Monday, January 24, 2011

Crap Detectors

Pastor Dave and the Crap Detector
The pastor of Madison Square Church, David Beelen, who has been my pastor since 1986 has taught his congregants for years that they need to have "crap detectors".  My children used to giggle when they were younger and heard that phrase - in fact, if it offends you, I apologize and suggest that you stop reading this blog post now.  My father, who was a pastor, probably would never have dared to use the word "crap" from the pulpit.  But Pastor Dave believed in it so much that he used to have a visual image of a crap detector at the front of church for some time to illustrate his point.  He encouraged us to always have our crap detectors on, even when listening to his sermons.  We needed test everything we heard within the context of the Bible - to measure people's words against the Word.

Bob also had a pretty sophisticated crap detector, being a therapist.  He could smell someone being manipulative a mile away and didn't hesitate to call people on it, as I'm sure some of you can attest.  So crap detectors are on pretty constantly at our house and that causes many debates.  I'm so thankful that Hannah and Noah have had this important tool taught to them at both church and home.

Sometimes it does lead to trouble though.  What do you do when it goes off?  Having it go off is good for you personally and allows you to do research into Scripture to test what is being presented.  But does the knowledge then remain there?  What do you do when you believe the person talking, teaching or preaching is "full of crap"?  When the forwarded email sent to masses has the crap detector beeping so loudly it hurts your ears?  Ahhh, there's the dilemma.  Do you keep it to yourself?  Do you dare to assert your own "opinion" about whether it is crap or do you debate that wisdom based on the fact that you might be full of crap yourself?

For example, a while back, our church in Ghana had a guest pastor who showed a YouTube video called "Muslim Demographics".  Hannah, Noah and I kept looking at each other throughout the video as our crap detector was going off pretty loudly - we thought it might be disturbing others but it didn't seem to be.  We debated it on the way home, and then found a rebuttal on YouTube from the BBC, called "Muslim Demographics:  the Truth", refuting much of the "evidence".  So, what do we do with that?  Can we believe the BBC?  Is it fair for the church, in a position of authority, to show something that presents a "truth" that doesn't appear to be based on facts without being challenged? Do we have a responsibility to those who have no crap detectors, or underdeveloped ones, to point out the smell?

This past week, I received two email messages sent to large groups; both from well-meaning Christians - good people.  But both presenting information that had my crap detector going much so that I lost sleep over it as I debated whether to keep my mouth (or fingers in this case) shut or to speak up. Oh crap - what to do?!

If you know me, and you know the impact that being married to Bob for 19 years would have on anyone, you probably know my decision.  What I actually did is irrelevant though.  The important thing, in my opinion, is the presence in all Christians of a crap detector...and the courage to use it. Ephesians 4:114-15 says,
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (emphasis mine) you have a crap detector?

Is it on?

Did it go off while you read this blog?

If so, let me know!

This flower has been inspiring me for the past two weeks.  It is growing on the road by our house - with no care, no water, just dust and dirt.  It reminds me of the saying, "bloom where you are planted."  The only One who planted this flower was God.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reed Family Update - January 2011

Weather:  Very hazy.  Temps continue to be in the low 90s F (low 30s C) during the day and low 80s at night.  Humidity is around 50%.

The White Stuff Keeps Falling!  Visibility is limited, flights are delayed or canceled, it is darker in the morning and generally all day Ghana experiencing the same weather as the US?  No, but there are definitely similarities.  This is the worst Harmattan winds that I have seen and many Ghanaians report that this is worse than normal.  As you can see by the picture, the dust is so heavy in the air  - you can dust things in the morning and two hours later it is covered again with a fine white dust.  Imagine dust raining in your house - you leave footprints when you walk.  It's a dusting nightmare!  People are coughing as we breathe it in all day, eyes are burning with it.  The picture taken at the sun was at mid-day - you can easily look directly at the sun without it hurting your eyes because there is so much dust in the way.  The weather is still warm enough that you don't want to shut the windows but it makes me rethink the air conditioning debate of February 2010 that Bob wrote about...

Hannah has been oh-so-busy applying to colleges and also scholarships.  She found out that she was accepted to the two colleges of her top choice - Calvin College and Eastern University.  When she learned that she was accepted to Calvin, I think people within a five mile radius could hear her scream of excitement.  Clearly she is favoring being in her home town, with friends, her aunt and uncle, her beloved church and pastor, and of course, lots of familiarity.  She continues to do well in school but does seem to be fighting a little bit of "senioritis".  She is currently in the Model United Nations, along with many highschool students from the West Africa region, and this year was assigned to represent the United States Security Council.  Should be a good learning experience again. 

Noah turned 16 years old on Sunday, January 16!  It's so strange to think of him that age!  He spent the weekend with five other young men, playing Xbox, basketball, guitar, watching movies, and played a great board game called "Quelf" - this board game is lots of laughs and is great for a group.  They stayed up all night on Friday night will probably be paying for it for a few days but they had fun.  He is starting the second semester of his junior year - the year that is important for grades as that is what colleges look at.  They just received their first semester report cards last week and he continues to do well.

Managing Relationships with LOVE (Limits, Obligations, Values, and Education) - For the past ten days, we have had a visitor from Judson University in Illinois, Dr. Marsha Vaughn.  We met Marsha at the Partners Worldwide conference in October and she expressed interest in the boundaries class that we teach as part of our business curriculum.  She is also doing research on the impact of business on women and their families in developing countries, so a trip here would allow her to continue that research as well as offer a workshop that would go deeper into the boundaries issue.  The first few days were spent visiting women-owned businesses, with the focus of learning about the impact on the woman herself.  I learned a lot about Ghanaian marriages and the role of the extended family.  It was enlightening to visit businesses from this context.  We then had a three day workshop, on the above named topic, with leaders who both need boundaries for themselves as well as find themselves in positions where they need to counsel people.  This was then followed by two days of counseling appointments for these leaders, for them to experience being a counselee as well as to learn more directly from Marsha.  The time was powerful, productive, and eye-opening.  We thank God for Marsha and her willingness to spend some time here.  The pastors are now planning on how to follow this up and create more supports within their churches. 
Marsha and Georgina, owner of Lexgina Tailoring shop, Lexgina Vocational School, and Lexgina Medicine Shop.  The amount that women juggle in terms of family, home, and business is amazing.

This is Grace and the young men who work for her.  Grace owns a business processing the refuse of tuna fish from the Starkist plant in Tema, outside of Accra.  She drys and grinds the tuna refuse and sells it to those who make poultry feed.  Grace was a Muslim and became a Christian a few years ago, which resulted in many trials for her - she renamed herself "Grace" and has an incredible story.  She hopes to join our next SME training with Hopeline and also hopes to write a book about her story at some point.
About 40 people attended this three day workshop - SME business owners, many pastors, church leaders, community leaders.  This slide has info about limits - the highlight of the workshop - learning that it is right, good, stewardly, and even Godly, to set limits.
The obligatory group picture
A shot of the Aburi Botanic Gardens, northeast of Accra - the majesty of some of the trees was beautiful.This is a 160 acre reserve, with about three acres developed into a formal garden.
A huge tree at the Aburi Gardens - I believe it is commonly known as a Rubber Shade tree, or a Ficus Elasticoides. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

La Cote d'Ivoire

 Weather:  The Harmattan winds have moved into Accra.  These winds are dry and dusty and as they pass over the Sahara, they pick up fine dust particles.  This dust limits visibility and blocks the sun,  while depositing a fine layer of dust on everything.  Noah reports that his lips are cracking and he needs a mask to keep the dust out of his lungs:-).  These winds have lowered the humidity from about 80% to 45%, and temperatures remain in the low 90s.

Ghana's neighbor to the west, Cote d'Ivoire, has been very much in the news in recent months.  Because of our work in Danane, on the western side, close to Liberia, I have been following this news very closely.  I thought I would highlight the current situation this week and ask for your prayers.

Brief History - Cote d'Ivoire became independent in 1960 and was lead by Felix Houphouet-Boigny from 1960 until his death in 1993.  During that time, Cote d'Ivoire became known for its religious and ethnic harmony, as well as a strong economy.  Since his death, the country of 20 million has seen several struggles for power as the country faced a democratic process for the first time, leading up to a civil war in 2002, primarily between the mostly Muslim north and the mostly Christian south, although the dispute was not over religion.  Much of the fighting had to do with voting rights.  Because of the economic success of Cote d'Ivoire, the country attracted a lot of foreigners, and by 1998, 26% of the population was made up of Africans who were not from Cote d'Ivoire.  56% of the 26% were from Burkina Faso, their poorer neighbor to the north.  The catalyst for the war happened in 2000, when the government declared that the parents of a presidential candidate must both be Ivorian born.  This excluded the northern candidate, Alassane Ouattara.  The fighting came to an end in 2004 however the country remained split between the rebel held north and the government held south.  Things remained tense until a peace agreement was signed in 2007.  Since then the country has waited for elections, which were delayed six times, mostly over the exclusion of names on the voting lists.

Current situation:  On October 31, 2010, an election finally took place, resulting in the need for a run off election on November 28,2010 between the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, who has been in power since 2000, and Alassane Ouattara.  The Independent Electoral Commission declared Ouattara the winner, with 54.1% of the vote, while Gbagbo received 45.9%.  This was then overturned by the Constitutional Council, the highest court in the land run by the president's allies, who claimed "massive vote rigging" in four regions of the north, and declared Gbagbo the winner.  Both candidates were sworn in as president and have been in a stand-off ever since.  Most nations around the world have declared their backing for Ouattara and have requested, urged, and demanded that Gbagbo step down.  But so far, that has not happened.  Gbagbo has the national army.  Ouattara has the rebel army, the French contingency and the UN mission behind him. 
Laurent Gbagbo (left)*
  • Age: 65
  • Southerner, Christian
  • Former history teacher, president since 2000
  • Declared president by Constitutional Council
  • Backed by security forces
Alassane Ouattara (right)*
  • Age: 68
  • Northerner, Muslim
  • Economist and former prime minister
  • Declared winner by Election Commission
  • Backed by former rebels, UN, African leaders and the West
*(taken from BBC News)

So far, at least 22,000 refugees have fled to Liberia - mostly women and children - of differing political views - some who support Gbagbo, some who support Ouattara, but both who fear civil war and retribution for their vote.  Various foreigners have been expelled from the country, prices have risen, and there have been reports of some violence and killing.

There is only one country who has declared that they would not take sides and would support either government.  The country?  Ghana.  President John Atta-Mills declared this on Friday, stating that there are one million Ghanaians living in Cote d'Ivoire who would be victims in a military intervention.  Ghana would normally be one of three countries (the others being Nigeria and Senegal) who would be expected to take a leading role in a military intervention from ECOWA, which is the union of West Africa States.

In terms of reference, Liberia is slightly larger Tennessee, Cote d'Ivoire is slightly larger than New Mexico, and Ghana is slightly smaller than Oregon.   So if you happen to live in the North America, it would be like a neighboring state or province beginning a civil war. 

Please keep this on-going tense situation, affecting millions of people, in your prayers.  Pray for wisdom and discernment for the key leaders, a resolution that doesn't include fighting, and provision for those who suffer in the midst.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 in review

New Year's Day has come and gone.  I didn't want it to happen.  Changing to a new year feels like going farther away from Bob.  If anything I want the clock to go the other direction.  I approached New Years like a dog on a leash who does not want to go for a walk.  But it came anyway and now it's 2011. 

I realized that I only saw Bob for 33 days in 2010 - we were together for the first two weeks in January and then Bob went to Mali for the West Africa Ministry Team meeting with CRWRC.  We then had two weeks together in Ghana before I traveled to Liberia/Cote d'Ivoire for two weeks; we had two days together again and then Bob left for Nigeria.  Then a day and a half together again before he died.

After that, there was a loud crack in the atmosphere and the rest of the year is a blur.  It's amazing that anything got done at all.  I have pictures for what happened for the next nine months but it really has been a blur.  The blog attests to ongoing work and life.  That I still have a job and that work was done is only from God.

I am thankful that even though we don't know what 2011 holds for us, we do know Who holds 2011.  I'm thankful that we have the opportunity, through forgiveness, to start this new year without guilt or anxiety, looking to the Shepherd to lead us.  May God grant each of you a blessed year in 2011.

Here are some pictures that didn't make it to the blog.
Picture of Bob in Mali in January 2010.  If you knew Bob, you would appreciate that he is being "tongue-in-cheek" whenever you see him pointing to some sort of scenery in a picture.  Obviously he didn't have to point at the scenery behind him:-). 
He loved taking pictures from airplanes.  I can't count the number of cloud shots that I have from him.  I'm happy for him that he gets to see this perspective much more often now. The new background on the blog is a tribute to his love of clouds.  The deep blue of the sky was also his favorite color.

The last picture I have of him.  I have no idea who the man is with him.  Taken March 18 just before leaving Nigeria to return home.
A few days after his death, in Grand Rapids with my incredibly supportive family.  I'm showing some pictures that my friend Laurie took of Bob after his death.  My brother Henry is beside me, my mom next to me, and Henry's wife, my sister-in-law, Marnie next to my mom.
This picture of flowers from the memorial service has a bit of a story with it.  On our first Valentines Day together, in 1990, I was in Canada and Bob was in Grand Rapids.  He sent me one daisy on the 13th, saying that our love was simple and beautiful like a daisy.  I thought it was sweet, although I wondered at sending just one flower.  The next day, he sent me a dozen roses, saying that while our love was simple and beautiful, it had exploded into something breathtaking and powerful.  Every year after that, while we lived in the US, he sent me a dozen roses with one daisy on Valentine's Day.  [However, I regret to say, that when we were in the US in 2009 for Valentine's Day, I wasn't happy to receive them because of the high price - after living in Africa, it seemed wasteful.  I'm so sorry, Bob.]  At the memorial service, my sisters bought this dozen roses with a daisy for me to remind me of his love. 
When we scattered his ashes, I scattered the rose petals and daisy on top of the ashes, before placing the tree on top.
After the ash ceremony, Hannah and I share a hug at Lake Michigan - near Bliss, Michigan - one of Bob's favorite spots.
My sister, Janette (who many people seem to think is my twin!  She was hugged by many people this past Christmas when at Madison Square Church who thought she was me.  Others looked suspiciously at her husband, Dale, wondering if I had moved on already!).  After Bob's death we were looking in the basement for some pictures and I ran across a bottle of wine that we had been given on our wedding day.  We had been instructed to drink it at our ten year anniversary.  However, we didn't - I don't know why not - and I wondered what to do with it.  So, after we got back from ash ceremony, we opened the bottle, and we all toasted Bob (even the kids, although they didn't like the wine).