My Life Verse

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teaching in Africa

Teaching in Africa is VERY different than teaching in America in many ways. School begins around 8:00 a.m. and ends around 2:00 p.m. Students come late to class and even the teachers do, too. (I am guilty of this, too) Teachers sleep during class. Students sleep during class. Students don't care about learning (most of them) Class sizes are larger (37) in most cases. Students hi one another. Teachers "cane" students for not doing their homework or whatever reason they decide. That is when teachers use a "cane" / stick to hit children. Students come and go to class as they please. Students stand and greet you when you enter the classroom. "You Are Welcome, Madame. How are you?" Age range of students vary because many students repeat the class when they don't pass. To sum it all up, there is no consistency with school so it makes sense that all of the above is happening. I am not known as Ms. Elder, but instead Madame Katie.

My role as a teacher in Ghana has been inconsistent. I didn't know what it should like like and even though I have just less than two weeks left, I am still figuring out what I can do to help the school. I've been going with Becka to Anglican school. It is the poorest of the poor. Honestly, it is really hard because I want to make a huge impact and change as much as I can for the better but that is unrealistic at this point. Maybe when I get home I will be able to reflect and pray more about it and God will guide me with what is next in regards to me teaching in Africa in the future. One thing too is that I'm recognizing I can't do everything so I've got to find one thing that I can do and make an impact.

My experiences with teaching in Africa so far are as follows.

First, I observed Becka teaching class 5 (5th grade). The students had a good day and a not so good day, meaning one day they were interested in learning and behaving better and the other day they didn't care and misbehaved often. It seemed as though Becka did more disciplining than teaching. She shouted at them often (seems necessary here though to catch their attention and the culture generally speaks louder anyways). Some students were sent outside to weed (cut weeds with a machete) until after break as a consequence for misbehaving or not listening to the directions from the teacher. At one point, Becka sent all of the kids who were wanting to learn at the front of the class. It was basically one third of the class. The back half of the class were supposed to listen still, but she wasn't acknowledging them. Becka's class had to memorize a poem and had 3 weeks to do so because she was busy with the Talking Bible project. Only four of the students were able to complete the poem and say it all.

Second, I spent time in class 1 (first grade). I am not even sure how I ended up in that class but the teacher is very great. She teaches well and enjoys teaching. She wants to be there. I helped her learn the days of the week and months of the year songs and teach it to her class. It was so cute to hear the children sing these songs especially when I left the classroom and they were still practicing it. It was rewarding for sure. I felt like I accomplished something and could go home happy knowing that I made a small difference in one classroom at Anglican. I continue to go to this class whenever I go to school. The teacher and I went to buy school materials and I created books for the students to practice writing the letters of the alphabet. Being in this woman's class has been nothing but a good experience. Her students want to learn and she doesn't cane them.



Lastly, I taught class 4 (4th grade). I only taught them for a short time but it was when they had math problems on the board. They were doing multiplication problems so I helped them with it. Then the teacher came in and it was the man who enjoys caning. I told him I was finished and he said I could stay but I didn't know what else to do. Later I saw him cane someone and it broke my heart. I don't think there is any change I can make to that because it is "their culture" and they think it's effective. I don't want to sit back and watch it happen because that seems as if I am accepting it. Maybe I will question why they do it and explain what it is teaching the students.

Overall, teaching in Africa thus far has been quite an experience. I was shocked and overwhelmed by what I saw the first day I went to school. I am still blown away by it but I understand more of why it is this way. Teachers, imagine your toughest student without support multiplied by your entire class. I've gained a new appreciation for American schools since I've been here. I am actually looking forward to teaching in the states when I return. I recognize some things will remain the same such as students who don't listen, but I see that in a whole new way now. I definitely want to come back to Africa and still teach here, but I'm just not sure what that looks like yet. I will be reflecting and praying as I return home to pursue that more. As of the rest of my time teaching in Africa, I'll be spending it in class one. Tomorrow will probably be my last day because we are going out of town this weekend and next week the students have exams and we are following up on the Talking Bible Project.

Embrace every moment.

There are many things that I've experienced here that pictures don't do justice. I am certainly taking photos but it is mostly to show you all and look back on. There are many moments where I feel God telling me to simply embrace each moment because you can't turn back time.

Last Saturday, I was enjoying a peaceful walk through the rainforest to see monkeys and a waterfall. It was absolutely beautiful. I felt the Lord tell me enjoy this very moment while I was walking. Even when a young girl held my hand God reminded me how precious that is and that I can't duplicate that very moment. It made me think about parents who have children and blog about them or share about cute things the children say or do that are priceless. :)

On Sunday, I was walking to church and carrying the youngest girl from the Orphanage on my back while holding another boy's hand the entire time. Again, a precious moment that the Lord reminded me to embrace. On the way home from church, I was walking with all 27 kids and we stopped at their teacher/tutor's house. He broke his leg playing soccer and we were stopping there to pray for him. It took me a while before I understood all of that, but it was so neat to squeeze all the children into his small room and be able to pray for this man. Then I asked one of the boys to pray for him as well.

Becka and I went to a town that we hadn't really visited before and not too many white people visit apparently. The children were touching our skin and rubbing themselves as if they would take some of our lighter skin color and put it on theirs so that they could be lighter. It was super cute. They kept touching us, and wanted to be holding our hands or something at all times.

The other night I was upstairs on the phone with a friend. After I got off, I heard some people singing. Churches are close by and everywhere so I assumed there was a church service going on. When I went downstairs, I realized it was actually all of the children in the Orphanage singing. I picked up the smallest girl who was sleeping and rocked her in my arms as the children sang "I am so glad for this day, I am so glad for this day, I thank you, I thank you, I thank you for my life, I thank you, I thank you, I thank you for this day" in English and Ewe. Another moment where I did not have my camera and it was pouring rain outside so I could not get my camera. I was forced to embrace this moment and it was well worth it. :)

Since my last blog, things have changed greatly. I feel much better and have a new attitude and mindset. I officially changed my flight so I am coming home one month earlier than my original plan. This means I only have 1 1/2 weeks left here in Ghana. I feel very good about this decision and look forward to reflecting on everything as I travel home. I leave Ghana July 25th and arrive in the states on July 26th. I am guessing that changing my departure date has contributed to my new mind and Spirit since now I only have a short time left in Ghana. I am really enjoying it and will miss it. I also believe it is the many prayers and words of encouragement that I have received which have also greatly contributed to this change. THANK YOU if you are and have been praying for me and sending encouraging words. I really appreciate them all.

So, my encouragement to you is to EMBRACE EVERY MOMENT. Don't let anything slip past you and don't regret not doing something because you don't feel like it or whatever excuse you may make. Embrace each day that is given to you and embrace each moment that is before you, wherever it is and whatever it is you are doing. This is a great lesson I've learned here and I look forward to bringing back home with me. I hope that as I return I am able to continue with it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Homesick.




It’s been a little over two weeks now that I have been in Ghana and not a day goes by that I am missing home. Just to be honest. Living here is much harder than I thought.  In fact, the challenges that I wrote on my prayer list have not been as challenging as I thought they would be. (Maybe that is because I have all you faithful prayer warriors praying for me) But, what I find the most challenging is being far from friends and family and being “alone”. I never would have thought that the biggest hindrance for me during my trip to Africa would be homesickness.

I remember back to when I was home preparing for this trip and everything was coming together. The finances, the encouragement, the scriptures, the prophetic words…there was no question that God’s will for me was for me to come to Ghana and stay for an extended time after my team headed home. And, now that I am here, I am experiencing tremendous amounts of warfare and daily wondering what I am doing here. I left home calling myself Davida, a woman after God’s heart.

It’s pretty amazing how challenging it is to literally live by faith. I came to Ghana solely because God told me to go. I said yes to His calling. Sure, I love kids. Sure, I love Africa. Sure, I love serving God. But, the main reason I came to Ghana was because God told me to go and I was being obedient to Him. It seemed easy to say yes especially because everything fell into place. Little did I know what I was in for after my team left- loneliness, lack of passion for Africa, desire to be home, and questioning what my role is in staying for two months.

It took me some time but I finally realized that I cannot do this on my own and I need God’s help to make it through each and every day that I am here in Ghana. I learned that in order to do so, I must spend time listening to worship music, journaling, praying, and reading my Bible. Just as these are spiritual disciplines at home, they are the same here too. I noticed a change in my attitude and day when I chose to put God first in the morning.

I also learned that even though I am remaining connected to God, there is still a spiritual battle going on that I am entangled in. Spiritual warfare is something that I read about prior to coming and even experienced at home. However, I am on the frontline of the battlefield out here right now. Satan is not happy that I am here and he is doing everything in his power to remove me from completing God’s purpose for me here in Ghana.

Today I experienced the worst of this spiritual warfare. I became incredibly homesick, the most yet. I was ready for my mom to change my flight so that I could come home on Sunday.  I texted most people that I knew were praying for me and asked for prayer. I talked to a few people from the states and received encouragement and support. I finally let out a cry.

The things that I was sharing with these people that were on my mind were as follows. I felt as though I have not been myself here. I put on a fake smile and try to be joyful everyday. I don’t have the same passion for Africa and the people here like I did before I came and when the team was here. I was discouraged about many things. The culture is so different- lots of waiting time and no rush, most of the time entails being late. The children beat/hit each other often and I don’t know how to stop it. The teachers even sometimes beat the children. Apparently it is called “caning” because they use a cane to hit the children. Isn’t that abuse? I was battling today thinking there is no way I can change this part of the culture. I tried telling a child not to hit/fight and he didn’t listen. I told him a few times. Also, the teachers don’t even watch the kids during break. They take a break, too and let the kids play and do whatever on school grounds. Children here do many things independently, even walking on the side of the road with cars passing at fast speeds is not something you see in America. I tried teaching today and the kids were not so into what I was teaching them and I gave up. I do not know what I am doing here and if I am feeling miserable and being fake, what good is that doing me and anybody else?

My friends responses were either stick it out and give it more time, or don’t worry about other people’s responses if you come home early as long as you hear God’s voice and He gives you permission. My phone eventually died and all I had ahead of me was a four hour “tro tro” ride in a van from Prampram to Kpando with my friend Grace. That was plenty of time to pray and reflect on everything. As we were traveling, I felt something change. It must have been the prayers from people because I felt at peace. I thought to myself I will stay for one more month because that is meeting in the middle and I won’t be giving up if I do that. I asked God to make it more clear to me, to speak to me as we travel back.

In Ghana, there are stores and places that contain names with God in them or religious of some sort. They are literally everywhere so I asked God to reveal some to me that pertained to my situation. Sure enough, He did. Here are the ones that I saw while we were driving that stood out to me the most. GOD FIRST. PRAYER IS THE KEY. JUST SMILE. NOT I, BUT CHRIST. PSALM 39. At this point, it was pretty clear to me. I need to keep putting God first. Prayer is the key to living an abundant life here in Ghana. My purpose is simply to just smile. I am not here because I “want” to be here, but because of Christ choosing me. 

Here are some other encouraging words that I’ve received recently from people that pertain to all of the above.

In a card from a friend at home: Remember that God has already gone before you and prepared the path, all you have to do is PRAYERfully take ONE STEP forward at a time, and He will do the rest.

A word from a friend before I left: Don’t look up from where God has you. Don’t ever give the storms a second look. The waters will never overcome you. Isaiah 43:1-3 and Luke 10:19
Jesus Calling Devotional: Discipline your thoughts to trust Me as I work My ways in your life. Pray about everything; then leave outcomes up to Me. Do not fear My will, for through it I accomplish what is best for you.

From a friend’s bookmark, in an email: GOD IS WITH YOU. Although each day brings challenges and things that are unknown, you don’t need to face them alone. For others care about you and will keep you close in prayer. And, above all, God will guide you- for His love is always there. – Emily Matthews

DON’T QUIT. When things go wrong as they sometimes will. When the road your trudging on seems all uphill. When the funds are low, and the debts are high. And you want to smile but you have to sigh. When care is pressing down a bit, Rest if you must, but don’t you quit. Life is strange with its twists and turns. As everyone of us sometimes learns And many a failure turns about when he migt have won had he stuck it out. Don’t give up though the pace seems slow, you may succeed with another blow. Success is failure turned upside down, the silver tint of the clouds of doubt. And you can never tell how close you are, it may be near when it seems so far. So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit. It’s when things seem the worst, that you must not quit.

From the travel agent, whom I don’t know very well: The Lord showed me a basket of pomegranates…and as the basket was emptied, the fruit continued to flow…it was an “abundance” that came to mind…and then, I thought of the fruit and its many seeds…and it was then that I thought of how one fruit can multiply into many trees and I saw trees for as far away as the eye could see and they were full of fruit, and the sun shining brightly upon them. *I think this speaks to your own relationship with the Lord, the fruit of your labor, and the riches of His grace. Jesus says you can do nothing apart from Me, but in Him, you are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. He is calling you to a place of deeper intimacy and reliance on Him. You don’t have to “do” anything, but be a conduit of His love. I see a revelation of His grace that will bear much fruit.

Devotional from a friend: Paul learned that the only way to experience God’s power is in our weakness. If we think we can do something on our own, God lets us, that we will never know God’s transforming power in our lives until we acknowledge our inability.

Songs at church the kids were singing: Through it all, I have learned to trust in Jesus. Through it all, I have learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I have learned to depend on His word.

All that being said, I have decided to stay one more month. My mom is looking into changing the flight so that I can leave Ghana July 25th instead of August 24th.  Becka has challenged me to not use the internet or my phone for three days. She said that probably has to do with my homesickness. So, if you email me, text me, or call me within the next few days, I apologize in advance for not responding. I think this will be good for me so that I can fully immerse myself in the culture and what God has for me here in Ghana. Whenever I pray, I also recognize that I may not know God’s purpose for me here in Ghana ever or this time around. Please continue to pray for me as I enter into this daily battle. Miss you and love you dearly and I really appreciate your prayers and support.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Just the beginning...

It is already day 15 here in Ghana for me! I think there is far too much for me to catch up on so I will try to recap the highlights of the trip as best I can. I bought credits for my friend Becka to have unlimited internet, so hopefully I will be able to give more updates. She has a computer here with her at the Orphanage that I am using right now.

Many delays on our way to Ghana:
1. Engine check at LAX caused our flight to leave at 10:15 am instead of 8:30am. 2. Bad weather at JFK airport caused pilot to circle around a couple of times before landing. JFK Airport was shut down so we flew to Syracuse airport and stayed there until JFK opened again. 3. Our flight out of JFK to Accra, Ghana was held for two hours but we landed 10 minutes after it took off (11:45pm) We were supposed to land at JFK at 5:30pm! 4. Waited in 4 hour line for accommodations for the team (Thanks, Denise for standing all that time!) 5. Slept at the airport overnight, journaled, read, etc. 6. Shuttle to hotel accommodation was more waiting. 7. Waited at hotel before able to move into room. 8. Waited at hotel for two hours before we could eat dinner

-Next day, flight left in the evening so the girls had fellowship and worship time at hotel, getting to know one another better. This was an extra day for resting and relaxing before we got to Ghana and hit the ground running.

Purpose of delays?
1. Met people from Ghana and Senegal at the JFK Airport when we were waiting overnight and during the day to head to the hotel. (22 people on their way to Ohio to learn how to coach soccer) 2. Shared the Evange-cube (story of Jesus on a rubex cube type thing) with them and let them have it to take home with them. 3. Gave them a Talking Bible 4. Divine appointment that we prayed for before leaving San Diego 5. Witnessing to others around us; we didn’t want to leave because we made such great friends with them. We showed love between two different cultures by getting to know them and praying for them in a big circle before we left. 6. Preparation for Ghana time- Lots of waiting and very slow pace in Ghana

*At first we didn’t understand why we missed our flight and went through all of this waiting until after. We lost two days of being in Ghana, but as a team, we came together in patience and this experience brought about more unity. We were able to rest up so that when we arrived in Ghana we were ready for the work ahead of us.

As a reflection thus far into the trip, I wrote in my journal:
Can’t rush God’s timing. Rest up so you can push through and work hard. Reward for patience = hotel and good food. Divine appointment prayer was answered. 2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” Brianna found these scriptures and they were so fitting and timely. Jay said his prayer was that wherever we go, people will sense God’s presence and feel it. They will see something different. He prayed this and I thought about this as I prayed before our team left, too. That wherever we’d walk, people would see something different and feel it. I didn’t think it would happen before we got to Ghana territory, though.

Finally in Ghana:
First Bible distribution entailed taking off our shoes, which brought true a word a woman gave Brianna and I about being missionaries walking on Holy ground. Working with the children here was challenging. We had a translator but he didn’t even understand the message I was teaching. So, we adjusted and learned from it as best as we could. Went to culture day, where many schools come together and compete doing plays and stuff. Morgan fainted because it was very hot and so she went back to the hospital and the rest of the team headed to the Orphanage.
Lunch was sardines and Kenke , not really sure how to describe it. Played at the Orphanage with the kids, then had chicken, rice, and salad for dinner (my favorite!) J

Next day:
Breakfast was hardboiled egg, tea bread (amazing sweet bread), and tea/coffee/hot chocolate. Bible Distribution (handing out talking Bibles) at a church nearby. I taught a blind woman how to use her Talking Bible and that was a neat experience. Afterwards, we went to the pastor’s home and he served us crackers and a drink called Malta (also indescribable and not tasty at all) *Everywhere you go and bless people, they give you a gift in return. You have to eat it and drink it out of respect to them and toughen up if you don’t like it…then pray your stomach can handle it when you are finished ;) The bathroom here was concrete, and I couldn’t go because I didn’t want to make the team wait, but I did attempt. Lol
*Also, everywhere you go, people greet you by saying “You Are Welcome” It is really nice. Everyone here is very nice. I slipped and people around me apologized for me being clumsy! Haha

Leper Colony:
Before we went to the Leper colony, I prayed that I would see these people as God does, to have the same perspective as Him. I wanted to treat them the same as all the other Africans I’ve met so far. God certainly helped me with that. I never saw any wounds though because they were covered when we were there. The entire team worked together to make this a successful bible distribution. We learned what worked and didn’t work from the previous one, so it was completed effectively and efficiently. I prayed over many people with Kristina here. Two women that I prayed for and did not receive a Talking Bible were kind enough to help Kristina and I with the language in asking people if they would like prayer. It was really neat to be able to bless these people with a smile, handshake, hug, and love that they do not receive on a regular basis because they have Leprosy.

*That evening, Kristina and I waited for at least one hour to get our hair done and the woman never showed up to do it. Welcome to Ghana J

For dinner we had Red Red with stew and fried plantains. I know this means nothing to you but you will see pictures when I get home and am able to post them. I didn’t mind this dinner, it was actually fairly good.

Next day:

Breakfast was an amazing omelet with the usual tea and coffee. The next Bible distribution was at one location but three different churches. Becka heard people talking in Ewe, the local language and lying so that they could get a Talking Bible. She talked with them and we did not give them Talking Bibles. The whole purpose of Talking Bibles is to give them to people who cannot read (illiterate) or are blind so they cannot see. Those who can read and understand English can read and understand an English Bible. We had a good assembly line going with the Talking Bibles and the team worked well, again. God showed me that we don’t have to have a set plan on who does what because it all works out anyways. We had noodles for lunch and that was tasty. We went to the Doctor’s house for dinner and here is where the challenge came. He served us Talapia (fish) in a bowl of soup that was very spicy. The talapia was served literally skin and all, head eyes included, inside the bowl. It was served with a rice ball. I had some as best as I could, and thankfully Jay kindly helped me out. I began feeling a bit homesick today and overwhelmed by eating the food here, wondering how I was going to make it for two months. I remembered that God is good and He will bless me as He already has in many ways. I also felt a little overwhelmed today thinking about teaching for sure this summer in Ghana, with no set curriculum or anything. Not really any supplies either. Going to be a challenging and growing experience. Becka said I will be teaching because there is a need and I am qualified.



This is just the beginning of my blog. I have been on and off the computer all day so I feel really bad and will continue on when I can. Just wanted to give you some sort of update. :)