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.


provided by
trade and vocational schools