Guinea

April 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Dear Loved Ones,

I find myself at the end of another fun and very social weekend.  Perhaps too social.  Sometimes it’s hard to find that fine line between being the right amount of extrovert and introvert.  Life can be so heavy and hard that my appetite for fun increases and then I’m tempted to excess.  True peace is truly found in temperate living though.  It’s a reminder God gives me every once in awhile that’s humbling and life-giving.

Thanks again for your prayers.  I have been making an extra special effort to keep you who read my blog in my prayers.  It’s just one big, loving, prayer-fest!  :-> 

I continue to enjoy the constant hot temperature here.  You never have to worry about bringing a sweater anywhere with you.  Traveling light baby, in sunny weather!  It’s great.  Of course, I could do with less humidity but, I’m not about to complain.  I’ve been here over a month now and I actually got cold for the first time last week!  I was lying in bed with my sheet over me in the early morning and woke up feeling slightly chilled.  I looked at the temperature on my travel alarm and it read 79 degrees.  79 degrees!  That’s a downright hot temperature for Seattle.  I couldn’t believe it.  So I guess I am adjusting which is nice to know.  I don’t know how I’ll survive cold North America when I return to visit.  Probably have to walk around in a parka in the middle of summer.  {:-[ 

Some of you have been wondering about my work so I’ll cover that a bit.  On Tuesday I leave with my team for Guinea to work with the mainly Liberian refugees that are there.  I’ll be on my own to do all the different interviews necessary for processing so it will definitely be stressful but I’m looking quite forward to getting a good handle on my job.  At the beginning it takes a person usually a couple hours minimum to do one case as there are so many questions to ask and so much information to gather that must be gotten quickly.  We’re supposed to do five cases a day as soon as we can, so there’s definitely a considerable time component to all of this. And if enough people have shown up for the day you don’t get to leave at the end of those five cases.  You work until your supervisor calls it quits for the day.  Add to the mix translating in which everything is repeated at least twice and you can see what a pace one must keep to get it all done in a day.  One of the main reasons for the high turnover here is the stress level of the job.  My does a good job of hiring pretty accomplished, bright and competent people (of which I could well be one of the lesser – at least on paper) but I guess the long hours, heavy caseloads and travel eventually get to people.  Still, we have a couple caseworkers who have stayed with the job for a couple years which is encouraging. 

Until recently Guinea has not been safe enough for us to travel to.  I just met a Peace Corps volunteer who was stationed in Guinea and was pulled out due to the violence.  Some volunteers actually had to hide from gunfire at certain times.  Rough stuff. But as of the last couple of months the riots have stopped and we’re glad to be able to get in there and process those that have been waiting to leave.  Guinea is right next to Ghana and is a mainly Muslim country.  In my reading on Guinea I found the situation of the mainly Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees to be particularly sad.  Many got caught between Charles Taylor’s rebels, Liberian rebels called LURD and the Ghanaian government forces in forced conscription, labor and sex services.  Each of the afore-mentioned groups tried to take advantage of them and abused them.  Even the UN had difficulty protecting them as deliberate efforts were made to mislead them and keep them from getting to the areas where they could help.  Then, those that promised international aid to the refugees reneged on their promises.  Can you imagine trying to flee from violence in your country and then being forced to work for a cause you don’t believe in as slave labor for God knows how long?  One woman had her children taken from her as collateral.  The stories are endless but none unimportant. 

So I would love your prayers that all who need to be approved for processing by the CIS (INS or Immigration) will be and that our team stays healthy and has energy to do the work.  As I said, because of the stagnating economy and crumbling infrastructure there it’s pretty easy to get sick and people usually do.  We’re all excited to go to La Fourchette Magique (The Magic Fork) though.  It’s a nice restaurant/club in Conakry that plays great local music and has a cool ambience.  It’ll be a good place to decompress.  It’ll also be nice to use my francais in Guinea as its francophone.  Apparently it’s even more humid than Accra is so I’m trying to prepare myself to be at peace with being a hot, sweaty mess every day.  Internet access may be even more limited there also so it may be a couple weeks until you hear from me (I’ll miss you if so! :-*(  ).

I’ll end with some fun facts here:

**********************************

 1)  I’m proud to say I took a tro-tro here for the first time by myself this weekend.  Tro-tro’s are the typical ancestor of mini-vans prevalent in the third world that are equipped to seat way too many people in such a small space.  You hope that you can understand what is being yelled as it passes to make sure you catch the right one.  It’s less glamorous than a taxi (which is not glamorous anyway here) but the price is right!  About twenty to thirty cents for a short-ish distance.  You get lots of looks if you’re a whitey and you’re on one and of course conversations if you’re a woman but mostly people are just curious and nice.

2)  Walking through a typical, big-city African marketplace can be pretty overwhelming if you’ve never done it.  Even if you have it wares on you after a couple hours.  Everyone and their brother is shouting at you to buy something and people don’t hesitate to touch you or grab you if they want you to buy their wares.  Although, I’ve heard it’s worse in North Africa.  One woman tried to convince me that no, I really did need to buy the pair of sandals that were one size too small for me because in fact they did fit.  😦  And as always, walking around with less melanin in your skin means that your whiteness is a beacon that screams I’m rich.  I’ll buy something from you and pay too much for it!  I’m getting so used to bargaining though now that it’s going to be hard not to want to do that in department stores when I return to my country! 

3)  I’ve made nice friends with a typical, low-income Ghanaian family that lives across the street and sells local food at night: a white, fermented porridge called “banku” that you eat with your fingers along with spicy red sauce and fried fish.  The call me “Auntie Grace” which is a term of respect and teach me Twi (sounds like “chwee”, one of the local languages) and laugh at me whenever I speak it to them.  :->  It’s so nice to visit and support all the little kiosks nearby that sell bread, eggs, and any number of daily necessities, and to get to know the kids and people that work in them.  It’s just a chance to have another big love fest I tell you…

4)  Why not learn some Twi yourself?  Of course I like to be clever so I learned this to say to the taxi drivers: Minwia bayma mehdaasi pah “Thank you very much my brother”.  That usually invites requests for phone numbers although sometimes they act like they could give a damn but at least I’ll have made a gesture of respect.

 I wish all good to you and look forward to hearing from you whenever our paths shall cross.

Your sister soldier,

Grace

Heroes

April 22, 2007 at 7:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Hello again,

I hope I haven’t saddened people too much with my honesty about adjusting to life here. Living in a third world country is like a whirlwind relationship. There can be amazing highs and tough lows, and though you want to think you’re in control of everything, you’re just not. A calling does not guarantee a life of complete fulfillment but rather puts us on a path where we can use our gifts for God’s glory and we’re lucky enough in the process to share in some of that glory. Faith is the best mechanism with which to handle hardship. No doubt about it, and the fact that mine is getting a workout only means that God wants me to be so much more than I am and knows I can be!

Well! Thank you for your prayers. Thank you, thank you. I have felt more positive and at peace within the last week and am making strides in making this my new home. Met some more non-work people last night, some embassy and USAID people at a party in the quiet, neighborhoody part of Accra (hmmm, wonder when I’ll make enough cedi’s to live in a quiet part of some city…;-) so that was nice.

Sorry I haven’t said much about my work. I was doing a lot of observing for awhile that I’m glad I did since there’s a lot to remember in my job but that did get tedious. I can announce to you that I have officially done my first case all by myself! It’s a big deal because I was in some ways flying by the seat of my pants hoping I wasn’t screwing up this poor Liberian’s visa case (everything was fine). Casework involves two different interviews wherein we review a refugee’s file to understand their situation well and get loads of information in the least amount of time possible on every aspect of a their life, work and flight experience including thorough family trees and persecution story. Sometimes you’ve got up to ten people in front of you whose information your taking down! We’re supposed to do five of these a day. They’ll be easy on me at first but I’ll need to speed up eventually. It was scary not knowing exactly what I was doing at times but praying heavily made a big difference.

So I do another tomorrow morning and then on May 1st part of our team leaves for Guinea (including me) to work there for 13 days with mainly Liberian refugees and I’ll be doing casework full-time! It’ll be exhausting but good to get a rhythm down and learn my job well!

I’m happy to report that we do have water running again in my flat. It’s on again off again so when it’s on again it’s a pleasant surprise. Oh! And I got a shiny, new black fan that will blow nice breezes my way without turning off at random moments. I’m also happy to say that I’m officially using my beautiful macbook on broadband (!) to service my internet needs at an internet cafe. I was hesitant to take it around until I was sure about security and it’s so nice to have my own little lappy to use and a decent speed to work with!!!!! Oh, you North Americans are lucky….

Here’s a shout out to my female prison friends. I want to share something with you specifically. As mentioned in my last blog it’s been hard for me to get sleep in the noisy place I’m living in. Last Thursday (the night when the bar that I live above blasts music till 2:00 – okay 1:30) I had plans to stay with another coworker for sleep’s sake. Well, things ran late at work and long story short, it got too late for me to go over. So, (heavy sigh) I made my peace with another loud night, put on earphones and played the mellowest music I had in an effort to chill out if not sleep. Yes, my roommate laughed at the idea of playing music to drown out louder music. I trustingly asked God to give me the sleep I need to adequately function at work and you entered my mind. When we experience hardships as people of faith, and you certainly are experiencing some hardship, we can take that and offer it as a sacrifice for others, so you entered my mind. As I have kept you in prayer, I can see your faces well in my mind and I offered up my sleep that you would have what you need in God’s name. I truly felt united to you and a sense that I was directly participating in God’s wonderful work of voluntary love and sacrifice. I think about you and remember you and hope that my hardships encourage you in yours. Be hopeful! Life gets better when you trust in God…

On to the title for my blog. I have discovered lately than I am a hero. And you most likely are as well. One of the things I’ve struggled with later in my life is a sense of inadequacy when it comes to acheiving my goals. Especially when it seemed like I wasn’t acheiving anything despite my efforts to try to do whatever it is that God seemed to put forth for me to accomplish! There is so much I want to have been earlier in my life. The longer it took to acheive my goals the harder it was for me to see others achieve theirs at a younger age. So, I open myself in vulnerability and share this part of myself that I wish wasn’t there, in an effort to shine a light on something. I have done an amazing job at dealing with the intense interpersonal obstacles that landed in my path throughout my 32 years here on earth. It’s all due to God’s grace giving me the love and consolation I could not find sometimes anywhere else, but still, it required my “yes”, my cooperation. I am a hero for taking the lemons that sometimes rolled around my feet or came shooting toward me in a flash flood and turning them into a sweet, slightly tart, icy glass of lemonade. I glorify God just as I am because I take this life He gave me one day at a time and do what I can to make it love-centered. Because I seek to not deal with the world as it deals with me. I am a hero for triumphing over my hardships. It is precisely because I have done so that I have arrived at this point. Therefore, I cannot have arrived late. I am right on-time. My life is a special one and so is yours. It is not supposed to be just like anyone else’s. We’re too special to God for that.

I think we’re all heroes. To the extent that we refuse to let life beat us down and steal our dreams (am I writing a Dido song now?) WE ARE HEROES. To the extent that you extend your hand in forgiveness to one who has hurt you again and again, or abandon yourself to God in trust rather than bend to the approval of human beings, you are a hero. I have done my utmost with my life and I am proud. You should be too. There are far more heroes out in this world than not. I pass them every day here in Accra. Tomorrow morning when you take a look around at work or in your car think again at who you’re looking at. They’re more likely a hero than not.

To being heroes!!!

It’s getting late for me here so I’m just going to throw a couple fun facts in and save the rest for next time. That’s your teaser…:-)

1) Water bottles are significantly more expensive than water satchets so we European/American whiteys drink water out of 4×4 inch pastic bags that are clear. You snip the corner off with your teeth, split the plastic piece out of your mouth in a cool, careless fashion and suck out the water. You learn how to adeptly position one so that it does not tip over (I learned that quickly if I do say so myself). I even carried an opened one in my purse without spilling a drop anywhere in my second week here (that impressed my coworkers).

2) Peanuts are one of the staple snack foods here. You can buy them roasted in little bags at roadside stands. Unfortunately, you usually end up crunching on a bit of sand amongst the nuts. Not exactly Planters standards. So I tried buying some locally made in a grocery store but, no, got a bit of sand in my teeth with those also. It reminds me of my time in Zambia. 7 times out of ten, some sandy dirt would remain in the greens we often ate and it never failed that the dirt ended up on my plate!! Its a uniquely unpleasant experience to be happily masticating on your food and then CRUNCH! Immediately the girl I was studying with, Sasha, would recognize the look of irritation on my face and proceed to laugh herself silly that I had yet again ended up with the prized sand clump.

3) Today I actually had to start yelling at a cab driver who wanted me to pay him more than we had agreed upon. I had to threaten three times to get out of the car which he refused. Wierdness. While it was annoying to deal with on the way to church most drivers aren’t like that at all which I duly informed him. You learn to roll with this taxi negotiating situation but it can get tiresome.

Okay kids, I’m keeping my beloved readers and pray-ers in my heart and prayers and hope you are all well and living in joy!

your sister soldier,
Grace

3 week check-in

April 18, 2007 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hello loved ones:

No time to write an update last weekend unfortunately.  Please feel free to call me.  I’d love to hear from you.  Email me for my number. Generally the best time to call is 5 p.m. or later my time.  Don’t call after 11:00 though unless it’s a weekend night.  I probably won’t be asleep but I’ll be trying to sleep! Also, the thing about 3rd world telecommunications is that you have to try harder.  If you get a busy signal I may not be on the phone.  Just try again or try later to get through.

To be honest, all in all it has remained very challenging to get used to life here and to not miss my family and friends.  It’s getting easier “small small” as they say here though.  Some reasons for the challenge:

1) Housing: There’s a shortage of affordable housing here in Accra for expats.  If you’re white, you can expect to have to pay rent two years in advance.  Clearly that’s ridiculous so most people have to network awhile and stay in less than ideal places until they find something decent.  Some stay in the less great places to save money also.  Average places that my coworkers stay in cost about $150.00-$200.00 a month.  My new dwelling place that I moved into last week and will live at for a month or two costs $200.00.  I had a choice between that place and one other.  That’s it.  And believe me, I’m constantly asking everyone I meet about possible housing.

The water has not worked since I moved in and don’t forget that we have “lights out ” every couple days which means no power for 12 hour blocks.  The paint is peeling off the walls everywhere and there is no A/C.  Oh, it’s also above a bar.  That means every Thursday night there’s music blasting until 2 a.m.  It’s kind of nice, like having a stereo in every room.  That is,  until you want to sleep of course. 

We’re right on a main road with much road noise and accross from a small plaza where people congregate speaking loudly and yelling way into the night.  Earplugs are no defense my friends.  I do have a fan I use to try to block some noise but it has a timer on it and a loose connection so if it doesn’t go off every couple minutes – which it usually does – it oes off every hour.  Then, when it’s lights out you just lay in your bed covered with sweat dreaming of your bucket bath in the morning.

So, on top of trying to adjust and acclimate to the new culture and city, learn the new office politics and all the rules and regulations involved in refugee processing I’ve been treated to 4-5 hours of sleep a night this entire past week.  I’m not saying I’m at the end of my rope.  It’s just that God must have some kind of tremendous respect for my potential and belief in my inner resources because it’s all I can do to constantly trust in Him and pray for His mercy and grace to constantly accept every hardship that comes my way as His will.  Just when I think it’ll ease up there’s a little more added to the load.  Whew boy!  I’m on the treadmill running as fast as I can knowing that sometime soon I’ll catch a break.

2) Office politics and environment: Before moving here I was told that we have an office staff of 100.  I didn’t know that most of those are Ghanians.  In time any good expat (no not every one, but definitely those who seek to respect the new culture in which they live so, again any “good” expat) learns the local language and culture and seeks friendships with local people.  At first though, it’s important to be with those from your culture to help you adjust and give you some comfort.  That said, there are less than 10 Americans with whom I work.  Not many.  I have begun to miss the quality of relationship that I had with my friends back home.  I don’t have that much in common with these people, particularly spiritually so the poverty I experience is an interpersonal sort.  Not easy for a relational person like me.  I guess that’s where the rubber meets the road in the mission field.  (Insert great slight misquote from Ma Theres here) “People are self-centered, unkind, impatient and unloving.  Love them anyway.”  Identifying myself with Christ, the most misunderstood and rejected man in history has helped greatly again in reinforcing submission to whatever He allows me to experience and to focus on Him as my constant indwelling friend.   Love always wins in the end.  It never fails.  Thanks be to God.

Well, life is what you make it and I intend to make this experience as positive, career-building and redeeming as possible.  For, I hold a treasure not made of gold, in my earthen vessel, wealth untold.  One treasure only, the Lord the Christ, in my earthen vessel.

I truly feel often since I left as if I’ve stepped off a cliff and am in a constant free-fall, only to land safely in God’s strong hands.  He allows me to fall so that I can feel Him catching me.

Last night was a great stress reliever for me.  I went out with my coworkers for the first time here and we all had fun.  It was good to meet other expats and to mingle with Ghanians in the same facilties.  We went to a Karaoke bar and I sang “What a feeling from Flashdance”. Classic cheese (!) complete with dance number with a friend’s boyfriend that jumped up to add to the festivities during the bridge to the chorus.  Then we continued on to a club and then another one for some intense dancing.  Ahhh, there’s nothing like dancing the night away till 4:30 a.m and then going for pizza.  Only outside of the U.S. baby!!!  It’s just great to meet people from all over who have grown up all over.  No part of that is ever uninteresting.

Let’s add some fun facts now for your amusement and interest:

Dial-up is so slow sometimes that it takes me five minutes to log into my email account.

:-*(

Actually I was told that the house I moved into would have working running water.  When it didn’t I had to carry 5 buckets of water up a skinny, spiral staircase with uneven steps in the dark as it was “light’s out”.  Then I was determined to cook some food from home for myself so with covered in sweat I proceeded to do so probably frustrating myself more from the energy it took to do all that in the heat than it would’ve take to buy some food somewhere!  That’s the cook in me I guess.

People drink water from big, green coconuts here.  You just walk up to a big cart of them and people with machetes cut off the top for you.  Then you slurp it out and wipe the dribble off your chin with your sweaty forearm.  It doesn’t taste like much but it seems to be healthy.  My blood sugar started to drop once when I was shopping (i.e. I was getting hungry) and I drank one of them.  That thing gave me energy for a couple hours.  I was very impressed.  It costs about .25 cents.  Top that you American energy drink drinkers!

I eat fried chicken and rice very often.  In fact, you’ll find most typically Southern food to be available here because it’s the food that the slaves, a lot of whom came from this part of Africa made for their white owners: fried chicken, greens, cabbage, cole slaw, black eyed-peas, peanuts, etc.  It’s pretty poignant to sit down and remember that sometimes when you eat.

Tonight is light’s out and as I was typing this we completely lost power in the entire building.  Most internet cafe’s protect against this.  Not the one I’m in!  Thank God my blog site saved most of what I’d typed.  In the interim a Nigerian struck up a fiery conversation about how Nigeria is still very safe if you take reasonable precautions.  He’s a pilot who’s determined to show me pictures of Nigeria from the air to prove it’s beauty.  People are funny…

Okay, I need to blow this taco stand and go back to my dark apartment.  Next week I train a little more and then will be on my own interviewing refugees so please pray for me to do well.  I keep you all in my prayers and hope for the best for all of you. 

I’m coming (said locally, it means I will return/be right back).  So, I’m coming next week.

your sister soldier in the good fight,

Grace

3 week check-in « Ghana Girl

April 15, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

3 week check-in « Ghana Girl

The first week is past

April 1, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hello loved ones,

It is one week today since I left Philadelphia to come to Ghana and I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and well wishes.  Your encouragement and support has meant everything to me.  I am truly blessed for God to have given me so many brothers and sisters with whom to share His love with. 

I miss you my friends and family, but I am slowly making new friends here and being introduced to the riches of Ghanian culture.   Today marked my first mass (church service) here and I went to the Cathedral which isn’t too far.  I knew it would be a long one being in Africa and this being the beginning of Holy Week but um…three and a half hours after arriving we finally slowly processed out!  Goodness!  I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one starting to droop.  The girl next to me had started snoozing.  😉  Hadn’t had my morning caffeine yet myself, but that didn’t stop me from being completely moved by the whole experience. 

Church in Africa is a party man. People dance and sing and have a great time. I think they dance here even more than in Zambia. I probably seemed like the most boring person there though I tried to start shakin’ it a little when I processed up for the offering (there are two, not one by the way).

They put on a veritable passion play with incredible acting and energy! The altar and surrounding area was turned into a stage and the entire passion episode from the last supper to the crucifixion was enacted complete with the mocking of Christ, his beating and the Via Dolorosa where he carried his cross up the main aisle of the church.  It was very hard not to cry and I was glad when I saw other women crying as well.  I cannot emphasize enough how talented these people were and what a great show it was, albeit a sober one.

Although, the energy was so good that the young kids couldn’t help erupting in laughter initially as it really seemed like they were truly hitting, slapping and whipping Jesus and Barabbus. I remember learning stage combat in high school and I don’t think they were faking that!

To mark the time where Jesus gave up his spirit and died, a group of young kids stood up while everyone kneeled and sang “Crucified” by M W Smith. It was so wonderful to meditate on the words:
“Crucified and laid behind a stone
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Above all.”

Then when they made their curtain call to take their bow Jesus stood in the middle of everyone dressed in white as if he was appearing resurrected in the middle of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us always and is waiting for us in heaven. How beautiful it all was. Man, I can’t wait for next holy week! :-))

Before I arrived here I prayed that God would grant me a nice birthday in my new surroundings. He and my coworkers did not disappoint. They’ve been working 12-13 hour days all week but took me out Friday night for Indian food, paying for my dinner even though they had to work the next day. At the end of dinner, in classic, ad hoc, expat style, they gave me two small gifts wrapped in toilet paper – the best they could do in a pinch. They were a small wooden carving of an owl (somehow symbolic here) and a nice bracelet. It was so kind! I was really touched and they’ll remain very special to me.

Afterwards I headed to the Alliance Francaise (French linguistic and cultural centers around the world) to catch the end of a brilliant performance by a very talented African singer/dancer. Oh could she move. Made me miss dance class! It was so neat to hear my french again and to see so many people from different countries having a great time and dancing. What a heaven that was! African, European, North American and Asians all celebrating life together. They have events every Wednesday so you know now what I’ll be doing on Wednesdays if I’m not at work. 🙂

Then I continued on to a bar by the side of the road (sounds wierd but it works, trust me) with a couple others and danced the night away to great West African music under the moonlight. Oh, life was GOOD. My dancing did not disappoint apparently, though I feel rusty. At least I know I can fit in here while I’m dancing! 😉

As far as work goes it was a slow, easy week last week workwise. I think my training will start more intensively this week and apparently things have been slow for a couple months with little travel. Around April 21st though we’ll be heading to different places to do a circuit ride (interview refugees for asylum) so I’m getting started with a bang! I’ll go to Guinea and I’m a little intimidated but excited to use my french. I’m just a little out of practice and mostly concerned about the accent. Sometimes it’s not hard to speak but is hard to understand different accents. Still working on the one here in Accra. Man it’s thick! Apparently no one leaves Guinea without getting sick as well so pray for me!

Now here’s the part for fun facts of life in Accra:
* The power is cut off every four days for a day and then is on for half a day and then off again and then on again due to low river water in the Volta. AC is never that high anywhere but when the power is off, oh baby you feel it. You pretty much spend the night drenched in sweat but remember, it’s not humid yet. The humidity gets much higher in a number of months.

*You have to bargain for taxi’s, for food, for everything. And if you’re white you won’t get a fair price initially but you learn how to bargain for it and sometimes have to be flexible.

*Sewers here are open and people do fall in them.

*I have about 22 mosquito bites on my body. It appears my experience in Zambia is confirmed. Mosquitos like my particular flavor so I’m “offering it up” and praying that I don’t catch malaria for awhile.

*No one can really live here without catching malaria several times so I’m biding my time until I get lucky enough to catch it. The good news is, it’s never as bad as the first time and is easy to cure (after several days of feeling like a sewer yourself).

One last not so fun fact is, as long as you’re not walking alone at night much Accra is pretty safe and most people are good but petty theft is a problem. Some of my coworkers have been the victims of crime schemes and believe me, people are fast. Last night at the internet cafe, though I was keeping my purse close to me and “on” me, it suddenly disappeared. Most people steal cash and phones here. The girls (coworkers) I’m staying with are at the beach and I would have had no one to call. I immediately found it opposite me around a wooden barrier. Someone had pulled it underneath the barrier but then left it sitting there. Everything was in it. I couldn’t believe it. I have no doubt that this is due to the many prayers being offered up for me. I cannot thank you enough for them. I return them as often as I can but still somehow feel unworthy of your love and concern.

Hope this has been a good update! So far I’ve only been able to access the internet about once a week so I’m sorry if it seems like I’m unavailable. Know that I’m thinking about you and miss you. When I’m on a circuit ride I likely won’t have any access so I’ll be in touch as I can.

Some have asked for my phone number. Of course I forgot it at home and can’t remember the whole thing offhand. I’ll try to remember it next time. Calls are 24 cents a minute for me. Not that cheap but I’d love to hear from any of you! It helps ease the newness here.

(Spontaneous fun fact) Earlier they were playing Christian music in a non-religious internet cafe! Now they’re playing a Chinese sounding version of Danny Boy and and an African across from me is singing jubililantly to it. Ah, life in another culture…Oh, here comes Don’t cry for me Argentina. Yup, he likes this one too.

Love you guys. God bless,
Grace

Total Abandon

March 27, 2007 at 6:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Hello everyone.  I am finally here at my destination in Accra and am feeling overwhelmed to say the least.  My mind is in a bit of a blur trying acclimate to this big city with its noise, pollution and constant staring and relentless invitations for conversation and phone numbers.  I just try to smile in a kind confident way and keep moving talking a little bit here and there.  There are no street signs (or names) really, so you can imagine how challenging it is to try to find your way for the first time.  You have to go by landmarks that you don’t know yet and that a good amount of taxi drivers don’t know sometimes.  I didn’t anticipate that it would be as difficult as it is to understand everyone as the accent is really thick here.  I did manage to be able to change my money, buy a cell phone and get to the internet cafe today so I feel like I accomplished something!

 I am living for a week with three young women who are helping me when they’re not at work (which isn’t often)!

 This is likely the hardest time for me during my stay here.  I have not felt this alone in quite awhile.  Things did not go well at the airport when I landed due to a visa mixup but four hours later I was finally able to leave.   Big opportunity to build my faith there as you can imagine…Knowing how many people are praying for me has given me indescribable strength.  Your prayers are lifting me and I need them. 

It also appears to be rather difficult to find housing so that will be my next challenge.

 It is through adversity that we often grow closer to God and so I continue to draw strength from Him.  One small grace given to me is that when my plane landed, I can truly say that I felt home for a moment.  I was hoping this would happen.   As I stepped into the balmy, humid weather and entered the airport the familiar smell of concrete and moisture made me feel like I was right back in Zambia.  So many feelings and emotions come flooding back that all I could do after an incredibly busy couple of weeks moving, selling my car and little sleep during my flight was simply let it all wash over me as I opened myself up to God in prayer and trust and total abandon. 

Heading into work tomorrow for my first day and I’m really looking forward to it.  I can’t wait for this to start becoming familiar and to feel at home.

 It’s getting dark outside and we’re not to really be out at night so I’ll wrap things up here.  Not sure how often I’ll be able to be on the internet but I’ll be in touch as I am able. 

God bless you all.  You are in my prayers.

Grace

The Visa

February 14, 2007 at 3:11 am | Posted in My Blog | 2 Comments

Well, it finally came through.  On Friday around 3 p.m. I saw the blessed name of the HR worker in my office in Accra, in my inbox telling me that my visa came through.  Man!  It’s officially three weeks past the longest time it was supposed to take to get it and it’s been hard as heck to wait and trust God that everything would work out!  It is truly darkest before the dawn cause it was getting hard for me to hold on there for awhile.  I don’t know why.  God is so faithful.  Why should I doubt Him now when I’m this close?  I guess it’s just been so hard to be unemployed these past seven months.  First time in my life for something like that. 

I should’ve titled this instead, “The joy of forms”.  😉 I had to fill out like 20 of them to scan and email back.  The next step is buying my ticket.  It feels strange now that it’s actually happening.  The idea of just arbitrarily choosing a date to fly out on.  How does one know which day to pick?  How to be sure that the car will be sold and everything packed by that certain date?  (And the answer comes back to her in the simple wisdom of a childhood song, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”).

The real purpose of this posting is to thank you for your prayers and interest in my endeavor and to update you with the good visa news.  Everyone has been wonderful with their kindness and encouragement.  Thank you.  I am truly blessed.

I’ll “let” (as they say here in PA) you back to your busy lives and leave you with two appropriate quotes that I like.

God bless,

Grace

Vocations which we wanted to pursue, but didn’t, bleed, like colors, on
the
whole of our existence. -Honore de Balzac, novelist (1799-1850)

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life. -Immanuel
Kant,
philosopher (1724-1804)

Preparation

January 28, 2007 at 7:03 pm | Posted in My Blog | Leave a comment

     Wow.  My first posting.  I can’t believe I’m a blogger.  Well, I’m not.  Not really.  This is all for the Big Guy.  Ya know, up in the sky.  My goal with this endeavor is to bring the daily life of an ex-pat (expatriate, i.e. one living/working outside of their country), seeking to live her dream for herself, God and others, onto a screen near you.  I anticipate this to be a source of hilarity as you laugh at me getting taken advantage of by locals, sanctification as you see how the other half lives and inspiration as you take that to prayer, to heart and to ….well, that’s between you and God, isn’t it?

     Since I’m just getting started and my graphics are woefully unimpressive as of yet, I’m not going to bore you with my ramblings (probably the worst consequence of most blogs).  Just an update to say that I’m staying busy preparing for my trip to Ghana in 4-6 weeks…..(I think…!) to work as a caseworker for refugees with Church World Service.  No more wild Catholic roadtrips with no sleep but amazing spiritual highs…I’m really trying to keep the socializing down to a minimum.   I remind myself to trust Him and to take it one day at a time…

     The snow is falling outside here in PA and I’m trying to imagine what it’s going to be like to be in 80 degree weather soon and near a beach. 

     Please pray for me to continue to prepare well, practice my French like a good girl and be ready at every moment to say, “Here I am Lord.  It is I Lord.  I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.” :->

 God bless y’all.  Peace out.

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