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!


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.


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

I think I should play charades more often.


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.

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.


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..