Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Story of Grace

Several weeks ago, I promised you a story of one of our business members in Ghana.  Here is the story of Grace, published recently by Partners Worldwide.  The story of Grace is quite an amazing one - I have four pages written on it but that was way too long for this article and for this blog. If you are interested in her full story, please email me at and I will send it to you. It truly is a story of Grace, but the struggle is still not behind her.

[By the way, Grace Adom is not her birth name, but it is the name she adopted when she became a Christian. Adom is Twi (the local language) for Grace...she named herself "Grace Grace.]
ACCRA, Ghana — This spring, entrepreneur Grace Adom attended a business training course for the first time. After 12 weeks, she graduated this April—excited to strengthen the business she’s owned for 10 years, and to share a new sense of affirmation she’s found in a network of business owners through Hopeline Institute in Accra, Ghana.
“The name [of my business] is meant to encourage people to believe like I have,” says Grace, who had started Believe Feed Meal a decade ago on a micro loan of $300 USD. Today, she employs seven others, and the business holds a value of $13,000.

With the mission to provide high-quality poultry feed to farmers surrounding the city, Grace takes tuna fish refuse from the local tuna factory, then grinds it into feed for chickens and turkeys.

Grinding the tuna refuse
While her future is looking bright, it hasn’t always been that way. When she was 16, Grace was kicked out of her home when she refused to marry an older wealthy man. Raised in a poor Muslim community, Grace decided she wanted to make a better life for herself, and to do that, she needed to complete secondary school. She used her entrepreneurial skills to sell water on the street and saved up profit to pay her own tuition—as well as three of her siblings’ school fees.

Years later, Grace married another Muslim man, and was kicked out of her home again when she became a Christian. Not only did she receive refuge in the church community, she describes, but the church also provided her a microloan to start a business selling grains and rice.

Yet, the conflict didn’t end there. Because she had shamed her husband’s family, they plotted to have her arrested on false charges, and, as a notable family in their region, they succeeded. She was sentenced to prison with no clear accusation. “The prison gave me no chance to contact or notify anyone of what happened,” she says.

Then a miracle began. After three months, a fellow inmate was released and got word to Grace’s pastor of Grace’s predicament. “The church immediately held an emergency meeting!” says Grace. Within a day, 12 key members came to the prison—lawyers, customs officers, and police to act on her behalf. She had been sentenced to five years or a fine of $330 USD. “They decided not to pay the money because they knew I was innocent,” she says. Instead they filed an appeal, and after two more months, Grace was freed.
As soon as she was out, Grace’s church offered her that money instead to start the poultry feed business she owns and operates today.

Through the business training this spring, Grace has created a viable business plan, and continues to learn from her new network of Christian peers and business owners through Hopeline Institute and Partners Worldwide.

Despite every opportunity to lose her faith, Grace says her calling is still affirmed: “The Holy Spirit is in me. I am putting all my trust in the Lord.”  She longs to reach other Muslim women and uses every opportunity, especially through her business to do that.  While she has lost contact with her other children who were taken from her when she was forced to leave her home, she was able to take the baby with her, and he has now grown into a young man who is preaching to everyone!  Grace would like to expand her business to include buying the chickens who have stopped laying for the purpose of sale in the market.  To do this, she will need a facility and refrigeration units.  We hope to walk alongside her and encourage her in her business as it grows.

Since it began in 2007, Hopeline Institute has served over 4500 clients, especially marginalized woman, working with them as they grow from micro-business owners to small and medium businesses (SMEs). In 2010, Hopeline Institute joined with Partners Worldwide to enable SME owners to grow further through business training, mentoring, and access to capital.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Vacation with My Daddy

The Hermitage, in Three Rivers, MI
Hannah still calls me "Mommy" and called Bob, "Daddy".  I love it.  I remember when I switched from calling my mother "Mommy" to "Mom";  I remember thinking that I was too old to continue calling her "Mommy"; I was concerned about what other people thought.  I love that Hannah has chosen to continue to use this term, which I view as a term of endearment, of trust, of affection, maybe even of delight.  It is not just a title like "Mom" or "Mother".  Each time I hear it from her, it warms my heart.

I just returned from a silent retreat at a place called The Hermitage.  I had announced prior to going that there were a couple of things on my agenda to process with God - one, intentional grieving time, and two, looking at my future.  I knew when I had spoken with people about this agenda that God would have His own.  Upon arriving at my little hut in the woods, I found a prayer designed for the beginning of a retreat.  Part of it reads,
Help me, my Lord, to leave outside this hermitage, my plans for tomorrow, my memories of yesterday, as I live fully and completely in the wonder of Your present moment.

I smiled.  So much for my agenda.  I think I heard God chuckle as well.  I gave myself over to Philippians 3:10, which says, "I want to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death...".  My goal now was just to be, to know, to fellowship.  Within about 12 hours, I gave up control of the "meeting", allowed God to run His agenda, and to host our time together.  Very quickly it turned into a vacation with my Heavenly Daddy.  I crawled into His lap and heard Him whisper, seemingly for the first time (since it was the first time since Bob's death that I had taken the time to get silent in this way), that He too was sorry for Bob's death.  We cried together.  I slipped my hand in His and we walked through the woods and fields, seeing, smelling, and hearing things through His senses.  I heard Him whisper His delight and joy in me, as He gently reminded me that it's not about what I can do for Him, but it's about what He has done and continues to do for me.

What a great God.  What an amazing time.

I wonder why places like this aren't packed out.  The incredible luxury of having NO other roles - no cooking, cleaning, dishes, planning, organizing, parenting, conversing...nothing.  Just being His child.  A slice of Heaven on earth.

And the beautiful thing is that we did get to my agenda...but in His better timing than my own - in the unforced way that a Father leads His daughter, with greater wisdom and understanding.
Fields and fields of Bob's favorite flowers surrounded me - Black-Eyed Susans and Indian paintbrush
On May 29, 2011 a tornado touched down on the Hermitage property, taking out 10-15 acres of trees.  Thankfully, no one was hurt but still a lot of destruction. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

An unwinding knot, a familiar carpet, and a moment with my Dad

We have been in the US for about three weeks now and it has been a whirlwind of activity. Hannah started working full-time at AMDG Architects as an administrative assistant just a few days after our return; Noah entered the Summer Academy of Calvin College one week after our return; and I just returned from a week in Canada, visiting four different cities, three of which were work related:  a conference in Chatham, a visit with a partner church in Hamilton, and two days of meetings in Barrie; I then spent a few days in Georgetown with my Mom and siblings, celebrating her 75th birthday.  My time in North America is not one of rest and relaxation, but a time for connecting with my North American partners and sponsoring churches to continue the partnerships and opportunities for mutual transformation on both sides of the ocean.  This Friday I leave for Washington State to visit another church and then I will have a few days for a silent retreat.  During that time I will be seeking God's will for me as it relates to where I go after my three years contract for Ghana is completed next June, 2012. 

While the time has been very busy thus far, one of the things that I have noted is the unwinding of the pretty constant knot that is in my stomach while in West Africa.  I have become quite used to the knot and didn't even notice that I had it until last week when I was driving to the Partners Worldwide office and suddenly noticed it was gone.  The knot is there because of the pretty constant state of unknown or unexpected frustrations that can happen on a daily basis in Africa.  The tension of living in a foreign land, in a foreign culture, where things often don't go according to plan or in a timely manner does take its toll and so I am enjoying a more relaxed state for the time-being.

Additionally, having an extended time here (as opposed to rushing in and out over a period of one or two weeks) allows me to relax in my home church as well.  I quickly reacquainted the carpet at the front of the sanctuary with my tears - it has received many of my tears over the past twenty or so years.  I believe this time will be a time of continued healing and grieving for me - I've cried more in the last few weeks than in the last few months, which is good - again, I think it's because I am able to let down my guard.  Unfortunately, I don't have very many Sundays off from speaking at various churches, but I'll take what I can get.

Last week I was able to see my father for the first time in two years - I hadn't seen him since leaving for Ghana in June 2009.  He is 81 years old with either frontal lobe dementia or Alzheimers, and entered a nursing home in October of last year, in Brampton, Ontario.  He didn't recognize me although he seemed to know I was someone from his family.  It was a great delight to see him and spend time with him, with several poignant and touching moments.  One of those moments was when I was showing some pictures from a photo book we had made for him.  It had a picture of Bob and I in the center and Hannah and Noah on either side of us.  My Mom reminded my Dad that Bob had died, and Dad then made the comment, pointing to my picture, "that woman is a widow."  I told him that the woman was me and that my husband had passed away.  He put the book down, took both of my hands in his, and with tears in his eyes told me how sorry he was.  Even though I don't know if he knew that I was his daughter at the time he said that, it was so touching for me to hear those words from my dad.

I remain in regular contact with my colleagues in West Africa who continue the hard work through the rainy season.  Noah has my camera right now at Calvin College, so no pictures this week.  Sorry!