As I write this I am sitting in the Accra Airport about to board a plane for the beginning of my next adventure in Sierra Leone. I am full of a mix of emotions but mainly filled with joy over the amazing lessons learned, friendships formed, and memories made over these 5 months. It is amazing to see how God has orchestrated every detail of this adventure. Even from the very beginning of me trying to find a community health organization to work with God set up diving appointments to lead me to CHE. I have been stretched in ways I didn’t think I could stretch, I have been challenged with things that I didn’t even know existed, and I have been encouraged to see the amazing work that is going on for His kingdom through his willing servants.
During these months there have been so many fun stories to tell and hard stories to share but all of them has helped to prune me and strengthen my faith. I have had to trust God with aspects of my life that I was holding on so tightly to. I have been immersed in the West African culture and feel like I have come out with a better understanding of why things are the way they are and also a renewed hope that change is more than feasible. Also with my American culture I have been challenged by the simplicity of life here and how we are our own worst enemies as we pile on our own stress.
My time here I have done things that I never thought I would do and have traveled around more than a taxi driver. I have been ALL over Ghana to Ada Fou, Kumasi, Pokuase, Tema, Accra, and of course Dagbe. And then also have had the pleasure of going back to Togo two more times and even being able to see Liberia.
Besides the CHE trainings, school screenings, and awareness meetings done during this time, I have also had the pleasure of stepping out of my skill set. Here are some of the things I have been able to do that will TOTALLY be put on my resume:
*Throwing mud at bamboo sticks which turned into a mud house. For this one I want to thank Mom and Dad for always letting us kids play in mud, and thank Steve and Ellen for all the baseball pitching lessons growing up. I pray this is the first of many mud throwing parties that I can help build.
*My favorite new toy of my first machete. While in Dagbe I would go out to the farm with the chief, his wife, or whoever was wiling to bring me, and would go around with them and weed and sometimes harvest as well. If any of you remember my Stoneham house and the poison ivy forest in my back yard you will realize this was a healing process for me as well as I had turned away from anything green and leafy that had the potential of making me look like a leper again.
*Health issues.. I have had more diseases in these past few months than I think in the past 20 years of my life. Respiratory illness, fungus, malaria, African flea full body attacks, tumba fly bites (like the one I had one my arm when I first arrived to Mercy Ships), 6 month mark time for me to de-worm, and of course the ‘mushroom incident’. But even though all of these things were annoying I am thankful that God protected me and strengthened me and used these things to help empathize more with those that I want to care for.
*Human garbage disposal. I have eaten more things than I care to imagine. I think I’ve eaten pretty much every organ of a goat, chicken, fish, guinea fowl, grasscutter, and who knows what else. One day I went out with my two trainers to help kills a pesky rat. I was excited to be able to kill off the vermin thinking about what a nuisance it must be getting into all the crops and into peoples homes. That night when I talked to Greg about the rat hunt he asked quickly “DID YOU CATCH IT?” I said sadly, “No.” And then he said you know that they were catching it for dinner.” WHAT?! My earlier response with a sad “No” quickly turned into a happy “No”.
*Nursing~ Stopped by two different clinics to assess their facility and see where they might have some gaps. Was able to teach some healthcare at the two neighboring villages, and at times had a home clinic with different villagers stopping by for advice or wound care.
*Teacher Becca, that one I still have some healing to do but was happy for the experience and now have a better understanding of the educational system here.
*Preacher Becca which I know you read about in one of my other blogs but that was actually the first of many ‘speaking engagements’ that I was asked to do. Most of them I had to be ‘led by the Spirit’ meaning it wasn’t until I got to some setting and the person I was with would turn and say to me “Becca please share with them something that the Spirit is putting on your heart.” This was a HUGE challenge for me as I am a planner and like to sit down and think through stuff but I was impressed by how true what the bible say really is. The spirit lives inside us and can speak through us if we are willing. It was so cool!
*Oh yeah, I almost forgot, going off of ‘how real the bible is’ so much of the bible REALLY started to make more sense to me as I lived in a place that was more like Bible times. Meeting at the well, planting seeds, harvesting, palm branches, etc. All these things amplified my understanding of so many of the stories I have read.
*Children ministry in Dagbe. Going to Dagbe besides doing the training I had a lot of time off hence why I got the things listed above on my resume. But one of my main ministries while there was being with the children. For many of the villagers this was odd because in this culture you are suppose to be with those that are like you i.e. men with men, women with women and instead most of my time was with the kids. It made me realize that for Jesus it was probably the same thing, as he would also reach out and minister to the children even though culturally that was not ‘okay’. We did Bible coloring sheets, played football, did first annual Dagbe Olympics, took funny pictures, sang songs, etc. I pray that seeds were planted during this time and that these children will be raised into strong disciples of God.
This is just a taste of the many stories and experiences I have had over these months but one of the main blessings that I have received during my time here was the friendships made and in particular with the missionaries that hosted me. I know this is kind of long already but I HAVE to share with you guys how caring God is and how purposeful his plans are for each one of us. The family I stayed with included Daihwan and Kathy Song and their three kids Samuel (8), will be 9 on the 22nd of Feb, David (7), and Angela 8 months who learned to crawl 3 days before I left.. woo whoo… ohh yeah and Popcorn there mini poodle that is now 5 months old. Anyway in between all of my travels either in Ghana or outside of Ghana they were my home base, my resting place. It was the place where I could debrief about all that I was seeing and doing but also ask questions to when I was unsure. Also a HUGE thing for me was just being blessed by living with them and seeing what it would be like to not only live in Africa myself but to raise a family here as missionaries. How to cook, stay healthy, do schooling, raise a baby, learn the language, understand culture, relax, have fun, and truly live out our faith. This whole time being away there have only been a handful of occasions in which I have cried and having to say goodbye to these amazing friends was one of them. I pray that this is not our last time together and that God will bring us back together again but I do ask that you continue to pray for the Song family and the rest of the CHE network.
As I head back to Mercy Ships to start my new job doing off ship community health I feel more empowered and less nervous about whatever God asks of me. Please also keep this Mercy Ships outreach to Sierra Leone in your prayers and be excited for all that God is going to do in this new place.


Back to Togo...

I just returned from my third visit to Togo…
oh wait sorry, let me back up a second and fill you in on what made this third visit part of my itinerary. Many of you may remember my unexpected stop to Togo last September, when I was unable to get a visa to Ghana. At that time, I was just thankful to be back in West Africa and not to be in jail. I wasn’t thinking that God had a greater purpose but I should have known. During that time I ended up seeing some old friends, making great new ones, and getting my first taste of what CHE was all about. The very last day while in Togo I still hadn’t met back up with one of my Mercy ships friends, Pastor James. But thankfully God worked things out and my last few hours in Togo I was able to see him and his family. I was one of the many crew on board that was touched by Pastor James and his church in the fishing village. While meeting with Pastor James and his wife, I told them about the CHE program and how I thought that this would be a great program for his church and the whole village. Then once in Ghana I connected the CHE trainer Daniel with Pastor James and left the details up to God.
Over the months while I was away from Togo, Daniel and Pastor James connected. Daniel held a CHE training with Pastor James and some of the members of his church. They set up a school screening in the village to bring awareness to the parents but also to the whole community, of the many health issues. Once the results are in we then present them to the chiefs of the village and to the community. Now even before screening the kids we all knew that the results would be bad due to the horrible living conditions. To give you a vague picture of what I mean, imagine a beach community located next to the fishing port. All of these families live in palm branch houses with very crowded living conditions. Their main occupation is fishermen and fish smokers. To understand fish smoking I had to see if for myself to understand. Picture a HUGE fireplace with a roof whose main purpose is to create smoke to cook hundreds of fish. BUT due to the close living quarters and shabby housing, this smokehouse is located 5 feet in front of your bedroom door. So each and every person in that village, even if they had never had a single drag from a cigarette, their lungs look as if they’ve been smoking for 20+ years. Physically I knew this village needed help BIG time due to fish smoking but also sanitation issues, health ignorance, and limited farming which equals bad nutrition. But on top of that I also knew spiritually they most of them don’t know Christ as their Savior and so most everyone in the village, including the chiefs, practice voodoo with pride. To prove, once again, how much the devil hates what CHE is doing, the day before our school screening a man traveled to the village to sacrifice two cows to the gods. Sorry devil but the battle has already been won…
So as I traveled back to Togo I was filled with joy and excitement anticipating what the Lord would do during this time. The day of the school screening went so well. We arrived at the church around 8am and left by 1p. We were able to screen 56 children and the results were just as I thought. 91% anemia, 70% signs of malnutrition, 54% had worms, 25% had respiratory problems, 30% had obvious hygiene problems, and 16% had skin diseases. 28% of the children were underweight based on their age and weight and 3% were Severely Underweight. Even though these results are pretty depressing that is what makes this CHE program so exciting. This is the first organization I’ve been involved with that focuses on development and not relief. So basically instead of just doing what needs to be done FOR them that may only last a short time, we instead teach them how to do it themselves and therefore make lasting impact. Please pray with me that this program would be like seeds being planted on good soil amongst this community and that it would not fall on rocks or amongst thorns and be choked out.
Now going to Togo I thought my main reason was to do this screening but God had so much more in store for me. I knew the screening was only one day but I had decided to take a whole week in order to be able to see friends, patients, and also spend time with Pastor James, his family, and the church. Well Gods timing was perfect because I was able to see and do everything that I had wanted PLUS more. I won’t go into each one of my days but one of my prayers has been that God would stretch me and use me each day. Well I felt like ‘Stretch Armstrong’ as Pastor James totally placed me outside of my comfort zone each day and made me really see what it was like to be led by the Spirit. Eeekkk!!
On top of the stretching that went on, I also was blessed by being able to stay with Pastor and his family. If any of you have ever stayed with a family for a week you know that you REALLY get to see what they are like because you cant ‘fake it’ 24/7. After being there for the week I can attest that they are not ‘faking it.’ He is a father of 6 and has adopted another girl from the church as well. He has a heart wrenching testimony and big dreams and ideas of all that God will do. We had some challenging conversations and memorable laughs throughout the week but all of which made us both stronger. I was humbled as the whole family treated me like a queen and sister as they showed me their generosity, hospitality, servants’ heart, and consistent joy the whole time I was with them.
A few days before I was to leave I told them “Na ma jwa, ma fa vi” which means, “When I go, I will cry.” Even though I said it I didn’t ACTUALLY think I was going to cry. Well let me tell you, those tears fell. The tears fell for many reasons as Togo will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. The fishing village, my amazing friends (dayworkers), my church family, my sister Alida, my students, my old and new Burkitt's patients, and so many other things have stolen my heart made it really hard to leave again. I think another reasons it was hard was because I saw how great a need there is and but sadly that a lot of those being effected are my friends. The effects of poverty reached a whole new level when the ones being affected are those you love.
As Pastor James and I drove off towards the Ghana border I did my best to hold back my tears. I don’t know when I will be back again or IF I will be back again but I do know that Togo will ALWAYS be in my heart and that I will be praying for this nation and its development. Please be praying for Pastor James and his family, his church (Eglise Mission Internationale Church), all the Mercy Ships dayworkers and patients, and Togo as a whole.