Nyame Adom

Etesen? (How are you?)     Eye. (Fine)

Na wonsoe? (And you too?)     Nyame Adom. (By God’s Grace)

This is a typical greeting conversation in our community. If you meet someone walking down the road in the morning, the same niceties will repeat themselves each time. At first the last response threw me off. Someone asks how you are doing and you say “by the grace of God”? I didn’t really get it. But now, two years in, I think I am starting to get a grasp of the idea.

For our two-year anniversary celebration this weekend, we watched a little slideshow to remind us of our many shared experiences. I was careful about what pictures to put in, because the girls are a little insecure about the pictures from when they first came to the house. Mercy especially. When I look at the pictures from her first days here, I still have tears come to my eyes. To say she has grown is quite the understatement. I made sure not to put the one she dislikes the most, but she was still in a few of the early slideshow pics. When the “new to Pearl House” Mercy picture came on screen, the girls were all laughing good-naturedly. And this time, instead of hiding her face, while standing somewhere behind me I heard Mercy quietly say “Nyame Adom.” It is truly the grace of God that has brought her to this point. Instead of cowering in embarrassment, she was able to acknowledge the grace of God on her life and how He has changed her life drastically.

By the grace of God, Mercy is now a healthy, sharp and growing young woman. By the grace of God, all of the girls are healthy and strong. By the grace of God, the girls are excelling in their education. By the grace of God, they can all speak English. By the grace of God, they believe in Jesus as their Savior and are learning more about Him every day.

By the grace of God I woke up today. By the grace of God I have clothes to wear. By the grace of God I have running water and electricity. By the grace of God I got to eat guacamole and drink Dr Pepper today. By the grace of God I have hope. I have salvation. And I am loved. It is by the grace of God that I have made it to today. It is by the grace of God that I have been called “Mama Courtney” for two years. May we daily dwell in the abundance of His grace.

Nyame Adom.

Mercy on day one (left) , one month (top right) and two years (bottom right)

Mercy on day one (left) , one month (top right) and two years (bottom right)

Swimming in Hallelujahs

Over the past fifteen years the season of Lent has become very special to me. I always attended an Ash Wednesday service to help me focus on the weeks leading up to the Easter resurrection celebration. Since moving to Ghana my Ash Wednesday service has transitioned into a meaningful phone call with a dear friend that shares my joy for all things contemplative. Although different, it still sets my mind toward the journey of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

This year I came across something associated with Lent that I had never heard of before. It is the practice called “suppressing alleluia”. In other words, removing the word “hallelujah” from your vocabulary for the season leading up to Easter. Ready to try something different, I decided to give this practice a shot.

Holy Cow! I never realized how many songs contain the word “hallelujah”. It is said throughout our church service and our devotional times. Multiple times a day I have opportunity to utter this word. Never before have I realized its fullness. That is, until I chose to suppress it. When a song containing that beautiful word was sung around me, I let the word sit in my mind, but it did not escape from my lips. At church when the Pastor said “Amen” and everyone responded “Hallelujah”, I uttered a quiet amen instead.

In the days leading up to Easter I started getting really excited about getting to shout “Hallelujah” on that blessed Sunday morning. Never have I felt so much anticipation deep within my Spirit for Sunday to come.

This Easter I got to participate in a weekend church convention in a village a few hours away from home. On Friday night all 200 of us gathered around a small television to watch a movie depicting Christ’ suffering. I felt deep pain as I watched the story of Jesus’ death play out. Around me were shouts and cries of sadness as the people watched Jesus receive lash after lash. I had the job of commentator during the film, telling the people what was happening on the screen as we watched. All the while a frail, dust-covered child was sitting on my lap. On Friday night I almost couldn’t bear it. I desperately needed a “hallelujah”.

Saturday was quiet and thoughtful.

And then came Sunday. “Hallelujah” was released from captivity and into the open air. The joy. The hope. The freedom in that word. Now I cannot say the word without a smile on my face. This week I have listened to every song I own that contains that blessed word. Over and over again. I am swimming in a sea of Hallelujahs and loving it.  You want to know why? Because “in Christ all will be made alive!” (1 Corin 15:22)


Simply Thanks

It really does come down to the simple things. This morning things went according to schedule. I sat down at my desk around 9am and before getting started I said a little prayer asking for focus. (A major struggle these days). I thought back over the morning so far and was overwhelmed with gratitude. I thanked God for the many things that had gone well. The power was on all morning. The internet was working and I could do my workout video. The water was flowing so I could take a shower. My stomach was happy because a sweet friend made banana muffins for me. Four hours into the day and I was overwhelmed at all that had gone right. Power. Water. Food. Exercise. Basic human needs. So often one or more of those is absent from the day and it used to totally throw me off (see previously mentioned focus struggles).

But Ghana is refining me. And God is teaching me. I still have about 10,000 miles left to go in this journey, but I am learning to be grateful for every moment of every day. Whether good or bad, in control or out of control, God is still God. And all time is His.

Not too long after that prayer this morning the power went out. What can I do but say thank you again and laugh?

A Tiny Piece of Glass

At the start of each new year I have a cherished tradition of reading through my prayer journal from the year just completed. It puts everything in perspective and helps me to see the bigger timeline of God’s ongoing work in my life. As I participated in that exercise earlier this month there was one sentence that stuck out to me over all the rest.
“I feel like a tiny piece of glass trying to be a chandelier.”
I cannot recall what was happening on the particular day that was written. But it does not matter. The reality of that statement is true each and every day.
I feel so weak, fragile and vulnerable. I could easily shatter if too many things go wrong in a day.
I am unable to rely on my wealth of experience, have not been here long enough for that.
I am unable to rely on things going my way as an indicator that I am doing the right thing. No matter how much I have planned, things will always go wrong.
I am unable to rely on a support network of physically present friends and family.
I am unable.
But HE is able.
I remember watching the movie Pollyanna as a child. Honestly, I can recall very little about the plot. I do remember that the main character is a very optimistic child actively trying to convince everyone else to look on the bright side. In an effort to cheer up a dying woman, Pollyanna once hung glass prisms in a window to create a beautiful display of light. The rainbows painted on the walls by the refracted light seemed like a magical fantasy in my young mind. It is a very good thing my parents did not own a chandelier at the time, I most certainly would have dismantled it in an effort to reenact the scene.
In life my job is not to be the light in the chandelier. It is not to do the scientific work of refracting light.
Instead my work as a child participant of the Kingdom is to be a tiny piece of glass that stands in the light. God provides the light. And his glory makes beautiful displays of light and power all over the world. My job is to turn my eyes to the Light and not depart from it.
So I may be weak. I am assuredly far from majestic and awe-inspiring. And I may shatter at any moment. But I can reflect. I can be a fragile piece of glass reflecting the light of God.
“And it is to this end I labor, struggling with all his energy,
 which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:29 NIV

Home Again, Home Again

When you have 20 teenagers in the house together for a month, you must find ways to occupy the time in meaningful ways. Our wonderful staff leader, Auntie Rita led the way in planning and executing our many fun activities. We played musical chairs, had a sack race, a treasure hunt, played charades, had a dance competition, took a neighborhood walk, enjoyed a soccer match and had an apple biting competition. … (I now feel completely justified in the nap I just took.)

Here are a few pictures!
Musical Chairs
Spoils from the treasure hunt
Dance competition
Apple biting champion!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Through the purchases made by recent Gala attendees we were able to go on a few outings with the girls over the last few weeks. To celebrate the New Year we took a trip to the main branch of our church in Accra and got to worship with them. The church service there is always such a joyful and celebratory environment. Then, it wouldn’t be a Sunday in Accra if we did not go eat at our favorite restaurant, Papaye. Although the place was packed we managed to squeeze all 24 of us into some tables and enjoyed a delicious meal. After a big meal we decided to go and walk around in Marina Mall. This is when I got to experience the joy of watching the Pearls ride on an escalator and an elevator for the first time. We had a great time walking through the stores and finished everything off with some soft serve ice cream!

For our other fun outing we went to a nearby movie theater and got to watch a showing of the newly released Annie. The girls were able to connect with the story, they loved the music and we all had a great time. The movie was followed by a trip to the new mall where we again enjoyed a meal and the joy of escalators and elevators. We took time to walk through a few of the stores to teach girls about different foods and appliances. It is also important that they start learning how much things cost.
We laughed a lot and made memories together. So thankful for the joy of the Christmas season.
Fun times in the bus
Checking out the merchandise
Holding on for dear life on the escalator
Ice Cream!
A big table for a big family

From the US, With Love

December and January have been full of activity at the Pearl House and it has been SO fun! The girls started back to school on the 12th, so our days full of quality time are over for now. The good news is that means I now have time to share what we have been up to. Many of our supporters sponsored activities and gifts for us over the holidays. I will start with sharing about the gifts, with more stories to come this week.
You all bought a new dress, church shoes, undergarments, school sandals, a jacket and a backpack for each girl. Writing out that sentence humbles me to no end. Twenty girls all received so many things they need and use each and every day. Deafening shouts of joy and squeals of delight were the response to each and every one of these surprises. Thank you for blessing us with those gifts this Christmas season.
New Dresses
New Shoes
New Jackets