never thought you could get cold in Ghana.
     That night we had some friends over to have cake. We finished dinner just as they came. I got some very sweet cards from them and also some Lindor Truffles, which I had never had them before but they are now one of my favorite candies. We were all sitting around talking when the power went out. So we went the rest of the evening without fans or lights. Well, not really without lights, we had one flashlight pointed to the ceiling in the middle of the room so we had some light. While everyone was singing Happy Birthday to me, one of our friends snuck up behind me and squirted me with icy cold water. It was cold but felt good. Evidently, it is a tradition in Ghana to get wet on your birthday!  After I changed shirts we ate my soccer ball cake. It was great.




     Overall, I had an amazing birthday and I will never forget slipping and sliding in the mud with Godwin and Braden. I will also never forget my first birthday in Ghana. I am blessed to have such good brothers who love me and parents who encourage me. I am thankful for my family.



Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 
Colossians 3:15

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Smiles


Blogger: Mason Beebe, age 15

     As you can probably imagine, the weeks leading up to our departure were extremely hard. We had to leave everything we knew to come serve the Lord and experience his greatness, here in Ghana. Now that we are in Ghana, this feels like home to me. Of course, there are things that I miss - white people, warm showers, a food disposal, paved roads, friends, family, and even things such as Wal-Mart (you never know what you have until it’s gone), but there are so many things that I get to experience here that most Americans never will experience in their lifetime.
     When we were here last March to bring Godwin home, the predicament of orphans did not really hit me. Now in all seriousness, can you imagine life without your parents?  Really think about this. There would be no one to tuck you in at night, no one to read you a good night story, nobody that you could talk to when you are struggling with something. This is life for kids here. I don’t know how I would be able to survive without my parents. Sure there are times when I just want to give them a pop in the nose, but I think if I lost them, those would be the times I would miss most. Even just barely being able to understand what these orphans experience helped me realize that any love I could offer them would be gladly accepted.  You know what?  I was right.
     Our first ministry opportunity was to help with a medical outreach at City of Refuge. This was an amazing yet horrible day. We were able to help the people of Ghana, but helping them is not always a great experience.   At the medical outreach, there was one station that tested the patient for HIV. 17 people tested positive for HIV, about 5 of those being children. One of the last families tested was a single mother, a six year old boy and a three year old boy – they all tested positive.  This rocked my world.  I actually saw the faces that I had only known as statistics.  And I’ll never forget them.
     While the reality of the test results was hard to accept, I also met some of the kids from the City of Refuge orphanage and began relationships with them. One of these kids was Sammy, who had just been rescued from child slavery. I was able to love on him by playing with him. I was able to produce many smiles and laughs of joy. I played soccer, basketball, and frisbee with the kids. You would not imagine the effect that even a simple smile from me brought out of these children.
     An FTO volunteer, Lola, left Ghana last Monday after serving in Ghana for 9 months. All the kids hear call her Grandma.  The night before she left, the orphanage where she had been staying for the last of her 9 months had a Good-Bye party for Lola. When we arrived, one of the orphans that is being adopted by some good friends of ours ran up and gave me a hug. I picked him up and told him that I knew his family. He beamed and squeezed me. I told him that I was great friends with his brother, Tyler. After I said this, he looked up at me and said, “I love my brother,” and then squeezed me again.
     After this, there was a special dinner – whache and juice boxes.   John, who runs the orphanage, gave a kind speech about Lola and the impact she’s made.  Then there were some good-byes. After the good-byes, everyone went outside to dance. I busted a few moves and then decided I didn’t want to put everyone else to shame, so I hung out on the sidelines.
     I was standing there when one of the little boys, Moses, walked up to me and reached his arms up, gesturing that he wanted to be held. I picked Moses up and he got the biggest grin. He looked at me and played with my necklace for a few minutes and then laid his head down on my shoulder. I held him like this for a while and then asked my Dad if he was asleep. At the sound of my voice, Moses lifted his head off my shoulder, looked at me and then laid his head back down again. Again, he did not go to sleep. This is when I realized that he didn’t want to go to sleep while he was being held. He wanted to soak in every moment of love he received. I started scratching his back and rubbing his head. As I did this, I wondered had anyone done this for him before? Had he ever felt this much love?  Who holds him at night? 
     As these events took place, I felt really good. I felt like I was doing something to advance the kingdom of Jesus Christ. I began to wonder, how did I ever live the safe American lifestyle? How was it possible for me to survive just going through the motions of life when all these children needed was for someone to smile at them?
     So, why have I taken the time to write this blog post? I am not writing it so everyone can see all the good I am doing in Ghana. I am not even writing this to share my experiences, although I want to. I am writing this to challenge you.
     In America, I heard this several times. “There is so much immorality in America. People won’t have to leave the country any more to be missionaries.” Well first of all, we should be missionaries wherever we are, but I will say I’ve never seen the brokenness in America that there is here in Ghana. There is great poverty here as well. Spiritual warfare is much more evident here than in the states. If you are reading this from the U.S. I would say that you don’t eat dinner each evening listening to the prayer call of a nearby mosque, but that happens here in Ghana. My point is that you need to serve God wherever you are, but let your love reach to countries that sorely and truly need love.
     So how can you help from halfway across the ocean? The first way is to pray. In America, this seems like something we do not take seriously enough. Anywhere there is a problem you hear that you need to pray. I am not talking about a “Dear God, please help the orphans in Ghana. Amen.” type of prayer. I mean, plead with God to bless these hurting children. And don’t just pray for Him to “help” but pray specifically. Pray against the devil in this country, pray that the orphans would know love and would know the Father, pray for God’s Kingdom to come, etc.
     Another way is to sponsor a child. You can provide a child with clean drinking water and three meals a day for a month by giving up one meal at a restaurant each month, only $30 cares for one child!  If you do sponsor a child, send them pictures and letters of you to let them know that YOU love THEM specifically.
     Lastly, come. Everyone is so worried about the cost to go to a foreign country, which sadly, holds many people back from experiencing great and mighty things our God is doing around the world. Our family had to raise a huge amount of money to come, but God gave us even more than what we needed in less than 9 months!  He provides!
One of my friends, Michael, who decided to come to Ghana for the summer,* was trying to raise money to come.  God abundantly supplied Michael’s financial need AND gave him supplies to bring with him.  If God wants you to go somewhere, you would be surprised at how richly He will bless you in your efforts to go.
And once you get to wherever you are going, it seems so easy to do God’s work.
For me, all I had to do was smile.

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
Romans 2:13

*You can follow Michael’s blog at http://gonetoghana2012.wordpress.com/  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

98, 99, 100%

Friends, it is with great thankfulness that we can now say God has provided for our needs.  We are now at 100% of our anticipated monthly needed support!  WOW!  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?  Thank you for being vessels of His work by sending us.  Your generosity amazes us!  Thank you!

The Lord's timing is perfect.  We are grateful to see Him provide through YOU!   Thank you for partnering for HIS work here on earth!

"I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received...what you sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:18-19

We Are A Letter of Christ


We have some friends who have sponsored children for a long time.  In fact, they sponsor one child for each of their four biological children.  That’s a ratio of 1:1.  A photograph of each child they sponsor hangs in each bedroom.  I love the idea!

Joson is one of the children we have sponsored through Feeding the Orphans.  We have kept his picture on our fridge since the beginning of our sponsorship.  We were drawn to him because he is an older boy and we know older boys are usually the last to be chosen.  With five boys of our own, our heart was drawn to his warm smile immediately.

Feeding the Orphans offers several opportunities to write the children letters throughout the year.  Volunteers bring the letters and deliver them to the orphans being sponsored in country.  Our family has written to Joson.  Imagine our surprise when we received a neatly handwritten letter back to us!  We couldn’t believe he would take the time to do this, but he did.

A few weeks ago, our family moved to Ghana to help Feeding the Orphans here in Ghana, West Africa.  Yesterday, our family visited the home where Joson lives.  Immediately we recognized him.  Oh, I nearly cried when I saw him!  His warm eyes were the same as his picture.  When we arrived, Joson was sitting over a wash basin hand-scrubbing laundry for the orphanage.  Tediously working, he did not stop once we arrived, but greeted us once he finished the task before him. 

I told him, “Oh, Joson, our family prays for you.  We are sponsoring you through Feeding the Orphans.”
 
Quickly he smiled, “I know.”   We all hugged and he headed back into the concrete building.

Our family played with the younger children, then Joson returned.  Joson looked up at me with expectant eyes then handed me a white envelope.  Puzzled, I peered inside.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Guess what was inside?  The letter we sent to him over six months ago!  He had kept it safe and near him.  Tears flowed from my eyes in astonishment.   I was holding the letter our family sent from America six months ago.  The letter that is now on the other side of the world!  Joson, this child we have held in our hearts, was now standing beside me.  His gentle face smiling.  Because we have prayed for Joson, our hearts were connected in ways beyond imagination.  Our God always weaves His story in unexpected ways!

Mu husband, Reid, snapped this picture as I was fighting back tears truly amazed by our awesome God.
  
The fact that Joson kept our letter as a prized possession says much about what he treasures, doesn’t it?   How many “special” things does he own?  In a concrete bunk room shared with many boys, my guess is that he doesn’t have many personal belongings – but this letter was something he kept.  A personal letter written especially to him was cherished beyond measure.

My heart feels the gravity of this.  Had he slept with this letter under his pillow for six months?  Did he hold onto this letter because it offered HOPE to him?  Did he cherish it because it proved to him that someone cares about his heart?

We do.

There are so many orphaned children who would love to know they are loved.  They would love to receive a letter that someone has written especially to them.  Wouldn't Jesus take time to write to them?  Feeding the Orphans allows you to sponsor children who need this love.  Letters you send are delivered to the children.  Along with receiving the food your sponsorship provides, these children will know someone cares.    

As I write this, tears are coming to my eyes because over the past few days, we have been face to face with the need of orphans here in Ghana.  Friends, you cannot imagine the living conditions.  In Joson’s home, there is no running water, and the hallway is pitch black because it is not wired for electricity.  Beside the outside cooking area in the yard where the chickens run, sits the stool and wash basin where Joson washes clothing by hand.  The clothes line dangles over chicken droppings.   Until last week, this home did not even have refrigeration.  It is heartbreaking to see where these children live.

YET, every child in this home seems happy.  They giggle.  They laugh.  They act silly.  They know they are loved.

Michael, one of the FTO volunteers, is living in this home for the summer.  It’s the perfect home for a male volunteer, because nearly all of the children here are boys – only one girl.  Michael is living in the same conditions as the children.    Michael washes his own clothes by hand.  He bathes from a bucket.  He helps haul water to and from the home.  Michael goes without electricity many, many nights in the sweltering heat.  YET, he is spending every day pouring himself into these kids.  And it shows.  



Michael built soccer goals out of 2x4s, and he had the boys help him build them.  We could see the pride the boys took in their homemade soccer goals as they carried them out to the make-shift dirt soccer field.   Michael wrestles with the boys providing the physical contact that all boys need.  Throughout the day, Michael is usually carrying one of the young ones on his shoulder.  Michael is starting a nightly Bible study with the older boys.  He is teaching them about the truth of Jesus.  Michael is giving his life away by loving these forgotten children. 

If you are reading this, perhaps the Lord wants YOU to be part of His story in the lives of these children.  Please pray about sponsoring a child through Feeding the Orphans.  Today, YOU have the opportunity to tell one of these little ones that someone loves them and prays for them.  When opportunities come for you to send some love to your child, do it.  It’s priceless. 

Perhaps the Lord would like you to volunteer for several months like Michael loving His beloved children around the world.   Believe me, the impact of this time can yield eternal fruit.

I will close this post with the closing of Joson’s letter to us which was delivered to us last February.  




(Yes, we kept ours too.  We cherish his handwritten words to us.  Thank you, Joson, for the precious gift of your letter to our family!  We will keep it always.)

Joson writes, “God bless you and continue blessing you for sharing your love…with me.  Thank you!!!”

And, in the words of Paul from scripture:

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?  Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?  You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”     
2 Corinthians 3:1-3

Monday, June 25, 2012

Red Dress Girl

A tiny daughter totters in the dirt
Attempting the mastery of walking
Dust fills the air
Mixed with diesel smoke
As massive trucks creep along the road
But the girl is oblivious
Her red dress tickles her legs
As she dances in the sun

Such a tiny girl
Probably under the age of two

Brother is close by
Hunched over a wash basin
Scrubbing yesterday's clothing
He bends his forehead into his shoulder
Wiping away the sweat, dust, and grime
His own shirt stained brown
Does he notice?
With rhythm, his hands return to harsh scrubbing

More trucks spit dust upon the children

Mother looks on
With desperate, tired brown eyes
She is preparing her mangoes to sell
Hopeful for customers
To buy her soft fruit
Because as pieces disappear from her bowl
Delicately balanced atop her head
There is money to care for her son and daughter

Will enough people buy today?
 Tomorrow?

Mother looks on
Staring into a bleak future
As her tiny daughter
Captures beauty in her uncertain steps
As she dances in the sun

Daughter's red dress moves as the wind
Painting the only speck of color
On the scene before my eyes.

June 25, 2012
Robin Beebe

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Beautiful Feet

Today I spent the afternoon learning more places in Ghana.  Thankfully, there is a meat store an hour away where I feel somewhat comfortable purchasing meat.  After buying some beef in the open market yesterday, this store seemed very clean.  While we were there, our son Godwin had to use their restroom so Weston took him in the back room to do what he needed to do.  Godwin came out and said, "Mommy, they are cutting up a dead animal!"

I thought, "That is more than I need to know."

Lenusia showed me a few more places she shops.  One a few miles down the road from us has rice, water, and tomato paste.  Headed west there is an open air produce market that is not as crowded as Cassino, the open air market where I shopped yesterday.  A young girl, Abigail, spent the day with us as well.  She is staying with Godwin and Lenusia for six weeks to shadow a dentist here.  I'm looking forward to getting to know her better.  Our day was full and after three hours out we returned home to find three sweet surprises.

Mason had been the only son at home for the afternoon while I was out.  (Godwin and Weston came with me while Franklin and Braden went with Lola.)  Our first surprise was that our backyard was full of children from the community.  Mason was teaching them to play croquet.   I'm sure you are wondering why we would have croquet in Ghana....  So you should know, the croquet set was packed in numerous suitcases coming over as a gift for Franklin's birthday.  (His birthday is Tuesday by the way.)

All the boys seemed to love the game and were laughing throughout the afternoon.  As soon as we arrived home with our other four sons, they joined in.  We had five additional children at our house today until after dark!  Once darkness set in, our boys were all teaching them to play Capture the Flag!  The boys from here were teaching our boys language!  (Seems like an even swap to me.)  I loved hearing the squeals of everyone outside!  All of the children playing in our yard reminded me of home.

Our second surprise was that Ghana friends stopped by.  Yes!  We had friends STOP BY!  Stacy, Autumn and Anna came to see us from Doryum.  What a precious welcome!  Thank you for the sweet surprise!  I can't believe that here in Ghana, we have friends who now feel comfortable "stopping by!"  I love it!

The third surprise was seeing our first piece of home decor on the wall.  Reid had been working all day to center the verse God gave us for this mission over our front door.  Our friend, Melissa, spent a day cutting out this verse before we left so we could hang it on our wall.  Thank you Melissa for such a sweet gift!  Our home feels much warmer now that we are surrounded by scripture.  It is our mission verse Genesis 12:1-2:




This verse now hangs over our front door as a reminder of why we are here...to be a blessing!  Mason thought we needed to hang it there because he wanted our family to hit the door frame as we head out the door.  Kinda like a football team touching their team logo as they head onto the field.  (Only boys think of these things!  Don't you like it Dad?  Cool, huh?)  Our family team will be slapping the door post verse as we head onto our "field."  The one that is white for the harvest!  (I'm envisioning the fingerprints now!)

Deciding to capture the moment, I asked the boys to pose for a picture.  Swimming in sentimentality, I thought the photo I captured was just...beautiful.  These two verses that we have clung to on this journey are now posted in our home in a significant place as a reminder of our calling.  Beautiful.  Beautiful!

Then I looked down at Mason's feet.  Oh my word!  The boy had been outside all day with our neighbors.  And these were his feet.

I thought of the passage that reads

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7 

My stomach turned over to see Mason's filth.  "These grimy feet will leave more than brown water in the tub tonight," I thought!  Gross!  Dirt was caked on so thick that it seemed his skin color had changed.  Was Mason trying to look Ghanaian?  Oh my!  His feet were disgusting.

But then I remembered what Mason was doing when I came home.  He was laughing and playing with all the children around us!  Within the two days of moving into our home, these children were in our yard!  Yesterday, one child came to our gate for water.  The boys now know the names of more people in this neighborhood than I do.  What does that tell you?

I looked as Mason's filthy feet again and realized they were B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!  His feet reflected relationships that are being built.  The dirt symbolized a willingness to "play like they do."  The griminess of his feet reminded me that we must be willing to get our hands and feet dirty.  The red sticky dust covering his feet screamed - THESE ARE GHANA FEET!  Then I remembered Jesus walked in sandals on the dirt.  Did his feet look like this at the end of the day?   I believe they did.  As God looked upon His son's dirt-crusted feet,  He found them to be beautiful.  

I am praying our entire family will have feet like Mason's (though maybe not literally).  May we have beautiful feet wherever we are...

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7 



Faith Growth

This morning I received the following e-mail from a young lady in Knoxville.  I had tears streaming down my face as I read it -

Hello! This is Molly Armstrong's big sister Chloe. I had heard you all were going to Ghana, and I've been praying for your family ever since. My Granny gave me one of your family's postcards with the blog address on it, and for a few weeks I meant to but it always slipped my mind. Well, the other night I was at my Granny and Poppop's house (Billy&Myrna King), and my Granny was telling me stories from your blog and when I got home I decided to read some stories for myself. I have to say I was moved inside. I've been doing some Knoxville mission trips with my church (ChurchStreet UMC) for a few years, and I've really enjoyed them. Every year, however, the high schoolers in youth get the opportunity to travel to Eleuthera, Bahamas, and build homes. At first, I decided since it was only my freshman year I shouldn't go because it costs a lot and I would just be getting back from a cheer competition in Disney. But about a month before the trip, my dad informed me that someone going on the trip with scholarship dropped out and I had been offered the scholarship. At first, I wanted to go, but then I realized how much bigger it would be than the trips I'm used to. I ended up deciding not to go because I would be drowning in homework when I got back from Disney anyway, and would need spring break, when the trip was, to catch up. When I did get back from Disney, I was right about the homework thing. But when the day came I knew my youth group was heading out, I began to regret my decision. I've been wondering if I made the right choice since then. When I was reading some of the blogs about your family leaving home, I felt strength growing in my heart. I recognized God in my life more, and now I am determined to go on the mission trip next spring. Even though it will only be a week, I now know that God will be there by reading your blog. I also know he has provided me with out of country experience by watching over our church your choir on our Canada choir tour this summer, and he has blessed me with my best friends who I know will be right there with me. Overall, I wanted to express how your blog has empowered and inspired me to reach out further. I hope that by continuing reading it, I will be able to grow in my own faith.

Still praying for y'all!

Thanks,
Chloe Beth Armstrong


WOW!  This young woman is sensing God's Spirit to lead her as a witness to the nations.  She longs to step out of her comfort zone to be the "hands and feet of Jesus."  I praise God for what HE is doing in her heart.


Over the years, I've recognized that I am only able to write when the Lord prompts me.  As HE is teaching me something new, I am able to share it through the written word.   Whenever I've tried to write something on my own, the words come out jumbled and from my head - not my heart.  As I read Chloe's words, I recognize, it is GOD speaking to her - not us.  We simply long to share how the Lord is growing us.  We have such a long way to go in our faith journey.


This is a 15 year old girl who now desires to step out of her own "comfort zone" to experience more of God in the world.  I challenge you to see what He may be asking of you.  Is the Lord leading you to take a leap of faith in some way but you are holding back because of fear, uncertainty, anxiety, or homework?  Isn't HE bigger than all these things?  


I wish everyone in America would allow themselves to travel outside of the USA into a third world country.  The same God who lives in America reigns in Africa too!  America is blessed with the wealth to impact other parts of the world.  Once someone experiences another part of the world, their heart is enlarged to help.  Please know, we would love to serve with you here in Ghana.  Other missionaries would love to have you step alongside them in other parts of the world as well.  Ministries in your own community need your help to share the love of Jesus.  There is much work to do.


So, what's God calling you to do?  How does He want to grow your faith?  


"And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
Mark 16:15










Friday, June 22, 2012

Familiar Faces and New Ones

Being without a vehicle, we have been reliant upon others for transportation.  Therefore, we have not been able to venture out much.  However, God has allowed us to use the additonal time to prepare our home so we can move in.

A few days ago, we were able to finally travel to a local orphanage that we have been anxious to visit.  We arrived around 1:30 pm.  As we pulled up there were several boys with basins under a tree washing dishes.  There was a time this might have bothered me, but they were having so much fun giggling and splashing in the water I was thankful to see them washing dishes in the middle of the day!  When I saw the boys washing dishes, my first thought was, "OH THANK YOU THAT THESE CHILDREN HAVE BEEN GIVEN LUNCH TODAY!"  Many in Ghana do not, but Feeding the Orphans is providing food in this home and the children are eating three meals a day.   What a gift! 

Coming to Ghana, there were a few people we were anxious to see.  Braden's heart connection is with a little boy named Peter.  You may remember reading about him in an earlier post.

On Saturday, Braden's dream of seeing him again finally came true!


Other familiar faces stirred emotions within us of joy, gratitude, and happiness as we hugged on these children we have carried in our hearts since March of last year.  Each of these precious ones are being adopted by close friends of ours and we continue to pray for them to be united with their families.
Mabel

Annie
 Frankie
And many new faces of children we are meeting for the first time.  So many.  I love how God intertwines the past with the present.  This sweet little girl is wearing one of the pillowcase dresses that several families brought from Knoxville over the past year.  I love many of the girls were wearing these dresses that had been made with love for them!  Since every dress has been prayed over for the specific child who will receive it, seeing them dressed reminded me of those around the world who pray for these little ones.  (Please keep lifting them up!)
The day we visited this home, we were amazed that God is still reminding us that He is with us through the touches of home He continues to bring.  God allowed us to meet a very special family from our hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee.  This same family is adopting Peter!  AND, as if there could be more, AND this family knows my sister, Wendy's family!  Can you believe all of the God touches?    Jeff and Valerie prayed with us.  When Valerie hugged me goodbye, I teared up because I felt it was a hug from home.   This couple, their three daughters and son have spent over a week in Ghana loving on the orphans, assisting with medical clinics and ministering in the name of Jesus.  Oh, I am so happy for Peter to be adopted into this forever family!    The day we were with them, they were providing necklaces for the kids.   (You should know that when we came to the home five days later, many of the children still had the necklaces on!)



As we continue to gain our footing here, we look forward to working with the people already doing the Lord's work.  Richard loves the Lord and his actions reflect the love of Jesus to all around.

I'm thankful for all of the familiar faces that are here, but at the same time, I am somewhat grieved to see new ones.  Although they are in an incredible home here in Ghana, they are children without families, and that makes me very sad.

As we were leaving I asked Godwin to turn around so I could take this picture.  The only reason I took it at the time was because I had not taken any of him.  However, as I was looking through the photos this one stopped me.
In this picture, there are 16 children.  At the date of this photograph, Godwin is the only child who has a family - legally.  In this photo, there are several children in the adoption process.  And there are many who are not.

Doesn't that stop you too?

Perhaps the Lord is leading you toward permanently caring for one of these children by adopting them into your home.  Perhaps the Lord is leading you to help care for orphans through the many programs Feeding the Orphans offers.  Perhaps the Lord is leading you to PRAY for these children.

Some of the stories I have heard and even witnessed myself would chill you to the bone.  In the photo above, Godwin is wearing an FTO shirt that reads, "YOU DON'T KNOW PAIN - LOVE ORPHANS."

It's true.

Please pray for these children and the millions like them.  Who knows, maybe He wants you to help.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying,  
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 5:2-6




Thursday, June 21, 2012

Top Ten Food Adjustments in Ghana

TOP TEN FOOD ADJUSTMENTS IN GHANA


10.)  When I make coffee in the morning, it is made with Taster’s Choice Crystals.  There are no flavored creamers here.  In fact, I have not found a place to buy fresh milk.  The creamer comes from a can of evaporated milk and has a golden-tan color.  After a week here, this is the taste that now begins my day.  And I am thankful.

9.)  Rice, rice, and more rice.  Every day we have enjoyed rice as part of our evening meal.  We have had jollof rice, rice balls, rice with meat sauce, rice with red red, rice with spinach sauce, rice with chicken, and the boys greatly enjoy rice with Adobo seasoning on top. The second main starch here is cassava – a root that is served numerous ways.   With two gluten allergies in the family, rice and cassava are a blessing.  We are thankful for these new starches in our diet.

8.)  While there are no berries here in country, but the fruit available for purchase is delicious.  Mangoes, watermelon, lemons (we call them limes), apples, bananas, pears (we call them avacados), and starfruit add delicious flavor to each meal.  We are thankful for the fruits we have.

7.)  We are served lots of fish, tilapia.  After we have seen how it is usually sold it seems challenging to eat it.  Women stand on the side of dirt roads and carry the fish on their heads in the hot sun.   Other women are “smoking” the tilapia in large basins over open fires.  Most Ghanaians eat the entire fish – eyeballs and all.  We are thankful to be served fish pieces without the heads attached.  Here, we always eat what we are served, and we are thankful.  One son isn’t crazy about the fish taste, but it’s growing on the rest of us.

6.)  This morning we are served sausage and onions over oatmeal.  What Ghanaians call sausage, we call hot dogs.  Things here are very different.  Not bad, just different.  We are thankful for the new flavors that surprise our tongues.  Would you have thought of this concoction?


5.)  The outside of the tea box reads, “Remember, boil only as much water as you need.”  The water out of the faucet here should not be consumed unless it is boiled.  Water for drinking or washing vegetables must be filtered, treated or boiled water.  Drinkable water here is mostly sold in plastic bags, although there are a few bottles available.  After purchase, it must be toted back to the house for drinking.  Oh Lord, thank you for our years of clean water from the tap.  Thank you that, even here, you have provided running water for us when so many around us must walk for miles to carry water back to their homes.   We have much to be thankful for.

4.)  Sweets are rare.  Very little candy, desserts, etc… are readily available.  There are not cupcake shops on the corners.  Fruits must fill the sweet tooth.  Even the chocolate bars sold by vendors on the side of the road are more bitter than sweet.  We know our bodies don’t need as much of these things as we consumed in America, so we are thankful for a new way of eating that will curb our desire for sugar.  (However, if some jolly ranchers, skittles, m and ms, or kit kats arrived in a care package – oh yeah, we would eat it with much joy!)

3.)  Nothing here is “pre-made” or convenient food.  EVERYTHING is created from scratch.  Food preparation is time consuming and difficult, especially for non-Ghanaians.  There are not lunch meats or sliced cheese for sandwiches.  Even the bread here must be sliced.  The rice is not minute rice.  It takes 20 minutes to cook.  There are not easy snacking foods for purchase except plantain chips, boiled peanuts, or grilled corn.  Gone are the days of Doritos chips and candy bars.  We are thankful to be forced to minimize our need for “snacking” throughout the day but learn to eat only when we are hungry. 



2.)  Shopping here is very different.  Food, computers, car parts, bicycles, dishes, furniture, etc... are purchased from roadside stands.  Everything comes with a FREE bonus - a layer of red dust that becomes yours for the wiping.  There is not a Super Walmart, Sams Club, or Kroger Plus.  The largest grocery store is about the size of a Dollar General store in the US.  And, as a person who looks very different in this culture, I must know the amount to pay before I check out.  Yesterday, I was told the total was 202 cedis for a 133 cedi purchase.  The man had to recalculate, and found the 133 cedi total to be correct.  I'm learning to be assertive as needed.  The day before Reid had to tell the cashier to give him change because her plan was to keep it.  We are learning but we are thankful God gave us minds to understand the money, exchange rate, dollar value, and to figure totals in our heads. 

1.)  This past week, Godwin had hired a precious woman to cook for us.  Doris has made our dinners and some lunches.  The food has been incredible because Doris is an incredible cook.  We have been truly blessed to acclimate slowly to our independence.  Today, as we try to move into our house, I will cook on my own for the first time.  Wow!  Please pray I can figure out what to put together from what is available.  We are thankful for everything here.

  Things that are new and different have revealed the great amount we can learn.  Over time, as this becomes home, we will learn to love the flavors of Ghana.  Tilapia, cassava, and rice will be served around our table.  As a guest, you will be served Ghanaian feed more than American because that’s what is available here. 
The Lord ‘gives us our daily bread.”  (Matthew 6:11)
   We thank Him.
   A missionary told me to record all of the new things in the beginning because, over time, these things will be normal for our family.  I'm trying to do that.  I've been forced to realize the ease of my life in America.  So many things that are so simple in the US require much time and effort here.  I can't believe I ever complained about standing in line at the grocery store when everything I needed was in the cart!  Oh, please forgive me Lord.  It was so simple.  Now shopping for our family will require many stops and many different places with many new challenges.  
  I'm learning.  And I still have so much to learn.  My main task for the next few days is learning to cook food our family will enjoy around the table with some Ghanaian flavor mixed in.  I thank God for His provision of new food for our family.

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' 
Or’ What will we drink?’ 
Or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’
For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; 
for the heavenly Father knows you need these things.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, 
and all these things shall be added until you.
Matthew 6:31-33

Monday, June 18, 2012

A New Normal - Trusting His Promises


Written by Reid on our flight from the US to Ghana:

Leaving the United States on a flight to Ghana is not unusual. This is my sixth such flight. I know what to expect in the airports and on the plane. I know how my body will react to the hours in the same seat and how much I will probably sleep (or not). When I wake up from a short nap with a headache I know that deep breathing and short walk clear it right up.

But this flight is very different. At the moment we are between homes - we currently have no home - a house yes, but a home, no. We have left everything we know and life as we have known it provided lots of comfort - it was normal. Now there is no sense of normalcy.

I looked up "normal" and found:  usual, typical, or expected. The flight may be typical and the journey through the airport and immigration will be normal, but that's the end of what I know about this trip. We don't know what to expect. We have no reference point for "normal" life in Ghana for our family. Having no point of reference for "normal" can make life feel very chaotic. Maybe that's the new normal.

Without clear expectations and known realities of living life in Ghana, we are left to wholly trust in the promises of our Lord who told us to pursue his rule and reign on the earth (Matt 6:33). His promise to those that do so is to provide the "normal." He has promised to take care of our every need, in fact He has already done it! All of His promises find their fulfillment in Jesus who completed everything at the cross and through his resurrection (2 Cor 1:20; John 19:30).

So the Lord is using chaos us to teach us that He really is all that we need - His promises are payment enough, and He faithfully displayed His goodness in so many ways the day we departed!

"Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it" (Psa 119:40)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Traffic

Our family has been blessed to be staying with Godwin and Lenusia until our water pump is fixed. They have been amazing hosts for our family. We thank God for everything they have done for us. We could not do this without them right now. They have helped us with everything here.  Because our vehicle is not here, we have been dependent on Godwin for transportation, and, right now, I'm very thankful that someone else is navigating these roads!
The photo is the view from the front window of our van yesterday.  Our amazing driver, Michael, remained unscathed with cars weaving in and out at every moment.

If you have ever thought there's bad traffic in your city, I can promise it does not compare to Ghana.  Yesterday, we drove twenty miles toward Teshie.  Our trip took over 2 hours before we reached our destination.  If we were not stuck behind turtle-speed traffic, we were waiting for herds of cows to walk down the road.  We've never been delayed frequently by cows before.  This is new.

Today we asked the boys what they thought would be the biggest adjustment for them.  Two of our boys said the long car rides in the traffic.  It is something to get used to.

I love that you can buy plantain chips out the window from the hawkers on the street.  You can also purchase phone cards, batteries, mangoes, bagged water, boiled peanuts, sugar cane sticks, and maps of Ghana.  Who needs a convenience store when all of this is simply one rolled down window away?  For lunch yesterday, we bought bananas out the window.  Wow!  We fed our family of seven plus three other people for 5 cedis!  (About $3.00 American)  That was the deal of the day!  (I did wonder if our boys would have been satisfied with a banana for lunch in America.  Kinda doubt it, but here a warm banana hit the spot for all of us!)

We headed home after dark and needed to stop for gas.  Surprisingly, the electricity went out while we were filling the tank.  Blackness.  The only lights were the cars on the road driving past us.  The attendant would not let us leave until the power came back on, so we sat in the steamy van until the electricity came back on.  Another first in Ghana.

As we drove home on the dark pot-holed road, there were flickers of power in homes.  A few dotted the dark landscape.  There are no streetlights, so the few homes with power stood out against the night.  Dark silhouettes of children with wares on their head came into view as we approached them.  The faces of these kids looked so tired.  Most of them, I'm sure, had been out all day working to help support their families.

As we continued driving, I wondered about their stories.

I suppose our driving time will allow for that - wondering, pondering, and talking with our family.   Pray for our driving time to be productive.  The fact that we can't just drive places quickly is new for us.  But God can teach us in the waiting too.  We pray we will learn.

They that wait upon the Lord
Will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not grow faint.

Hmmm...maybe instead of driving, God wants us to fly, run, or walk...just pondering...




Saturday, June 16, 2012

Trees of Transition

Franklin received some sketch books as a gift and he is putting them to good use.

6.12.12 - The tree Franklin drew on our flight from Knoxville. 
On the back, he wrote, "How I felt leaving everything..."



6.13.12 - Franklin's drawing on our first day of arrival in Ghana.

6.14.12 - Franklin's drawing yesterday.


Franklin's heart always pours out of his drawings.  I think the Lord is preparing him to blossom here.  May the Lord help us all to grow and flourish in the new soil of this new land.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:3