Sunday, December 5, 2010

Responding In The Moment

I find it interesting in my role at the church the number of times I get an email or a word in passing on a Sunday morning asking the church to rally behind a cause, an individual, or a project that they have encountered and have been so impacted by it that they recognise the enormity of the situation and have started to seek out help for the solution.

So when Kathleen and I were exposed to some orphans that have HIV/Aids and a very compassionate man who is attempting to stop the HIV/Aids tide in the Nkonya area, well, it’s easy to come to the same conclusion. One wants so desperately to help solve the problem it’s natural to begin to think about all the resources you have or may have access to, the greatest being the church you attend. You have an overwhelming urge to call the church and ask it to rally and then anyone else that will give you their ear.

I have no problem accepting the reality of God calling some of us to a greater level of ownership on an issue, and along with that, provide you with the creative means of rallying others to the table. But I think that for the most part, God just wants the individual to just do the simple part that is staring them in the face. Do with the resources that God has given to you personally. Do it well and be generous. Then trust God to take care of tomorrow for that which he showed you today. For me, for Kathleen . . . for you, I think what God really wants from us is to just do our part. Whatever resources he has given to you, ask Him what He would have you give, then just do that part. It is so compelling to take the whole problem upon ourselves to try and fix things and forget that it is now and always has been in God’s hands, and he is the one bringing his resources to bear on the issue. We just happen to be asked to participate with Him today.

My personal rant: It’s not necessarily the local church’s responsibility to own whatever He tugs at your heart about. He is asking you to participate, don’t miss the opportunity. You are the church, so be the church. What is CrossRoads responsibility? Two things I think. First, do everything we can to equip you to be the church. Secondly, be listening to God and asking him what we are to do for him as a local body of Christ. We currently have some key focal points that we sense God has called us to participate in and so we will be diligent about those things. You can read about them on our web site.

Together we can change our world for the sake of Christ.

No matter where you are, whether at home or in Africa or Lebanon, if you and I are listening to God and then responding to his call on our hearts to participate in the moment with what we each have, then I think there would be much more done in our own local communities and around the world.

During these weeks away Kathleen and I have been asking God what is our part in the work here in Africa and in Lebanon. Perhaps we are done; perhaps there is more. But I am sure he will tell us and we will make ourselves ready to respond.

Are you listening? Have you responded lately?


Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Cedars

I wentr to the cedars today here in Lebanon. The forests here are almost gone and this tree is mow protected. They are absolutely majestic. I blogged a couple times on them last time I was here. I'll just post the links here and let you read what I wrote at that time.

Cedars of Lebanon

A Cedar of Lebanon, His Cedar

Kathleen had a hard day in northern Ghana. Pray for her, that she would have a good rest tongiht. She will be flying back to Accra in the morning.


Friday, December 3, 2010

In Lebanon

Friday Evening:

So I finally received my luggage this morning after being without for a day + the 27 hours the airline had me in their clutches. A fun time was had by all. I’ve tried calling Kathleen for the past day and have yet to connect with her to see how she is doing. Hope to try her in the AM again.

My time here in Lebanon is mostly used up with Matthieu and his family, encouraging them and speaking to Matthieu about the challenges of the organization that he leads in the Bekka Valley called Bridges of Love (BOL). The other family that is getting some of my time is Rahal’s family, who leads the Bedouin village in the valley that the CrossRoads team served last September and that BOL is currently supporting. You can read more about that village and the work there by going back into my blogs during that time frame. There are many.

I was going to upload a blog here on the wonders of airport life and let you in on a little of my fun getting here from Accra. You would only read it if you can handle my sense of humour for there is little substance outside of that. But now I think not. It's just a little long once I started to finsih it. I suppose if enough of you asked I might recant and upload but I don't think you'll miss much.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Catching Up

So here is a little catch up for you, since I was unable to upload any blogging over the past few days. I've got one that continues from this one, but I'll post it sometime in the next few hours.

Probably scroll down and start reading from where I last left off before this blog. I think it’s called Village Life or something like that.)

Kath and I came back to Accra with Wes and Katie on the Wednesday and then headed out west of Accra the next morning. We went to see an old castle that was used in the slave trading from the 1,400s to the 1,800s. About 578 years in total. (For the most part, I usually speak in roundabouts for those of you that need details. You have the internet.) It was profound and moving. These Ghanaians have reason to be angry, yet I find them all full of grace. Interesting.

Kathleen was not well, so the next day I went on a little excursion on my own and went to the rainforest where I was able to walk on top of the canopy on a swinging bridge about 350 meters long. Then a walk under the canopy. I think I blogged on this already.

Then Kathleen and I went to a small beach resort for some R&R where we saw turtles hatching and running top the water. It was something else to see. I guess not too many people get to see that. We did. Cool. I ate some bad chicken here and ended up with food poisoning which put me out for a day. Not a good thing. Lots of upchuck and fever for a day, then all was well. We headed back to Accra yesterday and caught up with Amanda, a friend from Red Deer and did a little shopping and visiting.

I left Kathleen alone this morning to catch a flight. She will take a flight up to Northern Ghana tomorrow and see some elephants and monkeys and a few other such animals in 38 degree plus weather. This will take place in one of the game farms that her cousin has developed. She will have a great time, I’m sure.

I’m currently on route to Cairo via Egypt Air. I’ll have a 2 hour and 5 minute stop over before continuing on to Beirut. My flight was 2 hours and 45 minutes late. You do the math. I have no idea what that means right now because everyone I ask talks funny. I’m hoping that someone has got it all figured out at the other end. I have not been able to speak to Matthieu and my cell is not working anywhere I go. I’ll probably still post this if I can catch some air time in Cairo, and then fill you in later once I land in Beirut.

Another day . . . . on a plane . . . . where is a transporter when you need one!

The little screens with the flight updates on them don’t help me. It’s telling me that we land at 11:34pm which is 24 minutes after my connecting flight leaves. So it looks like I’ll miss that fight unless something is broken on the connecting flight that keeps it on the ground for a while. (See how warped my brain thinks?)

No, wait a minute. The little screen says we have a 54km head wind. The time to arrival keeps slipping away. 11:34pm, now 11:35pm, now 11:36pm, now ... (of course I’m speeding up time here at about 5 minutes for every 12 characters)

Tap . . . tap . . . tap.

We are now at 11:42pm for arrival. The head wind has picked up and the little picture even shows that the plane is fighting a head wind but a bit from the side. The line was straight from Accra to Cairo but now it’s starting to form a “V”. The plane is not pointed straight at Cairo but at a 45 degree angle. The plane is actually trying to skid into Cairo. I know it’s not, but the picture looks pretty real. I wonder if they have a preloaded plane crash that comes up on the little screen if you’re going down.

I have to stop watching this!

I’ll not say another word till I’ve landed and figured out what’s next.


A Bug's Life

No shortage of bugs here. Back home we don’t tolerate any bugs in our lives. If we find one in our home we must drive it from existence. We will go to all ends of the earth to get rid of the ant hill that’s beginning to form outside the walls of our house. Here in Ghana, ants are considered clean bugs. You’d rather have an ant than some of the other critters that walk the halls. Sure, some bite, but for the most part, they are just a bunch of busy little animals going about their own business.

Here people just look at bugs as something that you coexist with. You don’t eradicate the species from your home because it would never be possible. The mosquitoes take their turns. The one’s carrying yellow fever fly around during the day and the ones carrying malaria fly around at night. Personally, I think they overlap a bit from what I’ve seen going on here.

Kathleen and I sat down for a nice breakfast at a resort here in Ghana. It was a 3’ square table. We sat beside each other in one adjacent corner and left the far two sides open. After sitting for a minute we realized we were not alone. There were about 100 little spider or mite type things running around in crazy circles in the far corner, probably lapping up something sweet from the night before. So we asked the waiter to take care of our little problem and all he did was take a paper napkin and swipe it across the table and said, “There you go.” We were happy. But then over a period of about 5 minutes, one by one they started showing up and before long there was a full chorus of the little guys again. We decided they needed to eat too, so we each kept to our corner and they to theirs and we all had a good breakfast.

We moved around a lot from night to night and came back to one place where I noticed three little sawdust piles neatly lined up under the runner on the bed frame. I didn’t have a clue but Kathleen thought they were termites. Wes sided with her, so we had termites gnawing on our bed while we were gone. Most of the bed frames are made of mahogany here. Termites love mahogany. At another place, I’m laying in bed at night with my head on my pillow, and I hear something digging almost like a little minnie power drill. I lift up my head and the sound goes away. I press my head down again and I can hear it again. I press down harder into my pillow and the sound is just resonating now. Cool. Termites!

When you wake up in the morning you get to see all the bugs you killed during the night. So you either swatted in your sleep, or just rolled over on them and squished them in the process. And then of course, when you go to bed at night you want to make sure the bed is at least starting clean. You lift up the sheet and sweep out the dead bugs from the day along with the odd live bug before you crawl under the sheets. For the most part, you just pretend they are not there.

We had it pretty nice here as far as bugs goes. I’ve hear worst stories from others that have visited Africa.



I know that Wes and Katie would prefer that I don’t use too many names on my blog, so for the most part I think I have tried to stay to first names only. And even then, I know that they would prefer I keep that to a minimum to protect the privacy of the village and the people here. But I do want to take the liberty of chatting with you a bit about Wes and Katie. They won’t be happy, but they will get over it. I’ll hear about it eventually when Katie reads this but I think she will forgive me. I’m hoping.

I want you to know a little bit about Wes and Katie as I have experienced them. I know that I could never presume to know a whole lot about anyone, especially after only spending a few days with them. But I want you to see them as I saw them during this time and came to know a little bit more about who they are and what they mean to this community. Again, from my short little time frame that I was privileged to see through.

Wes is a wonderfully intelligent man. I really like his sense of humor. Not too much get’s by him, in fact, I don’t think I saw one thing get by him.  Half the time you have to be listening real good to know if he was kidding or not, and I usually found him having some fun with you. I remember when I told him before I arrived that my time with them might be shorter than planned and he informed me that the inverse of being a host is taking someone hostage. When I came to realize how dependent we were going to be on Wes to get us from Accra to the village (a 4-5 hour trip over crazy terrain) and back again, his threat was real and I had to first digest that reality before I could get to the humor behind it. It all worked out and the 7 day extension to my time here made it possible for me to never find out if there would have indeed been a hostage taking of sorts.

Wes is the techno wizard of all that goes on here for the translation team. But then I found out that he is not only that for this team but for all the Wycliffe translation teams across Ghana. I think there are seven. He keeps all their computers and software going, in fact, he wrote some of the software that they are all using now that is making their jobs much more effective and productive.

Katie is a mom to everyone she encounters. She is adored here by everyone, yet she is not a push over. She has that perfect touch of knowing when to care and when to be tough. She is amazing to watch in action. She would bring everyone home if she could, so Wes tells me, and she has managed to do with a number of young people that she now calls her “kids”. She is picky, and to be one of her “kids” she has to see a real quality of character, determination and desire to learn and be great. Once you pass the test she would give her life up for you.

Katie’s first calling was a nurse and she has never left it behind but uses it well here for her guests, myself included, and those she encounters in the village that need a little care. She, like Wes, is also a very intelligent person and her part on the team was to take the translated verses from the team and line it up with the Greek. If it missed the mark, she would inform them of what she saw and they would take another crack at it. She then had a chance to look at the results a second time. She is now busy learning Hebrew so she can serve in the same role for the Old Testament.

I will protect their privacy when it comes to how they manage their support and how they bless the people they do life with. But I will tell you this and leave it at that. This couple gives in many directions around them, and I’m completely impressed by the level of wisdom and balance that they use. I think they give away more than they keep. If you happen to be one of their personal supporters, you bless many people through the hands of these two wonderful people. I’ll not say anymore.

I think Wes looses a lot of arguments with Katie, and he just smiles and knows the real truth.  I laugh when I say this because whenever Kathleen and I were in the room with the two of them, along with Scott their son, it was three guys against two girls and we fellows always seemed too loose. Go figure! Wes is a very gracious person and I can tell these two work very well together.

Wes and Katie are here to deliver the New Testament after many years of development, and now begin working on the Old Testament. The Nkonya people have very little understanding of any other language here in Ghana. They know a little Tri (I think that’s how it’s spelt), and little to no English. Many of them are able to read Nkonya so when they were able to finally read God’s Word for themselves for the very first time, well, I wish you could have seen the joy and elation that existed here during that first week. They are so excited and so thankful for what this team has done for them. Yes, they have seen it coming for the past 15 plus years, but now they can touch it and hold it for themselves and of course, read it the Word of God. Thank you Wes and Katie for serving the Kingdom of God in this way. On behalf of all CrossRoads, it’s been a joy to play a small part in this project and in your lives.

Both of these wonderful people are very much individuals, each very unique in their gifting and personalities, yet both are on the very same page working together for the good of these people. They both want so very much to be a part of these people, and never see themselves as above them.

In this small village I think there are only 2 or three vehicles. They have often received a knock on their door in the middle of the night asking for assistance to take someone to the hospital. Katie told me that she has never felt abused in this way by the villagers. It’s usually very drastic when she gets one of these knocks and they don’t hesitate to help give a ride in these cases. The hospital is many miles away and night travel is not particularly safe from road hazards and things in the night. They are fun to watch in action with these village people. There is just not a lot of “self” happening and there is a whole lot of “others” happening for Wes and Katie.

I’m starting to understand that North American missionaries come into these environments with all kinds of personalities, needs, gifting and such. There are some that need their separation from the locals to maintain their sense of normalcy and then there are those that perhaps are okay without the privacy. I think God uses both types for different situations. God has a lot of grace for each of us in our ways and in our needs to survive what he asks us to do. For Wes and Katie, I don’t think they could survive without being the kind of people that are “just one of the locals”. They feel at home here more than I think they feel at home in Canada. I have experienced them in their sweet spot. And it was a joy and a privilege to be allowed a small view into their world here.

They are loved by these people, they are greatly appreciated, and I think greatly needed. They indeed a blessing to so many here, but they would be the first to say they themselves are the recipients of the blessings having known and been a part of these people here.

I know that I could never give them proper service here, but I had to try so that you come to know them a little better. I just hope I didn’t so them a disservice in this little write up. I just wanted you to come to know what I now know. They are two very great people and we at CrossRoads get the privilage of having them in our midst.


Village Life

Kathleen and I were really captivated by the village life, specifically that of the Nkonya people. The Nkonya people are spread out over a distance of about 10 villages (something like that). We lived with Wes and Katie in Wurapon.

The village we lived in was about 1,200 to 1,500 people. Everyone knows everyone and so when we came to visit Wes and Katie, we received a great welcome from a host of kids and adults.

We liked to go for the off walk in the village so we did that at every opportunity. Kathleen heard that there was to be no hand holding between a man and a woman if you were out in public. I ignored that one but heard about it every time I grabbed her hand. You’d think . . . !?

There was not a lot of color in the village as far as housing was concerned. The streets, if you call them that, walkways perhaps, were dirt red, and the buildings were grey cement or red clay. The roofs had tin on them. Some of the poorer villages used grass roofs. They would have had to change them out every couple of years or so if they were using grass. All of the color was found in the people’s attire. The dresses and men’s wear were a lot of fun to see because they put a lot of effort into making sure they looked really good. The fabrics are amazing and if you wanted to look authentic, you had to wear fabric that was woven in Ghana. It’s quite something to be in the middle of where they go to great lengths to look very well in their dress, yet live in poverty. The women also have hair that is amazing and looks like they spend hours getting it to look that good.

The children that go to school all wear uniforms. A whole host of colourful uniforms throughout Ghana. It was fun to see all the combinations. You can tell those not able to go to school by the kids running around during the day without a uniform. There are many.

We were amazed at how clean their home and store frontage was in this area. Perhaps not so in other areas we would discover during our time in Ghana. As one drove down the highway through the middle of the village, the homes and store fronts, usually one and the same, were absolutely spotless. No garbage. And the displays of fruit were elaborate and no matter what they sold in their small booths, it was displayed and organized with great care.

One day Kathleen and I went for a soda pop (all glass bottles here), specifically a Fanta orange pop. (Yes, I even held her hand and got the lecture.) We found a quaint little shop and recognized one of the customers as a teacher we had met earlier and she helped us buy our first purchase in Ghana. They cost us about 70 cents each. I left some change and the store keeper beamed. There was no room in the little store, maybe 6 feet square. But there was a little bench and we were obliged to sit and drink our warm sodas with the store keeper and the teacher while visiting. It was fun.

Every time we went for a walk we received lots of smiles and hellos. They know we are with Wes and Katie and are strangers in their village. “Stranger” is the only word they have for a foreigner or a guest so to them, us being a stranger among them is an endearing thing and they were very gracious and welcoming to us.

A number of times I would be sitting in Wes and Katie’s home and a guest would arrive to speak with one of them and they would all use the Nkonya language to greet each other. It’s the most amazing language to hear in a greeting. I don’t think they realize this. They spoke in very tender cooing voices back and forth, completely engaged in each other, asking how the other is doing and saying hello to each other. Every time this happened in front of me it was like time stood still until this little exchange was done, of which I was extremely jealous that I was not able to participate. I never heard this type of banter anywhere else in my travels in Ghana, so I was left wondering if it is specific to the Nkonya people.

There are goats and chickens everywhere. I think the population was double if you added in the goats, and perhaps 4 times higher if you added in the chickens. They all seem to know who belongs to who and go home at night, yet I saw very few, if any, pens for all these animals. The male goats were eaten on rare occasions, usually for a celebration I think, unless of course they were the local stud. The females were used for delivering offspring, and were retired after they had put in a good long life of bearing those offspring.

With all these chickens there were also a lot of eggs available. Some of the eggs tasted a bit like fish since that was a staple diet for the chickens. I have no idea where all these hens laid their eggs since they just ran free. Must have been fun attempting to round them all up every day. Either that or they just keep raising chicks. From the numbers, I have a feeling more the latter.

I personally think there are more roosters here than hens because of the racket they start making at 4:00am every day.

This was a beautiful village. I can see why Wes and Katie love being here. They are not strangers here.

I'm not uploading too many pictures here to protect privacy. Most of our village pictures have a lot of people in them like the one example I've uploaded here. She was a store keeper that cooked food for sale.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hopping airports

Just a quick note to let you know Kath and I are still alive. We've been out of cell phone range and internet range for about 4 days. I've got some blogs to upload but I will not be able to do that until I'm landed in Lebanon and at Matthieu's home.

I'm at the airport in Accra and will be flying through to Beirut via Cairo. Will arrive sometime tonight after midnight, Beirut time. Kathleen stays behind in Ghana and takes a trip to the northern region to see some of the game preserves that her cousin John has developed.



Friday, November 26, 2010

Mine to Know

Friday monring:

Did a nature walk today under a huge rainforest canopy. I didn’t see any animals outside of the insects. The Ghanaians have no word for insect. Everything is what it is, or it’s just an animal. So . . . I saw a lot of animals that weighed under 1,000 mg. A marching row of soldier ants was the most fun.

A huge variety of trees. I won’t bore you with them, although I was not. But I would like to share with you one tree that was really good at killing other trees. Huge trees. It’s lay name is a Strangling Fig tree. Basically, it sneaks up along side of the large tree and begins to strangle it, growing up around it and eventually engulfing it with itself. It’s a form of parasite tree. It can only grow large by attaching itself to another tree. The most interesting thing about the one we saw was that our guide said that this particular tree engulfed and killed another of its own kind, which had previously done the same to some other type of tree. Hard to tell from the picture, but there is a dead tree inside. Well, two actually. They always start by tangling itself around the big tree, which you can see from the second picture I’ve uploaded. (Ignore the tourist, he's harmless.)

Made me think. (Yes I know, not again!?)

Have you ever reflected on your past and considered the person you were in your youth, or perhaps even younger? And then asked yourself this specific question. What have I lost? In other words, what did I have going for me then that I don’t seem to have anymore. Life’s bumps and bruises have removed that part from me and it would be good to have it back when I think about it.

I’ve got one or two things that have gone missing and I think I just suppressed them, hid them, for the sake of projecting a different person. One that I thought was more presentable, more successful, more acceptable.

I’m talking about the whole idea of who is the real me within and have I been over taken by some kind of super-me to wear in front of others to ensure acceptance and whatever else I thought was necessary.

The picture of the strangling fig brought this to mind, as I wondered if I am my own worst enemy, and perhaps, have I strangled the real me that existed many years ago. I know that time and the bumps and bruises shape us and that’s a good thing. But I don’t think they should ever strangle the deeper persona that God created within me to be.

I need to spend some time with God on this and ask him to restore that which has gone missing and perhaps has been strangled, be that by myself or other means. I know what those things are and I could get into it with you, but I don’t think it’s yours to know. You have your own to call out.


The Streets of Ghana

Driving around Ghana’s towns and cities has been most fun and interesting. There are literally thousands of little family businesses along the roadside where people bring their produce from their small farm to sell in a makeshift booth or open table. But besides the produce you’ll find a large section of roadside businesses where a few mechanics might be doing car repairs, or perhaps a plumber, a pharmacist, brick maker, or a furniture store represented by a couple of sofas. No other furniture, just a couple of sofas, usually matching. Or you’ll find a pile of used tires for sale. Sunglasses, dry goods, fish prepared in a multitude of ways. I asked about the used tires. There are thousands of them. The new tires are so expensive that most have to purchase used tires. If there is actual tread on 50% of them I’d be surprised. The government is looking at regulating and perhaps subsidizing the cost of new tires since the used tires are creating a huge road hazard for those that are using them.

Anywhere that the traffic slows down to a mere crawl you’ll find individuals carrying their goods on their head, bombarding your vehicle looking for someone to spend a little money on their fruit, homemade cooking, home goods, water bag and even a coke. We even saw one guy trying to market some bathroom scales.

The most fun thing about the whole commerce thing is the names chosen for these roadside businesses. Here are some examples,

God and Sons Telecommunication LTD (how can you not buy a phone here!)

Majestic Way Bakery (Now that’s has to be good bread!)

Faith Men Company Car Wash

Blessed Fruit LTD

All Mighty Hairdressing (imagine getting your hair done here? I’m thinking that you will not find a better cut anywhere!)

Lord is My Light Enterprises

Glory of Breakthrough Plumbing LTD (Now that’s a plumber that knows what everyone is looking for!)

I don’t think that I am exaggerating when it say that at least 1/3 of all businesses here have a name that’s been spiritualized in some form. If you found a yellow page book here (and I don’t think there is one), you would find thousands of businesses that start with Blessed, or Mercy, or Majestic. Some do it for luck while others are honestly giving God glory. I’m thinking the former more than the latter.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Clinic Bound


(Feeling greeat today)

Today was another good day of learning.

I was able to go with Katie to an HIV/Aids clinic with 3 adults and two little children, David and Hanna. Hanna was the little girl sitting on Kathleen’s lap the day before. We learned today that Hanna was abandoned yesterday after the meeting. She was sent home with Foster that afternoon and he thought it was just for the night because he was taking her to the clinic today. He went to her home this morning to get a change of clothes for Hanna and her guardian gave him a bag of clothes of which Foster realized was all her clothes. They had no intention of taking her back.

The truth here is that many young children have been orphaned and find themselves being taken care of by a guardian, most of whom cannot afford what it takes to feed and clothe another child. When a child becomes HIV positive, the cost of the medication gets added to the monthly costs of caring for a little one. So they often are abandoned once they are infected.

The ride to the clinic had the 7 of us piled into Wes and Katie’s truck, bumping along over rough roads for about 65 km.

When we drove up to the clinic there was a big sign posted outside on a post. NO HOOTING, NO HAWKING, NO DRUMMING. I wished I would have taken a picture. I forgot my camera today. Hooting is to honk your car horn and hawking is the equivalent of selling. Drumming takes place all over the place. It can happen on the street, in back yards, at schools and every church. They can start up at any time of the day or night, and usually is accompanied by lots of dancing and laughter and song. They kept me awake a couple of nights so far. Cool, but it’s still noise at 3 in the am.

Once we arrived at the clinic, we found out that their machine for testing the blood cell count was on the fritz, and so we were unable to provide the needed care that these 5 were hoping to receive that day. It will have to happen Thursday at another clinic.

I was treated to a tour of the clinic and meet some great people that served there. A gentleman explained the whole process to me that a person needs to go through to be diagnosed, then treated, then educated and then cared for long term. Turns out this machine that does the testing for them has been down for three weeks. When it’s up, they test an average of 5 per day. So the need is huge for this machine to be operational, and yet it remains broken. Sadness; frustration.

So we fed our passengers and returned, bumping along the rough 65kms back to Nkonya.


Send Me Lord

Monday Afternoon:

At around 10:30am today we went to a gathering where pretty much everyone there had HIV/aids. It was a meeting where men, women and children came from miles around once a month to encourage one another and share their stories. A local pastor gathers them and shares something with them that would encourage them, then the clinic nurse stands up and shares on a number of fronts that they need to be aware of, and then they heard stories from one another. Before they left, we ate together.

They started out the meeting dancing and singing to the Lord. One lady up front got up on her weak legs and wanted to join in the dance and yet never had the strength. She looked the most joyful of all of them. A couple of ladies grabbed hold of her and helped her get out to the center and dance and sing with the others. She lost steam a few seconds later but you could see it on her face and those that helped her that it was well worth the effort.

Later I found out that this lady had a stroke after she got HIV/Aids and her family put her out of the house and shipped back to her home town to die. They told her she was not wanted and all her earthly possessions would be given to her sisters because she would have no use for them anymore.

One lady had a tiny little baby cradled in her arms as she danced and sang. She was not able to take her eyes and her smile off of her baby. I’m not sure if it was hers, most of the children present were orphaned from parents that had been passed on from their sickness. This one was young enough that it was probably hers and she was enjoying a special moment with her child. Perhaps with the thought of knowing that she might leave this child behind here at some point in the future due to her own disease.

Kathleen got up and joined with them in the dance around the circle as they sang praises to God. When the dance was over she sat down panting and said, “It’s hard work being African!”

Then Peter got up and led everyone in some more singing. Peter is around 17 today and about the build of an average 9-10 year old boy. I don’t think he can weigh much more than 60-70 lbs. He is not as thin as he once was due to medicine and better eating. Still and orphan and living with someone that cares. They sang a song of “We will worship God!” and after that he then led then in a song that went something like, “Who will go for me? Father I will go for You, send me!” Profound words for 40 people to be singing at the top of their lungs and have HIV/Aids.

As I watched and listened, I saw faces in the crowd that were full of joy, some full of fear, some painted with sadness, perhaps even some with anger etched on their brow. The fact that they were there at this meeting said volumes though. They were seeking some meaningful sense of hope, an increased level of faith, and some love and compassion. There were lots of all of those things here today.

Today I also meet Godfrey. He is 9 years old and has HIV/Aids and malaria. He is all skin and bones and looked like Peter a couple of years ago. He is feverish. I could feel the heat permeating off of him as I held his arm. I was privileged to share my plate of food with him and he ate well for such a sick little boy.

Kathleen held a little girl named Hanna on her lap and she was very sick. As she sat on her lap there was no movement, no squirming, no busy little girl talking, just a little girl that had barely enough strength to lift a bit of rice to her mouth as she shared a plate of food with Kathleen. Kathleen mentioned that when she lifted her up to her lap all she could feel was a tiny little rib cage with nothing else around it. She was 9 too, just like Godfrey. We thought maybe 6 until we were told different.

Today I experienced God’s presence through these people.


(no pics on this to protect the privacy for those in attendance)

Jesus did well

Monday morning:

This morning we went to the office where Wes and Katie work, and presented some gifts to the team of 5 that work with them. They are all Ghanaian and trained in linguistics and tranlation and played a huge part in the 21 year project of translating the Nkonya New Testament. The gifts we presented were netbooks from Canada that Wes has configured specifically for each one. They were completely taken by surprise and it was fun to do this for them. CrossRoads also played a part in completing the office for them, so I had a chance to see it and appreciate what we’ve been able to do for this team.

This was really special for Wes and Katie to do this for them, with CrossRoads help on the netbooks, to show them how special they are and appreciate their efforts. After they opened the gifts and chatted excitedly about their new netbooks, Fostor, one of the team stood up and held his netbook high and started to dance and sing to the Lord. The other 4 followed quickly and we watched and were blessed. Katie said the song was something like, “Jesus did well, He is so good to me!”


Humbled or Humble

Monday Morning:

Well hydrated but still sick. Getting better. Thanks for those that were praying; and for those that made sport of me, well, I'll let God deal with you personally.   :)

I am often quick to write a day off when it doesn’t go down the way I had it planned. Drives me nuts, and when I am the one that was the primary cause, well those are the easiest to write off. When it’s something or someone else that is the cause, then I can extend some grace in that direction, usually.

So to have a day here like that when every moment is prime time, and I was the cause of a write-off, well, I’m still smarting a little when I think of it.

I know better than that. So today I needed to reflect and be reminded that every moment is prime time, regardless of circumstances. I need to take my own advice on this one. I often tell others that every circumstance is ripe for the picking of moments to hear God, moments to learn, and moments to grow. A veritable smorgasbord of rich learning points if you so choose to allow.

So on reflection:

1. Pride always brings a person low eventually. Usually we like to think we are good at knowing when to be humble and when it’s okay to not be. But when we are forced into a state of humility, well, you want to fight back with everything in you. God said it clearly, if you will not humble yourself, I will humble you. This gives me a vivid picture of a person being pushed face down in the dirt (being made humble due to one’s pride) and this person pushing back with all his might attempting to get up. Yet there is no winning here until the person completely relaxes and allows himself to be content in being laid low. Complete abject humility. This is a person God can work with and transform.

2. It’s then amazing, how after relaxing in your humility that you are then able to see the grace that was surrounding you from the very start. Grace from people around you, grace from God. It has an amazing sustaining power to it

Ever found yourself forced into a humble state? Check it out, if you are still fighting it, you’ll never see or experience the grace that accompanied it from the very start. Relax and be truly humble in your spirit, accepting all that God wants to undertake in you. Being made humble and being truly humble are two completely different things. I hope I recognize the difference and respond with humility when called upon.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

A New Day

Sunday afternoon:

(I've got lots of pictures for today, but no internet speed to upload them. Use your imagination and I'll fill in the details next time we meet.)

Still a little oozy from the bug, I woke up this morning feeling much better. Got some needed sleep and some needed hydration. I never thought it would be so critical for both of these things here.

Went to the Sunday service out in the open courtyard. It was a little embarrassing having so many people worry about me today. I’ll get over it. My embarrassment remains. But the people were very gracious. They were sure it was the tie that I wore that caused all the hoopla.

The service was really fun to be a part of. They sat around in a huge square with a wide open grassy area in the middle. Probably about 100 feet across. The chairs were underneath a canopy about 5-7 deep. The main pastor, Joseph, got up to start the service and tell everyone to move in to two sides because they were too spread out. He started speaking Nkonya and I couldn’t make it out what he was saying to them. This little announcement came at about 1 hour after the time the service was supposed to start.

I laughed because it was just like CrossRoads when we ask everyone to move in (bunch up!) and move forward so that we would be closer together. So I leaned over to Wes and said as much, he started laughing and said that yes it might seem the same as CrossRoads but there you wouldn’t threaten them with making too much room for Satan if you don’t move in.

I laughed some more.

The worship and praise time was so much fun. These people love the Lord. They would all come out from the canopy and begin to dance together and sing to the Lord. They each had a small white hanky in their hand that they waved and waved, which means “Rejoice!”

As the service continued, more and more people showed up. By the time the service was over, 3 hours later; all the seats were full all around the square. At some point in the service they asked me to speak for a while on thanksgiving, so I did. It was fun.

The offering was really cool. They placed two large wood containers out in the open and sang another song where we all danced in procession to the offering plate and gave with great joy. It was quite an experience to be a part of. I found myself watching specific individuals and watching them dance unto the Lord. One lady, in a beautiful blue dress was completely absorbed in a dance to the Lord. She would life her hanky to the air and look into the sky and I could see her having a glorious moment in God’s presence, just her and her God, enjoying one another. It was a really powerful picture for me. 

This was a day of rejoicing . . . . in many ways.

A long Day

Saturday Morning:

Today I never lasted too long. I went into the morning dedication service, which was to be over 5 hours long in the heat, depleted in many things. Along with no sleep, I had some serious bowl problems and I was completely dehydrated. I lasted about two hours and fainted in front of everyone. If I could have stretched this out longer before telling you this, believe me I would have. One of life’s most embarrassing moments.

I spent the rest of the day hydrating and attempting to get rid of whatever bug I had to begin with.

I’m not going to tell all here, let’s just keep this between the few readers that I have and me. Tomorrow is a new day. Right?


A Long Night

Saturday early morning:

So I went back to the guest house after the eve-celebrations and got settled for the night. Wrote that last blog.

Not long after, I started running back and forth to the bathroom. Oh no!

I’m writing this at 3:00am and it’s been at least 5 runs to the washroom. 4:00am, still awake and it doesn’t look like sleep will come any time soon. It’s been Canada since I slept.

Took some pills and it looks like some things are stopping (or plugging up, you choose). Not sure if that was a good thing. It kind of suppresses the symptoms.

Pray for me. I don’t need this here. I also don’t want it to impact the celebration tomorrow so I’ll have to try and hide it. D’oh! I just remembered that the celebration will last for 5-6 hours out in the open with no washroom facilities. It’s 35 degrees out there! (That “D’oh” was accompanied with my eyes opening wide with a hint of fear in them.)

I actually don’t think I got this bug here because we’ve only been here for two days. I had a hint of this problem a couple of days before we left Canada. So really, I think this sickness is Grade A Canadian born. Or I’m in denial, one or the other.

Okay, sorry for all the descriptors. Way more than you needed. I’ll try to refrain, eh?

Pray for me, for two reasons.
  1. I’m sick and it’s not good.
  2. This blog is not becoming a pastor and I may be getting delusional.

The One Thing

Friday night:

This is pretty cool here, people. Tonight, on the eve of the big dedication of the Nkonya New Testament, Kathleen and I got to hang with about 10 different translators from a number of translation projects in Ghana. It’s like one big family gathering where they are all coming together to celebrate one team’s success.

An aside: I’m typing this up in the dark in a guest house, where things are pretty dirty but still workable. The shower is most definitely NOT like home, that’s all I’ll say on that front! We are in the Nkonya area about 4 hours drive today from Accra. Here in the night, I can hear the crickets chirping, and somewhere out there in the local village is a drum fest going on. They sound just beautiful. We can hear the laughter and the talking, matching the drums for noise. I’m sure they are dancing. Good stuff.

Back: This specific project that Wes and Katie are involved with has been going on for 21 years. Tomorrow the unveiling of the New Testament takes place for a people that had no bible in their language until now. Image a team that works for 21 years with that kind of single focus. Kathleen shared with me a visit she had with one of the translators attending the evening pre-celebration. She said that for her team, not Wes’s team, they celebrated the dedication of the New Testament they were working on in 2007. Same type of effort and focus over many many years. She remembered going home after the celebration that night and laying her head on the pillow and saying to God, “It just can’t get any better than what I’ve experienced here today, and I’ve fulfilled what you asked me to do and I would be content now if you chose to take me home.” Kind of a Simeon moment where he lived his whole live to see the Christ Child. I’m sure that his one thing that he had to be about his whole life was to pray to this end. That God would send His Son.

So I thought about that for a while.

What’s the one thing that I have become convinced of that I need to be about?

What is the one celebration that I hope to be a part of that consumes my dreams and my thoughts and drives all my actions?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Touch Down

My wife is so funny, I love her. She had a blond moment. We get off the flight from Calgary into the airport at Frankfurt and the plane gets unloaded out on the tar-mat so we have to all bus in. She starts talking to a guy next to her and finds out he is from Canmore. Then we get into the terminal with the same group of people and starts talking to someone else and finds out he is from Calgary.

She looks at me all excited and says "Isn't it exciting meeting all these people from Alberta, in the middle of Germany no less!" I didn't know where to pop her bubble or let her enjoy the moment. I failed, I popped it. Should have keep my mouth shut because she was really enjoying herself.

Speaking of touch downs, in Accra, our destination in Ghana, the touchdown was a lot of fun. As soon as the plane touched down there was clapping and hooting. Took me by surprise. Then when we came to a full stop it turned into a revival meeting on board. There were “hallelujahs” and “Praise the Lords” from all four corners of the cabin. It was pretty cool. Wes told us that Ghana is quite Christian, and those that are not are not Christian are not comfortable telling people that they are not.


A Good Day

Sitting on the plane while I write this. What a great day. What a beautiful plane of people. I just love the variety. So many unique people. Everyone here created in the image of God, each one doing life the only way they know how. I'm sure some here with me are close to God while many more have no idea of how much God thinks about them.

Beautiful people. A little baby has been crying for some time. Not fusing, really crying where you wonder if there is room for breathing. Two sitting behind me didn't know each other but soon started visiting with each other, mostly about religion. They both have their headphones on so they are talking at a very high level. She is the child of all gods. Christian, Hindu, Muslim among others I've never heard of. He subscribes to goodness. Goodness is all around us in every being regardless of faith. The couple beside us are of another color. They look Russian and smell like some really bad food, but I'm sure they really enjoy their diet. (I wonder what I smell like to them, hamburger?) An older couple to the front and to my right are sweet. From Pakistan perhaps. He is curious and looks at everyone around him. He is wearing a turban. She looks like she would be a great grandma. A child way over on the other side can't stop talking because she is excited even when dad constantly tells her to settle down. I think they are an Indian family.

In front of us is another elderly couple. Mediterranean Of some sort I think. They are having a hard time with everything. Seat back, head rest, tv, tray, seatbelt. There son comes from somewhere else on the plane and helps them. He is respectful, kind, and gentle. I find myself smiling whenever he shows up. He reminds me of my brother.

People on the plane. I'm glad I'm one of them. I'm glad God chooses to love me like these. While I'm in a sea of color and culture and personalities, God deals directly with me with my stuff. Personally touched by God. I know His Spirit is equally engaged with each one here. Someday, for those who do not yet know his Presence, I hope they find him. That will be a good day too.


The Real Me Stands Up

I'm a fairly private person and if you know me, you don't get too much of what's rolling around in my head as far as emotions and such. You get the facts. You might get what I'm thinking but there will never be much there as to what I am feeling.

But there is the odd time when I open up and give you more of what runs around up there so I'm going to ask you to treat what I share with care and don't expect it too often.

For this current trip to Ghana and Lebanon, I'm going to have some fun throwing out a few of those crazy thoughts. And yes, I really am wired that way, just try and suppress any reference to it next time I may see you in person. I'll be embarrassed.

Much appreciated. Enjoy my blogs from hereon out till I get back after-which we can get back to just the facts.



ps - I sure hope you people don't take me too seriously.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Everyone Happy - Me Too

That’s done. I changed the tickets and everyone is happy. We get back home on the 7th and when I get back into the office on the 8th I’ll be ready to go on a number of key things I’ve got scrunched into the three remaining days of the week, all very efficient of course. Lesson learned.

. . . Okay, so I’m still working on the lesson.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Lesson learned, . . . maybe.

Interesting. So I learned a good lesson this past week. Well, not sure if I learned it fully yet, but I certainly became fully aware of a glaring “way” of mine.

So months ago when I knew I was heading to Ghana I asked Kathleen to join me because her cousin lives there and she rarely sees him. He is a wonderful man that has been instrumental in the development of most of the game preserves that now exist in Ghana. She was excited!

I’m thinking all along that I need to be gone no more than two weeks because I’ve got work to do here! Things to think about. Plans to make. Actions to take. People to see. Tap . . tap . . tap. Naturally, I think that I have to pack everything I can into these two weeks to make them as efficient as possible so I can get done there and get back to Alberta where life would be waiting for me to pick up where I left off.

Our trip was to include quality time with her cousin, two other friends in Ghana that we needed to connect with, and the Ghana team I was primarily going to meet. Oh, and preach too, see an aids clinic, and um, something else that I can’t think of right now. And hey, why not also skip over to Lebanon and encourage the team on the ground there since I am not too far away. I think I can do that in two weeks. So then I also put together about 6 things I wanted to accomplish in Lebanon. Kathleen and I will be gone for 15 days, 5 of which are travel days.

Sounded good to me (idiot that I am).

So now a week before we go I’m discussing our itinerary with my wife, the team in Ghana, Kathleen’s cousin, Matthieu and others in Lebanon, and it just get’s funnier every time I try and explain how everything is going to work. I’ve got people all over this world upset with me now and I’m like . . . . wow!

This morning I’m going to see if I can get some tickets changed before we leave on Wednesday. I’m so glad for my wife because while she may be upset with me, she can also laugh at me and with me in my foolishness. She is a doll.


ps. Happy Birthday Jordan, I certainly hope it’s not too late for you to learn something new today.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

From Ghana to Lebanon

So today you get to start listening to my diatribe once again, since I am feeling like I need to blog a bit in light of my upcoming trip to Ghana and Lebanon next week. I'll try and keep you informed and entertained as I trek.

Like for instance, I'm using this time to run away from the Flames and Stampeders. Both for the same reasons. I just can’t watch them. The Stamps because they might lose and the Flames because they are losing every game they play. Sheesh. I think I need to find a nice sandy area to stick my head in. Maybe it will all be okay when I get back to Alberta.

I'm missing my work already and I've not left the office yet. I miss my staff. I miss Sunday. I miss my girls and my boy. (Yes, I got a boy now. Comes with one of the girls. He's great.)

So, stay tuned. I’ll keep something running here.


Monday, July 19, 2010

A Living Story

This morning I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with a dear friend of mine. He is currently in the hospital recovering from a number of serious injuries that have completely changed his life and the life of his family forever.

As I drove home from the visit I started to think deep about what I participated in today. He was able to share a huge miracle with me the morning. Fresh off the doctor’s note pad, he is on the way to a very fast 100% recovery from all physical injuries. He can put pressure on all limbs now, and even wheel himself around the hospital. He was giddy with this new knowledge and new things to try. This is truly a miracle when you consider that fact that he had multiple fractures in all four limbs. In addition, he also shared with me that last week he was told that his larynx, which was damaged in the recovery period shortly after the accident, is also nicely recovering and will be 100% in a much shorter time frame than originally suggested.

The verdict on the brain injury is still out, but today I found a man in full control of his thoughts with some good pieces of memory. He has even seen a transformation in his tongue, which had some choice colourful (mostly blue) words at times since the accident, along with some fluent French which was nicely rejuvenated from his younger days. All credited to the brain injury. His tongue was crystal clear for the two hours I spent with him. He said that he is able to make some quick mind choices now with his speech that only a couple of weeks ago would not have happened and would have ended in some choice language that our moms would have quickly dealt with using a bar of soap. Another miracle.

On the way home I reflected on this man and being in his presence, as I listened to him speak of God’s grace and love for him, for his wife, for his family. I had this picture form in my mind of a huge theatrical stage where this family was simply cut down and laid bare for the world to watch with no warning to them or us. Where the script was set and the scenes carefully crafted and executed and I was being gifted with a front row seat where I would see God come close to a family in great need, in great crisis. A family made extremely vulnerable and completely raw.

The plot? God allows a horrific vehicle accident to happen, then begins to skilfully knit an unfathomable story together where a family is being tested, refined and transformed.

The sub plots?

How about this:

- Family of 7 separated from each other through distance and each found in shifting emotional spaces.

- Family and friends attempting to figure out God and the pressures of misguided love. Each, in their own way, desperately calling out to God.

- Financial chaos with complex financial decisions to be made.

- A child with burst appendicitis resulting in weeks of infection and recovery.

- A wife that is physically and emotionally exhausted, yet miraculously sustained by God’s hand. He carries her, this I know for certainty.

- Miracle after miracle of God’s hand embedded throughout the story line. From the accident through to each step of recovery, each step of life transformation.

- Amazing financial support from friends, various churches, and the extended family. All of it indelibly stamped with the fingerprint of God.

Today I saw one small act in a very large play that God has been unfolding for the world to see. Perhaps you’ve also had the opportunity to sit in the front row with me and at times were called upon by God to step onto the stage, their stage, and aid in some small way. Did you feel it like I did? Like you were on holy ground in the presence of God and this precious family, being asked to play a part of something very special that he was doing with this family. Stepping into a living story where God is refining, transforming all of the participants, even ourselves, even here from our front row seats. It’s like we were invited, or perhaps gifted by this family to share a sacred moment of theirs where God was coming close, sustaining, caring, loving, transforming, and we caught a glimpse of His greatness . . . of His sovereignty.

This story is not done, it is still young. There are many days, weeks, months of pain and joy yet to be lived by this family. Some Acts will be filled with tears while others filled with great joy. Yet in this story I am convinced that the far reaching impact of God’s love and tender care cannot be measured and it will not be contained. I am myself profoundly touched by God through this family. I am closer to God, yet I understand Him less. I trust Him more today than yesterday and have been able to see the miracle of transformation within my very own spirit.

My sovereign God, the Almighty One, the great I Am.

There is no one better to know, no one better to carry you and me than Him.

No one better.

None even close.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Looking for some Nibs

What’s the first food vise you go for when you are feeling down?

I’m always partial to some black licorice Nibs and a Mr. Jones Green Apple pop.

. . .

Alas, the corner store is closed.



Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Year Later

Yesterday my family all handled the remembrance of our mother in various ways. I made a meal using one of Mom's recipes. Another made some bread from the same cook book while listening to Mom’s favorite music. And then another spent the day with Dad, visiting the grave side, going for supper, reflecting some more. One trained for an upcoming race, in solitude, yet mentioned that he wished he could be here partaking with me in the food I had prepared, while the other spent the day with his children and the grandchildren, playing, enjoying life and experiencing the fruit of a great mother, a great grandmother. Each of us caught deep within our own thought and yet somehow throughout the day we remained intrinsically connected to one another, knowing and understanding each other’s feelings with few spoken words.

It was a peaceful, good day to remember Mom.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Mom

It was one year ago today that my mom passed away. My dad was in the hospital in Red Deer while mom was in the hospital in Lacombe. I stayed with dad to support him since he was unable to be at mom's bed side. Then I got the call from my brother. Time stood still for a while after which I shared the news with Dad. We had few words for each other, none were adequate.

This morning I find myself remembering all the good memories of a mom who loved me. I remember my mom spending a great deal of time at my bed side through some scary times of croup and bronchitis. Then every day coming home from school we would found something warm and freshly baked on the counter waiting for us to enjoy.  Killer meals where the food was so good. We talked her into helping us create a cook book a couple years before she passed away (thanks to my sister!). Now we have all those great recipes at our finger tips. I think I'll flip through it this morning and look for something to make.

Is you mom gone? What's your greatest memory?

Leading Change - the stuff of leaders

I just finished reading a book called The Extraordinary Leadership by John H. Zenger and Joseph R. Folkman. I found this book challenging on a single front for myself. It caused me to reflect on my past leadership wins and losses. So very many of them were around the issue of change. Leading people in value development, cultural change, exposing and couching teams and individuals in their move from one paradigm to another.

Perhaps the greatest test of a leader is how they lead a team through change. Greatest test or maybe the better word is "indicator" as to a leader's capacity to lead at different levels.

So a great question that the authors through out at me was to ask myself what change lay in front of me that I was working on. Do I have a running list of things that I wish were different in my organization? So I sat down and started writing. I ended up with a very long list! So a quick prioritization helped me focus on a couple of key things I need to lead my teams through. Should be fun!

So how about you? What is the change in front of you that you are working on?
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