Thursday, December 23, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I write all that to tell you of the adventures of teaching in an open-air, tin-roof classroom, but also to give you a real visual of the needs we have here. As some of you know, the construction workers have been hard at work for many months now building a new school building to house the 3rd- 7th grade classes, which now meet on verandas, in the activity center, and the chicken coop! I can say first-hand that it will be so nice to have a school building with sides. The students will benefit so much from it, as it will eliminate some of the distractions—rain, dogs, tractors, vehicles, lizards, etc—just to name a few.
All that being said, are you looking for a gift for someone who has it all and you’re stuck on what to get them? Have you thought about making a donation in their name to people who could really use it? ECM has a Christmas catalog with many giving opportunities. Take a look and see if there’s something you’d be interested in giving this year…
For just $20 you can help start new programs designed to fight child trafficking.
For just $30 you can purchase 10 bricks, which will help keep our new school building going.
For just $5 you can provide 10 meals for a hungry child.
See more about gift opportunities by checking out ECM’s Christmas catalog.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Mavis (to my left) is one of my students, and here she is with her sister, Ophelia...and I have Divine...one of the happiest, smiliest kids I've met!
Monday, December 6, 2010
…always get me d….Nope, actually that’s not true. In fact, here in Ghana I hope, cheer, and root for the rain as it cools things off. The rain is (almost) always welcomed with a smile. However, this afternoon it made for an interesting adventure…
The black clouds directly over the town we were going to should have been a good indication that going to market was not the best idea. But the problem is, we had to. Tomorrow I’m going to prepare and share a meal with my friends in the village—sort of as a goodbye…hard to believe it’s that time already! So today Rose and I headed to Nsawam to buy all the goods!
On the way there it started pouring, just as I had predicted. We were in a tro-tro (think 15 passenger van that usually has an average of about 30 people in it), and well, you could just say this tro-tro didn’t have the best roof. The rain started leaking in through several holes on the roof, one of which happened to be right above my legs. It started as a slow drip, then there were more, and then it seemed as though it was raining INSIDE the tro-tro as there were some pretty steady streams. Nobody seemed too happy about it…personally, I found it quite humorous.
When we got out, we ran and huddled amongst many others waiting for the rain to stop. I think this was the second time in my “Ghana career” that I’ve been cold. (It was probably about 75 degrees….do you think I’m ready for WI??!!) In my defense, I was wet.
After a half an hour of waiting, the rain let up and we headed out to shop. It’s always an adventure, but even moreso after a heavy rain. I wish I could adequately explain it or give you an accurate picture, but it’s nearly impossible to explain. Just picture walking through some of the worst-smelling fish stands possible, trying to remain grounded as you quickly shift all your weight upward onto a slanted rocky path as a man with a cart comes barreling through with no intentions of slowing down. I feared for my ankles! It was slippery, muddy, smelly, and quite an experience as we continued to buy more and more and carry more and more…inside I was screaming, “Piggly Wiggly, where are you???” haha…no, really, it’s a fun experience. I enjoy all the excitement, but I think I’ll enjoy “regular” grocery shopping again too. It just seems so easy…so adventure-less, but that’s a-okay with me!
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
...and here's our Ghanaian Thanksgiving meal! haha...on Saturday we're planning on concocting a more traditional version. :)
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
...just like the ones I use to know."
I’ll admit it… last night I woke up dreaming of Christmas and I just can’t stop! :) I’m dreaming of the smell of Christmasy candles filling the house, sitting by the fireplace and watching Elf, wearing warm clothes, going to the Christmas Eve service at church, looking at all the pretty lights, getting bundled up to go outside, sitting inside making Christmas cookies while the slow flies outside, eating Dad’s stew, making chili, buying and wrapping Christmas presents, going sledding (maybe skiing?!), going ice skating and coming in to some nice warm cappuccino…and most of all spending time with my family and friends! …25 days! :)
Thursday, November 18, 2010
"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..." Hmmm...I sure know what that's like! That's what my body is screaming to me every morning around 6:45 a.m. in the middle of my run when all I want to do is stop and walk. But I don't...I keep "trotting" away (as they call it here).
Why? Why don't I just quit and walk? Well...numero uno, because I was crazy enough to sign up for a 10K in HK in February and if I don't keep on keeping on, I won't finish it. I want to cross that finish line knowing I did the best I possibly could. It's a goal I've had for awhile, and I was finally committed enough to sign up for it. Second, I know I'll never get faster and gain more endurance if I just stop and walk when I'm tired. Those times that I push through the pain and temporary discomfort are exactly what help me to build endurance and get faster.
I can't help but see a significant parallel in my life right now to this picture of running with perseverance, not giving up, finishing strong... Life’s been a little rough this week. I’m hurt, saddened, and frustrated beyond words—probably more than I have been since coming here. It’s probably a result of all the little things built up over time, but the straw that broke the camel's back is the disrespect from the kids this week. One of the hardest things for me is to feel like I’m pouring my heart out for these kids…giving them love the best way I know how, spending time with them, teaching them, laughing together, reading stories, providing material things, and then in the blink of an eye you can become their worst enemy simply for disciplining one child who was—for Pete’s sake—harming another child!!!!
As a result, for the past few days we’ve been insulted and given the cold shoulder from most of the girls and some of the boys. Not getting a response to a simple “hello” is so hurtful when you love these kids so much. Yesterday I’d had enough. Sometimes I wonder if it’d just be easier if I didn’t care… if I didn’t love them at all, then I couldn’t be hurt. However, I do love them. That’s not going to change. I care about them so much and only wish they would see it.
Through this all, I’m comforted by two truths. First, these troubles are temporary and don’t come as surprises to God. Jesus states in John 16:33b, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” How great to know that as followers of Christ all of our trials and troubles are temporary and so minor compared to the glory that is to come! Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Second, I’ve been comforted by the realization of God’s love for me. I have been chosen and loved by God and have been just as stubborn, rude, unloving, and ungrateful as some of these kids are being right now. Yet God does not turn His back on me; He does not refuse to have anything to do with me. His love is constant, sacrificial, and real. Romans 5:6-8 says it better than I possibly could, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the midst of our own sin against God, He didn’t give up on us—in fact, He DIED for us!
I pray that I have the grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love that can only come from God to love on these kids, because everything inside me just wants to hide out for the remainder of my time here, but I know that’s no way to finish. Just like in my morning runs, I need to press on, push through the pain, insults, and hurtful ignorances, and realize that we are to rejoice in our sufferings because they produce perseverance, character, and hope. (Romans 5:3) Why? Because I'm running to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Not really... :) As I walked down to the “office” last night with my trusty flashlight to make copies—in hopes that the generator wouldn’t be turned off before my copy-making-mission was accomplished, I realized all over again that so many of the things that are just normal to me now as a result of living here for over a year, really aren’t normal at all. So, I’ve compiled a list of interesting school facts that are probably pretty unique!
- All the students (Nursery through JSS1) gather for assembly in the morning, where we sing, pray, recite the memory verse, national anthem, and pledge.
- When a teacher is absent there is rarely an effort made to find someone to substitute or cover for them.
- The JSS1 class (equivalent to 7th grade) meets in the chicken coop…don’t worry, there’s only one chicken!
- There are 11 and 18 year olds in the same class.
- The female teachers serve the male teachers at lunch.
- The kids sweep the classes (and the dirt) before school each morning, and a group is also assigned to clean the toilets before school starts.
- Classes are cancelled if it rains hard, because most of the classes meet outside with just a roof over their heads.
- Pencils are a huge problem—between handing them out, discussing who lost theirs, and sharpening them, class is always delayed.
- We usually find out about days off due to holidays the day before the holiday.
- The bell that rings to change classes is a small hand-held bell.
Just a little bit different!
Service…seems like a fairly simply concept. You do a few nice things for people who are less fortunate than you in your spare time and at your convenience, right? HA! . If there’s any lesson I seem to be learning lately it’s that my life is not my own and much to my dismay, service doesn’t happen on my timetable. I often have my priorities, preferences of what I’d like to do and when, and my ideas of how my time should be spent. However, as a follower of Christ, I am instructed to “deny myself, pick up my cross daily and follow Jesus” (Luke 9:23).
I have never been in such a position where it is so clear to me what it means to serve (even when that’s the last thing you want to do), and although it can be very challenging, I know God is using these experiences to teach me to have a servant’s heart and be more sensitive to His Spirit leading me. Back in America and even HK, I use to wake up and have a pretty good idea of what my day would look like, which is good because by nature I’m a planner and love schedules and predictability. However, being here in Africa, it seems like planning is a foreign concept and any plans and expectations are temporary and can change in the blink of an eye. There are a countless number of things that can change plans-- from rain, dentist visits, vaccinations, football matches, dorm inspections, and staff meetings—all which cancel classes—to impromptu trips to drive ill teachers out to the junction, bring one of the cooks to grind maize, take the kids home, or take the dog to the vet from a suspected snake bite.
When these “surprises” come up—especially when I have just sat down to do lesson plans or grading, have planned something with the kids, or have planned to take a short siesta—I have two possible reactions to the inevitable circumstances—I can serve with joy and sincerity or I can serve with a grumbling and reluctant spirit. Honestly, at times I react one way and at times the other. However, God has really been showing me lately that my life is not my own. I belong to Him and Him alone…whether I live or die (Romans 14:8).
Since I belong to Him, I need to be more submissive to His plans for my life, which cannot happen if I have all my plans already set in stone. So, although it’s not always bright and rosy, and I sometimes fail in the attitude department, I’m learning to put my agenda on hold and embrace God’s plans for my minutes, hours, and days. And I’m trying to serve joyfully, for Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8, “…for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
God is able to strengthen and equip us for all good works! I often find that even when I may be reluctantly helping someone out, there are blessings that quickly give me an attitude check. For example, last week when I had to take the kids and teachers home from school, which is about an hour worth of pot-hole filled, gut shaking adventure, I wasn’t feeling the most excited about it, but as I was getting in the van the kids were so excited that the “oburoni” was going to drive them home, and then when I dropped them off about 10 of the younger ones stood by the passenger door and blew me kisses. What’s not to love about that? They are precious and just melted my heart.
Service is not always convenient, fun, or easy, but it’s what we’re called to do as Christians and Jesus set the perfect example for us while He was here on earth…serving selflessly even unto death. What’s a minor (or major!) schedule change in comparison to sacrificing your life?
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
What a day it’s been! It’s definitely been one of those non-stop days, and although nothing out of the ordinary happened (well, for the most part), it was a great day. I taught my three classes right away this morning and was done by 11:35. They all went pretty well, and I think we’re getting into a bit of a rhythm…although, that can literally change in a matter of seconds!
By the time I finished grading some papers and organizing a few things, it was noon, so I was going to make some copies of sponsor letters so we could help the kindergarten teacher with those at 12:45. So in between I quickly decided to throw in a load of laundry; then I had to help the electrician find a plug some cord he was using, make the copies, and eat lunch. Well, apparently, this was a little too much, b/c I made a very stupid mistake… details coming soon!
We went on and helped the kindergarteners write letters to their sponsors, which was a lot of fun, because they are just SO adorable! This is when Amanda broke the news to me that I forgot to put the hose that drains the water from the washing machine (which we now use…instead of hand washing…yay!) into the shower. The result? I flooded Lauren & Amanda’s apartment! Haha…well, that might be an exaggeration, but I did flood their hallway and bathroom and their basket was floating. So, I got to spend almost 2 hours mopping that up! I can pretty much guarantee that will never happen again!
After that I opened the library and had some of the kids come up to read and color, while I helped some of the little ones with their sponsor letters. So, here’s my shameless plug for sponsors: We have TONS of new, adorable, eager to learn, African beauties who are still in need of school sponsors. For US$1 a day ($32/month) you can make a huge difference in their lives, and I can honestly say that the kids really appreciate their sponsors and greatly treasure any correspondence they get from them. If this is something that God has laid on your heart or you think you may be interested in, you can contact Every Child Ministries at firstname.lastname@example.org (direct your e-mail to Monica) or contact me and I can hook you up!
Okay, back to my day, just a few other highlights:
- saw a shooting star on my way to the girls’ dorm tonight
- Tawnee was in town and brought me back a Snickers bar! :)
- and…quick funny story: I walked one of the girls up to her classroom to get her books, and it was dark. A taxi just dropped some people off and it drove about ½ down the lane through the middle of our compound and stopped. I thought this was strange, so I pointed my flashlight straight at him to see what was up, greeted him, and quickly realized that he was out of his car, relieving himself! Haha…. Not expecting that one!
Just another day in Africa… :)
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Thank you so much for your continued interest and support of my time here in Ghana. Here’s a little recap on what’s new on this side of the world. This past week was really good…school went smoothly and the weekend was great!
In school I continue to remember that small progress is better than no progress. I’m learning more than ever to roll with the punches and be flexible. This is key to keeping my sanity. I also try to remind myself daily that yes…math is important, but even more important than the sum of seven and five is that they know, understand, and see thelove of God modeled in their lives. This is a good reminder on days where seemingly nothing is accomplished.
Friday night we took seven girls to Mr. Fred’s house. He’s another missionary here who is currently back in the States. He graciously opened his house to us to use for a girls’ night sleepover. He has a really nice place and it even has…waitfor it……..electricity and air conditioning! Whoa buddy! :) Definitely a bonus! As we were pulling up to his house, Tawiah, who’s 11 years old, says, “Shangri-La!” haha… It was a really fun night, and I look forward to taking the older girls next time.Saturday felt like three days in one and was probably been one of the best days in awhile. We woke up, made breakfast with the girls, ate, cleaned up and headed home. After 2 bumpy car rides home, day one of Saturday was completed by 9 a.m.! Time feels so different here when you rise with the sun!
After a relaxed breakfast and time with God, we took about 20 of the boys for a walk to the dam. Normally walks to the dam are pretty uneventful, but then again, nothing is Africa is truly uneventful or easy…that would just be no fun. ;) So, we got to the turn-off on our path only to see it not only covered with water from the recent downpours (as I expected) but covered by a raging river! Okay…”raging” might be an overstatement, but it wasn’t a small stream. So, we re-routed ourselves and made it to the dam eventually…just took a little longer than we expected.
After spending some time at the dam, it was time to head back so we weren’t (too) late for lunch. We decided to take the shortcut knowing there might be some ri
vers to forge along the way. We were right in this assumption, but were in for even far more of an adventure than we had expected! We came to a lower part of land that is typically completely dry and it was very flooded! Only one choice now…. It was time to dive in! We made our way through it, which was really no sacrifice for any of us, since it was extremely hot. The water was so refreshing, and the only setback was that as I was getting into the water I stepped on some sand, which sucked my foot in and as I lifted my foot, my sandal broke! Not a huge deal… it just meant I had to walk the rest of the way through lots of mud, one more river, and through the village one-shoed.
These adventures definitely spiced up our walk to the dam, and it was such a great morning!
Here are a few prayer requests:
- - for the students to have the motivation and desire to learn.
- - for unity and love among all the children at the home and school.
- - Patience, love, gentleness, and understanding as we teach, train, and live with these precious, but sometimes troubled kids
- for God to ease the pain and heartbreak that some of the kids live with on a daily basis because of their past
I think that’s all to report for now! Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing how you’re doing as well!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
One of my favorite Ghanaian phrases is “the this thing”. It can mean just about anything and can be used by just about anyone at just about anytime, and that’s not the only reason I love it….it’s just so non-descriptive that it just cracks me up! The crazy thing is that you almost always know what “the this thing” is referring to!
Yesterday, one of my students came up to me before school and said, “Ms. Dana, today is the this thing,” and I replied, “Yes…today is the this thing.” Of course he was referring to the test…what else? Haha…I’m going to miss all the African phrases so much… I can crack myself up pretty good with them, but I’m afraid people “back home” might not see the humor. I might just have to use them anyways… somehow. ;)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Last night I went to the village to read to some of the kids for the first time in quite awhile. I was greeted by little Priscilla (a sweet, sweet, precious little 1 or 2 year old) and her brother running up and giving me hugs… ahhh…this is why I come here! So, I rounded up some kids (and of course the adults like the stories, too) and read a few stories. I just love being in the village. Something about it is just so simplistic…so relaxing… so real. I love the fact that they are so community-based. So much of their time is spent together.
I love just being able to get a glimpse of their everyday activities…a group of 4 little boys (young—probably between 2 and 5 years old) stood a couple feet away from where I was reading, ground their own hot pepper, and dipped their akpale (made from cassava and cornstarch) into it, looked over and laughed as I sang parts of the story… so precious!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday we loaded up the van with 15 kids and 5 adults and headed off to Boti Falls, a waterfall a few hours away (give or take a few). :) It was by far the best excursion since I've been here (excluding the 7 hours in the car!).... the landscape was beautiful and the kids were absolutely fabulous! The hike we took to Umbrella Rock was no joke and the kids were such troopers! It started out pretty flat, but turned quite steep-- as in straight up bouldering for a couple of stretches. We crossed a little stream, saw a cave, and after some more bouldering, finally made it to Umbrella Rock. Probably about 3/4 of the kids climbed the ladder to the top...I even conquered my fear of ladders and made it up there myself...what a gorgeous view from the top!
Then, we hiked down to the waterfall. There are 2 beautiful waterfalls and a wonderful mist that cooled us down from our big hike! The kids had fun wading in the water and just taking in the breath-taking beauty!