Friday, March 30, 2012
As Jake and I were into about our 3rd hand of rummy, the hotel supervisor, ‘D’, and hotel owner’s wife, ‘M’, called Jake over to their table where they had been going over the accounting from the day. For 10 minutes they conversed over what seemed like something quite serious, and I wondered what was going on. Eventually the conversation was over and Jake returned to his seat. He looked at me and said, “You’re never going to believe what that was about.” He went on to describe that last night one of M’s friends was walking home in Asikuma after work when she heard a bunch of dogs barking and the unmistakable sound of a crying baby coming from the ‘bush’. [Here in Ghana, the ‘bush’ refers to remote areas of tall grasses/trees – kind of like a forest or wooded area would be in the U.S.] M’s friend followed the crying and found a newborn baby all bloody and a mess that had been abandoned in the grass. M’s friend followed the trail of blood and path of bent down weeds that led her back to a mud hut. Inside she found the mother of the newborn, who had given birth to the child. The mother said that she had abandoned the infant in the bush because she could not care for the child. M's friend then gave the newborn back to the mother. After M had explained all these details to Jake, she said, “Can your group help?”
In the orchestrating of events that only God could fashion, it just so happened that our in-country adoption social worker, Kofi, was going to be picking our group up at the hotel in the morning to take us to Kwahu. Jake had decided that it would be best if the birthmother of the infant could come to our hotel in the morning and meet with Kofi and M agreed.
I went to bed thinking of all the things that needed to fall into place for that meeting to happen. It was already late, and somehow someone needed to get word to the birthmother to come in the morning. And then of course, perhaps the bigger obstacle was that the birthmother actually needed to come to the meeting. My heart was in a spin of emotion as I wondered how often this happened here. At the same time I was rejoicing in my Savior who hears the cries of the afflicted and literally reaches out to save us - all of us – the Only One who has, and will continue to defeat and conquer death. I was in awe of how God so orchestrated all these details so that we would be here in Ghana, sitting out at that table in the restaurant, at the exact time that M was also there with the situation on her mind. I marveled at how God must have pulled at M’s heart to approach us and see if we could help. I closed my eyes, thanking God that we could help, and prayed that the birthmother would come in the morning.
The next day….
Our morning started early. At 6:30am we woke to a knock on the door and the hotel supervisor’s urgent voice, “Mr. Jake!” I rolled out of bed and opened the door to see D. “The woman we spoke of with the baby – she is here,” he said.
“Okay, someone will be right out,” I replied.
Jake flew out of bed, splashed some water on his face and was out the door. In about 10 minutes he was back. He said the mother had come with her newborn, along with the mother’s aunt. “The birthmother can’t be but 16 or 17 years old,” he said. The aunt had told Jake via a translator that she was furious that her niece had gotten pregnant again, as she – the aunt – was already taking care of her niece’s other son – a 2 year old boy who had also come with them. The aunt explained to Jake that they could not possibly care for the new baby long-term. My heart dropped as the details started to fit together. Jake asked them to come back at 9am when Kofi would be arriving, since Kofi would know how to handle the situation legally.
Two hours later I found myself sitting in our hotel lobby holding evidence of a God who is MIGHTY to save.
The very young birthmother could not look at any of us. She sat still and quiet, with her head down, enveloped in shame, and my heart ached for her.
“Look at what you’ve done – gone and gotten yourself pregnant again. You can’t care for this child, and there is no one who will help you. You’re all alone. If you keep this child you will all suffer even more than you are now. You are better off to do away with this mistake. Hide and cover up so that you will not have to endure the opinions of those around you and add to their suffering and yours. ”
What makes a young woman in America walk into an abortion clinic and ask a doctor to scrape a living, breathing child out of her womb? The same voice of lies.
Satan passes himself off as being concerned for us in a clever mix of truth and error. He tells us ‘it will go better for us if….’ and then we believe his lies and act on them. We expect to find relief, a quick solution to our problems, a cover up, and fulfillment in the pleasures of this world. But after Satan gets his way with us, he leaves us in a mess (whether this is days or years later) and he doesn’t hang around to help us pick up the pieces. What was supposed to make everything better actually winds us up empty, guilty, broken, and chained and enslaved to his empty, worldly logic even more.
That is until God intervenes.
In that hotel lobby, on this day, as the burden of condemnation threatened to swallow this mother up, I watched God go to work.
As Kofi explained adoption there was not a trace of accusation in his voice. No finger pointing, no “how could you’s”. Only gentleness, and a soft voice conveying compassion and eagerness to make right a situation that could have ended in tragedy - but didn’t – because God intervened.
As Kofi educated this family on the option of adoption, M rose to her feet and disappeared in the adjacent room. In a few moments she came back into the lobby with a pile of fresh cloths. Here in Ghana they can’t afford diapers. So infants are always wrapped in lightweight cloths, and once the cloths are soiled they are switched out with fresh ones and the baby is re-wrapped. M walked over to me and we switched out the newborn’s soiled blanket for fresh, white and crisp hotel linens. Then M packed up a grocery bag full of about 10 folded and clean cloths and gave it to the birthmother. M, a mother herself who's baby was also in the lobby with us, could have acted all self-righteous and indignant, and made this birthmother feel very small. But instead, in this scene with the cloths, God’s grace went on display right before my very eyes. It was such an example of how God deals with us, in our broken state from our sinful choices. There we sit on the couch, no different than the birthmother, ashamed and confronted with the reality of what we’ve done….
….she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked (Genesis 3:6-7)…
Wanting so badly to hide and disappear under the shawl that covers our shoulders…..
….so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:7-8)….
We’re sure we’ve really done it now. Gone too far. Outside of God’s love, outside of His reach. Despicable, dishonorable, detestable. That’s what we are. And God does grieve. He grieves over what we’ve done, knowing that we’ve just chosen to drive a wedge in our relationship with Him. Our relationship is now broken, and the impending consequence looms: death. He knows it will take a great cost, a great sacrifice, to repair what we've done. And just when we convince ourselves that God will never be able to look at us again….
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).
We find He does not treat us as our sins deserve. His grace and His mercy meet us in our brokenness, and point us toward something greater...
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to His own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6).
God, the Maker of heaven and earth, so loves us – yes even us who have turned our backs to Him and gone our own way - that He would choose to take all of our sin, and disobedience, and junk, and yuck, and place it on His Son, for Him to bear the guilt and shame and scorn in our place. In a beautiful display of grace, He penetrates our sin in His Son’s blood until we come out white as snow. And He goes yet a step further, offering us forgiveness, new life, a second chance, and an eternity to praise Him for the great lengths He has gone to in order to reconcile us to Him.
I don’t know how this story will end. I don’t yet know if adoption will be chosen for this newborn boy, or if this will be a wake up call to the aunt of the seriousness of her deserting her niece in her need. Perhaps she will now support her niece in parenting the child now that God has made it clear that death was not in the plan.
But I do know this: as my life was unexpectedly intertwined with this birthmother and her son on this day, I saw Jesus. Redemption shouted at the top of its lungs in this room, in more lives than one. And as we gathered around this birthmother, gently lay our hands on her, and prayed over her, whisperings of God’s truths drowned out the lies of the enemy. You’re not alone. I’m here. I love you so wide, and so long, and so high, and so deep that I would deliver you from a life of regretful death-stains on your hands, and offer you this undeserved chance to start over. There is no circumstance too big or too complicated for Me to handle on your behalf. Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will answer you...
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Justice was a SEA of questions during our day of travel. He was especially interested in the entire process of getting checked in at the airport, and kept saying “I remember this!” On the first flight which was a quick one hour connection to Chicago he and JJ sat together in the row right behind me and Jake. They chattered the entire time, and pretty soon before we were even up in the air I heard a ding coming from their row. In a split second the flight attendant had walked up to them saying, “Yes, did you need something?” Justice has a pretty loud voice so the entire plane heard him respond by saying, “No, I just wanted to see what that button does.” (Yes, he had pressed the button to call the flight attendant). The way he said it sounded so innocent and curious that the ENTIRE plane erupted in laughter, and I myself could not stop giggling.
Here is my journal excerpt from Day 1 of our arrival into Ghana….
The first familiar face we saw in the airport was of course Esi [if you are just joining our blog, Esi is the mother of our first host student from Ghana, Yaw, and she and her husband also kept Justice for us after his visa fiasco from June 2010 until he came to the U.S. in September 2010]. Esi could not stop smiling at Justice and commenting on how much he had grown and how healthy he looked. She kept saying that his face looked different, especially something in his eyes. I know what she is seeing. He has a light in his eyes now that was never there before he was adopted. He always looked so lost and sad before. Now his eyes dance with this mix of health, joy, and well – lightness, that is so easy to see when we compare before and after pictures. I love how God so involved Esi and her husband Nana in the process of Justice’s adoption so that they too could rejoice in what God has done in his life.
It is such a strange feeling being on the streets, watching the village children and knowing that this is how Justice would have grown up had he not been adopted.
Many of the boys here should be as big as Justice. They are the same age as him, but so tiny and skinny in comparison. By the time nighttime rolls around they are begging to come to dinner with us at the hotel. We are able to pick out a handful of the kids to eat with us at the table. The hotel staff advised us to have two kids share a serving on a plate, because if each of them gets their own plate their stomachs grow over the week we are here. Then when we leave and go back to the U.S. they will be even hungrier because their bodies will have adjusted to more food intake.
I also had noted…
Justice has very quickly forgotten that the way the street children act was also how he used to be. Some of that forgetting is good, but I do hope that he will never forget how God has picked him out and saved him from this life of day by day survival. Jake had to remind Justice a hand full of times tonight that “that was once you”. All the village boys wanted to hold Justice’s hand (very common here – boys hold eachother’s hands while walking as well as girls), hang their arms on his shoulders, etc. There is no personal space here – and it’s very easy to feel smothered if you aren’t used to it. Justice told Jake that he didn’t like how all the kids kept wanting to touch him. Jake gently reminded Justice that he did the same exact thing to us when we first met him. There was also a point tonight when Justice asked me why all the kids love cameras and taking pictures so much! Um, hello dear son do you not remember how you constantly had to take pictures on my camera and play with the settings because you were so excited to hold something electronic in your hands? I’ve got evidence!
Just for giggles, here is Justice experimenting with my camera back in June 2010….
With this being the first night here we are cutting Justice a little slack. We really had no idea of how he would react to being back here. So far we aren’t sure if Justice is pretending that he doesn’t remember these details of his former life, or if he really has pushed it/blocked it all out of his memory. I am so interested to watch his reactions and interactions with the village kids the next few days…
By the next day Justice had fully entered into wanting to help, play with, and interact with the village kids. We had one full day in Asikuma to just be around our little friends, and Justice eagerly settled into a role of leading a lot of the play….
[That’s Jake picking up little Adjoa when she fell near the middle of the video – I’ll do a separate post on a different day to update you on her and Yaa]
Justice and JJ were both SO EXCITED to meet Yaa and Adjoa in person because we had been praying for them as a family for months. Justice and Adjoa....
Of course, the highlight of Justice’s visit to Ghana was to be visiting his hometown of Larteh and his birthfamily for the first time since his adoption completed over a year and a half ago. This was reserved for one of the last days of our trip. Kofi, our in-country case worker who handled Justice’s adoption, drove us up the beautiful mountain once again to the town of Larteh.
During the drive Kofi stopped to buy a coconut, which Justice had also wanted ever since we got to Ghana. So he got to finally have his coconut milk!
We all exchanged hugs and watched the eyes of Justice’s birthmother absolutely dance with pure joy upon seeing her son again. She excitedly led us through the alley back to her house and she began setting out plastic chairs for us to sit down, as she had the very first time that we met. From there we took a load of pictures, handed out the gifts we had brought for Kwasi (Justice’s little bro) and his birthmother…..
After we took pictures and exchanged gifts Justice’s birthmother began setting up a little table. Kofi translated for us that she had prepared Justice his favorite Ghanaian dish – fu fu! Is that not the perfect example of a mother’s love or what?
Justice told us later that at this point he got nervous and would have eaten more but everyone was staring at him and watching him! :) As he talked with his birthfamily, we noticed that he understood what they said in the language he grew up with (an eatern-region dialect called ‘larteh’) but that he was not comfortable speaking it back.
After awhile it became time for us to head to a celebration that Kofi had planned with the other orphans in Larteh that he has just started to identify and begin helping. Sadly, in Larteh there are 24 orphans who have lost both parents either to death or abandonment, and there are many more considered extremely needy who have one surviving parent. We all hopped back into the car and went to the center of the town where the orphans of Larteh and many people in the community awaited our arrival. Justice was the honored guest, and he was asked (with no time to prepare) to speak to the orphans, encourage them, explain adoption, and talk about his new life. He was very, very nervous, and quite honestly was really put on the spot, but we were so proud that he displayed such courage and didn’t back down. He answered questions, explained his life in the U.S. compared to Ghana, defined adoption, and the segway that he chose for each new topic was “…and God will start changing your life…”
From there we served a meal to the orphans…
And then we reached the stream…
And that was our time in Larteh!
One of the questions we’ve been asked a lot is why Justice’s little brother was not also put up for adoption? People wonder what the situation is in why he is still living with the birthmother. The answer is two-fold. Justice’s birthfather is deceased. Kwasi’s birthfather is not. In addition, the two biggest factors that played into Justice’s adoption were #1 – The family’s poverty, which resulted in Justice’s severe malnutrition. #2 – Justice’s condition of albinism. He was rejected by the Ghanaian society because of his red hair and lighter shade of skin. Although our trip to Justice’s hometown was full of joy, there were also many points where Jake and I were confronted with the reality of Justice’s rejection. Every neighbor, relative, and person that saw him called him ‘obruni’, and they did not use it as a term of endearment. ‘Obruni’ is the Ghanaian word for ‘foreigner/white person’. This is what the Ghanaians call us - the Americans - and they tease Justice by labeling him ‘white man’ and calling him this word. This was something that sickened me on our first trip to Larteh back in 2009 when we first met Justice and Kofi explained to us his nickname in the community. It was as if his fellow Ghanaians wanted him to know – ‘You are not one of us.’ In some African countries, like Tanzania, an albino’s life is even in danger as they believe that albinos have magical properties in their limbs (and will therefore kill an albino in order to sell their limbs). Thankfully they don’t practice this in Ghana, but albinos are still mistreated. In America, with our rainbow of beautiful shades and colors of skin, eyes, and hair, nobody would ever notice this or see Justice as unfit to be a part of society. In Ghana it’s different. Although on the outside Justice may not look traditionally Ghanaian, on the inside his heritage remains, and we will continue to rejoice in the rich country that he comes from, and know that God has given us a very compassionate, intelligent, joyful, son who fits into our family perfectly.
The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. ~1 Samuel 16:7~
Sunday, March 18, 2012
All packed and about to head to the airport. :)
The Lord already started this trip off for us in an exciting way this morning. We arrived home from church to an $1100 check sitting on our countertop – with a memo line that read: Adoption. The note…
Jake & Janel~
God gave us a huge blessing this month - we weren’t expecting it and we want to use it for His glory. Love you all and have a FABULOUS TRIP!!!!! Can’t wait to meet the girls!!!
All through church it just so happened that each song we sang today had one similar line that caught my attention: Our God will never fail. Every single day more and more evidence of this shows up in our life. God continues to make a way for us in this adoption, in ways that we never saw coming.
Thank you Jesus for opening up our eyes to hurting people. Thank you for the ways you so intricately stir hearts, and involve our family and friends in this journey along with us….
See you all in a week!
Friday, March 16, 2012
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
We leave on Sunday for Ghana! Our trip itinerary has shaped up really nicely – here is what we have [tentatively] planned:
Sunday, March 18th
-First flight connection departs from Des Moines at 3:18pm. From there we will catch one more connection and arrive into Washington DC where our night flight will then take us from the U.S. into Accra, Ghana. That flight stretch is about 11 hours, but it works out perfectly because you go to bed on the plane and then wake up and you are in Africa!
Monday, March 19th
-Arrive into Accra, Ghana at 12:50pm Ghana time
-Our bus rental will pick our group up at the airport as usual and then we’ll begin the almost 3 hour drive to Asikuma
Tuesday, March 20th
-This is the only day in which we have no big activities scheduled, so we will use this time to walk around the village visiting villagers that we have created relationships with, and check up on our construction projects. This sort of ‘free’ day is my favorite because I like to spend the day giving the village kids my full-on attention. PLAY is not a part of these kid’s daily lives, so I love bringing out bubbles, coloring books/crayons, picture books, and jump ropes and watching them go to town! The great advantage of Ghana is that most of the children understand a pretty good chunk of English, so I can whip open my Bible and teach them some scriptures, talk with them about Jesus, teach them songs, and ask them questions and we can communicate quite easily.
here. As of yesterday we have raised $9600 for this project!!!!! I’m telling you, SO MANY people gave to this – everyone from families in Jake’s Kingdom Hoops program, to our extended families, families of our friends, etc. The donations have steadily streamed in on a daily basis!
-Jake will lead a bible study time with the village kids in the evening
Wednesday, March 21st
-After lunch Kofi will pick us up to head to his foster home in the town of Kwahu – about a 2-3 hour drive from Asikuma. Here’s a sweet little video of the Kwahu foster home that I grabbed off another’s blog – a little glimpse of Ghana for you….
-This is also the day that we will meet the two girls who will become our daughters – AHHHHHH!!!!! I get goosebumps just thinking about it! :) I am BUMMED that I won’t be able to post any identifying pictures of them - agency rule until we pass court – so you’ll have to wait a little while longer after our trip to see their precious faces.
-We will also get to meet Anita, our Ghana adoption coordinator, who resides in Oklahoma but will also be in Ghana (and at Kwahu) the same time as us (she’s actually already there now – you can read her trip journals on her blog here ). Anita is really the main reason that we chose Adoption Advocates International to handle our adoption this time around. I am SO EXCITED to meet her – we’ve been emailing back and forth for over a year, so I already feel like I ‘know’ her. We kind of figured that we would meet for the first time in Ghana some day – and so it will be!
-We will spend time with the orphans at the Kwahu foster home and I’ve tried to pack some games and other items to play with them. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the children in Ghana LOVE to draw, and many of them are quite talented artists. I found a little book that teaches you step by step how to draw animals, so I thought it would be fun to bring that along with some paper and pencils.
-I am also packing the items to do the salvation bracelet devotional since that was such a hit in Asikuma on one of our trips.
-We will stay overnight at a hotel in Kwahu
Thursday, March 22nd
-We will attend the inauguration of Kwahu Orphanage which our church helped to fund (I blogged about that here)
-The plan is that the construction on the orphanage will be finished and that we can help the kids get moved from the foster home to the orphanage on this day.
-Stay overnight at hotel in Kwahu
Friday, March 23rd
-Pack up and head to town of Larteh in early morning (about a 1 hour drive from Kwahu). This is the village that Justice is from.
-We will visit his birthfamily first thing when we get there. I am sure we will all be very excited and nervous at the same time [please pray for us!]
-You may remember me saying that Justice’s adoption was the first ever adoption that Kofi did....
-We are scheduled to serve a meal to the orphans of Larteh, play games, and also hand out donations of beds, mattresses, and mosquito nets for the foster home.
-In the evening time we will head back to Asikuma
Saturday, March 24th
-We have been working with Ken (our friend who lives in Asikuma) to plan a big banquet for all the children of the village. We are hiring a handful of women in the village to cook the meal, and then we will help serve it in the school yard at 3pm. This is something that I have wanted to do since my first trip to Asikuma last March. It had crossed our minds to package ‘Meals from the Heartland’ but decided it would be better to employ the women and cook local food.
‘The Jesus film’ in the local language (for Asikuma that is mainly Ewe and Twi – the hotel owner said either language would be appropriate). We will be able to show the film as a gospel outreach for the villagers on this evening.
Sunday, March 25th
-Pack up and head to Accra on the bus
-Visit the cultural center in Accra for shopping
-Eat at Frankies or Airside hotel
-Head to airport for check-in
-Flight departs for the U.S. at 10:15pm
Along with all this, we are also working on starting a for-profit tilapia (fish) farm in Asikuma off the Volta river.
-Chris will also use this as an information gathering trip for construction of a bathhouse in Asikuma (actual construction will be during our August trip). The bathhouse would consist of showers, toilets, sinks (the community has a major public health problem because of these sanitary issues). The community would charge a small fee for residents to use the bathhouse, thus creating income which we would use for future projects.
EXCITING!!!!!!!! I will not have easy access to internet in the villages we will be in, so I will not be blogging during our trip, but will have lots to share when we get home!