Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fast Forward

This blog post has two authors, myself and my Dad.  Over our recent trip, memories flooded me from our trip to Ghana in 2005.  In this post, I will share first, then surrender the screen space to my Dad.  I haven't shared my own heart here in a while, and with memories and emotions swirling to the surface, I need to share a little bit too.  Sorry this post is a little long, but there was a lot of time to fast forward through.

From 2005 to now...

So many times here in Ghana, I remember my precious friend, Ansley, the crazy ear painting she painted, and the life-changing mission trip Reid and I took in 2005.  As I boarded the plane at the end of the trip, I clearly heard God tell me I would be coming back to this beautiful country.  As we adopted Godwin, I thought that was the fulfillment of God's word to me, but it wasn't.  Living here now, eight years later, I know our presence here is part of God's plan that He planted seeds for years ago.

This is the shirt our team wore as we left the airport in North Carolina.  Ansley, wanted to wring my neck for having these made with the ear painting on the back, but hey, that's what friends are for!
My friend, Ansley, battled breast cancer for two and a half years.  As we planned the trip in 2005, every plan was made for her to be a part of it.  Just a few weeks before the trip, however, doctors found that the cancer had eaten through several vertebrae in her back.  In essence, her back was broken.  Through heart wrenching tears, Ansley had to stay behind, while her husband, Todd, courageously continued his commitment to lead the team.

Our team carried Ansley with us to Africa.  Each day, one team member wore the cloud shirt I'm holding in the photo above.

The day we left the airport, we gave her a box filled with notes, scriptures, and encouragement from every member of the team.  Although it was not our plan to go without her, God said we must GO!  Onward!

Our 2005 Team from Community Bible Church.  Five adults and 17 high school and college kids shared a trip that altered the focus of our lives, and, years later, would be a time that Reid and I would draw from to confirm God's calling to return to Ghana.  The Lord spoke so many things to us when we finally made the commitment to come, but this trip was a stake driven in the ground for our lives.

Reid and I were young then.  At the time, our four boys were with my parents in Knoxville while we made this two week trip for ministry.  I remember one conversation with my mom before we left.  She was concerned about us traveling to Africa.  "It's a third world country. Risks abound.  There are small children to consider."  As most parents face at some point in time, my mom knew our minds were made up and we would be going.

So, we came.  We saw.  We experienced.  TOGETHER.  
And God WOWED us!  

 My friend, Ansley, left the earth and joined Jesus on February 13, 2007.  Our trip last month to Ejura was, in a way, in her honor.  We were in Ejura on the anniversary of her death.  We spent much time on our February trip remembering and praying for people touched by Ansley's life.  We also spent time praying for people from our 2005 team.  Ejura is a very precious place to Reid and I.  After our visit here last month, God clearly told us we needed to return to Ejura soon because of the needs we witnessed there.   Mainly, people who need Jesus.

  Ansley's life-long dream was to be a missionary in Africa.  Part of her heart was in Ghana.  The Lord's mission field for her though, was in chemo wards, doctor's offices, and anywhere people would be bold enough to ask about her bald head.  (She never wore a wig, but did sport a cute ball cap most of the time.)  She knew she was a missionary wherever her feet were planted.  It was common for Ansley to meet you, then pray with you five minutes later.  She had the passion to love like Jesus...and she loved well.

Now as our family lives where Ansley's family dreamed of coming, we have carried the Wolffis family with us here.  Not only Ansley, but Todd too.  He led the trip that changed our lives for God to ignite a fire in Reid and I for this country.  We are forever grateful for their presence in our lives because God used the two of them to impact us for eternity.  Is there a greater legacy?  More than once, Reid has been mistaken for Todd here.  Todd's name holds great honor, and he is remembered for the impact he made serving numerous times over the years.  People here still speak of him, just like they do William Lewis.  Part of Todd and Ansley will always be in our hearts while we minister here.  We are so thankful for the memories of serving together.

Ansley's ear painting hangs on the wall in our home.  If you ever visit us, you will see it.  Just as in 2005 when she couldn't make the trip and the cloud shirt was a reminder of her; bringing this silly painting was a small way for to me to carry Ansley with me.  

"hEAR I am, send me."

 This past week, we traveled back to same area where our team ministered in 2005.  However, this time, as a precious gift to our family, God allowed us to minister there with my parents.  Many memories from 2005 flooded my mind as we served as a mission team together.  So many things were the same, so many things were different.  God clearly showed me that HE is always moving and His plans will never be predictable, but everything will reveal that "His ways are not our ways...His thoughts are not our thoughts..."

Our mode of travel in 2005 to the outlying villages.  Now, we scrunch together in our 4x4 vehicle.

In 2005, I was fascinated by the women carrying items on their heads.  Now that I live here, I have found this to be normal, but people first arriving in country are intrigued.

In 2005, Nathan always blessed us with his guitar - now it's our sons who provide the music.

In 2005, Henry was comfortable seated on the ground for worship.  Being comfortable on the ground is the same now.

Praying with someone to receive Christ for the first time is one of the greatest privileges one can experience in their lifetime.  It's the same now.

1n 2005, worship under the African skies was always a blessing.  It's the same now.

In 2005, no one minded wearing the same shirt for several days in a row.  Actually, in 2005, no one minded wearing the same shirt for 14 days in a row!  (Right Jodie?)  Especially with our boys, it's the same now.

The trip in 2005 was healing for Diane remembering the work of her husband, William Lewis.  The trip to Ejura recently was the same for me.  Additionally, meeting the village Chief is one of the highest honors you can receive in this country.  It's the same now.

Mary shares.

Anthony encourages.

Todd engages all of the people.

In 2005, people in the churches were blessed to hear about the Lord.  It's the same now.

In 2005, white people tried to dance like Africans, but did not have the same rhythm.  It's the same now.

In 2005, intense bonding happened on our mission team.  The same thing happens now - you bond with your team!

In 2005, mothers desperately needed help with their children.  It's the same now.

In 2005, Reid and I were honored to minister and love the people of Ghana.  
Through the power of Christ, it's the same now.

 Fast forward from 2005 to March of 2013...

Again today, my Dad is sharing his insights from his time here.  Reid and I were incredibly blessed to travel with my parents to one of the villages where we ministered in 2005.  In fact, the church where Mary, Anthony, and Todd are sharing above is the same one where we did the Outreaches with my parents.  It was surreal to be walking on the dirt paths with my mom and dad in one of the places the captured our hearts for Ghana.  Even our evenings were spent in the same bunk house where we slept in 2005.

Who would have ever believed we would be ministering with my parents in the remote areas of Ghana, West Africa?  It's a dream come true!  Only God can orchestrate such events to bring all things together...things that you would never imagine would happen can come to pass!!  Our God is a great God, and I praise Him for bringing my parents here to serve as a family together!  


And now, some words from my Daddy...

Guest Blogger:  Robbie Franklin, my Daddy
Secretarial Typist:  Robin Beebe, daughter on the keyboard

After arriving in Ejura, we were already one day behind schedule.  We rested for a while before heading out for ministry.  Our accommodations were a simple bunk house with girls in one room and boys in the other.  One shower room was shared by the entire team.  Janet told Robin that she couldn't believe Robin and Reid trusted us with this journey.  

Our bathroom facilities - not exactly a five star hotel.

We found there are many uses for buckets in Ghana.

One of the showers.

One of the locations for the community toilet paper surrounded by bags of clean drinking water.

Janet resting on the bunks after our long journey.

Upon arriving, we were joined by a new team member, Ernest, who is a local pastor and evangelist.  He works diligently for Pioneers Africa committed to reaching the unreached people in the Ashanti Region.  Currently, Ernest is working in Ejura and Mbana.  Every Friday, he traveled to Mbana to disciple the few Christians there and spend time praying for God to move on that area.  



I was very impressed with Ernest and Wahab.  They are extremely committed to Christ though they face great difficulty daily in their ministry.  Most services here are held in “open air pavilions” with simple bench seating.  Preaching under a shade tree is still common in these outlying areas.  It would be a wise investment for the church in the USA to send young pastors here to experience the church facilities here in Ghana.

After resting for a while, our team loaded up to travel to Abrewa Ano for the first film showing of The Passion of the Christ.  One of the things that Ernest shared with me that impressed me about his commitment is the fact that he watches this movie at least once a week for his own personal growth.  Ernest is responsible for translation into the local dialect during the film, so the time he invests to prepare is astonishing.  He does not take the responsibility of translating lightly.

Entering Abrewa Ano.

Once we arrived in Abrewa Ano around 5:00 pm.  Did I mention that in addition to our luggage, medicine, clothing, and other goodies, we had to carry a portable generator, computer, projector, screen, and all the electrical equipment to make it work?  We began setting up the equipment in front of the village church building.  This church was planted by Community Bible Church in 2001.  Reid and Robin were expected to be part of the dedication team for the church, but that mission trip was cancelled due to the tragedy of September 11th.  Reid and Robin did minister in this village in 2005 when they came back with Community Bible Church.  It was evident this church has begun to bear fruit in this area.

The church in 2005 when Robin and Reid came on the mission trip.

The church today.

Setting up for the film in beside the church.

A picture of the Beebe family in front of the church from their visit to the village in February.

Setting up for the film - The Passion of the Christ.

Raising the screen - it takes an army.

Greeting the local villagers.

A young boy has fun with Wahab and more people gather around us.

The Beebe boys immediately engage the children in a futbol game.

Many gathered on the make-shift soccer field.

The children were friendly.  When we asked about the necklaces tied on the necks of some of the children, we learned that the parents had visited an idol priest in the area to ask for protection for the child.  We hope to see them trusting more in the power of Christ rather than the local gods.

This man, Toga, is one of the leaders in the church.  Noticeably, his twins are void of necklaces and he is present in their lives.

We found the village of Abrewa Ano to be a very friendly and caring place.  The people were concerned about their neighbors as much as themselves.  After walking to the well where the people draw their water, we made the customary visit to the local Chief.  In fact, when we arrived, he was helping to build a new kitchen at his home.  Large mud-balls were being shaped and stacked by hand for the walls.  The Chief politely excused himself, cleaned up and invited us to his hut for a proper visit.  After greeting him and his family, we explained we would be showing the film tonight and returning tomorrow with medicine and clothing to give to the people.  He gave us his complete blessing and thanked us for all we were doing for his people.

Janet quickly made friends with some of the women.  When she saw them carrying the bowls on their heads, she wanted to try it.

The wound-up cloth is places on her head.

Ta-Daa!  She's got it.  (Like mother, like daughter!)

Some of the women and their babies.

The gift of a piece of bread.  Robin and Janet handed it out to all the children.

An older sibling carries the baby of the family.

As we noticed the clothing of many of the children, I was thankful we would return the next day to bless them with new clothes.

Braden has already made friends!

Walking down the path toward the water well with Robin.

Janet trails behind with some of the children.

The rest of the children lead the way.

Godwin runs with the tire rim which was his toy while it was daylight.

A new kitchen is being constructed out of bricks made from mud...
 and stacked by hand.  Little did we know, it was the Chief stacking the bricks.

At the well, the children show us how to pump the water.

 Braden washes his hands in the clean water as dusk closes in.

Meeting the Chief of Abrewa Ano, what an honor!

As the darkness grew, people began gathering in front of the church for the film.  It grew dark quickly because there was no electricity here.  No lights lit the area, but the moonlight overhead provided more light than I would have imagined.  Several hundred people huddled on wooden benches carried from their huts.  About four plastic chairs were the only additional seating.  We had an electrical glitch and the computer did not work.  All of the equipment was checked before we left, so, once again, we felt like Satan was working to make sure this didn’t happen.  (Reid and Wahab said these kind of things are “normal” anytime they are doing an Outreach.) 

Immediately, Reid, Wahab, and Ernest created a secondary plan to share God’s Word.  Thankfully, all of the audio equipment was working fine.  Ernest, Reid, Robin, Franklin, and three villagers shared about how God was working in their lives.  Surprisingly, they even expressed their desire to see a church planted through them in a nearby unreached village.  God seems to be using the people in this little church to multiply His Kingdom.

I even had the chance to share my heart with the people.  I expressed how Janet and I came to Ghana to bring blessings from America, but I was the one who had been blessed.  Their love for Christ, love for family, friendliness, and warm hospitality extended to Janet and myself made me recognize the blessings of living here.  In African culture, besides the Chiefs, the grandfather and grandmother are the most revered people in their culture.  People respect the elderly greatly.  Janet and I were able to share the message of Christ in a meaningful way because of our age.  Ministering as a family, with us being the oldest, connected us with the villagers in a way I would not have imagined.  They were able to see we came as a family.  The villagers understood our commitment to one another because their family units are one of the most important tools for survival.  Everyone cares for each other.  

God blessed our time in Abrewa Ano.

We headed back the next day to share clothing and deworming medication with all the children.  Another blog post coming soon about that amazing day...

For there is one God, and there is one who brings God and human beings together, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself to redeem the whole human race. That was the proof at the right time that God wants everyone to be saved.
1 Timothy 2:5-6