short & sweet
(readers should be advised that the title of this post refers to our trip in October, and not in any way to the length of the post itself.) Hi friends!
This trip to Ghana was amazing. I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. This was our shortest visit yet, and as such we were concerned about travel logistics and accomplishing everything on our To-Do List, but it all worked out beautifully. For example: it normally takes us about 2 hours to get through customs and the baggage claim at the airport in Accra, and we made it out in less than thirty minutes! Ghana has long been remodeling their international airport, so I don't know if this efficiency was the result of operational changes or just a blessing but we were high-fiving all the way out to the car.
We were most looking forward to seeing Sarah Sr. after her year-long absence. It brought us indescribable joy to be greeted by EIGHT laughing, growing, beautiful girls as we arrived at the Yellow House. It wasn't some majestic, slow-motion reunion where we felt fireworks exploding, but an overwhelming sensation of peace and relief. God has been so, so faithful. It takes my breath away. We still have to navigate messy relationships with family members of all the girls, and potential problems will always loom on the horizon, but for now everything feels right in the world and it is worth celebrating every second of every day.
Another reason motivating this trip is that our 2-year lease on the Yellow House expired this October. Social Welfare has always highlighted the fact that we are renters versus owners as a problem, but until now we haven't felt comfortable pursuing other options. We signed another two-year contract, and are going to use that time to explore the possibility of buying land.
Teddy and I have never bought a house in America, much less a foreign country, but given the completely unpredictable dollar-cedi exchange rate and inflation growth, everyone is telling us that it's worth looking into. On one hand, we would love to own land and customize a building that would better accommodate our eight rapidly-growing girls and staff. Because houses in Ghana are made of concrete, our ability to remodel the Yellow House is severely limited, and we have already poured quite a bit of money into it that we will never see again. Additionally, and what excites our Ghanaian staff and Board the most, is that buying would afford us the option to farm, grow a lot of our own food, and invest in the community by donating the excess. Some of our fellow NGO's have taken these steps and are moving towards becoming self-sustaining as a result.
The main obstacle is financial, and so for now, buying land is something that we're pursuing through prayer, and we would love if you would join us in this. Founding Eight Oaks, building it from the ground up, and watching it become a reality convinced us of this: Prayer is EVERYTHING. Our core donors and the high schoolers donated money, and they gave sacrificially, but they PRAYED this organization into existence. They battled and paved the way in the spiritual realm before we set foot in Ghana. Madie was praying for a Sarah and a Gloria months before we bought our plane tickets. That is insane. It's miraculous. And it's a relief. Because whatever resources we lack, we can always pray.
So yes, we covet your prayers as we embark on this road. We are confident that the Lord will provide an answer.
We had such a sweet time with the girls. They gave us an Ewe lesson, we did some homework (they are learning French now!), we played games and read lots of books. On our last night we had a party in the courtyard with candy and bagged water to celebrate their "anniversary" (they arrived at the Yellow House two years ago this November.) I taught them The Electric Slide, they laughed themselves into hysteria at Uncle Teddy's dance moves, and it was really, really fun.
I cannot overemphasize what a great trip this was, despite it being so short we accomplished so much and didn't experience a single hiccup. I truly believe that our good fortune was a result of so many people praying for us and we are so thankful. We appreciate every one of you more than words could ever express! Sunset on our way from Accra to Akatsi after we arrived.
This tomato plant has sprouted up through the concrete since our last visit. I love all of the symbolism and meaning here: look at this little seedling that has found a way to thrive in a seemingly unlivable environment! And not only is it growing, but it is producing good food for others to eat. The Lord makes the name "Eight Oaks" more and more applicable every day to our eight girls.
We missed our mango tree ripening by just a few weeks! Fact: you've not tasted a mango until you've eaten a West African mango. I could eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I have, on occasion.
I am SO HAPPY that our visit coincided with minor rainy season. We woke up on Tuesday to thunder bellowing and lightning flashing. The girls waited until after the storm passed to walk to school so we had a precious extra hour or so to color together.
Teddy's sister Emmie (who is 9) is doing a school project about energy efficiency and called me earlier this week to talk about the way Ghanaians use/conserve energy. The main thing I thought of was the way they utilize rainwater. They are very resource-conscious because the power and water are often turned off unexpectedly.
You have to excuse the terrible quality of this photo so I can share this story: this was our last night and the girls performed a special dance that Mercy had taught them. A group of dancers had worn white gloves at church, recently, and, feeling inspired, the girls raided a box of medical gloves that Kate had left behind in one of the cabinets. Ingenious!
Again, we thank everyone for their prayers and well-wishes on this last trip from the bottom of our hearts. Please continue to pray with us for the future of Eight Oaks! We love you all.