on the move

"How was your trip?" It's so difficult to answer that question in a concise way! I am not a parent, but I imagine it's like answering the question, "how are your kids?". I could talk for hours about our visit to the Yellow House and the million tiny things that happened while we were there: how the girls are growing and changing, about some of our fascinating  conversations with the staff about the current political climate in the US and in Ghana following two dramatic presidential elections, about our visits with our neighbors, about the evolution of our relationship with a certain social welfare officer, about the girls' families, about the food we ate, about the fact that even after multiple trips we still know so little about Ghana, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

I am so grateful for these images--because a picture truly does say a thousand words, and I'm able to share these instead of trying to articulate and describe our trip. It's a bit of a cop-out, maybe, but I imagine it's also more fun for our donors, friends, and family. So without further ado:

Lunch the first day: akple and palm nut stew Mama sorting beans. Many hands make light work, etc. Mercy hard at work, as ever. God's Way tending the akple. Regina : ) This one of Dina is out of focus, but I love it because it captures her WONDERFUL laugh. Some of the girls are super interested in photography! I NEVER shoot in black and white in Ghana, because the colors are so beautiful, but they were really curious about the different filters. Including this one because of Gloria in the background. She has always been kind of a ham, but she was in FINE FORM on this trip. I laughed so hard. Gloria and Sarah Jr. Playing the hand-slap game. I'm pretty easy to beat, but Uncle Teddy is undefeated. MANGOOOOO SEASOOOOOOOOOON Richlove Ready for school! Goofs. Heading to school. I LOVE getting to share this time with the girls. Teddy and I were wondering if they might, at some point, ask us to stop walking them down this road--the same way a teenager asks his/her parents to drop them off a block away from the movie theater. I don't know if that day is coming, but until it does we're going to savor these little moments! Friday uniforms cleaned and ready-to-go. It seems like we are constantly learning and experiencing new things in Ghana. Mercy brought these home from the market and called them blackberries--the fuzzy part is a shell that yields a really delicious, sweet, chewy nut-fruit. We had never tried them before! Noticing our fascination, Mercy showed me the neighbor's tree that produces the fruit. Fresh crabs! Market day always yields exciting purchases. Thumb wars with Gloria. Fried yams, plantains, and pepe. SO GOOD. A friend at my parents church bought 8 dolls--one for each of the girls--and we brought them over on this trip. I took a video of their reaction, but let's just say there was a lot of screaming. Best day ever! Praying before school. "Mama, bye bye! Be safe!" It's always funny the photos I find myself coming back to. I just love this one--I love that Gloria turned around to give one last wave, I love the palm trees, I love the other kids on their way to school. Sigh. Happy heart. Home. We spent an AMAZING morning with Bernard and Celestine a few days into our trip. They have finally finished their house and have displayed some pictures we've never seen before. This is Bernard as a young fox! They brought out a photo album and we talked about their marriage, all of the kids they've raised, their personal histories...Bernard's parents practiced voodoo, but he started attending church as a young boy. He became a Christian and diligently shared the Gospel with his family. One day, in her 90's, his mother had a dream and called him on the phone--she wanted to accept Christ and for Bernard to baptize her in the river by her house. We saw some pictures taken on this momentous day--my retelling certainly doesn't do the story justice. Bernard has been saving for and building this house for THIRTY YEARS. This is the notebook where he kept every transaction. The day they started building (20 years ago) he wrote, "Ground broken and foundation laid--Glory to God!" Bernard is such an amazing man. I wish you all could meet him. His faithfulness and diligence in building this house--his love for Celestine--his provision for his family and for the TEN non-biological kids he and Celestine have taken in and raised as their own--have inspired and moved us beyond words. I cannot imagine a better leader for Eight Oaks. Elementary school recess! We don't even drink soda in the States, but we LOVE having Malta in Ghana! I'm so proud of this girl and the woman she is becoming. Sarah Jr. Feets. We journeyed to visit Collins and the triplets on this trip (for more info about this, click here. ) Juliet, Justine, and Juliana. The sweetest girls. Destiny has such a heart for people in difficult situations. He has been visiting several families in the villages around Akatsi for years now: when we pulled into this little compound all of the kiddos came running to see him. Teddy helping Dina and Sarah Jr. bag the akple. Sarah Sr. It's funny when I remember how intimidated they all (well--maybe with the exception of Gloria or Sarah Jr.) used to be when I brought out the Big Camera. Clearly that has worn off. Friday uniforms! Such a ham! CUTIE PIE! This is one of our neighbors. She was itty bitty the last time we visited, but on this trip she was calling out to us every time we walked by. "YAVU, YAVU!" She always wanted to share her food or shake our hands. This book has been on my to-read list since it came out last year but the library wait list is like 6 months long. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas (thanks Diane!) and I've been saving it for this trip. The story largely takes place IN Ghana, beginning with the Cape Coast Castle in the 1700's, and it was an amazing experience to read it on the front porch of the Yellow House. Presidents of the FanIce fan club. Love, love, love the shoes lined up by the back door. And the girls doing their chores, of course. Regina making good use of the hole in the screen. Teddy is casually TRYING to learn Ewe--because so few people speak it, globally, it's been difficult to find resources for an English-speaker, BUT we found a handbook online that the Peace Corps gives to their volunteers. It's actually meant for people in Togo, so there are limitations to how effective it is, but it's a start! We brought it along and the girls (and Mama) got a good laugh at our butchered pronunciation.

See above regarding how comfortable they've gotten with picture-taking. The downside? They rarely pose and simply SMILE for pictures anymore. The upside? We get these "unscripted" gems that make me laugh every time I see them. They still use Ewe a lot when we visit, and I imagine the whispers when I asked them to put their heads in these holes translated to "why does Auntie always ask us to do this dumb stuff?" One of the BEST Ghanaian snacks: roasted plantains, groundnuts, and fried yams. More candid treasures. We brought a lot of Easter treats to share on this trip--the Cadbury eggs were a HUGE hit but the Peeps were met with mixed reviews. They were praised for their chicken shape, but when asked what they thought of the taste Richlove made a face and said, "ehh--the sugar is too much!". Agreed. Regina, Sarah Jr., and Gloria. Dancing on the porch. My favorite. We usually leave on Friday, so it's been awhile since we've seen a Saturday wash day. Richlove. These photos don't show it, but there's a definite finesse, or technique, required when washing your clothes by hand. No surprise, Mercy always silently shakes her head when I try to do it myself, but the girls have it down pat. God's Way, Dina, Regina. A full clothesline. Well, it's happened. God's Way has reached my height. Our wonderful, dear partner, sister, and friend: Mercy. We thank God for her every single day. No one could be a better family to our girls than her and Mama. I took this on my phone so the lighting is TERRIBLE, but we brought over a lot of books on this trip that either took place in Ghana or were African in their themes/settings. The girls love to read and Teddy lets them pick two books every night--this is the usual scene, unless the power is out, and then everyone huddles around a flashlight. It was SO FUN to read books this time around that made references to pounding fufu, riding tro-tros, or gathering palm nuts for soup. If you donated one of these books, first of all, THANK YOU, and secondly, be assured that they are being put to good use:)

One of the things I appreciate about this blog is the opportunity to reflect on our trips a week or so after the fact... when I've become used to HVAC, clean water that comes out of a faucet, and regular electricity. THE Jeff Miller says that living intentionally in America is like swimming against a current: everything about our lives here is comfortable and it's so easy to become complacent. I have so many distractions at home--a routine, a cell-phone, a Netflix account, and if I'm not careful all of these things designed to make my life simpler and more comfortable drown out the voice of God, and before I know it I'm swept away by the current, aimlessly heading downstream. Ghana strips all of that "fluff" away. It silences everything that doesn't matter--it exposes my flaws and selfishness in a very harsh light. I need Ghana more than it could ever "need" me. Teddy and I daily voice how grateful we are to know these girls and be a small part of their lives--they have changed us for the better. Ghana has changed us for the better.

Sitting here, looking through these pictures, I am reminded anew of the Kingdom of God, and that it is being brought into fruition daily, no matter our GPS coordinates. Thank you for being a part of the journey with us and for encouraging us to live deeply and in tune with the Spirit whether we are in Wichita or Akatsi. Last night at church a passage from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was mentioned: it's when the children first arrive in Narnia and Mr. Beaver meets them in the forest:

The Beaver became silent and gave one or two very mysterious nods. Then, signaling the children to stand as close as they possibly could, he added in a low whisper-

“They say Aslan is on the move."

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different.... At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

Be encouraged, friends. Jesus is on the move.