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!

 

 

 

Thankful day thirty seven

(I wrote this post a few weeks ago…but have struggled with the right time to share it. Tonight as I sat in a bible study of young Ghanaians and we reflected on slavery and a God who is loving, merciful, powerful AND just – it seemed appropriate.)

Today I am thankful to see a part of Ghana I have never seen before. It is a part that most Ghanians have visited and probably the area most tourists come to see.

The kids and I got the opportunity to tag along on a work trip for Matt and welcome a small group of pastors from the U.S. We came 3 hours west of Accra to a place known as Elmina. Trivia fact – it was originally named “La Mina” (the mine) by Portuguese explorers who found it and established a gold trade with the local population. This castle is the largest and oldest structure in sub-Saharan Africa. It was built to house gold and later became one of the locations where captives were held for weeks or months before boarding ships as part of the trans-Atlantic trade slave.

I have read and heard much talked about these slave castles and it was good to visit one.

Good to see and hear and remember.

It is a part of Ghana’s history and a part of U.S. history.

It was sobering to see a church smack dab in the middle of the castle.

Yep, that’s the church – right in the middle of dungeons for 1,000 people. Huh?? It makes me think while churchgoers were worshipping, could they hear the screams and moans of the prisoners below?

I don’t know.

It is hard to fathom.

The cries of these people.

They must have been heard.

I know God heard them.

He hears them.

In the most desperate and dark of places

God sees and hears.

I am deeply glad for this truth

and deeply saddened for the suffering in this world.

Come Lord Jesus come.

Thankful day thirty six

Today I am grateful for a sense of humor and resilience that living here has nurtured in me.

I set about my kitchen tonight making dinner only to notice some black specks floating in my brown rice as I added the water.

Bugs.

Ugh!

And no time to run to the store.

Well…at least I know they float. 😆

So I poured lots of water in.

Poured the water and said bugs out.

Laughed and congratulated myself on sorting out the problem.

And now to cook my rice.

This is not my first time with this, folks! 😂

P. S. Don’t tell my kids. They won’t take in nearly as much stride as I just did.

But they did have fun on Halloween!

Thankful day thirty five

We are in the US for a few more weeks and enjoying access to things we do not have in Ghana.

Today I am crazy grateful for the library.

I was just in awe of aisle after aisle of free books we could check out and read!! What a resource!

As a homeschooling family with enthusiastic readers, I am ALWAYS searching for more books to use as resources. And it is NOT easy to get books in Ghana. I bring what I can fit in suitcases from the US and then everyone who comes to visit brings us another stack. And thank goodness for Kindles!

We have found one used bookshop.

And that’s our best version of a library! We buy a stack of books every 6 months and plan to donate them to the literacy center when we leave.

The experience here at the Merced county library was so exciting and overwhelming two of my kids were brought to angry tears that we couldn’t check out every book we found. (Yep, there ARE limits!). I am also thankful for the kind librarian who took pity on us and let us check out a few extra books!

Here are some of them!

It is amazing the simple things that bring us joy these days!

Happy reading!

Thankful day thirty four

Today I am thankful for the life of my grandmother, Roberta E. Hill, or GM as I always referred to her in writing.

I am thankful that last summer I was given the opportunity to fly back from Ghana and spend a week with GM as her health changed.

I am ever so grateful that all my children came to know and love their “great grandma”.

She passed away on June 1st, 2018.

We feel the loss.

Today I am grateful that our family could come together and cry, weep, laugh and remember GM…together.

Remember the 65 years of marriage she and my grandfather (or GP) celebrated shortly before his death.

Remember her love of music and travel.

Remember her love and devotion to caring for her family.

Remember some of her quirks that were so uniquely her…and chuckle once more.

It is truly the end of an era for me. An end of escaping to the safety and rest of Arizona and into the care of my grandparents.

And I will miss it deeply.

I cherish the memories.

I am so grateful for them.

Last summer as the kids and I said goodbye, my mom led all of us in reciting Psalm 23. It was beautiful and apt to get to recite it with my kids as part of the memorial.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Amen

Coming to Davis on Sunday!

For anyone interested, I’ll be preaching at UCC in Davis, CA on Sunday (8, 9:30, 11) and then sharing more about our time in Ghana after church (12:30pm). You are all invited!

315 Mace Blvd

Davis, CA 95340

Fun picture…

She says she is Cinderella, but I’m seeing more Thelma and Louise

Training Pastors from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church

We have been very busy! Over 1200 churches have signed up to do freedom Sunday in Ghana! We’ve trained 150 pastors in the last two days. Most of them oversee 3 or 4 others. They are imploring us to make our curriculum available more widely and more quickly. It is amazing to see how God is waking up the church to the cause of justice!

100 pastors in the Volta Region saying no to child-trafficking