Tuesday, May 4, 2010

everything i need to know about life i learned from traveling on a bus...

Several months ago I typed an email update listing all the “worldly things” I missed while being away from home.


“Well, here I am sitting on my bed typing this email to you...It has been 65 days since my last diet coke, or brewed coffee. I can hardly believe I am making such a statement...it sounds flippant, but I never savored these small enjoyments, and now I miss them dearly in their absence.

66 days ago I boarded a British Airways airplane and left my diet coke, brewed coffee life behind. I left behind my salary, my car, and all my high heels. I left behind pedicures, and blonde highlights, and even wifi. I left behind my expensive taste, and my comfortable lifestyle. I left behind everything I have even known for 24 years of life! I boarded an airplane to leave it all behind.”


While my time in Ghana is coming to an end, my mind is swirling with all the “worldly things” I will get to experience once my feet touch American soil again. It’s pretty invigorating. Hot water, Venti Mocha Frappechinos, a microwave... what more could a girl want?

When I came to Ghana I had one desire. My desire was to leave everything behind in search of meaning and purpose, in hopes to follow the example of Jesus, in expectation to help the world become a better place.

Mother Teresa’s words became my mantra,

“I can do no great thing, only small things with great love.”
I wanted to love so fiercely that the world would have no other choice but to call for change.

I came to Ghana in hopes to “change the world”, and here’s what happened...

"The world changed me!"

This revelation came to me while riding on a bus. I don’t know how significant the bus is in this revelation but,

“Thank you, bus!”

I once read a book about Taoism and one if the author’s points fits well here so I will quote it. The author said,

“Knowledge and experience do not necessarily speak the same language. But isn’t the knowledge that comes from experience more valuable than the knowledge that doesn’t?”

While I have been in Ghana I have made many mistakes (confession) and someone made the comment that my mistakes where due to the fact that I am young and simply naive... well DUH, that’s an observation worth writing home about! My response to this person (after I suppressed my young, naive initial thoughts) was...

“It’s okay, you might have learned all these lessons through your life experiences, but this is my life experience, so when did you think I was going to learn it?”

When I said those words aloud in my young, naive defense to being young and naive they took resonance (well, to me anyway).

And so I will end this message in a spirit of gratitude, since I can’t actually write a thank you note to the country of Ghana (my mom would be so proud to hear those words, “thank you note”). I will write a thank you blog and share to with those of you who have followed me through this journey over the last 10 months... here it goes...

Thank you Ghana.

This journey has been sweaty, dirty, intolerable, and impossible.

Thank you Ghana.

This journey has been exhausting, invigorating, depleting, renewing, and heartbreaking.

Thank you Ghana.

This journey has been undeniably terrifying, yet unforgettably transforming.

Thank you Ghana.

This journey has been a life experience that has changed my world forever.

Thank you Ghana. Your presence forced my world to change, and for that I am ever grateful!

Mark Twain was right, finding out is better!

Thank you Ghana.

** and a special thank you to everyone who has read my emails, blog notes, and has been thinking of me... your thoughts and prayers have been nothing short of miraculous, because God has answered them all. thank you.**

Sunday, March 28, 2010

sucker punch... ouch

T-minus 60 days until my departure from Ghana. It is inconceivable that nearly a year has passed by since this adventure began. Soon, I am going home. Lately, I have been feeling the pangs of the countdown.

You know the, “This is my last mid-term exam to administer. This is my last story hour with the kindergarten class. This is my last movie day.... this is my last... this is my last... this is my last.”

Among the pangs of sadness, I am also feeling a sense of urgency.

“I only have three more weeks to teach this. I only have one more week to cover that. But what about this, oh yeah and that too!”

I am beginning to think of all the “things” I will leave behind that are undone. I am beginning to focus on what I did not have time to finish...


This is the story of one girl, who, in search of herself found God, but sometimes confuses the two.

Once upon a time there was a girl. This girl was called Wunzoya, which in her language meant “God is BIG”. Now unbeknownst to her name, Wunzoya believed she was big. Wunzoya was loved and adored as a child, and never struggled in her life... so she really did not need help from anyone. She knew that all things were possible, if she worked hard enough. She wanted to make her life count for something, and unsure of that "something" she set out in search of "it"... “It” being the true meaning of life.

Wunzoya succeeded in school. She graduated from college with high honors. She even met someone and got married.

“Now”, Wunzoya thought, “This is the true meaning of life”.

However, Wunzoya was not happy. Wunzoya spent the next several years doing all the right things, saying all the right things, and even smiling at just the right moments. Wunzoya baked cakes. She read books. She hosted dinner parties. She decorated her house. She even paid her bills on time.

And Wunzoya was not happy.

Okay, so Wunzoya baked more cakes. She read more books. She bought more things to fill her house... and the bills, they were paid too.

And Wunzoya was not happy.

One day, Wunzoya had a memory from her youth. She remembered meeting The One True God. And she remembered being happy.

As you read this story, you might think this is when the story has resolve for Wunzoya... but not yet.

Wunzoya decided to leave her kitchen, her books, her couch, her amoires, and her husband in search for her happiness again.

And Wunzoya is...

In Africa. Teaching English. Learning about life. Learning about love.

And Wunzoya is...

...she is still searching, but aren’t we all?


As the countdown continues I keep thinking about everything I have left undone. A wise Jewish carpenter once said,

“It is finished!”

and who cares what I have done anyway. I’m just a Wunzoya! My days are numbered, but God’s are infinite. The real work begins when I get out of the way.

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you."

"But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.” Jesus

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Plank vs. Speck

Wait, wait I think I see something in your eye...

I have begun to lose my focus. In trying to create a better school, I have failed to remove my plank, and the scene is quite comical!

Through rules, regulations, and regime I have tried to legislate a sense of Western Order...


I think that is #1 on the DON’T DO LIST in the Ghana Tourism Handbook! My bad Ghana!

The irony amidst all this nonsense is I don’t even like rules, and I am asking other people follow them?

Why... (confession) I am a pharisee... Once again, something I am working on!

Rewind...The backstory.

In hopes to create the best school in my community I began complying a list of rules and duties that would create some order out of chaos. Now, don’t get me wrong, my God loves order, but He also IS love, and His love comes to us without the strings of rules and regulations attached. In other words, you don’t have to be a good person for God to love you... He loves me right? And I refuse to eat fufu while living in the land of fufu, so enough said!

Back to the story.

So then after the rules were in place I realized that a list of rules doesn’t make the world (or a school for that matter) a better place. It only creates room for judgement and supremacy.

Did King Nebuchadnezzar’s threaten of a fiery furnace inspire three Judaean boys to submit? NO, in fact they said,

“Hey Neb...Burn US UP!”

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (and yes I am using their non-Babylonian names... since it was the chief official under King Neb who forced those names upon them) said to King Nebuchadnezzar,

“Go ahead. Attempt to domesticate us with your rules and regime, threaten us with a blazing fire, but wait and see... because OUR God will rescue us, and even if He chooses not to, we will NEVER serve your gods!”

I see the rules I created as little gods that need to be served, and I am the grand puppeteer absurdly disillusioned to the fact that there are NO strings attached to my puppet. So now I am walking around like a fool with a plank protruding from my eye. HA!

I can mention your speck.. I can point it out, I can laugh at you for rubbing your eye and causing such a disturbance... but until I remove my plank it’s all quite comical!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

in the shower with cabbage...

a weekly ritual... sanitizing my produce in the shower... capful of bleach and a 20 minute soak, apparently this kills typhoid... so far so good!

in a hole...

I walked across the road to buy some bread and I was stopped in my tracks when I spotted three small boys playing in a water main hole.... I hid behind a building.... I stood and watched them laugh, giggle, and speak to each other for several minutes before they took notice of me... Then I ran back to my house to collect my camera....a good moment!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

when things get tough...

I have reached my half way point in this journey... except 200 days in Africa will actually become more like 300 by the time I depart... and this is when things get tough...

So at this climatic median I have a crucial decision to make... do I stay for the next 150 days, or do I pat myself on the back and say, “You did a good work” and go home?

Both ideas twist through my mind at night as I lay in my bed. It would be easy for me to go home because, I am a natural born (confession) quitter. When things get tough I want to bail... and (another confession) many times I do, so more recently I have been trying to change that terribly “human” flaw within me.

The terribly “human” flaw that tells me,

“It’s okay to quit... you gave it a fair try, you made an effort, it just wasn’t for you.”

More recently, when I get to that momentary fork in the road I don’t choose one direction or another, not immediately at least, I stop and I am still.

This moment happened for me yesterday while at school. Between two of my classes I walked into the supply closet, locked the door and cried out for God to give me strength... I sat on the floor and was absolutely STILL. I think He must have heard me because I made it through the day!

Then today I went online to read about the devastation in Haiti and I was literally sick in my soul. People who survived the disaster are now dying of dehydration, and suffocating under 10-20 feet or rubble because the entire country is in shambles. One news website estimated that the effects of this tragedy will impact the lives of over 3 million people. 3 MILLION PEOPLE... that is nearly a third of their population.

and this is when things get tough...

Today I watched a homeless man stumble down the street to beg for coins so he could eat.

Today I took the hand of a little boy who lives outside of my compound and he began to cry because his hand was cut and the wound was infected.

Today I hired a grown man to patrol my school campus who has never learned how to read or write.

Today I welcomed a new student into my fifth grade class because at her previous school she was flogged for forgetting her veil.

and this is when things get tough...

I am reminded of Paul and his amazing endurance “when things get tough”.

To the church in Corinth he writes;

...Well now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we are doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated- or not- in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly... in hard times, tough times, bad times, when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing His power; when we’re doing our best settling things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

when things get tough...

Currently, my thoughts turn to these words written by a man who, through the tough stuff decided to choose the road of perseverance.

You see, Paul was a wise, wise man who knew that the journey was not to reach a prize, but in fact the journey was the prize!

I am dead yet terrifically alive.

I am immersed in tears and possessing deep joy.

I am living on handouts yet enriching many.

I am having nothing, and having it all...

...and this is when things get tough, so I choose the journey not the prize!

Continue to pray for me and the lives I am blessed to encounter on this journey.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

stimulants... a teacher's best friend!

I never thought myself to be a morning person... then I began teaching, now I love the morning... it's like another day within the day... it is AMAZING what one can accomplish when they quit sleeping until noon (HA!).

One time while teaching (in the U.S.A.) I was walking down the hallway to greet my students for the day when a parent walked by me and held up his travel coffee mug to motion "cheers". I looked down at my coffee mug and raised it in response...
"Here's to coffee," he said, "My Life Blood!"

Since then I have never looked back... let's just say coffee has become my lifeblood, even in Ghana!

"Cheers to 2010, and my travel coffee mug!"

****New Term Begins Tuesday, January 12th... Time to dust off the ol' travel coffee mug!***