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

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.”