Monday, August 29, 2011

Toy Story

Many children play with these wheels...
 Last week, Hannah and I drove to Wisconsin and then to Iowa to visit some of the North American partners who are working with us in West Africa.  (News flash:  Hannah got her drivers license!)  While in Iowa, I had the opportunity to share with a great group of people from various businesses and churches about the work of development and partnerships in West Africa.
...running them through the streets, guiding them with sticks.
One of the things we discussed is the perception of poverty.  I shared a story about a time when we were in Liberia and were traveling through a village.  We rounded a corner and there was a small boy, sitting in the dirt, playing with a rusty soup can that he had turned into a car, using cutouts from a used "slipper" (we call them flip-flops) for the wheels, and a dirty string to pull that car.  I remember the immediate sense of sadness that this young boy was playing with this rusty "car".  Later on I reflected on that feeling and I wondered where it came from.  The boy looked happy.  He was smiling as he played.  He was not wishing it was a Fisher Price or Tonka Truck.  He was content.  But because of my perception of how toys are supposed to look, I projected a dissatisfaction onto this boy.  That night I received the following email from Rich Haan, one of the members of the Global Business Affiliate of Partners Worldwide for Côte d'Ivoire (printed with his permission):

Hi Renita,

I had an immediate flashback to January 2008, Daloa, Côte d'Ivoire when you told your toy story this afternoon.  I've attached a pair of photos I took of a boy and his "truck."  The boy was having such a blast with his truck --- who would have known a kid could have so much fun with a truck that didn't run on batteries!

Although I only spent a few weeks in Côte d'Ivoire, it became more obvious than at any previous point in my life that possessions or material wealth are not keys to happiness.  I "knew" that to be true, because it's "the right answer", but I didn't really thoroughly understand it until I was taught by some of the folks in Côte d'Ivoire.

So many people think the connection with the Ivorians is a one way street --- the North Americans give --- and the Africans take.  A lot of people look at me like I'm from Mars when I talk about it being a two way street.  There are things North American have to offer Africans --- but there are just as many things they have to offer us.

I could talk with you for at least a good three days about Côte d'Ivoire, the 18 Mountains Region and the incredible people there. 

It's been very difficult the last year watching what went on with the whole election fiasco in Côte d'Ivoire.  Horrendous things happened to such beautiful people --- and for what reason?  My continued prayer is for healing, reconciliation and restoration.


I love that Rich took the time to share this with me.  It reminds me of why I like the mission of Partners Worldwide - it's not about "us" helping "them" - it's about us growing and learning together - discovering new perspectives, which can only happen when we work at being true partners with each other.  While speaking at a lunch about Business as Mission in Sioux Center with about 18 business persons, one person exclaimed, "We need that here!".  Amen.

A soccer ball (football in Wes Africa) made from plastic bags.
Ahh.  The joy of creativity...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hannah Reed's Summer 2011 post

                As I write this, it’s hard to believe that it is already mid-August.  This summer has flown by in anticipation for college, concentration on work, and missing my friends in Ghana.  From June to July, as many of you know, I worked full time at an architectural firm in Grand Rapids, AMDG Architects.  I was filling in for a woman who originally was going out on a mission trip to Russia, but she ended up leaving the firm for another opportunity and so my work has continued, but only part-time.  It has been a great learning experience for me, as this was my first foray into the ‘real world’ of business and it has been difficult but good.  I am an Administrative Assistant and work to help and assist the architects and staff of AMDG.  The team I work with is great, and they have been very patient as I learn the ropes of the position.  AMDG Architects is a Christian firm, and they work on projects with schools, churches, business, and houses.  I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to work with and learn from these amazing men and women of God.
               The imminent approach of college has done all it can to unnerve me and it has been mildly successful.  To be perfectly honest, I am not too scared or nervous yet- it just feels very surreal.  I’m more focused on the more daunting prospect of my mom and brother being 5000 miles away from me.  We have grown very close over the past couple years and my mom and brother are my best friends.  I have other best friends, the non-family kind, but I feel very close to my mom and brother.  They know me, I know them, and we trust each other with a lot.  My talks with my mom over the past couple years have kept me sane and have drawn us closer.  It will be hard to have her be so far away.
               One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is the fact that I’m not going to be leaving again.  I am here.  I’m not going to leave after another month, not going to move, not going to leave on any permanent basis… for the next four years at least.  I’m so used to this being a temporary home and it’s hard to think that I’m here for a long time.  I miss West Africa, my friends in Ghana, and the culture and pace of life in West Africa.
               ‘College’ is merely a concept at this point.  It is something that gives me a great opportunity to either fail or succeed; it is (apparently) difficult and fun, stressful and joyful.  It seems to be contradictory and confusing at this point, and I actually have no expectations.  I have heard so many things from so many people, and all the different opinions have balanced each other out and I know only vaguely what to expect.  Since I’ve never experienced anything close to college, I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself in to.  I do not want to fail, and I do not want to go deeply into debt.  At the same time, I partially expect to fail and to go deep into debt.  It’s a conflict of emotions and expectations that, instead of making me more nervous and frustrated, actually calm me by balancing each other out.  I am curious and nervous to be sure, but not fretful, anxious, or terrified.  I am very thankful for that.  It’s got to be a God thing.
               On that particular subject, God has been a present force in my life recently.  To my great frustration, however, I have not felt His presence as much as I would like.  Not being as close to God scares and frustrates me more than anything.  Part of me wants to blame being back in the States- the busyness of the States, all the Stuff, the food, the movies and books- but I know that is unfair.  As much as I’d love to have an excuse for my distance from Him, I have to realize again and again that God is not looking for my excuses.  He acknowledges when I sin, understands why I sin, and expects me to do better in the future with Him as a guide.  He doesn’t need to hear me justify and excuse my sin.  Despite the distance I feel, I have seen His love and blessings and trials in my life, and I have been very thankful for that.  The distant felt is emotional, but my mind is still close to Him, acknowledging His presence and love as a fact, not with an emotional response.  I miss that.  But that’s the way faith goes sometimes.  It ebbs and flows, and God sees my heart is still His and my life is still focused on Him. 
               So that’s the ‘me’ update.  I just want to thank everyone, since this feels like an ending.  My trip through middle school and high school has been hectic to say the least.  But there are few girls who can claim as much love as I have received.  It is overwhelming, and a testament to God’s grace in my life.  I will still write occasionally for the blog, so this hopefully won’t be my last chance to say ‘hey’ to everyone.  However, one of the biggest changes of my life is coming up and I wanted to say how deeply I appreciate all the love and support I have received before I got too swept up in this change.
Thank you and God bless.
Hannah Adriana Reed     

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reed Update - August 2011

Where has the time gone? It's already August and time for a Reed Family Update.
Summer Academy Class:  Noah is barely visible in the back.

Noah completed his Summer Academy course at Calvin College and was very pleased to have a college credit to his name, prior to his older sister.  He took the Intro to Film and Media class, which he enjoyed, although did admit that it was challenging.  He is pretty sure that he would like to attend Calvin College next year and is looking forward to college life.  He has had the last couple of weeks off and was able to join me for a week of vacation at the cottage of some friends (Jeff and Jennifer Keessen) on Big Star Lake, where he very much enjoyed driving the jetski.

There he goes again, often at full speed.  It was a joy to watch him.
He returns to Ghana in about a week (August 16) where he will have already missed a week of school, as they are starting especially early this year.  He will return by himself and will be staying with the family of his best friend, Armand, who is from South Africa.  This is his last year of highschool, even though he is 16, because he skipped the first grade.  He isn't particularly looking forward to returning to Ghana, and would rather go to the Potters House High School, so please pray for him!

Online language test for Calvin...
Hannah has been very busy this summer, working full time at AMDG architects up until last week when she dropped down to part-time.  She has enjoyed her time at AMDG and has learned a lot about architectural work and also about herself in the process.  She has also been learning to drive, driving every chance she can get, with the hopes of getting her license before I leave for Ghana. Hannah will be moving into the dorms of Calvin College on August 29, prior to her orientation, and has been communicating with her roommate as to how to decorate the room.  At this point she plans to get her Bachelors in Social Work (BSW), hoping to continue after for her MSW.  She is dealing with some "third culture" issues - if you are unfamiliar with that term, Hannah and Noah are considered third culture kids (tck - they even have books out on this stuff, especially for military kids) because they don't exactly fit in the US culture anymore having lived six years in West Africa and being exposed to a completely different culture and world; on the other hand, they don't exactly fit in the West African culture, because they are American and were 10 and 12 when they moved there.  So they are third culture kids, not exactly fitting anywhere.  So she is dealing with some adjustment issues, which is to be expected, and frequently talks about wanting to go back to Ghana.  [Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence - Noah, who is going back, doesn't want to go; Hannah, who is not, wants to go.  :-) ]  She is not looking forward to being so far away from Noah and I; and we are not looking forward to being so far away from her, so please keep her in your prayers as well!

The Kranenburg kids and mom (l to r:  Liz, Yvonne, Janette, Renita, Henry)
As for me, this summer has been just what I needed.  The silent retreat was the highlight of the summer, followed by good times with family, a vacation, good reading and learning time - I had set a goal to learn more about the Muslim faith this summer and was able to do that during my vacation.  Work has been very busy as well, with trips to many and various places, meeting with different churches, businesses, and individuals who are involved in West Africa.  I have one trip to go yet to Wisconsin (for the Rural Empowerment Initiative in West Africa) and Iowa (for our partnership in Cote d'Ivoire), from August 17-24.  Hannah will be my chauffeur and I'm looking forward to that alone time with her in the car.  A couple of highlights from my work this summer:
Fields in Sunnyside; note dry hills in background.
  1. My trip to Sunnyside, WA.  The Christian Reformed Church there supports our work in West Africa but is very involved in the farmer to farmer program in Zambia.  Sunnyside was an amazing place to visit - maybe because I'm such a city girl.  They call it a desert (who knew a desert was in Washington!) and have fully irrigated it themselves from the hills.  The place was lush with at least 80 different types of crops growing - you could see many different crops as you drove down the road, full and green, while in the distance dry brown hills surround them.  It felt like the Garden of Eden there, which was great, but what so impressed me is that this place was lush and green by the sheer will and ingenuity of the people who decided to make it that way.  It gave me hope for Africa and agriculture, in spite of the conditions.
  2. My time in Grand Rapids is filled with meeting with members and friends of Madison Square Church, specifically with those who are involved in Liberia.  One of things that the LEAD Grand Rapids group does is a prayer call every Tuesday morning from 7-7:30 am for Liberia.  Mary Springer has been a faithful prayer every week since we started this about two years ago - often it is just Dave Graf, Mary, and I on these calls.  Last week, Mary found out that she has ovarian cancer and today (August 6) she will have surgery to remove the cancer.  Dave Graf and I had a chance to visit Mary yesterday at the hospital
    and pray together in person (a rare treat).  Mary made the comment that these Tuesday morning calls have helped prepare her for this day.  I pondered that for some time after I left her.  Who would have thought, that as we gathered and prayed for Liberia and its people every week for two years, that we would be the beneficiaries?  But isn't that often the way it works?  We think we are doing something for someone else, but we end up benefiting (if we are paying attention).  The relationship I have with Mary and Dave because of these prayer times is deep and real and powerful.  Very interesting. 
  3. The last couple of days, Partners Worldwide has been giving their orientation for the new interns who are about to go out on the field for a year of service.  I had the privilege of meeting our intern for Ghana, Emily Daher, who hails from Ohio and is a recent Calvin College graduate, with a BA in International Development and Political Science.  She participated in the semester in Ghana during her senior year and therefore is familiar with Ghana, has studied the culture, and knows more of the local language there than me because of taking a class in Twi. 
    Emily Daher
Emily will arrive in Ghana just a couple of days ahead of me (I leave on September 2).  Her time will be focused on continuing to work with the Hopeline Institute staff on developing the Small and Medium Entrepreneur program, specifically the training and mentoring portions. If you are interested in learning more about Emily, her blog can be found at

Megan Fraga
We also have an intern going to Liberia, Megan Fraga, who hails from Florida and is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a BS in International Affairs.  Megan is currently working in Sudan for the summer and was unable to attend the orientation at Partners Worldwide, and will leave directly for Liberia from the Sudan on September 7.  Megan's blog can be found at

We are still looking for an intern for the research farm in Liberia.  If you know anyone who has knowledge and experience in agriculture and would like to spend some time in a tropical country, please email me at

That's it for now.  More next week!