Friday, October 26, 2012


I am finally feeling like myself after about two weeks.
I developed some kind of mystery virus after we got home from Ghana.  Not sure if I acquired it while overseas, in transit, or once we got home, but it was not fun.  After sleeping like a rock (which is uncharacteristic for me) for 8+ hours each night, I would crash hard in about 3 hours.  I could hardly muster the energy to entertain my children until naptime when I had to take a nap myself. Body aches and low-grade fever also accompanied this extreme fatigue.  So, after about a week and a half of this while getting worse almost every day, my sweet husband stopped begging and just insisted that I go to the doctor.  He's a good one.  All of my blood work came back just fine--no thyroid issue, no infection, no mono.  All great things not to have.  However, I still felt crummy.  Virus it is.  My doctor gave me a steroid pack, and I was lovingly forced to rest for two straight days.  I do not do that well.  At all.  
I pride myself in taking care of others well.  I work hard at taking good care of my home, my children, my husband, my family.  But myself?  Not so good.
However, after resting and feeling so much better for the first time since we got home from Ghana, I realized a few things about myself.
One is that I need to take care of myself, period.  If I'm not functioning well, I'm not really doing a good job at my job--being a wife, momma, and Jesus follower.  I'm not just talking about physical well-being, although I am trying to resolve to be better at that too, but spiritual and emotional well-being.  I need time to be still.  I need to create spaces in my days that I allow the Lord to fill. Those things are just as important as fun projects and outings with my kids and making healthy, delicious dinners for my family.  So, I am trying to do better.  One day at a time.
The other thing I remembered about myself during this time is that I don't handle mystery well.  I really didn't like not having a name and specific solution to my illness.  Don't get me wrong, virus was probably the best of all of my options, but I don't like the unknown.  How long will I feel bad?  When should I expect to feel better? No course of action that is assured to bring relief.  That is hard for me.
But, it's not just in sickness but in life that I struggle with this concept.  I like certainty. I like to have control.  The Lord is slowly and graciously ripping off the bandaid.  It is slightly painful, but I am certain of one thing: the more control I release to Him, the more peaceful I feel.  It's pretty amazing.
So, today, I am thankful to be feeling like myself with energy to enjoy my children on this cool, rainy day.  I am thankful for the mystery in my life and trying to embrace my lack of control.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Rescue

Two years ago, when we began this little thing called Mercy Project, we were motivated by one thing: the children and getting them out of their captivity.
The other stuff--economic development, aquaculture, changing the lives of the fishermen and an entire village--came later.  We are passionate about all of those things now, and we believe in every part of our process.  We wouldn't change any of it, and we are certain that the Lord is up to big things not just in the lives of the children but in the lives of entire village communities in Ghana.
However, our hearts (mine and Chris's) still long for these children.
So, this day has been anticipated, prayed for, agonized over, dreamt about, and fought for for two years. It was almost surreal that it was actually happening, and some days it is still surreal that it did happen.  We saw it, and I sometimes still can't believe it.
For the sake of the story, this blog will mostly just document the experience of the rescue, and all of my reflection will come later because, in all honesty, it's still coming to me.

As we were preparing our timeline for the trip, we had anticipated arriving in Ghana on Thursday evening, reaching Adovepke (the village where the rescue would take place) on Friday afternoon, spending the rest of Friday and all day Saturday wrapping up details with the chief and the children, and rescuing the children first thing Sunday morning.  But, as all plans have a tendency to do, they got changed.  Someone very important to many of the villagers passed away, and the funeral was to be held on Sunday in a different village.  This meant that many people, including masters and children, would be gone from Adovepke on Sunday.  We concluded that this was no good, so we moved the rescue to Saturday. We made last-minute arrangements for the children for Saturday night, and we were ready to face and overcome any challenges to get those children to freedom on Saturday.
When we arrived in Adovepke, we weren't met with challenges but instead compliance and willing hearts.  Our staff on the ground had done an amazing job laying the framework for us to come right in and finish up the last minute details to get the rescue all lined up.  The Lord had gone before us and heard our cries.  Goodness, He is faithful.

Every master signed (or used a gentian violet fingerprint) a document stating that they were releasing their trafficked children to the care of Mercy Project.

Powerful stuff.
Fred (one of our Ghanaian employees) and Chris spent the night in the village so that they could sort out some confusion over which kids were truly trafficked.  We wanted to ensure that no child would come with us that was not indeed legitimately trafficked, but we also did not want a single trafficked child to be left behind.  Language barriers can make that communication difficult, but they pressed through and got it done.
The rescue could not have gone better. The villagers could not have been more supportive. The trafficked children were mostly dressed in nice, clean clothes.  Many of them even had bags of "stuff" to take with them, and some masters were handing the children small amounts of money for the journey.  Amazing stuff, I tell you.

All the 24 children were gathered together under the tree, and all the villagers congregated there to see us off. Before we left, Chris addressed everyone.  One of the most powerful moments was when he asked anyone who had been trafficked as a child to raise their hands. A few seconds passed before more than half of the adults standing in the circle hand their hands raised in the air.  Chris thanked them for giving these children a chance that they never had. It was a powerful moment.

Fred prayed for all of us, we lined the kids up, counted them for the millionth time, and headed down to the shore to get on the boat.
Tears filled my eyes as the drums started playing and villagers began singing and dancing alongside us.  The kids were smiling.  We were holding their hands. It was like a dream.
As I watched them climb onto the boat one by one, I was struck by the grace of God.

I was humbled and so thankful that He was allowing me to participate in His kingdom.

Those 24 children on the boat were a sight to behold. A beautiful, overwhelming sight.

The afternoon and evening got a little crazy.  A storm knocked out electricity in the village where the temporary shelter was.  We had to run through the pitch black night in pouring down rain to get the children where they needed to be.  But, they were smiling and laughing.  Ecstatic when they realized that they had their own sleeping mats and would be having a massive slumber party that night.
I will never forget seeing those smiles by flashlight.
Smiles of freedom and rescue and redemption.
What great gifts from our Savior.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Meeting Him

{I posted here and here about our adoption journey so far.}

There were a lot of things that I anticipated on this trip, but I'm not sure that I was more excited or anxious or nervous or beside-myself about any of them more than meeting him.  The boy who I now call son and who will join our family soon.
I met him as soon as our boat arrived at Adovepke. I will never forget seeing him waiting for us on the shore as our boat pulled closer.  I could recognize him easily, even from 50 yards away.  It was like my heart knew him.  
And let me tell you that my heart did some serious beating when I first laid eyes upon him.
I had no idea what the moment would be like. I had prayed about it for weeks--begging the Lord to bind us together with a love that only He could initiate.  But, I just didn't know. The Lord graciously protected me from expectations.
However, if I had had any, they would have been blown out of the water.
I cannot put into words what happened in my heart and in my head when I met him. When I touched his face and rubbed his sweet head. When I hugged him.
I melted, and every fiber of my being knew that this was right.
I have no words to accurately describe the moment, but the tears that threatened to spill over remind me that I don't have to have beautiful words. 
 I just know.
As the time wore on and we were able to spend more time with him and observing him, I felt my love and commitment for him growing. Each time he would find us in the room and smile {which he does all the time and it's amazing!}, my heart would beat just a little faster.
And that little piece of my heart is still with him in Ghana now.
I am more certain than ever before that he was meant to be in our family. I know it's going to be hard. HARD.
I know he won't always be smiling that mega-watt smile, and I know my heart will beat faster for reasons that aren't so fantastical.  However, this little boy is part of our story, and we are part of his. For forever.
Meeting him changed me and my heart.  If I thought I was ready to be his mommy before, I am certain of that now.  Pray for us as we wait.  Pray for him as he waits.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ghana...Here We Go!

So, life has been just a little bit crazy since we got home.
The first bit of craziness was that we got home 40 hours after we were originally scheduled to arrive.
Add in two precious littles who we missed more than anything and who want to play and play and play, and you get two very tired, trying to recover parents.
Next, Chris had surgery to blast up a kidney stone on Tuesday. Surgery went great, his pain was minimal, and he is now fully recovered from that.
Life has been going at full speed ahead since we returned, and I feel like my mind and body are just catching up!
I really want to get our stories written down on here because I never want to forget it.
In an effort to make these posts manageable for me, and for those of you that will read, I am going to split them up into three or four different posts.
I will try to get them done in a timely manner, but our weekend is equally busy to the last several days.  So, I will not make promises I cannot keep.
So, here we go.
{I'll be honest that I read over this before I hit "publish," and I feel like my words are scattered and highly inadequate.  I almost deleted and saved it for another day. But, this isn't about being eloquent.  It's about recording my experiences and thoughts so I won't forget how it felt to be there, in the moment. So I am going for it.}

We left our house for Houston on Wednesday afternoon, and Chris and I were feeling somewhat giddy about this whole thing.  We had been dreaming of this trip for two years--hoping and praying that our grand plan would actually come to be.  When Mercy Project began, we did not know where the Lord would lead us.  We only had vague conceptions of what our economic development projects would look like. One thing of which we were certain was that rescuing kids was our motivator and our number one goal. The Lord gives many people passions, and ours is to restore these children to life for which they were created.
So, as we headed out, it was very surreal that we were actually on our way to do this very thing--walk out of a village with children on their way to freedom and newness and wholeness.
Our giddiness lasted approximately 10 minutes once we got to the Houston airport and were told that we could not in fact board our plane to Nigeria without Nigerian visas.  What?!?  Two of our employees had just flown to Ghana by way of Lagos, Nigeria not 10 days before we were leaving and had encountered no problems. We were completely shocked.
Chris and Dean began to work with the kind lady at United Airlines, and we made it to our plane just in time--probably not 10 minutes before they closed the doors.
We were on our way.
And Satan continued to throw hurdles in our path. Sickness--first me, then Ronda, then Chris.
Another travel snag when we arrived at the Ghanaian airport and were told that all flights to Tamale (our preferred destination near the lake) were cancelled due to work on the runway. But, after checking three flights, we finally found one going to Kumasi where we could rent a car to take us 3 more hours to the other side of the lake.
We were literally five minutes from the lake when we encountered a homemade roadblock of brush and dirt where taxi drivers were protesting and not allowing cars through.  But,  nice man on a bicycle led our Sequoia down a walking path to the lake.
Never a dull moment in Ghana.
We rejoiced when we got to Yeji and saw our boat (with 2 motors) waiting to take us to Adovepke (the village in which we are working).
Finally, we were headed to get started rescuing 24 children.
As I close this portion, I want to share a sweet moment that the Lord blessed me with after all the craziness. As we were driving out of Kumasi on our way to Yeji, I saw an acacia tree (the tree that is in our logo) high above all of the other trees. At that moment, I had peace and felt the Lord reassuring me that He is with us, for us, and is over all.
From that moment on, I never had another ounce of doubt that all of this would work.
The Lord would make it work.
Because He is our Provider.  Our Sustainer. Our Giver of Life.
Our Yahweh Nissi. The Lord is my Banner.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


We are stuck in Nigeria. Just waiting.
The travel on this trip has been quite the adventure. We have hit road blocks with every one of our flights. Not a single one has gone smoothly. We almost didn't get to leave Houston because we didn't have Nigerian visas. Our flight in Ghana to the north side of the lake was cancelled, so we had to try three more flights before we found one that could take us where we wanted to go. And, last night, our flight out of Ghana was so late that we missed our flight to Houston. So, we spent the night in the Nigerian airport and will spend about 24 hours total here before our flight leaves tonight.

But, in the midst of all of that, my heart is so full of gratitude and joy.
The week was amazing.
God was so good to us and to His children.
The Lord gave me a scripture for the week that I feel like was exactly what I needed to pray overeach step of our journey, and the Lord delivered. 
"Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant.  For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear. Open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."
Daniel 9:17-19

The Lord was faithful to His promise and did not leave us waiting in the times that were most critical. We arrived at the village, Adovepke, right on time, despite the travel snags.
The villagers were cooperative, and Chris and Fred were able to easily work through fuzzy details.
24 children walked out of that village on Saturday afternoon to new life.
They are now safely at a rehabilitation center where they have begun school and will receive medical and psychological care.
They are happy.
It's been an emotional week, and I'm certain that I have not even begun to scratch the surface of processing what we experienced. I will post more as I continue to relive the experiences and share in more detail.
For now, I am resting in the Lord and His mercy.