How do you say goodbye?

I started writing this last post before I left Ghana, and never finished it:

Well, today is my last day in Ghana. Even as I type these words my heart is filled with so many conflicting emotions. Joy to see my home, family and friends again but so much pain to leave the people I love here in Ghana, knowing I might not see them again. How do you say goodbye?

These last 3 weeks have been some of the hardest and most amazing weeks of my life. I have built amazing, deep relationships with people who have touched my heart in a way I never thought was possible in only 6 weeks. I have also seen and experienced things that have confused and overwhelmed me.

Many things have happened since my last update so I will only touch on a few of them. On July 31st, Pastor Enoch Thompson invited me to speak at his daughters school. There were probably at lest 100 kids and I showed them some pictures of Canada, taught them a song and also taught a Bible lesson. They all loved it so much and were so receptive to everything I had to say, it was amazing!

A not so exciting thing that happened was the day after when my backpack was stolen from the beach. Not an uncommon thing for the particular beach we were at. Money, perscription sunglasses and more. Not the best day but thankfully the really important things weren’t in there like my passport and other ID.

My last week in Ghana consisted of planning and prep for Youth Camp. Youth Camp was nothing like any camp I have ever experienced before. And nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to witness. It was very exhausting. The first night we went to bed at about 1:30am and were woken up at 4:30am. And that first night I was hardly able to sleep. There were about 4 speakers a day and when you weren’t sitting and listening to a speaker you were praying, singing, eating or trying to get just a few minutes of sleep. Youth camp was very charismatic and “spiritual”. I witnessed many people being “slain in the spirit” and “touched by God”. In my opinion, this was all a result of false teaching and was not of God, BUT please talk to me about this in person to get a full account of what happened and why I feel the way I do. This is the area where I noticed the biggest cultural differences. A friend of mine explained to me that Ghana relies much more on experience than on what the Bible says. They have a hard time reading their Bible and so when experiences like this happen to them they aren’t able to as easily tell truth from a lie because they don’t have the Biblical knowledge to back it up. I am still trying to process this stuff in my brain and heart, but definitely one of the hardest experiences of my time in Ghana.

I spent my last couple of days spending as much time as I could with my friends and saying good bye. I even got to sing a song in Twi on my last Sunday, it was so fun! I can’t even count all the ways I have been blessed and changed by my 6 weeks in Ghana. However much my Ghanaian friends say they learned from me I can say without a doubt that they taught me so much more than I could ever teach them. I have learned what true faith and reliance in God looks like, I have learned about friendship, love and the importance of quality time. I have learned that God is the same in every country and how truly comforting that is. I have learned that hope is needed everywhere. I have learned that saying good-bye is one of the hardest things to do, and that it’s much easier to say “See you later”. So to my amazing new family in Ghana I say, “see you later”.  I don’t know when that will be but I pray that God would bless and strengthen you until we see each other again. I love you all so much.

It has been difficult to figure out what is next and how life should look now that I am home. I pray that the changes in me would not fade away as home becomes more familiar. I pray that Ghana would always be home to part of my heart. I pray I never forget. Thank you all for your support and love and company on this journey. It has been a pleasure walking and sharing with you. The journey isn’t over, there is still much more that God has in store and I am excited for the next step.

“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 Lord’s holy people, 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.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3: 16-21

 


 

 

Advertisements

Weeks Two and Three.

3 weeks! I have been gone for 3 weeks! This is crazy to me. What’s even crazier is that I only have 3 weeks left in this amazing place.

What to tell you from the last 2 weeks?

I have met so many incredible people with the most amazing hearts, and the cutest children that probably will ever exist 🙂 If you ever need to feel loved just come to Ghana. It is the most wonderful experience to walk into the churches gate and have 20 children run towards you screaming “Auntie Carrie!!!!” and then all fighting to be able to hug you. I have loved getting to know the children and being able to teach them bible stories and songs. They all have the most incredible memory I have ever seen. This culture is so auditory that they are able to learn and pick up the things that they hear so quickly. I have noticed this especially when working with the worship ministry at the church. They can listen to a song just a few times and are able to play it only from ear. It is really quite amazing to watch.

Some of my favorite moments have been watching people learn and develop an understanding of music. I am doing a short class once a week for the worship leaders on basic music theory.  It is amazing to see their faces change from sheer confusion to that “ah ha” moment. Next week the church has asked me to sing a couple of solos as a part of their spiritual emphasis week. For any New Westers reading this, I have decided to share a piece of us with Ghana and sing Child of God. It is such a powerful song and I know God will use it to touch people here like it does so many in our concerts. I am very fortunate to have made a good friend on the worship team who is a very talented piano player, so I pretty much can pick any song I like and he can do it, so nice!

It has also been great to get to know the other associates here and their families! I love spending time with my “boss” Sherri, she is lots of fun and such a great person to talk to and ask a million questions to 🙂

Thursdays are our days off. Usually we head to a beach and just relax for the day. But, yesterday we went to Cape Coast to a city called Elmina. Elmina is named after a castle that was built in the 1300’s and was turned into a slave trading post. We went for a tour inside the castle and it was probably one of the hardest hours of my life. As I listened to the tour guide explain what each room was used for and explain how the women were treated, I was reminded of really how broken and fallen the human race really is. I had always heard of places like this and of what happened but to be there, to walk through the dungeons, to see the cells where so many lifeless bodies were piled, it was suddenly just so real. This really happened. Definitely still processing and definitely very moved by what I saw and heard. Even though it is a difficult place to go, I pray that many people continue to go, especially Africans from all over the world to really see the roots that they come from.

Tomorrow begins my busy weekend of rehearsals and more rehearsals. There is a youth camp coming up in August that I am helping with. A youth camp here is nothing like a youth camp in Canada. There are no games in a big field, no tuck, no canoeing, archery or hiking. We get up very early probably about 5am and pray. Then we have some worship, probably a speaker, some more prayer and worship, some food, and more prayer, worship and speaking. We go to bed very late and do it all again the next day. People here are very, very serious about their Lord. This is not a bad thing just very different. I am very humbled by the devotion and ceaseless worship of these people. They have inspired and convicted me in my personal life so much.

Well I hope you have been successfully

updated.

Please continue to pray for me in the next 3 weeks. Please pray for:

Strength to get through all the rehearsals for church and youth camp

Deep connections with the youth at the camp

That the songs I share with the church would speak in a new way to the people here.

That the people I am working with and teaching would understand and catch on quickly to the theories and parts I am teaching them.

That God would continue to use and mold me while I am here.

Thank you once again for all your love ans support!!!

A picture of the courtyard taken from the Governors balcony.

A picture of the courtyard taken from the Governors balcony.

 

Week One.

I have spent one glorious week in beautiful Ghana. It still feels surreal to wake up here every morning, but I am quickly adjusting to the culture and way of life here in Accra. It will be impossible to update you on absolutely every experience I have had in the last week but I will try and mention the key moments for you.

I have now finished my orientation process here which was basically making sure my vaccinations and health information was up to date, informing me of some cultural do’s and dont’s and getting some tips on how to be safe and how to respond and relate to the opposite sex. All this has been very useful as I get to know the people here and meet what seems like hundreds of Ghanaians. Although there are some things you just shouldnt do here, Accra is very accepting and becoming more modern. So if you do happen to do something offensive like pointing with your left hand, you will almost always be forgiven because you are white, or Obruni.

I have been very surprised at how many SIM associates are here in Ghana, even just in Accra. I have met almost all the Accra missionaries except for 2 families who are away on home assignment. There are 2 families who live here as well as 3 part timers who will be leaving soon. 2 from Wales and 1 from Swizerland. There is a wonderful lady named Lotti who is the guesthouse manager and will be here for one year. And of course my boss is the wonderful Sherri, who has been here for 8 years. She takes care of all the part time associates as well as does work with many different youth and children programs in Accra.

On Saturday, I got to see the church I will be attending and meet many of the people I will be working with in the worship ministry there, as well as the pastor. What wonderful people! They are working really hard to have a contemporary music program at their church and they even have a small choir! They are so excited to have me at their disposal. They are so eager to learn everything they can about music, I just hope I can be of some help!

And then Sunday was church. What an experience! I think everyone should experience and African church service once in their lives. Everything is loud and everyone is moving! The music just makes you want to dance, and the way these people are so on fire for the Lord is inspiring and humbling. I am definitely looking forward to spending 6 weeks with these amazing people.

On Monday I started observing some of the things I will be doing while I’m here. Sherri, Nono (part timer from Switzerland), and I traveled up this mountain/hill thing to the Winners Family School. This is a Christian school that is run by a pastor and probably has at least 200 students. The children in Ghana are amazing! They all want to meet the new Obruni (white person) and they just have this way of making you feel so loved. I will be teaching 4 classes on Monday mornings. We will do a BIble story, a couple songs and a memory verse in each class. The children are for the most part very well behaved and so eager to hear what you have to say, I am really looking forward to it! I also received a surprise visit from Pastor Enoch! I will get to go to his daughters school and lead their worship service on July 31st as well as visit his church soon!

Tuesday we didn’t have too much going on but Sherri took me to the Challenge Book Shop. This is a book shop that was started by a different organization that SIM has now teamed up with. Publishers send them Christian books and resources at really really discounted rates so that people here can afford them. It was really amazing to see how many books they had and how accessible these tools were to anyone who wanted them. They also have a van that is available to churches around Accra to take out and out on a sort of evangelism night. The van has a fold out screen where they will show Jesus films, and they will also do prayer and a time of worship. I also went to the market to buy some cloth to make some African dresses and went to my first Twi (the main language here) lesson with my tutor Sarah!

Wednesday I back to my church where there is a school from Monday-Friday. Sherri teaches a Bible story to all of the children and we will sometimes be able to go in and do some crafts or songs with the kids. On Monday and Wednesday evenings there is a kids club at the church. On Mondays we do a Bible story, memory verse and songs and on Wednesdays we mainly do singing, and dancing and a memory verse. The kids even have a chance to sing a solo in front of their friends if they want 🙂

And today. Thursdays we are off!! Sherri, Lotti and I took a trip to the beach today! It was so beautiful! Palm trees everywhere and the sand was so soft. It was so amazing to be at the ocean. Unfortunately it started to rain so we couldn’t spend as much time there as we wanted. Next Thursday we might take a trip to Cape Coast, which is a must see I am told, as it is a piece of Ghana’s history.

I forgot to tell you about the food! So far it is delicious! I have tried fried chicken and rice, jolof (not sure on the spelling) rice and Red red. Red red i black eyed beans and fried plantain. It is really good but can be very spicy, as with most things here. i have to eat the food in moderation to help my stomach adjust 🙂

So, I know that is a lot to read, but if you made it through, congratulations! I guess to summarize my week I would say that I am in awe. I am in awe of these amazing people, who have so little yet love people and their Lord with everything they have. I am in awe of this beautiful land. I am in awe of our amazing God, who is the same God here in Africa as He is in Canada. I am in awe that He would love me and take me back time and time again as I realize over and over how truly fallen I am. I am truly blessed to be in this place, to know these people and to serve my God. Again, thank you for your support and love, as I learn and grow and serve here.

Prayer Requests:

– Pray for more than just surface relationships to be built with the people I meet, but especially those I will be working with in the worship ministry

– Pray for a clear and receptive mind as I learn Twi.

– Pray for the children to have receptive ears and hearts as they hear the word of God.

– Pray for God to continue working in and changing my heart as He has already been doing.

 

Thank you! Praying that the peace and joy of our Lord is overwhelming your hearts and lives, as you live for Him! 

Image

Pastor Enoch and I

Image

Winners Family School

Akwaaba!!

Akwaaba means “You are Welcome”. I cannot count the amount of times I have heard this phrase the last 24 hours!

The plane rides were long but successful! I was surprised to find that a couple from my church, Josh and Lauren Woods were on the same flight as me! That helped to ease my mind a bit. I hardly slept from Calgary to Frankfurt, much to my disappointment. The Frankfurt airport was busy and ginormous! I am thankful that English is a universal language as my flight was not listed on the board when we got to the terminal. I was shocked at how many stores were in the airport and how expensive it was- it was like a mall. I grabbed some food and decided to check the flight list one more time and my flight was now at a different gate then I was previously told! Thank goodness I checked!! I hurried to the gate and they were already boarding my plane, much earlier than my ticket said. I was again surprised that no one was waiting to check my passport. I only had to scan my boarding pass and walk through. During this flight I was fighting to stay awake so I could get onto Ghana time as quickly as possible. This was hard, but Lord of the Rings kept me entertained 🙂 As we neared Ghana, you could feel the excitement growing with the locals who were returning to their home. As we landed the entire plane erupted in applause! We had made it!

I stepped off the plane to a very different environment. You can taste the humidity, it’s glorious! We took a bus from the tarmac to the actual airport. Everyone was very kind and pleasant and it took me no time at all to claim my luggage and get through customs. Once I was through, I met a lady named Lotti who was holding a nice big “SIM” sign. We stepped onto the busy streets of Ghana and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before! I am sure glad I won’t have to drive anywhere while I am here, the streets are terrifying! We made it to the guesthouse and needed to start the generator as there are often power outages in Ghana. Lotti showed me my room and the guesthouse and I met Sherri and 2 other girls who are staying here (Nono and Anne), and it wasn’t long till I was out cold in my bed.

I woke up at 9am today and enjoyed 12 hours of much needed rest! I had some breakfast and hung around the guest house and had lunch with Sherri. Well, I ate the lunch she made while she watched. (her church is fasting from 6 am- 6 pm for the entire month!). We made our way to the SIM office which is about a 5 minute walk away to get some money. Then we found a Trotro (cheapest mode of transportation; a minivanish thing) to take to the market. What an experience! Again, the roads here are a zoo, very glad there was someone else to navigate them! When you are walking people are constantly trying to sell you things or offer you a ride in a taxi. Because we are white, we have money.

We met many of Sherri’s friends along the way, who were all so kind and welcoming. A few of the gentlemen asked if Sherri would give me to them, she politely responded that she “would have to think about it”. One of her friends also gave me my Ghanaian name: Ama Asantewaa. Ama is because I was born on a Saturday and Asantewaa is the name of the Queen Mother who led the Ashanti rebellion against British Colonialism and is a symbol of strength. We picked up a few things from the main market called “Circle” including an adapter for my computer cord and a chip for my cell phone and headed home. What an experience in only 2 hours, and what a completely different world it is over here.

Once back at the guesthouse I was able to relax and then had a lovely dinner with Lotti and Anne, as well as a game of Skip Bo! Tomorrow I may get to participate in a drumming lesson and go to a shop that sells bags that are made out of recycled items. I will also take a taxi across the city to have dinner at the Iwans, another missionary family here.

Well that was a very long first update, I’m sorry! Continue to pray for me as I adjust to life in Ghana, although it has been going pretty well. The heat has been sweaty but not unbearable and I feel as thought I am almost caught up on sleep! Tomorrow I also begin some orientation of the culture and meet some more associates.

Thank you for your prayers and support! Akwaaba!!

Expectation and Anticipation

Wow! I can’t believe I will be leaving for Ghana in less than 48 hours! It still feels surreal to me, I wake up in the mornings thinking “Really? am I going to Africa?”. Well, the answer is yes, and it is all thanks to God and His blessings through the amazing people in my life.

Over this last month I have been overwhelmed with how generous and encouraging people have been. I have raised more than 100% of the funds I needed to get to Ghana and many people have committed to praying as I prepare to leave and while I am gone. God and His people never cease to amaze and surprise me. I guess what I really want to say here is, THANK YOU!! Thank you for believing in me, for encouraging me and and for trusting in God’s plan for my life and your lives. I truly have felt the peace and the presence of God throughout this whole journey, and I really feel like this road is the road I was meant to travel.

I know that there may be times in Ghana where things will be hard. I know I will see and experience things that I am not ready for. I know God will stretch and challenge me to get out of my own way, out of my comfort zone and to see the world through different eyes, through His eyes. I am expecting God to do amazing things in my heart, and I pray He can touch at least one life through my presence in Ghana.

Tomorrow I will leave this amazing city I call home at 6:25pm. It feels weird to be leaving Calgary after the week we have just had, but I am truly honored to call this place home and know 6 weeks will fly by. I will arrive in Ghana at 6:50pm on July 3rd, 12:50pm Calgary time. It is definitely going to be a long day. I ask for your prayers for endurance and courage as I have never traveled this far or long by myself before.

I will meet someone at the airport in Accra that will take me to the SIM guest house. From there anything can happen! I know I will be working with a wonderful lady named Sherri Paulson and we will largely working with the children of Accra as well as in the children’s ministry area of the church. I am so excited to meet these beautiful children and just spend time getting to know them! I may also get to opportunity to participate in some worship ministry which I’m sure will be quite a different experience than the worship ministry in our conservative churches here in Canada.

Prayer Requests

– Please pray for successful travel (connecting flights and on time flights)

– Please pray for quick and easy adjustment to Ghana time and heat

– Please pray for God to prepare the hearts of all those I will meet and my own heart as well

– Please pray for a completely open mind and heart in me. That I would be open to new and different experiences from this new culture, and an open heart to all God would want to teach me and change in me.

I am told I will have internet connection and will update as often as I can. Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming along side me in this adventure! I am looking forward to sharing with you all the wonderful, challenging and life changing moments over the next 6 weeks.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  – Ephesians 3:20-21

 Image

Let the Countdown Begin…

Today is June 7th. That means there are only 24 days until I will be on a plane headed for Accra. It is unbelievable how fast time seems to be going.

In May, I was able to spend a few days in Toronto at the SIM Canada office, for some training and a what seemed like a floodgate of information. I met so many wonderful people and was truly inspired and encouraged by the passion and dedication of all those who I met. There were 5 other participants there with me and I was so inspired by their stories and dreams and encouraged by their friendship. SIM is truly a wonderful organization that has been incredibly blessed by God as they seek to serve the world through mission.

As I have been home, preparing to leave, I have been continuously overwhelmed by the blessings of God through the amazing people in my life. I sent out my first support letter on May 19th and 20 days later I have received almost 75% of the funds that I need and many commitments to prayer. God and His people never cease to bless me in new and unexpected ways. I believe that God will continue to provide and I will receive 100% of what I need.

I am so looking forward to meeting the people in Accra, both the missionaries and the locals. I am excited to get involved with the church there and serving in any way I can, but I must say I am quite excited to get involved with the children’s ministry programs.

As I continue to prepare to leave I ask that you would continue to pray. Please pray that all the little details would come together quickly. From things like: ticket purchase to remembering to pack everything I need. This month is a very busy one for me. Wrapping up the school year as well as New West Symphony and Chorus’ Spring Concert and our very first recording. Pray that I would have peace and be able to prepare my heart as much as possible in this busy time.

Thank you so much for your support in prayer and funds. I pray that wherever you are in your journey, that you would be open to wherever the Lord is leading you.