Through endurance, and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:4b-6

Sunday, April 13, 2014

sweeter than strawberry pie (Botanical Gardens edition)

Somewhere along the Accra-Kumasi highway. The Cape Coast-Accra road. The George W. Bush motorway. The Adesio road. The Kwame Nkrumah Circle. The Kwabenya stop-n-go street. The Mallam Junction. The Asamankese road-of-pitfalls. And inside the walls of house #5 opposite the Pokuase Magistrate Court.
We've grown taller and wiser. Sweated more and sang louder. Cleaned our ears and ignored our filthy feet. Ate more cucumbers and less cheese. Ran from fire ants and yet ate a few black ants for lunch in our noodles. Kick footballs harder and walked slower. Hollered "Hallo!" to every neighbor passed and softly end every phone conversation with "Okay, ByeBye."  Bought yam and pepper for breakfast on the way to church and liked it better than an egg casserole. Are okay with Pas. Jon giving a 'something small' sermon and Mrs. Maame Sauder giving the closing prayer.
And somewhere along those paths- and often the within our own walls- our love and forbearance and fortitude were multiplied.
God does that. We were willing and not able.
He is altogether able. Through Him we are closer, stronger and sweeter as a family.
These pictures are not a vanity. They are reminders to us that though young feet keep growing, spirits young and old need renewed & surrendered to keep growing.
That's a journey worth taking, pitfalls and all.

Happy 1st Birthday, Leila!

Sweet Steph has served and loved and grown with us these last few months. Thankful for her!

You're the only mosquito in my net. ;)
Fireworks all around!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

normal is not boring

You know that last post? With all the church pictures, smiling kids and praying adults? Yah, that's not every day.
This folks, is my everyday. No dirty face edited.

Last year at this time, my downward view was a bump of a belly. This year my lap is full of a wiggling, grabbing, usually cheerful almost one-year-old. Thankful!!

Big brothers lovingly care for the youngest. And by care I mean removing the 'destroyer', as they affectionately call her, from their area of play.

Little ones cannot resist getting into literally everything. Here she is busy shredding my cabbage.(If I'd've cleaned her hands and the cabbage, maybe that would actually be helping with supper prep. Ha.)
 More likely is tasting the dog food and racing off with the toilet brush. How did she learn so quickly just what to do to get a reaction?!
Sometimes the principal of Bright Child Academy needs to get involved if the morale of the students becomes one of despair due to adjectives and long division.
As kindergarten is much less intense, we improve moral in other ways. ;)
Campfire? Check. Hot dogs, roasting sticks, marshmallows and friends? Check. Something to do with the ashes the following day? Check!
Best news? We've got company. Stephanie, my niece, is here with us until our departure in April. She is serving us in so many ways and also helping 2 days a week at a local school/children's home. 
And just in case I feel the need to prop my feet up, this is the view on the other side of the room. Can't say I'm looking forward to the cleaning, the packing, or the leaving but we are incredibly excited about being back in Pennsylvania in a few months.  

3 years [ an anniversary ]

Though we've posted this shorthand on Facebook....
Three years ago today we left on an adventure to Africa. The many experiences we went through changed us in so many ways. The people we had the privilege to meet, the food that we have eaten, the joys, the visitors, the teams, all equal an unforgettable journey. We are planning on leaving Ghana on April 15, and although it will be hard, we are also excited about the places God will take us next! Thanks for all your prayers and support, we couldn't do this without you!
And the children summed up this step in the journey this way: Rory shouts a "Yahoo!" complete with a happy dance, Elle folds her arms and declares, "I'm not going unless Sunny (the cat) is going," and Max buried his face in his arms and began to cry. 
Classic reactions, right? Denial, grief and bubbling (but unrealistic) joy. I am enjoying and challenged by the unvarnished view of life children take on. I learn from them speak the truth and (I pray) they're learning from me that the truth must include love. And interrupting your dad to ask when he'll be done preaching 'cause it's taking really long, though it may be true, is not okay!
(Yes, that happened. It was a small village church and the small boy did tap Jon's leg until he leaned down to listen. Whoever thought I'd need to add 'Don't interrupt the preacher' to my list of church guidelines. )
I wanted to post it here too. Life deserves so much more than a status update or a clever hashtag.
 So many of you pray, give and love us both in the absence of updates and through long, inconvenient Skype calls.
Thank you. We consider each of you our partners in this work.
And now we have 8 weeks to catch every moment we can of this place that has become home and taught us so much. Just today, as I said a goodbye to one of our pastor's wife, we decided to say only 'See you later.' Goodbye didn't fit. Someday I'll rejoice beside her before the throne of the Almighty.
Church members at Ayaa, a farming community 27 km north of us.

Estern, a church elder and CFC Bible School student and Jon.

Village church bonus: exploring.
Praying over Pastor Samuel and his wife Grace as they begin to work in a new place.

A quick snap before church for the church directory back in Pennsylvania.

Enjoying the sweet spirit and helpful hands of Stephanie, my niece.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Catching Up

On October 28th, twenty two energetic missionaries arrived in Accra to begin 12 days of intense evangelism and ministry, hailing from Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan. Although we had the obligatory missing bag and some excitement with immigration, we stuffed the truck and van with bags and the group jumped into the trotro we had rented for this special occasion. By then the group was quite weary and just wanted to return to the house for some rest.
 Isabel assists in eye exams and handing out reading glasses.
 Jaxon and his buddy Willard
 Drake, Jaxon, and Richmond at the Cape Coast Slave Castle

The rest of the days went by quickly, with much activity, late nights, and memorable experiences, including wading streams in the jungle to hand out tracts, providing glasses to people to help them read the Word, and worshiping God multi-culturally and joyously. Our ministry tasks included handing out 4000 tracts in Central Accra, 4 clinics, 6 crusades, and evangelism/tract distribution in the villages of Asamankese, Ayaa, and Kotoku. Many times the bus would arrive back to the house in the early morning hours, followed by supper and wrap-up.

This team did extremely well. The counselors were well prepared, honest, and sincere as they shared and prayed with the patients after the clinics. The testimonies that the team shared before the crusades and during group devotions were so good, and it opened hearts to hear the Gospel that followed. We had a couple of the men preach during the crusades, as well as the local pastor from each village. You can read more here:

Another highlight was Sara's sister Mary, and three of her children Drake, Isabel, and Jaxon, were able to come and join us for this trip. Due to a visa application problem we were expecting them to come a few days later, but the Lord heard our prayers and the passports arrived the day before they left! They were able to stay a few days after the team, and we enjoyed touring Ghana a bit including a visit to the beach.  Although very sad to see them go, we also hope that we will be seeing them again in a  few months.

School at the Institute wrapped up on Thanksgiving day. Exams were over by 11 AM and the party was on, although the fufu was an hour late. We washed it down with cold minerals and some fresh chocolate cake, and after some words by the faculty and administration we sent the students out for the last time. Graduation commenced this past Saturday, and we sent them out to begin the ministries that God has called them to.

November 29 found me racing towards Accra at 6:15 AM, as my friend and mentor David Brubaker and his family were arriving to spend a few days in Ghana. It had been a while since I had travelled to Accra early in the morning, and found the traffic snarled most of the way. The normal 30 minute trip to the airport turned into a sweaty, almost two hour trek. When I finally ran into the arriving lounge it was after 8 AM. All was well though, since they were delayed in Nigeria and were scheduled to land at 8:45 instead of their original 7:20 arrival time.

I was excited because they were bringing, among other things, 6 desktop computers for our computer lab. Dutch Valley had donated them after hearing of our need for computers for our lab. And when I say he brought other things, I mean things like STEAKS, HAMBURGERS, CHEESE, and TURKEY HILL ICE CREAM! Ice cream here is made with plant fats. Seriously. So when we knew real, dairy goodness was on it's way, we couldn't even tell the kids. But all this was in jeopardy as immigration decided to take their pleasant time with filling out the paperwork for the computers. Since it was for the school and not personal items, we had to pay duty on the used office equipment. This process took quite some time and really was difficult for the little girls who had been up for 24 hours at that point. Thankfully we finally worked it all out and we were on our way by 11 AM.

Lunch with Pastor Joseph, enjoying Lydia's famous fufu Sunday morning after church

We had a busy trip planned with the Brubaker's, with the main event going to Mole National Park. I had always resisted the idea of cramming my family in the van for 13 hours and bouncing over the notoriously rough roads to see the elephants. But as the trip got closer I began to get very excited about going. We also asked if Richmond could go along, and after writing a note to his school headmaster explaining what we were doing and how it would be very educational, it was approved. We left at 5 AM Monday morning and after a slight detour we arrived at the park at 6 PM. We were very pleased to realize that the roads were vastly improved since the last time my coworkers had traveled them. As we drove in the driveway, with the sun setting, we saw several deer which made my day. After we checked into the "no-frills" motel room, we realized the pool was still open. We all hastily plunged into the cool water which washed all the accumulated dust off of our weary bodies.

Tuesday morning found us waiting to board our jeep at 7AM for the morning safari. We all climbed up on top, including our guide, for a total of 14 people. He carried an well-used rifle that appeared to have an old nail as the trigger. He said it was a .375 and was very powerful on elephants. He declined my offer to hold the gun, even after I explained I had a license. Oh well, I was also holding Leila so that may have contributed to his answer too. However, I wasn't too certain of his capabilities in stopping a charging elephant.
The closest we got; elephant tracts.
A beautiful brush buck

We drove around the park for a little over 2 hours. Our driver was new, and it appeared he couldn't hear very well, especially when the guide told him to stop. We saw lots of deer, including brush buck and kob, wart hogs, birds, and monkeys. We did not see any elephants, which was a bummer but in reality it is a toss up to seeing them. It helps to go over dry season, which forces the elephants to the pond in front of the motel. But dry season and Thanksgiving vacation do not line up, so we went when we could. The drivers of the various jeeps that were out communicated by phone if any elephant was spotted, so they must have been deeper in the forest. It was incredible to see the many varieties of animals, and we totally enjoyed the trip.  Unfortunately the motel did not have a room for us the second night, so we left around noon and traveled back to Accra, arriving Wednesday morning at 1 AM. It was an uneventful trip, except for passing a truck which had no tail lights and the passenger in the front seat was shining a flashlight out the window for the headlights! Throughout the trip we traveled through 5 different regions of Ghana, and it was 601.4 km from the Mole parking lot to the Bible Institute.

The motley crew

We also visited Cape Coast and spent a few memorable days with fellow missionaries. We had a blast with the Brubaker's and we hope they got a taste of African life. It was great for Elle to have 2 girls to play with again, and all the children enjoyed each other very much. We had a good time catching up, laughing, and making memories.

Since David works for Pure Test Lab, he took back several samples of water to test it's quality. After he tested our water we have discovered that we might as well be drinking from the gutter, as our filter is not cleaning the water sufficiently to safe drinking levels. It is really, really bad water. Although we haven't gotten blatantly sick off the water, we have switched to drinking bagged filtered water to eliminate all the extra bacteria we were consuming.

My niece Stephanie is coming in January to work with a children's home nearby and to travel home with us. Please pray for her as she prepares to come, and especially as she travels here. Thanks for your continued prayers for our safety, health, and spiritual well being. We couldn't do this without each one of you. God bless you!

The three (little) pigs

After a very busy stretch here in Ghana, we are catching up on some of the highlights that have occurred. Please accept our apologies and allow us to catch up.
It is hard to count how many new experiences I've had in the last 3 years. And, yes, pig butchering was a first for us. While not squeamish, I can thank being raised on a chicken farm and  trauma/post-op nursing for that, I will admit to being intimidated by three 175 pound dead swine that arrived on Jonathan Groff's truck bed from Cape Coast in late September.
As the Groff's redistributed some of their farm wealth, a group of Accra friends were happy to benefit. Pork is eaten here. Most commonly eaten in our neighborhoods is the cleaned intestines chopped into stew, the organs & other miscellaneous parts. The larger cuts are for sale but I'm not yet brave enough to stop a truck full of random chopped animal parts if he has a few pork chops for sale. I could find some things for sale at the larger grocery stores in Accra, but the price is high and often the quality is low.

I can say we would never have tackled this in the States. Are there not professionals for this sort of chopping and dismembering? And shouldn't we worry about life threatening bacteria and contamination?

Our friends, Mattie and Irvin Rudolph & Jonathan Groff, have butchering experience. We followed along and tried to be helpful. After removing the entrails, they needed to be skinned and the head removed. Finally a saw was employed to cut them into two manageable pieces. They were then carried into the house to be processed on the kitchen table by the skilled and swift knives of Mattie and Julia. After the big cuts were removed, the meat was picked off the bones and ground up. Everything, including the heads,  was used, with a wheel barrow load of organs and skins going to very willing neighbors.

It was a very good experience for all of us. A front row seat to our link in the food chain. It's good for kids to see the step between the cute little farm animals and the hermetically sealed sausage package at the grocery store.

Pork chops, ham and sausage in the freezer doesn't seem like such an awful thing either. ; )

As you can tell by our faces, separating the skin and fat from the meat was a challenge. Behind us you'll see a small smoky fire my Boy Scout husband started to keep the flies away. It worked!
Examining the kidneys. Rory looks like he's about to vomit. He did just fine. The boys were pretty willing to touch and learn about the organs. Elle kept her distance but had a lot of questions. It was a good school day!

The lungs.

Doesn't take much for a party to start around here.

We cut the meat on the kitchen table and then used a borrowed meat grinder to make the sausage.

That was some good sausage we had for supper. When you've worked that hard for something  the taste is even sweeter.

Monday, October 14, 2013

beginning of the end

It seems like there are always decisions to be made, no matter what situation you are in.  Many times they are simple, easy decisions, but every now and then you are called to make a very difficult decisions that impacts your future and that of your family.  And so it is that time for us as we wrap up our 3 year term in Ghana. Do we stay? Do we go? What are the next steps for our family?
These pictures were taken as we walked to a baptism on April 3, 2011, just 2 short months after we had arrived in Ghana. In many ways it feels like a long time ago. Thankfully we have adjusted to life here in Ghana, and truly consider this our home.
 Life here in Ghana has been good for us spiritually, our marriage, and our relationships with our children. God has graciously allowed us to serve with and meet many wonderful, godly people who have encouraged and strengthened us to continue on. These friends come from many denominations including Lutheran, Baptist, Charity, and Assemblies of God. What we have found was amazing unity of believers when out on the field, a solace when your warm, comfortable church is 6000 miles away. We have grown to really appreciate so many people here, we love what we do, and in many ways it would be easier to stay.
But we feel that it's time to go.
This has been a very difficult conclusion to come to. Our children are already crying at the thought of leaving our friends behind. .
No replacements have yet to be identified. But yet we feel peace at moving forward, trusting that God has given us the next steps for our family.
Our term ends on February 4, 2014. When I signed my contract way back in February 2011, this date looked extremely far away. Now it is right around the corner. We have requested to our board to be replaced by the beginning of April,  and we are trusting that God will have the right people on board to take over the work at the school by then. Since Leon has taken oversight over the pastor association, right now what we need is a school administrator who is willing to teach a few classes. If you want more information on this position, I would be happy to give you a call.
We are asking you to join us in prayer that replacements would be found in the very near future. Pray that He would direct the steps of this mission in every aspect. Pray that He would continue to lead our family as we begin the transition back to the States.
We appreciate each and every one of you who have walked with us on this journey. We truly are grateful for your emails, letters, gifts, prayers, and financial support. This journey was at times difficult, but we wouldn't want to change it! Thank you!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

sweeter than strawberry pie (part III, family edition)


Here's to a sweet 6 month old who gives and receives so many smiles.
Sister Abenah is a sweet tempered til hungry,
must be in the middle of the action,
feed me whatever you are eating,
take me wherever you are going,
make that silly face again,
nose pinching,
hair pulling,
glasses nabbing,
little lady.
She has conquered rolling and scooting backwards.
She ventures onto her knees sometimes but bellyflops back down quickly.
She loves baths in the sink when the dishes are done.
She loves meals by Elle & baths by Max.
She is the sweet strawberry of her Daddy's eye.
I lean in to every sticky fingered snuggle, as she rubs her spitty chin into my neck.
This child. This one we have prayed and hoped for.
She is an enormous blessing wrapped up in sparkly eyes and sweet pink skin.
 And these children.
Though they've grown past the age of baby, they are a sweet treat.

Thanks to Benita for the props!

Benita Meyers is a sweet friend from South Africa who has blessed me with her photography talent and hospitality. Her testimony of God's work in her life and marriage in an encouragement to me. Thanks,Benita!