Friday, September 25, 2009
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
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)