Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Saying goodbye to Ghana

(I typed this up Sunday but our internet decided it didn’t want to cooperate the last few days so I figured I would post it now anyways)

Well this is it our last few days in Ghana are here. Sitting outside in downtown Accra last night eating ice cream for the first time this summer, I already feel so far away from the village where we have spent our past two months, but hearing Charlotte (our friend and a midwife at the hospital in Kasei who is spending a couple of days in Accra) speak in Twi to the people around us is actually very comforting and brings back memories of so many friends from Kasei who are never really far from our minds. Traveling to Kumasi on Wednesday to pick up a package from Aunt Nancy  (thank you so very much!!! J) and getting to see John and Isaac who had just gotten done with an interview for nursing school, sharing jelly beans and granola bars with them and sending back bubbles for them to bring to some of our friends in Kasei was definitely a highlight of our week; even though it was tough having to get back on a bus to Accra and say goodbye all over again. Between walking on rope bridges through the rainforest, staying at a hotel in Cape Coast with crocodiles wandering around, touring a castle along the ocean, working at the eye clinic in Accra, and meandering through the biggest market in Ghana, to say that we have had an exciting week is an understatement, however, all of these moments are combined with hard bittersweet moments of having to leave and missing the way things were, like when a song comes on the radio that we used to always dance to with all of the kids, or a futbol match on tv that we wish we were watching in the waiting room with our friends at the hospital, or when we eat sugar cane and plantain chips for the first time and wish our friends were here to share with, or when they all call us on loudspeaker and even though it is great to hear everyone’s voices we feel lonely by ourselves in Dr. John’s big house thinking of all of them back in the village. Each time I reread all the letters from my family and friends I get more and more excited to see them in only a few days but I am scared about going back because I am scared of forgetting, and I don’t want to forget anything, any of the people, any of the places, any of the things I’ve seen and done. Most importantly I don’t want to forget the things I’ve learned; about being whole, about the healing that each of us needs to receive from God every day, about a faith that is all consuming, that is all you need, all you seek. I don’t want to forget what people here have taught me; about how to love others without hesitation, how to find joy without having expectations that need to be met, how to serve without thinking of your own provision, how to open up freely to others, to relationships, to fellowship, trusting that the Lord holds our lives in His hands. I know that things will change when I go back and in many ways my life will go back to normal but I hope that in at least some ways it won’t or I won’t. I hope that I can share the experience I’ve had with everyone back home that has been in my thoughts while I have been here and that has given me so much support. I hope that I can hold onto and share all of the stories and details of the lives of people here with people back there. When it comes time on Monday to leave, I want to be able to leave and still not let go of this place and these people. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Don't worry be happy always

I can still remember spending summer nights when I was little playing baseball out in the front yard with my family and making smores over a campfire, I remember so many times wishing that the day would never end just because everything in that moment was so wonderful I never wanted to leave it. Every day so far this week has been one of those days. As our time in Kasei too quickly passes us by we are finding it hard not to get caught up in the bittersweetness of our last memories, and it is evident that most of our friends are also struggling to push aside the looming reminders of our departure. On Monday we will leave for Cape Coast and from there go on to Accra for a week, hopefully all of the new experiences and adventures still to come will help us not to get too caught up on all of the now familiar things that we will be forced to leave behind. Especially this last week I have been doing my best to try to just focus on being grateful for all of my time spent here, and as Monday draws nearer I find myself being stretched in this every day. After spending these last two weeks in the hospital working in surgery and maternity, I can say that these have definitely become two of my favorite places in the hospital and between putting in stitches and delivering a baby I couldn’t imagine any better way to end our time working here. It has been getting harder and harder to leave the hospital by two every day and the longer that we are here the later we end up staying at the hospital each time. Lately my friends here have been showing me a different perspective on what it means to be grateful and how to live a life filled with gratitude even for promises that are yet to be fulfilled and for redemption and restoration that is still on the way. I am in awe of the simple things that they are thankful for that I would so quickly take for granted both big and small.  I would never have imagined how excited they would be for the five cent bags of water that we brought them after their soccer game, or that they would be so proud that we came to cheer them on even though 12 of the players had to cram together in the back seat and trunk of a taxi just to make room for me and Audrey in the front seat in order for all of us to get back to Kasei after the game. I am grateful for all of the friends we have made here who bless us in so many small ways each day that they probably aren’t even aware of like translating the devotions at the clinic for us each morning, teaching us how to eat banku for breakfast, helping us put antibiotics on our blisters after beating beans at the farm, and staying with us at the hospital at night when we take care of someone from one of the groups that is visiting who got malaria. This past Thursday was the very first Fourth of July that I have ever spent outside of the United States and I think that it made me more grateful than ever before for many things that I am often unaware of because they are things that I have never had to go without.  That night when one of my friends, a little girl named Manuela, hugged my waist tightly and whispered God bless you as I snuck her my plates of chicken and rice and she ran off to share it with her friends and siblings, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve never been to a fourth of July party where I worried about making sure people get something to eat because I know they don’t have anything else, while I will still have plenty of food back at the house. “Don’t worry be happy” it seems like this isn’t really an expression I would use to describe life here, however, this is the saying our friends have kept repeating to us this week. In situations where we might find it hard to be grateful they are always encouraging and teaching me with their unwavering faith even in many trying moments.  Whether it is waiting for the outcome of an interview, hoping for the support to apply to school, or just keeping up with life and work while getting over malaria, I am learning from them that how we overcome things is less about who we are and more about who our God is. So even when I feel like I am unraveling, I don’t want to worry so much about putting all of the pieces back together and getting everything right because I know that in His hands, by His will, my weaknesses will be used to bring God glory. I’m pretty sure “don’t worry be happy” is a fairly common phrase, it’s something I’ve definitely heard more than once before, but I think one of the things that has made it special to me is what my friends here have added on at the end, just one simple word… always. “Don’t’ worry be happy always”, although you might not think it flows as smoothly and it doesn’t necessarily fit the tune in my head as well as before I don’t think I will ever say it any other way. Always… even when things aren’t working out, even when every day is hard, even when you don’t know what you are looking forward to, even when your faith is all you have in fact simply because your God is all you need be grateful and don’t worry instead continually choose to see how He is being glorified both in His provision for you but also in your reliance upon Him. Being happy doesn’t mean just hoping things always work out for you but being grateful each new day because even though we have not yet reached what we are seeking, God has promised to finish to completion the work that he has started in us. Even though it hurts to think about the life I will leave behind here and the people I will be separated from, I know that it has all been a blessing that is so much more than I deserve and it is all for His glory. I am grateful because even though there is pain in having to leave on Monday I know that I am only sad to go because I have been given so incredibly much during my time here. James 1:2-17, 4:14, 5:7-11, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Psalm 100

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I find joy in reading so many wonderful encouraging letters and emails, and knowing all of the prayers from friends and family that are surrounding me and everyone here even when the internet does not work for three weeks so I am unable to answer J

Fighting for Joy

Sometimes it can be hard to be joyful, it seems like I too often find myself feeling discontent or frustrated with one thing or another in my life, things that didn’t work out the way I planned, expectations I didn’t meet, times I felt hurt. I feel like I am learning from the people here what it really means to seek joy. This doesn’t mean just ignoring or not facing hardships but it does mean choosing not to dwell on them but instead to find yourself consumed by the joy that God has brought into your life. Today we encountered some unexpected adventures; we had a slight delay in our plans when our van got stuck on a dirt road in between two villages after a hard rainstorm. About three hours later due to the assistance of many good Samaritans we made it out, and although I am sure that staying overnight in our van in the middle of the jungle would have been an adventure I have never been so grateful to return safely home to Kasei. My friends here have been showing me lately that being joyful depends more on how you choose to live out your life than on whatever circumstance you find yourself in moment to moment.  Today was definitely a trial in that but honestly I know when I look back I will always see today as a precious memory, not wasted time. God helped me find joy in today and in so many countless other places already this summer. Today I was humbled by the selfless compassion of the three men who came riding up on a motorbike and not only stopped to help us but also stayed with us a couple of hours and recruited more help in order to make sure we made it out. I was blessed by our conversations in a combination of Twi and English and much shared laughter as these strangers willingly became coated in dirt and mud helping us dig out our van.  I am in awe of the grace and joy shown to us by them despite the fact that we had suddenly interrupted their lives and become such an inconvenience to them.  Even in places where we may be tempted to let negativity, worry, or fear creep in we can instead let faith and peace take its place, trusting that whatever may come, our God is still in control. There is so much joy and life surrounding me here in Ghana even amidst more struggles and brokenness than I have ever known. I find joy in sweaty little hands holding onto mine even though I wish I had enough shoes for every pair of bare feet caked in dirt and food to fill all the empty tummies, I find joy in playing volleyball at my friends home even when we lose the ball down the well, I find joy in spending more and more time with them even though I am made aware of the of the hardships they face every day, I find joy in sharing peoples lives with them even as I am broken by the poverty that surrounds me, I find joy in singing along in church even though I can’t understand the words, I find joy in helping people feel better even if I have to stick them with needles, I find joy in working in the hospital alongside the staff even though I wish I was capable of doing so much more to help, I find joy in playing cards with some of the patients at the ward in the hospital even though I know I will have to see some of them tomorrow when I help out in surgery, and I find so much joy in the friends I have made even though I know the life they lead is very different from my own and that I cannot be sure after I leave when I may get the chance to see them again. Some blessings here are obvious and easy to see like knocking down a ripe papaya from the tree outside our house or making our friend Solomon his first birthday card for his 25th birthday, others not quite so much like having plenty of hydrocortisone cream to put on all of our bug bites or being able to get an IV in on the first try. I am grateful for every moment that I have been given here, both the difficult and the wonderful ones, and the joy that I have found in them all. Romans 8, Philippians 4:4-13, Psalm 103

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rock, paper, scissors and George Strait

I am still getting used to certain things here, like the fact that I have been asleep by 9 PM every Friday night so far this summer or that my new workout buddy, or buddies to be more exact, are a bunch of guys that work at the hospital who blow whistles, play finger castanets, and sing songs while they go for a run at 5:30 am on Saturday mornings. I still miss my running buddies back home very much but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world but here right now. Although we have already been here for over three weeks now this week has definitely held a lot of firsts, not just for me though but also for some of the friends I have made, like when I tried to teach the kids the game rock, paper, scissors (much more difficult than I anticipated but it kept us entertained for quite awhile at least), or when some of my friends listened to country music for the first time while I kept them company working at the hospital on Saturday night. As for me I can now say that I know how to gut a fish, not sure if I want to ever put that skill to use again, and that I have participated in my first communion here.  Sunday during the communion service I couldn’t help but feel blessed by such a clear picture of the unity of the body of Christ right in front of me. All the way over here in Ghana, where many things are so different and so new to me this was still the same, we are all saved by the same sacrifice and I felt so much joy surrounded by so many new friends lifting up praises to Him, as I thought of so many friends and family back home doing the same this morning. As I get to know more and more people here, hospital workers, teachers, and many others, and hear more about their lives, the difficult paths they have taken to get where they are and their struggle to continue on or even to return to school I see just how very different most of their lives have been from my own. We were talking about school and jobs one day and I asked one of my friends what they would choose to do someday if they could, he stared at me confused and said he had never thought about that before. I hadn’t realized before now how truly blessed I am to be able to dream about what I want to do someday, and what I want to be. I am so fortunate for all of the education I have received so far and for all of the opportunities I have for the future, to pursue the things I desire to learn and do the things that I am passionate about. More now than ever before I have seen that I have been given so much but at the same time I am also reminded that I am not my own and that this world is not our final home. I hope that I can learn from the things I have been able to see and experience here and that I will trust God’s plan for my life and allow Him to use me wherever He may lead, seeking His will not my own. Romans 12:1-8, 15:5,6 Luke 12:22-48 John 14, 15 Matthew 6:19-34 Mark 8:34-38