Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Crossing borders solo

As I sat on a hot, black, old, cracked leather seat of a rickety VW van, my hot sweaty skin stuck to the Ghanaian squished in next to me, I looked out the window and couldn't stop the huge grin that came across my face.  Sometimes I take it for granted where I am and I forget to appreciate the beauty of the West African countryside.  I remember seeing pictures and movie clips from West Africa with the tropical green trees, red sandy roads, beautifully crafted mud-brick houses with thatched roofs, and people walking about in brightly colored African fabrics that just add to the beauty of the countryside.  A few years ago, I never would have dreamt I would be here enjoying this myself!  And here I was, traveling solo on a mixture of motorcycle-taxis and VW vans from Togo to Ghana-- being the creepy "yovo" in the back of the van looking out the window with an all-too-giddy smile!  God is good!

With a 4 hour journey, I had plenty of time to enjoy the countryside and remember how amazing it is that I am doing what I'm doing right now!  Along the way, I had time to think about the patients we were seeing in the hospital, and especially the new plastic patients (burn contractures, deformed extremities, etc) that would be coming in the next week for surgery.  As I was thinking, I felt the Lord prompting me to pray for the people I would be seeing in Ghana and especially for people with deformities that would be good candidates for surgery that I may come across.  I prayed and napped as I traveled to Accra and waited very IMpatiently for the adventure that lay ahead!

Tim and I at the Accra airport- together at last!! and in Ghana of all places!!
I generally don't like traveling by myself, but it was very empowering to know that I could work through language barriers and make my way from Lome to Accra when I had no idea how to get there in the first place!  I was beyond excited to meet up with my good friend Tim and a group from my sister-churches back home who were coming on a 2 week mission trip to Ghana. I initially only knew 2 out of the 17 people in the group, and they all took me in like family and welcomed me as a member of their team.  By the end of my 5 days with them, it was hard to leave as we had grown so close together!

Our amazing group!
Before I joined the team, I had no idea what we were going to be doing in Ghana! Being the organized planner that I am.. NOT! I was just along for the ride to hang out with Tim!  When I got there, I found out that we were staying at a vocation woman's school  that gave women from poor and oppressed backgrounds training in useful skills such as cooking, sewing, fabric dying, hair dressing, as well as others.  We did some work at the school, and then also did medical clinics in nearby villages and schools.

The group taking a walking tour of the woman's school
cooking class
Sewing class- with manual sewing machines!
Fabric dying-- I had some dresses made by the women-- the fabric-dying and sewing is all hand done by the ladies!

setting up the pharmacy for the medical clinic

Working in the pharmacy! I'm practically a pharmacist now

Screening the patients
The first night I was there, I was talking with some of the ladies on the team discussing our experiences and travels in West Africa, and one of the ladies started talking about the year before when she was on this same trip in Adidome, Ghana.  She had met a little boy who was born with his hands and feet webbed together which greatly affects his lifestyle, with his acceptance in his village, education, and ability to find a job in the future.  She was very burdened for him and prayed fervently for him for the past year, and recruited her grandsons to do the same, in hopes of finding a way to help him.  As she was telling me this I was immediately covered in goosebumps at the connection between our 2 stories.  I said to her, "I think I might be able to help!"  How great is our God that he brought us together as 2 pieces of the puzzle in this boys life!

Timme! kid-magnet.
Throughout the week, we tried and tried to get ahold of the boy so I could see him to see if he was a surgery candidate, but we were unable to find him during my time there.  It was disheartening, but I know that our God is Good and nothing can stop him from bringing grace and peace into this boys life.  
I don't know if we will be able to help him; if his complication is something we can operate on, or if there is room in the surgery schedule, but I know that there was a reason that Susan and I were brought together to pray for this boy.  Now this boys family and the surrounding villages know about Mercy Ships, so I pray and trust that he will get the help he needs someday!

After being disheartened from not finding the boy, God lifted my spirits when I met a 7 year old girl named Enyonam in one of the villages who has a cleft lip.  She was very sweet and smiley and shy and kept her hand over her mouth to cover her cleft.  I sat down and held her hand and talked to her mom in my fluent Ewe (Ok just kidding, I had a translator!) and found out that the girl doesn't go to school because she is ridiculed for her lip.  I explained to her mother that I work for a volunteer Christian hospital just across the border in Togo, and we would be able to fix her lip.  She asked me how much it cost, and I said, "nothing, it's free."  Then she asked, how much is food and lodging? and I said, "nothing, it's free."  Then she asked, how will we get to the ship?  and I said, "I'll pick you up at the border."  Then mama knelt down in front of me, grabbed my hand and started crying, saying, "akpe akpe caca"  which means "thank you thank you sooo much!"

After screening day, it was such a sweet, humbling experience to meet this family.  Yes, we do have to say no to a lot of desperate people, but here was an example of complete, genuine, mercy that we can provide.  God clearly placed this girl in my path and provided me with the means to help her and change her life forever.  If Enyonam is the only reason that I am even in West Africa, then Praise God!  I would do it all over if just for the sake of Enyonam.  Enyonam's surgery is Marcy 29th, so pray for her and watch for updates and photos!

I returned from Ghana with a renewed heart and attitude and ready to finish out my next 3 months!

Dance Party!  Why can't white people move like black people?!

And guess who we got to see?! Gifty and Comfort!  I met these ladies at my small group at Westbrook church over a year ago! 
Tim met the children that we sponsor together!  Unfortunately I had to return to the ship before I could meet them.

Prayer requests:
- For Enyonam and her mother to travel safely, and for a pain-free uncomplicated surgery!
- For a young lady who has been in the hospital since the first week we opened in February.  She has a terrible wound, infection, and poor immune system, and has endured many surgeries over the past month.  Pray for her miraculous healing and for any emotional or spiritual burdens to be removed from her heart.
- For this coming June-- What in the world is Danielle going to do next?!  I need direction :)