Join us on our faith journey as we follow Jesus to Ghana, West Africa!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Life In Ghana

Ken wrote the following haikus for a recent English assignment. We thought they gave a good picture of life in Ghana, so we asked him if we could share them with you. As I post this, the roosters in the neighborhood are going nuts! The photo is Ken in 2005.

Power Out

The night has begun.
Our microwave won’t start up.
It is power out.


The morning cock crows
As the sunlight fills the house.

Ghana’s life returns.


Coming out at night,
The rat skitters through the roof;
It eats all our food.


No attention span,
I start daydreaming in class.
I get in trouble.

(Chicken King)

The royal cock crows.
His fiery crown stands up as
He struts proudly by.

copyright 2007 Ken Jackson

Friday, July 13, 2007

Daughters of the King

Mary Kay writes...

I went to a crusade in the village of Kushibu, about an hour outside of Tamale, last night. I met a wonderful mission team from Heritage Christian Academy in Dallas, TX, at the guest house where I was staying, and they invited me to join them for the evening.

It was the usual stuff of village crusades – singing, dancing, praying, and preaching the Gospel. The entire village will turn out for something like this – but then again, what else is there to do on a given Wednesday night in a village in the middle of nowhere? The children all gather around, wanting to touch us, greet us, and practice their few words of English – which in this village seemed to be limited to “my brother.” I tried to teach them “my sister” or “sistah” as a Ghanaian would pronounce it. But since my Dagbani is at least as limited as their English, it was a lost cause.

During the sermon, which was entirely in Dagbani, I found myself watching the mothers of the village, who were standing across the circle from me. My heart feels such a bond with these women. But tonight, I found myself wondering whether we were more alike or more different.

I’ve always focused on the similarities before. They marry, have children, care for their families. They cook and clean and work to help support them. They love their children and try to raise them to become productive and respected members of society. They want the best for their children. I observed all this as I watched mothers quiet children who were noisy or restless. And as the hour grew late, every so often a mother would get up, gather her sleepy preschoolers, and take them home to bed.

But then I was hit by the differences. The women my age are grandmothers, if they have survived this long, and have given birth to 6, 8, even 10 or more children. They look more like they are in their sixties or seventies, than their mid-forties. And I don’t have to watch my children run around half-clothed in rags (well, except for Chip’s fashionably torn jeans!). I won’t hear their cries as they go to bed with empty stomachs (again!) because the rains have not come and the crops are failing. I don’t have to worry that the next mosquito bite will be the one that brings my child a fatal case of malaria. I can turn on the tap, rather than worry about where I will go to find water for my family, or about whether the water I and my daughters fetch will make us sick, or about what might happen to my daughter as she goes to fetch water or search for firewood. Most of these women cannot read and write. Most will never travel further than Tamale, while I am typing this into my laptop on a plane bound for Europe.

And yet, we are all daughters of the King. God loves each of us passionately. He calls us His “beloved, beautiful and precious in [His] sight” (Isaiah 43:4). Jesus cares about each of us individually and wants to know us personally. He wants to share in our joys and our sorrows, to comfort us in our fears, to give us hope for a better tomorrow. But many of these village women may never know that they have a wonderful inheritance, theirs for the asking.

I pray that I never become complacent or self-satisfied. I want an ever-burning passion to share Jesus’ love with my sisters – in Kushibu, in Dansoman, in Dunwoody – wherever I meet them. I pray that God will use the bonds that we share to bridge the gaps, whether cultural, language, or lifestyle, that divide us.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young. [Isaiah 40:11]

Friday, July 06, 2007

All Creatures Great And Small, Part 2

Mary Kay writes...

For the last six weeks or so, we have had a visitor living with us. Not someone we invited in, by any means!

Our awareness of our house guest started when we heard scurrying in the ceiling. At first, I would only hear this during the day time. Later on, our friend would wake us up in the night, racing around our bedroom ceiling. Fortunately, it is solid wood, so I didn’t think he would fall through on us! We decided that we had mice, and hoped the racing was one of the neighbor cats coming over and chasing them. This seemed to be the case, as one morning I awoke to see a small mouse crawling across our bedroom window sill. Needless to say, I woke Charlie up and left the room! But the mouse got away.

Then, he started to take greater advantage of our hospitality. One morning I walked in, and a large bite had been taken out of a banana sitting in our fruit bowl. That seemed odd, as I didn’t think mice ate bananas, but maybe they are different here. We got some poisoned grain and scattered that around the kitchen hoping to get rid of our friend. We even put some on a banana, hoping that would attract him. But our guest was smarter than that, and not fooled in the least by the grain or the banana. Would Snow White have eaten it if the witch had offered a poison banana instead of an apple?

Things soon escalated. I went into a cabinet one morning to get a new carton of milk, and found that our visitor had chewed a hole in the side of one of the milk cartons. There was milk everywhere. In addition, he had eaten one entire container of shelf-stable yogurt also in the cabinet. This was an all-out declaration of war!

The next night, we put out poisoned yogurt in the cabinet. Once again, our friend didn’t touch that – instead he went for the cartons of fruit juice! And this time, not just one. Four cartons of juice were punctured and had to be thrown away. What kind of creature is this that is eating fruit and milk, not bread and grains? Do we have a bat or something?

Last week, Chip went into the kitchen at lunch to put his uneaten pizza away. Opening a drawer to get a plastic bag, he shrieked and ran out of the kitchen. For sitting in the drawer was our house guest – a huge, 8-inch plus tail, rat! Chip says the photo bears a good resemblance to our furry friend, but is not nearly ferocious enough. The kids and I ran out of the house, and sent in the security man, our driver, our housekeeper and Charlie to try and catch it. After about thirty minutes of chasing it around the kitchen, the rat got away. We put out more poisoned yogurt and grain, hoping to finally kill it.

We haven’t seen our “friend” any more, but he is getting the last laugh. Apparently, he finally went for the poison, but chose to die behind the cabinets (or maybe under the washing machine?). Because now we can smell our late guest.

“How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104:24

All Creatures Great And Small, Part 1

Mary Kay writes...

One of the great things about living in Africa is the chance to see a different part of God’s creation.

I always enjoyed watching wildlife in the U.S. As a little girl, on our summer vacations in the Hill Country of Texas, my family, my grandparents and I would pile into the back of my grandfather’s pick-up each sunset and go for a drive. The purpose was to see how many deer we could count each evening, as they came out to graze. Some nights we would see over 100 during the 30 minutes or so we were out!

Later, as a Mom, the boys and I would laugh as we watched the squirrels play outside our kitchen window, and we would put out bird seed in our feeder to attract all sorts of birds. Occasionally, a rabbit would show up in our backyard (before we got a dog!). And for one brief period of about a month, there was a beautiful red fox that we would spot in the neighborhood as we walked to the bus stop.

But here in Ghana, wildlife watching has gone to a whole new level! When we first arrived in Accra, we were surprised to see so many chickens running loose, but now we are accustomed to spotting a good variety of animals in our urban neighborhood. There are goats, cows, and sheep, often with their herders nowhere obviously nearby. On the grassy area of the roundabout by our church here, a pair of tan donkeys have shown up, and a horse joins them sometimes, calmly grazing while watching the tro-tros and taxis speed by.

Last Christmas, when we traveled to the Volta Region, we were able to visit the village of Tafi Atome. Here, the traditional religion worshipped the local mona monkeys as messengers from the gods. Christianity almost wiped out the monkey population, as taboos were lifted and monkeys were killed because they represented the old ways. Fortunately, ecologists stepped in and were able to show the villagers how the monkeys could be saved and eco-tourism could improve their economy. Human visitors arrive each morning and evening to watch the monkeys, who now sleep safely close to the village. We were even able to feed them bananas – the monkeys would come right up to us and take the fruit from our hands!

But not all the wildlife is so innocent! In June, I took a bus to Wa to watch a borehole being drilled. At one stop, I looked down from my window at a man who was calling out loudly on the sidewalk, selling something. Movement on his hat caught my eye, and I looked closer: live scorpions! Imagine my discomfort when, as the bus was preparing to depart, he stepped on! Yikes! What if these critters got loose on our very crowded bus? It turned out he was selling bush medicines – herbs and barks to treat all sorts of ailments – including scorpion stings. He gave his sales pitch in both Wali and English for the benefit of the “oboruni” (foreigners) on board. He was very entertaining, reminding me of the patent medicine sellers in movies about the American West. But I never took my eyes off those scorpions!

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small…the Lord God made them all.”

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dancing For Joy

Mary Kay writes...

Last weekend, I went to Lawra to watch a borehole being drilled. The water is for the Lawra Integrated Health Project, run by the Methodist Church Ghana. This program started as a nutrition and feeding center for malnourished children and pregnant/nursing mothers. As the program grew, and those in charge could see the needs around them, a general health care clinic was started, then an HIV/AIDS clinic and counseling center, and finally an orphanage. While the program has been in operation for many years, they have never had a reliable source of potable water.

When I first visited in March, the clinic staff was fetching water from the river. They did have one connection to city water, but this was a problem because they never knew when the water would be turned on and for how long. Some days, the city water flowed only 10 minutes for them, some days not at all. (One of my US water engineering magazines recently carried an pipe manufacturer’s advertisement featuring a dry faucet with the headline “What if you turned on the tap and nothing came out?” This reminded us just how crazy that would have seemed just last year, while it is very much part of our life here in Africa.)

A group of churches in Georgia, with a heart for Ghana and the orphans at Lawra, generously raised the $6700 needed to drill a borehole for the clinic. I arranged for a driller to put in the borehole, and last weekend, it was installed. The borehole is 63 meters deep and is producing 36 liters of water per minute. This will be enough to serve all the clinic’s needs for years to come. Praise God for his provision of water!

I was privileged to be present for part of the drilling and installation of the borehole, though I was not able to be there the entire time. Seeing the joy on everyone’s face as the well was going in was wonderful.

The children were so cute. The clinic staff had set up a bench where the children could watch, but be out of harm’s way. They sat there, fascinated, for two days watching their borehole being drilled. Big grins were on all their faces!

The best part was the dancing, though. The diesel engine on the drill rig had a definite rhythm to it, not unlike the native drums these children are used to hearing. So, at one point, they got up and danced! Danced for joy at the gift of water – hope for the future. And Marjorie, the clinic’s director, and I danced, too. It was a moment of grace and joy in the midst of struggles and adversity.

“Sing to the Lord a new song…Let them praise His Name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and harp.” Psalm 149:1,3

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Servant’s Heart

Painting from the Jesus Mafa project. See for more information.

Mary Kay writes...

On Maundy Thursday, I sat in church for the services. I was by myself, as Charlie had a class to teach and the boys had homework. So I was the only white person in the congregation of several hundred. I had taken a seat near the back, rather than our usual seat up front, in an effort to be a little less conspicuous (yeah, right!).

About ten minutes into the service, one of the church leaders came over to me and said that the Reverend Minister (senior pastor) was wondering if I would be willing to take part in the foot washing that would occur later in the service. One of the things that we were taught in our missionary training was that a good missionary should be ready to preach or pray at a moment’s notice. So of course, I agreed to help out. The woman led me to the front of the church to sit with other church leaders.

As I sat through the next part of the service, my mind kept wandering. I had participated in foot washings back home, but only in small groups, never in a large gathering like this. Of course, this was my first Easter in Ghana, so I had no idea what to expect. Would we wash the entire congregation’s feet? That could take quite some time. And Ghanaian feet are not like American feet. Since Ghanaians usually wear flip flops or sandals, or even go barefoot, their feet are much dustier and more calloused than most Americans. More like the disciples’ feet would have been at the Last Supper. But God has called me to serve these people, and I will gladly wash their feet. Was there a hint of pride that I would be so chosen? Yes.

Then came time for the foot washing. Basins of water and towels were carried to the altar and chairs set up. We were called forward. But I was being directed to sit in one of the chairs. What was going on? Was the minister going to wash my feet? Surely not – I was here to serve them, not the other way around. But that was exactly what happened. Four persons, three leaders of various church groups and I, were called up front and the ministers washed our feet in front of the rest of the congregation.

At first, I felt uncomfortable being served, rather than serving. But then it dawned on me – my reaction was just like that of Peter’s that first night. “No, Lord, you shall never was my feet!” [John 13:8]. And Jesus’ answer is still the same today as it was 2000 years ago. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” I went back to my seat humbled.

It is so easy to focus on the end of the passage about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus did instruct the disciples to wash one another’s feet, to have a servant’s heart. As a North American, I tend to jump to the end, focus on the action, put this task on my “To Do” list, and later check it off. But first, I must be served. I must allow myself to be humble and vulnerable, so that Jesus can wash my feet. Then I will have a part with Him.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bumpy Roads and Blessings

Mary Kay writes...

I just got back this morning from Wa in the far north-western corner of the country. It was a great trip and a wonderful time of fellowship and ministry, followed by a gruesome 16 hour bus ride.

Charlie and I drove to Wenchi last week (about an 8-hour drive) to participate in the dedication of the new Agricultural campus for the University. It was a wonderful ceremony, and a great chance for us to realize just how many people we have gotten to know here! While we were in Wenchi, we went by and presented a monetary gift from the Mission Society missionaries to the Wenchi bishop, whose parsonage burned to the ground last month! He had been studying simplicity, and has a great attitude about the whole thing - that God really wanted him to get this message about "stuff". Fortunately, he and his wife were out of the house at the time, so there were no injuries, etc.

Charlie and I also learned about cashews. We are all familiar with the nut. But the yellow fruit of the cashew is edible too. It is shaped like a small bell pepper, but very sweet and juicy.

John Russell, another of our missionary team, picked me up in Wenchi and drove me to his home in Wa, another 5 hours north of Wenchi. There I stayed with their family, including their 7 year old son and 3 year old daughter. It was a lot of fun and good fellowship - especially for Bess to have another adult to talk to, but it made me appreciate how grown up my boys are now! I did enjoy reading Dr. Seuss again, though.

Sunday, we went to worship in the village of Kongu - under one of the trees, as their church building is not yet complete. This is a village church that John and Bess planted about 5 months ago, and it is thriving! They only have the Gospel of Luke in their language of Dagare right now, though the Catholics are finishing up some other books which will be released soon. It was great to see how hungry they were for the Gospel and for worship!

Monday, John, his assistant, and I drove to Lawra, about 2 hours north of Wa in the very northwestern corner of Ghana, to visit the Methodist Integrated Health Project there. They have a nutrition center, clinic, orphanage, and HIV/Aids center - and not enough water, which is why I went. After looking over the situation and talking to leaders in the town, I think we will be able to put a new borehole on their campus to alleviate their chronic water shortages. Some of their buildings are on the town's water system, but there just isn't enough water for all their needs, especially the vegetable and moringa plot for nutrition supplementation. I am really excited about being able to help, and I think this will be a good first project.

We returned to Wa on Monday afternoon to find that the Wa pastor's wife, Gifty, who I had met on Saturday, had been admitted to the hospital on Sunday evening with severe burns on her arms, lower legs, and to a lesser degree on her face. She had been cooking in a gas oven and the flame went out. When she went to relight the oven, the built-up gas flared and burned her badly. To make matters worse, this is the week that her husband is being installed as the Superintending minister (a little like a DS) in Wa, with festivities and lots of visitors, family, etc. coming to town. Of course Gifty hates that she will miss it all - but the women of the church are stepping up to take over her hostess duties. She should be released from the hospital today or tomorrow, but of course, the healing will take a long time. Please pray that she heals rapidly and that infection does not set in!

Tuesday, I was supposed to return to Accra, but on Monday, we had heard that the American Ambassador was coming to Wa on Wednesday to meet with Pastor Amos (Gifty's husband) about a water project for one of his village churches. We decided it would be a good idea for me to stay for this, so my bus ticket was changed to Thursday. Then we found out that the visit was delayed until at least which time it was too late to catch the Tuesday bus (service is only on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday). Oh well, it really was great to spend additional time with the Russells. I was also able to bring some letters and other items back to Accra for Marjorie, the Lawra clinic manager, which gave us more opportunity to build our new relationship. And it gave me a day to shop for a smock for Charlie (Wa is known for this type of weaving), as well as some down time.

So that brings us to Thursday and my big bus adventure. There is a song from one of the kids' favorite cartoons (Arnold) about "Riding on the Crazy Bus" - well now I've done it!! The bus was supposed to be an air-conditioned motorcoach (greyhound type), and was rumored to show movies (Nigerian soap opera type) for most of the trip. Well - it was a bus, but that was about all the similarities! The usual bus needed repairs, so we got an un-airconditioned, no frills bus, similar in comfort level to a typical city bus - except that the shocks were really bad, so it felt more like you were riding in a school bus. Fortunately, the children on the bus were all very quiet - there was the real potential for screaming babies on this one. The only noisy person was the guy sitting across the aisle and one row behind me, who decided he had to "entertain" the only foreigner on the bus. He started by telling me not to think that all of Ghana was like this, as we were bumping over the three-hour section of dirt road. I told him I knew it wasn't because I lived here, and that I was used to the bumpy roads. So then he decided he had to give me language lessons - not in Twi, since I already know some, but in Ga and Ewe at the same time. Finally a couple of the other passengers got him to leave me alone, so the rest of the trip was pretty quiet. But every hour or so, the bus would just quit working - kind of stall out. So I just kept praying that each time it would start again - and it did. Whew! So we left Wa at about 2:30 yesterday afternoon and arrived here in Accra at 5:45 this morning! What an adventure! Our driver picked me up at the station (where he had been waiting for me since 3 am when the bus was supposed to arrive), and we got home just in time to send the boys off to school.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Walk In The Light

Chip writes:

At New Year's, the Elim Youth Group went on a three day retreat at the beach. The first night our speaker was talking about breaking the chains that keep us away from God. She used the parable of the wheat seed found in John 12:24-25:

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Only when the seed is broken can it grow into a plant and produce abundant fruit.

Afterwards, I was praying with God about letting go of my chains, and He gave me this vision:

When God made us in our mother’s womb, just like Adam we are just a corpse that can’t do anything until God breathes life into us. In doing so, He puts a ball of light inside us that is His spirit. We try to fill up the emptiness between our outer shell and the light with earthly things and lies that the Devil tells us about ourselves. Those things are like dirt that forms a crust around the ball of light. But, when we have even just a mustard seed of faith and we throw it at the crust, it cracks the crust so God’s light can shine through. This light then consumes all of the dirt inside of us and consumes us until it begins to flow through every orifice in our body and then out our very pores. This light then encourages others to take that step of faith and become more like Christ.