Christmas Day

Many of you have asked what we did on Christmas day with the girls. We celebrated by going to church and sharing together in a time of worship. Following service, our fellow church members came over to share a Christmas meal together. All in all there were more than 75 people who enjoyed a meal in our house that day. That evening in devotion we sang Christmas worship songs and enjoyed time together talking about the birth of Jesus. I must say it was a very different Christmas from any I have previously experienced, but it was most definitely a wonderful day!
Some youth and children from Lauren’s Lighthouse
Lauren’s Lighthouse church members
There’s really no way not to love this little guy
The Pearls on Christmas day

Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime

If you are in a crowd of people in Ghana and say the name “Emmanuel”, you are guaranteed to have a few men turn and look your way. It would be difficult to find a name that is more common here. The other night in devotion I asked the girls if they know the meaning of “Emmanuel”. They told me it means “God with us.” We then talked about how through Jesus, God came to be with us on this Earth. He came to show us and help us experience the love of God in ways that would never be possible without Him. And now, here we are at Christmas, where people all over the world stop to celebrate the arrival of “God with us”.

Every year our partner church, Maranatha Power Ministries, celebrates Christmas in a big way. Thousands of meals are prepared and distributed in several different villages. This year, the Pearl House family got to join in on two of those celebrations.

At our recent fundraisers three of you purchased a Christmas party. Through those donations we were able to rent transportation and serve at two different parties. On Thursday we went to a village called Mankesim here in the Central Region of Ghana. And yesterday we traveled several hours to the Eastern Region to celebrate with the people of Kraboa Coaltar. Maranatha prepares hundreds of meals and packages them on the day of the party. Meanwhile, a program is put on letting the children have fun and learn about Jesus. The Pearl House girls were able to help package the food, assist in the program and share the food.

This all originated from a conversation I had with Bishop Odai, the leader of Maranatha. I was telling him I wanted to find ways for our girls to serve. They are being given so much now that they are at the Pearl House. It is important that they remember their blessings and live in gratitude for God’s daily provision. He suggested that they participate in the Christmas parties this year. And I am oh so glad that He did. It is the perfect way for the Pearls to proclaim the arrival of the Savior on Earth. Jesus is God with us. And when God’s children choose to serve others in the name of Jesus, they too are proclaiming “Emmanuel”.

God is indeed with us!

For more pictures from these parties, please see The Pearl House page on Facebook.

Family Reunion

 
 
Have you ever looked at a picture and been absolutely overwhelmed with all that it represents?  As previously mentioned, we were able to receive the youth group from my home church this past June. They were in Ghana for two weeks working with the Village of Hope. While here they came over to visit The Pearl House for a few days. After working on Thursday and Friday they came back to the house again on Saturday. This time, the girls were out of school and ready to play. As they were coming, the White Station group also brought along some of the older children from the Village of Hope. 
The Village of Hope is a well-established organization here in Ghana. They have an orphanage, several schools, a hospital and a vocational training center. The number of people they impact daily is in the thousands. This place was my doorway to Ghana. I started taking students there on short-term missions in 2003. Every year I grew to love Ghana more and more and eventually that love changed the course of my life. The “children” from the VOH that came to visit that day are now well-educated and independent adults in their twenties.
Once everyone arrived we sat down to share a time of worship together. The Pearls, the White Station Group and the Village of Hope children all sang together and uttered prayers for one another. To say I was overwhelmed is a gross understatement. It is amazing to see how God works so faithfully in our lives. I was sitting in a room worshipping with members from the church that ushered me into adulthood and created opportunities for me to meet the people of Ghana. To pray with and for the young adults that made me want to live and serve here long term. And to see the 20 girls that I now call my daughters sitting in the very same room. All of us together, worshipping one God. It is truly amazing to see how God weaves our lives together with others for the joy of His Kingdom. What a joy it is to be part of the family of God.

Summer with Friends

In Ghana we have two seasons…Rainy and dry. “Summer” is not a familiar term in this part of the world. However, we do get to experience the joy of summer here with the many wonderful visitors from the U.S. that come through our doors. The end of May found us blessed with a visit from my mom and sister. They have both traveled quite a bit, but never to Africa. It was incredible to share the African experience and my new family with them. We made some great memories and the girls enjoyed meeting Grandmom Toni and Mama Aimee.
We were also blessed with a visit from the youth group at Harpeth Hills Church of Christ. This church has overwhelmed me and The Pearl House with their love and support. While here, they did several painting and organizing projects. Their work transformed our house into a home as they painted Truth onto our walls.
Harpeth Hills Church of Christ, Nashville TN
Soon afterwards we received my home church’s youth group. Their work brightened up our compound and even created some opportunities for us to relax. I absolutely loved getting to see these familiar faces. I am so encouraged by the support and love I have received from White Station over and over and over again.
White Station Church of Christ, Memphis TN
After several more visitors from family and friends, our “summer” season drew to a close. We truly enjoy having new friends around. The children, our staff and the missionaries all end up receiving encouragement from their presence. 
There are a lot of theories about short-term missions. As a youth minister I did quite a bit of reading on the topic. Wasting money and doing damage in the Kingdom are two things I never want to find myself doing. I was convinced then and am even more convinced now that short term missions are a good thing if done well. Within the context of meaningful relationships, both the mission and the missionaries can be impacted positively. I thank God for all of those that support me personally and the organization as a whole with their presence here.

Kingdom Weapons

bible

Life is a roller coaster no matter where you live. There are sweet, wonderful times and there are challenging times. I am finding the same to be true here in Ghana. Most days are great and some of them are absolutely fantastic. Then there are those tough days, weeks or months. I knew those times would be difficult without longtime friends nearby for encouragement and support. In times of trial I often think about my dear friend and college roommate Sara who gained victory over death and has been rejoicing in Heaven for two years as of today. She lived her battle against cancer with such grace and Truth.

Sara comes to mind often. With a new school year starting up, I love seeing pictures of people moving back onto campus and getting settled into their dorms. I think of the 3 years I was blessed to live and laugh with Sara. When I hear people talk about their college experiences I think of her with a smile. Recently someone at the house had no-bake cookies and I of course thought of her and my other post-college roommates as this was one of our four main food groups (puppy chow being a close second). Life lessons from Sara/The Little Rascals, often come to mind throughout the day. “Do you have a dollar? And how! What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is ours.” I also think about the way thousands have been touched by the way she lived and died.

Hard times reveal a person’s character. Will you stand up and fight or will you curl up in a ball and surrender? To be honest, I’d say we all have moments of both. Those of us following her fight against cancer were all inspired by Sara’s courage and strength. But I am quite certain Sara also had her moments of wanting to quit the fight.

Evil comes to us in different forms. There are the things outside of our control like cancer, natural disasters and accidents. Then there are the daily struggles like greed, lust, pride, envy, unbelief, selfishness … the list goes on and on. From my experience in the USA, evil is usually pretty sneaky and I often did not notice it.

Satan seems to use different tactics here in Ghana. It is very real. I would even venture to say it is tangible. Honestly, I have a hard time understanding and explaining it myself. God is doing a mighty work in the Pearl House and I am confident the enemy does not want to see it completed. At times it feels like satan has decided to set up camp outside of our house and throw every arrow imaginable.

The terrain and the tactics may be different, but I praise God the weapon is the same. The weapon God has given us in warfare will always be His powerful and mighty Word. Those three powerful words “It is written” (Matthew 4:4) can fight most every battle against the enemy that we face.  From the time I met Sara to her very last days I have been challenged by her knowledge of God’s word. Throughout her battle with cancer, her writings were full of scripture. She drew close to the heart of God through His Word and that gave her the strength to fight.

So my friends, in whatever battles we face today, may we face them with the knowledge that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28) May we hold His powerful Word near to our hearts. And may we fully focus on Him as we seek to live faithfully and be found standing in Victory on that glorious day of His return.

To learn more about Sara’s story and the ongoing work of the Foundation in her honor, please go to http://www.savoringtheday.com

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like …

Not too long ago we were at the beach with the girls for the day. Late in the afternoon a group of about 20 children showed up with several American friends about 100 yards down the beach. Our girls are used to being the ones hanging out with the Americans, so they were surprised and curious. As we stood there watching them, Dina turned to me and said “Mama, are they Pearls too?”
Her question stirred in my heart for several moments. I’m not entirely sure I know what she was specifically asking. But I know the answer to her question is one of God’s absolute and beautiful truths. “YES!” Those boys and girls are Pearls. In fact, we are all Pearls. Every single one of us was created out of nothing with the specific purpose of being a child of God. A child that was created to love and to be loved.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. And when he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

Many of you reading this blog have made sacrifices for the Pearl House. You send money each month. You sacrifice time and money to come and visit us. You sacrifice your heart and your energy by praying for us. Let this be a reminder that your sacrifice is well-placed. These pearls are worthy of your love. And they are worthy of your sacrifice. But we must remember, the girls of the Pearl House are not the only Pearls out there. They are many many more. Living in the Northern region of Ghana, the slums of India, the streets of China. In the war-torn countries, in the peace-filled cities. Amongst the rich and the poor, the black and the white. Wherever we find ourselves. In plenty or in want. With an empty nest or one that has just begun to hatch – our task is singular. It is to love, no matter the cost. 
Thank you for being part of the solution. 
Thank you for being an extension of the loving arms of God.

Adventures in May

May has been a month full of fun activity. The girls were on vacation at the beginning of the month so we took them to the beach one day and to Kakum National Park another day. The third and final term of the school year is now in it’s second week. We had a super fun group from Memorial Rd Church of Christ in Edmond, OK here visiting. AND we had our May birthday party. Whew. No wonder I have been a little tired!

The beach is always a fun little outing. It is nice to get out of the house and explore new territory. We played all kinds of games and enjoyed walking around. So thankful to live in a city with such a beautiful landscape.

Then there was Kakum. Another example of God’s great creation. I have been there more times than I can count on two hands, so the newness has worn off for me a bit. But it was a whole new experience for the Pearls, and they were SCARED! Kakum has a walkway of seven swinging bridges that allows you to walk through the canopy of the rainforest. There’s not many like it in the world and it is a pretty cool opportunity to go. However, those that have a fear of heights tend not to enjoy the experience. Most of our girls fall in the latter category. I think my favorite comment was “You mean, we could be at Papaye (their favorite restaurant) and we are doing this instead?” We made some great memories and the day was full of laughter.
Last week we were encouraged by our time with the University students from Memorial Rd Church of Christ and Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, OK.  They were full of energy, fun and Christ. Their visit was brief but packed. They poured supplies and gifts over us; they played, prayed, worshiped and encouraged. We could not have asked any more from them.  The girls enjoyed their many new friends. As the team’s bus pulled away from the house singing “… what can make me feel this way, nothing but my pearls, my pearls, my pearls”, we were all filled with joy.

Up next, a visit from my mom and sister!