Monday, May 28, 2012

Fare thee well

The time has come for us to depart Accra.  Our plane leaves on Friday night and we arrive in Grand Rapids on Saturday afternoon. It's a busy time of trying to finish up some work (that I wish I had a few more months for), packing, cleaning, shutting off bills, getting the dog neutered so that someone will take them, Noah's graduation, awards ceremony, and graduation party, and other crazy details.

And of course, the saying goodbyes.  This is somewhat complicated as I will continue to be working with Hopeline Institute, and will be back in September and December for visits, but it is a goodbye of sorts in terms of my living here.

On Thursday, I had a scheduled meeting with Fanny, the Executive Director of Hopeline, to wrap up a number of details that we still had to attend to, but suddenly after about 20 minutes, she wanted us to go down to the training center to pick up some materials.  I went along and Fanny was talking non-stop the whole time (I later realized is was so that I couldn't interject any questions).  When we pulled up there were a number of cars and I asked if there was a training or meeting going on, not knowing at all that they had a surprise party planned for me!  It was an overwhelming experience with many, many kind words spoken.  As I reflected on my time in Ghana, I have to admit, that I do it with a sense of regret, as I know that I was not at my best for most of my time here.  So, if anything good came out of it, all praise goes to God and to the people who took the little I had to give and ran with it.  Here are some pictures from that time together and some of my treasured friends and colleagues.
Everyone getting a good laugh at my complete surprise.
The Hopeline Staff performed a dance to the song, "Thank You" by Ray Boltz, with the words, "Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed."  If you know the song, you know it is very touching and tears flowed the entire time for me.  To have such dear friends and colleagues perform it, picturing them in Heaven, made it even sweeter. 
They gathered around to send me out with prayer, with my dear friend, Rev. Philip Tutu, leading the prayer time.
We gathered for another picture on the steps of the training center, where six batches of Marketplace Ministers have gathered for pictures over the last two years, and Lord willing, many more in the future.
Pastor William Darko, a mushroom and duck farmer, who I am mentoring.  Thankfully he doesn't need my help in duck or mushroom farming (rather he is teaching me about that) but I am privileged to work with him on his financials. 
Over the years, there are some business people that you grow closer to than others, and some take a special place in your heart.  Auntie Selasie (as I call her) is one of those persons and I hope to see her in November at the Partners Worldwide conference in Chicago.
The couple who helped significantly with my stay in Ghana.  They were welcoming, helpful, open, loving, God-fearing, and hard-working:  Dennis and Fanny Atta-Peters.
A picture of our interns, Emily Daher and Kim VandenAkker, who I leave behind, but who are both doing great in Ghana. 
And last but not least, my dear Juliet, Office Manager at Hopeline Institute, whose love and good work will continue to bless many others.  She is the one responsible for the poster in the background.
One thing to note about that poster - I believe the "you" is plural.  The work that I do is not my own.  First I represent Christ and the Church, then Partners Worldwide, and through Partners, so many churches, individuals, friends, and family members.  I could not have been here working without the faithful support of so many of you.  I wish you could have heard the testimonies given as well as witnessed that beautiful song being performed because you all truly share in that.   So, thank you for giving to the Lord - we appreciate you!  [If you don't know this song, please go here to listen.]

[Reminder:  If you are in the Grand Rapids area, please stop in at 2135 Francis Ave SE, next Sunday, June 3 between 2-5 pm, to celebrate Noah's graduation with us.]

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is it worth the weight?

When Andy DeJong gave our wedding message in 1990, his recurring phrase was, "Was it worth the wait?"  At the time that irritated me a little, as it was clearly directed to Bob, who was 35 years old, but I was only 21 and had not waited that long!  However, that phrase has now come back to me but with a different spelling.

Bob usually left the packing to me:-)
I am beginning the packing process.  When we leave, Noah and I will each get to carry two 50 lb. suitcases of our household belongings, for a total of 200 lbs.  When we moved here, we had four of us, and because we were frequent flyers with Delta, we each were able to take three 50 lb. suitcases, for a total of 600 lbs.  For our tip back in June, we were able to get a better price on a different carrier, not Delta, so we will only be able to carry two bags each.
Leaving for Liberia in 2005

So I am beginning the "is it worth the weight" debate as I consider the many and various items in our house.  Clothing is heavier than you might think.  Add to that books? Pictures?  Electronics?  Files?  Receipts?  Favorite beddings, towels, kitchen items?  Gifts received in-country - especially unique carvings that are heavy?  But where the weight debate really gets weighty is in making decisions regarding things about Bob.  I have finally been able to give his clothes away, except for a few favorite items.  But as I sort through the contents of a drawer or closet, I find more things that remind me of his life in this house:
  • his doodles and drawings and comments and notes in countless journals and papers - in many ways he was such an artist...these will certainly add up in terms of weight...Is it worth it?  The alternative would be the trash - seems harsh.
  • a glass 9 x 13 baking dish that has gone from Prospect Street to Liberia to Ghana.  This was a debate item for us because I knew that we could purchase that item in-country AND there was the risk of it breaking , but Bob loved that baking dish, and so it made the journey.  It is sad to think that the glass dish outlived Bob.  But now, is it worth the weight?
  • a box of pens that has only three of his red felt tip pens left in it.  Again, not much weight but an open box of pens from someone who loved writing and was so good at it worth the weight?
  • cords upon cords that I have no idea where they go to or what they were sentimental value here but I would love to ask him what they go to...I also fear getting back to the US, having Noah ask where the cord is for this or that, and I realize that I trashed it.
  • an almost empty perfume bottle that Bob gave me
  • passport pictures of Bob - again, not much weight but since the alternative is trash, do I really throw those away?
Of course, the most painful thing is that I am about to leave the last place that Bob lived.  Never again will I experience the simultaneous joy and pain of opening a drawer and finding something from him.  Never again will his imprint be on the things that make a home a home.  Even if I took a lot of these pieces back and scattered them around a new home, I would know that they were place by me and not him.  And so, it's like losing him again, with each decision I make of suitcase versus trash. 

One of our favorite movies is the Shawshank Redemption.  At one point in the movie, the main character utters the haunting phrase, "Get busy living, or get busy dying."   The idea behind this quote is that we can spend our time looking backward or looking forward.  I need to get busy living and I am determined to do so.  But the next few weeks may involve dying just a little.

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 2012 Updates

It's time again for updates from the Reed Family:

Noah's graduating class
Noah is graduating from high school in just three weeks!  Prior to his graduation, he will be going on his senior trip to Barcelona, Spain for six days.  Noah's trip, in large part, was sponsored by our dogs, Jack and Dusty, who faithfully contributed puppies that were sold, as well as through candy sales donated by relatives and friends.  I'm sure they will have a great time on their trip.

Another shot from the graduating class
Noah graduates on May 31st, and the very next day we get on a plane to head back to Grand Rapids, arriving on Saturday afternoon.  On Sunday we will have his open house. [You are invited - see invite below!]  Noah starts work with Spring Hill Camp on Monday, June 4, so there is no time to lose!  It will be quite a full and exciting few weeks for him.  On the left is a picture of the graduating class - quite a diverse group of fun young adults!

Hannah is finishing her freshman year at Calvin and is looking forward to taking a summer class as well as continue working at the Calvin library full-time over the summer.  She is hoping to get some time off for vacation at the end of the summer but in the meantime is keeping her nose to the grindstone.  Thankfully, some of her friends live in Grand Rapids so she will be able to continue to hang out with them during her off time.  We will have the not-at-all-unique challenge of having one car with three working individuals, all working in different places!  I'm sure the Rapid will come in handy.  She is also volunteering at Bethany Christian Services and was given the dress she is wearing in this picture by family with whom she is working.

 As for me, I have decided to come back to the States to continue in my same position as West African Regional Facilitator with Partners Worldwide until December of this year.  It has been quite a process over the past few months to reach that decision, but through prayer and consultations, I think it is the best decision.  During this time, I will be praying about my next field placement.  I will be taking an unpaid sabbatical during the months of July and August in order to have a silent retreat, spend some time with my parents as well as Bob's parents, focus on being a parent, and try to figure out this next phase of my life.  My father has been in a nursing home in Canada for the past nineteen months and I have only been able to see him once.  Bob's step-father, in Lake City, has been seriously ill for the past six months and needs help getting to dialysis three times per week.  It will be good to spend time with them and help out where I can.  From September - December, I will be both at the central office in Grand Rapids, as well as back on the field, continuing the work of our partnerships in West Africa. 

And now in other news...

The trial of Charles Taylor, which began in 2007, finally came to a close as he was found guilty of eleven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war of Sierra Leone.  These war crimes include murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery, and the conscripting child soldiers.  While this conviction brought relief in Sierra Leone, it did cause some strife among Taylor supporters yet in Liberia.  It has gained some world attention as Charles Taylor is the first former president to be found guilty by a modern international tribunal.  He will be sentenced on May 30 and it appears that the prosecution will be looking for an 80 year sentence.  The 64 year old Taylor will serve his sentence in the UK, and, of course, it is expected that his defense team will appeal.

What was very interesting was that during the two hour reading of the verdict, a rainbow appeared around the sun in Liberia for about an hour, which caused quite a stir.  According to the news, this same rainbow around the sun occurred when Taylor was extradited from Nigeria to Liberia in 2006 before being charged with the war crimes.  We were in Liberia at that time and I don't remember that, but many are viewing this as a sign of blessing from God. 

Ghana has become the first African country to pioneer two vaccines of the most deadly infant diseases:  rotavirus, which causes diarrhea, and pneumococcal, both of which kill 2.7 million children worldwide each year.  Ghana continues to do well on the Millennium Development Goals and these vaccines will help in cutting child mortality by 2/3rds by year 2015.

In work news, the fiscal year for Partners Worldwide is coming to an end, so all of us are busy looking back at how we did on our plans for the past year, and looking forward to what we hope to accomplish in the new year.  It is always an exciting time to take a step back and look at the big picture to see the effects of our efforts.  It's also fun to look ahead and imagine what we would like things to look like a year from now.  To seen a Reed update letter, as well as a story from one of our businesses in Ghana, please click here.