2021 Ghana July Team Blog
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For this trip, our team felt very called to invest and encourage the women and staff at City of Refuge. We were able to host Spa days for most of the single moms, teachers, and staff women and we spent a great deal of time praying into and encouraging them in their journey with Jesus. Thank you to everyone who donated over the counter medicines, school supplies, socks, and other much needed items for our new found friends. It means so much to them and to us. Below is our day to day activities from our time in Ghana. You can scroll from the bottom of the blog to the top to read in chronological order.
Are you interested in joining our next faith journey? We are currently taking applications for Ghana (Dec 2021).
Jul 12 & 13 | Day 10/11 Travel Days
Traveling these days include extra layers of complexity. We started our day off early as the entire CORM campus came out to pray over our team and send us off with blessings. We love them all so much. Several hours and planes later, we are home and processing our experience. Oh, all the things God has been up to within us and through us. Thank you, friends, for being a part of it all.
Here are some questions to ask your loved ones when they get home. Answering the standard “how was your trip?” is harder to put into words.
- What serving activities were you a part of? - Tell me what was most unexpected about your journey. - Tell me one of your favorite moments with your team. - What about with someone from City of Refuge? - What was the hardest part of this experience? - What do you miss most about Ghana? - How can I be praying for you now that you’re back? - How can I pray for your new friends? - What did you miss most while you were gone? - What is most difficult about being back home? - What is God teaching you as you get back into your routine here? - How do you want to remember this experience going forward? - How did God change your view of the world? - What did God teach you about Himself?
Jul 11 | Day 9
It’s our last full day today and we packed in the fun. Cailyn has been practicing the last few days with the worship team and joined them this morning during church worship. Pastor Johnbull gave such a good Word today about Abraham and Isaac and the importance of laying down those things we hold most tightly. After the sermon, He felt led to pray over many of our team and it was a huge blessing.
After church, we had lunch and then went on a long hike in the heat of the day. The team was great about it and it was nice to hang out with the older boys and girls. After the hike, Jenn distributed all the canvas drawings she made for the kids and then we ended the night praying over the Director team at CORM. Typically, they spend an evening specifically praying over each of us so it was a special treat to be able to pray over them instead. I heard April say, "I could do this all day." That is a testimony in itself.
We begin our journey home tomorrow morning. Thank you all for praying!
Jul 10 | Day 8
Our intention was to go on a hike today with some of the older kids but it started getting late as they were completing chores so we changed it to tomorrow and started to help instead. Apparently, we are getting very comfortable with Africa time- which basically means we are going with the flow more and more.
After chores, Cindy went to the local village with Auntie Jammie and more of their team. Jammie has been building relationships with the local women and brought them 2 turkeys today and gave them a lesson in nutrition which they requested. Cindy really enjoyed going along and witnessing the friendships Jammie and Pastor Ato have fostered there.
We handed out the tie dye shirts and our new friends were proud to show them off. So creative.
Auntie Jennifer practiced drawing with some of the older boys and this is Alex’s picture. There are several boys here who love to draw and are extremely talented.
Today was one of our last days to prayer walk and the sun kindly hid behind the clouds for us so we could focus a little less on the heat and more on our prayers. We each love this place and its’ people so praying for them is truly an honor. Pray for the team please. Tomorrow is our last full day here and we all have mixed feelings; excited to go home soon to family but also sad to leave our new friends.
Jul 9 | Day 7
This morning, we went without running water for a few hours and it was truly no big deal. Each flush of the toilet required several bottles of water and our team was incredibly helpful to one another. We now have a new appreciation for a regular flushing toilet.
Today was our last day in the library and I (Susan) was admiring the view of these beautiful feet from where I was sitting on the floor. These feet have prayed circles around this campus (almost every day around 4:30pm), brought much joy to others and demonstrated the heart of the Father to one another. These women have truly been carriers of the peace and joy of the Lord. I’m so proud to know them.
This afternoon, we brought out the tie dye and the kids were so creative! We’re excited to see how each one turns out. After tie dye, we made friendship bracelets. These kids are super talented with this. And in the meantime, Cindy found time for a piggy back race. So fun!
Finally, tonight we had movie night in the cafeteria complete with sugar or salt popcorn. We each had precious children cuddled up to us on the benches and it was a highlight for everyone. These kids are so incredibly loving. It’s a blessing to know them.
Jul 8 | Day 6
Averie led us in devotions this morning. This is a picture of her praying over her mama. She’s really been stretched on this trip by doing things like this and she’s doing amazing. Today was Day 2 of self care for the ladies. Cailyn and April had a waiting line for facials- they were a way more popular choice than massages. Who knew?! Jenn thoroughly enjoyed helping the ladies do their art project and seeing their creativity come out (as well as their confidence). Without exception, each woman was so grateful for this time and investment in them. Some of them are cooks, some teachers, social workers, or seamstresses. All of them work so hard and we were really so thrilled to do this for them.
After lunch, we spent some time sorting in the library again, which requires looking up reading levels and labeling each book accordingly. When we came back to the room, we started prepping for tie dye tomorrow. We’ll be helping the younger kids do this and thought getting some things prepped beforehand would be helpful.
After dinner, I (Susan) went to the girls home and sat on the stoop for awhile. I handed out bubbles and played with sweet Na who was counting each bubble as it flew by. It was a really sweet moment. We should really spend more time just enjoying bubbles flying by.
This evening was prep which is what they call homework. Our team did a great job helping and encouraging the kids who are all working on very different things and are on different academic levels. Some of them are 10 years old and have only had a few years of formal schooling (children working on the lake don’t have the “luxury” of going to school). They are doing incredible considering where and when they started. We were all so impressed.
Jul 7 | Day 5
Today started at 6am as we led our team and some staff women in Holy Yoga. It was a great way to start our day, stretching and praising the Lord. Soon after, our spa day started as women staff members were assigned 20 minute time slots to come enjoy some art therapy led by Jenn and Averie as well as their choice of a facial or massage. Cindy and Susan have sore fingers now and April’s ended up quite pruny by the afternoon but we were so blessed with how blessed and grateful the women were. This is serving to us. Caring for those who are so often tirelessly caring for others. It was such a great day.
After lunch, we went back to CORE to buy some items from them and order some cute customized things for back home. These men and women are so talented and so loving with us. There is no investment greater we could think of than buying things from all their hard work.
We spent time this afternoon in the library sorting books and putting them in appropriate reading levels. Both Averie and Cindy loved this activity as organizing things is their favorite. Not me (Susan) for sure, but God has thankfully given us a very special and balanced team. April led us in our devotion time as a team today and has been stepping out in so many ways regarding prayer, devotions, and all things God. We’re so amazed by her.
This evening, we said goodbye to the amazing Allison family who went with us yesterday to the castle and have been here at CORM for 6 weeks. It’s sweet how God is so detailed to even bring others from overseas at the same time He brings us just to create a unique connection.
After dinner, we handed out a few bubbles to the littles and then Cindy led the women in a great Bible study on Colossians which we all enjoyed. Cailyn has been opening up more and more with the older kids and has an ongoing game of UNO after most of the adults head back to the room. Thank you Lord for a very busy and fruitful day.
Jul 6 | Day 4
Today started at 330am as we traveled to Cape Coast and needed to beat morning traffic. We traveled with 16 people crammed in a passenger van as several long term volunteers and a sweet family who has been here for some time wanted to join us. The A/C in the back of the van is literally "hit or miss" as it sometimes kicks on when we hit a bump in the road just right. And when that happens, we all celebrate. We arrived at Kakum National Park about 9am and did a minor hike through rainforest followed by walking across 7 very high suspension bridges. I can't say we saw much scenery while on the bridge- it was more making sure one foot kept moving in front of the other. After the park, we headed to a lunch spot by Elmina Castle (and right by the ocean). It was quite beautiful.
Elmina Castle is a historic landmark here in Ghana where many slaves were taken to begin their journey to the Americas. We took a tour there and were all affected by the heaviness of it all. Great atrocities against humanity began in that place and it is history that needs to be shared so that things like that never happen again. Cailyn had been before and her sensitive spirit just could not handle hearing it again. Instead, Daddy Johnbull took her out to the car and the two of them had deep conversation about the mysteries of faith. I find more and more that God shows up in great abundance in unplanned moments like these.
After the castle, we began our 4 hour journey home stopping to grab dinner and arriving back at CORM around 10:30pm. April found a new friend in Christi, the mom of 6 adopted children. One of Christi's sons is very similar to one of April's daughters and so the two of them spent hours swapping stories and bonding. It always amazes me how God brings just the right people together to encourage one another.
At some point on the journey, Daddy Johnbull stopped to buy all 16 of us ice cream- the heart of generosity and love from our friends is something so spectacular. We are starting our 2 day event tomorrow morning benefiting the women of CORM and we want to be fully present to give that our all. These women deserve that.
Jul 5 | Day 3
We had the most beautiful day. "This is Africa" (that's what the locals say when schedules don't go according to plan) and some of what was on the schedule for today changed- but in the most amazing way. We spent this morning in our volunteer training led by Sir David. Our team started to feel the heat around this time as we were indoors for a few hours without breeze. Sir David was so patient with us though as we are drinking lots of water and taking lots of breaks. Ha! Volunteer training is important as they go through some cultural do's and don'ts, talk us through some common words in TWI (the local dialect), and help set expectations for us for the rest of our time here.
Prior to training, the men and women from CORE (City of Refuge Empowerment) asked us to lead them in devotions and afterwards we asked if we could pray for them individually. Our team "chose challenge" and we each sat around and prayed for every individual who wanted it (at some point Cailyn even sang a song). It was so beautiful. Once we were finished, we humbly asked if they would pray over us. I truly can't express the bond created between our two communities as we did this. If you ever go to Africa, don't miss the opportunity to ask for prayer. You will be changed forever. They don't just need our prayers. We very much need theirs. Giving and receiving prayer was AMAZING for all of us and we’ve built such friendships as a result. Thank you Lord that your plans are so much better than our own.
This afternoon, we sat on the stoop laughing with some awesome friends and some of our ladies did their laundry. The sun started to go down and the breeze was so refreshing. This evening, we celebrated the 4th of July (yes, on the 5th) complete with American cheeseburgers our ladies helped prepare, potato salad, and apple pie. Also fireworks and glow sticks. Whoo hoo!!
Jul 4 | Day 2
Happy 4th of July! Here at City of Refuge, the 4th of July is celebrated just like in the States...but we will be officially celebrating it tomorrow. Instead, today was a day of honoring the 16 graduates of the Coming of Age program which included 3 foreign students. This program has been in place for 3 years as a way of instructing the children on what it truly means to be a man or woman of God. Church was extra special as we celebrated the 16 Coming of Age graduates. Daddy Johnbull invited the 5 local chiefs to come celebrate with us and they came! Their presence speaks volumes to the relationship CORM has developed within their own community.
The way CORM celebrates walking into adulthood is so intentional and full of love. Every young man and woman was encouraged and loved on individually and has worked hard through this week learning about living a life focused on integrity, courage, pursuing justice, and self control. Today they were given a certificate and either a ring (for the ladies) or a masculine cross bracelet. For me (Susan), this was an emotional day and I found myself crying proud tears for several of these young men and women (including my own Carena Grace). I've watched so many of these amazing kids grow up over the last several years. It has truly been a privilege. This evening the celebration continued with a delicious dinner and a dance party. These kids are joy-filled and they know they are loved, and frankly, that is such a story of God’s redeeming love.
Our team is doing great. We’ve acclimated to the time change and are ready to put in some good work tomorrow. God has been so good to us. Amen.
Jul 3 | Day 1
Today was scheduled as a rest day. We started our morning with some delicious bread and instant coffee. The rest of the day was filled with coloring, playing cards, and word searches which they call “puzzles”. Cindy and April loved that several boys were so quick to grab their hands and take them on a tour of the campus first thing in the morning. Auntie Jenn had fun reconnecting with some of the kids and introducing them to Averie. Cailyn was asked often if she’s the same girl from a few years ago- she’s grown so much she’s hard to recognize. Auntie Susan enjoyed laughing with some of the older boys and coloring with the littles. These children have so much personality and are so loving. Tonight, we celebrated the return of the teens from the Coming of Age program with a bonfire and a few fireworks. It’s been a fantastic day.
Jul 1 & 2 | Team Travel Days
We are on our way to Ghana. Thanks to the June team that went before us, we were very prepared with all the documents we needed and this check in process couldn't have gone smoother. We made all our connections without issue. We landed in Ghana very late on the 2nd and headed straight for bed upon arrival. Praise God.
Jun 30 | Prayer Send Off
Our team shared a special time of worship, prayer and commissioning alongside several friends and family members. These trips are as much about the family members who stay back home as they are the volunteers who are being sent out. It was important for us to pray over them all this time. We are each so grateful for the people who have made space and sacrifice to allow us to go on this faith journey. God bless them all. Please keep us lifted in prayer and you'll hear from us again when we're on the other side of the world!
May | Pre-Trip: Training
We completed our team training and left a lot of burdens there we weren't ever meant to carry. Together, we laughed, we cried, and we explored what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. Do we love like He does? Do we know how loved we are? God has done a great work in these 4 days and it's only the beginning.
As we prayed for one another, a verse kept coming up over and over again. "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.' Isaiah 43:19 The Lord is choosing to do a new thing in each of us so that we can go to Africa and share the refreshment that comes from Living Water. God is so good.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all of the friends and family who are praying and supporting us in this journey.
Are you interested in joining our next faith journey? We are currently taking applications for Ghana (Dec 2021).