Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I tried to post this blog over a week ago, but it was not cooperating with uploading pictures. Sorry for the long delay between posts! I have several in the works though, so I hope to make up for this drought!!!

Here is some of what we've been up to during the last few weeks of summer...

This is how almost all of my pictures look these days. She's all over the place, pulling up on everything, and ALWAYS wants the camera :)

Reading lots of books and kissing the pages--too cute!

She's been enjoying lots of bubble baths!

Lots and LOTS of pulling up and super excited smiles!

Fun time outside with Daddy.
She's seriously into EVERYTHING.

What a mess...a very sweet, cute mess :)

We just love her to pieces and have had a great summer with our precious girl!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Chris and I, along with 10 other wonderful friends, went to Ghana, Africa for 8 days from July 22-July 30. It was amazing, and God did amazing things in us and through us that week. You can read my {lengthy} reflections by clicking on each of the 4 posts.

Ghana, part 4: Coming Home

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

As I sat on the ferry during our trip back to Tema from Kete Krachi the day before we were departing to head home, I had very mixed emotions. I was certainly more than ready to see my sweet baby girl and was beginning to really anticipate the moment when I could hold her in my arms and kiss her chubby cheeks again. But, I was also nervous about making the transition back to the USA. My heart was touched, and I was changed during my time in Ghana. I was afraid of what it would feel like to go home to a place where everything is in abundance and at my fingertips. I knew what was previously comfortable and the norm would seem trivial. I was nervous that I would be angry about the way I and people around me lived, completely oblivious to what was going on with these children in Ghana. So, I began praying that my heart would not be hardened to what I had seen and experienced the past week and that God would grant me patience and understanding with the people in my life. God has been gracious and answered that prayer over and over in the past few weeks.

Since returning from Ghana, a verse has really been on my mind. It's a verse that has actually been a huge part of Chris and my life for the past year. On July 20, 2009, we found out our sweet baby was going to be a precious girl. We had of course been brainstorming names and settled on Micah Elisabeth. As we chose her name, we also chose a life verse for her, Micah 6:8. I painted this verse on a canvas that hangs above her bed, and this is our greatest prayer for her life. It is what we hope will be the cornerstone of who she is. And as we have reflected on our time in Ghana, Chris and I have talked a lot about this verse. Micah, our daughter, and this verse were the inspiration for the name of the Mercy Project, our nonprofit organization. We believe that God is calling us to be people of justice and mercy in our world.
The Sunday after we got home from Ghana, a few of us shared some of what we experienced with our congregation at church, and because it was so soon after we got home that I wrote these words, I feel like they are an accurate representation of what I was feeling and still feel about our time there. So, I have included most of it here. I think it comes a little closer to doing justice to what happened in Ghana.

Micah 6:8 has been a verse that has been planted on our hearts and minds for about the last year. As we have prayed every night that our Micah will become a child and woman of justice and mercy, we also hope the same thing for ourselves. I believe that God continues to be gracious in giving me glimpses of what justice and mercy can and does look like in the world, and last week was no exception to that.

God gave me another glimpse of what justice and mercy looks like through meeting Abraham on the lake. It looks like the smallest grin on the face of a child in slavery when someone lovingly speaks his name and holds his hand. It looks like 12 people who sacrifice a week to go and love on children across the world and spend part of that time on a lake with children that desperately need some love. God’s justice and mercy was present in a moment on a boat in the middle of Ghana, West Africa, and His kingdom came on earth. I believe that when we are people of justice and mercy that God’s kingdom continues to break out everywhere that we go. I believe that God delights in every single person on His earth, and for these children that are treated with such injustice and so mercilessly, they need to know that God delights in them. I am so thankful for the chance I had to be part of a significant moment when God’s justice and mercy reigned.

As I sat on the plane during the last leg of our trip home, I was listening to my ipod, and the song “In You” by Mercy Me began playing. Music has always spoken to me in powerful ways, and the words in the song seemed a perfect way to end our week. I want to share those words with you as we think about being people of justice and mercy as we help the kingdom of God to break out in our world. “It’s the creator, calling the created. The maker beckoning the made. The bride finding what she’s always waited for. When we find ourselves that day…in you, where the hungry feast at the table. The blind frozen by colors in view. The lame will dance, they’ll dance for they are able. When the weary find rest. Oh, the weary find rest in you.” I witnessed that rest in the 44 kids at the Village of Life, the ones that have been rescued, the ones that have received justice and mercy on this earth. I witnessed them feasting at His table when they sang songs like God is So Good and Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know. I witnessed them dancing at His feet when we said the Lord’s Prayer with them each night. I also got to witness a small piece of His rest coming for Abraham when a group of 12 people said “send me” to God, and He sent us to His place to His children for His justice and mercy to reign and His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. This last week, I was blessed over and over by people living out justice and mercy in real ways, and my prayer is that I can be a person of justice and mercy in every part of my life.
{Chris and I with 2 of the kids that he was able to help rescue last summer}

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ghana, part 3: Lake Volta

On Tuesday morning, we had the opportunity to go out on Lake Volta to see the children working with our own eyes. We woke up early and were headed to the lake by 6:00am. We all loaded up on the boat that George and his son use to gather information about the children that will one day help them to rescue these children. There were about 20 of us on the boat, and I am sure we were quite the sight out on Lake Volta that morning.
Chris had told me stories of how the children were out early working, but I honestly wasn't so sure that they would already be out at 6:00am on a chilly morning. I quickly realized my mistake as we began to see boats scattered throughout the lake. As we pulled up to a few boats, I could see their rags for clothes and the infections that were on their scalps. One boy was visibly shaking from the cold air and the water hitting him while he worked to pull in the nets laid out the day before. All he had on was a pair of small, worn out shorts, and his sunken face looked miserable.

We pulled up next to one boat, and there was a small boy in the back named Abraham. He was probably 8 or 9 years old, and he was afraid. He was working the back of the boat, steering it with a paddle, and as we came closer, we could see the fear in his eyes as he desperately tried to guide his end of the boat away from us. After we handed him some candy and a blanket, the fear began to melt away. Some of us began reaching out our hands, and he took mine in his.

I sat there, holding hands with this little boy who was in slavery, and I had the profound chance to show him love, justice, and mercy. As I watched more members of our group hold his hand, rub his arm, and say his name, a faint smile appeared on Abraham's face. On that boat in the middle of a lake in Ghana, Africa, I participated in something divine. I was standing on holy ground, and I know that God was present.
It was truly unbelievable to me to look around on that lake and see all of the children that were working. Their lives are nothing like my sweet Micah's. They do not have the opportunity to play, run, and laugh. They do not have mommies and daddies to hug them and tell them how much they are loved and matter. That morning on the lake was really hard. It was so difficult to look in these little boys' faces and know how hard they work and how mistreated they are and not be able to just scoop them up in the boat with us. Thinking about Micah while out on the lake brought me to tears because I want these boys to know the love that she will and already does know. It was so hard. The Lord broke my heart for what breaks His.

But, as heartbreaking as it was, it was also transformative. I don't believe that any member of our group will ever be the same after looking into the eyes of those children. That night, we had some group time, and it was just amazing the way that God transformed us in a single morning out on that lake. After spending several days with some precious children at the Village of Life, God reminded us of what they had been through. The smiles on the faces of the kids at the Village are incredible, and they know that God loves them. But, there are more children that desperately need that chance. I am a changed person, and I will never forget Abraham's face. I pray that one day he, too, will be rescued and will be able to run, play, laugh, and be loved like every child deserves.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ghana, part 2: Village of Life

We got to sleep in a little bit on Sunday morning which was a wonderful gift. I think we were all feeling much more refreshed after a good night of rest and ready to get our week with the kids kicked off. We started with church with the kids and a few adults on Sunday morning, and let me tell you that if you have never experienced church in Africa, you have not really experienced worship. It was totally amazing!!! The kids sang LOUDLY and with such passion, and the drums and the dancing, oh man, out of this world! Joseph would start a song, and before long, one of the kids would begin a conga line of sorts around the room. People would start joining in, and it seemed like the whole room was clapping and dancing. I don't know that I have ever smiled so much at church or felt so much sincere passion in worship in my life. Simply incredible. Chris presented a short message about the prodigal son that Kofi translated in Tre {the unofficial language that most of the children know} so that the children could understand. He did a fantastic job, of course, and everyone really appreciated it. Now I understand why Africans are typically in church for many hours...it's just really that good for the soul!

{Chris made me a book with pictures of Micah in it and little notes for the trip. The kids asked to see my baby, and here are a few of them posing with the album. So precious.}

After church, Gretchen had a project all ready for us to do with the kids since we wouldn't officially start our camp program until the next day. So, we made t-shirts with the kids. They turned out so cute! The kids stenciled "Village of Life 2010" on their white shirts, and then using their handprint and thumbprints, they created a tree. A tree is part of our Mercy Project logo because it symbolizes life, which is something we hope to bring to many children in Ghana through the Mercy Project. We all wore our shirts the next day for the start of camp. Some of the kids wore their shirts every single day that we were there. Such joy!

That afternoon began the epic futbol "rematch": Ghana vs. USA. The kids from the Village played against our group. These kids are serious business when it comes to futbol. They play barefoot on a field that is part {or mostly} dirt and slopes downward. They fall and get right back up without a single whine or complaint. There were no tears. I was amazed many times at how tough they were and thought that if this were kids in the USA they would all be mad at each other :) It was very refreshing and actually quite humbling. These kids who have hardly anything and have lived through terrible nightmares are so grateful just to have a place to play, no matter what it looks like or how perfect it is. I could learn {and did learn} a lot from their selfless attitudes.

Since not all of the kids could play at once, many of them formed a cheering section, complete with drums and an airhorn. They were really into the game. George Achibra {the man who rescues children for Touch A Life, among other things} was the referee, and boy was he serious!!! After an hour of regulation play and 2 overtime periods, the USA managed to pull out a victory 3-2, and you better believe that my man scored a goal :) I think everyone was pretty worn out by the end of that game.
We kicked off our first night of VBS on Sunday night with some songs, the story of the creation, a coloring page, and a craft. The kids had a great time learning the new songs. We ended the night by circling up with them outside under the stars, singing, and praying the Lord's Prayer with them. Talk about powerful! To hear little children recite this prayer brought a lot of new meaning to it. It will never be the same for me again, and I am so thankful for that. We split up and prayed over 3-4 kids and gave hugs and said goodnight.


Monday morning, we woke up ready to go and start camp with the kids. We did the same thing for camp and VBS Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. {Wednesday varied a little bit...I'll get to that in a later post.} We got to the Village of Life in the mornings, and the kids were so excited to see us. We were always welcomed with big smiles and even bigger hugs. We would say, "Hello. How are you?" And the kids would ALWAYS reply with, "I am fine." So precious. What was even more precious was when they were all together, and Chris would be ready to get them quiet. So, he would say, "Hello children." Reply: "Hello sir." Chris: "How are you?" Reply: "We are fine. Thank you, sir." Melt me. I can still hear them saying this in my head, and I am still smiling over it! We had 3 rotations for camp--art, school, and sports--and we split the kids up based on age. They went to each rotation for about an hour and a half, so they did 2 rotations before lunch and one after lunch.
Gretchen did an amazing job getting all the crafts ready for the art time! She collected supplies and had everything totally organized and ready to go. The kids ate it up! They painted, made bracelets, did watercolor paintings, drew pictures, and even made some yarn art. It was fun to see their projects and how excited they were to show us all what they had created.

During the sports rotation, the kids played futbol, jumped rope, played follow the leader, and limbo. The sports crew definitely impressed me with their relentless energy! They were constantly on the move and made it a fun time for the kids.
I helped with the school rotation, and we really worked on basics with the kids. We did lots of alphabet and letter/sound recognition stuff with them, and even though it was really simple, they loved it. I also helped the kids make "All About Me" books which they seemed to like, and they got lots of writing practice out of it! We ended our school time on Wednesday by letting the kids have fun with some alphabet stencils and critter counters. It was fun to get the kids in small groups because I got to really know each child and their personalities. I definitely miss them!!!
After the 3 rotations, the children got to pick what to go to for the last hour or so of camp time. They could choose art, school, sports, or music. It was fun to see what the kids enjoyed doing the most! After this time was up, our group went back to the hotel to clean up before dinner while the children did their chores and prepared to take their supper. When we returned to the Village of Life, Erika always had a wonderful meal waiting for us. I will admit that I was a little nervous about the food options and had brought a hefty supply of snacks, but I was pleasantly surprised with the yummy meals. She made fish for us several times, and I was skeptical about the fish heads staring at me. However, the tilapia was actually delicious. Take a look...
After dinner, we headed down to the schoolhouse to do our VBS. Each night we got to sing songs with the kids, tell them about God's love for them through a story in scripture, and help them color and do a craft. Then came what was my favorite part of each day. We would take the kids outside, circle them up, and sing "God is so good" with them. I loved hearing their sweet voices declaring the goodness of our Lord and how He has indeed rescued them. We would then individually pray over 4 of the kids and say the Lord's Prayer together. After that, we said goodnight and "me do wo" {I love you} to the children before heading to the hotel for the night.

During our group times each evening, we were exhausted, but it was the kind of tired that brings a smile to your face. It was such a gift to love on these kids each day and pour out everything we had to give them the best experience possible. I loved feeling so tired at the end of the day and knowing that when I woke up, I would get to do it all over again!!

Ghana, part 1: Travel

I am not really sure how I can do justice to my experience in Ghana using mere words. It truly was the trip of a lifetime, and God opened my eyes and heart to a whole new purpose and meaning in my life. I will make an attempt, feeble as it may be, to put this trip into words and hope that God will be gracious, as He always is, in allowing my words to convey just a portion of the blessedness that was experienced.
I also will not promise brevity, so be warned...they are more like mini-novels :)

I had been anticipating this trip for sometime, a year actually, and I will be honest that all of my anticipation was not positive. In the months and weeks leading up to our trip, I found myself becoming overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of leaving my sweet girl for 8 whole days. Prior to this, I had not been away from her for more than about 3 hours at a time, and I spend all day every day with her. I found myself crying as I rocked her to sleep many evenings just thinking about not cuddling her for such a long period of time. At the same time that I had these pretty intense feelings of sadness over leaving Micah, I knew that going to Ghana was what I not only wanted but needed to do. Since last August, I had been planning for this trip and preparing myself for it, and especially since last October when Chris and I started the Mercy Project, I was anxious to see it all with my own eyes. Clearly, I had a lot of emotions swirling around in my head in the weeks before we left. As He always is, God was faithful to me and provided me with the peace that transcends all understanding, and in the day or two just before we left, I felt so calm. I spent my time rocking Micah praying instead of crying and thanking God for her and for our opportunity to go to Ghana. I started getting excited to see the kids there and excited to take my kids to meet them some day.

So, when we woke up on Thursday, July 22, I was ready. Ready for a long day of travel. Ready to tell my baby goodbye and trust her to her very eager grandparents. Ready to spend 8 days with the love of my life. Ready to see how God was going to work on my heart. Chris and I left our house around 7:30am after hugging and kissing and praying over Micah.
We were off, so surreal. We met the rest of our 12 member team at Chick-Fil-A outside of DFW Airport for breakfast and to gather the troops. We were all so excited and anxious to get the week started. Besides Chris, none of us had been to Ghana before, so we were excited to see it and breathe in that African air!
We got to the DFW Airport around 9:00am for our 11:45am flight. We thought we were super early, but when you are checking in a group of 11 {Marcus met us in Washington DC}, nothing is very fast. After checking in, going through security, and getting {a very early} lunch, we boarded our plane to Washington, DC. I remember looking at Chris and saying "we're really going." We had a pretty long layover in DC before our flight left for Accra at 11:00pm that night. We had a good time just hanging out as a group and getting to know each other better. Chris and I put the group together, so we were the only ones that really knew everyone that was going. It's always fun to watch your friends meet and become friends. God is good like that!
It was finally time to board the plane for Accra. AHHHHH!!! I looked at Chris and others in our group, and I kept saying, "We're going to Africa. When we wake up, we will be in Africa!" For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to go to Africa, and I honestly couldn't believe it was happening! So, we got on the plane for our 10 1/2 hour flight {!!!} and were off.
We had a very yummy {seriously} dinner on the plane and enjoyed part of a movie. With the help of a sleep aid, I got about 7 hours of sleep...so nice! When I woke up, it was Friday, and we only had about an hour left of our flight. We were there, in Ghana! As we stepped off the plane, I was so excited. I couldn't wait to see what this other part of God's world was like. And, it didn't disappoint.

We gathered our bags and headed to check in at our hotel. The hotel we stayed at in Tema, the Crismon Hotel, was really nice...A/C, hot water, verandas overlooking the pool, flat screen TVs, etc. We then made our way to the Village of Love, the Touch A Life orphanage in Tema where about 25 rescued children live. Another group was on the last day of their trip to the Village of Love, so we got to join with them in playing with the kids.
We played futbol and hugged and loved on the kids. We enjoyed some great singing time with them that night, and it made our group even more excited to get to the Village of Life and the kiddos with whom we'd we spending our week. We got to sing some worship songs with the kids that night, and I shed my first of many tears for the week listening to them sing "God is so good" with all of their hearts! So beautiful! We ended the night early after a long day of travel and got some good rest before our early morning the next day.

We woke up very early on Saturday morning, gathered all of our stuff, and loaded the 15 passenger van for our trek to Kete Krachi. It took us 9 1/2 hours to get there, and a lot of our travel was on very bumpy dirt roads. I have to give a little shout out to our fabulous driver, Kingsley, who made dodging the potholes look easy and kept us from bumping our heads on the ceiling of the van! The travel was very interesting, but our group was amazing and handled it all with grace and a smile. We used the restroom on the side of the road and ate peanut butter crackers and yummy sweet bread as our meals. I would not trade the experience for the world and loved seeing the villages as we made the drive.

We finally arrived at the hotel {the 2nd floor of the Kete Krachi Credit Union}, and this hotel was a little more authentic taste of Africa, although still not "roughing it." We all couldn't wait to load back up and drive the 5 minutes to the Village of Life where we were greeted with hugs and huge smiles by 44 sweet African kids. It was truly awesome!!! I couldn't stop smiling and was totally giddy. I loved finally getting the chance to wrap my arms around these children I had been thinking of and dreaming about for many months. That night was spent eating some more yummy African cuisine {chicken and rice with red sauce...mmmm} and singing and dancing with the kids. It was a great way to kick off our week!