Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

As many of you know, I lived and worked for a year in Yendi, Ghana. While there I fell in love with the spirit of the Ghanaian people, especially the children. They are beautiful people and their bright smiles and humor shine through. But the poverty and need in the area weighed heavily on me, even as I returned to my life here in the states. I knew that God did not send me there just to teach for a year then walk away and return to a life of abundance. So I have prayed, sought answers, and tried various avenues but “unless the Lord builds the house, it’s builders labor in vain”. Then I heard from my friend and “son” John.
John is a police officer, his wife Dorcas makes fabric and sells it. John and I had talked often about helping the children who hung around my neighborhood and the market; children who are either orphans or whose parents or relatives cannot care for them. John’s heart was also burdened, but we did not know where to start. When the Lord decides to build a house though He knows how to do it. A good friend of John’s, Pastor Musah Kalari of Yendi had “an inborn vision” that he had been “working on for years” (his words) to help the children of Yendi. He has five orphans and a rejected widow living with him and his family. He has also identified several children at a school who are orphans. With his own money from his pastor’s salary and farming he is trying to build an orphanage and provide for these children (and from my knowledge of the incomes in northern Ghana, this is quite a task!).

John and I have now decided that this is where we start, where God is already at work building the house. Pastor Kalari has already purchased land and started building the house. He now needs a roof before he can begin moving the children in. I have agreed to help him raise the funds for the roof. In the meantime, he will begin the process of registering the orphanage as a Non-government Agency (NGO), we will create a web site, and we hope to present the children for sponsorship. I am so excited that God has sent someone in Yendi to do the footwork and begin to help these children. Our dream is that the orphanage will continue to grow (we have 6 acres) and that we can help many more children through feeding, clothing and/or school programs.

Please pray and consider how you can help with this project. I find it very inspiring that Pastor Kalari has even found the way to support these children and begin building the house. At this time, we are only raising the money to finish the house (less than $2,500). Let me know if you are interested. You can message me through Facebook, email me or call (541-556-6400). I will keep you informed of progress and let you know when the website is up and running.

Thank to all of you,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What to say when it's all over...

One of the most common questions I hear (besides, "Are you glad to be back?") is, "I bet you have a lot of culture shock." I don't know if I would call it culture shock. I can't really describe how I feel. Empty might be part of it. I miss some of the people, especially the children very, very much. But "empty" really doesn't explain it either. When I was at Mole park, in Ghana, just before I left, I heard a young volunteer from Europe say, "People will ask you what you learned here, but they only have 5 minutes to listen. How do you describe it in 5 minutes." She hit it on the nail. I have a hard time talking about anything because it is too much. I find myself tearing up at least once a day, but can't explain why.
Let me tell you just a few short stories. I held a baby that was starving and had malaria one Sunday morning on the street outside the church. I called a medical assistant out of church and we went to buy medicine for the malaria. I found out later that she died the next day of malnutrition. Her mother had quit feeding her because the mother was pregnant with another child. And they could not afford milk or baby bottles.
I had a 5 year old, Adamu, living withme for 4 months, because her family couldn't or didn't want to care for her. She watched the "Jesus Video for Children" at least once a day. Several times a day when she was sick with malaria. She loved to sing praise songs and had a beautiful voice, even if she did get the lyrics wrong.
I was able to hold baby Brenda. I have sponsored her family for about 10 years. I met them 6 years ago, and she was named after me a few years after that visit. In the background is the rest of the family who I have watched grow up over the last 10 years.

I had anotherneighbor kid, Letif, that came in to shower and eat "fafa" (rice). If we went to the restaurant down the street to eat, he would wait outside for the leftover rice. The waitress got to where she knew him and would give him other people's leftovers when he was waiting for us. (We finally just gave in and invited him to come and eat with us, even if he had no shirt or shoes). One day Letif stepped on a bottle and cut his foot open. Again I called the medical assistant who came and looked at it and gave him a tetanus shot. I gave him my hiking sandals to wear to protect the wound. When someone questioned why I would give my shoes away, I thought "I have several more pairs of shoes and I can always get some like these again when I return home if I find that I miss them". After I returned to the US, I was at a Goodwill store and there was the exact same pair of sandals, in the same size! I didn't really want them, but I knew this was just God's way of telling me He would replace them if I wanted them.
I visited a witches village and had the chance to tell the women and their children that God loved them, that Jesus died for them and they could be forgiven for anything. These women have been exiled from their villages either because they really did practice witchcraft or because they were accused of it if someone in their village became ill or died. Many will never see their families again.
I saw 600 or more children come to VBS. I had movie night with the girls from school, made them all dinner, and they learned about s'mores from the college students. I listened to school children, 80% who are Muslim, memorize Bible verses, copy hymns from the hymnal, and give a Christmas concert for their parents. I witnessed children begging to throw my apple core away so that they could eat it on the way to the garbage. I had the privilege to be able to buy children shoes, give them Bibles from my church, make them their first and only Birthday cakes.
I am asked about the food, the electricity, the heat, and the lack of conveniences. Yes, the buses were crazy. The toilets were dirty or non-existent. It was over 100 degrees many days. It was dirty, hot, messy and sad. But I was given the opportunity to love children who had absolutely nothing. Children who came to watch Veggietale videos in their underwear. I count it a privilege to have met Letif, a boy who had nothing, whose parents did not care for him, who was hungry, but was so incredibly happy. I was blessed to love Adamu, to have her spend her time with me and sing her songs. I would give anything for "one more day" with her. I would eat rice and go "potty" in the bush, if it meant I could have the gift of having several neighbor kids, school students, or the college students in my small room to watch a movie.
Telecast sings the lyrics, "to be a part of your story, the story of love, and our great need for you". To be a part of God's story. Nothing compares. In the book, "The Sacred Romance", Brent Curtis and John Eldredge talk about how we miss being a part of His story by becoming wrapped up in our own stories. Even in Ghana I became wrapped up in my stories, in small conflicts, hurt feelings, disagreements. Nothing major, but still Satan has a way of distracting us from God's story. Yes, we in America have it easy. We are wealthy. Everything is convenient. We all know that. That isn't what saddens me. What saddens me is how quickly I got back into this culture. I saddens me that we all have just 5 minutes to listen to anything anyone has to say. We have had the "messages" drilled into our heads from pastors, missionaries, old and modern day prophets, even rock singers and movie stars. We KNOW that children are starving and dying. We KNOW that we should give more, pray more, do something. But when we only have 5 minutes it is easy to let the thought pass. Instead of giving God the chance to invite us into His story, we become wrapped up in "church stuff", in talking about each other, in getting ahead, in work and play and entertainment. We hurt each other, we ignore each other, we don't have time to come along beside each other and support each other, much less support a missionary or a child across the world from us. We hate and gripe and grumble. What makes me cry is to know that I am falling back into these traps. I cry because I catch myself actually trying to forget some of what I saw, or ignore the nagging feelings (so that I won't cry). What makes me cry is to know that people are living their own stories and will never know what it feels like to be a part of His story, will never really feel our great need for Him because we are doing "ok". I can't live in my story anymore. I can't play church and watch TV and be entertained. I don't want to know what movie stars are doing. I don't even want to hear the gossip about people I know. I need to be still in His story. So as you read this please pray that God will lead me to where and what He wants for me. I pray for all of you, that you will find a way to be a part of His story, to feel His love and to realize your need for Him. To share, to experience, to know what it feels like to forget your own story because you get caught up in His.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Letifu and Dot

My house mate Rebecca has left, to return to America. I miss her much more than I thought I would and it is the first of the many "endings" I will be experiencing in the next couple of months. I am already struggling with leaving the children, especially after watching their tears when Rebecca left. But I know that God has another story for me, the next phase of my life, and I am ready. He has not disappointed me yet.
I want to introduce you to two very special people. Letifu and Dot.


My house has now become a sort of gathering place for some of the neighborhood children. I could tell you many stories about their lives and how special they all are, but I will tell you about Letifu this time. Letifu is "special". They say here, "He is not normal". He cannot speak well and appears to be cognitive delayed. I tried to teach him some sign language, but his fingers don't quite form the words either. I noticed that he was around a lot, and that he often had pajama bottoms, old t-shirts, and wore them same clothes for days. He seemed to never go home and had no parents around. I found out that his mother works at the market all day, everyday, from probably 7 am till well after dark. So he just hangs around and takes care of himself. I am not sure who feeds him when I don't, but he comes in almost every day and says "showa" (shower) and "fafa" (singkafa...rice). So he takes a shower, I wash his clothes and he eats some rice and watches a movie while his clothes dry. Yesterday he ate his rice, then noticed me eating spaghetti and chicken. He wanted a piece of chicken so I shared. He loved it so much, as was so excited to get chicken that I gave him the rest... I had more in the pan. Who could say no! When he is not with us, he is just sitting outside the building. Even the adults in the neighborhood call him "fool" and one day I saw girls hitting him and throwing rocks at him. We are trying to get him enrolled in the Hand-in-Hand community that I discussed in my last blog. He is a sweetheart. Here he is in the Oregon Duck t-shirt that he wears while he waits for his clothes to dry and eating noodles and chicken. Please pray with me that the community will accept him and he will find a happy place to live and learn.


Last week we had a mission team from Florida come to do a Vacation Bible School and teach in the villages. They arose early every morning, even after traveling 39 hours to get here, and went to a village to share God's word and plant a church. Most days they barely returned in time to teach the VBS to around 1,000 children. The college students that joined them were even exhausted. I was tired just watching them. I would return in the evening, shower and be in bed by the time they finished their nightly meetings. But there was one lady who never complained. This was Dot's 5th mission trip to Ghana and she just turned 85. I never heard her say a word about being tired or hot, about swollen feet from the traveling, or about too many hugs from dirty little children. When I talked to her, I felt right at home like I was talking to my mom, aunt or grandmother (although she is not really old enough to be my grandmother). She is my encouragement, that I may still have 32 more years to do this work. And she should be an encouragement to all of you who think you are too old to serve God on a mission trip. You are never too old!! (unless you are 90) Dot says that she is just thankful that God still allows her to go and gives her the strength. When I think of all the things I would still like to do here, about returning to visit, now I hope that I have as many years as Dot! Here she is teaching Bible School under a tree in near 100 degree temperatures. Please, pray for Dot's continued health and strength. And I pray that all of you will have as many years as Dot!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Touring Ghana

North-Eastern Christian Academy is now on holiday, so my roommate and I took a break and played tourist for a week or so. We traveled to Cape Coast, Kakum Park, Kumasi and a special village in Nkoransa. We fed monkeys at the Monkey Sanctuary, sat by a pool in a beautiful resort in Elmina, visited a chiefs palace (museum) and the cultural center in Kumasi and all the other fun stuff that tourist do. I want to share two places with you..I would share all, but you would not want to read it all.
Elmina Castle
Cape Coast and Elmina Castles - As you may know, Ghana was at the heart of the slave trade. All along the coast are slave "castles". I am not sure why they are called castles. They are really forts, used for security and trading. When they started trading slaves, they were housed in the dungeons of these forts. I cannot even attempt to describe the atrocities that are described when you tour these castles. 1,500 men or women crowed into a dungeon room not even large enough to fit 100 comfortably. These rooms had a small door at the top in which food and water was thrown once or twice a day, and a very small window near the top for light and ventilation. They stood, sat or slept in their own waste. For those who tried to escape or caused trouble, the room was even smaller. If you continued to be a problem, you were placed in a cell to starve to death.
The death cell
In one castle, the dignitaries and officers of the military entertained just above the dungeons. So of course they could hear the screams and cries, but continued on with their partying. In another, the church was just above the women's dungeon. They held church while they could hear, and I am sure, smell the women just below them. Our tour guide for this castle was also President Obama's tour guide when he visited Ghana. He said that he could see that Obama "had a heart for God" as he was deeply moved by the fact that anyone could worship and pray while this went on below them. I pray that we do not repeat, or allow anyone else to repeat, these atrocities to other human beings.
Here the Asanti king was kept for years. He was given the large window, which at that time over looked the rocks and ocean, in hopes that he would commit suicide and the soldiers would not be held responsible for his death as they were treating him "very well".

Hand-in Hand Community -Being a special education teacher, I have been distressed by what I see here as a severe lack of resources for any person with a disability of any kind. You see many, many of these people begging on the streets. There are few if any schools for children with mental disabilities. So as I was surfing the net, I very accidentally found the Hand-in-Hand community. It was about a week before our trip and somewhat on the way, and they had guesthouses. So my roommate, being a good sport and ready for any adventure, agreed to stay there for a couple of nights. This is a community for children and adults with mental disabilities. There are several houses around a central arena with a playground, open air cafeteria, a movie room, a swimming pool and a meeting area. Each house has a caregiver and 2 or 3 residents. There is a special education school next door for the residents and for children from the town. The older residents attend the workshop in which they make very nice jewelery, cloth, purses and so on. They even melt bottles and make their own beads.

We were greeted as we walked into "church" Michael and Kojo. Beautiful boys. We instantly had at least one child on our lap. We swung on the swings with several of the girls and boys, had dinner served to us by Bright, a young man with Downs Syndrome. He was very serious and efficient with his work. Dela (a young man) greeted us through our window with a "Hello, how are you". And we received plenty of hugs and attention. This is the only residential school of its kind in Ghana, and they are doing a great job. I was very inspired. Visit them at

One product they make is waist beads. Waist beads are worn by almost every woman and girl in Ghana. Both boy and girl babies wear them. When the beads fall off, there is cause for concern because your baby is losing weight. Girls used to receive them at puberty and a new strand when they got married. Now they just wear them all the time. They are very cute on the little girls. (I haven't really seen them on the women as they wear them beneath their clothes). These sale for about $1 a strand. Anyone want to start a new trend in America? (for more pictures google image waist beads)
Our cottage, with the outdoor shower and toilet

True love?

Even the donkeys are friendly

Back to school next week for my last term here. I am ready to be back with family, but the work here would never be done. God continues to drop children in my lap that need love, food, and attention. But He will provide when I am gone.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On Turning 52

Beautiful girl.......................... Children........................ Abu and his ball

The "Icecream Man" .........Dashena..the diaperless boy........ Abu bathing

Well here I am at 52. As with most birthdays we end up reflecting on what our age means, maybe what our parents looked like at that age, how many years we have left and the big one for women "do I really look that old?". I, of course, have more reason to reflect this year as I am in a strange country and getting older looking by the day.

I was asked awhile back to do the children's story during the morning worship service. What I thought was to be once or twice is now every Sunday. So I is got nearer to my birthday, I thought about some of my roles. Let's face it, I am the "Story Lady"...ugh. I am also something of a grandma at school and in the neighborhood. I am not necessarily happy about not being a real grandma, but it is nice to say, "I am not a grandma!" But now I am a grandma to about 100 kids. I am not the fun, games and music lady. I am the old, soft lady on whom it is nice to fall asleep. I even had a couple of small boys rubbing the wrinkled skin on my elbows and telling me how soft it was. I can not dye my hair here, so the whole world knows I really have gray hair. And I don't wear makeup as it would wear off before I got to school because of the sweat (and the kids). So, I am not the mischeivious, somewhat troublesome, youth I once was. I am not the young mom, or even the mom of teenagers. I am now the "old, gray haired, wrinkled story lady, that has soft elbows and is a comfortable place to fall asleep". I guess that is OK, because I like being that woman. That may be the scariest part of all this. I love nothing better than to hold a child, no matter how dirty, snotty nosed or 'wet' they are. I even have one baby who never has a diaper on. He is the sweetest baby and I take the risk because he is so tempting.

The children at our school are the lucky children. Many are fairly wealty by Yendi standards. I still cannot explain, in words, the poverty here. Our children, whom I call wealthy, still have rice only occassionaly and chicken almost never. When they are not wearing their uniforms their clothing is old and dirty. But the children in the neighborhood break my heart. Some do not go to school at all. Most are very dirty and their clothes are just better than rags (if not rags). I gave one boy, Abu, a soccer ball for my son Charlie's birthday. Abu was stunned and confused at first. I don't think he had ever received a gift. He has that ball everyday now. It is his most prized possesion (maybe his only). The center where I live is starting a kids club this week. The kids can come and watch a movie or play games. They may receive some bread and margarine. I am guessing that we will have over 100 kids the first week and it will keep increasing, especially if we serve food. One day, I took Abu just across the street with me when I was going to buy Coke from a small stand. I guess because I had Abu, the children thought they could all go. They came from out of nowhere and by the time I got to the store, I had 15 children with me. I bought 20 pieces of penny candy (or nickel candy now) and was going to distribute it. The kids went crazy and women and teenage girls appeared from out of the woodwork...from across the street, those walking down the street, next door...I don't even know how they got there. But there was soon a huge crowd fighting for the candy. Grown women were pushing the kids out of the way for the candy. The lady who owned the store took the bag from me and started distributing it to the kids and hitting the women! I was horrified, and learned not to openly give anything!

But I love the children. So, my picutres this week will be the children in the neighborhood. And I ask that you pray with me as the center takes on this new club. I pray that we can reach the children with Jesus message of love and that if they decide to serve food, that their resources will mulitply... we may be feeding 5,000 some day. And lastly, I pray that the center can find other ways of reaching out and helping the neighborhood children and their families.

.... and just an added note. I have a friend here who also had a blog and has some beautiful pictures of local life and some wonderful stories of what her and her husband do here. So visit them at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Life in General

What is life like here in Ghana? Some may think I work hard. It is now over 100 degrees during the day. We ride a school bus with up to 90 kids (and 35 seats). The school has no air conditioning and they serve Banku and Okra stew on Mondays and Thursdays (yuck). We start work at 7:00 and end at 2:00 or 3:00, if we don't have a meeting after school. We ride the school bus back home in the over 100 degree weather. At home we have airconditiong and a shower, which I use as soon as I get home. We have a tiny kitchen but we now have runnning water and a sink, so we are estatic. We have someone do our laundry once a week, so we no longer have to do that.
Shopping is not like going to Walmart or Albertsons. We borrow a car, bum a ride, or ride the bus and go to Tamale, about 60 miles away. There we go to several small shops to get all the things we need. We can find some things, cereal for 6 cedi a box ($4), Pringles 4.50 ($2.75) or American cheese slices 6.00, but the choices are very limited. Vegetables and a few fruits are sold in stands in the market or on the street. Along the street are stands which sell everything from shoes, DVD players, used clothing, plastic wares, DVD's of movies and tv shows (a whole season for about $2)and designer sun glasses (also for $2). Yesterday when we went there was no power anywhere in town. So no stores had fans going and it was 106degrees (with a heat index of 115). But I did get a haircut for 1 cedi (75 cents). It didn't turn out too bad.

But I am constantly reminded that my life is easy. This is the scene that I witness every morning. Women and children line up to collect water. They may do this several times a day. Then they must cook over an open fire or charcoal. They wash the families laundry in tubs of water collected at the tank or a borehole. Then they iron their clothes with irons in which they place hot coals. Some people have electricity, but not many. But the children at our school arrive every morning in clean, ironed uniforms (and white shirts!). The dirt here is red clay, so you can imagine how hard that is to get things clean, and our boys are messy!
Yesterday, on the way home from Tamale, as I watched hunting parties return from a day of hunting, I was amazed at how hard these people work. Imagine working all day for a rabbit! One man, out of the 50 or more that we saw, had an antelope, most had nothing and several had a rabbit. So life is survival. I think of the times in America that I thought, all I do is go to work and come home, all so I can pay the bills. I won't think that anymore. These people literally work all day, in the heat, for a meal of rabbit and yams. Then they wake up and do it again tomorrow.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a small town near the border of Togo, to take part in a church planting. It is really something to see. They are currently holding services in a school room, which this day was very crowded. They are beginning a building, which we prayed over that day. The children, as is usual whenever a white lady comes to a new town, were fascinated with me. They watched every move I made. They tried to copy the way I clapped, stood up and looked at my notes when I wrote, and one sitting near me kept touching my toes. And they love the camera.

It is very exciting to see that God's word is reaching farther and farther and the people are so enthused about it. A group from our church went to Niger to a very poor area on a mission trip. They returned and told the church members what they had witnessed and how we in Yendi should be so grateful for all we have. The people they met had far less than the people here. I have a mental picture of God's people going out to people who in turn go out and it just keeps multiplying!

I walked into the principals office one day this week and caught two little boys walking away from the prize box, and one looking very guilty. I checked pockets and the guilty looking one had a matchbox car in his pocket, still in the package. They had to talk to the principal and we found out that there were several of them that had done this. The smallest one had 2 or 3 cars in his backpack. If you look at the boys (this was taken the next day and they did not realize why I was taking it), they are very cute and a couple are very innocent looking... and some look mischievious. So it was very hard to be mad at them, but I acted very upset. My favorite, Kayaba, the middle one, would not look at me the rest of the day. It is all very funny in some ways and has been quite a joke around here... the car theif gang. But honesty and integrity is a big problem is this area. It has been a disappointment, that even people who call themselves Christians have problems with honesty. As a sociologist at heart, I know that it may be a survival technique, or may have been for the past generations and now has become ingrained into society. We Americans have other ways of cheating and stealing I guess. So, it is another thing that we hope to address at the school.

Stay tuned next month as I discusss turning 52, and some new responsibilities here.
Prayer requests
that God will lead us in:
*selecting new teachers at the school, as current ones leave and for next year
*decisions that we both have to make (more on that next month too)
*how we teach God's love to these children
*how we teach integrity!
*in meeting the needs of those around us

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Forth and Back..when two worlds collide

Here I am, back in Yendi, after a trip back to Oregon for Christmas. I saw almost everyone I wanted to see...but not all, answered alot of questions and got refueled for another 7 months here. I ran into snow in Portland, and the worst traffic jam in 10 years. I had Christmas with all my children and their "significant others", and had some great food. We barbecued steaks and watched the Oregon ducks in the Rose Bowl. I thought I would freeze the first couple of days back, but got used to it quickly. But it was all like I had had a strange dream and woke back to the real life. Now it feels like I am in the real life and the visit home was a dream. Very weird. It doesn't register in my brain that the two worlds exist at the same time.
Did I feel culture shock when I went back? Not as much as I thought I would. I was prepared for the commercialism because it was Christmas time. I had thought that it would bother me, but it really didn't. I did see a segment on the morning news about gifts we could buy our pets... like a $600 cat bed, and thought about how stupidly rich some people must be. But I enjoyed the dinners out and the gifts I received at Christmas. I understand our materialism because I have lived it. So, I have no lectures for all of you, but I do know in my heart that WE are a wealthy people, and we are all materialistic. But I include myself in that.
I was also amazed at the interest in the school, the mission and the children here. I received so many things that they would not all fit in two suitcases. Americans are still a giving people. I was overwhelmingly welcomed and surrounded with people who said they had been praying for me. This was such an encouragement because when I am here and communication is slow or non-existent it can get alittle lonely.
So, I know that Americans, at least the ones I know, are still compassionate and care about children a world away. I think that we all just lose sight of what we are here for. God has been speaking to me about this. Even here in Ghana, in a Christian school, where poverty and needs are right in front of our face, we lose our "train of thought" and start worrying about all the drama and problems associated with our lives. Some of these may even be big problems, but God tells us He can move mountains. In the book, "The Sacred Romance" the authors talk about our stories and dramas as compared to His story in which we are players. Satan wants to pull us away from thinking about God's story and get us to focus on our story (such as how to buy that $600 cat bed or that $300 Ipod, the neighbor's dog, or how someone treated us at church). Telecast sings, "... to be a part of Your story, the story of love, and our great need for You." Once I was listening to my itunes and the screen saver was running. These words came just as the pictures of some of the kids came on the screen. This is what keeps me going...knowing I am part of a story which includes these kids, His love and our great need.
Sometimes when I was home I did debate coming back. It was hard to know I was leaving family again for 7 months this time. But one of the kid's faces would come to my mind and I knew that I was not finished here. There is so much still to teach.

When I returned, I was very lonely for my family. I felt alittle sad and again, wondered if I could stay 7 months. My first day back at school however brought it all back. The children really are beautiful. They ran to welcome us, the youngest ones fighting to hug us. To pick up one of those little ones and hold them tight, or to hear 8 year old Ruhia say, "Sometimes I just sit and wonder who God is and where He came from", or listen to my class get excited about multiplication.... and I am back. So here's to you; Zulaha, Ruhia, Kayaba, Kofi, Wumna, Fasa, Wumpini and all the others.... your faces brought me back!