Naomi’s Zaccheus

Another posting from Carrie:


Naomi Awuni, Carrie Zook and Esther Annobil
Naomi Awuni, Carrie Zook and Esther Annobil

I had an English teacher in high school who used to say, “If it happens once, it is interesting, if it happens twice, it is a coincidence, if it happens three times it is a paper topic! (or, in this case, a blog entry).  Over the last week or so the theme developing around here has been about Zaccheus, The Wee Little Man..


Katie recently learned the song “Zaccheus is a wee little man.”  She has been singing it enthusiastically for all our visitors, for her dolls, in the tub.  She has made up hand motions and I’m sure a ballet is in the works.  She is very into this story of this mean little man and how Jesus seemed to really like him. 


So, I am not sure if it was the Holy Spirit, or Katie’s singing that brought the story of Zaccheus to Ash’s mind as he began preparing for the second day Coach’s Conference that was held here in Kumasi this weekend.  Ash shared how Jesus, walking along with Father, was drawn this man, forever known for two things, being short and mean (Ok, am I the only one who pictures Danny Devito in Taxi?), to eat with that day.  Reflecting God’s purpose for the little guy, Jesus loved this man and his life was changed.  Of course Jesus was heavily criticized for it.  It is the same position many of our coaches face as they befriend the not so “desirable” folks in their communities. 


Naomi, one of our coaches and the self-proclaimed “Queen Mother” of YLI (she was the first female coach.), shared the story of her own Zaccheus.  Recently her daughter was stabbed by a boy in her town of Sunyani who is known for being angry, violent and hard.  As any mother would, Naomi was on a mission to bring this boy to justice.  She planned to visit the police station to report the incident but on her way stopped by the boy’s home to see if he could be found.  He was not there, but what she saw at the home began to change her thinking.  In her words, the home was “not fine.”  It was then that she realized that it would do nothing for him to be captured by the police.  She stated, “I realized I needed to capture him for Jesus.”  Naomi’s plans changed.  She didn’t travel to the police station.  She didn’t report the crime.  She called for the boy to visit her at the school where she teaches.  He came, ready for a fight and prepared to do what was needed to defend himself.  As Naomi poured love on this young man, sharing with him the truth of Jesus, she was shocked to see his tough exterior melt.  Tears fell from eyes that no one believed could cry as he accepted the love and forgiveness of Jesus, and Naomi and her family. 


This young Zaccheus asked forgiveness from Naomi’s daughter.  Naomi says that now all her daughter’s wounds have been healed.  And this young boy is now a regular fixture at Naomi’s home.  He is even helping with the cooking!  Naomi, like Jesus, is receiving quite a bit of criticism from her church and community.  They say that in time his true colors will again be seen.  Most people would rather see judgment than redemption.  But Naomi laughs at these criticisms.  Not only have her daughter’s wounds healed, but so have the wounds of this young man.


There is more from the conference to be posted (and some pictures too).  Thanks for being there for us!

Coach’s Conference

Today, the seven YLI coaches and six new in-training coaches will be descending upon us in Kumasi for the coach’s conference.  These are the key young men and women who lead our work of incarnational evangelism and mentoring discipleship throughout Ghana.  They are natural leaders (what Jim Moye called H.A.F.T.  Heart for God, Available, Faithful, Teachable).  They are also a lot of fun.  We are looking forward to our time with them – hearing their success stories as well as their struggles, and worshiping and praying together.  Saturday we all will be serving at a local orphanage.  And keeping with coach tradition, there will also be a few pounds of Peanut M&M’s consumed, heated games of Connect-4 played, and to keep things loose we will be popping in the Evan Almighty DVD on Friday night.


At the conference I will be leading a discussion on Matthew 3:17, “And a voice from heaven said, ‘this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”  The beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth was kicked off with a display of love among the Trinity.  The Father, in the presence of the Spirit, confirmed Jesus’ calling with words of love.  It was this love of the Father that was the power and motivation for Jesus’ entire ministry.  Likewise for us and the coaches, ministering out of a sense of responsibility, obligation or guilt is to ignore the way of Jesus.  As those indwelt by the life of Christ, our lives need to be founded in the deep knowledge of God’s love for us; and it is from an overflow of that love by which we minister to others in our world.  Please pray this week that at the coach’s conference our young men and women will experience the love of the Father in a personal and powerful way.

Sharing good things

Katie and her new girlfriend Queenstar
Katie and her new girlfriend Queenstar

Here is a post from Carrie.  More family updates and pictures of the kids are at our scrapple the lab blog.


“We are starting our second full week in our little house in Kumasi.  A sort of routine has established itself, one which involves waking up much earlier than I would like.  Typically the kids are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by 6:00 am.  So that means Ash and I are stumbling out of bed around that time as well.  Then it is a mashed up malaria pill in a spoonful of peanut butter for the kids and some eggs or toast and jelly with our Milo around 7:00.  It is actually quite nice to start and end the day eating family meals.  Unlike in the states, we manage to eat together three times a day most days.  And we can take our time over the meals.  It is a wonderful feeling to not be rushed. 


Some time between 8:00 and 9:00 Evelyn and Paulina come over.  Evelyn cooks some rice and meat for the dogs while Paulina works on whatever needs to be done for the house that day.  Today it was explaining to me how to get the power card refilled.  Ghana uses a prepaid power card system.  It makes sense, no late fees, no delinquent bills.  The only problem was yesterday when the card ran out.  It was a Sunday so the Electric Company was not open.  We were without power for several hours until Paulina fortunately found a card with a few kilowatts left on it.  Paulina also takes care of sweeping and washing the floors and the outside patios while Evelyn and I talk food.  We make a menu plan and a shopping list.  Around 10:00 Churcher arrives to maneuver us through the crowded streets of Kumasi on our shopping errands.  Ash usually takes this time to meet with Albert Jatoe, the Head Coach for YLI, or work on business details at the internet café.  The kids don’t complain at all about our little outings, mostly because Churcher has gotten into the habit of buying them a chocolate bar from a woman selling them on the street. 


Today was no different.  The kids are in the back of the car covered in chocolate as we drive home from Opoku Trading, the grocery store.  Katie is talking about finishing her chocolate bar after lunch, as I had declared both children “chocolated-out” for the time being.  Then Katie stops in her dramatic way, “Mama, no, wait.  I am not going to eat my chocolate after lunch.  No.  I am going to save it and share it with the little girl when she comes later.” The little girl Katie refers to is someone Evelyn has rounded up to come and meet Katie.  After her third game of “doctor kit” I think Evelyn realized that Katie is missing playmates.   “I will ask her if she likes chocolate and we will share it.” Katie is beaming.  And then, “Mama, I love to share good things.”


And there it is.  The whole reason we are here – because we love to share good things; because the sweetness that has been given to us is too good to keep to ourselves.”

So what exactly is living in your house?

Genet Cat in Our House
Genet Cat in Our House

We have gotten this question from a bunch of people after we wrote that a wild bush cat was living in the spare bedroom in our house.  Its actually called a genet cat and has been raised from a kitten by the missionaries that own our house. 

Here is a picture of one I found on the web.  I’d take a picture of the one in our house…but I’m afraid of it.   Maybe later.

Alfred from Essam

Alfred from Essam
Alfred from Essam

Yesterday, Jatoe, Churcher and I drove to a town called Essam to meet with Alfred, a teacher who Jatoe ran into in Sunyani in 2006.  Since that short conversation Alfred has been calling Jatoe periodically to ask if YLI could come and train some young people in Essam.   We are going to hold that conference July 23rd – 25th. 

If you find Essam on a map of Ghana you will see that there are no roads that go there…which usually means get ready for a drive that would make a chiropractor lie awake in anticipation!  We spent 10 hours in the car yesterday (much of that on dirt roads designed to knock tooth fillings loose) and only 2.5 hours with Alfred, but I was really impressed.  He is a clearly a leader in his community judging by how people in Essam talk of him, and he is already mentoring younger guys.

We got back to Kumasi at 10PM last night – tired, sore and hungry (despite the boiled ears of corn we bought at a security check point), but feeling good.  There is a hunger here; young people want to impact their communities and are grateful any help they can get.  It is great to have this opportunity to simply show them how Jesus led and loved people, and that they can do the same.

Getting Settled In

Here we are, day four in Ghana, and I think we are beginning to get settled in here in Kumasi.  Our house for the month of July is a small two bedroom bungalow, and is also home to two guard dogs, countless geckos (a few chickens are also running around but I am not sure they “live” here or just commute through our yard), and apparently there is a wild bush cat living in the spare room attached to the back porch.  It’s nocturnal, but I did startle it (and it me!) while I was looking for a ladder to fix a gushing leak in the pipe that feeds the water heater. 


Katie and John Mark have quickly bonded with the YLI coaches they have met and love the attention they are getting!  Sleep schedules are completely askew, and it is hard for them to sleep with all of the African nighttime noises; but sleep is a moving target for toddlers anywhere!  On Saturday, Carrie took the kids for a short walk to a corner market, and tomorrow we plan to go to the Kumasi Central Market which is the largest open air market in West Africa.


Albert Jatoe and I have spent a lot of time talking and planning the next four months, and also discussing the needs of the coaches here.  Yesterday we received Roland Martin’s itinerary for his 30 day visit from Liberia and internship with us in Ghana.  Please also be praying for the Coaches Conference in Kumasi (July 17th-20th).  Coaches have been facing some religious opposition to they way they freely reach out relationally to non Christians.  Pray that we will encourage them, and that they will know that there are many people behind them praying and supporting them. 

Thanks for a Great Send Off!

Thank you everyone for showing so much love and support for us as we leave for Ghana.  God has confirmed this call to us in many ways, not the least of which is how so many people have come around us and are praying for us.  It is wonderful to know that we are not just going; we are being sent.  There is indeed a difference.

Also, for any coaches that are reading this, know that you are also being prayed for from the US.  Many pictures were presented of you at the send off party.  We know that just as we are being sent to Ghana, you are being sent throughout Ghana and beyond!  You are the ones taking the Gospel to the unreached – loving and serving through the life of Christ.  Here is a short humorous video greeting from Hollywood specifically to you (he wishes he was coming too).

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