Sunday, July 28, 2013

One Month

Guest Blogger"  Miriah Cox, age 21 - Feeding the Orphans Volunteer

In February, God made it very clear that he had a 
different path for my life than I could have ever imagined. Through praying for direction, God provided me with direct scripture for the next chapter of my life (Jeremiah 13:15-17, Psalm 116, Psalm 119: 9-16, Isaiah 26:3-4, and Luke 22:41-44). After God completely broke me down, He gave me one last direct command: Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). How more direct could He be with me? I am a planner, so that is what I began to do: plan a trip to Ghana, but what my trip held for me I could have never planned.

One month away from my family. One month giving others everything I have to give. One month seeing hurt first hand. One month obeying God’s command and living out His plan for my life. One month of the next chapter of my life. One month of heartache. One month of tears. One month of hardships. One month of blessings. One month of new friendships. One month with family. One month of beautiful, messy pieces fitting perfectly into my puzzle, my life.  
When I arrived in Ghana, my first home became Great Mission International. GMI is an orphanage that is home to around 50 people (volunteers, orphans, and house leadership). The first few days were a complete struggle. I didn’t know what to do or how to act, so I poured myself into the people around me. Through my pouring out, I was filled up. 

Another home became City of Refuge, CORM. City of Refuge is a small community that rescues child slaves from the fishing community and provides them with a home, a loving family, and an education. Faith Roots International is a school located at CORM’s campus that provides an education to the children who are rescued along with children from the community. 

I will be finishing my college degree in May 2013. I will graduate with an Elementary Education degree. During my time at CORM, something new clicked in my heart. God provided a path for my future. Through God’s direction, I feel called to CORM. I feel my call to ministry has truly began through this ‘one month’.

Through this month and loving on the kids, I found myself, along with so much more. I found a new meaning to ‘child-like’ faith. I found friendships that will last a lifetime. I found love and bonds with the kids. I found memories that I will always carry with me. I truly found beauty in the broken. I found people with nothing giving so much. I found peace. I found community. I found a new home. Though I found so much, I lost too. I lost a piece of my heart to the kids, to the other volunteers, and to the leadership at both homes. I lost a piece of my heart to Ghana. 

Though goodbyes are always hard, I know this is not truly goodbye. This is see you later. My ‘for such a time as this’ is ending, but truly just beginning. 

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
 -Philippians 4: 11-13

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home Away from Home

Hello Beebe blog readers! My name is Jamie Talley and I have been staying at an orphanage called Nyame Dua for the past six weeks.  God has taught me so many wonderful things that I would like to share with you all!

James 1:27 - “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

When I arrived in Ghana the first thing I did was start sweating.  I was used to having air conditioning all the time and only having to be in the heat when absolutely necessary.  I immediately began to wonder how long this trip would feel due to the heat.  I thought to myself, “Self! This is gonna be a long trip if you don’t find a way to stay cool real quick!” Upon arrival at Nyame Dua I discovered a ceiling fan in my room that I now praise Jesus for because it saved me many a sweltering day.  I have learned to praise Jesus for even the small things such as this.
Before I came here I considered myself a strong Christian and very pridefully talked about what I was going to be doing in Ghana.  I thought I was big stuff for stepping out of everything I know for A WHOLE SIX WEEKS.  That’s how it felt in my mind at least.  Now it seems such a small amount of time to learn a new home and have to leave so soon.  I praised Jesus on Sunday mornings for sure when I was at church.  I prayed (sometimes) that His name be praised for all the big wonderful events that I saw happening in the states.  I praised Him when I saw another person join the family and praised Him when another brother or sister proclaimed aloud that He is the savior.  I even thanked Him for the food that I ate at a meal.  I seldom thanked Him and praised Him for anything else though.  I took for granted how much food I had.  I took for granted that I have my own bedroom and loving parents that have supported me for these first twenty-one years of life.  I took for granted having central air conditioning in my house.  So many things that I thought were just there, I never thought of as blessings.  Jesus provided for me the things I needed to thrive here in Ghana.  
My first two weeks here were pretty rough as I settled in and got used to what I was doing every day and who I was with every day.  I had never been on my own before like I was at Nyame Dua.  I cried and prayed that God would let me be able to talk to someone only my tenth day here because I felt so lonely.  Through the sound of my blubbering I heard a knock on my door and found Meagan and Richard, two of the folks working at another orphanage, standing there waiting to come talk to me.  God heard me.  I had planned on a Skype date with my parents that night as well, but the power had gone out.  After talking with Meagan and RIchard I felt better but still was just homesick for the sound of my parents’ voices.  I continued praying that I could get just a phone call to go through to the states.  The first attempt failed and I shed a few more tears.  I tried once more and prayed through the tears that this would work for just five minutes, and God gave me a twenty minute conversation with my mom and dad! GOD HEARD ME!  He heard my cries for help and didn’t leave me alone.  I was never alone because God heard me.  
Throughout the trip there were very few lonely nights after that because even with the power out I could feel God’s presence in the room with me comforting me and telling me to just rest.  I found that reading was a good way to suppress the loneliness for a night or two.  I read His Word some and began reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Praise Jesus.  I had something to do and something to kill the loneliness in my heart.  The Beebes were also a fantastic help.  I called Robin just to ask for prayers and she invited me to come spend the day with them.  Praise Jesus!  The Beebes were always ready to help and pray for me when I needed it.  I also went over to GMI, the orphanage where Meagan and Richard were working, quite a bit.  There were other Americans there that were a great help just to talk to when the kids were taking a nap.  Praise Jesus!  I have made so many wonderful new friends.
The Beebes will forever be a family that I pray for and will continue to love and keep in touch with.  I was and still am incredibly grateful for Mason who came and stayed with me the first few nights that I was here.  Franklin and Weston came with cousin Zach Tate on different occasions to play with the boys at Nyame Dua and help me out with things around the home.  Braden being a youngster is always ready to play with the kids at the home when he visits and is also ready to lead us in morning devotions when called upon by Reid.  Godwin is such a bundle of energy all the time and is such a welcome burst of energy when I was lacking a little.  Reid and Robin have been so welcoming as well and have been parents to me as well as their own while I have been here. Praise Jesus!
More friends were met at GMI in Meagan and Richard first when they were the answer to my prayers.  Richard, who is from Ghana, was a welcome guide and male companion along the way.  Meagan, Andrea, Kate, and Miriah were so much fun to be around! Meagan, ready to live in Ghana, showed me, just through her actions, how to love on these children and how to be a gentle leader for them yet be stern enough when they need it as well.  Andrea, the first that I was in the “classroom” with, showed me, again solely through actions, how to get these children to learn in different methods of teaching yet all with the love and care that all children need.  Kate was such a welcome burst of energy! She was always ready to play with the kids and never slowed down when the rest of us were showing signs of being tired.  
Miriah showed me how to distract the whining kids while still teaching and love on those just wanted attention sometimes.  All of these wonderful people I now consider my friends, and I think that it’s awesome how God brought us together in Ghana when we might not have ever met had we stayed in the states.
I could go on just about forever about the people I have met that have helped me, but I’d like to talk about the kids I was with a little bit too.  
I stayed at Nyame Dua for these six weeks and ,after God ridding my heart of homesickness, I fell in love with the home and all the people there!  Daddy Paul has become my best friend while I have been here.  We talked about the states and Ghana and just about everything whenever we had the chance while the kids were at school.  When the kids came home it was nonstop soccer time after homework.  All day everyday they wanted to play soccer.  All of the kids touched my heart in different ways and now I wish that I could take them all home with me or that I could bring my family from the states here so as to have all of my family on one continent.  As I said before, I went to GMI quite a bit as well and fell in love with kids there too.  I could talk forever about each of the kids but that would literally take forever.  They are all so sweet even when they are screaming for attention.  
I have been here through Feeding The Orphans which is a great organization that is helping all these kids and more throughout Ghana.  They need your help too.  They have links on their website where people can sign up to sponsor children throughout Ghana.  There are different sponsorships though.  The big ones are school and food.  These sponsorships are to help the kids at Nyame Dua and GMI as well as some children that are living with single mothers out on the streets.  Anything you and friends can give is a huge and very welcome gift.  I am a college student so I understand being broke by the states’ standards and understand that prayer is just as powerful as giving money, but please don’t neglect these children just because you think to yourself, “Self, someone else will take care of it.” I think I can sacrifice a Starbucks run once a week to save up enough money to feed a kid for a whole month.  
        Pastor Jerry from Fairview United Methodist, where I have been for all twenty-one years of my life, prayed over Zach and I that our hearts would be broken for these children while we are here.  One child in particular broke my heart just as my pastor had prayed for.  I'll call him Baby S. for now.  He was born with a misshapen head which has caused some severe brain damage.  He also has a very difficult time breathing.  His parents didn't want him and his father even ran away because he thought his child was a demon.  His mother was trying to find a way to kill him when she brought him to Daddy Paul's home in northern Ghana who then said, "No he's a child of God and we will find a way to take care of him."  Paul and I took him to the hospital just for a diagnosis and the doctor said just he needed to have special care to be taken care of.  The doctor pointed at me and said, "Where this man is from would be a better place for the baby to live than here (Ghana)." I almost cried at that point while his caretaker held him.  If nothing else please pray for Baby S. that he would be healed of what is plaguing him and that he would be adopted by a loving family that could take care of him the way he needs to be taken care of.
Thank you all for your support and love! May the Almighty God of peace and mercy bless you all this day and forevermore! - Jamie

Psalm 27:1 - "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Summer in Africa

     Guest Blogger:  Zach Tate, age 14 yrs.

      Although some people were worried about me spending the summer in Africa by myself I have had a great time and will have memories I will never forget. One of my favorite places to go over this summer was Nyame Dua, an orphanage, to play soccer with the kids. One of my cousins and I would spend the weekend after we showed the Bible on Thursday night. I had a great time just playing with the kids and the kids were very excited because not many people volunteer there. 

I also had the chance to take the older kids from Nyame Dua to see Despicable Me 2 in the theater at the Accra Mall with some money my pastor gave me before I left. One amazing thing about that day was that only one out of the six kids we took had ever been to the mall and none of them had ever been to see a movie even though the mall was only about thirty minutes from where they lived. That day we just had a great time hanging out and walking around the mall with the older kids. 

I also saw God when we helped with the construction of the Doran Medical Center this week. We helped a team that came from New York and the staff at MLI to build many of the walls for the medical center.

And even though my cousins were doing school for most of the summer I would come back in an instant because I saw God in many places and many things this summer and I will go back to America changed.

Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.  1 Timothy 4:12

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Franklin's 15th Birthday

Guest Blogger:  Franklin Beebe, age 15
Photo Selector, Mom (Franklin would never choose this many pictures of himself!)
1 - 5.  Fifteen Today!

My second birthday in Ghana was my fifteenth birthday. It was very different, but also very memorable. Compared to most of my other birthdays, this one was set apart. I am glad that I am blessed with such an awesome family that I could spend it with.  It would not have been the same without them.  My cousin, Zach, was with me as well so his presence made the day extra special.
The sludge we walk over to deliver food in Chorkor.
The community is built upon trash heaps like this.

On my birthday, I was able to minister to three different families in Chorkor. While we were in Chorkor delivering food to impoverished families who desperately needed it, I thought to myself, I wonder how many other people my age have the beautiful opportunity share the passionate love of Christ with those who need it most, on their birthday. God blessed me so much that day! Sharing the love of Jesus with the poor in spirit on my birthday was the best birthday present that I have ever received.

Zach and I with Grandma Agnes.  She greeted us with a smile which was very uncommon for her.  Her smile was a reflection that she is feeling God's love when we come. 

Holding Atsu!

Zach and I holding Atsu and Etse.

Mary and Esther singing "Happy Birthday" to me with all four Ghanaian verses!

My day ended at GMI orphanage where I was "ponded" by the kids.  In Ghana, people drench you with water as a birthday tradition.  Abu wanted a big, wet hug!

Cousin time with Zach!

Having some fun with Kofi.

Sometimes, I wish that I could live in the U.S.A instead of here in Ghana. Most of my friends, and all of my family live there, but God has put us here for His purposes. I don’t always like that we live here, it’s really hard sometimes, but on a day like my birthday I am reminded that we are blessed to be here. Not just blessed to live outside of our homeland and experience new things everyday, but also blessed by Him  to share His love to the brokenhearted and depressed. I was rewarded the privilege of doing this on my birthday.

In a weird way, my birthday reminded me of a Hobbit’s birthday. We gave other families food. On my birthday, instead of receiving gifts, I was able to give gifts. We gave food, but more importantly, we gave the gift of Gods love for his sons and daughters. My birthday in Chorkor was very enjoyable, and I will never forget that God has blessed us so much to serve here in Ghana!

P.S.  Some of my birthdays are also shared on this blog.  
14th Birthday - Ghana Style - my first birthday in Ghana My Ninth Birthday - at home in Knoxville

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You Are My Sunshine

You are my Sunshine,
My only Sunshine,
You make me happy,
When skies are gray,
You'll never know Dear,
How much I love you, 
Please don't take my Sunshine away...

This was my Mamaw’s favorite song.  We sang it to her often.  In fact, on numerous occasions my sisters and I would belt out the song to honor my Mamaw.  Whenever our cousins were with us, we all sang it together.  Even her great-grandchildren have learned the beloved song and blessed her with the lyrics on special birthday celebrations.  

We recently enjoyed our furlough home and I had special moments with my Mamaw.  We landed in Knoxville on Thursday night, May 1st.  Early the next morning, I arose and headed straight to my Mamaw’s assisted living facility.  My prayer when we left last June was that the Lord would allow me to see her “one more time.”  

As I left the house to go see Mamaw, my mother prepared me that she might not know who I was.  As I knocked on her door from the hallway, I braced myself.  A muffled, “Come in,” beckoned from inside the closed door.  I slowly opened it, and walked toward my Mamaw.  Her eyes slowly focused on me, and she said in disbelief, “R-ah-bin..  R-ah-bin...”  Then she cupped her hands on my face and looked at me for a few moments to be sure it was really me.  I assured her of my presence, and we hugged tightly.  She was overjoyed to see me, and I was overjoyed to see her.  As I left that day, I praised God for answering the prayer I prayed one year ago.  

Throughout my time home, there were other special moments with her.   On Mother’s Day, I stood beside her in church and helped her stand with my arm holding some of her weight.  Her voice was soft, but I could audibly pick up the blessing of her voice lifting the notes of the hymns.  

On her 95th birthday, I made another special trip to see her and take her the perfect gift I’d found.  I know it sounds silly, but I believe God led me to this simple gift.  It was a frame that had all of the words to “You Are My Sunshine” on it.  When I saw it, I just HAD to buy it for my Mamaw!  When she opened the present, she read the words on the frame.  

“You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine, You make me happy, When skies are gray...”

All of the sudden, we were both singing the song together.  Her wrinkled hands were held tightly in mine, and her blue eyes held my gaze as we belted out the notes.  

“You’ll never know, Dear, how much I love you...”

My strong voice overshadowing her weakened one...until the last line.  As I approached the words, my emotion overtook me.  I swallowed hard to fight back tears of the thought...  My Mamaw’s gentle voice was the only one singing the last line.

“Please don’t take my Sunshine away...”

My parents hosted a large birthday celebration for my Mamaw.  Many friends and family came to celebrate her long life.  After all, “95 years is a long time,” my Mamaw would say.  If you ever met her, she was sure to tell you her age within the first two sentences of conversation.  She was very proud of her long life. 

Yet, over the years she has let go of more and more of this life.  Her beloved husband died nearly 12 years ago.  She left the home she loved to settle in a temporary apartment.  She stopped driving.  She stopped cooking.  She stopped living alone and moved into a home that could provide more care for her.  In all of it, she NEVER stopped being thankful.  She praised God for her mind that still “knew who she was talking to.”  She thanked God for her family.  She praised the “Good Lord” simply for His goodness.  Her life was sprinkled with the Light of Christ that was a ray of Sunshine to others.   She lived her faith.  Quietly.  Humbly.

Before we left for the airport to return to Africa, our entire family went to see Mamaw to say goodbye.  Reid and I informed the boys that it would likely be the last time we would see her.  We arrived and she was getting her hair fixed.  (She didn’t know we were coming, but she looked beautiful in the pictures.  What’s more beautiful than a 95 year old woman with a new hair-do?)  

We told her we had come to say “goodbye.”  Her tears and mine immediately started flowing.  Even the stylist in the beauty shop started to cry.  

The seven of us walked beside Mamaw as she pushed her walker.  We slowly made it down the hallway to her room.  Once inside, we all shared hugs.  Mamaw kept saying, “I wish you didn’t have to go.  I wish you didn’t have to go.”  

I do too, Mamaw.

I told her again how much I love her.  I told her again how much she means to me.  I told her again how special she is to me.  Then we took pictures.  “One more picture with Mamaw...”  I kept thinking to myself.  Somehow, I knew.  Something deep within my spirit told me this would be the last time we would be together.  

As we were getting ready to leave, I knew I was supposed to sing her song one more time with her.  “You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine...”  

Reid’s voice and some of the boys chimed in to the familiar melody.  

“You make me happy, When skies are gray, You’ll never know, Dear, How much I love you...Please don’t take my Sunshine away...Please don’t take my Sunshine away...”

Our time with her before boarding the plane bound for Africa, was my last visit with my Mamaw.  

She left this earth to join her Savior on Monday, July 1st at 2:08 EST.  My family surrounded her beside as she breathed her last breath.  I learned that all of them sang “ You are My Sunshine” to her as she lay dying.  Their voices were unjoined by mine, but I would have been singing too if I’d been there.  There is something about that song that binds all of us.

After my father called to tell me the news, it felt surreal.  I’d been in bed very sick for several days.  In fact, I think I was violently ill at the time my Mamaw passed.  I don’t think that is a coincidence.  

As the news sunk in, I kept thinking of her.  Memories flooded my mind.  Reid, Zach, the boys and I all shared stories we remembered.  Yesterday morning, I held our youngest, Godwin, and sang these words over him, “You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine...”  Godwin, who is growing to big to sit and cuddle, snuggled warmly against me knowing I needed comfort.  

It felt very lonely to be facing this news without my family.  I wanted to hug my Dad who had just lost his mother.  I wanted to hug my Mom who was also grieving.  I wanted to reminisce with everyone who shared the joint memories.  “Lord, comfort me,” I prayed.

Then God, as only God could, sent me His comfort.  All the way in Ghana!  (He is Lord of Lords everywhere!)

I posted on Facebook about my Mamaw asking for prayer.  I shared her favorite song.  Then, guess what?  

Three FTO volunteers that are serving at an orphanage here told me that they had been singing “You Are My Sunshine” to all of the children!  All!! Day!! Long!!  This was the day after my Mamaw died.  None of them knew there was any connection to this song.  No other volunteers have ever mentioned singing this song in Ghana.  Can you believe it?  Oh, our God is so good.  He is singing over all of his children - over all of creation.  

I think this song for the orphans was a special request of my Mamaw.  I can just see her standing with Jesus asking Him if He would comfort her granddaughter.  “Excuse me, Jesus, would you let R-ah-bin know I’m okay?  Could you let her know I’m with you?  I'm afraid she will wish I didn't have to go, but I want her to know how happy I am to be here.  Would it be okay to let her know?  I have a little song I’d like to sing with You over the children if it’s okay with you...”

“You are my Sunshine,
My only Sunshine,
You make me happy,
When skies are gray,
You’ll never know, Dear, 
How much I love you, 
Please don’t take my Sunshine away...”

The Lord your God is in your midst, 
a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over you with gladness; 
he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing. 
(Zep 3:17, ESV).