Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Word of Encouragement for the Holiday

Nicanor is the long time leader of a ministry in Nepal and Northern India where the work is hard and the persecution real. He wrote a devotional this week to encourage us to keep on keeping on. I wanted to post a portion of it here for you

A man of God called Gregory of Nazianzus  AD 381 wrote about Jesus this way;

He began His ministry by being hungry, yet He is the Bread of Life.
Jesus ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water.
Jesus was weary, yet He is our rest. Jesus paid tribute, yet He is the King. 

Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons.
Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears.
Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world.
Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd.
Jesus died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One Year Ago

One year ago:
I did not have a grandson, my mom was buried and Peter’s tour was just completed.
I had visited NYC to see the Thanksgiving Parade from the park near Becky and Mark’s apartment on the upper east side and I was dreading all the hoopla that can be Christmas.
One year ago, Ruthanne was coming home from a semester in Vienna and normal holiday shopping and comings and goings continued. A group heading to Ghana in January was meeting to pray and prepare for service in that part of the world. That was only one year ago.

Then on January 13th, sixteen met in the Chicago airport for the first time as a whole team from Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona. Unity and charity were the marks of the day! The team served well and worked hard in the blazing sun. Children were loved and sponsored and hugged. A new church building was begun where a new body of Christ already existed. How good is the Lord God Almighty to give us a glimpse of His activity in West Africa.

Ten months ago or so, Mercy and Faustina got visas to come to the USA. Patience Vormawor experienced a measure of healing and gave testimony of the Lord’s grace in her life. In the USA there were churches visited, gifts shared, hospitality generously applied as we toured Arkansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. The roads were well lit, there was water in the taps, and the fellowship was sweet. While I do not remember the count of sponsorships, I do know lives were touched and prayers answered.

When I look at the calendar I notice that haircut, dentist and doctor appointments were made all mixed in with meals shared with friends and travels. My husband was in Costa Rica before joining the throngs in Europe trying to fly home under a cloud of ash. Peter arrived from Kenya and shared his smile with us. His heart for ministry is infectious. How he loves the Lord Jesus!

And I found out a new baby was growing inside my first baby. How can it be that new life comes along with such hope? Weddings and funerals dot the calendar as summer arrived. Birthday celebrations and anniversaries remembered. Staff meetings where we can look in each other’s eyes and draw on the white board. Plans made for the Lord to accomplish.

Almost suddenly, it was July and the last Premier Rally with Joan Horner. Followed immediately with a children’s group bringing quarters for kids in Kibera slum. Perhaps there were seeds planted in those hearts for generosity like Joan’s to grow. That week I found out that a container of quarters worth over $1000 is heavy! And that Peter can be an influence in person and on film.

And so it goes. The baby grew inside of Becky while work and life continued on. Lee went to India, Rody and Teri went to Sri Lanka. And Romania and Turkey and Turkey and Ghana and South Africa. You fill in the blanks for who went which way when.

William Mark Riebesehl arrived, not a day early but right on time. Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto the God who makes it all possible. Every day ordained for me was written in your book.

Comfort and Gifty blew into town with energy and passion for the task at hand. They prayed for more meetings and saw Him provide. They asked You for more sponsors and You heard their cries. They marveled at the gifts that were double or triple the expected amounts. And went home with bags full, fuller and filled to the fullest. Pressed down, and overflowing.

So thank you Lord. For clear roads and safe travel. For warm, open hearts willing to join us in the  ministry. For the miracle of new life and eternal life. For children like Gifty who found hope because someone saw a picture and gave a dollar a day. For the new website and strength to do the hard work. For Thomas and Benhan, Daniela and Martha, for Nicanor and Justus and all the names of those who give and give and give and give believing that You are the source of it all.

Thank you for being able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we would even dare to ask or imagine. Even just one year ago.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Neighbors, Funerals, Mice and Friendship

My sweet, kind neighbor died on his 70th birthday. We got the call and watched the cars come and go all day. It was a quiet home-going, but all of us in the surrounding homes are gonna really miss Tom. The funeral last night was a wonderful reminder of his steady, faith-filled life. This morning has dawned as one of the most beautiful of the summer and the private family burial is happening up in West Bend in about an hour. I woke up praying for the family and thinking of how much I miss my own mom.

It has been a year since we knew she would not be with us much longer. The weather and season are strong reminders of the swirling chaos of last August. The ache of missing Patty McMullan felt overwhelming when the door bell rang about 8am. I was all dressed for the day (kind of surprising) and answered the back door wondering what could possibly be up.

Barb walked in all out of breath, we hugged and I cried for missing my mom. Then Barb reported her reason for the unexpected early visit. She had discovered three dead mice in her washer. She was really looking for Lee who had already gone for the day, or Drew (my 23 year old who loves critters of all sorts). Oh well, Drew is out of town and unavailable for mouse removal duty.
Guess who that left for the accomplishment of the job? YEAH... me.

After 24 years as my neighbor, a night of sitting together, sharing kleenex and stories at Tom's funeral, and a myriad of other friendship building experiences, how could I say 'no' to this small expression of care? Barb has bailed me out of many troubles and now it was my turn to do the same. You have to understand that this is one tough lady who faces all sorts of harsh circumstances with incredible resolve. Barb's husband is essentially house bound after a fall in the yard a few years ago. She handles all the demands of caring for him and the house with incredible commitment and tenacity. I can only hope to be such a faithful wife. Barb meant it when she said her vows and she is living it out in front of me. "In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, til death do us part"

So mouse removal was part of my morning. Their four little carcasses are in an ice cream bucket at the bottom of my driveway ready to be taken with the trash to the landfill today.

When I woke up today and prayed for the Lord to order my steps, give me a heart to follow close after Him and hear His voice, mice in the washer were not part of my plan. Sometimes love in action looks completely different than my lofty ideals.

Thanks for the lesson, Lord.

Matthew 22: 34-39
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

In School

Part of my job, (which is a really great job by the way) is to plan, implement, and follow up on what we refer to as tours. What that seems to mean is that I meet folks who are not from the USA and race with them across the USA to talk to just about anyone who will listen and tell the incredible true stories of what God is doing in their part of His world.  The days run together and the travel can be exhausting, all while the stories go deeper and deeper into my heart.
I recently decided that actually this might be God's way of putting me into just the school He knows I need. I get to sit quietly listening to the stories of faith in action over and over again. I don't think He is grading me, but I do know He is expecting me to be teachable and learn something in the middle of all the meetings. Also I get a great opportunity to ask questions about the truths I am discovering from the folks who are telling the stories of faith. It is an unending adventure in which I regularly discover my own tiny bit of faith being stretched far beyond what I ever imagined.

In March I met my friend Mercy and her translator, Faustina in New York City to being a month on the road. Mercy is a courageous young woman who comes to tell her story about living in slavery for over 16 years in a remote West African village. We have traveled together before and I was so happy to welcome her back to the USA. While planning for our first overnight, my daughter found a great internet rate at a beautiful old hotel that would work for us to find food after the long travel and have easy access to transport the next day. No driving in NYC for me! Going to the Roosevelt in the middle of Manhattan during a rainstorm, I stood dripping wet in the beautiful lobby trying to check into the room. As the desk clerk began the process she commented on how lovely and unusual Mercy's name was. "She is a freed slave who got to choose her own name when she was released," I quietly relayed. Tears rolled down the cheeks of this sweet lady's face. "Let me see about a different room for her" she said looking at the computer screen. Marcia went on to ask me if there was any way to help the fight for freedom in Mercy's part of the world. Oh yes! Over 3,000 women and their children are free but there are many more waiting without hope. That is why I am here meeting the ladies at the airport. We are always wanting to tell of the plight of girls like Mercy, given as an atonement for the sins of the family into a lifetime of servitude.
When I got the keys to our room, rode the elevator up to the 14th floor and saw the fabulous upgraded 2 room/ 2 bath suite on the corner of 45th Street, the tears would not stop. Mercy was not even in the USA and the way was being prepared for her. How lavishly God poured out blessing as this brave soul got on a plane to fly to the other side of the world in order to plead for women and children still caught in bondage. The tour began with reminders for me about His watch care. I hope that lesson went deep into my being!
It is possible to check out this grand hotel for yourself if you would like. I wish I had taken more pictures, but the website has plenty to give the feel of this amazing place.

Just in case I was not getting the message, I had lesson #2. As I got back to the lobby, I was confused about which of the many doors to go out for the fastest way to my daughter's apartment. Remember it was pouring rain, cold and windy. The guy at the elevators in a hotel uniform seemed the most logical to ask for directions. He was gracious enough to give instructions to help me get on my way. As we ended our conversation, I commented that he had a great accent. "Where are you from?" "Ghana" he replied. "GHANA?! I am hear to prepare for some ladies to arrive from Ghana in a few hours at Kennedy Airport. A woman and her translator are coming. She is from the remote Volta region and only speaks her tribal language."
Can you already guess the end of this story? Foster is also from the Volta region, has lived in New York for over 20 years, but speaks the same language and wanted to bring greetings to the ladies. We exchanged phone numbers and although he was not working the next day he called to welcome Mercy to the USA in her own language. Many times as we traveled that month, Faustina and Mercy told the story of their great welcome to the USA.

For many years I have prayed to affirm the promises in Psalm 139. You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 

 The tour began with affirmation that we were in exactly the place prepared for us before hand. The Lord Jesus who rescued Mercy from the depths of despair was watching over us, hemming us in, preparing the way. Thank you Father for showing it clearly to the one with little faith.
I believe, help my unbelief.

Faustina, myself, and Mercy at a church in Michigan the next weekend. Would you like to hear more? Check out innetworkusa.org
Look for the Trokosi of West Africa link

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Short Trip to Ghana: A report

Sorting through the over 3000 pictures from a 12 day trip to West Africa provides a lot of potential for story telling. True stories, mind you, but too many to repeat. Not to mention that the most vivid of the memories cannot be captured digitally. You just can’t get the sounds and smells and sweat onto a SD card no matter how many gigabits you buy. But today I will try anyway to put a bit of it down. Just realize there are limits and expect to hear some pieces again and again.

We met at Chicago O’hare’s airport with all the fights on time and Jim with camera in hand. Introductions were made and Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan folks were easily bonded. After all, we were going to Ghana! Lufthansa treated us well and we had an easy transition in Frankfurt.

By mid morning we were off to see the fishing villages’ ministry to families at risk. How wonderful to broaden our understanding of the scope of the work first hand. As usual there were many questions answered patiently by the staff. Touring around Accra was next and lunch at the Chinese place was included. The team was starting to get to know each other. “Get to know you” games were part of lunch and the inclusive fun-loving nature of these folks was going to mark the whole week with joy.

No complaining, lots of joking, serious, fun, hard working, open and kind would describe our group. They came ready to serve and learn all that they could this week.

Adidome’s guesthouse managed so well by Edna was ready for us and we had dinner, water and electricity. It was Friday in Ghana, what more could you want?

Saturday: Workday

The team was teachable and wanted to do the most work with their time. Pastor Jacob was our guide all week. Jifa was our construction manager. Seeing Patience in Adidome was a great, happy surprise. We were taken out to see the site and get started. It had been raining so we walked the last mile into the village. Piles of sand needing moving; 5 shovels and one wheelbarrow let us get started in Kanuwloe.

Sunday: Church and Beach

Someone decided we could stay at the vocational school for church. Sweet moments as we listened to worship, shared our names, sang and prayed. One of our team members, John was struggling with eye issues. The messages were on ‘open the eyes of our heart’ and ‘Jesus healing the blind man’. Patience shared with the group about her healing and strength. We asked for prayer at the end of the service for John and the congregation prayed and prayed for him. By evening he was vastly improved and able to work the week. John led the work team and was invaluable to the construction.

We got to meet the staff of the INVTC which included Mercy and 3 of her children. Who could imagine the changes in her life over the last 10 years?

Beach time was the next order of business. It was awesome and so unexpected. We relaxed and played the afternoon away. THANKS!

Monday – Thursday: Work on the church and play with the school kids.

With amazing adaptability, the team shoveled, mixed cement, carried block, played ball, sang, observed classrooms, taught verses and did crafts all week. The routine ended up being leave by 7am to get to the construction before the heat of the day. Then we did rotations through the school. 10:30am break we played with the kids after they ate their lunch. 11-12 we did the lesson and craft with the preschool kids who are dismissed at noon to walk home. There were 70 children of all ages and the location of their class varied every day. Outside, inside, under the pavilion, divided into 2 groups, we laughed and sang and colored and glued with these little ones.

Noon lunch for us and then, 1-2pm, we divided into teams of 2 assigned to each class. Our evenings were spent preparing crafts for the kids and going over lessons after dinner. Ideas were shared and children were loved. One group suggested putting fingerprints for each child in their class on a prayer card, followed by writing a special verse. Lots of pictures, questions and answers were included in our day.

Our theme was Genesis 1 and 2. We sang about the world God made and celebrated the people He created. By Friday we each had friends for life and memories of a lifetime.

Of course the construction work continued and each day team members would comment on the amount of work accomplished because of the co-operation between village, local construction crew and our team. It will be ‘their church’ that we helped a little bit to begin. Blessing.

As we gathered to pray that last afternoon, Jacob reminded us of the importance of a church in each community. Kanolwe has no pastor at the moment, so we prayed for the person God would bring, for the congregation that will gather and the foundation built on Jesus Christ.

Friday: Farming village adventure

We travelled with Silvanus to see the work of the farming project. We met a fetish priest and his 8 wives and extended family, brought greetings and other sundries. Then we had a chance to ask questions about the farming in this part of the world. Cultures collided and we walked away wondering about the future in this sort of place. Silvanus did a great job of listening and teaching and explaining.

As we got back to Adidome, we packed up and got ready to leave early on Saturday am. We also had a tour of INVTC that helped fit together some of the pieces of the puzzle. Fabric and clothes, jewelry and beads were purchased as many felt they wanted to support the good work of I.N. Ghana. From this team 7 children were sponsored, as well as a church planter.

Saturday: Market, dinner and flight

The Ghana staff tagged teamed to make sure we had enough help at the market. Drums, jewelry, soda and cravings were all bought in good order on a hot day in the sun. Walter and Marian, Edmond and Cromwell, and Patience joined us for our last supper in Ghana. We had some adventures flying home but all made it in good time. Again the airlines treated us well and we only were short one piece of luggage, which turned up a few days later.

The takeaways for me are many. I would recommend that each team be multi-generational if possible. Eli (13 years) and Dayna (16 years) added so much to our adventure. Eli loved finding each and every critter, while Dayna had kids flocking to her. Their energy and perspective was so welcome to our team. The variety of life experience worked well as we ranged from 13 to 54 and I was glad to see each team member bring their own flavor and gifts to the group.

I also liked the size of our team. We were able to rotate through the school and cover the construction needs because there were enough of us. Thirteen seems like a large group, but it worked well in these circumstances. Having time to process during our drives and devotions helped too. Each person put effort into getting to know each other and sharing their perspectives on the trip.

There can’t be enough expression of thanks to the I.N. Ghana staff. They make all the difference in a trip such as this. As the USA team learned to trust the ‘experts’ in their home turf, it became a new way to learn and grow. Each encounter with Ghanaians added to the richness of the trip. THANK YOU

Creativity Abounds

New student working to dye fabric at the International Needs Vocational Training Center

My friend Sue has come up with a way to make use of scraps of material created at the vocational training center in Adidome, West Africa. Women here work without electricity over a fire to tie-dye and batik fabric to sell. These are women at risk with very few options to find ways to feed their families. They live in remote, rural eastern Ghana. The fabrics are unique, beautiful creations.

Sue is using scraps of this special fabric to make one of a kind note cards. It is a great recycle/ reuse project for folks who do stamping and scrapbooking. All the supplies are donated from extras that are available and then the cards can be sold at events or shown as ways to use the fabric for sale. Sue has written a sheet with instructions on it about how to make the cards with a short paragraph about I.N. Network USA. All proceeds will got to benefit the Vocational School.

Sue has already recruited several other card makers who are thrilled to offer their talents to this good cause. Every card is unique and each one is more interesting than the other. They will be available in sets of 4, come with envelopes and a sticker on the back with I.N.'s contact information. And I am wondering if this mom of 6 has come up with another way to raise awareness and funds to keep the good work in West Africa going! Sure hope so

Monday, February 1, 2010


I have decided it is really easier to write about a trip while you are on the trip. Coming home presents a whole new set of issues and distractions. Like jet lag and family, laundry and cooking. Or even snow!
I arrived home from a wonderful trip to Ghana to find my house in a new state of happy chaos. Ruthanne was madly packing to return to school in Minnesota, paint had changed the color of 2 rooms, furniture was rearranged and Becky was coming to visit from New York City. Joyful times indeed, but there has not been much 'process' time. While trying to live in the moment, I am also committed to the remembering. The Lord showed us an outpouring of His grace as our team worked in a remote village. Friendships were forged and memories made. I want to put some of it down in print.
For today, a few pictures will have to do. Can you catch a glimpse of the fun? Life lessons abound.