Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Father Knows Best


Day Two: No Distribution

“If you, being sinful, know how to give good gifts…”

Day Two of too much time on our hands brought more questions than answers, long prayers and petitions and the perennial “why?” Once again schools had to be called, children told no box or special program today, and these eight particular “children” had to wonder why He was not letting the “gifts” get to the right hands. We spent the day trading “stories” sharing laughs, planning and un-planning our time.

“God is good all the time – all the time God is good” but…

Perhaps, part of His mercy was to knit our hearts together as a “team”. To grow our desire to “give” until it overflowed through Him to us. When things go smoothly and well orchestrated, how much of our thoughts are on our utter and total dependence on Him? It becomes a “well-oiled” machine that God watches over, but we don’t really need Him to work it through. We can do that.

These past two days of waiting, wondering, praying, and praising, have been His gift to us. Tonight, the generator is on, the noise abated, we are ready for tomorrow and we are watching Him.

“We have no power to face this vast army… We do not know what to do – but our eyes are fixed on You.” 2 Chron 20:12

Monday, February 27, 2006

A World Vision Vision

“I’m coming to the party, You’re throwing for me..” Psalm 40

We all could have easily sung the chorus of the Little Drummer Boy with conviction, “I have no gift to bring, parum pa pum pum”. The first day of the distribution was set to have 3000 children receive boxes – but the boxes were not released from the port. Ohene Kumi, our African pastor and liaison, did have a chance to contact the schools and make sure we didn’t have 3000 disappointed faces, but the dignitaries, journalists and around 200 secondary school children did come to the distribution site.

Gathered under the makeshift canopy, they listened to the formal introductions, as well as the formalities of thanking powers that be AND the Almighty God. Allan spoke first, and gave an invitation to the Kingdom, to which about a dozen responded. I gave and even shorter program and the kids laughed, clapped and tried to overcome the let down of not leaving with something in hand.

But, this is the land of the “let down”. As we were complaining about the electricity, the errant air-conditioning, and snacking on American imported Pringles, outside the comfort of our van we drove through the dirt roads, where people’s lives are lived in the dirt. They sleep in the dirt, they walk in the dirt, many without shoes, and they literally, “eat our dust” as we pass by.

This is a land of “futureless” plans. If they live through the day, eat for the day, earn enough for the day – it has been a good day. The night brings fire for light and some relief from the suns relentless heat. The children may have had some disappointment for the day, but hear in Ghana, sometimes seeing another day is a good day.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bring it Home

On mission trips the mindset is what “we” are bringing to “them” – wherever “them” may be found. After all, “we” have more, know more, can give more than “them”.

The first thing we noticed as our van pulled into the church parking lot was the larger than life banner spread across the cinder block walls of the Sunday School building. It was the 23rd verse of the short book of Jude: Snatch them from Hell.

This church has an agenda, and they are not ashamed or afraid to let you know. That is their mission – to seek and save the lost who are perishing. The boldness of their statement quickly humbled and convicted me. While I did bring many gifts to “them”, this passion for the perishing was one they had given to me, definately one that I can bring home.

A Joyful Noise


Foreign services are a tremendous blessing and challenge. First, we are used to our schedules. Fifteen minutes of song, ten minutes of announcements, another song, two stanzas, a sermon and then off to Luby'’s Cafeteria. One of the most memorable moments I have had in an overseas church, came from an African Pastor. I inquired how long I had to present my program. He just smiled and said, "“Sister, we are here to worship the Lord, take all the time He tells you."

As our van pulled into the International Central Gospel Church, in spite of sealed windows and an expanse of concrete, the sounds of morning worship could be clearly heard. Here, there are two levels of volume for the sound systems: "“off" and '“loud'”, it was obviously and definitely not '“off'” this morning. As special guests, we were seated in the central aisle. There was no mistaking our '“special'” nature, for even among a crowd of 800 we were the only ones with a different color of skin. No chance to blend in, we were sticking out like white (though not sore) thumbs.

We were also the only ones who couldn'’t keep the rhythm of the praise beat. Oh, we tried. We watched the surrounding rows and desperately attempted to clap in unison. But somehow we were either too slow, too fast, clapping not enough times or too many times. It was comical. And of course there was the dancing. We shuffled our feet, kept missing the beat but… we were praising God and we were loud about it!

The songs may be loud, the sermons longer than we are used to, but I assure you the noise we made was "joyful"”.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Statistics


With the advent and availability of internet access it is easy to "Googgle-up" statistics of all kinds. As I was waiting on the tarmac, taking in the sights of the airplane next to mine covered with desert sands, listening to the African and its often harsh but melodious sounds, even smelling the heat of the climate already.

I find myself here on the other side of the world - wondering...

How many people were in tranist from one place to another on behalf of the Kingdom? Flying on trips to Moscow, we would often meet up with other teams of people going, coming, sowing seeds. The flights to China now carry many "rescuers" of abandonded Chinese babies, Moscow flights have a fair share and one run in particular is dubbed the "baby flight".

You can easily obtain the information on how many people are in the "air" at any given time - there are lots of statistics available on numbers of missionaries. I'm glad to be counted in that number of those who seek the lost, carry the word, sow fallow ground with love and joy.

We don't need to wear a banner or a signifying T-Shirt. Jesus specifically told His followers - they will know you by how you love.

Sometimes you will be known by the songs you sing in an airplane!

"Let all the nations Praise Him!"

Jets Still Lag

“Up with the chickens” was a phrase used when I was growing up to mean being awake long before you wanted to be. My circadian rhythms, after two days are still not quite adjusted, so my eyelids were closing around 9:00 pm and my brain began functioning at 4:00 am…

and so were the chickens!

Outside in the dark, cheeps and chirps began to keep me from returning to a reasonable state of sleep. No alarm clock had sounded for the poultry, but they knew their day had begun. I knew my sleep had ended.

What is it about our internal clock? The one God sets inside each of His creatures, the life, birth and death cycles?

I heard of a new invention to help you wake up. It actually monitors your alpha rhythms, so that when you are in deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement), it will let you keep sleeping, but when you are close to alert, it will wake you up.

Sounds like a good idea for kids – because they always want another five minutes. My body may still be set to Central Standard Time, but my heart is working on God’s Ghana time.

I am alert, I am awake, I am ready for all God has in store for this day.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Things that Go Bump in the Night


When night falls in Africa, the space and time between dusk and dark is reduced to a whispered prayer hoping not to hit any pedestrians. There are few street lights, so as the sun sets, the sparks fly and fire illuminates the road side stands, with hopeful merchants waiting to make one last sale from those on their way home. Food, is a good last minute purchase, but the inner tubes and car batteries, will likely remain until the daylight can shine on their future usefulness.

It is dark.

And while modern civilization may seem ten thousand miles away – the noise is not. Celebrations of funerals, weddings, engagements, Saturday night dances continue long past sunset. The erratic electricity provides the background music for their gaiety. Even from two blocks away the drone of a bass rap beat sounds through the blackness of night. It is not a tribal rhythm, but African none the less.

Celebration is common here. Reasons to engage in joy sought for. No one is too busy working to stop and enjoy in the good news or bad fortune of a friend, neighbor or loved one.

The gifts aren’t as critical as the community. The Africans gather to be with each other on such occasions. They understand no man is an island.

Unrestricted Refrain

The circulation was slowly coming back to my legs. For the last 8 hours they had been crammed, folded, uncrossed and rearranged in my seat many times as I tried to make myself comfortable on the last leg of my journey to Africa.

The plane was not filled with passengers and I was able to stretch out, well actually it meant I had a few more options for folding my legs into positions that would escape the aisles but offer a more relaxing repose.

The Lufthansa flight stops in Lagos, Nigeria before making its final destination in Accra. As our plane touched down in Nigeria the passenger in front of me began softly singing an African refrain.

Though I understood none of the words, there was a resonance in my soul. I smiled, ever quick to say "this is my favorite place on the face of the earth!" I grabbed my journal to remember the moment of her chorus in the midst of the growing noise; luggage unloaded, unknown languages traded back and forth, almost home for many of these travelers.

She kept singing as she rose up out of her seat to go. She looked back at me and smiled, "oh, sorry" she said.

"Don't be. What are you singing?" I uncharacteristically asked.

"I'm singing for God - thanking Him for getting us this far. You know it is not an easy thing."

"Yes", I replied, "I know THE God and I'm thanking Him too. "

No wonder the song sounded familiar.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Flight Plan

I needed a mundane movie to take my mind off the long hours of flying discomfort, knee strain and general complaints that accompany post 9/11 fliers.

In spite of a promised "long wait" on Netflix - "Flight Plan" was sent to my doorstep the night before my departure. The story: a woman a big plane and a missing child. The crew proceeds to deal with her hysteria, her knowledge of the plane and of course the daughter no one else has seen?

Is she crazy? Grieving over the death of her husband? Has she been taking drugs?

It made me wonder what my "Flight Plan" would be in the face of pending disaster or looming crisis?

Many of the celluloid passengers just sat, stared and gave dirty looks at the inconvenience of having to stay strapped in while the plane was searched. They even applauded when she was put in handcuffs and led back to her seat. The tension mounts as she escapes - causes even more inconvenience and the big "reveal"! The FBI agent was plotting all along to extort $50 million dollars! Clever, yes, but he underestimated the women's passion to find her lost daughter.

I am reminded of our Master's lesson - would the shepherd leave the 90 and 9 to find the one?

He came to seek and save that which was lost. I know He has more passion than an actress playing out grief and despair in a made up movie.

I know because He says He does. As well acted and dramatized as the scenes were over a mother grieving for a lost child, the loss and sadness our Father feels is so much greater. So great is His desire to search for the lost and broken in the world - He shared His passion through "gifts" - calling saints to the Harvest fields to labor and toil, to show His love to tell of His sacrifice.

My Ghana "Flight Plan" is to be reminded of the passion of a mother who would not give up the fight for her daughter - to see that as encouragement in meeting lost school children, orphans and villagers.

We can be assured, the King will not stop until all who are called hear His voice and respond. I plan to keep going right to the end.

Thanks for seeing me off on the wings of your prayers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

GHANA West Africa

Operation Christmas Child
http://www.samaritanspurse.org/

What would it be like to be given a gift so BIG you could hardly carry it?

The African children who receive gift boxes provided by Samaritan’s Purse have such a problem. Some walk over 5 miles to claim their Operation Christmas Child package filled with unimaginable goodies sent from a land they cannot begin to imagine. What did they do to deserve such riches? Will they share with their family and friends?

Precious Saints, WE have received a gift too BIG to carry but not difficult to share; the gift of salvation through Christ! What did we do to deserve such riches? How often do we share? How far are we willing to “walk” to tell others?

On February 23, I will return to Ghana West Africa to participate in my 6th distribution of “gifts” to over 13,000 children! Many adults watch the program, and hear the Gospel. Each day, before passing out the boxes, we proclaim the Good News through stories and tricks, after, an evangelistic message and invitation is presented by a local African Pastor. THOUSANDS receive Christ as their Savior! Tens of thousands hear the Word and seeds are planted.

To participate in this Harvest you do not have to walk miles. You do not have to wait in 100°+ heat to be handed a box filled with curious delights from a far country. The King is giving you the opportunity through Sunshine After Rain Ministries. Reap the rewards of the African Harvest with obedience, prayer and generous financial support.

You can now donate online by credit card at: www.sunshineafterrain.org

GHANA - Calendar of Events

February 22
Prepare, packing, praying

February 23
Departure DFW - Frankfurt

February 24
Arrive Frankfurt - fly to Accra
Arrive in Accra 6:30 pm

February 25
Prepare and Organize for Distribution
Team orientation

February 26
Worship at International Central Gospel Church
Travel to Dodowa Region

February 27
Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child
www.samaritanspurse.org
Begin distribution to Schools

February 28
Distribution will present boxes to over 13,000 Children



March 1
Distribution continues
Ministry opportunity with local believers

March 2
Continued Distribution

March 3
Distribution finishes in Dodowa Region
Travel back to Tema

March 4
Local Orphanages receive Gift Boxes

March 5
Worship with ICGC
Meet with Pastor on Lay Leadership training

March 6
Local Orphange Distribution

March 7
Team from Florida departs

March 8
Day of refreshment
Prepare for travel to Kumasi Region

March 9
Travel to Kumasi Region
Coordinate upcoming Wheels to the World trip
http://www.joniandfriends.org/outreach/wftw/wftw.shtml

March 10
Finish organization efforts in Kumasi
Travel back to Tema

March 11
Leadership Training at
International Central Gospel Church (ICGC)

March 12
Worship ICGC
Praise God for the Harvest

March 13
Rest! Prepare for return trip home

March 14
Depart Accra 8:30pm

March 15
Arrive Frankfurt 7:30 am
Depart for Dallas 9:30 am
Arrive in Dallas 2:25 pm