Day Four: Puff Bread, Bed Nets, and Little Girl Dresses

Today is Friday. We are halfway through our time here in Ghana, which is hard to believe. We visited more families today, and made a stop by Ama’s business to treat the staff to Puff bread. The consensus is that everyone in Ankaase should try Ama’s Puff bread! I really wanted to start marketing for her – brand her shop, get some signage, advertise in the village. But she’ll be responsible for drumming up business, and so far she seems to be doing well. She was thrilled to get some t-shirts from Laken, who has connected with her because of their similar businesses. Laken also sells pastries – Lick Your Lips Mini-Donuts.

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We also visited a family who received bedding from A local organization in Tulsa. The youngest daughter, Afia, is bright and a good student, but she had been missing many days of school each term because of malarial symptoms. Now that she has a bed and is sleeping under a bed net, she is in school every day and she is thriving.

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And the stitched items are coming along. Jennifer has made incredible progress and is now stitching items that she will send back to the U.S. for purchase. She is so proud of her work. She seems more confident and hopeful. If only we could continually bring items from Ghana to the U.S. so that Abigail and Jennifer can have added income. (That’s a hint for any of you that travel here regularly).

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Tomorrow we will meet with all the orphaned students in our program and bring them letters and gifts from sponsors. We have five new students, so we’re excited to meet and greet!

It’s earlier tonight than when I usually post, so I’m going to enjoy a much-needed phone call home (if the WiFi will cooperate).

So…Goodnight from Ankaase, Ghana.

Ghana Day Two: Chicken Bones and Comfort Zones

Here is what I didn’t know about eating in Ghana: we eat the chicken bones, we don’t leave them on the plate. I’m not picky about my food, but I’m not sure about eating chicken bones. Colin did pretty well and gnawed around on his drumstick, but this is really is out of our comfort zone.

I could make a list of things that are out of my comfort zone here, but if I stayed where it is comfortable I would have never met this group of Junior High teachers. They are dedicated to their jobs, despite a frustrating lack of resources. These teachers and their headmaster at the Ankaase Methodist School are determined to get the students excited about learning, and so we sat under this tree for over an hour and talked about ways to do that.

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We all agreed that the students are worth it.

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We reconnected with our friends at the SDA School also, and this afternoon we got a visit from Kadri and Maria. For those of you who prayed for Kadri last summer, he is able to walk now, but unable to speak. His right foot was swollen from some kind of injury he couldn’t explain. He tries to communicate, but even Isaac was unable to understand him. Please continue to pray for this sweet boy.

If I stayed in my comfort zone, I would have never traveled to Nantan, a very tiny village on the outskirts of Ankaase where we spent the afternoon. We first met with the village chief to get his permission to continue on through the village and meet with our new family. After receiving his blessing we walked to where Janet lives with her relatives. Her parents were sent out of the village because they were thought to be mentally ill, so Janet remains behind with her aunts and their children, of which there were too many to count. Janet is not in school, although her cousins are. Often, children who are taken in by relatives are given what is left, which is not much in most cases. We’re committed to walking alongside Janet to make sure that she is given as much opportunity as possible in her environment. We have someone who wants to sponsor Janet (we seek sponsors for children whose parents have died or are no longer able to care for them).

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And we want to provide mattresses and bed nets for the room where Janet sleeps. Each night, her grandmother sleeps on the bed frame with two small children (and no mattress), and three other children sleep on the floor nearby.  Bed nets are in use, but they won’t work because they have holes.

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Mosquitoes love bed nets like these. By the way, we were told that the baby sleeping under the useless bed net has malaria. So we’re replacing these nets and providing mattresses for the children and grandmother. Here is the way we look at it: if we wouldn’t want to sleep in these conditions, why do we think they should? And an even better reason: lives are lost for lack of a good bed net and the education about how to use it.

I have to be honest – I’m exhausted today. Sometimes seeing the needs drain my mind and heart and I am suddenly overwhelmed. If I pull back and try to figure out how we’re going to meet all these needs, I get panicky. And then I get emails (literally in the middle of writing this post) from someone who wants to partner with us at $25 a month, and another someone who wants to sponsor James, one of our newest students and an orphan who also lives with relatives. And I remember that I only need to look at the next place where I’m supposed to put my foot: the next step. God doesn’t give me the responsibility to nail down every detail, but instead He gently reminds me that He is in the details, and I am in this place – outside of my comfort zone – because this is where He has placed me. “Walk by faith,” I remind myself with each step I take in these villages, “not by sight.” It’s becoming my mantra.

I’m okay with being out of my comfort zone at this very moment, but tomorrow I’ll probably have to wake up, take a deep breath, and start chanting. That’s good because it reminds me that this is not about me. Not one bit.

But I’ve decided that I’ll pass on eating the chicken bones. That’s just too far out of the zone. Or maybe next time.

So, the next step for me is a Skype with Kyle, and then on to bed. Until tomorrow, goodnight from Ankaase and Nantan.

Dresses, Backpacks and Bibles

Colin says that I have a technology curse. I think he might be right.

So, we had to drive into Kumasi today – our first day in the village – to exchange money and purchase a modem. It seems that every time I come to Ghana it gets a little harder to access the Internet. My handy little Vodaphone thumb drive modem failed me, so we took the plunge and purchased this little wireless modem that allows me to be typing this right now. We’ll see how this goes. I have yet to upload photos. If you seem them below, then the modem was a success. If not, then Colin may be right.

We met our seamstress apprentice, Jennifer:

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For those of you who helped fund Jennifer’s Business Build Grant, she’s already stitching dresses! Jennifer will be stitching new bags – a smaller version of the Ankaase bag, scarves, and headbands using the traditional Ghana wax fabric, and she will receive income from every one of those products sold. This income will help her support her mother, and daughter, Betty. They are in need of income to help improve their housing.

And these are four of our students:

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These are Yaw Mensah’s four children. He has been left alone to raise these children. After an injury, he is unable to walk without crutches and his wife left him soon after the accident.

And this is Philomena and Maxwell, who are receiving the Bibles they were given by their sponsors, the staff at First Baptist Church, Tulsa.

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and our newest hairstylist apprentice, Mary and her son Samuel.

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Besides the technology problems, everything here is great. Colin and I feel blessed to be walking the roads of Ankaase, and tomorrow, the village of Nantan.

Right now, I have to go tear apart the bedroom to hunt down all the things that I know I brought but can’t locate. There are suitcases all over my bedroom filled with all the things I packed but didn’t organize. I can’t find anything.

Thank you for your prayers, your support, and all the ways you have encouraged us. We are exhausted, but blessed to know that there are people back home who walk beside us as we walk beside these families.

So until tomorrow, goodnight from Ankaase, Ghana.

Will You Come to the Party?

I’m not much of a party girl.

At least not the kind of party that requires save-the-dates, printed invitations, sparkly decorations, a spotless house and fancy foods. I prefer the kind of party that happens at the last minute when my house isn’t cleaned, we scrounge for food, and then turn on background music for a night of really good conversation. Like I said, not much of a party girl.

But I’m doing that printed-invitation-decorate-your-house-fancy-food thing. And then I’m praying that you and a few other people will show up. Because this isn’t only a party – it’s an opportunity to change some stories.

Last year, I decided that I would not use my blog as a constant platform for the work I do in Ghana. I wanted to keep this personal and so I mostly wrote on the ACEF blog (where I was volunteering) to share the needs of my precious friends in Ankaase. I deviated from this decision only when I traveled. Other than that, I kept mostly quiet about it because sometimes you can wear people out blabbering about your “cause.” But now that we have started Rising Village Foundation, I’m afraid that I won’t be keeping quiet about it because, well, this is just a really good story. And if I may remind you, that’s the title of this blog.

Oh, and I should make it clear at this very moment that I did not start this journey. God did. Some of you might roll your eyes at that because it sounds so spiritually cliche, but it’s the undeniable truth. Those who have been intimately involved in the start of this will back me up. I’m not going to tell that story here, but if you want to hear it, I’ll plan the kind of party where I don’t clean my house, we scrounge for food, and then we settle in for some really good conversation.

But this post is about a different kind of party. Here’s your invitation:

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If you need my address, email me: lisa@risingvillage.org. So here are a few of the reasons I’m throwing this shindig:

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The Homeda children
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The Dufie children
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Yaa in her kitchen
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Jennifer (left)
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Betty

There are needs everywhere in the world, but I want to introduce you to a corner where God has placed me. It’s Ankaase, Ghana, and these are some of my friends who live there. I’m throwing this party in their honor and for their sake. Here’s why: I believe that God desires for everyone, everywhere, to live a great story. But for some people, circumstances far beyond their control are keeping their stories laced with too much illness, fear, hunger, hardship, and uncertainty.

I’m not okay with this. And I don’t think God is okay with this either. At this point, I hear the familiar question, “Why doesn’t he do something about it, then?” Here’s my answer: He already did. And here we are.

I can’t change the world (I wish it were so), but maybe I can change part of the story for some families in this village. And maybe you can help me. Here’s what we can do together – and by the way, you get something out of it, so read on.

We labor over what to get my dad for Christmas. He doesn’t need anything. He doesn’t want anything. He’s pretty satisfied with a good meal and a sunny day for golfing. He knows his desires are simple, so he won’t give us any ideas for what to buy him. It’s frustrating for us, so a couple of years ago he asked us to give money to help someone in need instead of buying him something he didn’t need. We liked that idea, so we purchased a Kiva gift card. This year, we’re giving him a gift card in honor of one of our friends in Ankaase. Sorry Dad. I know you read this blog, but you’re not about surprises anyway and you knew it was coming.

Kofi, a father of seven, doesn’t have a great story. You can read about it here. We want a better story for Kofi, so we’re asking our friends here to help us change it. We’re sourcing a $150 grant because Kofi wants to start a cocoa farming business. He has a good business plan, he’s hardworking, and we believe he’ll be a successful cocoa farmer. Best part: he can make the story better for his kids. In Dad’s honor, we’re giving money to help fund the grant that will buy the seedlings that Kofi will plant and harvest and sell.

Here’s the card my dad will get for Christmas (again, sorry Dad).

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So, when you come to my party, as you eat your fancy food and delight over my decorated and clean house, you can purchase gift cards for the people on your Christmas list. They’ll know you’ve helped change the story for someone in their honor, and they’ll love their gift. I promise. You can see all the gift cards available here. You can give a school uniform, a bed net, school fees, school supplies, even a computer for a village school! I love this one:

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Oh, and here are a few other items you can purchase:

jewelry
Krobo bead bracelets and earrings
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Krobo bead necklace with pendant
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String art from Ghana
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Wax fabric Ankaase bags designed by Steffani Lincecum
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“When you pray, move your feet” t-shirt

Some of you live far away, or have other plans on December 5th, so here is one way you can still join the party: you can purchase for our friends in Ankaase here on our GiveGood Catalog and order gift cards for your honoree when you check out. If you want the jewelry, string art, or t-shirts, you’ll have to come to the party or contact me to arrange a personal “shopping date.”

I’ll do that for you.

Because you’re my friends.

But I’m still cleaning my house, decorating, and putting out the food spread on December 5. All the money raised that night from your purchases will go to change the stories of some precious people in a corner of the world that you may never see. But I promise you this, I’ll share the stories with you. And we’ll know that God has done something beautiful through all of us.

So, will you come to the party?