Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Playing with the Spirits

This may not be a popular post, but here's some PERSPECTIVE from Ghana...

Here in Africa, we live in a world where we try to share about the One True and Living God. We attempt to educate people with Truth from God's Word. One of the challenges we face is the mixture of Christianity with tribal religions. Worship of idols and sacrificial offerings are common place. The use of curses, juju (black magic) and witchcraft are known. Some of the stories we have been told have brought us to tears. Literally. Pastors work diligently to help people recognize the need to depart fully from things that are not of God in these practices. People can not call themselves a Christian if they still participate in the practice of worshiping other gods.

Recently, there was a festival for the gods of Ghana. One night, our car was surrounded by people in a frenzy worshipping a local god - a gold idol carried on the shoulders of the people. Traffic was halted and it seemed like at least one thousand people were celebrating in the streets. Men walked beside our car carrying guns, and people knocked on the windows of our blocked car. The darkness of oppression could be physically felt. Evil - something not of God - surrounded us! Since moving to Ghana, this is one of the only times I have felt afraid. While driving, my hands were visibly shaking. Evil.

Recently, there have been FB posts about Halloween in America. Fright Nights and Zombie Celebrations seem to be something that Christians are participating in. Where is the fascination with evil and death coming from? Blood and gore? Haunting spirits? Fright Nights? Witches? Friends, it is not of God! It frightens me to know that Christians in America would take part in some of these things. Do you realize what spiritual powers you are invoking? Why is there such fervor around death, murder, spiritual powers, etc??? Where is the intensity for desire to celebrate evil coming from? Do you realize there is witchcraft happening in America too, and children are being used in ritual practices? I know this firsthand!


As Christians, I implore you to diligently ask God to search your heart about participating in some of the things that clearly depict the evil of our enemy - anything to frighten - fright walks, scary caves, etc... (our God calms, protects, and comforts), anything glorifying death - zombies (our God is the God of LIFE), anything celebrating the murder of human life (our God is the Giver of Life) anything dabbling in spells, curses, etc... or speaking to the spirits of those who have died (our God has warned us not to participate in such things), or anything that does not glorify God - DEPART FROM IT, and GUARD THE HEARTS OF YOUR CHILDREN! Parents, YOU ARE THE WATCHMEN ON THE WALL for your household!

Living in a culture where I am continually aware of the spiritual battle raging over me, my focus has intensified toward what is not from the Lord. Yet, many things are no longer seen as "evil" but cloaked in the desire for "fun" and "entertainment." Twilight books are best-sellers and Halloween is the second highest retail holiday in America. As a Christian, this is what frightens me and causes me to tremble.

So, while children in the USA trick-or-treat in their new $30 costume, we see naked children in the market. While kids there enjoy their bag-load of candy that will last for months, we hold children who have not eaten any food for days. While people there celebrate being frightened - and even pay money to be scared out of their wits, we comfort people who are afraid a curse has been placed on them - because that is reality. While people dress their children up as witches and wizards, we have witnessed the reality of witchcraft and the detrimental evil it causes - even years later.

This post is not sent in judgement or condemnation. It is a cry of intensity from my heart. A plead to "TURN AWAY! COME BACK! FLEE FROM EVIL!"

Celebrating some of the things listed above is akin to worship. Part of your life is given, part of your monetary resources are given, part of your attention is given...and once given, it is gone. Our life, our time, our money, our focus are all offerings. I pray Christians will not become like the idols - with blind eyes, deaf ears, and mute mouths. However, the contrary action is for "you who fear the LORD," to "bless the LORD!"

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
They have eyes, but do not see;
They have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them!
O house of Israel, bless the LORD!
O house of Aaron, bless the LORD!
O house of Levi, bless the LORD!
You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD!"
(Psalm 135:15-20)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Plight of the Orphan

Guest Blogger:  Mason Beebe, age 16 yrs.

What is our ultimate goal as Christians? What is the most important piece of our faith? In His word, God asks us to do so much it is overwhelming. And it is so easy to get caught up in whether we are or aren’t doing these things. But I think the biggest and most important part of our faith is our relationship with our Holy Father. This relationship is what will drive us to do the things that God calls us to do. If we truly have a relationship with God, our service to Him will be out of love for Him, rather than doing just so we can get to heaven.

     About a month ago I left to spend three weeks in an orphanage in Bolgatanga. We live in Accra which is in the very southern part of Ghana, and Bolgatanga is in the very northern part of Ghana. Basically the entire country of Ghana was between where I was in Bolga, and where my family was in Accra. It was so hard to be away from my family. My brothers have become my best friends, and not having them around was depressing to me. It was in the midst of this hardship that I found my true need for God.

     Even though my soul was in turmoil, I was able to minister to the kids in this orphanage in tremendous ways. Even though most of the time the children drove me crazy I was able to love them in a way they do not often experience. Living under the same roof as these fatherless children gave me a whole new perspective into their lives.

     At this home there are two small boys maybe 3 or 4 years old named Bright and Marvin. When we first arrived in Bolga these two boys cried about everything. It seemed they had learned that no one wanted to listen to them cry, so they could cry to get what they wanted. And the older kids catered to them when they threw a fit. This got under my skin, and I began being rather harsh with Bright when he would start crying. One day when he was crying about something silly, I bent down to reprimand him. As soon as my face was on his level I almost couldn’t speak because I realized that he looked very much like my little brother Godwin.

    Realizing this gave me a whole new perspective. I would not treat Bright that way if he was a part of my family. And this is when my role in that home really hit me. These kids have no one to stand up for them. They have no mother or father to defend them from mistreatment. This is the plight of the orphan. Not simply that they have no one to tuck them in at night, but they have no one to raise them in the ways of God, no one who will help them in times of trouble, and no one to encourage them when they are hurting in their soul. It was hard enough for me being away from my family for three weeks. I can’t imagine being without a family for a lifetime.

     It was amazing to see how much just my being there impacted the kids. There were a couple times when I left the house for a little bit. When I returned one of the kids would see me and run out to greet me, followed by the rest of the mob. It reminded me of the times when my Dad would get home from work and I would run out of the house to give him a hug. I did not feel like it at all, but I am probably the closest thing to a Dad these kids have ever known.

    I know you are probably just waiting for me to bust out the story about something amazing that happened while I was there. Well, honestly I don’t have any incredible stories. My ministry was loving on the kids in simple ways and the biggest one was just by being there in the first place. Leading devotions, playing soccer, walking to church, taking them to the hospital, telling them goodnight, and going on walk to name just a few of the ways in which I was able to minister.

     So how does the first paragraph of this blog post fit in with everything else? As I said earlier being in Bolgatanga was extremely hard. I was able to truly feel my need and dependence on God. My relationship with God is what got me through that trip. There were many times when I was ready to pack up and go back to Accra. But God gave me the strength to get through the trip, and he gave me love to satisfy my needs, and then even more to share with those children. It was hard, but Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for me. I was making a small sacrifice for Him.

     Please don’t think I am trying to hold myself up as an example of how every Christian should live. I am messed up. I struggle with sin. It doesn’t always feel like God is with me. I am not special. I hope you read this post and are challenged to dive into God’s Spirit and be engulfed with a love for Him. Because that is where any form of missions needs to start. If we aren’t doing it because we love God and we want to glorify his name, we are doing it in sin.

     There are 153 million children in this world who have no earthly father. They have no earthly being to love them, care for them, defend them, or raise them up. But our God is so good. He has not claimed the rich and powerful, but he has claimed these children as His own. He has said that He will love them, care for them, defend them, and raise them up. Isn’t that amazing? Just thinking about that puts a smile on my face. This world is not without hope. And God offers us a chance to play a part in redeeming this world. Don’t you want to be a part of that? Is that not the most amazing and fulfilling duty we could ever be asked to do?

     I don’t want to see the church rise up and love orphans if they do not truly love God in their hearts. For that is at the very center of what we believe. There is a passage in Matthew that talks about the day of judgment and how there were people that did works in the name of God, but that was not enough. God wants us to love Him, so that when the road gets rough, we don’t give up and quit, but so that we draw from His strength and love to keep pressing forward.

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 82:3-4

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Praying for a Miracle

"This child is cursed!"  
"He is talking to demons!"  
"Don't go near him or touch him - he is of the devil!"  
"His mother is cursed.  Someone performed magic on her while she was pregnant to give her a child that is not a human being!"

"The thing needs to be killed!  Look at his head - it's deformed!  Kill it!  Kill it!  Kill it!"

These were actual words spoken over this little boy.  The villagers were making plans to end his life because his head is misshapen.  People did not believe he was human, but did believe he was possessed.   He would sit alone without being fed or even touched because everyone was so afraid of him.  His mother was shamed within her own village, ostracized from the others because of her strange looking baby.

Now, meet Shadrach.  This child doomed for death was rescued by Daddy Paul.  Daddy Paul runs two orphanages here in Ghana.  When Daddy Paul heard about the situation from one of his Aunties, he made the 18 hour trip to the village to stop the madness.  He volunteered to take care of the child to save him from  his certain future if he remained in the village.  The people were relieved to be rid of the cursed "thing."  Paul's strongly stated to the people, "This child IS a human being.  He is a child of God.  You can not kill him!"  Daddy Paul brought Shadrach into Nyame Dua in Bolgatanga and Auntie Juliana has been diligently caring for him ever since.

Our family met Shadach about a month ago, and we all fell in love with him.  He is such a precious child.  However, because of his fused skull, his brain is not growing properly so he has some continual struggles to survive.  Breathing is laborious for him.  The first day I held him, I could not contain my tears listening to the child gasp for air.  It was heartbreaking.  

That day Daddy Paul had taken Shadrach to see some of the finest doctors in Ghana to see what could be done to help the poor baby.  The doctor's answered, "Nothing can be done for him here.  He needs surgery, but he will need to go to another country for this to happen."

We are now praying for a miracle.  We are praying for a family to step forward in faith to adopt this precious child of God.  He was rescued from death for the future God has planned for him, but a family must faithfully be willing to help find him the medical help he so desperately needs.

Our son, Mason, recently spent three weeks in the orphanage where Shadrach is living now.  Over the 21 days, Mason fell in love with little Shadrach.  He kissed him on the head several times a day, and on the day we made crafts, Mason made one for him knowing he would not be able to do it.   While our family stayed at the orphanage, Shadrach melted into a special place in each of our hearts.  Shadrach is one who deeply stirs something within.  You look into his face and wonder, "How could anyone ever want to kill this child?  The Lord has created him perfectly for His purposes.  He has been knit together by God. Oh, how could people view his life as one not worth living?"

We now daily pray for little Shadrach.  We are praying for God to lead someone to rescue him again.  Without adoption, nothing can be done to help him here in Ghana.  The medical facilities and expertise simply are not found here.  Daddy Paul has spoken with the Social Welfare Director and Shadrach should be granted a medical visa to help expedite his potential for medical help.  Honestly, he needs it soon.  The longer he waits for someone, the longer his brain growth is stunted.  

Friends, we are praying for a miracle in this little boy's life.  There are people on both sides of the ocean praying for this precious child.  We truly believe he has been saved for God's incredible purposes.  Nothing about him is a mistake.  Everything about him cries out, "I have been created by a Heavenly Father whose ways are not always understood, but whose ways are always good."  (Isaiah 55:9)

Please pray for baby Shadrach.  Please pray for a family to be led to adopt him  Please pray for him to receive the medical help he needs in the time he needs it.  Please pray for him to know the love of his Heavenly Father.   Until God provides the miracle of needed medical care, please pray for Auntie Juliana as she cares for him daily nurturing him in the love of Christ.

It's horrible what Shadrach endured as a baby in this culture.  It's atrocious that people would believe he is cursed because his head is misshapen.  It's unbelievable that people would actually make plans to kill this poor child.  But, in our country, if a woman is pregnant with a child testing positive for Downs Syndrome or perhaps a misshapen head, and a doctor suggests an abortion, it is equally as horrific - perhaps more so.    But there is no outcry.  There is no longer shock.  We are desensitized to the value of a human life.  To think that a child created in the womb in the image of God is something to dispose of grieves my heart beyond belief.

As you pray for Baby Shadrach, please join us in praying for all of the babies who are "formed differently."  Please pray for people to have an understanding like Daddy Paul's.  May God give people the courage to say, "No, this child is a human being.  He/she is a child of God formed in the image of our Creator.  He/she does not deserve to die."   

Please, please, please pray.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:13-14

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Danger of Disguise

     Guest blogger:  Mason Beebe, age 16 yrs.

     Recently, I read an article online about a certain social media application. The author was warning readers about the dangers of the application and his ultimate goal was to have the reader delete the app from their phone or electronic device. His argument against the application was that, when advertised, the application seemed safe, but under careful study the application is very dangerous. This bad application was being disguised with good advertisements.
     As you probably know, living in Ghana has greatly changed our view on American/Western culture and values, and most are not for the better. After living here in Ghana for some time, I realized that it is nearly impossible to truly see certain pieces of Western values for what they are until you are no longer immersed in the culture. There is so much wickedness in the country that people don’t see because it is disguised as something good.

     One of the pieces that has made me so upset is the complacency of the church. We have not taken our faith seriously. We don’t live like the prayers we pray or the songs we sing. We are not reaching the world as God called us to and what is even more saddening is that we are giving ground to horrible sins in our own country. A big part of this is the fact that we have not been looking past the disguises of sin.
     One example I can think of is the television show Duck Dynasty. It is being devoured by the Christian community because the people in the show claim to be Christians.  I realize it is a television show, but do you see the people in this TV show living out their faith? Do you think they are living in the way Jesus would have them live? I watched one episode where one of the characters paid $100 instead of apologizing to his wife. What is that saying about us as followers of Jesus Christ? Almost all of the characters spend money on a whim, buying things of worldly value. What does this say about what we value as believers?
     I know that one argument in favor of Duck Dynasty is that they pray at the end of every episode. Here in Ghana, there is a castle where slaves were kept before being shipped to countries participating in the slave trade. There is a room about 25’ by 15’ where as many as 300+ slaves were held in utter darkness in their own excrement for months. Right above this dungeon was a church where the foreign occupants of the castle would go to worship. So, since they went to church and worshipped God, did that make what they were doing to the slaves okay? Since they pray at the end of every Duck Dynasty episode, does that make what they do in the rest of episode okay? Where is the line of compromise?  Another thing to consider is will some Christians use this show as an excuse to be prodigal with the resources God has blessed them with?
     Another example of disguised sin in our culture is “Christian radio.” While we were back on furlough I was grieved and even angry by the worldliness of what was being played on the radio. The only “Christian” part of “Christian radio” seemed to be the music. What is talked about by the DJ’s is meant to entertain and nothing more. Every year one radio station does a cruise to help raise funds for the station. Do you think that this cruise shows that we, as followers of Jesus, are willing to give sacrificially? American Christians don’t seem to take what Jesus says and calls us to seriously.
     Not all sins in our culture are disguised. There is much wickedness in America that is held up for the world to see. But this evil is becoming accepted in the one beacon of hope for America, the church. American Christians are not simply buying into small disguises, but are being seduced to believe that extreme iniquity really isn't that bad. If 78.4% of America professes to be Christian, then how is this happening to our nation (U.S. Religious Landscape Survey)? We are warriors who have surrendered to the will of our enemy.
     I did not write this blog post so that you would stop watching Duck Dynasty or stop listening to “Christian radio.” I wrote this so that you would begin to examine things in America that are currently accepted as “okay” and decide for yourself if these things are truly good.  Slavery may have ended decades earlier if people had asked this question while they were worshipping above the heads of 300 captive people!  

     I wrote this post because I want to see the church in America rise up and do the Lord’s will. I want Christians not to be set apart just because they listen to Christian music, but because they do hard things and live out what the Bible asks of us.
     There is so much God calls us to in the Bible it can be extremely overwhelming. I have found that I cannot do everything the Lord asks of His people in His holy book. But God is rich in grace for my incompetence. He has shown me that if my heart truly desires to do the Lord’s will, and I put all of my effort into doing that, then He is pleased with what I do. I am not asking you to do anything other than seek the Lord. Study His word and His commands not so that you can get to heaven, but because God is so good and you want to please this holy and good God.
     God has given us so much. And even though we have turned our backs on Him numerous times, He still loves us, and He still is asking us to be a part of furthering His kingdom. Are you going to accept this incredible opportunity that God offers you, or are you going to continue living in comfort embracing any worldly pleasure life brings upon you? We don’t have long to take advantage of this opportunity that God offers us. Psalm 144:4 says, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”


     So are we going to continue buying these disguises that the American culture is creating for sin, or are we going to choose to look past these masks and see the sin that lies there? Then, are we going to just live with the knowledge of this sin, or are we going to fight it? Are we going to pray passionately for God to move? Are we going to fervently ask for God’s spirit to help us, and for His grace when we mess up? Are we going to live like Jesus meant what He was saying in the Bible, or are we going to read passages with tranquil pleasure thinking that the biblical mandates don’t apply to us? What are you going to do?

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Psalm 144:4

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Mother's Heart

     Living here in Ghana, many know me now as “Mommy Robin.”    Little hands weave into mine constantly and I am the semblance of a Mom to many.  At times, this role is enjoyable.  I kiss little ones on their heads telling them over and over how much God loves them.  I look at report cards and celebrate the successes, but also challenge kids to improve in needed areas.  I laugh and enjoy the tight hugs frequently given when we visit the children.

     This week, our family is staying at Nyame Dua orphanage in Bolgatanga, Ghana.  We traveled to the northern tip of the country to be with these precious kids.  I have loved being here.  Waking up to children laughing outside the window while sweeping the compound is music to my ears.  Listening to Braden communicate in his strong Ghanaian accent makes me smile.  Watching Franklin pick up Hagar, Sweetie, and Assibi all at once reveals his heart.  Seeing Weston do all of the “dance moves” to the songs while hidden in the background demonstrates how safe he feels.  Listening to Mason communicate to the boys with love and authority defines the respect he has received in his time serving here.  Our adopted son, Godwin, blends in with everyone here, playing and laughing. He is no longer fearful that we will abandon him.  (When we first arrived in Ghana, Godwin would not allow us to set him down whenever we were at an orphanage.  Now he literally runs to play with the children.)  As the mom of my boys, I have loved to see them interact here.

     However, my mother’s heart also longs for all of the children here to have what our boys have - a mother and a father who love them.  I have this as a hope for each of the children here.  But God has been working on my heart in many ways recently to show me there is another place where hope is found.. 

     Yes, a family is a gift.  Whether through biological birth or adoption, a child raised in a healthy, in tact, Christ-centered family has been blessed.

     While we have been staying in the orphanage, I’ve noticed the character qualities being instilled in the children.  Daddy Paul, Auntie Grace, and Auntie Juliana are each loving the children here to the best of their abilities.  They are training them well to know and serve the Lord. The children all have daily responsibilities which they do without complaint – sweeping, washing clothing, washing dishes, cooking, etc...  The older children help care for the younger ones, carrying them and shepherding them from place to place.  The home is neat and orderly because the children seem to cherish their few belongings.  (Though the leather has nearly worn off, they are still using the soccer ball we brought them nine months ago!)  Overall, the children don’t argue often but treat one another with patience.   One hour each evening is devoted to worship and prayers.  This devotional time has been led by the older children while we have been here.  It is impressive to witness. 

     The children here seem content.  They seem to know they are loved.  They seem to understand God’s love for them.  The people who operate this home are striving to raise up secure, competent, faithful men and women of God.  They seem to be teaching that God is the answer for these children in their circumstance. 

Lunchtime!  Rice and Stew.  Yum!

     This is a message orphans should hear.  The statistics reveal that very few, overall, will know the hope of adoption into a family.  While as a Christian, as an adoptive mom, and as someone witnessing the daily life of orphans in Ghana, I want to BEG every professing Believer to sincerely seek God in faith about the possibility of adoption. However, I also believe that we are called as Believers to care for the orphan and widow where they are.  Right now, we are to care for them in the orphanages.  Right now, we are to care for them on the streets.  Right now, we are to care for them in the villages.  Right now, we are to stand in the spiritual gap for them and PRAY for them.  God has commanded us to do that in His Holy Word.

     I don’t know the answers.  But I know the God who does.  HE is the ANSWER for these children to live with hope and assurance of their future.  I pray for those children who will never know the love of a family, that GOD can and WILL fill in the void.  I pray He will give them confidence that they are never alone though many days they may feel alone.   I pray the kids living in orphanges during their childhood years, can turn to each other when they need the support of a family.  I pray for the children who will live their lives on the street or trafficed without ever even knowing the comfort of a home - much less a family.

     For those families who have stepped out in faith to adopt, my mother’s heart says, “Thank you.”   I want all of these kids I am living with right now to have someone tuck them in at night, to kiss their boo-boos, to wipe away their tears, to hold them when they need it, to teach them about life, and to provide shelter from the harsh world.  Oh, I long for them to each know the assurance of love when I see the distant look creep into their eyes.  This haze over their faces sometimes tells me they are disconnecting and wtihdrawing.  

     For those serving orphans, my heart says, “Thank you” to you as well. You truly are giving your lives away by loving the forgotten and abandoned.  The cost of serving these children is high.  Working through the initial trauma, praying to God to provide food to feed 40 children when there is only enough for 20, stretching resources to meet basic needs, correcting disrespectful behaviors, navigating adolescence for many children at once, providing needed structure, operating a full home at capacity and then being faced with another child who needs to come in, etc…  Those truly giving their lives for these kids have been CHOSEN for a high calling.  Please pray for them.  They need our prayers.  We need to be praying for more people to serve daily in the harsh reality of many orphans.

      In Ghana, there is one orphan for every 23 people.  It is estimated that over 1,000,000 children are orphaned in this country.  There are 400,000 children in America waiting for adoption in the foster care system.  With a population of over 300,000,000,  there is one orphan for approximately every 1,000 people in the United States.

     Ghana has just announced a temporary “ban” on adoptions.  We are hopeful that this ban will be lifted within a few months, but there are no guarantees.  Children with special medical needs may still be adopted, but the rest must wait until further notice.  This restriction has caused me to look more closely on the reality that so many orphans will never be adopted through varying circumstances.  We advocate for adoption and believe in the blessing of a forever family for a child. Please understand, we advocate for adoption!  However, continuing to see the same faces again and again has raised the question, What about children who will never know the gift of adoption?  Where is their hope to be found?  

     The action of the church to "care for the orphan" must extend beyond adoption advocacy with a broader awareness of orphan needs worldwide.  Annually, approximately 250,000 children are placed into adopted families.  With 143,000,000 - 210,000,000 orphans worldwide - the number of adoptions doesn't even reach 1% of the need.

     Throughout scripture, we are urged to care for the orphan.   And, we must.

      Would you please pray for the men and women serving orphans in the world?  Would you stand in the gap for children who have no one fighting for them spiritually?  Would you please pray that they will know their Heavenly Father, even if they never know their biological father?  Or an earthly father?  Would you please pray that God’s love will be felt by them as something REAL, TANGIBLE, and TRUE? you the helpless commits himself;
    you have been the helper of the fatherless.

Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10:10b, 17-18

Monday, August 26, 2013

Costly Education

Yesterday, as I was driving home, I passed through the toll booth with my small friend knocking on my window.  I rolled down the window for his greeting.

“Hi, Mommy!”  grinned Christian.  “Do you want popcorn?”
“No, not today, Christian.  I am going to come talk with you one afternoon, okay?”
“Yes, Mommy.  I will be waiting.”  
(Mommy is a common name for any older light skinned woman.)

I watched Christian trot away to the next car and was saddened by his life circumstances.  After asking several people about this young boy, perhaps 12 years of age, I’ve learned he has no parents.  He is living with a woman who sends him to sell popcorn for her at the toll booth.  I am quite certain the profit feeds both she and the young boy.

Christian is not in school.  Along with several other children who sell daily at this toll booth.  Their days are spent hawking bread, drinks, plantain chips, apples, and popcorn.  They stand in the dust hoping for a sale.  Trucks cover them with diesel smoke, and their little flip-flopped feet chase the cars that move forward before paying.  At times, their little faces are dripping with sweat from the hot sun.  Their clothes look dirty with tears and holes adorning them.  

This is their childhood.

We recently learned of young girls prostituting themselves for the payment of a bottle of coke or maybe 2 cedis ($1) for an unthinkable sexual act.  Why would this ever be permissable?  Families turn a blind eye if this income from the streets can pay school fees or provide needed food for families.  Prostitution or starvation?  Prostitution for education?  This is reality.

One young boy we are close to is 17 years old.  He has just been promoted to 2nd grade.  Why?  Because when he was a child, he was given over to fishermen.  He fished in a wooden boat bailing water and eventually helping to toss the large net into the sea.  His family needed money so the small amount he was given for a day of work justified keeping him out of school.  Nightly, he would bring home 1 cedi ($.50) for his family.  He received his first opportunity to go to school last year, at age 16.       

In Paulkrom, a rural community within the Eastern Region, the public school meets under the trees.  (As do others in Ghana.)  Children walk for miles because it is the best school in the area.  Several miles or more is the twice a day trek for many students.  When it rains, the teachers do not come.  Even if the road is passable, rain is the needed excuse for teachers to miss work.  The desks are crammed together seating 5-6 students each.   Classrooms bump up against each other with the only divider being the chalk board.  There are no textbooks here.  Most students have one notebook to use for all subjects.  A notebook is a small composition book with about 60 sheets of paper bound on the spine with string or two staples.  In Ghana, only 68% of children in rural communities attend primary school (through grade 8). 

Today, our family sat in the middle of a group of hovels talking to young 12 year old boy about going to school for the first time.  He grappled to understand our English because he has never been in a classroom.  After both of his parents died, he lived in the market with this grandmother.  Once she passed away, a lady allowed him to sleep on her concrete floor.  This fall, he will have the first opportunity in his life to go to school.

This is the reality for most of the world.  I once read you are one of the wealthiest people in the world if you know how to read.  In Ghana, the recorded literacy rate is 80%, but only 50% of males enter secondary school (9th grade and above) with a startling 47% for females entering secondary school.  Surprisingly, these numbers are only the enrollment figures.  Looking at the actual attendance of secondary schools, it is even more concerning with only a 40% attendance rate in 9th grade and above!   By combining these figures, only about 20% of Ghanaians graduate with the equivalent of a high school diploma.  One in five people.

The average annual income in Ghana is $1410 per year.  People here are supporting families at an average pay of $3.86 per day.  The Ghanian national poverty line is earning less than $456 per year or $1.25 per day.  

Sadly, 34% of the young population here in Ghana statistically spend their childhood in child labour.  Do you think many of these children ever receive an education?  While some of their peers are in school settings, these young ones are fishing on boats, picking cocoa beans, cutting firewood, or farming.   

(All statistics are compliments of Unicef, dated 2011.)

School is starting in America.  Parents and their children are filling grocery carts with school supplies.  Folders covered with Justin Bieber, special colored pens, paper clips shaped like rockets, the new Crayola set of crayons, a new backpack and lunchbox for the new school year help start the new year right.  (Yes, I have bought all of this for our boys.  Well, not the Justin Bieber folder, but everything else, yes, I have bought it.)

Today I was on Facebook.  There were several posts about “how expensive” school fees are.  There were complaints about the school supply lists and having to buy thumb drives and science lab fees.  It made me so sad.  Oh, do you realize what you are receiving for what you are paying?  There isn't a complaint that the students have access to science labs and computers, but the rub is that it is not "free."

Here’s a spotlight on comparing statistics in the United States (from Unicef) with the ones you read above.  

Avg. Annual income   $48,450
Poverty Line Annual Income $11,490 (+ $4,020 for each person in family)
Poverty Line Daily Income $31.48
Primary School Completion 95%
Secondary School Completion  90%
Education or Training Beyond 12th Grade 70%

Friends, I know there are provisions at American schools for families who can not pay the fees.  Yet, honestly, I wonder if the families who say it’s too expensive are struggling to eat everyday because they have no money for food.  I wonder if they do not have money to take a child to the hospital when he desperately needs to go.  I wonder if they live in homes without electricity or if they walk long distances to carry water to their houses.  I wonder if students come home from school and fill their afternoon with chores for survival - building fires to cook, hauling water, hand-washing their laundry, etc...  The students in America can work on schoolwork after nightfall.  Those who live here without electricity end their productivity with eyesight about 6:30 pm unless they have candles or a flashlight, and either luxury would be an added expense for the family.  All of these situations are actual families that we have served here - whose children were not in school because the families could not afford it.

My heart breaks to give some perspective on the rest of the world.  70% of the world!  I want to cry out to the people in my homeland, “Why are you complaining?”

Computer fees?  Very few schools have them here.  I’ve seen teachers teach about computers by drawing them on the chalkboard.  Many children have never even seen a computer.  Very, very few schools have a computer lab.  

Lab fees?  I’ve never seen a science lab in Ghana.  

Special clothing for gym, labs, etc...?  Children here buy one new uniform for the year.  They wear it everyday.  One boy we know was wearing a uniform that had been worn by others for eight years because his family could not afford another one.  Holes, tears, etc... but it was his daily uniform.  How many new clothes does the average American student receive before school?  

Extra fees for music or sporting teams?  If a school here has a soccer team, that is it.  No track, swim-team, baseball, football, basketball. lacrosse, or rugby teams exist here to my knowledge.  I’ve never seen a marching band or heard a school choir or ensemble.  (However, some churches are teaching their youth how to sing!) 

Remember, there is no school-bus fee, so FREE transportation is available to and from school in America.  Students here walk.  For miles.  MILES!  There is not a FREE transportation system.

In the USA, there are free and reduced lunches available for those in need - not to mention the numerous food pantries.  We have had students refused entry into school because their families couldn’t pay the “feeding fee.”  The average “feeding fee” here is $.25 - $.50 per day.   For many students, the only time they eat during the day is while they are at school.

Textbooks?  The schools provide them in the United States.  Not here.  Many of the textbooks, if they are available, here have been “donated” after years of use in other countries.

Classroom posters and cheery educational decorations?  If any, they are handmade, rough drawings on construction paper that fades in the sunlight.    

Teaching credentials?  In the US, many schools require at least an undergraduate, if not a Masters degree.  Here, students are blessed to be taught by someone with a secondary school degree.  The equivalent to a high school diploma.

But still there is complaining by those with access to one of the best education opportunities in the world...

Need I go on?

As you look at what you are being asked to pay for by the schools, maybe it’s time to ask the question if the items are really needed for education and if your child will be better off for the receiving of them.  Are new sports uniforms needed every season?  New notebooks, bookbags, and lunchboxes - are they needed every year?  Scrubs for labs?  Would an old t-shirt suffice?

Please, please, be thankful.  There is so much to be thankful for with regards to education in the United States.  And, yes, there is a fee attached to the benefits enjoyed.  Some of the fees, I honestly cringe to think people are paying it when children around me have ZERO access to education.  However, as parents, you have the privilege to invest in your children’s future.  And, guess what?  If you can’t pay the fees you are being asked to pay, your child can STILL GO TO SCHOOL.  A public education is not in jeopardy if you can not pay school fees.  Americans can choose homeschooling, private schooling, or public schooling to educate your children.  

I've heard the new catch phrase, "first world problem" as it relates to having too many discount cards on a keychain, difficulty at the ATM, etc...  I'm amazed these things can be joked about as "problems."   A website has even been developed so people can post their "problems" of living in a developed, privileged nation.  Here are three quotes I found today.  (I wasn't choosy.  These are the first three listed.)

"I have to get dressed so that I don’t look too lazy when I go out to pay the gardener.”

“I cant find the right balance between my fan and my electric blanket.”

“I went to go babysit for an hour and the kids didn’t know what their own wi-fi password was.”


From where I sit, I don't find the humor in these things.

I know many people don't truly comprehend what we see daily or what life is like for the least of these.  However, people who have been on mission trips or adopted children from third world countries, I beg you not to forget what you have seen.  You are responsible for what you now know.  I pray the faces and images will remain imprinted on your heart so that hearts are turned to gratitude instead of complaining.  I pray hearts of gratitude for blessings will overflow with gratefulness.  

Our education as a Christian is costly.  We are constantly in God's classroom for instruction.  I am still learning.  Sadly, I lived most of my life with very little thought for the rest of the world.  God has placed our family into a new classroom.  We are learning in new surroundings through very different teaching methods.  Our teacher has not changed, but many of His teachings are stronger than ever before - caring for the poor, seeking justice, providing for those in need, loving the orphan and widow, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing a cup of water for the thirsty - these are the Scriptures lived out daily in obedience.

We don't pay school fees to sit in God's classroom, but there is a blessed cost, isn't there?  The amazing thing is that what we see as a "cost" in the beginning can become an "offering of love" over time.  

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4

Saturday, August 24, 2013

God's Treasures

Guest Blogger:  Mason Beebe, Age 16 yrs. 

 Being a missionary is hard. It does have many joyful moments and God shows himself to us in mighty ways, but that doesn’t always make it easy. The joyful moments and God sightings give us perseverance and faith that we are where God wants us, which is all we need to endure the trials.
     But shouldn’t all Christians be missionaries? Shouldn’t we all experience these trials? If you have truly put your faith in God and do what He asks you to do then God has placed you in a strategic spot for the furtherance of His kingdom. But why do some people have to go serve the poor? Why do some believers have to sacrifice worldly possessions and desires to please God? Is going to church, reading the Bible, and praying not enough?
     God has recently been convicting me of the condition of my heart. What God calls us to do is useless if our hearts are not in the right place. If I play with orphans and bring smiles to their faces but do not truly love them in my heart, my endeavors are worthless. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
     For the past ten days I have been in an orphanage in Bolgatanga, which is in the very northern part of Ghana. Basically the entire country is between where I am and where my family is. The first week or so of being here was extremely hard. I was homesick. I was not able to love the children really at all because I was wanting so badly to be with my family. While I would not have chosen to go through this, God used this time of hardship to grow and teach me so much.
     When I traveled up here with Daddy Paul and another volunteer, we brought with us a young boy. His mother had not been caring for him the way she should have been and so he was brought to Bolgatanga. The reason he could not stay in an orphanage in Accra, where his mother was, is because if something happened in the home that he did not like, discipline for example, he could have run away from the home and gone back to his mother. As I was struggling through being homesick, I looked at this little boy. I was going back to my family in a matter of weeks. This boy was here to stay. For all he knows he may never see his mother again. God put me through the hardships I experienced so that I could better understand the orphan's longing.
     Have you ever considered the fact that God sees the poor the same as he sees us, the wealthy. He can use the poor in the same ways He can use the wealthy. More than that, He treasures all of us. The poor are God’s treasure. He made them when they were still in the womb and He loves them. Material wealth does not matter at all to God. The less privileged are just as much God’s children, tools, and treasures as anyone else. If we are true followers of God, and if God treasures the poor, shouldn’t we do the same?
     This realization helped me so much in the way I love the kids here in Bolgatanga. I am not here because it is my “Christian duty” but because each one of these children is made in the image of God and He loves them so very much. God is using my arms to wrap them up in a hug, my lips to tell them He loves them, and my presence to let them know that they are not forgotten.
     The first week here was easily the hardest week of my life. But God showed Himself to me in so many ways and taught me so many things, that I knew I was in the right place. I am now seeing the fruit of my endurance. I am so glad to be surrounded by God’s treasured creations.
     So what are you going to do about this? As Christians we are all called to help the poor. So you can start by aiding the less privileged that God has placed around you. Secondly, make sure your heart is in the right place. Always remember that every single person on this earth, no matter what they have done or failed to do, and no matter their beliefs or their possessions, is just as much God’s creation as you are. Truly love them in your heart, as a treasure of the everlasting King.

The Lord says to a king, 'Worthless one,'
and to nobles, 'Wicked man.’
He shows no partiality to princes,
nor regards the rich more than the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands.

Job 34:18-19

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My New Comfort Zone

Guest Blogger:  Franklin Beebe, age 15 yrs.

Living in Ghana caused me to mature quickly.  Living here, many times we lack comforts and conveniences that used to be part of my everyday life in America.   I am so thankful to God for that!  I have seen God work in so many uncountable ways in me. He has shown me how to rely on Him when I am in need.  I am so much closer to my Father and I can feel Him working all around me.

When we first began our African journey, I didn’t want to come. I didn’t want to leave everything I knew, and all my friends and family. I didn’t want to go out of my comfort zone to help others. Honestly, I was self-centered on my own wants and desires. 

I look back on those days when I would just pout and be angry with everything around me because I wasn’t going to receive to live life the way I wanted.  I wish now that I had spent that time differently.  Everyone only gets one life, so don’t have a bitter attitude when God, who gives you breath and lets you live on the earth that He created, asks you to do him a small favor here and there.

Some of you may think that us moving to Ghana was huge! I thought it was an enormous task also, but the good Lord has changed my view on quite a few things since I have lived on this side of the ocean.  Now, I see two years as a very small time of my life that I can give to the Lord.  We are praying about what God desires for our family next - is it coming back to the US or is it staying longer? I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me as the next step of my life.

I want to challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and serve God. I promise you will see Him work, it might not be right at that moment, but you plant seeds that will grow! We recently had a mission team come to Ghana from our old church and many of the people on the team said they wanted to get out of their comfort zones while they were in Ghana. So what were they going to do, just be out of there comfort zones while they were here in country and step right back into their comfort zones when they go home? I hope not.  We don’t need to get out of our comfort zones for a few weeks or months to serve somewhere or even just spend a day at a local ministry.  As followers of Jesus we should all be out of our comfort zones 100% of the time to serve all day everyday!

For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chains Be Broken, Lives Be Healed

Over the past two weeks, we have had the privilege of serving with an amazing mission team from Community Bible Church in High Point, North Carolina.  The team is from our previous home church where our family held membership for 12 years.  Many of the young adults on the team were small children when we moved from High Point!   It has been an incredible time of ministry serving with those we love and those that love our family.  What a blessing this time together has been!  We praise God for His timing in bringing them!

Here is a brief snapshot from a Facebook post of what the past two weeks have held:
Incredible time with the CBC team is drawing to a close. The Lord has done so much. Many souls have been saved. A professional clown has created laughter in remote, rural villages. A very, very sick little boy was taken to the hospital where, after a week of treatment, a diagnosis has been given. Two deaf and mute children now have the potential for a hopeful future. Many people have heard the gospel of Jesus complimented by music, drama, and dancing. Construction continued on the Doron Medical Center with the team claiming the land by prayer walking the perimeter. The "least of these" were loved as we held orphans in our arms or held the nubs of lepers' arms (those with leporacy). God broke chains of sin and bondage. Four team members were baptized in the Volta River. Five million listeners were blessed by the team members guesting on a Ghana radio program. A church was abundantly blessed by God's generosity and will have musical instruments next week. God brought 200+ people to the medical outreach in a village without church. Many who came chose to receive Christ and everyone was prayed over before seeing the doctors. The team grew in their faith and surrendered more of their lives to radically living outside of their comfort zone. Our family felt tremendously loved and encouraged. Prayers were answered. God's glory abounded on earth. We can not praise Him enough for everything He has done. Thank you CBC team for your obedience to GO! All glory goes to God alone.

I asked if any of the team members would like to write a blog post about their time here.  Becca Maners was the first to volunteer.

As I post her writing tonight, she is sitting in the Accra airport waiting to board her flight home.  We will be excited to hear how the Lord uses this trip to impact her life beyond her time in Ghana.  We pray she will lead others in living out the challenge she has written below.  We love you Becca!

Guest Blogger:  Becca Maners, 21 yrs.

Chains Be Broken, Lives Be Healed 
Ghana, Africa 2013

As I sat in the dirt with sweat and dust covering my body, a little girl in my lap stared up at me with big brown eyes. I could see myself in the reflection in her eyes and thought to myself, “what would it be like to live her daily reality?” I saw nights she spent without food, her thin worn clothes, life absent of love, and diseases that cause great suffering. This might not have been her reality completely, but I saw in her the nation of children neglected; neglected from our love. My stomach began to feel sick, anger began to set in, and a deep passion for the least of these welled up inside of me. But as I continued to search those eyes for her story, the sweetest smile formed on her face. It felt like God had tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). I saw the Lord saying to me, “be joyful as you serve me and love them with a love like I love them”. 

Not everyone is called to travel across the ocean to Africa, but God HAS called us all to serve the least of these. Our life is filled with stuff, activities, relationships, and we are comfortable. As the body of Christ we are called to be God’s hands and feet, not to be comfortable. Although the steps we take will be filled with trials and our life will become dirty and sweaty serving him, it should be our joy to further His kingdom. So be bold in your faith, let His name be constantly on your lips. Take time to release yourself from the “holy huttle”, only interacting with other believers. Realize that Satan is real, but God has WON!!! So go tell everyone the victory in Him!! Challenge yourself, challenge your finances with giving, challenge those around you in their walk. Step into those villages where you find the least of these, whether that’s down the street or across the world. 

I got up after I happily let my legs go numb as the little girl slept clinging to my arm the whole evening. She grabbed me around my legs, and I bent down and said, “do you love Jesus?” She looked up at me with broken english and said, “yes and I love you”.  

"I will not leave you as orphans.  I will come to you."
John 14:18