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!


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:
Flu-like symptoms
Mylagia (limbs and back)
Abdominal pain
Loss of appetite
Orthostatic hypotension

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.


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.

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?