I could have missed this.

Thank you all so much for the outpouring of support & love over my last post about little angel Theresa. I told her mother on the phone the following day that so many people have read the story of her daughter and are praying for her, sending love and warmth her way, and have stepped up to help fund her business start-up grant. She kept saying “thank you, thank you, God bless you, and God bless them”. When she returns from visiting her other children in northern Ghana we will begin working on her business plan, which hopefully will be a fruit stand!

You see, my dear readers & friends, there are so, so many things I haven’t been telling you on my little corner of the internet. This space has been pretty empty since I moved to Ghana over 3 months ago. Posts have been sporadic and lacking details. Part of the reason is because most days I just can’t find the words. Another part of the reason is because some thing are just so raw and fresh that I need to process a bit before I let everyone in on my thoughts. A third reason is because there are circumstances & situations that I know are meant to be kept between just God and I, at least for now. And the last reason this blog has been quiet is because things are brewing. Let me just say it flat out: God is MOVING over here in Ghana. Big time. He is moving my heart, Ghanaian’s hearts, and hearts of people all over the world towards a very specific vision. He is not only moving hearts, but bodies and minds too.
And He is making.things.happen.

Three years ago this vision was not on my radar. Even three months ago this vision wasn’t not on my radar. I wouldn’t have predicted this in a million years. I really wouldn’t have. But that’s what happens when you surrender all that you have to God & wake up every morning and decide to say YES to wherever He leads you. You get led down a path that you might not have necessarily chosen for yourself. But once you are knee deep in His plans, although sometimes swampy and muddy, you realize that there is no place in the world you would rather be. You think over and over in your head, “I could have missed this. I could have missed all this beauty and pain and purpose. I could have ignored His very clear calling to pursue my own desires & plans. I could have missed this.”

And when God first started placing this vision on my heart months ago, there were moments when I wanted to say no & selfishly focus solely on the tasks already infront of me. Part of me thought, “Something else? Really God? You don’t think I have enough on my plate here?”. But guess what? Things continued to move forward even when I didn’t think I had enough time, energy, or money to take on another project, especially not as big as this one. And it came to a point, where I couldn’t ignore it or push it aside any longer. This is the path God has chosen for me, and this is one of my main purposes for being in Ghana.

But I can’t quite reveal everything just yet. Soon though, soon I’ll be able to begin explaining how I got to this place, and where I am headed here. Keeping big, exciting secrets is not something I am particularly good at, but I am zipping my mouth shut on this topic until further notice. Not even a peep. In the meantime though, I’ll be writing some blogs that I have been meaning to post for months now. I’m slowly easing back into this corner of the internet, and am beginning to feel like it’s time to share pieces of what has been going on. I’m coming back…did ya miss me?

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Posted in Blog Update, Living in Ghana, My Treasures | Leave a comment

Theresa

[Some of you may have noticed (and many of you have inquired) that I haven't been posting on my blog very often since moving to Ghana. I also haven't been posting on social media much either. The past three months have been a time of keeping close to God and not sharing much publicly. God willing, I will begin sharing the path God has me on here in Ghana. Thank you for the love & support.]

My little Theresa,
You were in my life for such a short amount of time, but you changed the course of my life forever. You taught me how to fight and fight and fight and never give up. You taught me how to love through the uncertainty and the unknown. You taught me to always have hope, even in the most desolate of circumstances. You reassured me again and again that this is the path I am supposed to walk down. You are a true gift from God to every person you came into contact with. You are God’s treasure, and I’m so thankful that He shared you with me, and now you are our shared treasure. You were on this Earth for a short amount of time, way shorter than we all wanted, but now you are whole, no longer in pain, and completely healed. You are in the arms of our loving Father and I know that you are safe with Him. I know that we will be reunited one day, but it’s very painful to realize that you are now gone from this Earth. Dance with Jesus sweet girl, cause I know you’ve got some mighty fine moves. Thank you for being a bright shining light in my life. My little angel, you are, and were so, so loved. We miss you every single day.
Love,
Auntie Rebecca

Three weeks ago I got a call from Kelly telling me that there was a child that needed immediate help. Kelly is a 16 year old American high schooler from California who I met this past summer at a local children’s home. We kept in contact after both her and I went back to the US last year.  She enrolled in online high school for her spring semester, and came back to Ghana for 2 months to work at the same children’s home.  She has been diligently working on organizing sign language classes for deaf adults, raising money to buy a bus to allow special needs children to attend school, and working around the clock at the children’s home tending to all their physical and emotional needs. She is one of a kind and has been a blessing to me in more ways than one.

Three weeks ago Kelly called me and told me of a little girl named Theresa that was brought to the children’s home that day. She didn’t know how she got to the children’s home, whether that be abandonment or relinquishment. She said the baby was around 6 months old, her body was seemingly healthy, but she had very severe hydrocephalus. Kelly said her head was three or four times a normal 6 month old baby’s head, her eyes were rolling into the back of her head, and she was screaming and crying in pain. For those of you who don’t know, hydrocephalus is also known as “water on the brain”, although the fluid that is filling the head isn’t water, but cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The excessive accumulation of CSF results in an abnormal widening of spaces in the brain called ventricles, which creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain. This fluid causes the skull to grow and stretch and makes the person’s head very large and heavy. Hydrocephalus is most often treated with a shunt system. A flexible plastic tube is placed beginning inside the brain or near the spinal cord and continues down into the abdominal cavity where the fluid can drain. The prognosis for hydrocephalus varies case by case, but many people have had successful shunt surgeries and have gone on to leave long, happy lives.

When Kelly described baby Theresa to me, I knew she needed medical attention immediately. She was in so much pain and the fluid in her head was increasing by the day. The next day Kelly talked to the children’s home administration about taking Theresa to the hospital to be examined, and hopefully scheduled for urgent surgery. The staff didn’t think that it was a pressing issue and said that Theresa was fine. They said that no children could be taken to the hospital without the director’s approval, and the director wouldn’t be back until Monday, a whole 5 days away. Kelly pushed and prodded all that she could, but the administration didn’t seem to care much. We had no other choice but to wait and pray for the director’s return on Monday, and that Theresa’s little body would keep fighting for life until then.

That week while we were waiting, we learned more about Theresa’s story and how she came to the children’s home. A few days before Theresa was brought to the home, her mother took her to the hospital to get examined and they were referred to the Neurosurgery Department for shunt surgery. That morning her mother left her on the floor of the Neurosurgery Department with her health insurance card, clothes, and a bowl of porridge. The Department of Social Welfare picked Theresa up and brought her to the children’s home. The hydrocephalus shunt surgery cost around $2,000 USD, an amount of money that almost no Ghanaians would be able to pay. Theresa’s mother abandoned her out of pure desperation. It was evident that she clearly loved her daughter and wanted her to have the necessary medical attention. Her mother abandoned her with items that showed she cared for her daughter; an extra set of clothes, porridge to feed her, and her medical insurance card containing the name of her mother, the district she lived in, and Theresa’s hospital records. She didn’t leave Theresa with nothing and no way to figure out who she belonged to. I began praying for her mother to go back to the hospital and inquire about her daughter, and then be directed to the children’s home. I knew in my heart that this mother loved her daughter and just wanted her to get the necessary surgery and be healthy. I prayed daily that somehow, someway, Theresa’s mother would return and Theresa would not be left an orphan.

That week Kelly spent as much time as she could with Theresa at the children’s home. She fed her and snuggled her and told her how much we loved her. The house mothers at the children’s home kept their distance from Theresa, for fear of her, and for fear of “catching” what she had. In Ghana, children with special needs/disabilities are seen as cursed. They are viewed as wicked and evil, and sometimes not even human. There is a huge cultural stigma surrounding children with special needs that views them as a burdens to families, jinxes to communities, and the result of the wrongdoings of the parents to produce a child with a deformity. Children with special needs here are often killed, abandoned, or outcasted. There are little to no social services available for families who have children with special needs, and there are little to no services available for orphaned children with special needs.

On Monday, the children’s home director did indeed come back to talk to Kelly. She too didn’t show any sense of urgency in getting Theresa to the hospital. She told Kelly to wait until they had her medical records and then maybe Theresa could be taken to the hospital. So we waited more and continued to pray life over Theresa’s dying body.

A few days later, Kelly and the children’s home nurse were able to take Theresa to the hospital, and after waiting for 3 hours, were told that the specialist doctor wasn’t at the hospital that day, and they should return tomorrow.

So they returned the next day, waited in line with 16 people infront of them, got to the exam room, and were told that the doctor only has time to examine 16 children per day, and Theresa was number 17. They returned to the children’s home and we all were exhausted, frustrated, and enraged at what was happening. Day by day Theresa was getting sicker and was in constant, unending pain.

Finally we were able to get ahold of the doctor to schedule for him to come to the children’s home on Saturday to examine Theresa, and hopefully schedule for surgery. After weeks of being pounded into the ground with difficulties and setbacks, this news was so uplifting. We were hopeful that this was what we had been waiting for. We were counting down the days until the appointment and Theresa seemed to be doing well, and was actually eating more than weeks prior. Kelly and I were beginning to tell family and friends about Theresa, and many agreed to help us fundraise for surgery. Prayers were being said all over the world for our little treasure Theresa and I had unending faith that she would soon be getting surgery and her body would begin to heal.

Tuesday April 1st, Kelly called me and told me that Theresa’s mother was at the children’s home to pick her up. Somehow the children’s home was able get ahold of her mother from the name that was on Theresa’s medical insurance card that her mother left with her at the hospital. Kelly walked into the administration office to the staff yelling at her mother (Faustina) and shaming her for abandoning her daughter. They told Faustina to take Theresa away because they didn’t want to care for her. They told her to bring Theresa back on Saturday morning so the doctor could see her. Kelly took Theresa and Faustina to where they live and her mother cried the entire taxi ride back to the house because of all the hurtful things that were said to her. Kelly got them settled, and we arranged to meet on Saturday morning at the children’s home so the doctor could see Theresa, and then we would make a plan of action for surgery and recovery. After finding out the plan for surgery on Saturday, I planned on asking Faustina if her and Theresa wanted to move into my house for a few weeks, or months. This would make transportation to the hospital and follow up appointments more convenient, it would provide a safe, clean, and sterile environment to recover after surgery, and also ease the financial burden of Theresa’s mother so she wouldn’t have to worry about working while Theresa was recovering. I was excited at the possibility of welcoming these two into my home and pouring nothing but love, support, and encouragement into their bodies for weeks on end. I was rejoicing that God had answered my prayer of bringing Faustina back to her daughter. Theresa was no orphan, she had an incredibly brave and courageous mother who loved her so much. I was filled with so much hope that things were actually happening and there was no longer a standstill.

Friday April 4th, Theresa was called home to be with Jesus. 

Kelly called me and told me the news as I was in town ordering bedframes. My body went into shock and I didn’t know how to react. I had no words. Life was moving all around me, traffic was whizzing by, and 5 different people were asking me what sizes and colors of bedframes I needed. My heart and body were breaking and I was in the midst of counting money and business transactions. It was not the time, nor place to digest and begin to process the news I had just heard, so I messaged a few close friends who knew the situation and just asked them to pray.

Kelly and I made a plan to go to Theresa’s house the next morning (Saturday) to talk to Faustina about what happened and to see what we could do.

I’m not going to lie, that day, Friday, was very, very heavy. I had a long to-do list of items that absolutely needed to get done, and I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other and work through the pain. I didn’t believe it was real. In my mind I was still thinking that the next morning we would wake up early to meet the doctor at the children’s home, see Theresa and Faustina, schedule for shunt surgery, and discuss the care plan. Theresa would have the surgery, slowly but steadily recover in my home, I would work with her mom on business and financial classes, we would find an area where she could begin a fruit stand or a bread shop, she would receive a start up loan, open her business, move back to her house, and start making money to provide for Theresa. I saw Theresa running around and going to school, and being in my life for a long time. I saw her laughing and coming over for sleepovers at Auntie Rebecca’s house. I saw her healed and happy. All of those dreams and visions came crumbling down around me and I didn’t want to allow myself to believe it.

The following morning Mike, Jamen, and I met up with Kelly and drove to Theresa’s house. The drive to her house was silent, no one said a word outloud, as I was praying nonstop in my head. This was supposed to be the day we had been waiting for, the day Theresa would finally be seen by the doctor. And instead I was driving to the house knowing that Theresa wouldn’t be there. We drove down bumpy dirt roads and turned right and Kelly pointed out the house. It was no house at all. It was five pieces of plywood nailed together with a piece of fabric to serve as a door. We all got out of the car and Kelly went inside to tell Faustina that visitors were here to see her. We walked into the 10 foot by 10 foot room that only held a double bed, half a bench, some jerry cans, a charcoal stove, and a few pieces of clothing. Faustina’s mother (Theresa’s grandmother) was also in the room, and the six of us shifted around on the bench and bed so that we would all fit.

I will never forget the moment I looked into Faustina’s eyes for the first time. Her dark brown eyes held so much pain. So much suffering. So much mourning. I saw a very dim light in her eyes. It was as if she was holding on, just barely, with a thin rope that was worn to just threads. Her eyes weren’t filled with hope, they were filled with sadness.

Kelly had printed out pictures she had taken of Theresa and I asked Faustina if she would like to see them, and keep them, to always remember her precious daughter. She nodded her head and Kelly took out the photos. Faustina took one look at them and muttered in Twi, “She is so beautiful”. We all huddled over the photos and admired how beautiful, perfect, and loved little Theresa was.

I began asking questions that Mike translated for me. I started off with simple, surface level questions, and as she began opening up to us, started to dive deeper. She looked me in the eyes as she answered them, even though she knew that I couldn’t completely understand what she was saying. She spoke with such sadness in her voice, as if she was forcing the answers out of her body, using all the remaining energy she had. I spoke long, winding answers and when she was finished Mike would translate and explain them to us.

She told us that Theresa’s father left when Theresa was around two months old. He left because he said Theresa was a curse to their family and he could not be near her. He believed that her head was growing because she was a possessed “child from the sea”. He has not come back since.

Faustina told us that she has 3 other children who are living in the north of Ghana with their aunt because school is free up there and the children are provided with one hot meal per day. Faustina said she wants to be with her children, but there are no jobs in the north, so she works in Kumasi and sends the money to her kids to pay for their upkeep.

She told us that before Theresa was born she was baking and selling bread everyday which didn’t make much money, but it was enough to feed herself and send money to her children. After Theresa was born and she began getting very sick, she was unable to work because Theresa couldn’t be carried on her back, thus forcing her to stay at home all day and find some way to feed herself.

Then she told us how Theresa passed away. I will not share details because it is a very private and sacred matter, but I will tell you that Theresa passed from this Earth in her mothers arms. Praise God that Theresa was in the arms of the person who loved her most.

Because Faustina is from the Upper East of Ghana, and is a member of the FraFra people, Theresa had to be buried in a certain way. Elder FraFra men came to Faustina’s house after Theresa passed away and took her to the FraFra cemetery for their proper cultural and spiritual burial. I wanted to make sure that Theresa had a proper burial and was what Faustina wanted.

Faustina pointed outside to a cardboard box and said that was the box they put Theresa in when they took her body away. In that moment the air in the room felt even thicker and the heaviness came pounding down. Everything felt too real. I knew God was surrounding us and filling every corner of the 10 foot by 10 foot room, but it sure felt lonely. Coffins aren’t meant to be that small. Babies aren’t supposed to die from treatable conditions. Young mothers aren’t meant to bury their children. Necessary surgeries aren’t meant to be unattainable. Children with special needs aren’t supposed to be seen as cursed. It all didn’t seem right.

The conversation was ending and we were getting ready to leave. I asked Mike if he could ask Faustina if Jamen and I could pray for her. She agreed. Faustina was to my right, Jamen was to my left, and Kelly was to Faustina’s right. We squeezed close together as I grabbed Faustina’s hands. Jamen laid her hands over mine, and Kelly held Faustina’s arm. I asked Jamen to pray because I knew if I even opened my mouth nothing but tears would come out. Thank gosh Jamen had the words. She prayed the most eloquent and beautiful prayer I have ever heard. Tears were falling from my eyes and were landing on our stack of hands. In the middle of the prayer Faustina grabbed my hands tighter and I just prayed for God to be with us. The prayer was a true out-of-body experience and there are no words to describe it. I have never had a moment like it. The Holy Spirit was lifting us up so high and filling all of us with love and light. I knew God was there, sitting in the cramped, sweaty, and humid room. He was sitting on the tattered mattress holding Faustina in His lap.

Before we left Jamen and I asked Mike to translate one more thing. We wanted Faustina to know that nothing that happened was her fault. That she was loved beyond words by all the people sitting in the room, our Heavenly Father above, and her little angel Theresa who was always watching over her. That she was, and is, an incredible mother. That we would be constantly praying for her, and so many people around the world would be as well. I looked deep into her eyes again. They were still very dark and filled with sadness, but the light seemed a little brighter. A little flicker of hope that was slowly growing bigger. I saw strength and courage and determination in her eyes, even though it was masked by grief. I hugged her tight and we walked out the door.

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(Faustina on the left & her mother on the right)

We got into the taxi and headed back into the city. The whole ride again was silent, but I still constantly prayed for God to be with Faustina in every moment of everyday. We went to the market and picked up rice, sugar, salt, bread, peanut butter, water, new shoes, and a phone charger to bring back to Faustina and her mother. We wanted to make absolute sure that they would have enough food to eat before they traveled to the north to visit Faustina’s 3 other children. When we brought the items back she thanked us endlessly, and for the first time since meeting her, she smiled. She smiled back at me when I told her that God had provided us money to be able to buy the items for her.

When Faustina returns from visiting her kids in the north I will be meeting with her again to talk about the way forward. I want to provide her with a grant to re-open her business. We were discussing the possibility of her running a fruit stand on a busy road near her house. I want to help her be able to help provide for her 3 other children. I want to help her get back on her feet. We all agreed that she should stay in Kumasi and work, because in her village there are no opportunities, and that she should go and see her kids as often as possible. She was so excited talking about the potential of re-opening her business and being able to provide for her family. She is one incredible, strong, brave, and resilient woman. I admire her and look up to her so much.

The last three weeks with Theresa have been an absolute roller coaster. Days when everything seemed so hopeful, and days there seemed to be nothing but despair. But I am constantly reminded of the most important thing, God was with us through it all. Through the days when we thought Theresa was going to die, and the days when she was fighting strong. God stood right beside us, fought for us, and surrounded us with an astounding amount of peace through the ups and downs. In this situation it would be so easy to turn my back on God, to say that He is not good because He took Theresa away from this Earth. Because He put us through a three week storm. Because He did not heal Theresa’s body. But I know that nothing is wasted, and He bring everything together for His purposes.

But that doesn’t make mourning any easier. I don’t know why He called Theresa home. And I might not know for a while. But I can see His hand so clearly in the last three weeks. He moved Faustina to return to the children’s home, even with all the guilt and shame and stigma surrounding her, so Theresa could spend her last few days on Earth with the woman who loved her most. He moved Kelly’s heart and mine to this situation that seemed hopeless. He protected and guided us to the right people. He instilled the wisdom and words to comfort Faustina and envelop us in His goodness. And for that, I rejoice and praise Him.

But, I am left with a lot of unanswered questions and a heart that is broken and bleeding. It will not instantly be healed overnight, and this process of recovery will take some time. But that is okay. It will be a time of climbing into the lap of my sweet Savior who knows exactly what I need. For He works everything together for our good, and His glory.

Theresa,
I miss you. We miss you. Ghana, and the world, is not the same without you. Thank you for being the most beautiful gift from God. You are my treasure forever and will never, ever be forgotten. I love you. We love you, always & forever.
Dance with Jesus my little angel. I’ll see you one day soon.
Love, Auntie Rebecca

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PS. If anyone would like to help fund Faustina’s start up business grant, you may donate here.

Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, Living in Ghana, My Treasures | Leave a comment

A Season of Waiting part 3

After I wrote part 2 to “A Season of Waiting” I didn’t expect there to be a part 3. I really expected to arrive back in Ghana and at the snap of my fingers have everything figured out and settled.

But that didn’t happen.

And three months into living in Ghana & now 16 months into waiting …the answers are still unknown. And there are even more questions now. There is no end in sight. There aren’t even a list of possible outcomes…because it’s just that unknown.

I am a natural born leader and have been since as long as I can remember. Everyone who knows me well would agree. Even people who don’t know me well tell me they would agree.

I can take problems and figure out steps towards answers.
I can examine assignments and assign responsibilities to the most well suited people.
I can look at complicated tasks and lay it out in a way that all involved understand their roles and how they contribute to the situation.
All of those things are second nature to me. Being a natural leader is a beautiful gift that I am so blessed to poses.

But being a natural leader also comes at a cost.

I need to look at problems and lay out the answers and 5 plans of attack.
I must list all the possible outcomes and know how to react to each of them.
I have to know step 1, 2, 3, and step 1a, 1b, and 1c.
I like to micromanage situations and outcomes.

A micromanager + a long, grueling season of waiting = a recipe for disaster.

And some days it has felt exactly like that, a disaster. A spinning out-of-control cyclone. The fiercest roof-pounding rainstorm with the loudest ear-shattering claps of thunder and blinding flashes of lightning.

You see, this season of waiting for this specific situation is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. This is one of the first times in my life where the situation is completely and totally out of my hands. There is literally nothing I can do to produce an outcome, or quicken the pace. I have done all that I can. At the current moment, there is nothing more I, Rebecca, can do.

And it is most difficult, stressful, and debilitating place to be. When you are powerless, you feel weak and drained and devastated. You feel like a defenseless failure.

But it is the most beautiful, glorious, and perfect place to be.

It look me being stripped away from all my natural born leader micromanaging skills to fully, 100%, completely trust my God. When you are put in a situation where you are immobilized in every sense of the word, you truly realize who has control of all situations and outcomes.

16 months ago when this season began, I didn’t really know God. I knew of Him. I knew of the Bible. I knew Sunday School memorized verses. I knew of a structured religion with strict rules.

But I didn’t have a relationship with Him. I doubted Him, put Him in a box saying He could only do this and that, and I rarely believed that He knew better than me. I thought that I knew myself, my problems, and my solutions way better than He ever could. I put all trust in myself.

And now, almost a year and a half later, this journey has been forcing me to put all my trust in Him. It took me being stripped of all the power I thought I had, to learn who God really is. And more than just who He is, but just how much He loves me and how He truly knows best.

When you are uncovered, unprotected, and unguarded the deepest and weakest parts of you are exposed. My over-controlling, self-trusting, authority-reining self was out on display, and let me be the first to tell you, it was not pretty.

So this season of waiting, has turned into much more than a season of waiting, it has turned into a season of relinquishing control. If I would have not been rendered powerless by the circumstances and situation, I would not know Him in the way that I know Him now, and I definitely wouldn’t trust Him in the no-holding-back fashion that I do now.

This season of waiting is not over, and I’m not sure when it will be over. But this season of waiting has birthed a season of letting go, and letting God…and I hope that season never, ever, ever ends. 

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Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, Living in Ghana | 1 Comment

Change Makes Cents

Change Makes Cents is a jewelry ministry that makes beautiful international coin necklaces and bracelets, sells them, then donates a portion of the proceeds each month to a missionary. For the month of March, Change Makes Cents chose to sponsor me! A portion of every jewelry piece during this month will go to support the Education Center! It’s such an honor and I’m thrilled that I get to be apart of this growing ministry. You can view some of the necklaces/bracelets on their Instagram here.

If you would like to order, or create a custom jewelry piece, please email: change_makes_cents@yahoo.com

Happy buying!!

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Posted in Blog Update, Fair Trade Fashion | Leave a comment

Keeping Close

You may or may not have noticed…but most of my recent posts haven’t been too in depth. They’ve been very short and lacking detail. My posts been sporadic and lacking information about what’s actually going on in my life here in Ghana. I’ve received so many sweet emails and messages asking what’s going on, how they can be praying, and about how specific situations are progressing. I apologize for not posting and updating more, and I so appreciate people reaching out to make sure everything is okay.

To be honest, most days its very hard to write.
It’s hard to process things and put them into words.
It’s hard to explain what’s going on here.
It’s hard to express the emotions because its overwhelming and also numbing.

During the last two and a half months of living here my life has been ruined. Gloriously ruined. Completely shattered and completely whole.  Torn apart, and put back together more beautifully than I could ever imagine. It’s hard to explain. It’s very difficult to put into words. I could write an entire book about a single day here. There is so much to say, so many emotions, and so many changing situations. There is just so much. 

What I’m trying to say through all this is that during the past 2+ months, there have been children, cases, and experiences that I have kept very close. I have kept them between just God and I, and have not shared in the public eye, which I often feel so obligated to. Some moments have been so sacred, special, and life changing that I have felt God whisper, “Keep this close Rebecca. Don’t share this just yet. I’m not done working. This story will continue. Wait until I tell you to share this journey. For now, talk to Me about it, come closer to Me, lets walk together.”

I’m not saying, by any means, that blog posts will stop, or even slow down. I will continue to post, I just might not be posting every little detail about what is happening. There are certain things going on in my work and life here in Ghana that I know aren’t meant to be shared for the world to read just yet.

What I can tell you is that God is doing some crazy things here in Ghana.
beautiful crazy.
scary crazy.
terrifying crazy.
joyful crazy.

I never expected any of this.
I never expected things to be so hard, yet so natural.
I never expect to be led in the direction that I am going in.
I never expected my heart to break so much, yet be filled with so much hope at the same time.
I never expected to feel so empty, and so full.
And I never, ever expected to feel so at home, and so at peace with this life.

But that’s how God works…and I am so glad that’s how He works. Because His plans are always, always better than mine.

Stick around friends, the journey is just beginning. 

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House Tour [part 1]

Since everyone has been asking for more picture of my home I thought I should do a little 2-part tour of my quaint home here in Ghana. If you want to read about how I got this beautiful home, click here.

I moved into this house just days after I arrived in Ghana and since then it’s been a nonstop 2 months of renovations, painting, and decorating. I love making a house a home and have spent so much time trying to make this place a space of comfort, refuge, warmth, and love. Putting together a house in Ghana is not easy at all. There is no Target or IKEA. There isn’t a one-stop department store either. You end up going to 10 different places just to find the right sized bed frame. It is quite the exhausting adventure, but one I have really enjoyed.

As for the interior, there are 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, dining room, living room, kitchen, and pantry. Today I wanted to give you a tour of the dining room, kitchen, volunteer room, and volunteer bathroom. These are the most “finished” rooms in the house…although there is still a lot of work to be done.

Welcome to my home! 
IMG_8003[Dining room.
Don't be fooled, my floors are NEVER this clean.
It just so happened that I had mopped the floors that morning.]
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[Dining room looking into living room.
My living room is a total mess, just ignore it &
focus on the adorable handprints that friends painted!]

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[Gratitude wall that is MUCH more full since this photo was taken.
Anybody that stays in my house gets their photo taken with my Poloroid camera
& goes up on the wall as well.
I LOVE watching this wall fill up with what we are thankful for.]

IMG_8012[Don't you just love those gorgeous shelves? Handmade here in Kumasi!]
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[I love when friends leave notes on the chalkboards around the house.]

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[One of my favorite rooms in the whole house]

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[Volunteer shower]

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[Volunteer toilet]

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[Volunteer sink]

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[One of the 3 rooms for volunteers]

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[The carpenter in my village did an incredible job with the bunk beds!]

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[Pantry room off the kitchen]

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[Adorable signs & the week's verse]

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[Don't be fooled…we don't have two fridges. The one on the left is broken.]

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[When I painted the kitchen I didn't have a ladder yet, so the top half of the walls are still the previous color!]

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[Little touches that make this place feel like home]

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[Where I've experimented with lots of meals, burned a few, and made some masterpieces]

Come back soon for part 2!!

Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, Living in Ghana | 1 Comment

Education Center Update [March 5th, 2014]

Where do I even begin with this Education Center update? Everyday something is new at the Center. Everyday more progress has been made. Everyday we are one step closer to opening. It’s so hard to keep up and keep everything straight, and then trying to condense the info to share with all of you!

So where are we right now?

The tile flooring is finished on both the computer lab and library, the window frames are being painted so the windows can be installed, the septic tank is finished and hooked up to the indoor plumbing, we have running water connected, the bookshelves are almost finished, the computer desks are done, the library tables are in progress, we are buying chairs tomorrow, and interior and exterior ceiling is complete.

So what else needs to be done before we can open the Center?

The interior and exterior walls need to be painted (can’t wait for you see the colors I picked out!!), flowers planted outside, tile for two outdoor verandas, interior doors and locks installed, electricity connected to transformer, toilets and sinks installed, all furniture brought in, walls decorated, computers installed, books shelved, art supplies organized, offices put together, and about a billion other little tasks that I’m forgetting at the moment.

Phew. That’s a whole lot of work summed up into two short paragraphs. 

The construction of the Center (minus furnishing and decorating) should be done by the end of next week (at the latest). We should have the keys to a completed Center by the end of next week. Wow. We are in the final steps of this year and a half journey of building the Education Center. The fastest and longest year and a half of my life.

It feels like just yesterday I was standing in the middle of an overgrown field covered in trash, dreaming about a computer lab and library and having no idea how it was going to happen. And now less than 16 months later I’m standing in the exact same spot, except now, on top of that swatch of earth is a solid foundation, strong concrete, and tile flooring. 16 months ago I was standing on weeds and plastic bags, and now I’m standing inside my office. I can’t count the number of fundraisers, donations, budgets, tears, struggles, I-want-to-give-up moments, jumps for joy, ontop-of-the-world experiences, and hard, hard work that it has taken to get to this place, standing inside my office. I still can’t fathom it all…and I was involved in it all, so I can only imagine what it’s like watching it all happen through your computer screen thousands of miles away.

I sat down yesterday crunching the numbers of the budget and adding up the remaining costs, and I am so excited to say that we are going to have just enough money to complete construction and furnish and decorate. Just enough. God always provides what is needed, and this Center is a complete testament to that. Thanks to very generous donors and some passionate fundraisers, we have enough to complete construction. The is only thing that isn’t included in that budget, but is one of the most important parts of the Center, is the computers. I have partnered with an incredible non profit who has very generously donated supplies, labor, software, and set-up for the 25 computers, but we must pay for the computers themselves. In the coming days I will be figuring out exactly how much I have to raise, and I’ll have less than a month to raise it all because they need to be installed and working before we open the Center. Stay tuned for more info!

Standing inside my office!

Standing inside my office!

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Book shelves being built in the computer lab

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100% custom bookshelves just for us!

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Computer lab

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Computer lab bathrooms…and our beautiful tile flooring!

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Library side…flooring almost finished!

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The dream.

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Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, Living in Ghana, The Education Center | 1 Comment

Currently…[February edition]

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drinking coke by the gallon. that real cane sugar is sure addicting.

feeling like the weeks are just flying by…how is it already march?

appreciating the comfort & refuge that my home provides.

reading about the services/resources available to special needs children here in ghana.

watching cheesy rom-coms…if you know me, you know my love for unrealistic cheesy movies.

going to see the education center everyday & in awe of the progress.

laughing at the crazy situations i get myself into.

eating carbs. carbs. and more carbs.

dreaming of the day where tiny feet are running about my house.

waiting for answers.

planning projects step by step & trying not to get overwhelmed.

praying boldly.

sleeping like a baby, except when i’m woken up at 4am to my security guard cutting the grass with an axe.

remembering to take time to myself to do activities that fill me up. writing. reading. crafting.

wondering what the next few months will hold.

wearing (semi) clean clothes….the laundry pile disappeared!

making cinnamon rolls for sunday brunch/church! lets see how these turn out….

getting frustrated at the frequent power outages…TIA.

loving the endless joy & laughter that my atonsu kids bring. they can brighten even the darkest days.

listening to the civil wars live album on repeat.

acknowledging that having a house is a whole lot of work–cooking & cleaning & fixing nonstop!

enjoying the big & little moments that make my life in ghana so so beautiful.

turning the calendar over to march & making changes for a new month.

thankful for life.

Posted in Blog Update, Currently, Ghana, Living in Ghana | Leave a comment

Unknown

I’ve been living here in Ghana for almost two months now and I can’t believe just how quickly the time has gone. Every other time I’ve come to Ghana it’s been for a 3 month trip, and at the two month point I would be already dreading leaving, and trying to figure out any possible way to extend my trip. Every other trip I’ve been dragged, kicking and screaming (not literally), to the airport and handed my boarding pass for a flight back to the US.

But not this time. I arrived on a one-way ticket. No departure boarding pass in sight.

Most mornings I breathe a sign of relief knowing that I don’t have to count down the days I have remaining in the country. I don’t have to prepare my luggage, heart, and mind, to leave this place. I don’t have to figure out how to break the news to the kids I’m leaving, but that I’ll be back again in just a few months.

Because this isn’t just a trip to Ghana. This was an indefinite move. There are no countdowns, no days remaining, no see you in five months, no packing of bags, and no tear-filled goodbyes. I am here, and I am here indefinitely.

People have a lot of questions, concerns, and thoughts about my indefinite move and all that it entails. They ask what my 5 year plan is, what my 10 year plan is, when I’ll be moving back to the US, what projects I’ll be starting, and what exactly I’ll be doing here.

And right now I don’t know when I will be back to the US to visit. I don’t know how long I’ll be living in Ghana. I don’t know what projects and people will come into my life, for a short time, and forever. I don’t even know what today holds, and I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow will bring.

To many people, that seems scary. The complete unknown. Sometimes I do think that is scary and nerve wracking, but I am grounded once again knowing that I put my trust not in things of this Earth, but in a Heavenly Father. For He is the One who holds the universe, leads me, and guides my steps. What I see as the complete unknown of my future, He sees as the continuation of a journey diving deeper into Him.

Over the past two months He has shown me glimpses of my purpose here in Ghana, from the tiny moments to the life changing experiences. These moments inspire me, encourage me, enrage me, frustrate me, challenge me, stretch me, break me, and force me to fully rely on Him in every single moment of every single day. He is truly breaking my heart for what breaks His, as as weird as it sounds, I am thrilled that He is doing that, even though some nights end in a puddle of tears and sorrow. He is showing me where my niche is in caring for the least of these, and what that may look like for me here in Ghana. I know all these steps, these situations, these experiences, are leading up to something big. I’m not quite sure what that “big” is yet, but I have a few ideas that I’m keeping close between God and I.

I’m walking towards complete unknown. But I walk confidently in faith that my Father, the master Artist and Creator, is guiding my steps.
I never walk alone, for He is always with me.

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Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, Living in Ghana | 2 Comments

Little Boy in Blue

Before reading the post below, please read this post from August about my first visit to Asakraka.

As you read in the post from August, I first visited the rural, extremely poor village of Asakraka working on monitoring our adult/out-of-school-teens literacy program. This village captured me to the core. It stole my heart in a way that only a one other community in Ghana has, and that is my beloved Atonsu. When we first pulled into the village, I knew without a doubt that this wasn’t just a one-time visit. It wasn’t the gorgeous rolling hills covered in trees, the delicious smell of tomato stew brewing, or the vibrant music blasting that first captured me. It wasn’t anything physical. I couldn’t explain it in words. I just felt it in my heart. It was as if God was whispering to me, “Rebecca, I have big plans for this village. I have big plans for you in this village. Come, let me show you where I want you.” It was a really strange feeling actually, walking into a village for the first time, and already being in love with it.

I stepped out of the taxi and “little boy in blue” (read here) came running towards me. My heart just about burst into a million little pieces. My soul was singing. My feet were dancing. And my hands were being held by the precious little miracle. This sweet boy followed me around the entire day that I was in Asakraka last August. He walked in and out of the classrooms with me as I checked on the students taking their literacy exams. He followed me to the tiny shop where I bought water. He came with me to the borehole to wash off my hands. He never left my side. I asked him, in the little Twi I knew at the time, what his name was, and where his parents were, but never was able to understand his mumbled responses. He didn’t appear to be neglected or abused, and seemed to be loved and accepted in the village. So he became the “Little Boy in Blue” to me, a 3 year old with special needs, living in a rural and very poor village, who radiated nothing but happiness, joy, and laughter.

After a full day of work in Asakraka, we loaded up the car to start our journey back to Atonsu. I gave him one big hug, got into the back seat of the car, closed the door, and blew him kisses out the window, as he jumped up and down and waved as we pulled away.

I left Asakraka that day in August, knowing that I would be back. I didn’t know when, or in what capacity, but it was a “see you later”, and not a “goodbye”.

And every single day since I met Little Boy in Blue, I’ve prayed for him. He crossed my mind often, and whenever he would, I prayed that he remain healthy, that he was loved and cared for by someone in the village, and that he would never, ever lose that spunk for life.

He remained a mystery to me. I never learned his name. Never met his parents. Never knew which medical conditions he actually had. Never saw where he lived. Never knew what he’s gone through in his few years of life. But I knew that I didn’t really need all my questions about him answered, I simply knew that he had captured my heart, and that God put him in my life for a definite reason.

So I prayed. For him and the entire community of Asakraka. I prayed that whatever plans God had for me in this village be made clear, and that doors of opportunity be flung open.

And just a few months later, doors burst open. A path back to Asakraka was made so clear that it would be crazy if I didn’t walk down it. Little and big details began to fit together and I rejoiced knowing the incredible future projects in Asakraka. I couldn’t believe it was all happening, and that God would knit my heart so closely to a tiny, rural, not-on-a-map village for such a mighty purpose as this.

When I moved to Ghana in January, we began to put into action the beginning stages of this new project. I could hardly contain my excitement because God’s hand was unmistakably guiding us the entire way. We schedule an initial meeting with the village elders, headmasters, teachers, and community leaders at the end of January, and I marked it in my calendar and counted down the days.

The day arrived, and the staff, volunteers, and I loaded into a car for the long, dusty, and bumpy ride to the village. My heart raced and pounded as we got closer. I prayed for my Little Boy in Blue the whole ride and really hoped that he was still somewhere in the village.

We pulled into Asakraka and familiar faces greeted me as the kids ran from the school compound. My feet and my heart were finally in one place and all I could do was thank God for brining me back to this community that I loved so deeply. I searched the crowd of children’s faces, but no Little Boy in Blue. After looking around the school yard, where I first met him in August, I had to get moving to the meeting that was scheduled.

After the meeting I asked one of the teachers about Little Boy in Blue. I had very little information about him beyond what he looked like. The teacher said he knew who the boy was, but that he hadn’t seen him in the village this week. Asakraka isn’t a very big village, so I was a little disappointed to hear that the teacher hadn’t seen him around recently. I had to continue on with the work I need to get done in the village, but prayed that Little Boy in Blue would miraculously show up.

I was walking out of a classroom where two volunteers were doing art projects and I connected eye to eye with a little boy. I knew who he was, and he knew who I was. He immediately ran towards me as I reached out my arms. I squeezed him so so tight and he giggled loudly. I kissed his cheek and he squirmed to get down. He grabbed my hand and we walked across the school compound. Little Boy in Blue, who showed up from out of nowhere, just like the first time I met him, was back in my arms. I could not believe it. My heart was rejoicing and my feet were dancing as his hand clasped tightly to mine.

I looked down a him and asked in Twi, “What is your name?” and he responded in one clear word, “Domfa”. Little Boy in Blue had a name, sweet little Domfa.

We walked hand in hand towards the headmasters office where the community leaders were sitting talking. The head of the community council association came out of the room, a man whom I had met many times, and said to me, “I see you have met my son!” There are only two words to describe what had happened in the last hour: Only God

I pulled him aside because I had so many things I wanted to say to him, so many questions I had for him, but most of all, so many thanks to give to him. I told him that I prayed for his son everyday over the past 5 months since my last visit to Asakraka. I told him that his son was so special to me and he was one of the reasons the village was so close to my heart. I told him how God has brought me back to this community for the new project we were embarking on and that figuring out the story behind Little Boy in Blue was a top priority of mine. He thanked me endlessly for my prayers and for caring so much about his son. You could tell how much he loved his son, and that he was a true blessing, not a burden.

Domfa and I ran around Asakraka for the rest of the day laughing and playing and dancing together. We were jumping joyfully and singing with sass. That boy, he is so fearfully and wonderfully made, and lights up the entire village with his smile.

God brought Domfa and I together in August, reunited us in January, and has many months and years of visits coming in the future, for our journey and friendship has just begun.

See you soon Asakraka, and my Little Boy in Blue.

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