Monday, November 30, 2009

My Christmas List

I know I shouldn't do this, because I don't have room in my suitcase, but I can't help it. This year my Christmas list is comprised of some special things I would like to bring for some of the kids. If you would like to participate in this gift giving, then reply to the post with the child's name that you will buy the gift for. They do not need to be brand new items, if you have them around the house already, all the better. I will continue adding on over the next couple of weeks. You can either drop of the gifts with my parents, or mail them to the house, or give them to me when I return. Thank you so much for blessing these children!

Ishmael: goalie gloves (adult size)
Stella: all of the anne of green gables book after Anne of the Island
Andy: Harry Potter book 2
Joy Barnett house: Harry Potter and the Sorcerors' Stone DVD
Isaac Ayensu: good paint brushes for acrylic painting
Israel Agbovi: Bible with his name on it
Reading Program: several Bibles (new and old testament)
Library: small file bucket for checkout sheets
Library: yellow duct tape
Emma: basketball shorts (size m in mens)
Cynthia: Chronicles of Narnia books
Rosalie: phonics workbook
Charles: scientific calculator
Francis: boxcar children's book
Sandra: boxcar children's book
Nkugami: journal/diary
Prestoncrest Girls house: Mulan DVD, Aladdin DVD
Asuo: soccer cleats (I will check on the size) , SAT prep book
all kids: bandaids and batteries (double and triple a) I am constantly getting requests for these!, and also math flash cards

There is also a wonderful opportunity to match an end of the year gift to the VOH, offered by a donor who is willing to match all funds donated to the Village of Hope between now and Christmas Day. This anonmyous donor will match all donated funds, up to $50,000, that are given during that time. If you would like to join with others to match this gift, please make your check payable to the Prestoncrest Church of Christ. Please write “VOH matching Gift” on the memo line of your check. You can send your check to:
Attention: Sherry Jackson Prestoncrest Church of Christ
12700 Preston Rd. Suite 210 Dallas, TX 75230

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

I don't exactly have the day off for Thanksgiving. Although, they just declared tomorrow a national holiday. Up until last night it was TBA wheter or not it was. How strange that they didn't even know for sure whether it was a national holiday until 30 hours before hand. TIA right? I don't understnad why the national holidays change from year to year or why they are so unpredictable. But, thankfully we do not have school tomorrow. The students really are not as well behaved as I thought they would be. Of my two 6th grade classes, 6B always gives me trouble. The student teachers that are here had been told the students here would be perfectly behaved and had a rude awakening. Discipline seems a constant problem. So, it will be nice to have a day off. Although Charles, one of the older high school boys, wants me to come visit him at his school in Accra tomorrow.

I live in a place where giving thanks is a part of daily life. They remember to thank God for everything! They thank God daily for bringing them through the day successfully, for each safe car trip, for each small gift received. It certainly has been teaching me about being a greatful person. People here thank the Lord for every time they wake up, and for every blessing they receive. The kids ask God to bless me each time I give them a pencil, a peice of paper, or play a game with them.

It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving. It is SO hot outside, there is no football on TV, there is school today, and there are no signs of fall. We cancelled tutoring sessions for tonight so that I (and the 6 NY student teachers) can celebrate Thanksgiving in our own way. Mom brought over stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin when she came. We found a frozen turkey in Accra, and also some potatoes and corn. We will be preparing the food all afternoon after school gets out. I am in charge of the apple pie, pumpkin pie, biscuits, and stuffing. We don't have a normal pie pan, so it should be interesting. We have invited the two VOH cooks, and Araba to join us. I will miss Grandma's pies, dad's turkey, mom's corn casserole and certainly won't be the same without my family! But really the holiday is about giving thanks. And I am grateful to be in a place that daily teaches me how to give thanks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

There are some successs stories despite the overwhelming nature of the work here. There are several hundred children that I work with in one way or another, but some I am trying really hard to make a difference with. Small bits of progress have been made with several kids I am working with. I'd like to share with you some of their stories.

Peace has been one of my special girls since the first time that I came. She has quite a sense of humor and likes to act out to get a laugh at home and in class. I started a behavior chart for her and have been checking with her teachers and parents daily to see if she has been making good choices or not. It has been almost two months now since we started. Every time she reaches so many good days, she gets a special treat. Her teacher says she is a different girl altogether, and her parents say that the prayers and accountability are working! She is about to earn a cake by having a month full of good behavior! There are still days when she messes up, but don't we all? Overall I am really proud of her for making changes in her choices.

Isaac Ayensu is a sweet 9th grade boy with an amazing artistic talent. This week I arranged for him to begin private lessons with the school's art teacher twice a week. I am really excited that he will have this opportunity to develop his skills! He could make a career out of his talent either as an architect, designer, or just straight up artist.

Winnie is a 15 year old girl that doesn't look older than 11. She is short and is in the third grade. She tends to lie about her age, embarassed about her height and lack of academic skills. When I first got here she would run away when I would come for tutoring at her house. Two months in she was beginning to be more receptive to reading, and even seemed to enjoy some of the books. When the student teachers arrived, I asked if one of them would work with her house several times a week. Lindsay and I have both seen significant progress in her attitude towards learning in the school reading group and the evening tutoring. She still can't read, but at least she wants to come to reading group, and is excited about reading/tutoring times!

Ebenezer is one of the 21 kids who came out of slavery on Lake Volta. He is very angry. He has deep emotional scars from his time on the lake and the cruelty he endured there. Kimberli (his adopted mom) and I started a behavior chart for him similar to Peace's. Only I have to check up on him by half days, because asking him to make good choices for a full day is a little overwhelming for him right now. I just started with him on Sunday, and he has already earned 4 stickers! I am proud of him for starting off well. He is a smart boy, but he just has so much anger. It is important for him to learn to control his anger now before it becomes an ingrained response. Pray that he continues to make good choices in handling his anger.

Monday, November 23, 2009


As I was getting on the plane back in August to come to Ghana my dear friend Kami told me that life would be full in Ghana. Full of challenges, full of joy, full of frustration, full of learning, full of wonderful moments. Of course she was right. Life is quite full here. Of all of the above. It is quite overwhelming at times. I hardly have time to process the things that are going on around me. I can hardly sit down and let my mind rest because as soon as I sit down I think of the lesson plans, the grading, the children who need tutoring, there is a never ending list of needs. The longer I am here the more needs that I see. I wish I had time to properly address them all.

There are spiritual, emotional, physical, and educational needs. It seems that many of the children just go through the motions of the daily devotions and rote prayers. I ache for them to truly experience a genuine relationship with God. There are many children with deep emotional scars from either being trafficked, watching their parents die, or being abandoned by family. There are children in need of basic needs like backpacks, shoes, glasses, etc. And there are many children who desperately need some basic reading and math skills. I wish desperately I could help them all. It all hit me like a brick Saturday morning and I just sat down and cried. I couldn't stop the tears in thinking of all of these precious children and how many things I wish I could do for each of them. I know I can't expect myself to meet every need of every child. I just get overwhelmed sometimes with thinking what I would love to be able to do for them. I know all the cliche phrases about just doing my best, or just doing what I can and knowing that is enough. My current teaching/tutoring/mentoring wears me out as it is physically and emotionally. Pray that my patience and love for these children will be in abundant supply. It seems to be running low by the end of each day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I removed the the crocodile story because it was just a little joke on Colleen's mom... Sorry Mary! We couldn't resist!

Friday, November 20, 2009


God has certainly answered my prayers to continue to fuel my discontent. Last Tuesday was a day that was full of unsettling and heart wrenching experiences. It is the short version (if you can call it short). My intent was to go to Tema to visit the house where the 23 kids who were rescued out of slavery from lake Volta live. They were here in August for a week at the art camp and I met them then. Halfway to Accra we learned we were stopping to pick up George (a man who works tirelessly to rescue trafficked children) from the hospital. He was in a serious tro-tro accident six weeks ago and had serious injuries to his leg and jaw. The top and bottom of his leg are in a cast with a brace between, and he has wires holding his mouth in place. He was not the same man that I saw in August. He was using a walker and struggled to get down the stairs. I have heard much about him from those who work with him, and was humbled to meet him. At the hospital we waited outside while they removed the wire holding the top and bottom set of teeth together at the hospital. Then they took us into a particular ward to have a nurse change the bandage on his other leg. Walking into that hospital took the breath right out of me. It is supposed to be one of the best hospitals in Accra, and yet there were cots/beds scattered around the lobby with people laying there in obvious pain. Gauze bandages covered various parts of their bodies with the blood seeping through. The look in their eyes was haunting. I was so overwhelmed. There was a chalk board listing the number of beds in the various units, and the amount of males and females occupying those beds on that particular day. I happened to notice there were more female patients than beds. There was even a column for deaths of the day, set out in red. I was almost in tears the whole time we were walking through. I have seen a lot of poverty and suffering in Ghana but this place really struck me. The surgery room was open to the outside and had the most pitifully equipment. Everything seemed overcrowded and under-supplied. We left and backtracked to the edge of Accra to take George back to his friends house where he is staying to recover. As we sat down in the sitting room he started to tell us the stories of some of the children he has rescued. I have heard some of them before, but somehow they just completely overwhelmed me. I was sitting there in awe of this man’s heart and passion for these trafficked children. And the way that he devotes himself so fully to making relationships and fully addressing the issue of child trafficking from educating the families to creating new ways of fishing for the fisherman. As he is sitting there with his bandages and casts and walker he said that if someone could carry him into the boat at Lake Volta all he needed was his mouth to continue to save children. He said “disability is not inability” that so long as he can talk he can continue to educate the fishing communities and rescue more children. Suddenly the reality of the lake hit me like it never has before and I was just sitting there so broken at his stories. My heart was breaking for these children and families. Families who sell children multiple times because they have no money, children who ran away from cruel masters, only to get sent back. George said he wanted me to go to the lake with them sometime. I really would like to, although I know it will be utterly devastating. You can’t see kids in that condition and walk away the same. My spirit was just flooded with emotions and ache for the 7,000 children enslaved on Lake Volta to fishing masters. I praise God that he is using people like George and the organizations that he works with to rescue these precious children. We left from there to drive to Tema to see the children’s home. When we showed up it became apparent that there was some dissension that had arisen between several of the organizations working together with these particular children. I don't want to say much, except that it was painful to see division amongst people who claim the same vision for these children. This world truly is broken. My spirit was just wrecked at seeing many of examples of this brokeness manifested on Tuesday. I am still trying to process everything I heard and saw. I must say that I am thankful that we serve a God who sees and hears the cries of the suffering. The "God who sees me" as Hagar describes God in Genesis. I take hope in knowing that the world is in the process of being redeemed back to Him, and that I can take a small part in that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


"Obruni! Obruni! Obruni!" This what the village children shout at me as I walk to Fetteh. It means "white man." I don't exactly like being addressed as a white man for several reasons, first I am not a man, and second I feel that classifying one by color is harmful whether or not it is intentional. It is not harmful to me, but to them. Some of the rural/uneducated populations still see whites as somehow superior. I assumed that "obruni" had similar connotations as "gringo." In Mexico being called a gringo is a negative term. I learned that obruni actually doubles with the term "cherished one" in most tribal languages here. I still am trying to break some of the kids of the habit of calling me "the white" or obruni. They use it to tell someone that the white is calling, or the white is in need of something, implying that because a white is asking it comes with a sense of urgency. I try to explain how offended someone would be if you called them "the black" or "the white" in America. And its not like they don't know my name...

Meet Lovely. Lovely is a precious three year old girl who recently came to stay at the VOH. She is only here temporarily while a new arrangement is being made for her care. Her mother died when she was very young and she fell into the care of her grandmother. She cried constantly, and the only way her grandmother could get her to calm down was to tell her that obruni would come to catch her if she kept crying. So, whimpering, she would stick two fingers into her mouth to suck on and quiet down shaking in fear of obruni. Needless to say this practice developed quite a fear of obruni. She would even shudder at pictures of white people. When she first arrived she would run away from me, afraid to get near me. Slowly I broke her down, and now she is my friend. She jumps up and down to wave at me whenever she sees me coming, and occasionally falls asleep on my lap in church. I hope that I can do more than overcome Lovely's fear of obruni. I hope that I can bring a message of equality that transcends color and culture to any who still have the remains of colonial ideas.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the burning question

For several years now I have had this burning question within me. It developed slowly over time from my experiences and reached a crescendo when I came to Ghana the first time. The question is "What will I do?" "What will I do to address the evil, the suffering, the injustice, the poverty of this world?" It is the question that brought me here to teach.

This last weekend I read the book "Holy Discontent." It spoke of each individual as having their own "holy discontent" about a particular issue. When you reach a point where you can't stand a particular injustice/need anymore and have to do something about it yourself. For some it is the field of medicine, for some dying churches, for some women's rights, for some domestic violence, for some racial discrimination.... There are many issues/injustices that get me fired up: gender inequalities, racial discrimination, child abuse, child slaves, prostitution, churches that can't see across denominational lines, (my roomates would even say recycling) all these issues just make me ache (or get angry). Unfortunately I cannot fix them all. God has given me a heart for children who need love and education, and I am determined that I need to be doing something about it.

Over the past few years I became discontent with the thought of living a life centered on my personal comfort and success. I simply cannot go through life living it for no other purpose than to live happily and comfortably. (I still have much selfishness to get rid of) I have wrestled for some time now with the "now what" that happens when you know that your life has to change. I am here teaching orphans and children in a developing country because I can't stand the thought of them going without learning to read, or being loved. I KNOW this is where God has lead me at this time in my life. Not to say that I don't have to remind myself at times of my purpose here, sometimes I get carried away just going through the motions. But I know that this is the first step in doing something with my God given burning for the needs of children.

The question hasn't gone away though. Its not enough. It doesn't stop here. I am here in Africa teaching/tutoring/loving kids, but there are so many more who suffer. I have been told by some that being here is enough. I disagree. Even while I am here I am trying to make sure that I am using my time well, there are so many more who have needs. This question doesn't just go away now that I am here. It fact it increases the intensity of it. Because I see the poverty and hardships of so many first hand. It is not as if I can "put in my time" here and call it quits, go back to a "normal" life. I have felt for some time there is something I am supposed to be doing with my life, some way in which I am supposed to be addressing some of the injustices of our world. I was discussing this with mom and Brittany last summer, I have this sense that I need to be taking some sort of iniative, spending my life in a way that makes the world better (if only for a few children). I am just not sure what that looks like yet. I get frustrated with myself sometimes, trying to figure out what more I can be doing.

I admire those who see a need and go for it, start a program/a non-profit/an organization that aims to eradicate an issue of injustice/poverty. I have this sense that there is more for me. I am pray that God will continue to develop my "Holy Discontent" (if you will) that I may see how best to use my life to make the lives of others better. Whether I stay here, or whether he leads me somewhere else the I hope question will continue burning. The minute I become satisfied in thinking I have done my part, I have missed the point entirely. I don't think God called us to live comfortable lives. News of genocides, racial riots, starving children, human trafficking, gender inequality, it should always bother us. May we never hear of them and think, oh that's horrible, and then forget it move on. I am so thankful that I am able to play some small role with these children here, and pray that it will continue to feed my discontent and develop my vision for my future. May I never be satisified.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"You can eat the paper!"

I have one last story to share from mom's time here, although their are many wonderful stories I could tell.

Mom and I made dinner one night for the Prestoncrest Girls house. They send me lunch every day at school, so I felt it was my turn to cook for them. Benjamin (house father) asked if we would cook at their house so they could see how Americans cook. We found chicken, rice, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes for the filling. Mom brought over fajita seasoning and tortillas from home. Ma Millicent watched avidly as we prepared the vegetables and chicken for the fajitas, and helped to roll all 30 of the fajitas. Of course the electricity went off while cooking. Thankfully its a gas stove. We made brownies for dessert (a foreign concept in itself). Some things are universal, Ma Milli and the girls licked the spoon and every bit of leftover brownie batter.

The electricity was off through dinner, so we sat down in the dark to eat by the light of a single flashlight. When we sat down to eat, the girls started asking if they could eat the paper. I realized they thought the tortilla was paper. They started saying in amazement to each other, "you can eat the wrapper!" like it was the weirdest thing they had ever heard. "You can eat the paper!" Some of them had already peeled it off and were eating the filling. The rest watched us to see how we ate it. They loved it, and ate their bulging fajitas and wanted more. I heard one little girl say, "This is my best food!" Benjamin was particularly enamored with the fajitas despite the fact that he could not pronounce the name. After devotion we served the brownies, the girls ate every crumb! Instead of bingo that night I brought wipe off world maps for them to play with. I heard one girl whisper to another girl happily, "Oh what a day!"

"It's not small!!"

I have stated before that I have had a constant stream of lizards in my house. I thought their main entrance point was the gap in my back door, so I taped it off with packing tape. I thank the Lord that I did. I was walking out of the kitchen the other day on my lunch break and heard something hitting the tape. I looked up to see a stripe of green nudging the tape trying to get in the house. Most of you at this point have probably guessed what this particular visitor was, a snake.

I had not even seen a snake as of yet, and here one was trying to get in the house! Neither of us are particularly fond of snakes. I ran outside to get the security guard while Mom stood watch to make sure it didn't get through the tape. While wating for the security guard to go around the back of the house to kill the snake we caught sight of its head. It didn't seem to be a large head, and we could only see about 6-8 inches of snake about the door, so I told the security guard I didn't think it was big. In order to get to the snake he had to open the screen door, and when he did so he jumped back and yelled "IT'S NOT SMALL!" and proceeded to furiously whack the snake with his stick. Mom and I were watching through the windows as he was yelling and jumping around trying to kill it. The cook Reuban came around the corner and the I heard the security guard mutter, "There are no small snakes in Africa."

We went out back to see the dead snake which the security guard had thrown into the grass. It was about the length of my arm span, and aparently poisonous. The picture makes it hard to see its full length. As soon as we walked back in the house from checking on the snake I saw something else at the tape, thankfully this time it was only a lizard. But, seriously? Not even a minute later. I was half expecting a small alligator to come knocking since every creature paid their visit. (I have been told their are some in the creek running behind my house, but have yet to see one...) It certainly was an exciting last day for Mom. I would hate for her to have left thinking life is boring here!

Thank You Amy Hubble (and Raid)

My mother seemed to pick a popular time to visit. That is for those who belong to the animal kingdom. Her coming seemed to invite all sorts of creatures into my house. I feel that each invasion deserves its own story. First came the ants.

"Ants! We're gonna live forever, you'll never get rid of us, No! If you use raid or whatever, it just won't be quite enough..." Those words from Gamma Spring Sing 2006 came rushing back last saturday. Mom was taking a shower after an afternoon at the beach when suddenly she yelled for me to come quickly. Within a ten minute span of when she started her shower, and when she finished HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of ants had invaded the bathroom. This is no exaggeration, mom will back me up on that. Large, black, biting ants were forming thick lines on every ledge and corner, and along all of the walls. We still don't have a clue where they came from. Thankfully there were two cans of Raid in the house. We covered our mouths/noses and dominated that bathroom with it. Several of them bit mom, not real happy about her spraying poison around. I have never apprecaited Raid so much. It killed them all off. We closed off the bathroom for awhile before attempting to clean up all the dead ants. They haven't been back yet, let's hope they don't!


Christmas came early this year, in the form of my mother's coming. She came laden with gifts from many people for the children, and for me. Opening up the suitcase full of food and cooking supplies was better than any christmas gifts! As we unloaded all the suitcases, the dining table became full of books, shoes, bookends, spices, treats, workbooks, flashcards, learning mats, etc.
I was so excited I ate the whole bag of peanut butter m&m's Brittany sent me for lunch, and chips and salsa for dinner! It was so great to taste a little of home after almost 3 months here. The learning materials will be such help in my reading groups and house tutoring.

It was wonderful to have mom here with me for a few weeks and to share with her my life here! Not to mention the fact that she helped me with cooking, cleaning, dishes, and tutoring. I kept her quite busy. Life chores like cooking, dishes, and washing just take longer here, so it was a bit of a relief to have her help for a few weeks. She did a lot of work in the library labeling, sorting, and fixing books. A daunting task! It looks much better, now if only we could teach the kids how to treat library books.... I already miss having her here. The kids have been asking of her since her departure yesterday, it seems they miss her too.