Thankful day forty two

Today I am naming what (in my mind at least) is a new category of thankfulness – defiant thankfulness. In the face of all that is going wrong and bad in the world and in my life right now (namely, 6 leaks/floods in the first three weeks of living in our new apartment), defiant thankfulness says there is something good in today. Some moment that I can grasp on to and say – yep that’s good, that lightened the load if only for a moment.

Today that moment came as Matt and I were exchanging stories on video chat of the various things going wrong within our cars. Our car here in California has a window that broke last week, was fixed and now today leaked rain all over the backseat of our car (not funny). Our car in Ghana (according to Matt) has an electrical problem that causes the horn to randomly honk at other drivers, which has led to some people yelling at Matt and wondering why he’s honking at them. Meanwhile he is throwing both hands up in the air to show them he’s not responsible for the car honking. Oh I couldn’t help it, I was bent over laughing my head off at this! I didn’t even know horns had an electrical component to them – I thought it was all manual (and for good reason!).

I really could just see the scene playing out on the roads of Ghana. In a situation something like this:

I returned back to our apartment to find our 6th and most recent leak all over the kitchen floor. Ugh! Mopped it up, again and then again. And I moaned over it.

Then I took a lovely, rainy walk (my happy place) with these three jokesters.

And still hours later am chucking over my hubby’s own challenges.

Defiant thankfulness – it is sweet to savor.

Oh and if you are the praying type, please pray these leaks and floods would cease. My deepest thanks.

-joy

A Sprint to the Finish

I moved to Ghana 2 years ago. Tomorrow morning, in my final week, is my Magnum Opus here.

We are launching The Justice Thread, a Bible study/ book/resource/ tool that I wrote (in collaboration with the awesome IJM Ghana team) all this last year. I did 7 drafts over that period, each improving on the last. We did field tests on three of those versions with hundreds of pastors and church leaders from communities all around Lake Volta. Many week-long road trips. Hundreds of hours in books and at my laptop. Many strategy meetings. Countless rounds of editing and designing. It has been a long road.

The evolution of the project!

But now we are finished, the book is printed and I am sprinting to the finish line!

It is traditional here to throw a big event to launch a new book. Tomorrow is the launch! Attending will be a number of very prominent high level church leaders coming, two members of parliament, government officials, the head of the anti-human trafficking unit, IJM staff, friends, and reporters from TV, radio, and newspapers.

As part of the ceremony, I am to give a 30 minute introduction and overview of the book. I ask for your prayers!

I am so grateful to my long time friends, the Purnell family, for flying all the way from California to support me in this moment and to represent my sending church at the event.

Please pray also for Joy and the kids. Our new apartment in Pasadena flooded multiple times since I left and now mold is affecting their health (the exact reason we had to leave Ghana in November)! This kind of thing seems to happen every time I leave on a trip. Your prayers are most welcome.

Hitting the Presses!

A big moment for me, my book is being printed!

The video below shows the printing of the cover.

The book is called The Justice Thread. It is kind of my baby. I wrote it as my major IJM project for the year in Ghana while also basing my doctoral project around it.

It is designed as a introduction to Biblical Justice for Ghanaian churches. It also introduces the current problem of child trafficking and IJM’s work against it.

We’ve been blessed to get endorsements from several prominent Ghanaian professors and church leaders, as well as Gary Haugen, founder of IJM.

G-Pak, the publishing house associated with one of Ghana’s biggest newspaper (the Daily Graphic) is printing 8,000 English copies. When the translations are finished, they will print 2,000 each in Ewe and Twi.

Sammy, the designer of the internal layout, finishing up last minute corrections.

Dear tree who gave its life so that this book can live, thank you!… And sorry.

Special thank you to everyone at University Covenant Church for sponsoring the publishing and launch of this book with your Gifts from the Heart offering!

Finishing at Fuller

I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am working in the Fuller Seminary library to meet a deadline…once again!

I have been working for about 7 years on my D. Min. (Doctor of Ministry) degree. I did my M. Div. (Master of Divinity) here from 2003 to 2006.

It is hard to describe how much I love Fuller. I first chose to study at Fuller because the people I met who graduated from Fuller seemed to be the kind of people I wanted to be like. I was not wrong. It is a place of true Christian scholarship, thoughtfulness, dialogue, diversity, faithfulness, and generosity of spirit toward all.

Tomorrow, my first full draft of my doctoral project (in place of a traditional dissertation) is due. It is on my work in Ghana, with the Justice Thread curriculum as the centerpiece. I have done most of this academic work and writing in Ghana, but it is really a cool opportunity to finish here at Fuller.

I ran into my content reader (like a supervising professor), Mark Labberton walking across the quad. So fun.

So far I am at 150 pages and counting!

On Wednesday, I fly back to Ghana for the official launch party of the Justice Thread. Below is the most recent cover design courtesy of Landon Ellis, a friend who was once a student leader in Catalyst.

We have moved into our temporary apartment where we will be staying through June, as I finish my IJM work and my D. MIN, and hopefully discern my next call. The family is loving it down here. Joy’s mom and sister have been over a lot and my kids love apartment life: tons of kids to play with! My kids are just euphoric about other kids knocking on our door to see if they can play. This didn’t happen in Ghana.

We are particularly grateful to my Mom and Dad for hosting us for the last 6 weeks, and more than 6 months over the last two and a half years.

Saying goodbye on moving day…

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Please keep us in your prayers.

Matt

Thankful day forty one

Today I am thankful for a walk amidst the fall colors. The bright colors (that still surprise me with their brilliance),

the fallen leaves,

And the energy of my boy who loves to run and jump!

It was delightful and soothing to this jet-lagged, weary self.

Thank you Lord for the enjoyment of this colorful, cool season!

Thankful day forty

Today I am SO grateful for the many hands that packed, sorted, weighed, carried, drove and helped us get our things into bins and through the airport. Whew!! What a process. I can only begin to describe God’s provision – our good friend here offered to drive bags to the airport for us and then the airport manager accompanied us through the entire airport and helped smooth the VERY challenging process of transporting 12 bins, 8 suitcases and 5 backpacks through the Kotoka airport.

We are on the plane and now we can relax.

It is so very sad to say goodbye to our friends and favorite places here.

Instead we shall “Yɛbɛhyia bio” (pronounced yeh- beh-she-uh be-oo), which means “we shall meet again.”

Thankful day thirty eight

Today I am thankful for another opportunity to go to Makola market.

This time I left the children at home with a trusted sitter and took my good friend, Priscilla, as a tour guide.

It was bright, colorful, busy and full of things to look at. And this was a quiet day at the market! *

I enjoyed this seller’s artful vegetable display!

A little video footage to show the movement!

This was a redemptive experience of Makola (I’ve since learned that many Ghanians don’t even take their children to the market – whoops! rookie mistake taking mine last year). I could relish in the busyness, marvel at the movement and engage in some small buying with a trusted friend speaking Twi to the sellers (English works but Twi is better).

This was also a bright, shining moment in my week. It’s been a HARD last few days of life here.

God knew I needed a bright spot and a friend. I am thankful for this day and thankful for Priscilla!

* cultural note: I’ve been told Wednesday and Saturday are market days. If you go to Makola on those days there will not be space for your feet on the ground. You might actually be suspended in air shoulder to shoulder with others. (That is how busy it is!)

Hope in the epicenter of child-slavery in Ghana!

I have spent the last two years fighting alongside my Ghanaian colleagues in an effort to end child slavery on Ghana’s massive Volta Lake.  Many of my colleagues are attorneys, social workers, investigators, drivers, and administrative staff.  I am one of two pastors on the staff.  We are on a four person team called the Outreach and Engagement team.  Our mission is   Our team works with government, media, NGOs and churches with the mission to educate, inspire, and mobilize the people of Ghana to rise up and demand an end to child slavery.

As a pastor, working with the churches of Ghana is the area I am most able to contribute to this struggle in which we are engaged.   Back in January, Leo and I (the two pastors on staff) dreamed big dreamy dreams of what we might dare to attempt this year.  One of those dreams was to venture up to the northern part of the lake, where the child-trafficking was at its absolute worst and see if we could get the churches in those areas to lead the fight against child trafficking.  We concocted a plan to do a series of strategically placed pastors’ conferences in which we invite all the pastors of the many fishing villages dotting the shores of Volta Lake to come and receive training in biblical justice and equipping on fighting against child-trafficking in their communities.   We dreamed of 3 such conferences, each drawing pastors from several hours’ drive along the coastline.  The idea is to surround the slave-masters with churches preaching and teaching, advocating against this great injustice, and reporting cases to the authorities.

I am proud to say that by the grace of God, we have completed this vision and we just finished our last lake-side pastor’s conference of the year!  This last conference was in a town called Yeji, which is the absolute epicenter of child-trafficking in Ghana.  This was the most difficult community for us to win trust in, the place with the most fear and security issues, but a place of great opportunity.  It took us 9 hours of hard travelling from Accra to reach Yeji and we arrived with a police escort since the final stretch of road is not the safest to drive at night without one.  Our week in Yeji was incredible, we marveled at what God did!  We hope and pray it is the beginning of a great breakthrough in a place that sorely needs it.  I hope you enjoy the videos and pictures below.

 

 

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Lots of things went wrong, like our main speaker being unable to make it, but Leo jumped in and preached the sermon of his life!!!  I wish I had a picture or video of that to show you.

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In addition to the Justice Conferences at the Lake, my other main contribution this year is to write this curriculum (which is also doubling as my final project for my Doctorate of Ministry at Fuller Seminary).  We use it now whenever we do trainings for pastors or other Christian leaders.  It is an 8 week bible study series especially designed for this context.

 

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We were able to offer discussion groups in 4 languages, many of which were led by Yeji pastors we trained at a pre-conference workshop.  I believe this one is being led in the Ewe language.

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A smaller language group in Ghana, but a significant one in this area is Nchumburu.  We only had one pastor come to the training who speaks Nchumburu, so he quickly became the most popular group (with 15 group members- not all pictured here)

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The Nchumburu group.  It seemed they were surprised and delighted to learn that a Nchumburu group would be offered.

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A Twi group, the most widely spoken local language in Ghana

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I believe this was an English group. English is the national language of Ghana.

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Three Ewe groups sitting a little too close together.  They eventually spread out.  Many of these men are fishermen on Lake Volta.

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A the end of the conference, the chief fisherman (left) who oversees 105 fishing villages and hundreds of fishermen spoke of his enthusiasm to support our message and open doors for its expansion.  He also shared about a man among his fisherman who wants to surrender a child because of what he has heard.  This was a first for us and we hope to experience more of this!  We pray that hearts will be convicted and that repentance and restoration will be genuine and thorough so that many children’s lives can be changed forever.

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Since we were beginning to see slave-masters express remorse and a desire to repent and set children free, we decided to tell them the story of John Newton, the repentant slave-master who wrote the song “Amazing Grace”.  Then Enoch closed our conference by singing it for us.

 

 

Amen Enoch!  Amen!