Post Office

Today I am so proud of myself for navigating to the Accra North Post Office (thank you Google Maps).  It was the furthest I have driven here (6 miles – takes about 30 minutes in no traffic and an hour and a half in traffic).   I had to stop and ask a security man where the post office was because there were no signs on the incredibly busy street.  And navigating actually retrieving the package involved going to another store to copy my ID, opening the package for customs and paying their fees.  As well as the power went out in our last five minutes of being there.  

I was happy to successfully navigate all these new experiences.  

The kids were especially happy to pick up a birthday package from the States.


Just rejoicing in small victories!!

Morning Ride!

It was a major thrill for me to watch TV on Saturday!  dzifa moring ride

Earlier in the week, I met Dzifa Gray, a local TV personality that hosts a weekly Saturday morning lifestyle show called “Morning Ride”.  She also produces a number of other shows.

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We were introduced at the soccer academy where my kids are enrolled.  The head coach there (Eric) has taken it upon himself to introduce me to parents of other kids at the soccer academy that he thinks could be helpful to our cause, which is a fantastic development.  The first of these introductions was with Dzifa Gray.  We got to talking and hatched plans to address the problem of child trafficking in Ghana on her show!

Dzifa expressed an interest in diving deep into the issue at some future date, but wanted to give it some time immediately.  Since the next show (this past Saturday) was a mother’s day special, she suggested we approach it from the angle of motherhood: How do mothers and kids become separated?  What would lead to a mother giving up her child?

Back at the IJM office, I inquired about possible mothers who could be spokespersons for us on this and Mrs. Joanna Deegbe’s name rose to the top of the list.

J20170426_110611ust the week before Leo (my boss) and I attended her formal ceremony at the Supreme Court passing the Bar to become an official lawyer!

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Joanna is married to Rev. Dr. Fred Deegbe, a well known and respected Baptist minister.  She is also currently a finalist for the MTN Agents of Change award for her work creating libraries to attract child street hawkers off the street.  A street hawker is someone selling various goods to cars at intersections and in traffic.  Joanna and Fred Deegbe are friends and fans of IJM and have been on a vision trip with us to Volta Lake and to an aftercare home, so they have seen the issue first hand.

During the week, I connected Dzifa and Joanna, worked through Dzifa’s producer Kojo, put together resources (sample questions, talking points, and research studies) for Joanna because she wanted to be very prepared.

Then came the big day on Saturday.  I think they did great!

What do you think? What is your favorite moment of this clip?

Bonus Clip! Here is the after-party at the Deegbe’s church a couple weeks ago when she passed the Bar. She is greatly loved there. I felt such a joy to be around these joyous people.

 

-Matt

A Day with the Boys

Today I got to spend all day at an aftercare home for our clients, boys who were rescued off the lake earlier this year.  It was amazing.

I rode along with two of our IJM aftercare team, trained social workers (one Ghanaian and one Canadian) who travel ceaselessly to make sure the kids are cared for.  They were doing individual meetings with the boys all day, evaluating how they are doing and what kind of support they need.  Meanwhile, I got to be outside playing with the kids.

When we arrived in the morning, the kids were already out playing soccer (football). I anticipated having a few moments to stretch and settle in before I joined in.  It was not to be.   A teacher gathered the kids on the grass, asked me to introduce myself and then lead a warm-up time for them. Now, I love coaching soccer for my kids back home and I’ve been watching Peter and Abby’s soccer training here 3 times a week, so I had a lot to draw on, but i was so surprised that my mind went blank a bit.  I bought myself some time by asking them to form a giant circle- probably about 35 of us.   All the games and drills that came to my mind necessitated a ball for each kid, but we only had 2, so those were out.  What came to me was this- High School Football!

“OK, everyone, HIGH KNEES!  GET THOSE KNEES UP, FASTER FASTER!  OK, now BOODY KICKERS, KICK THAT BOODY, FASTER FASTER!  NOW, 3 STEPS IN, 3 STEPS BACK, FASTER FASTER!”  Then, in a flash came a cheer from Lizzy’s Sports in Accra where my kids train, I yell “LIBBY, LIBBY!” And teach the kids to say “HEY! while they make a fist and pull their elbow down.  They loved it!

Then, I had them line up for a good old faithful game from my childhood: “Red light, Green Light!”  That was very fun as I had could mess with them by repeating red light twice in a row and catching them.  At the end I just said, TRY TO CATCH ME!  and I took off across the knee-high grass with all the boys in hot pursuit.  I bobbed and weaved and changed course a couple times just like Easter at UCC when I steal the kids’eggs, but these little guys are in far better athletic shape than me and my wind did not hold and they got me, grabbing ahold of me with big smiles and lots of laughter.  I said between gasps, “Let’s play football!”  So that’s how I got pretty well done in before the game even began.

We then played all morning, and I got absolutely sunburned to a crisp.  My nose is straight up fried.  At 1pm, while the kids went in for lunch, I went with our aftercare team down the street for some FuFu and fish in Peanut Soup

You eat with your hands and are not supposed to chew, but I stealthily chewed every bite.

Back at the home, it was games in the shade (Praise God!) including Foosball and Spa, a popular card game I just learned last Friday at the IJM staff retreat.  I did a lot better at Spa then I did at soccer!

I marveled at the youngest of our clients, 6 years old, who could beat boys twice his age and height at this game that is like a cross between air hockey and Foosball. Truly, he was a master at that game.
I also taught the kids a bunch of games like “rock, paper, scissors”, “hot hands”, “Big Boody  (which I renamed Big Man)”, and another cheer from Lizzy’s Sports.

I noticed one of the oldest boys at the home, not one of our clients but a boy who had come to live at the home there by some other route, sitting by himself deep in thought and, it seemed, in sadness.  I went and sat by him and asked him how he was and got no response.  I moved on.  A bit later, he sought me out.  He asked, “you’re a pastor, right?  Can I talk to you about something?  And we sat and had a very good talk, layered with emotion, fear, regret, and an uncertain future.  I did my best to offer what counsel I could.  I assured him of God’s steadfast love for him.  I prayed for him.  I hope I see him again.

Then it was time to go.  We spent an eternity hauling kids out of our van, where they were scrambling in and playfully trying to stowaway, just like my kids have done so often to their friends’ parents.

I wish I could have shown you pictures of these wonderful children’s beautiful faces with shining smiles and playful eyes, but this is not allowed for a variety of reasons.  I hope you can see them in your mind and I hope this image is enough to inspire you to pray for them and to root for them.  They need this for the long road ahead.

-Matt

Roads

Yesterday I walked out of a coffee shop – got in my car and was surprised at just how similar the road I was on – looked to many in California. 

And then at other times (most times) I look down a street and marvel at how African it is 

           and that I am here and navigating it.

It’s a bit hard to quite capture the hustle and bustle that goes on at every road side.  If you look closely in this picture on the right – you will see that someone is hanging clothes to sell from the tree…

…and you might notice the large open gutter and the cement building in the process of being built…


…as well as all the road side stands.

Today I got up the courage to go shopping for some groceries at the road side stands. 

I bought dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) here:

And was quite delighted to simmer then into a delicious creamy meal for our family!

P.S. these are pictures of roads IN the city.  Roads outside of the city are a whole different ballgame and may require a separate, future post.  But here is a taste:

stop and look

This morning the kids and I were eating breakfast.

And suddenly Hannah and Peter start yelling that there is a parrot in our tree.

I go to look

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and this is what I find.

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I don’t think its a parrot but I have not been able to figure out what it is.

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Any ideas???

It seemed to like eating these flowers that had fallen off a tree.

Just a taste of another new experience we have living in Ghana.

I’m grateful for time to stop and look and marvel at what’s around us.

Oh and also, one of my kids told me this afternoon,

“this house is starting to feel a little like home.”

HUGE win for Team Robbins!

 

together again

It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from us and

I bet you are wondering how we are doing?

Well,

#1 we are back together again.  and so, SO grateful!

#2 we are all recovering from the craziness of being a part for a whole month

#3 I am still recovering from surgery – and I have some good days and some days I spend in bed.

#4 Matt is recovering from a whole month of holding everything together in a foreign country that is still NEW to us.   and he is reintegrating back into work.

#5 there’s a fair amount of homesickness going around

#6 there are moments of joy and laughter in all the challenges:

-a day spent at the beach

 

-Easter egg hunt

-teaching our kids to play Settlers of Catan

 

-joy