Wednesday, April 25, 2012
"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'
"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'
"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'
"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'
"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."
There will come a day when I stand before God and I will give an account for the way I personally loved the overlooked or ignored. I cannot hand this responsibility off to church leaders or to our government. Jesus commands my personal involvement. When I picture these moments I see Jesus talking to me in the here and now. I see Him look me in the eyes and say…
“Janel, I blessed your womb and you got to feel the joyous miracle of bringing a life into this world. Two little lives that hold your genes. You get to look at them and see your own deep brown eyes, your awkwardly skinny legs and lanky frame, you get to watch them play and you see how I blessed them with the very gifts and talents that I gave you and Jake. You get to pass on your legacy, your family line. You watch their personality unfold and get the luxury of saying “You get that from your dad!” You see that the very gift of pregnancy in itself is just that….a gift. You get to see that life is precious, that I designed each and every heart beat for a purpose. Won’t you show My other children that they aren’t left in the dust? That their life is full of purpose too?”
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. ~Luke 12:48~
Monday, April 23, 2012
For 8 years now our family has traveled alongside Jake and his teams and made the weekend tournaments a family affair. Our kids of course LOVE getting to travel to different places, and especially enjoy the part of getting to stay in hotels. :) JJ and Justice are quite popular among the high school players and are treated just as if they were the players’ little brothers. Jayla has her own fun in the stands hanging out with the players’ younger siblings and making many trips to the concession stand for her beloved popcorn! Most of all, we soak up the family time together that we work so hard to get to all week!
Some pictures from this weekend at the NY2LA Spring Extravaganza tournament in Hopkins, MN….
See any college coaches that you know?
Jayla with her friend Javaria (who has two older brothers in Jake’s program) – now you can see what I mean about the creativity that goes into styling hair that I take notice of at these tournaments!
http://www.chocolatehairvanillacare.com/ I actually know how to do this style (Wa-hooo!) – these are called box braids, but I won't be able to do these until our girls' hair gets longer. Javaria’s mom let me pick her brain about their styling and hair care routine for her girls and tracked me down later on to give me her phone number in case I have any questions along the way. :) So nice and helpful!
Jayla soaks up all of daddy’s attention in between games!
Coaching is intense!
But all the hard work was worth it - 17U Platinum Bracket (the TOP bracket play) CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!
Friday, April 20, 2012
However, things are going to be much, much, much different with our girls’ hair, and honestly, at the beginning of our current adoption journey this invoked FEAR in my heart. We are around a lot of Africans on the weekends at basketball tournaments, so I have seen the tremendous amount of creativity, style and work that goes into their hair (not only the women and girls but the boys and men too). In fact, for the past 6 months I have been studying hair at these tournaments (forget the basketball games)! I’ve taken note on the different ways to part the hair into sections, admired the endless styles of puffs & braids & twists, figured out the difference between natural hair & extensions & wigs, noticed who has relaxed their hair and who hasn’t, pondered how on earth they get the beads on the ends of the hair to stay, and also come across a few styles that I just can’t figure out how they were put in. (Let me tell you, the bleachers give a prime perspective for studying hair!). In being around the African families that Jake has in his Kingdom Hoops program it’s been easy to see how much pride they take in caring for and styling their hair. It is definitely a very important part of their culture, and I understand why. They cannot just roll out of bed, pull a brush through their hair, leave it ‘down’, and call it good to go like I can with mine. Because of the texture and curl of their hair, it requires so much more care, attention, and maintenance. My wake-up call to this came when we had C-baby staying with us last summer. She didn't come with any hair products so on morning 1 I tried putting in some of Jayla's spray gel for curls on her hair and it just looked awful. I could not get the frizz under control and it wasn't even close to looking pretty. Soon her dad came around and grabbed our Johnson's baby (skin) LOTION and smothered her hair in it. All her curls turned smooth and under control and her 'free' style looked perfect. That's when I discovered that this was no ordinary hair care! In knowing all of this, I was starting to get all stressed out thinking of the pressure I will have of making sure that I maintain this aspect of our Ghana girls’ identity. I just don’t want their new momma to let them down!
At our homestudy appointment last fall our case worker mentioned this momma [who lives about 15 minutes from us] who had adopted from Haiti and had learned how to style her daughter’s hair - and was really good at it! I remember thinking how awesome that was, but I thought surely I could never do that! Around December of last year I had decided in my mind that I would just need to find a hair salon in Des Moines that could do styles for African girl’s hair. I had heard it was extremely expensive to go this route, but I really didn’t think there was any other choice since I didn’t grow up in this culture knowing how to do this hair type, and I honestly figured it would be too difficult to learn. Seriously, I never even learned to do the ‘normal’ girl hair things in high school. I never french braided anyone’s hair (except for Barbies when I was little), I never learned how to create prom or homecoming updo’s, heck, I had never even curled anyone else’s hair with a curling iron other than my own! So even the basic ‘white girl hair’ styles were not even in my tool box! Therefore, deciding on the salon option was my way of bringing in some control to the situation and coming up with a plan so that my heart would be less anxious.
Then, something happened. Right after Christmas a new adoptive momma from my church started posting pictures on facebook of styles that she had begun trying on her African daughter’s hair. Here is one of the first styles that she did….
http://www.chocolatehairvanillacare.com/ She said she had learned everything off of the video tutorials and step by step instructions on the website over the past weeks.
So, I started cruising around the website and noticed that there was an entire section for ‘beginners’ just like me! In just 5 minutes of skimming and scanning I learned all sorts of things that I never knew – like one style actually stays in the hair for an average of 4 weeks, and at night they wear sleep caps so that the styles don’t get ruined during tossing and turning on the pillow, and usually only conditioner is used to wash the hair in between styles – not shampoo! I made a mental note that I needed to carve out time to study this website, take notes, and try to sort through all the information over the next few months. But in the mean time, I needed to do something about this giant FEAR I had of even attempting to think that I could do this myself [really it was a fear of failure – I am one of ‘those’ people who usually don’t try something if there is a high percentage that I could fail at it!]. So I scheduled a hair session with this momma and her daughter. For this session I watched as momma Stephanie put yarn extensions in her daughter, Nora’s, hair. I learned that this is a great style for little girls who are patiently waiting for their short fro’s to grow out – but who really want long hair in the mean time! Even if you will never get the opportunity to style ‘kinky-curly’ hair, you HAVE to watch this video tutorial below! Seriously, this is just the neatest thing! Yarn extensions are actually just that – a package of yarn that you buy at Walmart:
How cool is that?!?! Here is a finished picture of the yarn extensions all in…
here for the link to the step by step tutorial all written out with pictures.
Sitting in on a hair session with Stephanie and Nora was honestly the first step that God used in giving me the courage to feel like, “ok, I can do this!”….not because it looked easy, but just getting to watch another mom who had figured this out and could be a support system and teacher for me really took my fear down a notch.
After my first hair session I had thought I would start studying the website and trying to memorize the different how to’s. But then I wised up and decided instead to print off the posts….and now I have a big ‘ol binder with step-by-step instructions for some different styles right at my fingertips. So far I have only looked into the beginner styles. The website has some pretty fancy and creative styles that are definitely for more advanced learners. But here is maybe the best part – like I said above, I had never learned to french braid. Every time I have tried to do even a simple french braid on Jayla’s hair I haven’t been able to get it tight enough, and it’s not worth leaving in. But on the website I came across a technique called a flat rope twist. It has a similar look as a corn row (mini french braid), however you are only dealing with two strands of hair instead of three. In my opinion, ANYONE could do these! Earlier this week I watched the video tutorial which I have posted below. Then I grabbed Jayla’s life-size princess doll with a head full of fake hair and tried it out, and I could do it! HOO-RAH! I also realized that it was an entirely different ball-game from just watching to actually doing. I wanted to get some more practice in and get the technique etched in my brain. With a bribe of Dairy Queen ice cream and some movie time, I found a willing subject!
I set out to somewhat copy this diagonal parting pattern:
Honestly, I started off thinking that I was only going to be able to practice a few rows on Jayla, because I wasn’t sure how she would deal with the pulling/twisting of her hair since she isn’t used to it. But, surprisingly she sat still and cooperated quite easily for me! After the first few rows I decided to keep going and see if she would sit long enough for me to do the whole style – and she did! It took us about 2.5 hours (with a lunch break in the middle), a few tears on the tiny rows next to her ears, and a couple of runs around the house to stretch our legs and then we were done – just in time for nap time!
-Wetting the sections of hair with a spray bottle first made it much easier to work with because it gave the hair some grip and kept the twists tighter
-I needed to tightly secure down the other parts of hair that I wasn’t working with at the moment, otherwise little pieces would get integrated into the rows and my parts would get all messed up
-I needed to map out the diagonal part lines better beforehand. I sort of eyeballed the pattern that I wanted because I didn't think she was going to sit there long enough for me to do the whole style anyways. The parts didn’t turn out quite as crisp as it could have if I would have taken more time to map it out using clips at the beginning. I also had wanted to do skinnier sections/rows which could have been planned better during the parting.
-I need to grow out my pinky nail! It definitely would have come in handy as a sort of straight edged comb when adding the hair as I went down the row.
Even though I have a long ways to go, getting to practice this gave me some much-needed confidence, and seeing the finished product actually made me EXCITED to get started on this new hair adventure! I know executing these styles will be much different with the tight, curly texture of our Ghana girl’s hair, but if I can at least train my hands and mind on the styling techniques now, then I think I will be less overwhelmed and stressed about it when they are actually here! I am already less anxious knowing that I have a plan and an idea of what caring for their hair will entail!
I feel like this whole hair thing is another way in which God is showing me that He will EQUIP me IN EVERY WAY for the BIG things and even the LITTLE things so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, I may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
JJ ~ “Mommy, sometimes after I make a basket I can’t stop smiling.”
Justice ~ “Do people really wrestle alligators? Is that real or fake?”
Jayla ~ “How much longer do we have to wait? A couple of whiles?”
JJ ~ “God can do anything! He could make it 5:00 right now if he wanted to!”
Justice ~ Heading to his eye doctor appointment: “Why can’t they just make a shot that you get in your eyes so that you never go blind?”
JJ ~ “Last night I had a dream that my front tooth was wiggly. Jayla what did you dream about?”
Jayla ~ “Ghosts, pirates, and bubble gum!!!!!!!”
Justice ~ At prayer request time one evening: “I want to thank God for giving me a better life.”
Me ~ “Alright, let's get dressed for church.”
Jayla ~ “Is Max going to be at church today?”
Me ~ “Yes I’m sure he will be.”
Jayla ~ “Ok, I’ll go to church then.”
Me ~ “Guess what JJ? You go to school on Friday to practice for Kindergarten!”
JJ ~ “But I don’t know how to do Math yet!!!!”
Me ~ “It’s ok, that’s what school is for – they will teach you how.”
JJ ~ “Oh, so school is like basketball practice?”
Justice ~ “Mommy, you see how in the United States when people turn old their hair turns white? Is my hair going to turn white like that?”
Jayla ~ “My hair is getting longer and longer and soon it will be just like my mommy’s.”
JJ ~ “Well, I’m getting some hair under my arm pits.”
Jayla ~ “My daddy has hair under his arm pits.”
Monday, April 16, 2012
Natalie ~ Senior at Iowa State University, majoring in Early Childhood Education
Before going I thought I knew what poverty was… I thought I knew what to expect. But I didn’t know, because I had never seen beautiful children push each other and fight to get water. I mean, they almost knocked me down when I was trying to give them water. And I didn’t know what it would be like to hold a child in my arms – a child that is so skinny that even though she’s four she looks like, maybe, two years old. Or to see a child so hungry and tired that nothing I can do can make him smile… and all I can do is hold him in my arms and wish that there was more redemption here.
But there were also so many beautiful things. I mean, every single day there was a person, an event, a reminder, something that points to God’s infinite faithfulness and redemption. Every day there was something – the baby that was saved from death, Albert’s fervor for the word of God, Kofi’s passion for orphans, all the times when a child would sit and read story after story after story from my Bible with ten more kids piled around us listening. (This might have just become my very favorite thing in the world to do.)
One of my very favorite moments was the night in Kwahu when I all of a sudden realized (in the midst of blowing bubbles) that we were getting in the van and leaving… with all the kids from the orphanage… to go have a meal with them. A banquet for orphans. We went to the restaurant and I looked down the long table and saw the joy on the faces of these dozens of kids, and I watched them dance – I don’t know if I have ever seen anything more beautiful. It was one of those moments when you literally feel the heart of God rejoicing.
One of the most striking things I have seen so far from all this is a very deep longing to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. This deep longing to see more of Christ’s redemption come to the lives of physically and emotionally hungry children and orphans in Asikuma and Kwahu and Larteh… and more of God’s kingdom to come to the materialism and sometimes relational poverty we have here… and spiritual poverty in so many places. Just to understand this longing and God’s heart more is such an undeserved blessing, and I am so, so humbled and thankful that I could have and learn a small part in that. I am honestly still struggling with what I have seen of how this… pursuing God’s kingdom… is going to be hard and costly and inconvenient but He is also worth it and I’m am so thankful that I was able to go to Ghana and gain a better understanding and vision of that (and a longing to go back)! :)
Friday, April 13, 2012
Loading the tools onto the boat and getting ready to set sail (the guy in the striped shirt off to the right is New Life - the owner of the hotel we stay at)…
Approaching the land…
Here is the view once you are standing on our 2 acres of fish farm land, looking back out to the lake.
Beautiful scenery at dusk…
This trip Chris and Dan spent each day out at the fish farm site constructing the storage units which will hold fish food, nets, and supplies.
Chris fell in love with this little guy named Prince who lives about 200 feet from our fish farm land in a little grouping of mud huts called Klager Village.
Always lots of curious onlookers…
From this point the cages for the fish are being built by a supplier in Ghana. Each of our tripsters who have a share in the fish farm have contributed to buy 78,000 fingerlings (minnows that become tilapia) from a supplier in Ghana. Once the cages are ready they will be installed about 300 feet off-shore. Then each of the cages will be stocked with the fingerling. Right now the target stock date is May 10th. The fingerlings will be dispersed into 7 cages where they will need to be fed 3 times per day by our ‘feeder’ employee. The fish will grow from about 5 grams up to 500 grams. One of our other employees will be a ‘diver’ who will be responsible for clearing the nets from prevalent predators in these waters like this tiger fish that will try to bite through the nets and get themselves some dinner…
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Basically there are 3 long separate buildings of back to back classrooms that are part of the school. We have started upgrading one of the long buildings:
Just for you to compare, here’s a look at one of the other buildings that hasn’t been touched yet:
As part of the building upgrade, last August we began constructing on an additional classroom and library to the end of the school building (construction posts can be found here and here). You can see the addition in this picture there at the end of the building on the left:
Now, onto the progress from this most recent trip. Over the week we were in Ghana the electricity started getting wired (we hired local labor to complete this). Here’s an interior picture of the additional classroom we had constructed next to the library. You can see the white electrical outlets running down the walls ….
This red and black wiring hanging from the unfinished ceiling is where the fans will go….
And here is a look at the inside of the library with the wiring started as well. Since we are now able to also incorporate the computer center, we are waiting until after the electricity hook up and ceiling completion to build the shelves and bring in the books. This picture also shows the new desk chairs that were built….
Lighting on exterior of building – a lightbulb will go in that white holder:
Here’s a look at the new window coverings that had started going up on the classrooms. Each of the windows will have this wire mesh installed on the outside to keep bugs out (hard to see in the picture but it actually has smaller mesh within the squares), as well as the shutters that open and close.
All the classrooms in the entire building will be wired with the electricity, have the window coverings, and will also be getting new doors. The guy making us the doors has his shop right along the street in Asikuma. It’s pretty easy to check in on him! :) He had just started working on the door frames when we stopped by on this particular day.
By the last day of our trip the first load of materials to begin finishing off the ceilings had arrived!
Then yesterday we received one of our regular updates from Ken, one of our in-country employees, and got the following pictures of the completed ceilings that were finished after we left! Yay!
Ceiling and fan in library:
And ceiling in additional classroom – the fans are supposed to be installed in the classroom this week:
This week Jake also held an informational meeting with the 17 Drake students (education majors) that are coming on our January 2013 trip. They actually had over 55 students sign up for the trip but because of logistics we can only take smaller teams. Jake was PUMPED UP as he told me all the educational tools the Drake students will be incorporating when they teach in the school and assist the teachers in enhancing their curriculum. The Drake students will be focusing on literacy and reading comprehension during their time teaching at the school.
It's so exciting to continue to see the results of our labor on the school, and yet we know that the most exciting part of bringing in the books, computers, and Drake team is yet to come! When we set out to start helping this school, these are the types of resources that the teachers had humbly asked us for - it is so fun to watch this all fall into place one piece at a time!