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.

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