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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gathering Prayer Request

Mary Kay writes:

On Saturday evening, Charlie and I will be traveling to a Regional gathering of all Mission Society missionaries in Africa, Asia and Europe. This meeting will be a time of worship, training in latest missiological trends, fellowship, rest and renewal. In addition, Charlie and I will have about three days of much-needed vacation and sightseeing. We will return to Ghana on Nov 11.

Please keep the following in your prayers during this time:

· Safe travels for us and for everyone else coming from all over the world.

· Family members and ministries that are left behind as we meet. Ken, and our intern Anna, will remain in Accra with friends. Pray that they won’t miss us too much, and that Ken will be responsible in keeping up with his schedule and schoolwork in our absence.

· The gathering itself – that God will anoint the meeting as a time of renewal and rejuvenation for us all so that we all return to our ministries refreshed and revitalized to be about the Father’s business!

Thanks for keeping us covered in prayer!

“I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God… then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 3:16-19, 4:1, NIV)

Drilling Prayer Request Update 2

Mary Kay writes:

Thank you all so much for covering us in prayer while we were drilling (or trying to) in Yawsae. We were finally able to get the pipe pulled out of the ground a second time last Sunday, and the crew and I returned to Accra on Monday.

We will go back to Yawsae to complete this work just after Thanksgiving. Needless to say, we will have a different approach, pulling all the pipe out of the ground every night, so that we don’t get jammed again! We are confident that we can successfully complete this borehole next time around.

Thank you too for your prayers for the village of Yawsae. As with many Ghanaian villages, Yawsae is on the front lines of the battles of spiritual warfare. But God’s work is prevailing, and I continue to pray that our project will be yet another proof to the village of God’s sovereignty and His extreme love for them.

“Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”…When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!” (1 Kings 18:37, 39, NIV)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prayer Update

Mary Kay writes:

I wanted to give you a quick update on my prayer request of 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately, things have not gone smoothly. The first day of drilling was great, and we got down about 34 meters. But after shutting down overnight, we could not restore circulation of the drilling mud and the drill pipe got stuck in the hole. After over a week of exploring options and waiting, we were able to get a 25 ton crane from Newmont’s near-by gold mining operation, and we pulled the pipe out on Friday.

We then were able to drill an additional 10 meters yesterday, but again this morning the drill pipe was stuck. We pray that Newmont can assist us once again, and then we will demobilize until I have had a chance to research the situation and determine how best to overcome the problem.

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers!

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Prayer Request

Mary Kay writes:

My crew and I leave tomorrow for about 2 weeks in Yawsae, a small village near Sunyani. We will be drilling a borehole for the Yawsae Methodist Clinic. Water is a such a vital necessity for life and health, and I am praying that we are able to assist this clinic in this manner. Please pray for safe travels, health and safety while we are there, and a successful borehole! And pray that the village of Yawsae will be brought closer to God through our witness of Christ's love to them.

"See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isiah 43:19 (NIV)

It's A WAWA Day!

Mary Kay writes:

A dear friend of mine, Steve, had a wonderful phrase he used to use, when he lived in Ghana: “It’s a WAWA day!” WAWA stands for “West Africa Wins Again”. This is the phrase that he used whenever things just didn’t go as planned. In our North American culture, we are so used to events running on time, schedules going smoothly. We value efficiency so highly. Our culture is full of phrases that celebrate this concept: “run like clockwork” and “time is money” are two that come immediately to mind. But things just don’t work the same way here in West Africa. So when the two worlds collide, it is easy to get frustrated. These are the WAWA days. Because in the end, all you can do is laugh about it.

I had a bit of a WAWA day yesterday - a wedding that started at 12:00 according to the invitation, and 1:00 pm according to the program they handed out, actually started closer to 1:30. Which wouldn't have been a problem, except that we had another wedding that was supposed to start at 2:00. We don't know what time the second started, but the reception was still going strong when we finally arrived at 5:00! Both brides were beautiful, both grooms grinning from ear to ear, and both couples duly married in the eyes of the state and of God. So I guess it didn't matter, but it sure was making this schedule conscious oboruni (foreigner) anxious.

It also reminded me of the blog below, written several months ago, but never finished or posted.

Today is definitely a WAWA day – capping off a WAWA week. I am sitting in the airport terminal in Tamale – and will be for the next FIVE hours! (Which, by the way, is why I actually have time to write a blog!) Now, before you start imagining some fancy airport terminal with shopping and all the amenities, let me describe my surroundings. The departure side of the terminal is a space about 15 feet wide by about 60 feet long. There is a check-in counter, which both airlines share, a small snack bar that sells minerals (cokes) and biscuits (cookies), and a dozen or so molded plastic chairs – the kind you put on your back deck. That’s it!

The airport was just renovated in 2008, so it now boasts air-conditioning, a metal detector and x-ray baggage screening. Prior to then, it was open air, all luggage and carry-on was checked by hand, and individuals were “patted down” prior to boarding. So now, it actually feels pretty luxurious. But I will miss my friend, the security woman who used to do all the screening of women passengers. Maybe Africa is getting to me more than I realize!

There is no Chili’s or Burger King to get a meal, no shop with books and magazines, none of the usual trappings we associate with an airport. But the woman who runs the snack bar is always very friendly. She runs the place, day in and day out, with a small baby – maybe 3 or 4 months old – on her back. She gets here at 5 am, because the flights in and out of Tamale are (usually) early in the morning, and she always has a smile on her face. And she makes the best omelet sandwich ever! A treat I look forward to every time I come to Tamale.

And I am blessed. I don’t have anything urgent I am rushing back to Accra for, unlike the UN official who will be missing several meetings today. I have a book to read and a laptop to write on, so I can be productive. I can slow down a bit from the hectic week and enjoy a small space of peace and calm, rather than racing on to the next task.

Maybe sometimes when West Africa wins, I win too.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27, NIV)

“Don’t worry, be happy.” – Bobby McFerrin

Friday, September 25, 2009

Me yε Ghanani (I am Ghanaian!)

Mary Kay writes:

I have been praying for a deeper love for Ghanaians. So many missionary biographies speak of the missionary’s overwhelming love for the people they are called to serve. I read that and think, “I don’t know if I really feel this way. Is there something wrong with me?” As I get caught up in the hassles and frustrations of another day, it can be easy to focus on irritation rather than love.

But recently, I have been in two conversations that opened my eyes. I bless these encounters for helping me to see my heart in a fresh, new light!

In the first, I sat with an expatriate I had just met, talking about the work that brings us to Ghana. As we got to know each other, this person started in on a lengthy diatribe against Ghanaians – so disparaging that it shocked me! I tried to defend Ghanaians, but this person would listen to none of that. Afterwards, I wondered why this person had stayed in Ghana so long, if s/he disliked the people so much. And I cried at the pain this apparent hatred brought me and must surely bring to Ghanaians.

In the second, I was at a party with a friend extolling the virtues of another part of Africa. I told her that we had been there, and enjoyed it, but had fallen in love with Ghana. In the face of a somewhat dismissive attitude about there being nothing to do here, I found myself passionately, almost irrationally, defending Ghana. I could see the point my friend was making, but my experiences in Ghana have been so radically different.

It was as I drove home from the party that the realization hit me. I DO have an overwhelming love for the people of Ghana. My God-given compassion for these people is what brings me here; it is what holds me in thrall to this country we now call home. How can I not thrill to the sounds of the Ghanaian national anthem, or jubilate over a Black Stars win, even as my heart stirs to the sounds of the Star-Spangled Banner? Yes, sometimes I want to cry with frustration or rant in anger at the things that are wrong here. But no society is perfect, because we humans are not perfect. As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, I ache for Ghana.

Love is not easy - whether in a marriage or a society - is it? May God ever strengthen my love for Ghana.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34, NIV)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Mary Kay writes:

Charlie and I are so blessed to have wonderful friends all over the world. I say this with a spirit of awe, as I normally take it for granted. It is just not something we think about so much.

But in the last month, our reliance on our friends has really been brought home to both of us. Charlie and I spent an entire month on different continents – he in the US getting Chip settled in school and speaking in churches, while I was here in Ghana with Ken for the start of his school year. This may not seem like much to some of our friends who travel a lot for long periods of time, but this is the longest we have been apart in 23 years of marriage! The previous “record” was 3 weeks, when Charlie returned to the US for medical tests in late 2007.

It is hard to be separated from your best friend and life companion for that length of time. There are so many things – both important and insignificant – that don’t get said, little stories that don’t get shared. But God has given us so many blessings in this time as well - particularly our friends.

As Charlie has traveled around the US, he has relied on friends, both old and new, to provide a meal, a place for him to stay, a car to drive, a pulpit to preach from. You have all been SO generous in this provision. He owes a debt of gratitude to so many! We are especially thankful for the Rakes and the Hughes, who took him in in Virginia without ever having met him, and Walter let him preach on Sunday, too! The Mathis family in Atlanta gave him a home for two weeks, while the Greers were again generous with the use of a car. And the list of people who fed him would stretch for pages!

Meanwhile, Ken and I were here in Ghana, starting a new school year. It is hard to be the ones at home, as nothing seems to happen. It is so quiet in our house right now, with both Charlie and Chip gone. But we too have had friends step in to help out, feed us and provide companionship. The Mozleys and Gongwers were a real blessing, keeping Ken one weekend while I had to travel and feeding us on several occasions. God has even brought new friends our way during this time, knowing the void we needed to fill.

Charlie will be back home tonight, for which I am so thankful. But I am also freshly thankful for all our friends!

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7, NIV)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Rich Young Ruler

Mary Kay writes:

I read the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30) today for the gazillionth time. This story is so precious to me because of its role in my faith journey. In 1997, I was at a point in my life where I had put just about everything ahead of God in priority – my young family, my career, my marriage, volunteering in the community. It wasn’t that I rejected God, I just was too busy for Him. On a retreat weekend, I remember praying over and over that God would reveal to me what I had to give up in order to truly follow Him, and that I would have the courage to do it and not turn my back and walk away in sadness.

What God revealed to me then was that the biggest obstacle for me was … ME. I wanted to be in charge and control things, which meant I didn’t allow room for God to be God and to take control of my life. That weekend led to a deepening of my faith and my walk with God became much more intentional as I gave authority over my life to Christ.

What this story doesn’t tell us is that it is not a one-time decision. The ruler could have given everything up at that time to follow Christ. But what would he have done when a relative died leaving him another fortune? At that point would he have been tempted to think that he had been sacrificing so much and this was God’s way of rewarding him? Would wealth and possessions start creeping in to take over his life again?

I find I am continually faced with this struggle. I give control to Christ in some areas of my life, but not all. Or I cede control, only to snatch it back again, like a disputed territory in a border war. It is too easy to point to being a missionary in Africa as evidence of how I have turned over everything to Christ, and then to start to believe it. But it is also too easy to revert to thinking that I am the one doing good things, or it is my ministry here in Ghana rather than God’s. LORD, once again, I pray, “Don’t let me walk away sad.”

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Blink of An Eye

Mary Kay writes:

We all talk about it— how time flies! The Bible refers to the fleetingness of time and life on this earth, comparing us to grass that grows one day and withers the next. Poets have said that our entire life is but the blink of an eye for God.

Our family has experienced this phenomenon in many ways this summer. Today, August 3rd, as I write this marks the 3rd anniversary of our arrival in Ghana. We look back on these three years and though it has gone quickly, realize how much we have learned and grown in this time.

Yesterday marked Charlie’s and my 23rd wedding anniversary. Where is that young, slightly naïve couple that stood at the altar and pledged to love each other “’til death us do part”? We are still here, though our hair is graying and we have a few more wrinkles and aches than then. And we are still thoroughly in love with each other!

But nowhere is the passage of time more evident than in Chip’s life. Where is that little baby that we just brought home from the hospital? Or the boy that showed such curiosity about the world around him? Charlie and I were entrusted with his care for such a short time. And now he is grown—a wonderful young man who loves the Lord.

Now he has moved back to the United States. While it was hard to say goodbye, we can’t wait to see what God has in store for this next phase of his life. He will be studying Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech, and he is so excited about it. But he will tell you he has been forever changed by three years in Africa. Chip, we love you and are proud of you!

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S love is with those who fear him… (Psalm 103:15-17, NIV)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's in a Name?

Mary Kay writes...

Aunt Kay was my grandmother's older sister. She became the one that most of the girl descendants of the Miller clan were named after in some form. We have Kathy, Kathleen, Kesti, Mary Kay, Jean Kay, Kathryn - and that's just in the first two generations. I have no idea how many of our children are named for her - probably up in the dozens!

At least we weren't named for her sister (my grandmother). Her name was Gertrude - a little old-fashioned for me, though Trudy is a nice name. But her middle name was Mary, so there are a few of those running around. And I am the lucky one who was named after both, hence the double name, Mary Kay.

The funny thing about all this is that Aunt Kay didn't particularly like her name, and was dumbfounded that all the girls were being named for her. I can remember hearing her groan about yet another "Kathryn" in the family (one of the great-grand kids as I recall).

Well, now I'm a Grandmother! No, neither Chip nor Ken made a mistake. In Ghanaian culture, your family is not just blood relations, but all those around your family - in your village or friends of your parents and grandparents. One of my friends here is the Headmaster of the Konkori Methodist Primary School, Mr. Samuel Kwarteng. I first visited his school last fall, and helped them by testing the water quality in their hand dug well. We found bacterial contamination, so I sent him chlorine tablets and instructions on how to disinfect the well. And I attended the school's opening day (for the new term) in early March.

But imagine my surprise when I got a call this weekend telling me that his wife just gave birth to a “bouncing baby girl”. The word “baby” is almost never heard on its own in Ghana; it seems to ALWAYS be qualified with the adjective “bouncing”. So what happens if your baby is not bouncing, but sick or something?

Anyway, he asked me to name the baby, a real honor! And he calls me grandmother. Can't I be the auntie? It doesn't sound so old! So now there is little Ama Katherine Kwarteng, or Ama Kate for short. Ama is the girl name for Saturday-born in Twi. And of course, Katherine for me (mom misspelled it on my birth certificate)and by extension for Aunt Kay. Somehow, I don't think Aunt Kay ever envisioned that!

I haven't seen her yet, but pictures are on the way. I'll post them when I get them. And I can't wait until I can get back to Kumasi to meet her in person!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ghanaian Haircut

Charlie Writes:
This Monday, I went by my local barber to get trimmed up for the coming exams period at MUCG. Upon hearing my tale, Mary Kay suggested I blog about it some.

There are more barber shops around here than you can shake a stick at. The Ghanaians are very much more likely to work in the "informal economy" than would folks in the US. This means that they do not register as a business, and the payment of Social Security or other taxes is "informal," i.e., "not done." Typical businesses include hair salons, small corner stores (stocking bread, eggs, Milo, tomato paste, rice, oil), "Comm Centers" which may include internet cafe for browsing, text processing, faxing, and other business services.

When I arrived at my usual barber (whose container is about 0.8 km from our house) there were two barbers at work, so I spent some time on the couch waiting. One was getting the usual cut, about 1/8 inch long all around, while the other was having his head shaved smooth. That's one of the things I love about Ghana, for men my age, not having any hair is not really a problem, since everyone cuts their hair so short anyway. Above are photos of the the NDC and NPP candidates for president in the recent election (NDC won after some nervous days), and the outgoing president, as examples of what I'm talking about.

The owner swept out the area near his chair, then escorted me to it. He unwrapped a six-foot length of t-roll (toilet paper in the US) to wrap around my neck, then covered me with a white apron just like in the states. There was no discussion about the style of a haircut, either because he only knows one style, or there's not enough hair on my head to do much other than that anyway!

They use the same buzzy razors that are used in the US, with various comb attachments to control the length of hair left standing. The haircut went as usual until the part where in the US you would have been daubed with alcohol to tighten your skin. Here, the barber went out in the street with a plastic bowl, scooped some water out of a bin, then returned inside where he poured some hot water out of his teapot, mixing with some "Dettol" a disinfectant similar to what is sold under the name "Lysol" in the US. Using a hand towel, he then rubbed down my head all over and then followed up with hair spray, which here came in a lady-like pink shade. Glancing at the ingredients, I noticed three - perfume (obviously needed, so I didn't smell like a freshly washed floor or toilet leaving the shop), protein (to give you hair "body"), and sun screen.

As you can see in the photo above, I'm ready to go for another month or so.