Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reflections from Africa: Watchnight Worship

On Monday, December 31, 2012, I had the pleasure of preaching at the Church of Pentecost, Tessano  Branch, in Accra, Ghana. The Pastor, Rev. Samuel Appiah, was gracious and opened his pulpit to me to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was amazing on so many levels. First, there were about 500 people present--probably the largest "audience" I've preached to (praise God at least six people gave their lives to Christ at the end of the service). Second, it was a joint Twi/English service, so I preached with an interpreter. It was a beautiful dance demanding that I slow down and carefully chose the words I would use. My interpreter was my brother in law Frank--an elder in the church and seasoned interpreter, so thankfully he was used to my pace and accent when speaking. Third, I was nervous as I-don't-know-what, which made my ripe for the Holy Spirit. For the first time, ever, I didn't rely on my manuscript to get me through. I preached what I had prepared, but it was so deep in me that I didn't need the manuscript. I now know what it means to preach from the overflow. As Scripture says, the Holy Spirit will bring things to your remembrance (Of course, you have to know them first, which is why study is so important). All in all, I am so grateful to God for the opportunity. And in my usual silliness, leading up to the preaching I was hearing the words of Rob Base echo in my head, "I'm not internationally known, but I'm known to rock a microphone..." Well, now I can say that I am internationally known!

Beyond my personal experience, I was in awe of the church, and her people. Here are some thoughts about that aspect of the experience:

1) This is a praying church. For real. Service began at 7:30pm and didn't end until about 1:30. There was prayer from about 9:00 to 10:30, and maybe even before (we arrived late because of baby girl's sleep schedule). Then, after preaching, we prayed from 11:30 until after the turn of the new year. And then, there was more prayer. I was encouraged by the fervor and spirit with which the people approached the throne of grace. While there was a leader, the people were praying aloud. It was true corporate prayer. They were not shy, nor concerned about their neighbors hearing them, but they were boldly seeking God for themselves, their families, the church, and their nation. It was exciting and inspiring. But I was convicted about our (uh-oh) harried and hurried prayers in worship here in the U.S. We need a great prayer revival our churches!

2)This is a praising church. Prior to Watchnight, we had worshiped twice at this church. In all of the services there is time for testimony. In this church there is no twisting of arms to get people to testify to the goodness of God in their lives. In fact, one service the testimonies were so many that they had to cut it short in order to move worship along. Here were God's people, in God's house, standing to declare God's mighty acts! And they didn't just speak their testimonies. Almost everyone who spoke, sang a song in praise to God. Hallelujah! In addition to testimony time, I was so amped by the victory chant and wave that took place after we prayed in the New Year. There we were, having made it to 2013, excited about the God awaited possibilities of a New Year waving white hankies (or burp cloths, lol) and shouting and dancing. It was a somatic living out of the Psalms.

3)This is a perceptive church. As I stood and declared the Word of God, the many of the people sat attentively listening. Some were leaning in to grab hold of the word. Others were leaned back letting the word wash over them. And it was clear that they took the Scripture seriously to not only be hearers of the word, but also doers of the word. After the service was over I had people coming up to me explaining how it was a timely word and how they would apply it in their lives.

That's it for me...I'll let the pictures speak(they are in no particular order and aren't captioned), mostly because Baby Girl is stirring and naptime is just about over...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Think on These Things: In the Midst of It All

Last night when I was giving Baby Girl her bath a song came on my Pandora Radio Station that made my soul leap. The song was "In the Midst of It All" by Yolanda Adams.


My soul was leaping when I remembered where I was when this song came out. I was physically living in Washington, DC and I was spiritually living in the muck and the mire of sin and worldliness. I was sharp on the outside--dressed to the nines at all the hottest events in the city with my girls--and dull on the inside. But somehow, someway, God used this song to both prick my heart and encourage me to move from where I was to where He desired for me to be. Last night, in particular, these words touched me:

Not because I've been so faithful
Not Because I've always obeyed
It's not because I trust him
To be with me all of the way
But it's because He loves me so dearly
He was there to answer my call
There always to protect me
For He's kept me in the midst of it all

My friends, God's love and faithfulness are unfailing. And, whether we recognize it or not, it is God who keeps us at every turn. When I first heard this song I was in a place where I didn't want to be kept. I wanted to be left to my own devices. But last night, hallelujah, I was touched because regardless or what is going on in my inner or outer circumstances, I can look to the hills, because my Help and my Keeper is ever present.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reflections from Africa: Handling Business

I was blessed to travel to Ghana and South Africa with Hubby and Baby Girl from December 22, 2012-January 5, 2013. It was a marvelous trip and I have a lot to show and tell that one blog post wouldn't be sufficient. This is the first in a series of reflection pieces. They may come back to back, or they may be sporadic; In either case, please bear with me. We left the United States of America with a seven month old who was all gums and sat still for as long as you had her in one place and returned with an eight month old flashing a smile with two teeth as she army crawls around.Needless to say, Baby Girl keeps me quite busy!

Anyway, enjoy!

In all of the baby books I've read (and I've read a lot), and on all of the Mommy websites I've browsed (too many to name), they call it "Baby Wearing."

In Ghana, it is simply a mother handling her business.

As a new mother I have struggled, at times, to get things done around the house when my sweet girl desires/demands my attention. I tried using our Bjorn carrier in the house, but not only was she not feeling it, but there is only so much you can do with a baby dangling in the front of you. (She loves the Bjorn when out for walks, especially in the mall.) Admittedly, I was equally impressed with and jealous of the women I saw in Ghana who were doing everything while their babies were safely and comfortably on their bodies. At Watch Night service at the Church of Pentecost (Tessano Branch), I watched mothers praising and praying, fervently, while baby was watching or sleeping on their backs. I was to preach at that service and I secretly wished that I could put baby girl on my back and handle God's business.I mean, I preached on of my best sermons with her in the telling what would happen if she were on my back!

Seeing the women and their babies intensified my desire to learn how to get Baby Girl to enjoy being on my back.  And so, while in Ghana, I excitedly (and timidly) learned how to handle my business. My mother-in-law and cousin taught me how to strap Baby Girl onto my back so that I could have more freedom during the day. It wasn't an easy task. In fact, get her comfortable was the first feat. It was only after our cousin took her--two weeks into our trip--and we noticed (25 minutes later) that she was quiet that we realized that she was contentedly being toted around. With her comfortable, I made it my goal to learn how to do it myself. That, too, was no easy task. The sisters in Ghana do not tie the cloth. They wrap and tuck it. I was nervous enough about getting her safely into position on my back, and surely a knot or two in the fabric would have eased my nerves. It was akward, and I practiced over the bed, but I got it. Sort of. At least enough for pictures, so my hubby thought.

Imagine his surprise when, yesterday morning, I text him pictures of us handling our business. Since being home I have made coffee, made up the bed, sorted laundry, and cooked Jollof rice (learned in Ghana, another post for another day) all with Baby Girl in tow. In Ghana, Baby Girl wasn't too thrilled with her new position. She was used to being in her front carrier (a carrier that quickly identified me as "obroni" or foreigner when out to market--that, too, is another post). But last night as we rattled pots in the kitchen I noticed that Baby Girl was quite content being on my back.

Below are a few photos of the journey. I can't say I'll never use my Bjorn again. But I will say that in the house, and perhaps one day in the pulpit, that Baby Girl will be on my back and, together, we will handle our business.

A Sister handling her business....

And another...

Content for the first time...

You mean I can't tie the fabric?

We got it...

Peeking over my shoulder...

Mommy, I think I like this!

The old way of getting stuff done...

Our first attempt...

The calm before the storm...

With Grandma on the day we were leaving...

Even Hubby carries Baby Girl in the Bjorn...

Mommy, we got this...

Yep, Baby Girl, we do...