Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hungry Hungry Hippos

(author's note: i realize that 3 months is a long time for us to go without posting, but we've been out of town, and tired, and pretty much lazy. the hiatus is over. for now.)

No matter what type of faith you belong to, if any, you probably have some preconceived notions about what church is like. In my own mind, I have notions of what it SHOULD be like. But those are never realized because the church is made up of screwed up people. Maybe that's why it's so cool for me to be a part of one. Something inside me likes messiness.

It became clearly evident to me on a Sunday morning across the world that everything I though about church should be thrown out the window.

Early morning Sunday, we wake up to go to a church service. Joel is asked to deliver the sermon the night before. This is very strange to Joel, because part of his job is to make sure everyone knows what happens in church weeks before it ever happens. The church building feels like it's rural Mississippi in the 1950's summertime. Everyone has fans. All the doors and windows are open. It's also hot.

There are songs that I'm relatively familiar with. Old hymns. Not like "Just As I Am" old. More like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" old. The men sit on one side while the women sit on the other.

Church in Ghana is really a challenge to see how focused you are. At least it is for me. There are women breast feeding in the middle of the church service. Yes that's right. People are walking by the building and yelling.

The prayer time is the best. When Ghanains pray, it's like an auctioneer going off with everyone else yelling their own prayers. But it lasts for a while. There's improvisation. There's a spirit that is unbelievably real. It dawns on me that my definition of group prayer is very limited.

Later on in the afternoon, we take a group of Ghanains from the church further in the North to see the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary. You paddle up the Volta River on the Ghana/Burkina Faso border to see Hippos in their natural habitat. We keep a good distance away. When they come up for air they spray water like a geyser. It's scary to see just eyes and a large nose out of the water.

On the way back, our guide laughs at us when we ask if anyone has ever been harmed by the hippos. He relents and says no, but he doesn't sound too convincing.

Also on the way back, one church member sees a fisherman come out of the river with his catch. She buys it right there on the spot, and she keeps it in a sack on the van as we drive back...for an hour. The smell is hideous, but her smile is very large when she thinks about the fact that dinner tonight will be quite different that what they normally eat. It seems that food options are one of the many things I take for granted.

Today has been different than any other. But to watch church through different eyes, and to be frightened by giant images of God's diverse creation has been an experience I am happy to be a part of.

But tomorrow we visit another town.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A piece of my heart.

Tonight I miss Frank. Granted, I only spent 3 hours with him, but my heart longs to see him. On the plane ride home from Ghana, my mind was filled with joyful experiences. One experience was still fresh on my mind. We had just met Frank, spent time with his family, and then boarded our plane back to the states. As the lights were turned out in the plane for sleeping time, tears welled up in my eyes. I would turn to Russ, as he sat a row behind me, searching for encouragement but would only find that he was giving me the same look. The look of "one little 5 year old boy just rocked my world and I am just not sure what to do."

We had been writing and praying for Frank for an entire year before we met him. The day we met him was filled with excitement and anxiety. As we traveled back to Accra from Cape Coast I was at war with my thoughts and emotions. I wanted him to like us. To appreciate us. Then it hit me that I was making this about me. This was not about was about a 5 year old boy who needed to be shown the love of Christ.

When we first met him he was very shy. I wanted to explode with tears because it was not going anything like I had imagined. I quickly learned a few phrases in his language from his teachers. He struggled to understand through my thick accent. But, slowly he started to understand. I spoke his language and his fears seemed to disappear. As we traveled to his school and home, he began to be more affectionate and secure.

As we approached his home, pictures that he and his siblings had colored for us were tacked to the walls. His father left his family six months ago leaving his mother to care for him and his two siblings. They were kicked out of their home but Compassion provided a room for them to live in. The pastor from the local church greeted us and let us know that the church was doing all it could to help share God's love with them. This family had experienced true hurt but yet they welcomed us as if they had always known us.

Russ and I signed up to pray and provide for Frank but in the process we also got his mom, his brother Stephen and his sister Charlotte. We thought we would bless them but in turn, they ended up blessing us way more.

As we left Frank was standing on the street corner waving and smiling. Completely different from when we first arrived. A piece of me was left at that corner as well. Now when I write my check or my letter, I write it differently. I have seen what a difference is being made in their lives. Not just a physical or educational difference, but also a spiritual difference.

If you would like to hear more about our experience meeting Frank or about sponsoring a child from Compassion, please get in touch with us! There are about 50 more kids in Frank's village that need to be sponsored so stay tuned for a way to do that!! If you feel led to sponsor a child click here and ask God to lead you to the child that needs you!