The Journey of Africa

I found that moment and here is my leap of FAITH.....

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I love spending time with people seeing and understanding God through so many of their lives.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Journey Back to Africa.....LACES

I would like to invite you to follow along and support my new journey back to Africa

This time the journey will involve using the sport of soccer to develop soccer leagues as a tool to restore the war affected youth of Liberia

Thank you to all of you who have supported me during my time with Mercy Ships and my hope is you will continue to support me in this new challenge to see the children of Liberia restored from a war affected Life.

Love Seren

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mercy Ships Screening Day

The definition of Hope has never had so much meaning as it did for me in the last 2 days.

"Bringing hope and healing to the poor" is Mercy Ships motto and I saw that motto being put into action on June 26th-27th.

The que (aka line) began forming last Saturday, this line was full of hopeful hearts and faces willing to wait for 3 days just to see if they passed an intial screening. The line was unsettling quiet. People speaking softly to their families and as the Mercy Ships personnel walked by they looked up with hopefuly faces, just waiting for you to pull them out of the line so they could see the doctor and possibly receive a free surgery for a removal of tumor, keloid scars, goiters (not sure how to spell that word), or cataracts. My role that day was to hand out water for the 1/2 mile long line and to pray for the people who Mercy Ships was unable to help. I would have to say between the two jobs the praying was the hardest.

Each person you passed that day, walked by with a huge hope in their eyes as they passed through the entrance for their surgery screening. While most exited the building that day carrying with them hope in their hearts and an appointment card in their hand. Some however, had a different look on their face as they left.....

A women sat down at our prayer station with her 10 week old daughter, her daughter's right eye was bulging out about the size of a golf ball due to a tumor, unfortunately mercy ships was unable to help this tiny girl. What do you say to a mother who has waited in line for hours and has carried her daughter from one doctor to the next each one with more discourageing news than the previous. Here she is sitting at the final station, starring at you with her watering eyes and beautiful daughter in her lap, knowing that what started as a hopeful day, has now just become the same as the last 10 weeks of her daughter's life. As we began praying for her my own words escaped me, but God new exactly what this women needed to hear and by the time we finished praying for the small baby, the mother looked like she had a tiny bit of that hope back in her eyes.

This has been the most amazing deomonstration of hope I have ever seen in my life let alone in one afternoon. Children playing, puppet shows going, and lots of nurese and doctors making very diffcult decisions. Just being there and seeing how Mercy Ships can tangibly bring hope and healing to the poor, made me realize how God can turn any hope into reality.

Love Seren

World Cup.....Ghanian Style

World Cup Crazy!!!

All I have heard the last 5 days is "OHHHH you are from America our people score you 2-1" " Go Blackstars"!!!!

Last Thursday when Ghana played US the game was at 2:00, we stopped work promptly at 1:30 (along with the rest of Ghana and trust me nobody works during the game) set up a projection screen and found ourselves amongst 40 Africans shouting and screaming when Ghana scored!!!

Ghana has gone World Cup Crazy, at approximetly 3:00 today all shops, most schools, and people will leave work to watch their country play Brazil. This is the first time Ghana has ever qualified for a world cup and now that they have made it past the first round all you see everywhere is Ghana flags, hats, shirts, and whistles with red, yellow, and green ribbon attached! It's so much fun, I have never seen such national pride and cameraderie. Every one is chatting on the streets about the game, and yes I have officially "jumped on the bandwagon" ( I even got my cheek painted with the Ghanaian flag) and I am having a great time!!!

GO GHANA!!!!!!


Monday, June 05, 2006

Amazing Grace Plumbing.....

I have observed that many people in Ghana know about Christ, but they only know Him at church. I have noticed this nation is full of the gospel, but people's hearts are empty. You see tons of signs for businesses saying "God is King Fitting Shop", "Amazing Grace Plumbing", or "God's Way Aluminum Co.", and these are just a few. Signs like the picture above line the streets of Ghana. At times it feels like there are more churches than homes and on Sunday's everyone but the tro tro drivers (bus drivers) are in church. While visually at first glance this nation appears to be full of God, when you take a second look at the hearts you see a different story. But really is this story any different in any other nation?

While in the US our streets may not be lined with visual signs of God, but do our hearts look any different??? This observation made me stop and think about my own life and ask myself some questions....
1. Am I leading a life that says I know about Christ or am I living a life for Christ in my heart?

2. When no one else is looking or when I am not at church am I making decisions with a Christ-like heart?

3. Am I just a visual picture of God on the outside, but on the inside it's a different story....

Just thought this little observation might spark some questions in your own hearts.... it's nothing I hadn't thought about before, but sometimes different things in life bring up these questions.....

Would love to hear your thoughts.... love Seren

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kordiabe....Home Sweet Home

Well it is nice to finally be living in the same location for the next 7 weeks. I have unpacked my bags for the final time in Africa. So here is an idea of what my days look like.....
Tuesday-Friday I get up around 5:15 am (really no point in trying to sleep longer it's better to get things done when it's not so hot) go for a run, eat breakfast, leave for ministry time around 7:00 which for me is construction work at a local school in the neighboring village of Doramue, work at the school until about 4:00 unless a downpour of rain stops our work day early, come home clean up for dinner, eat, try to socialize with my other teammates until about 8:00 and then I go to bed around 9:00. I have come to realize in the last month that I have aged about 50 years just with my sleeping habits, it's sad when you are 26 and you get excited when 8pm comes around because you will be able to sleep soon!!

While we are working at the school, some of the school children will come and help us build during their break times or after school, it's kind of fun and humbling at the same time. It's fun because the children are really taking ownership of the project and want to help us with their school, and plus they are just flat out hilarous to be around. It's humbling when a 10 year-old child can swing a pick ax more efficently than you can. No really they can!!! For some reason in Africa people worry more about a white girl swinging a pick ax than a 10 year old child... mostly because it probably is safer for a 10 year old child in Africa to swing pick ax than it is for me. Practice makes perfect, I have the rhythm down now.

In the past few weeks I have mastered a few new tasks. I can offically add to my resume the following skills....

proficient in using a pick ax (that one is my favorite and while in Africa most useful)
able to mix contrete
proficient in using a machette to cut wood for a fire
build my own coal stove/grill
I feel as if since I have come to Africa I have learned many new things that will make me more marketable when looking for a job. I mean really who wouldn't want to hire a girl that can swing a pick ax and use a machette.

Ok moving on.....
On Saturdays we spend our days in the village of Kordiabe, this week 7 others and myself meet this women named Peace... she is an amazing women who has a huge heart for God's children. This women has started an AIDS orphange. About 6 years ago she began taking in AIDS orphans form neighboring villages, now 6 years later she has approx 98 children that she has recently had to find foster homes for because she currently does not have the facilities for all those children. It's amazing how this women has incorporated these children into society. The children were placed in foster families from a village that has been deemed as cursed, the reason the people think this community is cursed is because many people in this village are dying from AIDS or have been looked down upon in their own villages for various reasons so they have been put into this community by the local chief where they are accepted. On Saturday we went and visited this village, the people aren't cursed, they are just amazing people who have opened their homes to these children. I believe this women has brought a sense of God's love to this village, by asking them to be responsible for these children. They care for these children, clothe them, feed them, and love them because that's what people do. It's so strange she has taken an outcasted community and outcasted children and made them a family in God's eyes. When I looked into Peaces eyes as she spoke about these children and here vision for their future it was like I was looking into her heart. You just wanted to pick up each child and squeeze their cheeks they were so cute!!!

On Sunday....
I attend a local Methodist church which consists of approx. 13 members. The singing is really bad and off key(but hey so am I most of the time so I fit in perfectly), the pastor is great he translates everything into english which is really helpful, and apparently (meaning it's happened the last two weeks in a row) they want to hear a word from their White brothers and sisters. So they just kind of put us on the spot and we go with it!

On Monday....
We have off, it's our day of rest. So I get really excited and go to the internet cafe that is approx. 1-2 hours away (depending on the reliability of the public transportation that day) to connect with all of you that I miss dearly!!! Yes, I am easily entertained!!!

Well if any of you are looking to improve your resume by adding pick axing as a skill don't worry I will be home and available in August to teach you free of charge, all I would ask is that you provide the pick ax and a cold orange fanta to drink.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Debriefing of my 3 week home stay....

So for the past 3 weeks I have been living with a Ghanian family, the main purpose of this was to quickly get acclimated to the culture and practice the language so here are a few things that I have learned...

Our family took us in like we were our own family. They protected us, looked after us, and worried about us as much as my mother worries about me! If any of you know my mother or have heard the stories you will understand. (mom I say this with a loving heart)

I have learned that I can truly eat anything, for the sake of wanting to be culturally sensitive, I think since my last blog my latest food update has been my adventure of eating BIG snails. If you think we have big portions in the US, you have not seen big portions until you have sat down with an African family for a meal of Fufu and snails.

I have learned that only through God can two cultures mesh. We were so different from each other, and sometimes that was incredibly frustrating, yet we could love each other and learn from each other because we had a common bond and that was our faith in God.

I have learned what it really means to be a servant. If you have ever seen the way Africans treat their guests and each other they do it with a servant heart. The word "no" is not used in this culture. They will get up at 5:00am just to get you fresh bread because they observed that you like it. They will take the time to teach you day to day tasks for the sake of learning. There is never a closed door, people will stop by and they are always welcome. Family is family, and no house is too small for family. Everybody is your friend, and is willing to help. All of these above mentioned things and many more things are done with a servant heart and a genuine love and desire for people.

I have learned that when you are emotionally, spirtually, and physiclly tired that only God knows what you can endure and He never gives you more than what you can handle. And faithfully He will refresh you and stretch you all over again.

I have learned that if you are really hot at night, you can take a shower fully clothed, and go back to sleep with wet clothing. Trust me it cools you off enough to at least go back to sleep for awhile.

I have learned that when it rains in Ghana you should play in the rain because it will be the only time that you are actually cold.

I have learned that keeping a positive attitude, and a few encouraging words from friends can change your whole perspective in a stressful situation.

I have learned that there is "no place like home", and that the definition of home is wherever your heart is.

And My heart is with God's purpose, so for right now Ghana is my home.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Initial Thoughts about Ghana

WOW! All I have to say is infrastructure. There are highways, buses, air conditioning in the airport. Homes like I would see back in America and not shacks that can be wrecked by a windy day. Power lines, running water. This country is well developed yet people still lead the simple life (which I am really starting to enjoy).

We have joined up with a local church that has placed us in church members homes. We will be living in these homes for the next 18 days. We will .ive with the family's, do what they do, eat what they eat, and learn as much as we can about the Ghanaian culture before we move into the village of Kordeoubi ( I think that is how you spell it, I will find out soon) The local language in the village is Twi (pronounced Che) Three days a week we are currently taking classes to learn the basics of Twi. While Ghana's national language is English, most of the people speak Twi.

In Ghana you can give a man 30 dollars and he will hand you back 300,00. Talk about a great excahnge rate. So for the first time in my life I possessed 300,000 dollars for the mere price of 30 dollars. That might be due to the fact that one U.S. dollar equals approx. 10,000 CD's which is the Ghanian currency.

I was given a Asiente name today. My Asiente name is Auntie Ama which only means I was born on Saturday. Everybody in Ghana has their birth name and then their Asiente name. So my Asiente name is shared on average with 1/7 of the population.

I ate Fufu for the first time today, which is casava (looks like potatoes) and plaintains cooked and then pounded together with a large stick. It's actually quite alot of work to prepare fufu. After it is all pounded together it looks like bread dough. They mixed it with a tomato based soup, and fish. By fish I mean I ate the bones, eyes, everything. Nothing goes to waste in Africa. Let's see so far I have eaten, cow skin, cow bones, chicken gizard, and feet. Pig skin which just before putting in the pot, they had to singe off the hair. Basically I have to pretend most of the food is something else before I am willing to swallow it, but hey it's definetly all apart of the experience, and now I have a new appreciation for bonless chicken.

I have officially obtained my misisonary tan which is tan arms, face, and feet.

Finally the most amusing thing I have found in Ghana thus far is Gin in a bag. I was at a grocery store and next to the check out line was a small bag approx. 2x2, I picked it up because I thought it was water, but apparently you can get GIN in a bag.

Well that is all for now, hopefully I will be able to update my blog more consistently! I miss everybody, and can't wait to share these stories personally!

Final Days in Liberia....

I have left a country that I have grown to love in just a short 3 months. The people of Liberia, while for the most part, are uneducated by our standards are wise beyond there years.

Here are some of the things I will miss...

- Endless Summers
- Gentle yet comforting rock of the ship (which by the way I have lived on a ship for 3 months that has never left port) just thought was kind of funny.
- Cramming 8 people into a small cab with an average outside temp of 95 deg.
- 2 minute showers :)
- The community lifestyle aboard the aboard the Anastasis
- I will miss 151 calls (that means I am being paged because one of my dear friends or family has called) it's the same feeling you get when you go to the mailbox and you find a letter from a freind and not just bills.
- I will miss worshiping every morning with my 30 new family members (aka segue classmates)
- I will miss being propsed to at least 2 times a day
- I will miss dodging people and pot holes in land rovers
- I will miss playing professional soccer, my fame is over, or wait was it really ever there, I am not sure!!
- I will miss the constant honking of horns, and chattering of people as you walk through the open market
- I wil miss the warm-climate culture where there is never a closed door, or a bad time to stop by.
- I will miss Liberia for it's life, love, and future.

I hope to return again sometime in the very near future!!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

BBC World Report

While I realize this may not be on the front page of the news in the U.S., it is here in Liberia....

Liberia at best over the last 3 months has been "stable" under the leadership of it's most recent inaugerated president Ellen Johnson-Sierlief, but once again it's finding itself in a position of possibly becoming a fragile nation all over again. Here is glimpse from an article found on the BBC's website.

Charles Taylor - preacher, warlord and president
Former Liberian leader and war crimes suspect Charles Taylor has DISAPPEARED from the villa in Nigeria, where he was living in exile.
Nigeria had said he could be handed over to face trial at a UN-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone.

For the full article about Charles Taylor history here is a link from the BBC. I would strongly encourage you to read this article to get a brief history of the negative impact Charles Taylor has had on Liberia.

Quick education into what his dissapperance can possibly mean for Liberians....
Charles Taylor is a former warlord and president of Liberia largely (if not completely) responsible for the 14 years of war and suffering in Liberia and a major contribuitor to the conflicts in Sierra Leone. This man continues to have strong influence and followers in Liberia, and his unwanted return could mean tension and fighting in a recovering nation.

I am asking that you pray for his capture and pray for continued peace in this wonderful nation.

There is also a great movie out there called the "Uncivil War" it gives a very accurate picture of the civil war in Liberia
Disclaimer: NOT meant for children or people with weak stomachs, it's a tough one to watch.

Thanks for taking this journey with me....

Extra Extra Read all about it......

Yes, it's official I have become a Liberian or at least I sound like one if you read their local newspaper. Below is a link to an article found in the Analyst paper on March 8th. I have started to collect a few things for a scrap book and a hard copy of this article for sure will be included, along with a picture of the team, and yesterday I convinced (by that I mean I just asked) the coach to give me my official player card when I am finished. I am really pumped about that one! I mean when I am seventy I will actually be able to show my grandchildren that I played professional soccer in Liberia. That's just kind of fun in general!

Here is a link to the newspaper article
This is one of "my" quotes apparently according to me...
According to her playing for a team in a local female league was not only a boost for her but a challenge in her quest to play professional football

Sadly enough I only have 10 more days left in my professional career before I have to leave for Ghana. With 3 practices and 2 games left I am really starting to get sad about leaving. It has been an amazing experience to cross cultural barriers with soccer and I am going to miss hanging out with the girls and being apart of their lives. While you think you come to Africa to possibly make a difference in the lives of the poor, the people here end up changing your life forever. The human spirit is just amazing to me.

I have to admit Liberia is an awesome place!!!

Seren #8