I have been in Ghana for twelve and a half years and during that time, I've seen my share of things...from extreme disappointment, to the wonder of God's miracles, from one adventure after another, to seasons of slowing down. As I began to reflect upon all the years here, I got to thinking about seasons.
When I first moved to Ghana, young and excited for the adventure in front of me, a lot was unknown. I came knowing I would teach for one year; I didn't know that I would remain and start a school. I came knowing I would live with John and Stacy, the founders, and their family, which I did for many years; I didn't know that I would eventually start my own and make Ghana my home. I came passionately aware of the issue of human trafficking; I didn't know the face of it. I do now. I get to treasure the many faces of those who have found freedom at the City of Refuge Ministries Children's Village. I get to honor their stories. I get the privilege of knowing their names, their histories, and witness the miracles of their healing, their transformations, their victories (and their mistakes too).
I've realized that God knows me well. He has faithfully given me what I could handle in any given season.
When I first moved to Ghana, my first few months in country, we made countless trips to the Volta region where we work. 17 hour journeys over undeveloped roads in trotros (little buses) through the middle of the night, boat rides across the lake, endless prayers for little ones to be released. It was the season of life we were in...standing up against injustice with investigations, rescues, and long rides home to something new for these young children.
This was the Johnbull I met when I came to Ghana...the one who always moved at the front of the crowd, advocating and being a voice for the voiceless...a tireless abolitionist.
This was the Stacy I came to meet...always ready to hold a baby, hold a hand, give a hug to the nearest child who simply needed a touch to know they were loved.
And this is the me I came to know when I moved to Ghana, brave and outgoing, quick to entertain the hoards of children that inevitably followed us on our various trips around the country. My travel bags were not just filled with clothes but with crayons and coloring sheets, with a speaker and my mp3 player for a quick dance party when it was called for. This season of life made me flexible and malleable, quick to pray and quicker to have faith for big things.
Back then, we all lived in one big house--almost 40 of us. There were three bathrooms for all of us, and none of us had our own space. While I had a room of my own, little bitty Edwin shared with me back then and it was frequently barged into from any number of the children living in the home. I vividly remember having one of the little girls walking in while I was taking a bath one morning. I told her that she needed to leave and she promptly said, "No, I wanna watch". We filled our days with school and our evenings with dance parties and movie nights, with outside games, and conversations. It was the season and it was an adventure that we look back on with absolute fondness.
Living with so many people had it's challenges, besides the never-ending search for privacy and a few minutes of time to yourself, we didn't have running water in the house. Due to that, we hauled water each week, resulting in water that left us with what Stacy and I have lovingly recalled as the "Ghana itch". It just wouldn't be relieved until your legs and arms were bleeding from the scratching. We also had an intense case of boils pass through the home, a strange case of MRSA from the overcrowding and the heat. Part of my job each morning in school was to lance the new boils before we could start class, otherwise the kids would be so preoccupied with the pain, it would be a useless school day. It was the season and even though these challenges might have been hard in the moment, we look back and laugh at the humor of the situation.
I don't know if I could do that season now, in the space and time that I am currently in, but man, am I thankful for that season and what it taught me.
When we moved out to the CORM Children's Village, we moved into homes with no electricity, praying that it would come sooner rather than later. We lived through Ghana's dry and hot season without electricity, only turning on our generator once a day for a few hours in the evening to charge our phones and computers for the next day's work. The nights were long and hot...and I recall wishing I could sleep on the cool concrete of the walls of my new bedroom in the Omorefe's home, pushing my arms and legs up along the wall to cool myself down after my cold shower did little to abate the heat. I shared my room with a volunteer and friend, Andrea, who had come to help in our school with PE and each night we would battle the mosquitos and the heat with laughter, knowing that at some point, our exhaustion would win out and we would sleep. Our nights were long and hot, but our days were filled with joy as we watched newly rescued children experience freedom, our school begin to grow, and God bring joy in new and beautiful ways.
What I remember most about that season were the miracles...the way that we saw God work as we connected our water to the new land...the way that we saw God open doors to bring in electricity poles and the installation of our electricity over Easter weekend. I remember how Johnbull fought for this little community in ways that no one else could have, and because of his tenacious faith, God moved. I remember the conversations of vision and the prayers of the young children in our care, the smiles that came when healing and hope arrived.
When I think back about that season, I don't know if I could do it again, but I know that God gave us exactly what we needed in that season, in that time and place to meet the needs of the children we were serving and to see God's kingdom continue to grow in our little Children's Village in Shai Hills, Ghana.
I think that's the thing that came to mind as I was reflecting on all of these seasons of my life--seasons of our lives in ministry together--that these seasons were necessary and beautiful and hard and God used them and grew us and grew City of Refuge Ministries. But, they were seasons. And seasons always change. We never stay quite the same.
Ecclesiastes 3 says it this way:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
The season that I face now is quite different than one that I've ever been in before--a mama to teenagers and toddlers, my capacity has dwindled down to just a portion of what I previously could get done in ministry, but I know that in this season, my primary ministry is just that--my family. It is to love my children well...to care for my husband...to love Jesus by loving them well and everything else is secondary to that call on my life in this season. And as Solomon said, this is the gift of God. Each season faces these gifts from God, that we may know Him more and experience Him in greater measure.
You may be facing your own different season. I'm sure it has it's share of highs and lows. Maybe it is new and scary or maybe it is filled with adventure and curiosity. Whatever you are facing, know this..."He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." God is in this and you will look back and see the ways that He "set eternity in your heart" during this particular time. Press in. Trust the place He has you. Have faith that He will see you through...and looking back, you will always see the beauty.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.