Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unexpected Lessons

I saw the mailman's shadow pass by my window today after lunch. The boys were already well into dreamland and the mail was quite a bit earlier than normal. I gimped over to the door, unlocked it and then got the mail and saw a letter from the local hospital. I knew right then it would be my statement from surgery. I slowly opened it up wondering how much my surgery cost after all was said and done. I had no clue how to even estimate the cost. I knew my MRI was nearly $5000 so I figured it would be rather expensive. But when I opened the envelope, I was blown away. $35,056. SHOCK. Not because I have to pay it. Thankfully I have insurance and this was a statement and not a bill. SHOCK at how this surgery costs more than my husband makes in a year (no drs visits, pt, xrays, mris figured in).

But more than that, pure and total SHOCK that repairing my knee costs more than building a school in Ghana. Putting metal and cadaver and stitches in my knee to help me have several more years of an active lifestyle is worth more in the US than education in Ghana. I am spoiled. I had a $35,000 surgery simply to improve the quality of my life. And I am now thinking about how it makes me even more determined to raise the $30,000 needed to build a new classroom unit at The Village of Life. It has impact. My surgery lasts as long as I last. It helps only me but I can be part of something much bigger. Something that has far greater impact on the world. And WE can help educate lots of children who will turn into future teachers, and doctors, and nurses, and advocates, and leaders of their communities. We can take kids OUT of slavery and put them into a loving home where they receive family and education. This $30,000 that we raise... no one will be able to look at the statement and wonder why on earth money was wasted on something so temporary. No one will feel like money was squandered away out of selfishness. We can look at that school and know that our money is turning into something beautiful... strong, independent, educated and loved children and teens who turn into amazing adults who are empowered to succeed.

For less than my ACL revision, we can build a school and help rescue more children from child trafficking... it just increases the value for me of what we are doing. God is using everything to teach me lately... hard truths sometimes but motivating too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Auction: June 16

I just want to let everyone know that the online auction to benefit our trip to Ghana is going to be on Thursday, June 16. It is going to rock your face off. I have photographers and artists and jewelry... good gravy I have some amazingly talented friends. Products from friends businesses! And Tony Dungy emailed me today to tell me  that he is going to send an autographed book to put up for auction. I know, right?! That is sweet! As I get some more items I will begin taking pictures to give you guys sneak peaks. You will NOT want to miss this :) Very cool items to auction and a tangible and amazing way to help children in Ghana.

If you or anyone you know would like to donate items to the auction, please contact me. The more items, the merrier the auction shall be!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Welcome, welcome!

I just want to say "Hello" to all my family and friends who should be popping in here soon. Thank you so much for supporting me :) I hope you will also check out JD and Tia's blogs as well. There are lots of ideas between our 3 blogs of ways you can help with this trip and with building the school at the Village of Life. Get your kids involved, tell your friends, forward emails, facebook... we gotta get the word out and I know you guys are as tenacious as I am, So lets do this!

I am also going to copy the explanation for donations here so you don't have to search for it. I know, I am super nice:

My good friend L encouraged me to add another donation button to the right so I have decided to update you on the donation buttons and how we are collecting money for this trip.

If you donate to either the monthly contribution button or chip in button, your donation will go toward The Village of Life School.

If, however, you donate to to the button that says Travel Expenses... that money goes directly into a savings account and is put toward the trip expenses I will incur. (Added: I will put anything above and beyond my expenses directly in the School of Life account)

I hope this makes sense to everyone. We all have 2 fundraising goals. A collective one to raise enough money for the school and a personal goal for travel expenses. L suggested that people may want to split up their donations so that is why I included another donation button. 

Thank you all again for your constant support and love. I am so excited to see where God is taking me and teaching me. Keep us in your prayers as lots of logistics and details are being worked out. Pray specifically for my health as I am recovering from surgery, if you will.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I was reading a book with my son on Saturday. He just turned 5 in February but he is unreasonably good at reading and comprehension. So my husband took him to the library on Saturday while me and the toddler napped and they came home with a book that The Hubs said might be over his head but would be good comprehension practice for him. It is called The Transcontinental Railroad and is a book about how the Transcontinental Railroad was made from Sacramento California to Nebraska in the US. There are LOTS of big topics in this book. The manual labor involved, taking land from Native Americans via force and where to build the railroad (to either enhance or inhibit the slave trade as we made our way westward). Since the Civil War is one of the topics in the book, we got to discuss slavery in a pretty big way.

Let me just say, explaining slavery to a 5 year old is complicated! He is a very bright boy but to kids I think slavery is just so out in left field for their little minds. Especially if they grow up in loving and caring families. Plus the definition of slavery,
  • bondage: the state of being under the control of another person
sounds a lot like being a child. Being under control of someone else. Well, isn't that JUST like being a kid? So I had to really think about it. There are other definitions like working for little or no pay or working under inhumane situations. BUT none of them quite fit for me. 

So I had to figure out a way to explain to my son what slavery was. In a real sense, who are these children we are working with will  be? Why do we need to go if his understanding of slavery is pretty simple and by all accounts accurate according to the dictionary?

I kind of narrowed it down in my mind now I think. Slavery is not just simply being under the control of someone. Like I said, my children, are under my control. But they are under my loving control and direction. They have FREEDOMS:

1. The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

Both my own morals (obviously influenced by my background and sheer wealth when compared to the rest of the world) and my country indicate that I can not sell my children into an abusive workforce. So to me the lack of Freedom is what defines a slave. These children do not have the freedom my children have. They do not get to be in a safe home or have a safe place to sleep. Their parents can't make sure of it like I can for my kids nor can the government (especially as the area gets more remote) come in and force child slaves to be released. They do not have the freedom to choose their interest, no freedom of education, no freedom of sleep or even the freedom to eat as frequently as they need to eat (many eating a small meal once a day). No freedom to have the health care and medications they need if they get sick. No freedom to refuse diving down deep into Lake Volta to untangle nets because there is danger in the water and danger above the water when you decide you don't want to do it. There is just no choice or freedom in any of it. 

My children have the absolute freedom to pursue their dreams! They have parents who are educated and who can protect them and keep them safe. And while they may not necessarily have "freedom" in some ways in childhood, they are under caring and loving direction. And as they get older, they are more released to freedom. These children will never have the same opportunities if they remain enslaved. They will likely never get off the lake, never learn English or go to school, never have money to make a better way of life and will learn that enslaving child workers is okay because we LEARN behaviors we grow up around And THAT is why it is important.

God wants ALL children to have that freedom. Every last one of them no matter where they happen live or how much money they happen to make. No matter which parents they get or if they are orphans. And I am asking and will continue to ask that you find a way to help in achieving this! A new school will be paramount in getting children out of slaver and creating even more advocates for the children on Lake Volta. MORE educated children who are loved and nurtured and who can grow up and make an impact on their communities. This is important because they deserve the same things out kids deserve. And WE can help that happen. Please keep praying, please donate, please help me collect items for the Auction in June, please have your kids collect pennies or collect school supplies.

Just don't... figure there is no way for you to help. If you want to help Tia, JD and I will find a way that you can help.

Much love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese Party

We filled up our Ghana Jar for the first time today and here is my son talking a bit about it :)

Knee Surgery

I am having knee surgery tomorrow morning bright and early. I tore my ACL for the 2nd time a couple of months ago playing volleyball... and some meniscus. So I will be having an ACL revision using donor tissue (which I find absolutely fascinating) and my surgeon will be seeing if he can do anything for my meniscus tear while he is in there tooling around. So please keep me in your prayers tomorrow. I will be flat on my back for several days so I may or may not blog depending on how I feel. I figure one of two things will happen: I will be in too much pain and sleeping for several days OR I will be bored out of my mind and trying to find any form of communication imaginable :) I hope you all have a great week.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Explanation of fundraising

My good friend L encouraged me to add another donation button to the right so I have decided to update you on the donation buttons and how we are collecting money for this trip.

If you donate to either the monthly contribution button or chip in button, your donation will go toward The Village of Life School.

If, however, you donate to to the button that says Travel Expenses... that money goes directly into a savings account and is put toward the trip expenses I will incur.

I hope this makes sense to everyone. We all have 2 fundraising goals. A collective one to raise enough money for the school and a personal goal for travel expenses. L suggested that people may want to split up their donations so that is why I included another donation button.


The perspective of a 5 year old is BEAUTIFUL! Tonight I was explaining to my son how I wanted him to take time to think about donating some of his money to the school in Africa. So I made him a piggy bank and he went into his room and got his piggy off his dresser. He starts emptying money out and putting it into the new jar. The Ghana Jar. He puts quite a bit in and when he runs out, he tips his piggy over and shakes more out. And keeps putting it in the jar. He kept going... until he had emptied out all of his coins onto the table. As he was putting the last pile into Ghana Jar, he says quietly "Mommy I am angry about giving all of my money away." So I said, "Honey you don't have to give all of your money away. You can give some of it away. However much you want."

That is when he said it... something out of his sweet little mind that taught me something about giving too. He said:

"I don't really need my coins. I have much."

Then he went back to putting the coins into the Ghana Jar.

I don't need it, I have much. The simplicity of a 5 year old mind. Beautiful and inspiring.
My 5 year old son posing with the coins he will donate at the end of the month
I hope you can learn from this conversation I had with my sweet boy tonight. We give not only because God wants us to and commands us to but we give abundantly because we have much.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Horror can't be the end of your reaction

"Horror can't be the end of your reaction, it has to be the beginning of it."- from the documentary I am because we are.

I was watching this documentary this evening (as you get to know me... you will find out that I love documentaries. Actually, some people I know call it a minor obsession) and one of the men interviewed said the quote above. And it was thought provoking and meaningful to me so I thought I would share.

This is part of what motivates me and this is, I think, God's heart for people. That we don't let our reaction to awful things end with horror and without action. That we see the plight of other human beings and let that horror move us to action. That we don't become so self-absorbed that we feel our life and making sure we are okay is the only goal that matters. I feel like this trip to Ghana is like that. When I was reading about the trip to Ghana I was deeply moved by these children. By their suffering and by the hope that George and his staff are providing for trafficked children. And I didn't want their suffering and the sadness I felt to be the end of my reaction.

And none of us have to let the horror of children being sold into slavery to work on the lake or to work as a servant to the families of their masters be the end of our reaction. We all have the power and resources to make it the beginning of our reaction. Not all of us can go to Africa to help for a couple of weeks and I don't even think we are all supposed to be doing that necessarily. But there are SO many ways to help.

Pray for us! Pray for me, JD, Joshua, and Tia as we prepare our hearts and minds to go to Kete-Krachi. Pray for the children working on the Lake for 14 hours a day with very little food and dangerous jobs to do. Pray that the masters of these children will have their hearts prepared and changed and that the effort to release children from slavery will be from God changing the hearts of these men. Pray for the fundraising efforts, for our personal finances as we prepare to travel and for our efforts in raising money to build a new school building at the Village of Life. Pray for our health. I am having surgery on my knee next week and I know that in general we just need to be strong and healthy to prepare ourselves.

Donate! Donate to the school fund. NO donation is too small. There is no such thing. All of the money we raise will go directly to helping these children and/or funding our trips to Ghana. You can donate monthly now too! Hold events, have your children collect change in a jar, design a shirt and spread the word about what we are doing.

Collect! Collect malaria nets and school supplies, and curriculum (elementary age appropriate) and books and small goodies for the children. They will love anything we can take and/or send prior to us leaving.

But above all... don't let the horror of hearing about these children being sold into the fishing industry or sex industry be the end of your reaction. Do something to help.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why go to Ghana?

I think everyone is interested in the intentions of someone they are helping with prayer, money, time or supplies so that is the first thing I want to do... share my intentions.

A couple of months ago I started praying fervently for God to ignite a passion in me. I was so... soul sad. I don't know how else to explain it. I had hurt my knee and felt pretty depressed and upset about it. I felt like there was no part of me that wasn't somehow attached to my kids or husband. And I just felt like the world was bigger than what I was experiencing. There was more that I could do to make an impact on the world. More that I felt God wanted me to do. So I prayed and prayed for God to give me an idea of what my passion is. I had long known I had a passion for children. I had a passion for abused and abandoned children. I had a passion for ending human rights violations. I had LONG known that. But what I didn't know was how I was being called to use those passions. So over years of just doing my thing with my family I started to feel lost. Like a big part of the me that I liked was buried. The passionate, motivated parts. The flame of those passions had definitely started to burn dimly. The things that make me unique were being buried by family and responsibilities. And I didn't want to feel like I was just floating through life any longer. I wanted to look back when my kids were grown and see that I made an impact on more than just my immediate family. And I definitely wanted to be an example to my children of a woman who loves God first and loves others passionately. And I prayed. "God, what is it that I need to be doing right now? What is it that is waiting for me to be absolutely passionate about? I need to see it and experience it." And for a while the still small voice seemed even quieter than normal.

Until... I saw JD's post about going to Kete-Krachi. When I read it, I immediately knew that this was what God wanted me to be passionate about. These children were who I needed to see and experience and write about. The demons from my past and my background with children... they had all prepared me for what was being revealed to me. I am not sure how else to explain it really. I often struggle with knowing what exactly God wants us to be doing. But I felt SO drawn to it. But I of course hesitated and thought of the 900 ways I would be forced out of this opportunity. So I asked my husband about it a couple days after I read the entry JD posted and he said... I could go. What? Wait a minute, he was supposed to be difficult to convince. Then I went to my counselor and asked her about it and she said... "I think its a great idea. It will be difficult on you in many ways but you should go". Huh? I thought for sure she would tell me I wasn't ready for it. She didn't, he didn't. I was going. And I have been running full speed with that passion ever since. The passion to love children and comfort them. The passion to free children from slavery. The passion to share Jesus with them so they can fully experience redemption.

So that in a nut shell is why I am going. God answered my prayer with Ghana. And I am going to follow that passion full speed and full heart.


An Introduction: The Trip

This is the initial blog post written by my dear friend JD that compelled me to join their efforts. This is a basic run down of what we will be doing but I am not the author of this post.

We're going to Africa in November of 2011.

And we're not going alone. We’d like you to join us. 

Yes, you.
All of you.

You -- the one who has always wanted to go to Africa. We need you.
And you -- feeling as though you can't afford to come to Africa. There's also room for you.
Or you -- the one who has never wanted to go to Africa. We need you too.

Why are we bringing you with us?

To introduce to you a beautiful story of hope rising out of Africa, a story that you are being invited into and won’t want to miss.

Welcome to Lake Volta, located in eastern Ghana, West Africa.

Hope begins on Lake Volta, but at first glance, the hope is hard to see. Lake Volta is home to a very lucrative fishing industry, but the fishing industry has a very dark and dangerous side.

There are no employees in the Lake Volta fishing industry. 

Only slave masters, and slaves.

Child slaves.

With false promises of an education and a future, something so many families feel no hope of reaching in Ghana, children as young as 3 or 4 years old are unwittingly sold by their parents to cunning slave masters, and then forced to work under cruel and inhumane conditions.

Imagine poverty so desperate that selling your child might be the only choice you feel you have? 

Which of your children would you sell in hopes of giving them a future?
The boys are used as slaves in the fishing industry, their childhood vanishing as they spend
r days trapped on the lake, endlessly fishing, hauling and mending nets, and diving to the bottom of the lake when nets become tangled. If they refuse, the slave masters may chose not to beat them, but instead force the other child slaves to beat them into submission. 
The visible scars they bear are horrific; one can barely fathom the seemingly invisible scars that shred the heart of these precious children. It only takes a look into their eyes, and the scars on their souls can be seen.

The days are long and dangerous. Working up to 18 hours a day, sometimes getting one meal, sometimes not… these young boys are not only facing cruelty, hunger and exhaustion, but environmental dangers such as drowning, crocodiles and electric eels. Children who die are buried by their fellow child slaves on the shores of the Lake Volta islands.

Even though it’s the young boys who are kept as child slaves in the fishing industry, young girls aren’t spared. The girls are initially used as slave servants for the slave masters’ families.The slave master’s own children go to school while the slave children are denied an education as they are made to do all the domestic labor as well as cleaning and preparing the fish caught that day. The work is literally endless. 
As they get older, the girls’ future becomes even more desperate. The girls are eventually used as sex slaves, often ending up pregnant before reaching their teenage years.

Escapes are rare. These islands are isolated, with few opportunities for the children to flee. Fear and terror is enough to keep them from attempting an escape.
While it would seem as though these children have lost all hope, God knows each of them by name, and so does the man God has sent to rescue them.

His name is George Achibra Sr, a modern day Moses living on the shores of Lake Volta in Ghana. George has dedicated his life to negotiating for the release of these child slaves and has rescued several hundred of these children from slavery on Lake Volta. One by one.
George demonstrates a capacity to love that is rare, refreshing, and breathtakingly beautiful. I see evidence of Jesus in his heart not only in how he devotes his life to these children, but also in the way he has compassion and concern for the slave masters.It’s not enough to rescue the children peacefully and respectfully, George loves God enough to provide alternate means for the slave masters to earn incomes that do not rely on these children. His goal is not only to give the children a better future; he strives to do the same for the men who enslave them.He builds a relationship with them, treats them with respect, and works hard to change their future and their hearts.
Does that not have the fingerprints of God all over it?
Our trip to Africa will be in support of George and his team atPACODEP. We will serve alongside of him while he visits the child slaves on the islands of Lake Volta. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of their situation, which will help us as we work with the rescued children on the mainland and share/write their stories. God willing, we will also witness first hand the rescue of any children released while we are in Ghana.

On the mainland, we will work alongside of George and his team at the Village of Life, the campus built to accommodate the children who have been rescued. Love will be poured onto these children as they adjust to their new freedom and learn to read and write, learn the basics of hygiene, get proper nutrition and care… even as they learn to play. 

There is no need too small to fill,
and one need larger than the others.
George’s success in rescuing these precious children poses a challenge. The current three-classroom unit is at max capacity, and without more space, George’s team cannot accommodate and rehabilitate more rescued children. They currently have 51 children living at the Village of Life, and the construction of a new classroom unit would enable them to bring in more children from the islands of Lake Volta.

Education is crucial at the Village of Life. The children’s rehabilitation and future depend on it… breaking the cycle of poverty and hopelessness depends on it…

...and George’s success depends on us.

In America, it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a school. In Ghana, it’s considerably less. The cost of a three-classroom unit for the Village of Life is $30,000.

$30,000 that George does not have.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have $30,000. It's likely the neither of us have $30,000. So, to you and I, building the school may seem like an insurmountable challenge. What matters is that we serve a God for Whom nothing is impossible, a God who has gathered us together to make a difference for these children.

Alone, we can't. Together, we can.

We will be spending the next 7 months working hard to raise the necessary funds for our trip expenses, the school construction, as well as collecting school and educational supplies, malaria nets, toys and treats for the children. Every penny counts, every bake sale and yard sale important, every donation precious and life changing. It may seem overwhelming through the world’s eyes, but if enough of us gather generously in His name, we CAN succeed in providing this gift to the children of Lake Volta.

We need people like George, who stand in the gap for these children… and George and these children need us to stand in the gap too.

Will you be the answer to this child's prayers?

Your prayers and your support are greatly needed and appreciated.

To support this project, click here:

For more information please
Stay tuned for information on the "Paint Tia Pink Project" fundraiser...
For more information on George’s team, visit PACODEP’s website
NY Times articles on the Lake Volta slavery:

Unforgettable video of the children of Lake Volta and the work that George and his team have devoted their lives to: