Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Red Dirt to Green Rainforest

After our journey to Accra, Jodi and I met the Hueys, who arranged for us to meet with a driver named Kwesi. We journeyed with Kwesi to see Cape Coast, a slave castle located there, and a national park with canopies of bridges over the trees in the rainforest.

The ride was about 3 hours, which provided sufficient time to know that Kwesi is our brother in Christ, and a powerful one. Everywhere we drove, God strategically placed literal signs in front of us, reminding us not to forget His power and name sake on this trip. Almost every single fruit stand or store displayed signs like "In Thee," "Annointed Hands," "Respect God," "In God Alone," "Thank You, God," and "God's Time is Right." We also saw a truck broken down on the side of the road displaying a sign with "Faithfulness." True, a person can be broken and still be faithful. Rather, He is faithful to us in our brokenness.

Down here in the south of Ghana, the Christian movement has definitely had time to bear fruit. There is also a wave moving north to Nalerigu, as you have seen in this blog.

The land in the south of Ghana is so different. It is coastal and tropical with many coconut trees, plantain trees, and lush rainforest.

We hiked on narrow bridges swaying high above the trees of the rainforest at a national park. Christ is the bridge and narrow is the path. The path may sway back and forth hanging high above the trees or things of life, but we truly are being carried through this life and are never alone.

We went to Cape Coast slave castle built in the 1500s, where thousands of Africans were confined while awaiting shipment to be traded as slaves. We saw the torture chambers and the small spaces where 200 men were crowded in each of these spaces and were expected to live in--the very same size of room as the govenor's bedroom. We saw the shackles that were bound to their feet and hands to enslave them.

Thankfully, we are not slaves to sin but slaves to Christ. He has come to set the captives free. The shackles are removed. His yoke is easy and the burden is light. A lot to think about. A lot to pray about.

Yes, we are thankful to God for what He has single-handedly provided for us on this trip. This has been a tremendous time with the Ghanaians and to grow closer to our LORD.

Today is a day to continue to reflect on what God has done. It is a day to know with confidence what He will do. At the beginning of our trip while on the ride to Nalerigu, we saw a broken down truck displaying a sign that read "Confidence." Who knew that we came as broken vessels, yet we are confident He will always provide.

We are eyewitnesses of the "red dirt to green rainforest" transition in our lives and in the lives of others.

Powerfully Changed

Nalerigu has been such a tremendous place for me spiritually as well as for working with the patients in the hospital. Many goodbyes have been said and prayers prayed for more commissioning to do God's work here and back at home. We visited with Tommy, Jane, Angela, the Hewitts, the Failes, and the Dickens. I visited with the Ghanaians, including Doris who shared with me a special prayer request. I'm so thankful to have brothers and sisters in the Lord here who can partner in the Gospel, medicine, and prayer. Tommy kept sharing how he truly feels that serving God by serving others is the best way to live. He's found true joy in life and he abundantly pours out that zeal.

Yissa, who works at the house where we stay, stopped by the house. He and his wife, Joyce, have been our friends here, plus I met Yissa two years ago. He did not just stop by to say goodbye. Out of his mouth flowed the Holy Spirit in such a way I have never seen. He had a captive audience of three--Jodi, Rachel, and me. He preached commissioning and annointment over us. He has been here many years and has seen volunteers come and go. He knew exact details from the last time I was here and talked about the comparison of this trip. He thinks I'm more of an outside the hospital kind of person now. :) This trip did allow me to go into the community to interact more by visiting with him and his wife in their home and with others. He said everyone who comes here to Nalerigu is broken by whatever life's weights are and they pour out even more of their broken vessels here to help others. The irony of the process is that those who come to serve are the ones who end up being more softened and powerfully changed.

Early the next morning, Jodi and I met a man who drove us on the bumpy road to Tamale. In the dark, we dodged many goats that were sitting in the middle of the red dirt road for the night just outside their owners' homes. I asked how the goats could wander around and how owners could find their goats later. He said the goats like to roam during the day to find their daily bread, then they sleep near the door of their owner's home. In other words, they always come back home, because they know who cares for them. We then enjoyed the sun rising in the east as we continued our drive. It was a glorious splendor--a new dawn with His mercies anew every morning. At the airport in Tamale, I saw Doris' brother, who is a chief of his tribe. He flew to Accra with us. A small world.

These are new family members in Christ and I am powerfully changed by our LORD here in Nalerigu, Ghana. I pray to see the same red dirt path or whatever path the LORD brings next.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

His Proof

Some things are just hard, if not virtually impossible, to capture with words when it comes to explaining how God has moved so faithfully on such a spiritual journey as to Nalerigu, Ghana.  The people, the faces, the smiles, the miracles, the salvation stories, the emptying, the filling, and the hallos and the goodbyes. I may not be able to blog as much near the end of this journey. Yesterday, I could only touch on the impact that ride out to the Komkomba tribal village made on my life.  I mentioned Tommy and the witness he is.  The smiles and the immediate screaming excitement that came from every single child and adult as we drove through their village as they sat out under the mango trees after coming in from working the land is something hard to describe.  They would scream out and run after us with the most welcoming joy you have ever seen. Children running hard and filled with excitement.  This is exactly what I envision us doing as we see our Savior one day, being completely satiated with joy and racing toward Him for the chance to see Him and savor Him.  These kids do this, because they love others here in Ghana.  People care for each other here and definitely care about those who come here to make a difference in their lives physically and spiritually.  Tommy kept talking about how meeting people's physical needs is the best way to meet their spiritual needs.  I think we all agree and that is why we are here.

We had wonderful fellowship with the Dickens when we got back to our house.  The Hewitts, the Failes, the Dickens, and Tommy Harrison are examples of those who serve and are used by the LORD to fulfill His faithful promises of reaching every tribe and tongue before Christ returns.  It is the highest honor to be a part of reaching these people, but in the process we are being completely honored to know them.  For those who come here, the process of receiving is so much more than giving. Yesterday, there was serious filling of our vessels by the Holy Spirit and things are even clearer from a higher perspective. I love this time of the trip when the Lord faithfully brings clarity.  Not only is this a place to come back to, this is a place from which to bring the same actions back home.  May we experience Nalerigu in our daily lives at home.  May we have people being bold and selflessly giving of themselves and being charged with The Great Commission to share Christ with others.

Today, we went to a Fulani Baptist Church.  There were 22 people: 3 Fulani adults, many children, and several of the missionaries.  This was a quaint, intimate service not full of praise from instruments made by hand.  The only instruments were the very souls standing there with their voices and hearts in tune for God.  We sang from a song book in Fulani language.  I recognized the tunes, "Jesus Loves Me" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and several hymns you would recognize.  The kids were the most amazing part.  They were the loudest and most enthusiastic.  This small 10 x 11 concrete building with a tin roof was the House of the Lord this morning. There were not as many bright colors worn, but simple garments adorned to honor the Lord. The message was Acts 1:1-11.  I cannot think of a better sermon than today's.  How great was it of our Savior in the first place to come direcly from heaven to earth in the form of a babe to show His deity in an earthly, tangible form for people to believe.  Not only after fulfilling every prophecy of His sacrificial death and resurrection, He then stayed, after being raised from the dead, for 40 days to continue to speak of the kingdom of God.  He used every moment to share convincing proofs to the people, so they had another chance to believe in Him.  Before He returned to heaven, He charged them with the opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit.

God is still so loving even as He asks us to believe Him through faith. The LORD is still convincingly doing such great acts of proof for His glory today.  I stand amazed in Ghana at the proofs that I have witnessed.  Timothy, the child I have blogged about with some type of mass effect in his brain and who has shown signs of his brain herniating multiple times (which is usually irreversible, especially with our means in modern medicine), is miraculously still with us.  Ayishetu, the miracle child, is proof of God's healing here.  The muslims coming to know Christ as their Savior here is proof that God made everyone in His image.  The many adults and children having seizures continuously for more than 3 days here are restored whole.  The new babies delivered here are proof of His fatherly loving nature.  Cheney, who was healed of tuberculosis and gleams for God daily, is proof of His provision.  The many people bitten by snakes like cobras and other deadly venomous types here, who are not envenomed by the end of their stay, are proof of His divine protection.  Another example of His providence and sovereignty are the missionaries who deny every bit of self to be filled by His glory and may endure illnesses yet they are not overtaken in all their years here.  We all participate in this supernatural rejuvenation. Great things are being done and greater things are still to come as the LORD continues to lovingly convince us of His proofs.

Today during the sermon, pastor Alex mentioned Dr. Dewey Dunn of Nashville, Tennessee, who I traveled with to Nalerigu 2 years ago and who has impacted missions tremendously, not only in Nalerigu.  Dr. Dunn was just here shortly before we arrived (see trip report/Medical Missions link below) and he shared with Alex that the greatest thing we can do in our lives is to share Christ with others. Let's be lovingly bold and do it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

He Made the Road

This morning we got up and rounded in the hospital. All of our patients are still making it, including precious 3-year-old Timothy. I'm still wondering what God is going to do there.

We then met with Tommy Harrison, the missionary who came here 25 years ago to plant churches in the villages of this remote region. These truly are the unreached people. Tommy goes daily and meets their needs by drilling wells, having church under a tree, or helping build churches. He does many things here and has been a tremendous asset in Nalerigu. When he first came, he actually used to live on the hospital property. He then decided to move into town with the people of Nalerigu. He is one among them. He eats the local food and lives like they do. He tells me he has the best bed in Nalerigu for sleeping. It's up on his roof under a mosquito net and he has nothing but God's galaxies of stars to gaze at every night. If the rain comes, he'll run down into his house. He is truly a remarkable servant for Christ.

This day has been one of the best, just by seeing yet another soul changed as Tommy sets himself aside and pours into others. He kept referring to how we should be living the commandment that Jesus kept emphasizing about loving others. It gives Tommy greater joy to love and serve others. Everything he does for others, including farming land for them, goes right back into their hands. He keeps nothing for himself. Many years ago, he returned home to Alabama and he said his heart was just simply here, so he came right back. He's approaching the retirement age, but he has no desire to retire. His wife died many years ago and he has several kids in Alabama. He would love to keep serving here as long as He sees God moving in his work.

Today, we drove beyond the dirt roads to tinier paths out in the bush. We passed through areas out in pastures with villages of mud huts. We went inside the homes of villagers who Tommy has befriended. The homes are the same type of 6-feet diameter huts with such quality workmanship. The mud is made from a mixture of cow manure and sand. When baked from the heat, it can last forever as long as their grass roofs keep the rain off. Usually, they redo the grass roofs once a year before the rainy season starts again. Occasionally, tin roofs are placed on top of the rectangle houses and last much longer through rainy season. We went to a place where Tommy is setting up his own mud hut to live in for several months when the rainy season starts. The rains wash out the road, so he wants to have a place for times when his truck cannot make it back to Nalerigu. We saw the house and it was just right and ready for him to occupy. Today the plan was to put a door on the house. He built the door, we brought it out there with us, and he installed it. As we passed by, many children came along and rode with us. It is the most entertaining thing for them to get to ride in the bed of the truck even if their walk back home is 5 miles. We drove slow enough so that people could keep hopping in and getting off as they wanted. Tommy never turns a person down for a free ride. Most of the villagers walk. If they are lucky, some have bicycles. Tommy also bought mangos and we passed them out to the kids. They were delicious.

It was such a spiritual time for me out in the bush and in the villages. I receive the greatest joy while being with the people in their habitat. We get to see these faces everyday in the hospital, but to be where they journey from and see how they live enables us to experience another close bond with them. Tommy even speaks their language and he sang a song in their tongue as we drove down the road. He translated it as "God made the road, God made the way, so do not be afraid to go."

I think that speaks loudly to many of us. Tommy was used today to demonstrate how truly setting aside your own life and living for others solely for the glory of Christ is the most rewarding, satisfying, and obedient way to live.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Encouraging Words

Since Jodi is starting her residency in OB/Gyn, it has been so exciting to see her have the opportunity to take care of many of those patients. She has been able to do c-sections here. Last night we were on call and Jodi took care of a woman who was having problems with delivering. As we know here, God still is sovereign and the baby had already died. It was pressing for Jodi. I understood it all too well from my past experience here two years ago when a baby was delivered dead and the mom died immediately. This is a place of growing and seeing God's sovereignty at all times, even when it is such unexpected tragedy. We have had a very busy week here and the encouragement from others has been so uplifting.

This morning after seeing the patients on rounds, I headed over to see Victoria. On my way, a man who I have never seen before stopped me and offered words that were especially encouraging about what I was doing here. I asked if he worked here. He said no, he was just here attending to someone. His words were angelic and God is using our broken vessels here to witness such encouragement as well as Him doing big things. I accepted the encouragement on behalf of every person who has made much greater sacrifices to be a part of this ministry. You never know when you are entertaining angels....

Another Miracle

Several days ago, I briefly wrote about a man who was having continuous seizures when he was brought in on April 14th. With the limited resources, no one could break the man's seizures through April 16th. I heard the seizures stopped, so today I went to see the man and he was completely normal. The family members are Christians and we just had to emphasize what a miracle this was and how all the glory should go to God, the true physician. This man should have suffered severe brain damage.

I also have another child in the pediatric ward who has been having seizures for 3 days. She is gradually getting better, but needs prayer. Timothy, the 3-year-old child with some type of mass effect in his brain, has been hanging on for dear life. Last night I truly thought his brain was back to herniating again like he presented on April 14th to us. Miraculously, he has made it this far. We do not know the eternal reasons for God's will, but there is purpose. This has been a miracle. Timothy has not awakened to normal activity yet and last night it appeared as if he was heading for home. The family spoke a tribal language that the night nurse could not translate, so Rachel and I just went for it and laid hands on Timothy and I prayed in the name of Christ. I did not know this family's belief, so I wanted to share that we were Christians who wanted to pray over their child. The urgency was so great, so we prayed over him and the next thing I know, the family members also had their hands on their child and were praying in their tribal tongue. Actions were obvious and God clearly heard as we were united in the Spirit. I want God's best for Timothy. I begged God to either usher him into heaven with legions of angels to worship at the feet of Jesus or to keep him here for more purpose. "Do not let anyone look down on you because of your youth" is a Biblical truth found in the 1st book of Timothy. My young patient, Timothy, has been such an example of looking up and begging for God's most holy purpose and mercy on him.

There is Rest

Yesterday, I met a chaplain named Fasau. We asked him to meet with the muslim father named Baba whose son has been a patient here. I wrote about them earlier. The father wanted to be saved, but had some concerns about the views of his muslim family. Yesterday for the first time, I met Baba's wife. She is a Christian and she would like for her husband to join her in this spiritual journey. I loved that Fasau was a former muslim and became a Christian, so he could perfectly relate with Baba. They have not yet met. Pray that Baba and Fasau will have that divine appointment soon. Baba is a farmer and had to return to his home located hours away, because it is a critical time to farm following the two recent rain showers we have had. This place is transformed. Our red dirt paths that we walk on everyday are becoming narrower red paths. Instead, they are being taken over by green grass. It is the season for renewal.

Fasau shared with us the two convincing truths for his conversion experience from a muslim background and to new life in Christ. One was Jesus' words, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). The second was also from Jesus, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28).

That is the stark contrast between the two religions--rest. There is rest in Christ. We can rest in green pastures with Christ. There is a calm during the storms of life. Fasau put it very nicely.