12/23/10

Dagbe update!

An Update!
Let me start by saying Thank you SOOO much for all your prayers! They were felt and definitely strengthened and encouraged me.
So I cant leave you all hanging so I wanted to write you an update about my return to Dagbe. After the ‘incident’, once I was better, I decided to go back to the village. Some of you may be saying, “wow Becca you are so brave” or “Wow Becca you are an idiot.” As for the brave thing let me just knock over that pedestal. The moment that I got back in cell phone reception range I called my Mom so I could cry to her about everything. And then the morning I was leaving I went on a walk and started to cry because I was scared and didn’t want to go back. I was listening to my ipod at the time and the song “You are my strong tower…” came on and I just started praying asking Jesus to be my strong tower for me to keep my focus on him and for him to guard me. I pushed all my fears over to Jesus and focused on the fact that He was the one in control. Plus I knew that if I didn’t go back that was exactly what the devil wanted. Now as for the Becca you are an idiot comment… I don’t really have any reasoning behind that one so I guess it is up for debate. Shoot!
Over these last two weeks of being back in the village, there has been some remarkable things that have happened.
Here are some examples:
*Young man (34) took poison and died. His son is one of the boys that daily stops by my house to play. This was also the man that was watching us make bracelets the week before and had asked for one. I was delivering it to him when I found out that HE was the one that died. When I got to the house his ENTIRE family was there and I was able to talk with them and then prayed with them.
*CHE (Community Health Evangelism) graduation. Andrews, Felix and I (the CHE trainers) graduated 8 people from our 3-week training course. In January they will start going out doing home visits in the community.
* Initiated a new community for CHE that is currently picking a committee that we will then do training with.
*Visited the closest local health clinic (1 hr walk) and met with the nurse Mary. Hoping to go and work with her next week and also may see if we can start a CHE program through her clinic.
*Did wound care on 5 people plus other random nursing things in Dagbe
*Did home visits with 2 families with newborn babies
*Each day went to a different villagers house to either help, just ‘talk’, or just sit
*Continued working on learning the local language. (I’m at like a 3-year-old level…) i.e. ball, shoes, food, morning, market, etc. I’ll work on speaking in sentences later.
*Three nights last week we had REVIVAL evening church services at the 3 neighboring villages which is definitely needed in these places.
* There was a second death of an older woman in the village. Dagbe has a population of about 200 so a death is a rarity so two in one week has everyone on edge.
*Met with a 23-year-old girl who had tried to commit suicide the week before and talked with her and prayed with her.
*Everyday I would go walking to either one of the villages that I know or sometimes I would go on an adventure to meet a new village praying the whole time.
*Sang whenever and wherever with my off pitch tone deaf voice. The best was when I would go to bed and since the village is so quiet, I would be bellowing out in my room as I listened to my ipod and was clearly heard by ALL my neighbors..
*Went to help with farming. Weeding, digging up cassava, plucking corn, etc. and have blisters to prove it (I love my machete!!)
*Every other day I would have all the kids over and we would do Bible coloring sheets and when they were finished I would explain about each story. Surprisingly they were actually really excited to find out about the story behind the picture they colored.
*Ate fufu with my friends and enjoyed every mouthful!
*Now as for the ‘mushroom man’ he did stop by my house a few times. I wont lie, when I saw him it took my breath away for a second but then I remembered WHO was inside me and I stepped out with confidence and would greet him.

So my time back in Dagbe was purposeful and good. I know that the only reason was because of all the prayers from you all. I will be taking a vacation from the village for the holidays but then will return in the new year. Please continue your prayers!
As most of you may know. I am getting a special Christmas present this year in the form of Annie and Greg (her husband). God’s timing is perfect and I am so grateful for their willingness to come all the way over to Africa to visit me. Be praying for our time together!! Thanks to both of the families for lending them out to me for the holidays.
Merry Christmas to you all!! Thank you all for your prayers and support to me! I miss you guys!

12/6/10

I NEED your prayers...

At first I was unsure if I should write this blog but over this past week I realized I NEEDED to write this blog.
I need your prayers.
Last Saturday I went back to Dagbe village and was full of energy and excitement for all that the Lord would be teaching me. The week started off great. I helped with some farming, I went to the school and did a health lesson, and even helped build a mud house. Wow! God you are so good! I woke up on Wednesday morning sad thinking about leaving this village and Ghana in only two short months. Little did I know what the following day and week would bring.
By 7am I was over helping out one of the local farmers, Daniel, on his cocoa farm. Daniel is a 60+ year-old man who looks about 70 but works like he is 15. His son had worked for Daihwan and his family while they were living in Dagbe so I figured he was a trustworthy guy. Huh, think again.
After helping Daniel on his farm he then served me a plate of fufu and soup as gratitude. I asked where his food was and he said that he would eat later. I thanked him, washed my hands, prayed, and dug in. As I ate he started talking about how most of the other villagers didn’t like him and how he just keeps to himself. I found this rather odd because most of the villagers I had met were very likable hard working individuals but figured just like any community we’re all made up of a bunch of sinners so disagreements arise. Anyway as I ate this green leafy soup with mushrooms (this soup I had never had before), Daniel kept saying “Eat ALL. Eat ALL.” It sounded pretty creepy but he is old and sometimes old people can sound creepy. With the next bite I took one of the mushrooms and as soon as I did my stomach quickly turned. Uhh ohh!! I finished what I could but avoided the rest of the mushrooms. Then noticing the time I excused myself, thanked him and said goodbye.
As the day went on I felt more and more odd and by 3p I was lying on my back on the cold cement floor wishing this feeling would pass. By 7p I was having severe sudden pains throughout my stomach and I knew I was in for a sleepless night. Up, down, up down. Ugh! Finally at 545 the sun came up and I hoped that my runny stomach had finished its last race. And then at 6am I was up again. The race had begun and my stomach was in the lead. Oooooo
Later that day I had CHE training at the adjacent village called Abrodium that is usually about a 45 minute walk. I left about 2 hours early realizing I may have to go slower than normal and had to add time for emergency bathroom breaks. Thankfully I made it there without any traumatic stories.
As soon as I arrived I met the two other trainers, Andrews and Felix. They ran over to bring me a big bowl of African food. I could feel my stomach warming up for the big race… “NO no no!! My stomach isn’t so good.” They both said they were sorry (as if it was there fault). I then said “No I just ate a bad mushroom.” They looked at me suspiciously and asked where I had eaten a mushroom. I nonchalantly replied “At Daniel’s house.” Both of their eyes widened and they started speaking to each other in Ewe (their local language). They then pulled me aside and said, “Becca you need to be careful. Daniel is a dark man. He has been known to do some pretty bad stuff. Most of the villagers don’t like him for good reasons.” I listened and then replied, “Yeah but I think it’s just that my stomach isn’t use to African mushrooms.” In which Andrews replied, “Becca, he did this on purpose.” HAHAHAH, yea okay, why would some old man want to poison me? Hahah.
After the two hour training I could feel my stomach doing some pre-race stretching so I knew I couldn’t last much longer. I told Andrews and Felix that I was going to head back to the village to rest. Andrews asked if he could escort me part of the way. As we walked he asked if he could fill me in a little bit more about Daniel. He then went on to tell me about why so many of the villagers don’t like him. He told me about his voo doo practices, curses, poisonings, animal killings, etc. He then said he was sorry that he hadn’t told me earlier but figured that Daihwan would have told me before. I thanked him for filling me in and then continued on my way. As I walked I started praying asking God if it was true, if Daniel really poisoned me on purpose? Tears filled my eyes thinking that cute little old man Daniel could have done this to me on purpose. I realized how much I had put my guard down, how I had forgotten about the spiritual battle that we fight everyday.
That night as I tried to go to sleep, in between my runs to the bathroom, I kept questioning if this was purposeful or not. That next morning I opened my eyes with the sun and did my usual morning devotions. As I prayed I asked God to give me confirmation either way if this was purposeful or not cause I hate to think bad of someone under false pretenses. The first devotional book I opened the scripture reading was on Ephesians 6
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,”
Talk about confirmation! I couldn’t believe it. On purpose. Old man Daniel had poisoned me on purpose! I started crying. I was scared. My body was weak. I couldn’t believe someone would do this to me or to anybody. I read the passage again realizing they were words to me from God himself.
Okay God this is your battle and that battle has already been won. God this battle is not against flesh but against the spiritual. Keep me aware; arm me with your full armor.
I took a deep breath, dried my tears, and felt ready for whatever was to come. I opened my other devotional book and guess what the scripture reading was? Yep Ephesians 6 which continues on to say:
“and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
God knows me to well. I need a lot of confirmation! Thanks God!
Anyway I wont get into all the nitty gritty about what the following 5 days looked like but lets just say that my flashlight, my flushless toilet, and I were all very close.
During those days I kept doubting and thinking… NO… he didn’t do it on purpose. But every time I doubted new signs would appear. One night I was woken up by voo doo drums, which lasted almost 2 hours straight, I stayed awake and prayed the whole time. The next night I had vivid terrible nightmares all through the night. And then the last two nights on top of my runny stomach I had the wonderful pleasure of being welcomed by ‘Mr.Dry-heave’. But even during those terrible days and nights, God kept sending me little glimpses of his joy and love. Some examples include:
First Dagbe Olympics, bracelet making class, soccer tournament, rain shower fight, coloring contest, made a Christmas tree out of cocoa leaves, and even preached (not accidently this time). So even though Satan was trying to stamp on my parade God kept giving me his strength and joy. By Sunday evening I knew physically I needed to leave to let my body recoup. As soon as I got in the cho-cho (taxi) and left the village it was as if I felt the heaviness lift from my chest.
As I told you at the beginning I was unsure if I should share this with you because it is weird. Coming from America we think, physical, physical, physical where as in Africa everyone is always spiritual, spiritual, spiritual, but I have seen how life is a balance of both. I know that some people will read this and think “ohh boy Becca has completely lost it now.” And you know what that’s okay as long as you are praying for me than you can think whatever you want.
This past week has been one of the hardest weeks for me throughout my whole time here in Africa and it made me realize how much I NEED your prayers. At the end of the Ephesians passage it says:
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
I go back to the village in two days and will continue going for the following two months. Please remember me in your prayers because I NEED them.

11/26/10

GOAL!!!!!

So while in Dagbe I wanted to learn as much as I could from those in the village. On my first day on my own I decided to go out with one of the village teachers, teacher Eric. Teacher Eric, is also farmer Eric and also Pastor Eric oh yeah and father of 6. But on Monday through Friday from 9am to 12:30 he is Teacher Eric.
At 8:40 on Monday morning we ventured off to school. WE walked down the road and were quickly surrounded by thirty children literally jumping up and down with excitement in starting their new school week. We soon turned off the main dirt road and headed down a narrow path in between plantain and cocoa tree farms. WE walked and walked and walked and about 20 minutes into the walk we were about halfway there. Then all of the sudden the front boy started running, and then the next one, and then the next, and then ME. Faster and faster down the narrow rocky dirt path we ran.
God thank you for this moment, thank you for these children, and thank you for this day.
Once we reached the school there were an additional thirty children eagerly awaiting our arrival. I followed teacher Eric into one of the two classrooms. The two classes KG-P1 and P2-P4. One of the students ran and grabbed me a special bright blue plastic chair and placed it next to me. As I sat down I pondered what teacher Eric would teach and how he would teach such a range of students. After getting all the students attention he then proceeded to go through the classes morning exercises. They went through their multiplication tables…. 8-1-8, 8-2-16, 8-3-24, 8-4-32, etc. then the days of the week, then months of the year, and then some cute little story about a goat. I was impressed and even more excited now wondering how Eric would do this. Teaching young children in school has always been sooo intimidating to me and as I have traveled and stayed with missionaries ALL of them have had to home school their children. Man o man! I give many props to all the teachers out there that faithfully and passionately work to teach these children. So as I sat back in my plastic chair I waited in anticipation for what was to come. Teacher Eric then grabbed a piece of chalk placed it in my hand and said “Okay they are all yours.” ‘Ummm excuse me! What? Wait no no no… I’m a nurse, not a teacher.’ That’s what I wanted to say but instead I said, “Umm okay, well like how do you teach. Is there a book that you are following or a lesson that you want me to do? Or umm anything… “ He then pointed to a riddle written on the chalk board and said just have them read that and then pointed to 4 books sitting on a desk and told me I could look through those if I wanted to. “Ha, okay thanks Teacher Eric.”
I don’t want to go into all the details because I don’t want to start crying again but the following two hours were…. Horrible. As I tried to teach them the riddle I quickly found out that there were only about 5 kids that knew the riddle all of whom would scream it out loudly and then for the other 25 kids they would just open and shut their lips and make a humming noise. And then for those 5 kids that memorized it they actually had no idea what they were saying. I was frustrated, I felt helpless, I was in over my head, and I felt terrible. I felt like I was more of a hindrance than help. Finally around 1130 Teacher Eric came in and said, “It is time for break. You can go over and rest.” Hallelujah! As I walked over to the neighbors house one of the older students ran up to me and said “Teacher Becca do you want to play some football?” I quickly reversed directions and headed towards the field. The field consisted of 3 bamboo sticks on either side that made up the goals and then in between was the field, which consisted of pokey weeds and 6-12 inch grass, spread on a minefield. Let the game begin!!
As we ran, slid and tripped all around the bumpy terrain all the feelings of frustration and helplessness melted away. Thank you God for this moment; Thank you God for these children; Thank you God for this day! The ball was soon at my feet and I figured why not and then BOOM… Upper left corner! Oh yeah! I’m amazing! Then I looked around and regained perspective, realizing I was 27 playing with 7-12 year olds and I was the ONLY one wearing sneakers, and I was probably the only one that had a well balanced breakfast. Okay so maybe I wasn’t as awesome as I would have liked to imagine but it was exactly what I needed in that moment.
After the school day finished I wearily went back to the house to wash up. Fifteen minutes after arriving home I heard “Madam Becca”, “Teacher Becca” “Rebecca” outside my window. I walked out to the front steps to see 15 of the students standing on my front steps. I turned around and grabbed some crayons and paper from inside the house and as soon as the kids saw these there eyes lit up. Two hours later the numbers had grown to about 25 and each kid had finished their masterpieces. One by one each kid made their way back home proudly holding their pieces of art. As the last couple kids finished up an older man walked up to the door. I greeted him and then he came over and took my hand and in broken English said “My kids said you were teacher. God bless you.” Holding back my tears, I shook his hand back and said, “It was a blessing.” Soon after Teacher Eric walked by and asked if I would be able to help out again tomorrow. I took a deep breath said a quiet prayer and said “SURE”
That night after the kids left and I had finished dinner I tried to put together something that the kids would understand. I sporadically started writing down whatever popped into my head. I also started praying just asking God to help me to help them. After I finished praying I sat back and started to laugh. I had totally fallen in the trap. I fell in love with the kids. I fell in love with the village. I fell in love with Africa.

Opps my bad!

So by now you all know that I like to laugh at myself so I’ll fill you in on a story that I think you’ll appreciate. On November 17th Daihwan and I arrived at Dagbe village. This village is about 2 hours outside of a main city and has no running water and no electricity. Daihwans family had lived in this village for about one year but due to some difficulties and then the news of a new baby on the way they decided to leave. God had bigger plans for the family and now their ministry has expanded and they have been asked to build, open, and run a CHE internship. Now before arriving to Dagbe I had received many warnings from a variety of people. From pastors, elders, CHE workers, and the Song family. After hearing all these warnings I had been contemplating what could bring change to these unmotivated stagnant villagers. A few weeks back I had asked Daihwan if he had ever preached at the village church. In Africa it is normal that when a foreigner shows up they are usually asked to preach or share something. Daihwan laughed and said that he had been asked but instead decided to sing a couple songs (also completely normal).
Upon arriving to the village I was pleasantly surprised. I think due to all the warnings I had set my expectation bar very very low. When we showed up to the house it was a complete disaster since no humans had lived or even opened the doors or windows for a year. There was thick dust throughout, mold on the walls, spider web blankets, and many different critters that had decided to move in. Daihwan and I grabbed some hand brushes and started on the BIG clean. Within 10 minutes there was another 5 villagers helping out and within two hours we had the whole place…. livable.
By the fifth day of being in the village I had fallen in love. Daihwan had said that after church we would head back to Ada for 4 days and then come back on Thursday. I then asked if it would be okay if I stayed back. He thought about this for awhile and then agreed… HOORAYY!! So as we walked over to church I was beaming with happiness. I took my seat inside the small church and within 30 seconds I had 10 small hands grabbing for my two. About thirty minutes into the service there were 10 adults and 14 children in total. Gotta love the village church! After worship the pastor got up and thanked Daihwan and I for coming. We both thanked them back and sat down. As I sat I wondered when they were going to call Daihwan up to say something to the congregation but I wasn’t prepared for what the pastor said instead. The pastor then said something in Shai (the local language) in which all I could pick out was ‘blah blah blah Madam Becca blah blah blah’. Once hearing my name a goofy grin fell across my face and I started bobbing my head up and down (I don’t know why). Then the one English-speaking woman in the village turned to me and translated what he said. “He said he would like you to come up, and since you are a first time visitor, to come and have the pulpit.” WHAT?! My mind went blank… ‘Ummm… hahahha (nervous laughter) ummm okay.” I slowly got out of my chair and walked to the front. Unable to wipe the goofy grin off of my face I started laughing again. Oh yeah this was going really well. So finally I stopped and just prayed “God help me show me what to say.” Here goes nothing… “Machum-yo (thank you)… “
Thankfully God has given each and everyone of us a sermon known as our testimony. So that’s what I did. Because of where I was and the prior warnings about this village I focused on rejoicing in hardships and sufferings knowing that God can use them and that these things can even bring us joy. The other thing I talked about was that God is ALWAYS with us no matter what village we are in and no matter what we are going through.
After the service Daihwan and I walked back to the house. As Daihwan packed up his things I turned to him and said “Man usually in all the African churches I’ve been to they NEVER ask females to preach due to cultural issues. Daihwan you should have warned me!” He slowly responded, “Actually Becca when they say share the pulpit they actually meant just introduce yourself.” CRAP! Yup I stole the pulpit and accidentally preached. Now you are allowed to laugh at me. But the funny thing is that even though I stole the mic I don’t regret it. I actually think that God wanted me to share my story with those 24 hearts in that church.
God I pray that you can use even my goofy mistakes to bring you glory!

11/14/10

Malaria~ 1 Becca~ 0

Yep its true, I got stupid malaria. I have always hated malaria but now I have a deep rooted loathing for this ugly parasite.
So how did I get this ugly little parasite? It all comes down to bed nets and one missed dose of my daily prophylaxis (doxycycline). Now most people say that the doxy should protect me, and most people say that if I miss one dose it shouldn’t matter, well I don’t care what most people say cause I got malaria and it SUCKED. Malaria takes about 7 to 10 days for symptoms to manifest. During this time I was going through my training class and thankfully didn’t have any of the malaria symptoms.
While in the class one of the women came in and was complaining that she had malaria. As she talked about how she was feeling I asked her if she had gotten tested for malaria. She said that she hadn’t but that she KNEW she had it. But after being on the ship for the past year I am use to a lot of translators coming in and saying, “I have malaria.” then we test them and they’re negative. So I recommended to her that she get tested before she started the medication. She smiled back at me and then popped in her anti- malaria pills.
Little did I know what I was in for… Ohhh humility how I love you… Five days after this conversation and 10 days after arriving in Liberia “I KNEW I had malaria.” So without taking a test to confirm there I was going against my own ignorant recommendations and was popping in my anti-malaria pills.
Every symptom that you have read about or heard of associated with malaria I had, EXCEPT for the cerebral psychosis and death thing. Thankfully God spared me from those two.. Thank you God!
Symptoms included but were not limited to:
Headache
Nausea/Vomiting
Fever
Flu-like symptoms
Rigors
Sweating
Tiredness/Fatigue
Mylagia (limbs and back)
Abdominal pain
Diarrhea
Loss of appetite
Orthostatic hypotension
Cough

The treatment for malaria is a 3-day course of medication taken at the same time everyday. By Wednesday I had finished the course and felt 100 times better than Monday but still felt 100 times worse than my usual self.
During this time God was gracious with me and placed me with an amazing family that coddled me back to health. God also gave me strength when I needed it. Whether it was to babysit, teach a nursing class, or get together with some of my Liberian friends, I made it through. The other amazing thing is that his timing was perfect. If it had happened a week earlier, it would have been during my training, a week later and I would have been in Ghana living in a village.
The best part about this ugly nasty parasite was that now I can truly empathize with my patients/community that have malaria. Now my fight against malaria and ways to prevent and or STOP it has been quadrupled!! Watch out malaria! Becca’s back!!

My training...

My whole life I have done relief work. As time has passed I have seen the devastating effects of relief work in places where they are now dependent on it. Haiti is a prime example of that. Anyone who has done work there has to have noticed the thousands of NGO’s and missionaries that go in to Port au Prince every year for years and still see no change. I am not saying there isn’t a place for relief work but it usually needed after a crisis. When it goes beyond the crisis period then those in the country start to depend on hand outs and don’t learn how to do things for themselves. It’s like that proverb that says it is better to teach a man to fish than to just give him a fish.
Well CHE is a program put together for this exact purpose. Its main goals are good health (physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially), prevention of diseases, and to live abundant Christian lives. The program starts with individuals and then goes and slowly spreads into the community from one home to the next. The CHE group is made up of a training team (which are those that have gone through the training week called TOT1), the committee (a group of people that the community has picked that they feel represent their area), and then the CHE’s (these are the people that go out to teach in homes about the issues that are going on in the community, ie. Malaria, clean water). As problems in the community come up they are addressed and then taught about. While teaching, the CHEs do a physical and spiritual lesson. Soon as the CHEs go from home to home lives start transforming as they help their neighbors with not only physical problems but spiritual ones as well. As time passes these CHEs soon form a church of their own.
Over this week of training I was being taught how to be a trainer. A trainer is one who trains the committee and also trains the CHEs. Right from the beginning, Dayo told us, that the program is risky and that we are going fail (*I’m not sure the exact failure % but it is HIGH). With this program we are always learners so through these failures we are being taught. We need to know that we wont always have the answers but that we need to be creative with problems and always be an encourager. And last but not least we need to take time and also give our time.
Time….Hmmmm out of all the things I had learned over this past week I think this was the recurring theme that continued to be printed in my memory. Now the longest I’ve ever been in a foreign country was 7 months. With this CHE program it says to plan on 3-5 years plus ongoing check ins. Maybe it is because I come from the western worldview but when I get involved in something I want to see results. Whenever there is time, money, and energy expended I want to see something ANYTHING. And If I don’t see results that I want to find someone or something that will. PLUS one of CHE’s teaching points is that this is risky AND we are going to fail. Now if I am trying to get a program going and trying to get people to support it and THAT is my starting slogan, I don’t think I will get to far.
But then Dayo told us this story about what happens when it DOES work and when people DO invest their time just how life changing this program can be. Here is a quick summary of that story: It is about a church in a village in Uganda that started the CHE program. Within 18 months of starting the program there were 1000 people who were personally won by Christ and 285 people were involved in bible studies. In that same time they also protected 40 water sources, taught how to garden, make fish ponds, rabbit raising, and bee keeping to help with nutrition, vaccinated over 2000 children, and through education reduced deaths caused by diarrhea by 30%. In addition to all of this some of the original CHE workers moved to other villages to implement this program.
Wow! But look at what happens when it does work. So needless to say, this week has been a challenging but encouraging week for me. I see that no matter how much money we POUR into these poverty stricken nations, it doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t willing to do things for themselves. Everyday I see the HUGE need there is here in Africa but now I also see a hope that is based in what Christ taught us over 2000 years ago. If we lived like Christ did with seeing both our physical and spiritual needs then I truly believe this world would be a much different place.

11/5/10

The water experiment

One of the MANY lessons I am learning during this training is how to purify your water. Now I don’t mean going out to buy a Brita water filter so that the water that is running out of the faucet tastes better, no I mean purify water so that it is potable. To me this was a completely foreign concept not to have drinkable water available.

Clean water. Throughout my entire life I have never had to worry about something as simple as finding and drinking safe water. But over the last two months this reality has been shattered from Togo, to Ghana, and now in Liberia. There is water everywhere but not a single drop to drink.

Due to this problem, I have been purchasing all of my water. Thankfully, each country that I have visited, the water has been very cheap to purchase. So I haven’t thought that much about it. Well the other day in class, my Nigerian teacher Dayo, stood up and told us that he has not purchased water for the past 10 years. WHAT? HOW?

Dayo then proceeded to explain to us how to purify water with the elements that God has given us. So all you need is…. (drum roll please…) the SUN. Yea the SUN. Crazy, right?! So I decided to give it a try.

THE WATER EXPERIMENT
Step 1: Get clean and clear empty water bottle
Step 2: Fill water bottle with visibly clear water
Step 3: Get something black to put under the bottle (i.e. garbage bag)
Step 4: In the morning place filled dirty water bottle and place it on black object in a sunny area.
Step 5: Wait 4-6 hours (the sun will kill germs in water)
Step 6: Take water bottle inside and keep until ready to drink.

So at the end of the day what did I get?
1500ml of clean potable water
Cost: 0.00


* I would like to report that I finished my 1.5 liters of water and have not had flinch of a stomach pain or any even loose stools… HORRAYY!!

The School Screening

Since arriving back in West Africa I have been working with different people and families and finding out more about CHE (community health evangelism). As time goes on some things become clearer and some things become more confusing. While in Ghana I was able to take part in what they call a SEED Project. This is usually a project that can be done in a day.

The SEED project takes place after a member of a community/village has invited CHE in to help make the community aware of the problems that are going on. Usually this happens through somebody in the village who can see that there is a need in their community and they have a desire to see change. Once the training team is in the community they then start to get to the know those they will be serving. Then to create awareness of what CHE is all about they do some sort of SEED project. This can be a variety of things: school screening, football game, market clean up, etc.

So for my first SEED project I partook in was a school screening. Our team consisted of myself (a nurse), and 4 trainers (CHE trainers). The adventure began as soon as we left Ema’s house; he is one of the CHE facilitators in Ghana. We drove from house to house picking up all the different trainers and then from place to place collecting all the supplies needed. After picking up our last team member we hit the road towards the village. We drove by plantain fields, up and over rolling corn hills, and through many small communities. Finally we turned a bend and the groomed dirt road came to an end. The rain had fallen the day before which made the road like dough and the cracks like canyons. But onward we went. After the car made it through many bumps, bangs, and skids we arrived.

We all got out of the car and grabbed our supplies. As we scrambled up the muddy hill that led to the school, I slowly saw little heads and hands appearing in the windows and doors of the small school building. Suddenly I was filled with excitement knowing I was going to be able to play with these kiddos but then filled with joy knowing that I was going to be able to help them maybe even in a life saving way.

It took us about 20 minutes to set up. The school had 126 children that ranged from 5 to 10 years of age. Going into this screening we all knew that the age that was most at risk were the youngest. Our main objective was to get the child’s height, weight, basic assessment (head, eyes, mouth, skin, etc.), and then finally a blood test to check for anemia. As we divided ourselves into the specific jobs, I volunteered to be the ‘STABBER’ and do the blood tests. I just LOVE inflicting pain on small children… Wa Ha Ha!! Three of the team members did the other various jobs, and then the final team member did a prayer walk around the school.

“Let the games BEGIN!”
The teachers gathered all the students together from youngest to oldest. One by one the children came through. My station was the last station. Since I knew that the children were going to HATE me I decided to construct a balloon man with a latex glove to help distract them. Then once they had completed everything they received a small gift (pencil, pen, or peanuts).

Within two and a half hours we had completed our school screening. We gathered all of our supplies and said our goodbyes. As I sat in the car bumping and sliding along the awful roads my eyes stayed fixed ahead of me. I glanced down at the finished reports that laid in my lap, shocked by the results. Out of the 126 kids, 95% of them had anemia, 80% were severely malnourished according to their heights and weights, and 75% showed signs of other skin diseases. Last year I saw a lot of things like this while in Togo and felt so helpless. But then as I thought about CHE and the changes that can be made, my focus changed.

Before we were leaving the school one of the teachers that I had ‘stabbed’ came out and asked if we were going to bring back medications to get them better. I took his outstretched hand and told him that we were going to bring him something even better. I told him that we would bring him ways in which he could help himself, his family, his community, and the generations to come.

Even though the reports that laid in my lap were heartbreaking I realized that they were attached with a hope. This was the first time that I have worked in a village that that I knew the community would be helped as long as they had the desire. This was also the first time that after seeing a devastating situation I knew the burden didn’t rest on just my shoulders. This is the first time I left a community of powerless faces and knew that soon those faces would brighten as they discovered the POWER that is within them. After leaving the village it wasn’t just the community that was being challenged with this focus change but myself as well.

• Side note: What would this world look like if we all realized the POWER within us? What if we were to truly LIVE the way that we were created to live? What if we were to LOVE one another the way we were taught to love? What if we were to LOVE and SERVE God the way he intended us to?

10/19/10

My Ada boys....

Well during my first week in Ghana I did quite a bit of traveling. It went something like this… Ada, Sage, Pukase, Accra, Pukase, Accra, Pukase, Ada.. During that time I successfully got my Liberian visa! Hooray! Once I had that in hand, I then traveled back to Ada.

In Ada, I am staying with the Song family, who are missionaries that are working with CHE. The Song family consists of Daihwan, Kathy, and their three kids Samuel (8), David (6), and Angela (5months). I have been learning a lot not only about living in Africa, but also about raising a family here and blending cultures. Most of the stuff I am learning I could never learn in a classroom or from a book but only by seeing and doing. So over this past week I feel so blessed to have been able to get all these hidden jewels of wisdom.

Apart from learning certain skills or lessons, I also have had the joy of getting to know the Ada boys. Now the Ada boys consists of about 20 children who come over pretty much everyday to play. The Song’s house has access to the river so most of the time the boys will play football and then come and swim. It seriously is so much fun.. most of the time.

Picture 20 Energizer bunnies, fully charged, playing football for two hours, and then going swimming for as long as possible. Now for the majority of the boys that grew up near the river, this is no problem at all, but or those that haven’t grown up around water… eekk… Basically the rule at the Song house is that NO ONE can go in the water without an adult supervisor. But for those kids that don’t know how to swim even with an adult around they can’t go in AT ALL even if it is just up to their waste. I love this rule because it makes it so you don’t have to keep your eyes on every kid in the water, worrying about which one can actually swim and which one will be the next Evel Kenevel.

Most of the time this rule works but kids are kids and like to push the rules when they can. The other day there were about 6 boys that did just that. As soon as my back was turned, they would gently walk down the stairs and creep into the water. They would be splashing and playing around and then they would hear the “WRATH of BECCA”. They would quickly scamper out of the water. But then 10 minutes later it was like déjà vu and the process would continue over and over again. BECCA’s WRATH wasn’t as effective, and pretty soon it was more of a game to those six boys. But each time they would push the limits more and more. So after playing around in the water for a couple hours, it was time for everybody to get out. I was feeling tired physically but also my patience was getting thin.

Well this morning as I was doing my usual run and then walking back from dropping off a couple of the Ada boys to school I ran into two of those six mischievous boys. They waved frantically as they saw me, and had big grins from ear to ear. I walked over to them and started walking with them to school as well. One boy whispered something to the second boy and then ran off. The one boy and myself continued to walk. As we walked along the busy road, I saw that even though they had pushed my patience they really were good kids. I realized that they were probably so excited to have some attention they were willing to get it any way they could. Even though these boys could have easily been swept away by the current of the river, they felt safe knowing that I was looking out for them and that if they did slip I would be there to save them. As I thought about all these things I placed my hand on the little boys head. A couple minutes later the other little boy returned with a present in his hand. Guess what it was? Becca’s favorite candy, a lollipop… I thanked the little boy and gave them each a hug. As they walked into their school and I turned back towards the house my heart melted towards these little rug rats.

Today I leave Ada to go up to Dagbe village. I am not sure what this will be like but I feel so blessed by the time God has given me with my Song family and my Ada boys.
I know over the 4 months that remain there will be many other memories made with these friends. Yahoo!

10/14/10

My schooling begins…

Schooling for what? Well last spring, through a series of events, I got connected with a group called Community Health Evangelism. I should have told you more details about this earlier because it explains why I am traveling from Togo, to Ghana, to Liberia, to Ghana, to Togo, etc. This group, CHE, is in many countries around the world but in particular West Africa. As you know I wasn’t suppose to be in Togo initially in but God knew what he was doing. Last week while I was in Togo I connected with Daniel, who is one of the CHE facilitators and was able to go through the training for teacher part one well except it was all in French… eekk. But sometimes I had someone who could translate for me even if it was just for a bit. Now at the end of October I will go through the training in English over in Liberia. Hoorayy!

I won’t go into ALL the details but I will tell you some of the main points that I picked up, so you guys have an idea of what I am doing. So what CHE does is basically looks at the person or community in a wholistic way, physical and spiritual together. So instead of going into a village and just bringing medicine or going into a village and just praying for them, it pulls both of these together. Genius right? Well guess who thought this amazing idea up? Jesus. Yep, that’s right. It is all throughout the Bible. He didn’t just walk around praying and preaching or just handing out food and clothes. He did these things together. So cool!

SO basically what CHE does, right from the beginning, it goes into a village and gives locals the control and power. Once in a village, the people decide what they think needs to be done and then formulate a plan. This process takes a lot longer than the usual relief work that I am use to but this is also more sustainable and leads to independency and empowerment for the village.

2 Timothy 2:2~ And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
One Saturday while in Togo I was able to go out with Daniel and his team to visit three villages that he helped start. All three of the villages were doing extremely well with the programs/projects that had been started. In addition, all of these groups had branched out even more and had thought up and initiated new projects on their own. So cool!
Anyway during this training I was able to get a good idea of what CHE does and how the whole program works. I will continue partnering learning more about CHE over these next 4 months and hopefully but able to put these ideas into practice.

Be praying for me that I will have a soft heart and mind to learn whatever God wants to teach me but also that I would be a constant learner in whatever situation God places me in.

10/8/10

24/7 Charades

When working on the ship over the past two outreaches I quickly picked up how important our actions/expressions were. This is especially true when working with non-English speaking patients. Now as I am back in Togo except this time without the ship and with out my translator friends, I am even more aware of how telling these things are.

Over the past two weeks I have been challenged, as an English-speaking woman, to speak and listen to French or Ewe speaking people. From the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed I get to play the lovely game of charades.

Let me give you an example of part of my day:
I wake up, go to the kitchen, and try to figure out what Alida’s ‘children’ are trying to say to me about the food on the stove (I eat it anyway).
Then as I drive on the dusty pot whole sticken roads, I hear people shout “Yovo (white person), &$^%*#*” unsure if what they said was good or bad, I contemplate whether I should wave back or not (I wave).
Once at my half way point, I get off Alida’s moto and into a taxi car with 6 other people. Once I reach my stop, I hand the driver my money. The straight-faced driver, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out incorrect change and places it in my hand. Seeing that the amount is not sufficient, I smile and keep my hand outstretched. He smiles back, reaches in his pocket and hands me the rest of my money. “Akpe kaka” (‘thank you very much’ in Ewe) and they all start to laugh and drive away (good try driver but you picked the wrong Yovo to jip).

Then, while walking down the street, I pass many sour faced Mamas and Papas who cant help but follow my gleaming white face. I smile and say, “Bonjour!” and then the sour turns into sweet and a smile breaks across their face, “Bonjour!” they reply.
As I walk into my class, I am greeted by 12, French-speaking, missionaries. As the class starts laughter and smiles fill the air. Even though I have absolutely NO idea what is going on or what was said, I start laughing as well(and usually when everyone else is finished I’m still laughing). Laughter is contagious and I think it is something we should spread everywhere we go.


Because of this new form of deafness, I am convinced, more than ever before, that our actions and facial expressions truly tell what our heart is feeling. I could tell when people were happy, sad, tired, angry, inpatient, joyful, or even sick. I see how much we say without saying a word. I have also seen that, by being positive or even just smiling, you can change a negative atmosphere into a positive one.

I like to talk; ask my family. Over these past few weeks I have been doing a lot more listening than talking and I see how much actions prevail over words. I say a lot of stuff that floats off into nothing but I wonder what my life would be like if I lived out everything I say. Love God and know he is in control of everything. Don’t be anxious, rash, judgmental, critical, etc. Love our family, our friends, and even those that aren’t our friends yet. Sometimes the hardest people to love are our friends and family, even though those are the ones that matter most to us.

What would life be like if we lived out what we believe?
To do more listening and less talking.
To love instead of judge.
To smile instead of frown.
To pray instead of worry
Etc.

I think I should play charades more often.

Hungry...

Before I left the ship I was only able to get a few hundred dollars due to limited access to funds when we first arrived in South Africa. So I left the ship with about 400$ and started on my adventure. My original plan was to start a bank account in Ghana as soon as I arrived but as you all know my plans were changed. So instead I had to use some money to get my multiple entry Ghana visa and then also some cash to get around and eat.

After calculating out the rest of my funds and adding in travel costs while in Ghana and also the cost for my Liberian visa, I didn’t have a lot of wiggle room to exchange more money. So I decided to take on a personal challenge. Living on 1$ a day or in Togo 500CFA. Statistics show that, on average, people in Africa live on 2$ a day. I decided to take it a step up and only do 1$ a day (because that’s all I had left). *Side note: Alida was driving me half way to and from work which would have cost me about another 1$ a day so really I was at par.

Living on a dollar a day:
Sunday: At 535am I woke up, hungry (this is usual for me). It just so happen that on this particular morning it was myself and four little girls instead of the usual two. So I took one of the girls and we walked up the street and bought 3 small loaves of bread and 6 bananas. I got back to the house and divvied up the goods and ate my portion. The kids also enjoyed the leftovers from the night before. But at 6am I couldn’t stomach sardines, rice, and tomatoes so I passed. But the bread and banana was good for me.

Well by 10a my stomach was speaking to me but the other two girls told me that their mother was bringing lunch (or at least I think that is what they said). But soon it was 11, then 12, and then 1. Ugh I was hungry! The kids were running around, not phased by the delayed food, so I decided to take a little walk to help me forget my hunger.

I walked around the neighborhood and heard some church music to my left. A smile quickened across my face. Over the past year of being in Africa I always found the blaring speakers kind of obnoxious and painful at times. But this day as I walked around and her a familiar African gospel song I appreciated those loud ear piercing speakers because even those that are walking by cant help but notice the worship. For a few minutes my mind forgot about my hunger. As I continued my walk I thought about how God says that he will provide our daily bread. I laughed out loud since technically I already had my daily bread with some butter and jelly too. No sooner did I think this thought than a man and his wife, who was sitting under a tree, called out to me. “Bonjour, Comment &*$&#( 43$(*#(@)Q*( ‘….?” (That’s what it sounded like to me.) So I replied, “Bonjour, pardon, no Francais ” and continued on my way. But then as I passed the man asked “English?” I said, “Yes!” He replied, “I speak English small, small, but I will try. My friend just got back Nigeria and brought this for me. You, one?” Well guess what he pulled out but a BIG wonderful freshly baked loaf of bread! I quickly replied, “Yes I would love a piece.” I took a piece out of the bag and thanked the man and his wife and then thanked God for every single bite. Well by 2pm the neighbors of Alida called me over and had cooked lunch for all their family and me. Now I was MORE than full. Yahoo! Later that day I met up with some friends and they treated me to some goat on a stick (Vira you would have loved it) and then even had a little taste of ice cream (Dad you would have loved it). And then when I got home that night around 9p, they had some left over’s from lunch that they saved for me. Yahoo, again!

The next day was my first day of class for community health teaching. I had some cereal left over that I brought from the ship (yeah it was like a month old a little chewy but still pretty good). Off to class I went. At the 10a break they gave every some nice sweet tea but I couldn’t have it since they used water from the tap. Ugh! And then at lunchtime, I ate one of my three precious apples. Then after the training I took a taxi car to the big round about to wait for Alida. While there I saw a woman selling bread. I took the only money I had left and asked for some bread. She told me I didn’t have enough. I then asked for the “most petit pan” (smallest bread) and she said I still didn’t have enough. I thanked her and started to walk away. As I did she called me over and handed me some bread and took my chump change. Hehe! Yahoo! I thanked her and said in the local language “Mawu Ninyarwo” God Bless you. Then that night when I got home Alida made us a BIG hot meal. Yum!

The next two days were very similar: unexpected meals, gifts from people, invitations to dinner, or extra food not wanting to go to waste. In my little western mind I think I know what I need to survive but I am finding that God knows just how much I need for each day and he provides that amount and sometimes more. This morning I got some chocolate.

It has been amazing to me how God has provided every step of the way. Every need that I have had he has provided for. Or if I thought it was a need he showed me something new. “Give us this day our daily bread” has never meant so much to me until now.

Joke is on me

Thankfully I like to laugh at myself, especially when embarrassing or unexpected things happen to me. Over these past 2 weeks I have had the pleasure of being able to laugh A LOT.

Last year I did some teachings, on Community Health, at two Togolese churches. Well after these past 2 weeks of living here in Africa I can see I have a lot of revising to do.

Get ready to laugh, at me.

Handwashing: Seems simple right well try doing it by yourself with no running water. I dip the little bowl into the large water basin. I then dip my dirty hand into the little bowl and then lather with soap. I then grab the bowl, that is dirty because I grabbed it with my dirty hand, and rinse off one hand. One clean hand. I then grab the bowl with my CLEAN hand, but the bowl is dirty to try and rinse off my other soapy hand, that is also dirty from the bowl. So in the end what do I get, but TWO dirty hands. Hmm this one will be a tough one to revise.


Malaria/Bed nets: 100% I support bed nets but I now can see why people don’t want to use them. When you are trying to fall asleep and the temperature is 80 degrees and your only chance of cooling down is a small aluminum fan that is pushing 75 degree air at you, the idea of having a big mesh net blocking that breeze is pretty annoying.

Burn prevention: Open fires are still a huge problem here in Africa but the wonderful lesson that I learned this week was not about fire burns. So like, all I wanted to do was warm up some water for some tea. As I reached to plug in the cord….. zap… Yep that’s right I electrocuted myself. No, I didn’t get burned but if it was a bad cord and if I was a little kid it could have been a much different story.
(ouch!)

Infection control: hahah… ohh goodness… this list is to long so instead I will tell you the one that I find the funniest. So Alida and myself were at work and when I got back home I walked into our room and had a little surprise. Oceane, Alida’s dog, had a little temper tantrum in the room and decided to leave me a present. Oceane pooped on my pillow. I laugh because if not I may cry.. hahah
(You can see the guilt in her eyes!)

Nutrition: The place where I am staying is about 60-90 minutes away from Lome, Togo’s capital. The last 35-45 minutes of that drive is all dusty crappy roads. Due to this there are only certain foods available in the area that I am living which means my nutritional status is not so good. This is true in most parts of rural Africa, that whatever is grown in your area that is what you eat. Yes of course you can drive to a local super market but the prices there are standard with that of the US. i.e. Cereal 6 USD. So I have been eating a ton of yams, pasta, cassava, corn powder, tomatoes, palm oil, vegetable oil, plantains, and rice. But go figure the two things that I crave the most protein and fruits are either rare or realllllly expensive. Alida has been good in trying to supplement my malnutrition. Hence I have been eating a lot of street meat, FRESH fish, and canned sardines. ;0) hahahhaha

This is all I can bear to tell you at this time but believe me there is much much more I could tell. But this is kind of like a Comedy show and if I gave you all my funny stories right away then I would have nothing left to keep you coming back.

Honestly though this has been an eye opening experience and I can see now why there are certain issues in West Africa. It is easy as an outsider to come in and to say “This is how, why, when, who, where, you should do it.” But having never walked in the shoes of that person I see now ignorant and insensitive I have been in the lessons I have done. I don’t regret ANY of the things that I taught because hopefully the students were able to adjust my teachings to make it appropriate for their living situations. But I can see now that I definitely have my work ahead of me over the next few months and hopefully years of doing community health teachings.

Sick.

I know technically I have been living in Africa for 16 months but I was living on the ship that is more like a mini-America. So over the past week of LIVING in Africa, my body has had to go through major adjustments. New climate, new foods, very limited fruits/veggies, motorbike rides for 2-4 hours a day on dusty roads, late nights and early mornings. Uhohhh! Finally all of these things caught up to me. I woke up this morning with a high temperature, body aches, headache, weakness, stomach pains, oh yes and an upset belly. It is one of those sicknesses that when your skin gets touched it sends shooting pains all over your body or when you bend your finger the ache feels like someone is trying to snap it off.

Sometimes being a nurse can be a blessing and a curse. My mind raced through all the crazy and weird illnesses that I have seen over the past 5 years of nursing. “Malaria, Meningitis, Typhoid, or maybe some undiscovered weird African illness… AHHHH!!!” Now, in all honesty, I figured I probably just had some virus but I also realized, for a lot of people here in Africa, the illnesses that I mentioned are VERY real and VERY deadly.

I put my nursing skills into action. I took some medications (Tylenol/Ibuprofen), drank a bunch of PUR water, took a cool shower to bring down my temp, and rested as much as I could. By noon I was feeling better.

As my temp went down and I was coherent again I tried to imagine what it would be like if I was an impoverished person. What would it be like to not have funds to buy even Tylenol? What would it be like to have no access to clean water? What would it be like to not have any knowledge of what to do while sick? What would it be like to KNOW what you needed to do but not have the means to do it? Ugh… It brings tears to my eyes to think about the millions of kids here in Africa that die from illnesses that are so preventable.

As my temp started to creep back up and I popped in a couple more Tylenol instead of feeling bad for myself, I thanked God. I thanked him for giving me a glimpse of what it would be like to be sick here in Africa. Back to bed I go!

Everyday I am learning something new about those that God has put on my heart to help. I know that God is teaching me new lessons everyday, some I have learned quickly and others may need some repetition and time. Now when it comes to African illnesses I am hoping that God has decided I got an A+. But if he does decide to show me more maybe it will lead to a cure or vaccine or something.. hehe..

9/30/10

Washing Clothes

Okay so as I was mentally preparing to embark on this adventure of ‘Living in West Africa’ I knew that there was going to be many things that I had never done that I would need to learn. One of those things was learning how to wash my clothes by hand. Now for my African friends this may seem silly or trivial but this was something I really wanted to accomplish.
Once I got to Alidas house, the friend whom I am staying with in Togo, I knew this was my opportunity to learn. As an added bonus, God even sent me a teacher, Mimouna to help me with my new skills. Her name is Mimouna and she is seven years old. She is what they call a ‘house mate’ and she comes from a village 12 hours away from Lome in Northern Togo. She helps out around the house (cleaning, cooking, washing, etc) and then gets some schooling in the evening. I know for some of us this may see a bit cruel but a lot of these ‘housemates’, their families are unable to provide for them even with basic needs so it is actually more beneficial for them to go into a place where they can get basic needs plus skills training. Anyway so yeah my amazing teacher is a 7 year-old little girl in which the only way we communicate is through gestures since I speak English and she speaks a Togolese dialect.

Alright back to clothes washing. So the third day at Alida’s house my smelly clothes were piling up, so I decided it was time to give this clothes-washing thing a try. I gathered all my stuff and walked to the back cemented area. Mimouna was close behind ready to give instructions. Off I went. Smelly clothes in basin. Pour water over clothes. Add Omo (detergent). Scrub, smoosh, squeeze, dirty clothes. Ring out soap. Place in clean water. Rinse clothes. Ring clothes. Hang on wall to dry.
As I hung up my last sock I was beaming with pride. I did it! I washed my clothes. Yay! The next morning I went out to collect my clothes and as I pulled them down I took in a big wiff of my hand washed clothes. As the scent filled my nose I started to gag. Ohhh noooo!! Guess I didn’t do as good of a job as I thought. ALL of my clothes still smelled like sweaty stinky Becca. I grabbed Mimouna and had her take a small sniff she rubbed her nose politely and then smiled. Time to wash my clothes again.
Sooooo I did the whole process all over again. Smelly clothes in basin. Pour water. …etc….. Hang on wall to dry. This time when I did the scrub, smoosh, squeeze, thing I did it WICKED hard. When I had finished this time I KNEW that I had done a good job. My hands hurt, my back hurt, my legs hurt. Yep that means I did a good job!
So about 6 hours later I went out to grab my CLEAN clothes and took a big wiff. Awwww, fresh, clean, Becca washed clothes!!
I grabbed Mimouna and had her take a BIG sniff and the smile on her face assured me that I had done a good job. Hooray!

Becca's beds!

I want to post a special thank you for the many beds that I had the pleasure of staying in over this past month.
Megan

Atlantic Point

Murray Crawford

Lyn and James Burnett

Ghana 4 star hotel

Alida


Most of these people opened up their homes to me even though I had never met or even spoken to them. But EACH ONE quickly accepted me into their homes and showed me boundless love and hospitality. If by the end of this adventure, I ended up right back where I started, it still would have been TOTALLY worth it because of meeting these amazing new friends.
I pray that God will bless each and every one of you. I pray that he will bless your families and the work that God has given you to do!

Adventure back to West Africa!

Sitting on the airplane flying into Accra many thoughts ran through my head. “What am I doing? I wonder what a Togo jail cell looks like? I wonder how much my bail will be? I wonder what it is like to be deported?” Ya know the usual questions you ask while you are about to fly by yourself into a West African country without a visa. Many of you may be asking “Becca how did you get yourself into this position in the first place?” Let me back up to fill you in on the events that led to this crazy and wonderful adventure.
Once upon a time in a small country in West Africa there lived a girl named Becca. She lived and worked on a BIG white tin ship as a pediatric nurse. After working on the ship for 1 year she saw the huge need for health education. Also during this time the ship was preparing to get some new parts added or fixed up. So while the ship was going to get surgery Becca had to find something to do for those 5 months of the hospital being closed. She looked and looked. She asked many people. She googled, yahood, and even asked Jeeves but could find nothing that fit. So Becca decided to pray. ““Dear God I don’t know where you want me to go or who you want me to work with but I know that you put this passion in my heart so whatever you want me to do I will do it for you.”
The very next day when Becca got back from work her roommate and good friend said “Becca, I met a woman today who does Community Health and I told her about what you want to do and she wants to talk with you!” A huge smile streaked across Becca’s face as she knew that this was an answer to her prayer. Becca quickly ran down to talk to the woman. This woman told her all about the organization called Global Health Network and Life wind. They call their teaching program Community Health Evangelism (CHE). Two weeks after this conversation Becca had signed up to work with CHE in West Africa for the full 5 months.
Becca continued her work in Togo and in August as the big white tin ship left Togo tears ran down her face leaving this place she loved but hope filled her heart knowing she would be back. After eighteen days of sailing the big white tin ship arrived safely to South Africa. Becca then spent two nights in Durban and then was off to Cape Town. Once in Cape Town Becca gathered together her 8 pieces of documents to send to Pretoria to the Ghana embassy there so that she could get her Ghana visa. Over the next 13 days Becca ran all around Cape Town with her other friends from the BIG white tin ship. They all had a blast.
During this time Becca still hadn’t heard back about her visa. At this point Becca was staying at her friends’ house and his Mom asked “Becca since your visa still hasn’t come maybe we should call the embassy to see what is going on.” Well by the end of that day Becca heard some not so good news. The embassy had denied her the visa and said the only was she could receive one is if she was to get one while in America.
“Oh no!” Becca thought, “What should I do?” So she called the American Embassy to get some advice, they suggested that her only hope would be if she were to fly to Pretoria and ask them face-to-face. So within 12 hours of this conversation Becca had booked an unexpected flight to Johannesburg even though she knew no one there, had no place to stay, no transportation to Pretoria, and was running out of money. Becca knew this situation looked grim from the outside but she had a sense of Peace knowing that God was in control and whatever the outcome if was going to be okay. So the next morning Becca’s friend was online and suggested that he had a friend whose sister lived in Joberg. Within the hour that friend came online, and Becca asked if it would be okay to stay with her sister and she agreed. By 3pm the next day Becca was at the Cape Town airport ready to board a flight to Joberg. But WAIT, due to the time difference from South Africa to America her travel agent didn’t confirm the flight and her money hadn’t gone through for this flight change. So as Becca and her friend walked up to the counter with just a prayer and a glimpse of hope the woman looked up her flight only to see that Becca hadn’t paid and she had no seat on the flight. The lady then walked away to try and see what she could do. She came back and asked Becca to come with her. They walked over to the ticket counter manager and they said “Sorry, you have to contact your travel agent we can’t do anything about this.” The first lady then took her to a different counter and told her to wait. As Becca and her friend stood there Becca was trying to think of what else she could do. But before she could think up her next master plan the lady had returned and said “Uh, don’t worry about it, we’ll put you on the flight anyway.” A HUGE smile fell across Becca’s face and before she knew it she had a ticket in hand. She hugged her friend goodbye and off she went.
She arrived in Joberg and by 10pm that night was soundly sleeping at her new friends house. The next morning Becca woke up and was off to church. She still didn’t have a ride to Pretoria but she hoped that something would work out. After church she went back to the house and started looking up transportation to Pretoria. The cost to go was a lot more money then she expected. So that evening as they were off to church again Becca asked if there was anyone at the church that might be going to Pretoria that she could hitch a ride with. Once at church her friend talked to a girl that goes to school in Pretoria and she said that there was an extra seat in their car. Hooray!!
The next morning at 6am Becca started her drive to Pretoria. Becca knew once she was in Pretoria she would have to figure out how to get to the Ghana Embassy. Now the Ghana Embassy was only open from 930-1230 and then was closed for the following two days due to a Ghanaian holiday. Becca knew that these 3 hours were her only chance of getting her visa and being able to fly out by the next night on her scheduled flight. As they drove to Pretoria her new friends looked at the map and to Becca’s surprise the embassy was only a 10-minute walk from their campus. WOW! Once at the campus her two new friends walked with Becca to the Embassy and Becca was the fourth person in line. As she waited to talk with the woman she prayed that God would soften the hearts of those she talked with and also that He would give Becca peace. Finally it was Becca's turn as she walked up to the window the woman’s stone face didn’t show a glimpse of emotion. Becca explained her situation and the woman stood up, went into a back room, and came back with a package in hand. Becca’s heart jumped. As the woman handed Becca her passport she then said “Sorry we are unable to give you a visa.” Becca froze not knowing what to do. Over the next 120 seconds Becca stood there asking the woman if there was anything else she could do, someone else she could talk to, any other people that could call. The woman repeated time and time again, “No. No. No.” But Becca didn’t move. Not because she was trying to be difficult but because her legs WOULDN’T move. Finally the woman got fed up and walked over to the big steel locked door and said “Come in and talk to this other woman.” Becca’s legs finally moved again. As she walked into the white freshly painted office she knew this was her last hope. As she sat down in front of this woman tears started falling from her eyes. Becca quickly tried to wipe the tears away. The woman then handed her a tissue and said “Its not as bad as you think.” As Becca explained the situation to the woman, this woman then gave her some suggestions of things she could try to do to get this visa. The woman told Becca to call her with the results. So Becca quickly went off to do all that the woman had suggested. Well after 4 hours of running around all of those options came back as NO.
As Becca sat on a dirty park bench she surprisingly still felt at peace. She continued to ponder ways that she could get back to West Africa. “Hmm.. where else could I go? How else could I get a visa?” “Togo?..... TOGO….Maybe I could get back into Togo since the ship just left there.” So Becca called the Big white tin ship and asked if they thought this was possible. The man on the other end said that there is a chance that it would work but since the ship is not in port that the visa voucher is null and void, but he said that she could try. So Becca then contacted her travel agent and asked if they could make an additional flight from Ghana to Togo.
By Tuesday night Becca boarded her plane by herself to go to Togo. She had no visa, she had little money left, she had minimal communication lines, but she knew that God was with her and that everything was going to be okay.
She flew from Joberg to London and then London to Ghana. But wait, as they boarded their flight to Ghana two of the aisle lights had died and they needed to be replaced. The pilot said that this was a rare occurrence and a small issue but due to regulations they had to fix the problem before flying. Due to this “small issue” the plan was delayed one hour, which meant as they arrived into the Ghana airport Becca had 10 minutes to board her flight. By the time Becca had received her bags the flight to Togo had left. But while she was waiting for her bags she noticed a small sign that said GHANA VISAS. After collecting her bags Becca walked over and paid 20$ for a transit visa. Many of you may be asking why this is so important but now that Becca had this one day visa that meant that if she was unable to get into Togo instead of them putting her in jail, or deporting her back to America, they would only send her to Ghana. “hehe!” Since Becca missed her flight the airline put her up in a hotel. Instead of Becca staying in a jail cell she instead was at a 4 star gold trim hotel with a large bed and many pillows.
The next evening Becca took her one-hour flight to Togo praying that the documents that she had would suffice. As she walked up to the custom agent the man took her passport, glimpsing at the pile of papers and stamped her passport. Becca made it back to West Africa. Horray! Wow! God is so good.

9/13/10

Beautiful...

God you created the heavens and the earth

the sea and the sky, the night and the day.

God you created all these things and more, and said they were 'GOOD'

Then God you made something even more magnificent than mountains,

even more majestic than your vast oceans,

even more breathtaking than sunrises and sunsets,

even more beautiful than your precious flowers

and even more intriguing than the grace of dolphins or the speed of a cheetah.

These things that you made you said were 'GOOD'



But God you made something that you said was 'VERY GOOD'

You created something that can talk with you, laugh with you, relate with you.

You created Man. You created me. You created each and every person on this earth. Once you were finished you said it was 'VERY GOOD'

It is sad how we can look at all these beautiful pieces of your creation and have tears come to our eyes, with how amazing they are, but when we look at ourselves we dont think that we are 'VERY GOOD' we sometimes don't even think we are 'GOOD'

God you are our loving Father and Creator and when you made us we were the most beautiful and precious things of all.
God may we see the precious sons and daughters that we are to you.
God may we see how beautiful we are and how special we are to you.
God next time we are standing on top of a magnificent mountain, or watching a breathtaking sunset or just looking in a mirror, I pray that we will be reminded that we are more beautiful and breathtaking than these.
Thank you God!

9/4/10

Where is Becca now?


Many of you may be asking, “Where in the world is Becca? “
Right now I am sitting in Cape Town and will be here until the 22nd of September at which point I will be flying back up to West Africa to start learning more about community health education. I’ll talk more about that later. First I need to catch you all up with all the events of this past week.
The ship arrived safely in Durban on Wednesday and by Thursday afternoon myself along with 160 other crewmembers were moved off. Our reason for being in South Africa is to get some well-needed work done on the ship. In order to have this work done safely and quickly we had to move off all the crewmembers that will not be working on these projects. Because of this many of the families on board will be separated due to the fathers being needed for the shipyard work. For those not doing the technical work they are being moved to an urban area about 90 minutes away from the port called Applesboch. Talk about some big changes. Please keep the crew in your prayers especially during this time.

As we pulled into port, it was a mad dash getting departments cleaned up and packed up and getting personal cabins cleaned up and packed up to move off. By Thursday morning all of the things that were going to be sent to Applesboch was piled high and wide in the center of the ship. Then at 10am the whistle blew and the race began. In two hours I watched hundreds of brown boxes, duffel bags of all colors, an array of musical equipment, pots, pans, computers, etc. get carried off of the ship and placed into moving trucks. Within two hours that pile was completely moved outside. Within two hours over 160 people had completely moved off of the ship. Wow!
I was amazed at the sense of community and family especially during this time. Everyone and I mean everyone helped out. The young kids were helping clean cabins, the older kids were carrying boxes, and the adults were running to all the different departments to see who needed help. I was touched watching this family that God had put together helping each other out. As the last few items were walked down the gangway and placed in moving trucks I then heard the overhead announcement that said “All crew not staying on the ship please be off the ship by 1245.” I looked at my watch and realized I had 45 minutes before I would disembark from my home and embark on this crazy uncomfortable and unknown adventure for the next 6 months. I froze.
“What am I doing? This is crazy! I don’t want to say goodbye. I don’t want to leave this family. I don’t want to leave my friends, my internet access, my hot showers, my comfy bed, my clean drinking water, my 2 hours washing machine slot, my bible study, my football team, my honey nut cheerios, my running buddy…. My comfort zone. My home.

As these thoughts rushed through my head I had a déjà vu. These thoughts sound very familiar. Oh wait I remember, right before I left for Mercy Ships I had all of these same anxieties and more. As I came to this realization a smile grew across my face. God has been so good to me and every single worry or anxiety He has not only quenched but has provided more than I ever imagined. This ship has become my home and the people on the ship have become my family. It is as if God is like “Okay Becca now you are ready for the next step.”
So God may know that I am ready but that doesn’t mean that I am not scared, nervous, worried, you get the point. But because I am feeling these feelings I know that God is going to do some amazing things through me. Every time I have felt weak, scared, overwhelmed, afraid God has shown me that if I would just put my trust in Him that I would see that He is in control and all will be okay. So that is what I am doing.
Today I read a verse that may seem a bit extreme for my situation but I was definitely comforted by it. Luke says, “whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” So I know I am not losing my life like getting sent my death certificate but I do feel like I am letting go of those things that i feel give me life. Even though right now I feel like I am losing a lot of the things that I love, mainly relationships with people on the ship and the comforts of home, I know that by putting these things behind God and keeping Him as my #1 that I will find even more about who He is and His love for me.

8/23/10

Pierrette's Posse- dining room divas

Well right now we are somewhere between Togo and South Africa on the 9th day out of our hopeful 18 day sail. Now in past sails I have stayed in the hospital department helping with scanning patient charts, writing or rewriting protocols, helping with nursing orientation, or researching Burkitt’s. Well this sail I decided to branch out and join the dining room team. (*sidenote: Annie and Mom stop laughing. I can hear you now, “Becca in the dining room? The girl who eats cereal and tuna just so she doesn’t have to cook or clean!” I know I know. Just keep reading). The main reason I picked this job was that I really wanted to be around the crew and be able to interact with them throughout the sail. Well I definitely got what I asked for and at times maybe more than I asked for.. hehe
The first day of my new job I showed up fully energized and excited to start. My team was made up of Lydia (my roommie), Pierrette, and two other nurses Becca and Sarah.
(Pierrette's Posse/my dining room team)
Our day started at 615 and went til 1015. As we finished mopping the floors I was feeling tired but okay and was told to be back for 1115 to set up for lunch. So after a quick break we all scurried back in and worked until 3p. After finishing mopping we were told to be back by 415 to set up for dinner. Sweet an extra 15 minutes this time… hmmm that went by WAY to fast. We worked until 750p. After mopping the floors I slowly made my way back to my room to wash off the salsa in my hair, the lettuce in my ears, and the butter and mayonnaise that was glistening on my arms. “What did I sign up for?!”
That night I went to bed and slept VERY well. I woke up the next day to do it all over again. By the end of day 2 I had pulled out the master schedule and was counting how many more days of this torture I had to endure. "1,2, 3, 4,5,6,7,8 okay 8 days left…" On top of counting my remaining days I also had thought up some new dining room rules:
1. Everyone should be in the ‘Clean Plate Club’- only take what you can eat and lick your plate clean.
2. When finished eating you should wipe down your own table and clean up around your area.
3. One cup per person per day.
4. If using peanut butter, butter, or eggs you have to clean your own dish.
*For more rules and regulations for proper dining in the dining room please email me.. hehe
As I dragged myself back to my room I was wondering why this was so much more draining then all other work I had done. Was it the hours? manual labor? the people? Was it just the fact that it was new and unfamiliar? So I decided to do something that I should have done awhile ago, I decided to pray about it. It didn’t take long for God to show me my problem was not any of these but the problem was my own bad attitude.
In nursing I run across ALL types of people and some that are more… challenging than others. But in this scenario it wasn’t others as much as my own reaction that was so shocking to me. Being a nurse is what I truly love and what brings me inexpressible joy and love but working in the dining room is definitely more of a test for me.
God what are you trying to teach me?
Answer: Learn to serve.
Hmm… Learn to serve? God, remember I am serving, that’s why I moved away from everything I knew to serve you on a tin ship in Africa. So I asked again and His answer was: Learn to serve. Alright alright I get it. Well maybe I should look up the definition to see what serving really means or looks like.
Serve~ a. To work for. b. To be a servant to. c. To prepare and offer.
Shoot. I know that I have been serving not only over this past year but off and on throughout my life. Most of us have been. But having spaghetti sauce and coffee grinds up to my elbows was not something I envisioned as a way of serving the Lord. I mean come on I’m a nurse, God is this really how you want me to be using my skills.
What would Jesus do? What would he say?
Shoot.
Jesus came down from heaven, the most beautiful, amazing place that even words can’t describe, left his Father, to live and work on this sinful evil world. Now He could have come down to earth (ya know the one He created) and reigned as King of all kings, but instead he took on the job of a humble servant carpenter. Jesus did not come into this world to be served but to serve. (Matthew 20:28) and we are called to live as Christ lived. So why am I getting all bent out of shape and walking around with a bad attitude when I should be rejoicing to being able to serve my fellow brothers and sister as Christ served us.
I will end with this. After working only a week in the dining room I am so thankful for all that God has taught me and excited to see what else he has to teach me. The saying that goes, ‘Don’t judge a man til you walk an hour in his shoes/apron’
has never meant as much to me as it does now. After my attitude adjustment and a few conversations with God I see this time in the dining room no longer as a curse but as a HUGE blessing.
I pray blessings upon all those who have worked or are working in food services whether on the Africa Mercy or at home. Know that in everything we do whether eating, drinking or helping someone else eat and drink do it all for the glory of God.

Jeremiah 17:10~ “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."