Friday, January 27, 2012

Kael's Story: Part 2

On a Sunday morning last summer Dawn came up to me after our church service and said she had an idea, and she wondered if our non-profit foundation could help. In her words….

One thing I love to do is run and I spent several afternoons in 2010 running with the boys in our Burley stroller. Both the boys loved being outside and stroller rides. One day in May 2011, I was running and God had put it on my mind several times to set up a race in Kael’s name to help honor his memory and do good for someone or something. That morning as I ran, I asked God “what do you want me to do with this?” Then He answered me, “I gave Kael parents who loved him and took care of him. I want you to help the children I have already put on this earth have loving parents too. Use this race to help families who want to adopt and love children.”

WOW. Even more interesting, and what Dawn didn’t yet know, was that over the summer months God had started fueling my own brain to try and find a way to help adoptive families raise money for their adoptions. I thought that it would be great someday if our Kingdom Cares Foundation could raise money and give out adoption grants (I’ve been inspired by 3 different foundations that do some form of this, you can check them out here and here and here). Of course I knew this was a long-term goal, but I had started thinking of ways that our foundation could eventually grow into serving this purpose. You can imagine my excitement when Dawn shared her heart with me on this day.

From that day, plans for the race have been rolling ever since. Here are some specifics so you can save the date….

Kael Man 5K Run/ Walk
Saturday, July 7th, 2012 at 8:00 am
Ada Hayden Park, Ames, IA

Dawn is currently setting up a website for race registration - I’ll post it on the blog as soon as it is ready. For now you can keep track of things on the race Facebook page here. Dawn and Derek will use an application process to distribute the race proceeds/donations as grants to families who need financial help in their adoption process.

I SO wish you could meet this couple in person. In the midst of their tragedy I’ve told Dawn that many times I’ve worried about what words to say to them, or how to comfort them when I see them. Yet, when you are around them you can FEEL this tremendous peace about their spirit….it’s like they almost comfort you. The Bible calls it ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’ (Phillipians 4:7). That’s what I feel when I am around them. Though they are grieving and experiencing such awful heartache, I know that they find rest in God's Sovereignty. He is their refuge, He is their comfort, He is their strength. Like Dawn said - God put Kael on this earth for 11 ½ months for a reason. I think we are only seeing the beginning of how God intends to continue to use Kael’s life to impact many for His Kingdom.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kael's Story: Part 1

Today I have the honor of introducing you to my friends Derek & Dawn Grooters. Theirs is a story of suffering and tragedy. They have walked through the valley of the shadow of death in a way that no parent would ever want to experience. And yet, as they share their story of their little man Kael, in their words you will see something. You will see their unwavering hope in our God who gives and takes away. The same God who brought them to this has picked them up and is literally carrying them through…they feel it, and all that know them or meet them in person can clearly see it. Dawn has said that it has taken them awhile to come to terms with sharing their heart break out loud, but by doing just that they have seen God work in so many people. Today, you will hear part 1 of Kael’s story. Tomorrow you will see how God is using Kael’s story to help orphans around the world to come home to their forever families…

In Dawn’s words…

When 2011 started out, we had no way of knowing what God had planned in our lives. We started out January 1st, 2011 with 2 beautiful boys and we thought our life was so full. Kyler, our oldest son was 3 ½ years old and our 2nd son Kael was 11 ½ months old, he would turn one year old on the 26th of January.

But everything changed so quickly for us on January 7th, 2011. Our son, Kael passed away during a nap at his daycare shortly after he fell asleep. Kael was a healthy little boy and so full of life. We still don’t know medically why Kael’s little heart stopped that day, but we do know that God wanted to take Kael to heaven that day and we know that God has a purpose. We may never fully understand why our family had to go through this but in the grand scheme of things, our understanding won’t help us heal. We have seen God work through each one of us and he has helped us touch so many people through our faith and God’s strength he has provided for us. There are so many stories we have heard from people that have been inspired by our faith, but truly it is God working through us. There is no way we can get through each day and keep going without God’s continued strength and grace he provides for us.

Before I go on, let me tell you a little bit about our boys. Kyler is all boy and very energetic. He loves to run around, play with construction trucks, legos and loves everything orange. Kyler is just full of spirit. Kyler helped to keep us going this past year, and his childlike faith was an inspiration to us. We experienced several Holy Spirit moments with Kyler; it was so neat to see God working in Kyler as well. During the first few months after Kael’s death, Kyler would randomly sing Jesus loves me and that made us feel like God was right there with us in that moment.

Kael was our laidback son. He loved watching his brother and Kyler made him laugh more than anyone. Kael was crawling and had just learned how to walk. He had bright blue eyes and always smiled so much. He was a happy and content baby who loved to be held. He was such a joy to be around and his smile would light up a room.

About 1 ½ months after Kael passed away, we found out we were pregnant. This was a bittersweet moment. We were happy to bring another baby into our family, but it made us miss Kael more. We knew God had a plan for this baby and she is a gift that has helped our faith grow even more. God is good. She is an example of that and we are putting our faith in God to help us parent our children with the faith that God will take care of them. The birth of our baby also gave us something to look forward to especially on the dark days. Grieving the loss of my son and experiencing a pregnancy was not easy, but on the days and moments that were full of sadness, they were interrupted by kicks from a little girl who reminded me God is with me. Our beautiful baby girl, Kella Faith, arrived on November, 10th, 2011 and she has brought us so much joy. If you are a parent, you know that the more children you have, the more your heart grows and expands to love all your children. And that is what happened for us. Kella does not replace Kael or the love we have for him but she added much more love to our hearts. She is a blessing and we are so happy she is part of our family.

As we look back, before Kael passed away I know that God was preparing us for what we were going to experience in several ways. I knew how quickly the baby stage would be over so I always held Kael a little longer, hugged him a little closer and kissed him a little more. I just knew after having my first baby, Kyler, that the time goes so quickly so I was going to savor it with Kael. I think God put that on my heart so I would take advantage of the time I had with him on this earth. The night before Kael passed away, we finished his 1 year birthday party invitations and we made chocolate cupcakes and Kael got to eat one. It was his first cupcake and I was so glad he got to have a birthday cake here with us before he was gone. The morning of Kael’s passing I was listening to the Bible on CD as I drove. The last story I heard that morning was the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. As I listened to the story, I kept thinking how hard it would be for a parent to sacrifice their child. It is so incomprehensible and then I thought about how God sacrificed his son for us. That afternoon, I got the call about Kael. God was preparing me.

As we look back this year, there are so many events and ways God has helped us walk with Him through our grief. We were Christians before Kael passed away and afterwards we relied and trusted in God to carry us through this time. We never intended to inspire people by walking in faith but that is what happened.

Derek’s Lieutenant was the one to call me and tell me that Kael was in the hospital and that it didn’t look good. He was greatly affected by going through this with us. His family went to a church but never felt challenged in their faith. After attending Kael’s memorial service and watching our faith in God, he decided that he wanted to attend our church, Cornerstone Church. They jumped full into Cornerstone and their 2 kids absolutely loved the D6 kid’s ministry and Sunday school. Their family just told me how much their lives have changed and how much their children’s faith has changed in one year. They never would have imagined such a positive change in their family.

We just recently received a note from one of our pastors at church that told us about a junior high kid that accepted Jesus into his heart because his family started coming to Cornerstone after attending Kael’s memorial service. We don’t know who the family or child is, but we are so thankful God is using us to help people come to Jesus.

Last year, I was a sales rep and one of my customers was deeply affected by Kael’s story. In her church, she was asked to speak one Sunday. She asked me if she could tell her church our story and inspire people to live for God. As we sat in the back of the church we watched the tears flow and prayed that God would change hearts in this community as well. We initially said that if 1 person would become a Christian because of Kael’s life then this is worth it. We have seen this multiplied over and over.

Our story is still being written. The month of January has been hard for us. We just made it through what I call Kael’s Heaven Day. That day and the days leading up to the 7th of January were hard but God gave us what we needed to get through that time. We grieved the loss of our son but we celebrated the work God has done in our lives this last year. God put Kael on this earth for 11 ½ months for a reason. We are so thankful for the time we had with him and he changed our lives for the better. Kael’s life has brought so much glory to God and we want to continue that in any way we can. God is using his life to continue to change lives and though we will never know the full extent of what God is doing with Kael’s life for others, we want to continue to be a part of it.

To be continued tomorrow….

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adoption Needs in Ghana

I have two specific needs I wanted to share about today that have pulled on my heart. These are current needs within the Ghana program of the adoption agency that we are using: Adoption Advocates International (AAI) []

1) AAI Ghana Program is in need of families who are interested in adopting children over six years old! They currently have no families approved to adopt who are waiting for older children. Wait times could be short! Larger families (6+ children) can apply on a case by case basis!

2) AAI is hoping to find a family for Baby A in Ghana.....
Baby A is less than a year old. She has been diagnosed with microcephaly (small head size) and cerebral palsy. There is a concern of cortical blindness. She may also have hearing issues. And yet, she is beautiful and just as much in need of a mommy and daddy as any other child! Her fees will be reduced. AAI is looking for a homestudy-approved family. Please contact if you think Baby A may be your future daughter! [And please help AAI spread the word!]

Monday, January 23, 2012


“You’re a mistake.”

“You’re a demon-child.”

This is what she has been told, by a man who calls himself her father.

A man who she so desperately wants to please, but fails to again and again.

He never wanted her. He tells her this face to face. He tells her this often. She buries her so-said worthlessness deep inside, and lives up to his low expectations because that’s what he says she’ll amount to afterall….nothing.

“You don’t understand!” she tells us with her heart exposed. “You don’t know what it’s like to have someone tell you over and over that you were a mistake! You don’t know how it feels.” Sobbing. Emptied. Rejected.

The one time that I am thankful for my past is now. In this conversation. I do know how it feels. Mine was a silent abandonment, not an out-loud one like hers. But still a big, fat, UN-Wanted. Just to hear an “I love you” from him. Just to have a father’s arms wrap you up and protect you from the crazy world. Just to feel valued in his eyes so you don’t have to go looking for it in other men when you are too young, too vulnerable, too needy for affection and worth. Just to hear him say, “You can be anything you want to be. You can do it. I believe in you,” and to see the confidence in his eyes. Just to have him say to your date, “Have her home by 11:30pm – or else.” Just to feel the comfort that he cares and wants to protect you like all good fathers want to protect their daughters. Just a phone call. Just a birthday card….just….anything….

Missing pieces.

Broken heart.

Scarred, damaged, and full of baggage for all future relationships.

Yet, there is hope.

Something she refuses to embrace yet, but maybe, just maybe this is how she will begin to SEE.

You see, she can be adopted. No not an earthly, physical adoption. A spiritual one.

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18
He can be her Father.

He’ll receive her with open arms and rejoice with His angels in heaven over their relationship. In the same way I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10

She’ll find in Him that she was certainly no mistake. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139: 14-16

In fact He has great plans for her, a purpose for her life. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

He won’t get drunk and in his stupor tell her how worthless she is. In fact, He’s gone to great lengths to show her His love. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

He sure ain’t the leaving kind. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5

While others push her away, His arms wait for her. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Psalm 27:10

These are His promises. This is His character. Whisperings of ultimate worth. I created you. I want a relationship with you. I love you. Leave your life of sin behind, and thirst no more. Rest. Peace. No striving. No hiding. Guidance into purpose. Strong arms of refuge. Complete fulfillment that enables healthy relationships with others. Protection......

She looks out the window, waiting for the mail to come. As soon as it does she runs out to the box, hopeful, expectant. Each and every day she is the first to open the mailbox. Day after day disappointment and sunkeness await. And she comes back in. “My Dad said he’s going to write me. His letter should be coming soon.”

She will wait. And wait. And wait for that letter. For just a tiny spark, a tiny showing that he thinks of her.

And He will wait - her Heavenly Father. He will wait and wait and wait for her change of heart. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). A book full of letters He has written her. Unfailing love He offers her. An awful-beautiful death on a cross ready to purchase her life and grant an adoption. An adoption unlike any other. An adoption that would give her the right to call the King of the universe “Dad”…. received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16
If she messes up she won’t find Him keeping a record of her wrongs to hold it against her. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Friday, January 20, 2012

$howing Up Big Time!

Ohhhhh my is God showing up BIG TIME to provide the finances for our adoption!!!!! Honestly, I am not kidding, as I wrote about here when we signed up to adopt back in August we had scrapped together $319.88 into our adoption fund over the summer. Our application fee for our agency was $300 which we paid and sent in on August 26th, leaving us with $19.88 in our account. From there God has been POURING out His grace and filling up our adoption fund in ways that we had never planned. As I eluded to in the above post, between donations from the churches Jake spoke at, to donations sent to us by our blog readers, to friends handing me checks, to our adoption tax refund being issued, we were able to pay the following fees for our adoption between August to November 2011:

8/26/11…$300…Agency application fee
9/20/11…$30…fingerprints for background checks
10/18/11…$3000…Agency processing fee
10/18/11…$1650…Homestudy fee and pre-pay of post-placement reports
10/29/11…$30…DCI checks for our Rosebud students
11/1/11…$70…Order of certified originals birth/marriage certificates
11/19/11…$890…U.S. Dept of Homeland Security for I-600A approval & biometrics

Then Christmas came. And once again, we were blown away by God’s faithfulness. Between a donation by another church that Jake had spoken at to our family and friends giving us money as Christmas gifts we were able to add $900 more to our adoption fund!

Last week when I went to Jake’s gym to pick Justice up from practice one of Jake’s 6th grade girl players slipped me a $50 bill with a smile and said “This is for your adoption fund from me and my sister.” :) Humbled.

Then, on Monday morning Jake went through a stack of mail that had piled up on the table since before last weekend. As I wandered into the kitchen he handed me an envelope and said, “This will start your day off this morning…” I pulled a card out of an envelope, opened it, and a HUGE wad of cash fell out and I caught sight of $100 BILLS! MANY $100 BILLS! In a split second I was tearing up and I started to read the hand-written card….

Hi friends!

So, I made a little request for Christmas this year. :) And boy oh boy did my family come through! Brian and I have been so blessed this year and we received so much for the wedding. I was really searching for a way around receiving more gifts. And what do you know, a little blog post from you gave me just the idea I needed! And so, with my heart overflowing with joy that I get to do this, here is $670 to add to your adoption fund!!!!!! WOOHOOOO!!! My family is so awesome! Praise God!





As I stood there in the kitchen holding that card and wad of cash I was left asking myself - Seriously, who does this? WHAT SELFLESSNESS! Of course our sweet friend Kellee would never want the applause for this, and in fact after I emailed her a thank you she emailed me back and said ~ “It wasn’t me, it was all because of Jesus, to God be the glory!!!!” How can we not shout an AMEN to the way that God stirs hearts when it comes to adoption?!?!?!?!

And yesterday, one of my blog friends emailed me to share how she wants to contribute to our adoption fund by way of her beautiful photography. Check out her Take Heart sessions just in time for Valentine’s Day….the sessions are just $25. You get digital images that you can purchase or order prints from, as well as 40 mini Valentines. She’s giving all proceeds/donations to our adoption fund. It’s just amazing the ways that God is working through others to bless us….we just had no idea any of these things were coming!!!!!

On top of all this, God continues to bless Jake’s side-business of individual training that he started at the end of September to help fund our adoption. He is putting in lots of extra hours on top of his already filled schedule of practices, tournaments, meetings and office work. But, it’s paying off. The amount varies from month to month, but on average he is making anywhere from $1000-$2000 a month for our adoption fund. We had NO IDEA that his individual training was going to be this big of a hit, but so awesome to think that God knew this would happen.

Yesterday I deposited the recent cash we had received and right now the balance of our adoption account is sitting at $8,197.31. I stared at the number on the deposit slip for a good 30 seconds just marveling at what God has done. Less than 6 months ago that was a two-digit number. God. Is. Faithful.

Our next big chunk due to our agency will be $3000 coming up in the next few weeks, and then $5000 due shortly after that before court. Both of these amounts are part of the foreign program fee which pays for the cost of dossier documents gathered on the Ghana side, social worker’s wages, court appointments, etc. We will also begin paying foster care fees of $150 per month per child once that transition has been completed. The rest of the fees will be due after court.

What can I say? Every day as this money comes out of the woodwork there is just more and more evidence of God’s heart for the orphan - as if His commands in the Bible weren't enough evidence. I trust no one but Him to continue to make a way for us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 7 (videos of library and medical clinic included)

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Today as we rose from our slumber we were filled with excitement of what God might do on this final full day in Asikuma. At the same time it was a little sad knowing this would be our last day here until I get to come back in March. I knew I had to make the most out of today and I was confident that God knew just the plans for the day.

Following breakfast it started like every other day. The construction guys went to the library to complete more of the work, Typhanie and Nick and Britttany went to the clinic to paint all the shelving units that were installed, as well as the frames around the windows and doors. I soon found myself wondering what God had planned for me today. Then I heard four joyful voices as Fredrick, Manche, Asare, and Ali were wrestling with each other at the entrance of the hotel area.

As we started walking towards the clinic to scope out all the progress that was made throughout the week it dawned on me that a great way to show people what we are doing in Africa is to take short videos of the clinic, the library, and the roads of Asikuma. So, with my I-phone and help from the boys we set out to the medical clinic to video all the work at the clinic that has been completed (the videos are at the end of this post). The boys had never seen this feature of the I-phone before (and for that matter any form of video recording) so they were excited to join me and be as goofy as possible just so they could watch themselves on the video. The simple things that we take for granted in the United States can bring so much joy in places like Asikuma, Ghana.

Following our non-professional video coverage of what God is doing at the clinic we decided to head down to the library to do the same thing. As we arrive I hear Chris yelling my name from the top of the roof. I knew he needed something from me and I was just thankful it was not anything to do with construction. It was approaching noon and the construction team had recruited a couple of the local men to help with the finishing of the library. Over the past two trips Chris has done an excellent job of identifying who the most talented and reliable workers are and on any typical day you can find those guys working hand in hand with our construction guys.

However, no matter how hard these guys are willing to work it is still Ghana. Lunch time in Ghana can easily turn into a three hour process of waiting on Ghana time food service, and then the slow methodical eating practices, followed by a quick nap in the chair can really put a damper on construction when daylight ends at 6pm in Asikuma. Chris ordered me to head back to the hotel and have them take the lunch and put it into 15 to go boxes for the workers. Chris knew if we took a break for lunch not much else would get done that day.

So, without hesitation I took the group of boys that were with me and scurried back to the hotel to ask the cooking staff to create 15 to-go lunches. Well, this threw a curveball at the cooking staff which is never good in Ghana. The lunch was supposed to be served at 12:00pm and I think I actually had the to-go boxes in hand at 2:00pm; all the while Chris is texting me to hurry up as he was afraid the Ghana construction crew was going to call it a day at any possible moment.

I was told at least 30 times that lunch was coming that day as I sat and waited and discussed everything under the moon with my posse (also known as Albert, Manche, Ali, Asare, and Fredrick). The crazy part about the Ghana process of time is that it does not bother me at all. I actually wish at times the United States worked more like this. It is so funny at times how God has designed me for Africa. I like Africa time, I like the lack of rules and guidelines, and I like the genuine joy the people live with each day. In the United States we run from place to place all day just to be five minutes early. There are books full of guidelines and rules one must follow for everything someone wants to do or even thinks about doing. And, in general, most people I come across in the course of a day display little joy despite having so much - and all of these things about the U.S. drive me nuts!!!!

Ok now that I have gotten that tangent out of my system back to what God did today. After we had delivered lunch to all the workers I spent the remainder of the day hanging out in the school yard watching the construction guys, talking with the headmaster of the school, and trying to figure out what God wanted us to do next.

I know many of you that follow Christ know that some days it can feel like God is a million miles away. Other days it really feels like He is right there next to you talking to you and opening your eyes to everything He wants to accomplish for His purpose through you. Well, I had one of those days where I could literally feel God’s presence and voice with me in the school yard.

It is so hard to explain but it was like God was telling me to start looking for ways to empower more people within the community. Then it was like He opened my eyes to what the school buildings in Asikuma actually look like. We are closely moving towards having this beautiful looking library connected to an unfinished school building that you would not want lifetime criminals having to stay in - let alone 675 students going to school in. I also noticed that no matter how much progress we were making on the library there was no way we were going to be able to complete the whole project before we left.

While all of this is going through my mind God draws my attention to a Ghanaian construction guy named Sampson who had been working alongside our crew. Sampson had a work ethic and a diligence to his work that I have never seen by a worker in Asikuma. It was like God was telling me to find a way to empower Sampson and God would use him to accomplish great things.

As God was speaking to me I walked over to Sampson and pulled him out of the library where he was plastering the wall. I asked him to look at the entire school building and I asked him if he would be capable of plastering, painting, and finishing all of the school building not just the library. He looked at me and said of course. I asked him how much cement and paint it would take and what it would cost. He gave me a rough number and then I walked away and Sampson went back to work.

I knew what God was challenging me with so I shared my thoughts with Chris. I told him that I was thinking about leaving roughly $750.00 with Sampson to finish the entire school building. I told Chris that if Sampson could get the job done and be faithful with the resources it would open up a real door for us to accomplish even more in Asikuma. This would also give Chris the confidence of helping the community start a particular project and then leaving it in Sampson’s hands to finish.

After it seemed like Chris and I were on the same page we asked for Sampson to join us at dinner and that we would like to meet with him. Following dinner that evening Chris and I along with Nana (chief of the village) sat with Sampson and I explained the guidelines of our plans. We handed him 1,000.00 cedis which is equivalent to about $750.00 and told him he was fully responsible to finish the school building and library. He could use the money to buy supplies, hire staff, and other items that he may need to finish the project. The more efficient he could be with the money would ultimately mean more profit for Sampson for his time. We also let him know that if he was faithful with this project that this is something we could do again for future projects in Asikuma.

I am pretty sure Sampson left tonight thinking that he had won the lottery. We are excited to see his work and we will be receiving weekly updates of the progress that he is making.

Another really cool story from this last day in Asikuma is with a boy named Richard. As I was spending the afternoon at the library I realized that there was a 13 or 14 year old boy that was incredibly enthused by the whole construction process. He was hanging out trying to find any way possible that he could help. All of a sudden the cement guys ran out of water for the mixing of cement and without hesitation, without ever being asked, this boy was on it. The water well is about ½ mile from the school yard where we were working, but he could of cared less. He grabbed the wheel barrow with four gigantic water jugs and off he went. About 30 minutes later he returned with water so they could continue mixing the cement. You could tell how proud he was to be able to help out as he had a grin on his face from ear to ear.

As I witnessed all of this I walked up to him and asked him his name and he said, “Richard.” I told him that I really appreciated his help and then slid 10 cedis into his hand and told him that was for helping out. He literally could not stop telling me thank you as he probably said it 30 times in the next 10 minutes and it all came from such an absolutely pure heart.

Of course God was working again because Richard was not like every other kid. He was blind in one of his eyes. I asked him what happened and he told me his older brother got mad at him and stabbed him in the eye with a knife and that he could not see out of the eye. God was telling me to help the boy and was ensuring me that something could be done for his eye, so I told Richard to come eat dinner with us that evening and I would introduce him to Nana and see what we could do for him.

Nana took a liking to Richard right away and was willing to find a way to help. I agreed that Janel and I would donate the money for him to get to an eye doctor for an evaluation to see what could be done. If something could be done to save his eye we would do everything in our power to find a way to raise the money to have his vision restored.

Nana is working on getting Richard to a nearby eye clinic for that evaluation and we hope to have an update in the weeks to come.

God was working today. I just love these days. I love it when God seems so close. I love when God asks us to do something and then waits for obedience. I love not knowing how the story will end for Sampson or Richard or some of the other people he has called us to help. It is fun to have to rely on God. It is fun when the wisdom of the world can be stripped away and the power of God is all that matters.

Today was a great day and I thank God for the ways He showed up today and the way He constantly lets me know that He has definitely called us to this journey. Our job is to simply take step by step in obedience and faith.


Jake’s hope was that he could transport you to Asikuma and give you a good visual/walk through of all that has been accomplished! Thank you for your support of our projects – to God be the glory!

Library/additional classroom built onto governmental school:

Medical clinic:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 6

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Today we were all up with the rooster’s crow. The construction guys were headed to begin putting the roof on at the library, Doug and Emma were heading home as they had to leave two days earlier than the rest of the group, and Brittany, Typhanie, Nick and I were being picked up by Kofi to head to Kwahu to visit his new orphanage.

Kofi is the individual who handled our adoption of Justice and God has reconnected us recently through Adoption Advocates International. He will now be overseeing our adoption of ‘Y’ and ‘A’. Kofi was running on American time today as he was at the hotel to pick us up right at 8am. Typically in Ghana if someone is supposed to pick you up at 8am that really means 9:30 or 10:00. We often refer to time as American time or Ghana time when trying to figure out when we will actually leave for an activity or eat a meal. I think this is the first time this week that anyone in Ghana has operated on American time.

When Kofi arrived we piled into his vehicle and were off to Kwahu. We also have a few other sayings while we are in Ghana - “Nothing is as it seems” and “Always, ALWAYS expect the unexpected.” Well today that was never more true. I was under the impression that Kwahu was about an hour and half to two hours away. After about three hours into the trip we stopped at an Americanized rest stop which was the second unexpected surprise of the day. We bought some popcorn, crackers, went to the bathroom and then were getting ready to pile back into the car when Kofi points out into the distance and said, “See that mountain?” We said, “Yes.” Kofi followed up by saying, “Well Kwahu sits at the top of that mountain and it is the tallest mountain in Ghana and then he said, “We should be there in about 90 minutes. “ Yes today we are in the midst of the unexpected, but very excited about what God is up to.

As we climbed the mountain in our car I looked out my window and saw the beauty of God’s creation. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life than being in the midst of the jungle slowly driving up the mountain. As I was enthralled with the beauty I looked down and all the beauty sunk to the bottom of my stomach and I now feared for my life. About three feet from my window was the cliff that dropped at least a few thousand feet. All that stood between us and the cliff were these two-foot poles that would likely not stop your car even if you did hit them. The thought did go through my mind that I may die climbing this mountain to Kwahu, but as we climbed the beauty of the area became greater and greater and my thoughts turned back to the wonders of God.

We had finally arrived at the orphanage that is still in the midst of construction, but is going to be an incredible place to care and love for the orphans of Ghana. Kofi has put all of his own money into the place up to this point and is about $15,000.00 - $20,000.00 away from completing the construction.

Once completed he will move the kids from the foster home (that is currently at his personal residence) into the orphanage. I am certainly looking forward to seeing how God wants us to partner with Kofi and his mission. I loved his vision and his obedience for what God is calling him to do in Ghana.

Kofi’s vision does not stop with just the orphanage. He has bought 32 plots of land that he hopes to develop that will ultimately fund the orphanage’s daily expenses and care for the children. He has started building the foundation of a 96 unit apartment building that he would rent out to the local people and would also serve missions groups and families adopting as well. The thing that is so interesting about Kwahu is that many of the wealthiest people in Ghana have vacation homes in the area. There were million dollar mansions surrounding mass poverty because of the beauty of the place. Many of the top executives from Ghana build get-away homes up in the area. Kofi thinks he can tap into that market with his apartment complex. He also has future plans on the land to develop a boarding school where the orphans and foster children would receive their education. Kofi dreams big and I know that God has big plans for Kofi and the orphans of Ghana.

After visiting the construction site we went over to the current orphanage/foster home that is located at Kofi’s house in Kwahu. The house is about a 500 sq/ft. three bedroom complex currently housing 14 children.

Many of the children in the local community also hang out there throughout the day. The coolest part about all of this is that Kofi got married in October and his wife is 100% behind what God is calling them to do. She is the primary caretaker of the children in the home and is a few months pregnant with Kofi's first son. There were also a few other part-time house mothers helping out and serving Christ through the care of the orphans.

The kids were incredibly well behaved and cared for. We spent the next four hours hanging out with the children reading books, jump roping, walking the village roads, and sharing the love of Christ through our desire to love them.

It seemed like just a few minutes had past when in reality four hours had gone by and it was already time for us to make our journey back to Asikuma. As we traveled through small villages, unpaved roads, hundreds of speed bumps, dodging random goats and cattle we finally made it back to Asikuma around 10pm. As I opened the car door and we pulled into the hotel there was peace and quiet for about 30 seconds until I heard footsteps running down the dirt hill to the hotel in the distance. Then I heard voices yelling “Hi Dad! We are glad you are back!” It was Albert, Fredrick, Manche, Asare, and their partners in crime. They had waited all day for us to get back and the hotel cooks kept the food out for us so we could feed as many kids as possible when we returned. That night we fed about 30 kids and we all laughed and joked into the night before they finally had to return home.

There are times on this journey that God has called me to in which I question it all. I question the best methods, I wonder if we are really making lasting relationships, and for me whether the youth God has called me to disciple are really getting it. Well, tonight God confirmed it all. Over the course of one year I have gone from obruni (white man/foreigner), to Mr. Jake, to Dad. As I crawled into bed that night I went to bed with a peace that only God can provide.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 5

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Each morning during this trip we have all been getting up with the rooster’s crow and enjoying breakfast together at 8am. Well that was not the case this morning. We did enjoy breakfast together, but it was not until after 10am. As we all shuffled out of our rooms our New Year’s bash of the card game phase 10 was still on most of our faces. No one heard the rooster that morning, and there was not much said during breakfast as we tried to shake the cob webs out since we knew God had great things planned for us today.

Following breakfast Chris, Tim, Doug, and Dan went out to continue their work on the library and school building. I went out to see the girl’s again and then to head into the village to meet people and see more familiar faces. Of course I had my crew with me with every step I took (in their sunglasses provided by Brittany nonetheless!).

I have come to love Albert, Fredrick, Manche, and Asare and will miss them greatly when the trip comes to an end. Typhanie, Nick, and Brittany also went into the village to continue to work on building long-term, sustainable relationships. Our hope is that the gospel of Christ can be something not just preached by some American Christian who is here one day and gone the next, but that we can truly take part in discipleship here – and that only comes through long-term relationships.

I know that many people are great at going into places and attempting to evangelize and share the gospel with everyone they meet, and that particular gift is something that amazes me when I meet those people. However, God has not necessarily designed me like that, and the more I study the continent of Africa the more I realize that evangelism within Africa has been extremely successful while discipleship has fallen by the wayside.

It seems that many Africans have accepted Christ as their Savior, but have never been discipled on what to do with the knowledge of Christ. They’ve never been shown how their life should overflow with the love that was poured out on the cross for all of us. Obviously this is not a problem only in Africa, but we have the same problem in the United States – allowing our lives to actually reflect the Christ who died for us. The difference is that in the United States this happens not because of lack of knowledge, but more because of our mere laziness, lack of trust in who our God is, and the constant reliance on the world’s wisdom. In Africa it is just truly a lack of knowledge. Sometimes a lack of literacy plays a part. Even more so, it is a lack of sustainable, long-term relationships with Christians from other parts of the world that have the resources to know who our God is and what His grace and power can do in one’s life. The great part about Africa is that there are so many people here who are thirsty to learn what to do with the knowledge of Christ. I enjoy walking life with people and sharing Christ as we walk along the roads. Each day when I wake up in Africa my goal is to walk with the people God puts in my path for that day. It might be through serving, loving, feeding, listening, laughing, or doing a bible study. Who knows how God will call me to share the gospel today, but I am sure He will give me ample opportunity to show His love and disciple the young people within the community.

The primary goal of our mission trips is to build relationships where we can disciple people on what Christ calls us to do while we have this short time on this earth. One of the great things about developing these relationships is that as much as we get to obey God’s word and disciple others, the people in Asikuma are teaching us just as much. They teach us about the purest form of joy, when all else is stripped away. There are many here who have nothing except the hope of what Jesus has promised in a life of eternity. Their lives are hard, burdened, difficult – physically and emotionally. And yet, they are so hope-filled and joyful. We can learn so much from them too.

I am so grateful for all the blessings that God continues to pour out on my life since He has let me see what He sees on a continent 6,000 miles away from the place I call home. It still feels like yesterday when I did not even know who Jesus was. It feels like just hours ago when I sat in church after Christ was revealed to me questioning why we have to go to the nations when we have so many people in our own backyards who are suffering. God brought me out of a place of such darkness and has given me a light for Christ in a far off land. The joy that fills my heart every moment that I am here in Africa is unexplainable.

Before we knew it, it was 1:30 in the afternoon and we all met back up for lunch at the hotel before heading back out again. After lunch I walked down to the library to assist wherever Chris could use my not-so-handy construction skills, which was not very many places. It wasn’t long before God pulled me away from the library to a different classroom at the school where I heard joyful kids singing praise songs to God.

As I peeked my head into the room I saw a couple of kids that I knew and I asked what was going on. They said it was Sunday school - at 3pm! This Sunday school session was the first one I had seen here with my own eyes. What a delight to see the local church investing in young lives for the sake of the gospel. This particular Sunday school class was a party to celebrate the New Year and praise God for his faithfulness in 2011, and to look forward to new blessings He will pour out on Asikuma in 2012.

The kids were singing praise songs at the top of their lungs and soon women from the community started showing up with food. As the women were setting up the food line; the pastor called me in to share whatever God put on my heart with the kids. I was not sure what to say as there were kids ages 5 -14 and the younger kids in the community typically do not speak a lot of English prior to going to school when they are 6 or 7 years old.

I simply shared with them how excited I was to be in Asikuma and told them that the reason I am here is because of my love for Jesus and what He did for me on the cross. I told them that God would call them to new places and have special plans for all of them. Then I prayed for all the kids that they would always have a heart for following Christ no matter where He calls them!

As soon as I got done praying more worship broke out and then it was time to eat. The church, which I came to find out, was the Asikuma Methodist church. They put together the small amount of funds they had in order to feed all the children in the church which was about 50. These kids got to ring in the New Year with full bellies.

I hung out with the class until they were dismissed at about 4:30pm and slowly made my way back to the hotel for dinner that evening. Prior to dinner we had planned on doing a bible study, but the hotel we stay at looked like it was to be the headquarters of the New Year’s Party in Asikuma. People began flooding into the hotel and the music was blaring at unsafe decibels with everyone dancing and singing. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before but I must say it was pretty cool to be ringing in the New Year African style.

At about 10pm we went back to our rooms. We found out that Tim was not feeling the best, so as guys do so well Chris, Dan, and I came into Tim’s room to comfort him. Ok we actually gave him a hard time and made him laugh even though he wanted to do nothing but crawl up in a ball on his bed. Before we knew it Nick and Typhanie walked into the room and a game of UNO broke out right there on Tim’s bed as he was curled up in the fetal position. I don’t think I have played UNO since I was 12 years old, but we had a great time. Our game of UNO did not conclude until a little after 1am with Tim’s snoring driving us all to our rooms.

Another day has come to end. 8am is going to come early and as always I am sure God has tomorrow beautifully planned for His purposes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 4

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

The last day of 2011 arrived with a rooster crowing as the sun came up in Asikuma. We all rolled out of bed knowing it was going to be a great day. The construction team had finished the work at the medical clinic except for a few touch-up items that they would finish over the upcoming four days.

Entry right inside front door of clinic..................

The construction team was now headed to the school yard to begin work on the new classroom joined together with the new library for the school. They had their hands full as they headed towards the school, but with Chris Gardner from Bella Homes leading the team I was more than confident they would complete this project by the time the bus pulls out on Wednesday, January 4th.

Dan and Tim beginning work at the library...................

Later Chris and the others got the roof structure up..........

[ To read about how all this construction began, go here:

To see where our projects had left off since our August trip go here: ]

Brittany, Typhanie, and Nick would spend the day getting to know people throughout the community. They spent a lot of time playing with the kids and building relationships within the community. The hope is that by doing this the relationships can be long lasting and real fruit can be produced for the sake of the gospel.

On this day I only had one goal on my mind and that was to spend as much time as possible with ‘Y’ and ‘A’. I wanted to continue to get to know them and have the girls become more comfortable with me being around.

Of course it was no ordinary day in the middle of the village. As I walked around the corner through the village I heard music blaring, and saw people dancing and dressed in their finest clothes. Out of curiosity I had to ask what was going on. The elders of the community told me it was an engagement ceremony where the man actually gives the engagement ring to the woman he plans to marry. This entire party was going on only about 100 feet from where I was visiting ‘Y’ and ‘A’.

When I arrived at the shack it became chaos as always. The kids around the village are always intrigued by us and quickly migrate to where we are at. I had people touching my hair, rubbing my skin, and even pulling the hair on my arms as the idea of having hair on your arms and legs fascinates them - the Ghanaians typically do not have much body hair.

Despite the craziness of the engagement party and hundreds of youth flooding the area, ‘Y’ headed right to my arms and sat on my lap. ‘A’ on the other hand gave me a sassy look and started giggling and ran around the corner. She probably played the peek-a-boo game with me for 20 or 30 minutes until I pulled out my I-Phone and let ‘Y’ play the monkey matching game. As soon as ‘A’ saw this going on her curious nature got the best of her and she was soon standing between my legs trying to get a peek at the I-phone. Every time someone tried to push her away she would smack them as hard as she could. Let’s just say that she has lots and lots of personality and is certainly no push-over!!

As the day went on the chaos slowly subsided and by lunch time people were getting used to me being in the village just hanging out. It was a great feeling as people would walk by and say “Hi Mr. Jake”. There were no more laughs and giggles or “obruni” being yelled out which means ‘white man’. I was starting to become part of the community and it was an incredible feeling after working so hard to build relationships over the past 12 months.

As I continued to hang out in the village with ‘Y’ and ‘A’, an aunt, their grandmother, as well as a few other kids, we all got to know each other better. I got to take in the morning bathtime routine in which one of the girls was placed in a silver bowl and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed!

I got to playfully chase ‘Y’ and ‘A’ around the hut, snuggle with them as they sat on my lap, and of course I watched grandmother crack more palm nuts. I observed the aunt and a friend cook and they tried to teach me how to make banku which is a local dish. We all danced together throughout the afternoon as the music from the engagement party had everyone in a good mood. Today God did a work on my heart with two beautiful little girls that He has brought into our lives. I pray that the Lord allows the adoption of these two girls to go smoothly, but I do have peace knowing that His glory will be seen throughout the journey no matter what His plans ultimately are.

After a fantastic day with the girls the sun began to go down and it was time to head back to the hotel to do a bible study with our core group of village kids - Albert, Fredrick, Asare, Manche, Ali, Mauli, and Ophilia. Tonight’s bible study was about the idea that Christ came to serve and not to be served.

The topic really hit me today as I sat in the village. Because of the color of my skin and because of where we come from, everyone attempts to treat me like royalty. Every time I sat down someone was running over to me with a bench. One time I sat down in the dirt to play with the girls and everyone nearly had a heart attack. About 30 minutes later when I stood up I had people trying to wipe my pants off. During the afternoon I bought an entire pack of water satchels to give out to all the kids that were hanging out with us that afternoon. A satchel contains about 30 bags of water and probably weighs about 40 pounds to carry. As I picked it up I had about 10 kids run over to me to carry the satchels for me, and when I told them that I would carry it some of the older men around looked at me like I was an alien.

The thing about the Ghanaian community is that status is highly regarded and once you receive a status level everyone tries to do everything for you. It has really become a problem with many of the men in the community. For the men that have not left the village, the majority of them sit around under huts all day long talking and playing cards, while the women and children fetch water, prepare meals, sell on the side of roads, track down fire wood, and care for the kids. Obviously there are exceptions, but not a lot of them. I want the young people that we are beginning to disciple to not only see what it looks like to serve and work throughout a day, but more importantly I wanted them to understand that no matter what status they receive on this earth God calls us to serve. He tells us over and over in His word that the first will be last and the last will be first in the kingdom of heaven.

Following bible study it was time for a great African dinner of fried rice, tilapia, chicken, banku, and okra soup. The kids hung out until about 10pm with us and then they headed home for the night.

We thought Asikuma would be pretty crazy on New Years Eve, but it wasn’t. They explained to us that they celebrate and party on January 1st as they celebrate New Years and Christmas on the same day.

Since the kids went home for the night and us Americans celebrate New Years Eve we decided we would ring in the new year in Africa with the card game Brittany had introduced us to the other night - Phase 10 - AKA the single longest card game in the history of card games. As the game took us past midnight we celebrated 2012 ahead of all of our American friends who still had a few hours until it became 2012. We had a GREAT time together on this New Years Eve celebrating in Africa and I am sure it will be one nobody forgets!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 3

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Friday morning arrived way too soon and it did not help that the rooster at the hotel is a little confused and started crowing at 3am while it was still pitch black. The alarm went off at 8am and it felt like a semi-truck had just hit me. The good news was that everyone looked the same as we slowly shuffled in for breakfast. I think I ate three bofu balls which is best described as a big round deep fried donut. It probably is not on the recommended dietary guide but it tasted great none the less.

Before I knew it Nana and Michael were honking their horns at Doug, Brittany, Emma, and I as we were scheduled to head to Accra for the day to attend a variety of meetings and Esi’s party. The construction crew along with Nick and Typhanie were headed to the medical clinic to finish it all up today. Nick and Typhanie were in charge of all painting while Chris, Dan, and Tim were doing their thing.

We started in on the dreaded three hour drive from Asikuma to Accra. Of course we managed to squeeze six people into one vehicle with no air conditioning that is only designed to seat four people. The other vehicle could only fit two because of some weird permit on the car. Plus Doug Vander Weide believes he is an African driver now and was driving the car with the two person limit. I am not sure what would have been a better way to get to Accra as neither option was great. Ride with an American driving in a country that does not obey many of the basic traffic laws or be stuffed like sardines in a car with no air conditioning. I must say later in the day I did ride with Doug and he made an all-African U-turn in the middle of oncoming rush hour traffic which was quite impressive. I nearly threw up and saw my life flash before my eyes which would certainly qualify him as a certified African driver.

Our three hour journey turned into about a four journey of sweat and car sickness as our driver struggled with stopping in rush hour traffic without nearly jerking everyone through the front window. We did finally arrive at our first destination all a little nauseated to meet with the Kingdom Hoops Ghana basketball team. We have had lots of issues surrounding the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team over the past three months mostly regarding lying and mistrust. One of our host students that arrived about 8 months ago had to be sent back to Ghana due to age discrepancies. Once he found out he had to return back to Ghana he ratted out a handful of the players on the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team that were also lying about their age in order to receive opportunities through Kingdom Hoops Ghana.

I knew as the head of the team that I had two ways I could respond. I could respond with negative emotions or I could use it as a teaching moment centered on the scriptures. As hard as it was I tried to focus my energy on God’s word and His call for His followers to disciple others according to His word. I figure that I do the same things to God on a daily basis yet He loves me unconditionally and that is what I needed to do with the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team.

My conversation with them centered on the book of Haggai. Haggai was a prophet that came to the Israelites after they returned to the promised land. Haggai challenged the people of Israel that they were more concerned with building their own homes for themselves while God’s temple laid in ruins. Haggai showed them that no matter how hard they worked God would not bless their endeavors until their focus returned to what really matters in this world.

In my opinion the book of Haggai summarizes not only what was happening on the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team, but also what is happening throughout Africa. In Africa when individuals have an opportunity given to them they attempt to keep it all to themselves focusing on the building of their own personal interests ahead of even what God is trying to do. The Kingdom Hoops Ghana team was certainly no different. No matter what it took for them to receive an opportunity to build their own house they were willing to do it. It did not matter if their actions involved deceit and lying as long as they would be able to build their house. The craziest part about it was that over the past six months we have tried to help a variety of the Kingdom Hoops Ghana athletes receive opportunities to further their education on student visas. In the latter part of 2011, every student in our program that has went to the United States Embassy to receive their student visa has been denied. No matter what steps they took or how much diligence was put into the process God closed the door on them. It was as if God was saying to the boys ~ Until you start living to glorify Me (building God’s house) I am not going to bless your own house. God is certainly faithful and I praise Him daily for protecting our organization in the midst of such deceit, but even more so I praise Him for this opportunity to disciple these boys through this time in their life. Hoping that just maybe the next generation will learn the importance of honesty and the importance of building God’s house above their own.

Time will only tell how much the message will enter into the lives of these athletes. A few of them seemed repentant and understood the life Christ is calling them too. The majority seemed like it rolled off their back with the attitude that ‘this is Africa - get used to it’. The thing they don’t know about me is that God brought me here to rock the boat and not to conform. I know my God will lead me to individuals that want to create change in a continent for the sake of the gospel. I understand that this will be a journey that God will use to grow me as well, and it will certainly contain many peaks and valleys. It is exciting to be walking with Christ on this journey of discipleship and I can only pray He keeps me on this path.

After our meeting it was on to visit a private school in Accra. The headmaster of the school actually works for us part-time in Ghana helping coordinate our mission trips as well as the various projects that God has allowed us to start in Ghana. Recently the school lost its primary funding source as the non-profit entity that was helping the school out has actually been working as a fraud. The head master (Michael Sarpong), as well as the school pastor and the landlord wanted to meet with us to see if there was any potential for a possible partnership. It was a very successful meeting with the school and we are excited about a potential partnership down the road. We will have to see where God leads as there are still a lot of details to gather, but we know God will lead where His glory will most be seen.

Following our school meeting it was on to Esi’s 50th birthday party. Esi is the mother of our current Ghana host students Yaw and Peprah, and she has been an incredible resource during our time the past three years in Ghana. Like any Esi party it was decorated beautifully, the food was incredible, and I had the opportunity to connect with lots of new people from the Accra area. We could not thank Esi enough for the incredible party, and before we knew it we had to head back to Asikuma. We were all dreading the three hour car ride back to the village, but we were all excited to have the upcoming two days completely focused on the people of Asikuma.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 2

Wednesday, December28th, 2011

We have arrived in Ghana after a fairly smooth flight and no major delays. Of course no arrival at the Ghana airport is without excitement. Yes, we did arrive on time but we were soon at the mercy of the non-efficient baggage service at the Accra airport. About ninety minutes after our official arrival we eventually left the airport with 14 of our 15 bags. Brittany’s bag was nowhere to be found and I felt horrible for her as it is her first trip to Ghana - then being a woman with no luggage cannot make the trip any easier. Brittany has been great about it all and luckily Emma Vander Weide is with us and they are the same size so they will be able to share some clothes until Brittany’s bag shows up. We can only pray that it arrives sooner than later.

Following the airport adventures of Accra International Airport we headed to our charter bus that took us immediately to Asikuma. After having to deal with Accra traffic, 500 speed bumps, people running across the road, goats being stuffed into taxi cabs, and the gigantic cow in the middle of the road that we almost hit we finally arrived in Asikuma around 8:00pm.

As soon as our bus pulled into the hotel in Asikuma we were immediately greeted by Albert (one of our beloved village kids) and his crew who helped us get settled into our rooms and then decided to join us for a late dinner. Following dinner we all took a stroll up to the medical clinic under the night sky to check in on the progress of the clinic. To our surprise the clinic was looking incredible - the locals had put in significant work. We knew that God had allowed us to do a lot of work on the clinic in August, but it was with great joy that the community had taken real ownership of the place. There were a few new trees planted, flowers planted, part of the side walk finished, and all of the tile inside the clinic had also been finished by the some of the local workers. We were told by Nana, the chief of the village, that the clinic has seen 459 patients since opening in August. Who knows how many lives have been saved through the gifts and talents God has given the construction crew that has sacrificed so much to make this clinic a reality. All we could say as we concluded the night and went back to the hotel to get some rest is that GOD IS GOOD!!

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Today we woke up at 7:45am with breakfast being at 8am. By 8:30am we were all out of the hotel gate. The construction guys were ready to get started with the final touches of the clinic and I was excited to head immediately into the village and see all my friends from our past visits to Asikuma. Mostly I was excited to head into town to see ‘Y’ and ‘A’ the beautiful girls that God has put into our lives. There is never a day that goes by without me thinking about them, and during the hours upon hours of individual training that I am doing they are the ones who keep me going.

As I entered the village and walked around the corner their grandmother immediately recognized me and called out for the girls. The girls both came out of their small house and greeted me with smiles and open arms. ‘A’ who would not even let me touch her during our last visit came right into my arms and let me pick her up.

I spent the next two hours just sitting with the girls beginning to learn their personalities as I was excited for them to get comfortable around me. I wanted to see how they acted in their normal environment.

It was actually kind of crazy, but the best way to describe the girls is ‘Y’ is serious with a soft heart just like JJ and ‘A’ is sassy with a lot of personality just like Jayla. ‘Y’ never left my side the entire time as she sat on my lap, held my hand, and loved the games on my phone. ‘A’ on the other hand never sat still for more than 30 seconds. Anytime someone messed with her she would run up and spank them on the butt, run around in a circle with a shoe string swinging in the air giggling the whole time. She also liked to throw rocks in the air which got her in trouble by her grandmother.

It was an awesome couple of hours. After my time with the girls I began to run into some of the kids that we have decided to invest our lives into and disciple.

One of the kids is Fredrick. Fredrick is one of the biggest kids in the village and is kind of the body guard of the group. The more I was around him this morning the more I noticed that he was just not himself. He had very little energy and his one eye was almost swollen shut. The good news was that we had a clinic now up and operating and I thought this would be a great chance for me to see how the clinic works. I walked Fredrick down to the clinic and right into the nurse’s office. She looked at me kind of funny and I simply told her we would take care of the cost and she immediately went to work figuring out what was wrong with Fredrick. By the time the 20 minute look-over was finished he was diagnosed with a severe eye infection and a bad skin rash. They gave him some eye medicine, pills (of some sort), and a lotion to put on his skin. All in all the medicine cost us 8 cedis (roughly US $5) and I gave her 10 cedis for her service which is roughly (US $7). It was fun to see how the nurses go about their work. Let’s just say it is not done like the United States, but nonetheless Fredrick received treatment he would have otherwise not received just a few months earlier.

Next came a quick lunch of fried rice and something else that resembled a stew. Before we knew it we were back to what God had called us to do here. The construction guys were back to cranking out the finishing touches on the medical clinic ~ building shelves, pouring cement, and finishing the sidewalk.

Brittany and Emma were playing and dancing with the village kids…

and I snuck away to spend more time with ‘Y’ and ‘A’. As I arrived at their home I received a huge smile from grandma as she sat there cracking palm nuts that she will sell to make a living….

Upon seeing me ‘Y’ ran right up to me and I scooped her up. For the next three hours I sat on the ledge of the stoop of their small mud shack and played with the girls and learned more about their environment than I had learned in all my trips to Ghana. I learned all about the palm nuts. Grandmother cracks the nuts and then melts them over fire creating palm oil which is then sold. It was a very fascinating process to see completed.

During my time with the girls I got to watch an ‘aunt’ prepare dinner with incredible diligence in a little cooking hut that would not be approved by any city inspector. She was sitting in a little mud hut with a 5 foot ceiling made out of straw. In the middle of the hut was an open flame shooting 2 or 3 feet into the air. The little room was filled with smoke and wonderful scents of Ghanaian food. I sat there the whole time fearing for the worst as I was sure the roof would catch fire at any moment.

During the midst of me watching this shooting flame inside the hut a minor fist fight broke out between two men in the village which drew quite a crowd and ruckus. I have never seen so many Ghanaians yelling at each other all at one time, and the best part is a couple of women actually broke up the altercation. About 30 minutes after the altercation we all hear a huge pop that sounded like a gun or fire cracker - we really could not decide. Nana (chief of the village) had just arrived where I was sitting and we all looked at each trying to decide what that noise was. Nana finally looked at everyone and said - "I am so tired of the people setting off those Christmas fire crackers!" However, this pop was no firework. It was actually the sound of a gun. A man and wife were fighting over money and the man grabbed what most accurately would be described as a bb gun to end the fight, and somehow it went off in the middle of the crowded village. All of a sudden the police are chasing a man through the village, people are yelling and screaming, and a 10 year old girl got shot in the leg. A few minutes later a man was being arrested and a girl was being sent to the hospital in Juapong which is about 30 miles away.

Ever since our journey in Africa began three years ago we have always said to expect the unexpected when in Ghana and nothing is ever as it seems. This was never more true than today during my few hours hanging out in the village. In the midst of chaos I had a great time bonding with ‘Y’ and ‘A’ and seeing them become more comfortable with me was an awesome feeling. Today I got to see all kinds of exciting action just sitting like a local and watching what many normal days probably consist of. There is no way I would exchange these few hours for anything in the world.

Before I knew it the time was five o’clock and I was heading back to the hotel with our small group of children that God has called us to disciple for a bible study and then dinner. We brought each one of the kids their very own bible and we all huddled around the table and opened up to Luke 6:46-49.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say? (Message bible actually says, why do you say yes sir, no sir, thank you sir, and yet your actions look nothing like your words). I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house, but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice, is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

I actually came across this while doing my personal bible readings prior to leaving for Ghana. I have heard this part of scripture a million times and have sung it an equal number of times. All the other times I have read or heard this verse I was sure the foundation described was talking about the acceptance of Jesus into ones’ life. However, the more I studied this part of scripture the more I realized that is not what Jesus was talking about. He was talking about believers who have already accepted Jesus into their lives. Once we have accepted Jesus we need to begin to take his words and direction that is written in the Bible and put it into our lives, so that we can learn to fully rely on God.

When I read this a few days before leaving for Ghana the verses came alive and I believe God was leading me to this scripture as a place to start with our group of young people in Asikuma. In Africa there are a ton of people that believe in Jesus. Many studies actually say that the most professed believers in Jesus Christ are in Africa and yet the greatest poverty and killings in the world also occur in Africa. The majority of Africans that are not professed Muslims understand who Jesus Christ is and accept the fact that Jesus died for them. However, very little in their life actually changes upon accepting Jesus. The ideas we really focused on with the kids and will focus on throughout the week is the idea of serving and not being served, as well as the responsibility we all have with the gifts and talents God has given us. Tonight we talked about once we have accepted Jesus in our lives that our lives should begin to look different from our peers and neighbors. When we read the Bible and God instructs us through His word on how to live we are supposed to respond in obedience with our lives according to His instruction.

It was so much fun having the kids’ complete attention as they were all so excited to be learning about the Bible. Even a few of the workers at the hotel came over in delight asking me if we were teaching the Bible and if we were whether or not they could sit and learn as well. It was with great joy and excitement to be able to teach the Bible to so many ears who had a desire to learn.

Following the Bible study we enjoyed a night of fried rice and tilapia and I thoroughly enjoyed every part of my favorite dish. The kids soon scattered home and it was just this trip’s team (Chris, Emma, Doug, Brittany, Typh, Nick, Tim, Dan, and I) left together in the eating area of the hotel. Before long Brittany broke out a deck of cards and taught everyone a new game called phase 10. She failed to inform us that it is the longest card game known to man and the game did not finish until 1:30am. It was a blast spending time with the team and laughing together until late into the night, but we will certainly pay the price in the morning.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 1

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

I don’t feel like writing at this moment. I have been on and off airplanes for the past 8 hours and we still have 7 hours and 15 minutes left before we touch down in Accra, Ghana. However, God is bugging me to begin writing about another journey He has me on. I have so many thoughts, emotions, ideas, and fears in my mind. Over the next 10 days during my 10th trip to Ghana I am going to begin writing about the cool things that God will do through us in a land 6000 miles away from everything that feels comfortable.

This is one of the few times in the last twelve years that I have been alone. Yes we have eight others on this trip to Ghana, but my wife and kids are at home. There is a comfort you receive when your family is with you. I think God is up to something on this trip and I am not sure what it is, but I think God is going to do mighty things in the lives of others on this trip and I think He will be doing mighty things in my life on this trip as well. For the next ten days I will be alone with God and I am excited to find out what He will teach me. For the next 10 days it is going to be me and my Lord. I am scared and excited all at the same time. My emotions contradict themselves minute by minute. I wish I could reach over to the seat next to me and grab my wife’s hand, but she is not there. I wish I could hear JJ ask me who I am going for in some bowl game only He has heard of. I wish I could see Justice’s gigantic smile and hear his booming voice, and of course I wish had some sweet kisses and hugs from Jayla.

Instead God has me on yet another adventure. However, I don’t think this adventure has anything to do with building something, coaching someone, discipling someone, or going to some unknown place. I think this adventure is going to be the adventure of me getting to know God at a deeper level over these next ten days. Who knows what that means, but I am sure God will reveal himself in mighty ways during this upcoming trip.

As I received my boarding pass today and gave everyone a hug and JJ hugged me and told me he can’t wait to see me next Thursday with a big tear in his eye I almost lost all emotional control. I wanted to so badly walk out of the airport and spend the next ten days with my family during one of the rare parts of the year that provides me some downtime.

However, as has happened over and over and over the past three and half years I heard God’s voice telling me to go. My mind is thinking for what? I am wondering ~ What God do You want to accomplish on this trip to Ghana and why have You called me to this far off land? I don’t necessarily have the answers; other than I know my God is calling me back to Ghana for His purposes. Despite the emotions of leaving my family for the next ten days tugging at me; I am filled with absolute joy and excitement to be heading back to a place that truly feels like home to me. I know the emotions contradict each other and are hard to explain, but when you are a heading to place on the other side of the ocean to share and demonstrate the love of Christ there is an absolute and complete joy that fills my entire being.

As I wrestled with the emotions of leaving my family for ten days and the call of God I wondered how many people actually put their family ahead of God. Many people think all of this is foolish. Many wonder why risk so much when God has been so good to me right here in Iowa. Others may even believe that God’s primary purpose for a Godly man is to ensure his house is in order and that it is not wise to take such unnecessary risk to fly across the ocean and leave one’s family behind for ten days.

Every day I hear reasons from very godly men about why they can’t open their house to a stranger, why they can’t take a financial risk for God, and why they can’t travel to a far off land because it is not wise for their own household. The more I study God’s word and learn about his true character the more I understand that the most dangerous thing to do is to put one’s own household above the one true God. As a man I actually think God wants us to go. God wants us to live a life that shows the love we have for Christ. God calls us to do “crazy” things for Him that may look foolish to the world around us. God calls us to go to the ends of the earth for Him. God calls us to throw all worldly wisdom out and rely on faith and the wisdom of His Word. Through a life that puts Christ at the center and above all other things is a life that will ultimately reward your entire family that we all are responsible for caring for.

God constantly tells us that we can’t love anything more than Him. This includes our wives, our children, our houses, our cars, our lake houses, our activities, our sporting events, our TV’s, and our comfort and security. Please don’t misunderstand me when I say these things. I love nothing more on earth than my wife and children, but I am simply called to love Christ more than them. When all the parts of my flesh say that I am foolish; God’s love tells me to take that next step. When I want to crawl up in a ball and cry because I miss them so bad and my 10 day journey is just starting; God ensures me that this is what he meant by a man leading his family.

Leading is not just taking your children to church and attempting to read your bible with them each week. I believe God wants more from men who are leading their families in the way of Christ. I believe He wants us to show our children what John meant when he said the Word became flesh. Yes, in context John was talking about Jesus coming alive to die on a cross for all of our sin. But, I also believe he was encouraging all of those who would believe in Christ to live the same way. God wants all of us to take what we read in God’s word – the Bible - and bring it to life. God, is not content with us just reading His word, studying it, memorizing it, pondering it, singing about it, and then not actually doing it because we are scared of what might happen to our families. Maybe we are just scared of losing all control of our lives and having to completely rely on God’s power alone. I am not sure the answer why we don’t allow the word to become flesh in many of our lives, but I am very confident it is what God wants more than anything else from those who call him Father.

A couple of weeks ago I heard a sermon by Francis Chan at a family conference. He titled his sermon “Don’t Focus on the Family.” The primary verse he taught over was 1 Corinthians 7:29 which reads ~ Dear brothers the time is short, so men that have wives live as though you have none. Does this verse not seem kind of weird? Especially since this is the same Paul who told men to love their wives as Christ loved the church? Now he is telling us men to live as though we don’t have wives. What could he possibly mean?

I have wrestled with the passage daily for the past few weeks since hearing the sermon and preparing to head to Africa for ten days without my wife and children. I am a very simple person and have a tendency to take the things of the Bible in very literal terms. So, every time God puts that verse in my head I try to decipher what in the world I am supposed to do with it.

I think He is making it clear in my life that what a husband and father following Christ is supposed to do is to live out Christ in his flesh. I believe it means that when my children ask my wife, over the next ten days; “Where is Daddy?” and she says, “Africa,” and they ask, “Why?” and she says, “Because of Jesus,” that it will begin to make an indentation on their heart by seeing their Dad live out Christ in the flesh.

I believe that God has designed men to be risk-takers for Christ. When you look at the men of the Bible whether it is the disciples, or Saul, Moses, Abraham, Nehemiah, or Daniel they all took great risks for Christ. We as men are called to live similar lives. I believe that today many men following after Christ have categorized leading their family by doing a family bible study or two each week. Those things are important and we need to all lead in those ways as well. But, there are times when God wants us to say yes to God for our families. There are times God wants us to go in order to demonstrate Christ for our families.

It is hard and it is scary. The flesh is torn to pieces when we are called to go somewhere for the sake of Christ, but it is what we must do. God gave us all so many examples in the Bible to follow and as I sit on this plane right now my flesh desires to be snuggled up on the couch in the safety of my house with my family, but God calls me to lead and I must follow His leading by heading back to Ghana, Africa once more.

Who knows what God has planned but without question it will be another great adventure.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

For Your Sake....So that You May Believe

Now a certain man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived…the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, look, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:1,3)

Lazarus, Mary and Martha were close friends of Jesus who lived a couple of miles from Jerusalem. At the time of this event, Jesus was on the other side of the Jordan River, a full day’s journey from Bethany.

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:5-6)

Now that doesn’t make any sense. In this day of quick-response rescue teams, everyone knows that when someone is seriously ill, delays can be fatal. But Jesus stayed where he was for another two days! What was going on in his mind?

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But, Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days… (John 11: 7-8, 14-15, 17)

[The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, pgs. 197-198]

As we look forward to this new adoption, I’ve found that Justice and I are having many detailed conversations about his own adoption. He has always been open with us on the details of his life in Ghana whenever we ask questions, but lately he has been bringing up the things he remembers during his adoption process on his own. We got into a heart-to-heart conversation the night of New Years Eve. He was ready to talk….and talk he did…..I enjoyed listening and asking him questions to keep our conversation going for about 45 minutes straight with no interruptions from my other little red-heads who were asleep in the back seat.

There are so many details of God-stories woven into his little life from his time in Ghana. One such memory that he shared with me involved a very dark time in his life. And yet, during that time God provided a tiny tv set that was on the church channel each day that he was around it. He told me that each time it was on he would listen to the sermons and pray and pray that God would help him. I asked him if he knew God at that point. He said no, but that he believed God could help him. And help He did. It was during this time, June 2010, that Jake and I traveled to Ghana as advised by our agency at the time to ‘pick up’ Justice’s visa and bring him home. When the Embassy wouldn’t give us his visa and we realized that we were heading back to the U.S. without our son it was pretty hard to believe. In fact, it felt like a bad joke that someone was playing on us. Why God did you bring us all the way to Ghana fully knowing that his visa wasn’t ready? What was the point of all this? This doesn’t make any sense. I had never felt as much pain and broken-heartedness and anger and confusion as I had on that trip. I just could not understand what God was doing.

In fact, from our measly perspective the whole situation looked bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I felt awful that we had given such hope to Justice that he was going home, only to have to break the news to him that he actually couldn’t board the plane with us. I felt like a fool that had been tricked by the system. Yep, from every angle things looked bad and wrong.

But what we didn’t know was that our coming was actually God answering Justice’s prayers that he had prayed each day listening to tv church. Because, through all of the events that followed, he was taken out of the dark situation, and put in a loving home in Ghana to await his visa which came months later. Had God not brought us to Ghana in June 2010, Justice would have continued to suffer for months without us ever knowing it. If you don’t know by now, evil people cover up. They hide and deceive. And sometimes they do a really good job of it. But God knows and God delivers from evil. At face value that trip made no sense to us. But through that seemingly bad situation, God was showcasing His power, and making faith personal to a little 6 year old boy. For your sake….so that you may believe….

There are situations and circumstances happening right now in our current adoption in which I am rehearsing these past times when God has so powerfully displayed His Sovereignty, even when we didn’t understand right away. Do you know what it feels like when your heart begins to fret? It’s like you hear something or get some sort of information and your entire body goes tense and pure anxiety takes over your insides. My shoulders get all tight and I start getting snappy and having a short fuse with anyone who crosses my path. I used to enjoy escaping anxiety-producing realities through a glass of wine or venting to a friend, but indulging in those options are the default of a heart that is not trusting God. Not relying on God.

Time and again my fretting heart needs to dwell on the truths that I am in a relationship with a God who has changed the minds of kings. His plans cannot be thwarted. He doesn’t say something and never do it. His words stand forever – FOREVER! He can bring rulers to naught and nations to rubble. He hardens hearts and softens hearts. He breathes spirit into a dead body and takes breath away from the living. He raises the dead to bring them new life again. He perceives our thoughts. He knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves. He appoints the times and places that we would live. And although many are the plans in a man’s heart, He alone directs a man’s course. Even this man. Me. These are just a few reasons why my fretting heart can be stilled in His power, whether it requires blind faith like June 2010 did, or trust steps out of the boat onto the stormy sea waters that are being required now.

We serve a God who is not far off. He is not distant. When my heart frets I need just run to Him. Into my closet I run – you may giggle at the thought but there I can meet with Him undistracted. I shut and lock the door where my Bible awaits. I open it and breathe in His promises. Spill my heart, my fears, my questions, my honesty in prayer. And there He meets me. In my junky closet with clothes waiting to be hung, stinky shoes on the shelf, dirty laundry in the basket. There I meet with the King of the Universe. He listens to my needs big and little, to my desires and dreams, to my worries and circling thoughts. I drop it all at His feet and he teaches my heart to say Lord, not what I want, but what You want. Not my will, but your will be done. It is only when I am at His feet that I can look up and see His Sovereignty come into focus over my life. And this is where I want to be afterall, under His ways and His promises and His power. Because His plans are much more grandeur than I could ever think up.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus, once more deeply moved came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone….Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

(John 11: 32-34, 38-41, 43-44)