Unfortunately, the police did not approve.

If you read the post below about King James school last week, please read this post. Naomi needs prayer and love right now. And she needs practical help too. Here is a message from her this afternoon.

“The sad news is that the police have seized my car (Toyota Corolla) because we’ve been overloading it when carrying children to the school. The car is so small that we will have to drive to the villages 10 times to convey the children. The delays are causing the children’s parents to be late to work. I keep telling them let’s pray for God’s interventions.


The children coming from other villages are now 50. They have spoiled the whole of my car but am not disturbed about that. So we are pleading that you put King James school’s troubles or plight before rescuers to come to our aid to get us a school bus or a van, or just something more spacious than my car.”

It is rare to find someone as generous and non-self concerned as Naomi.  She has held nothing back in investing in these children.  Her love for them in inspiring, but eight children in the back of a Corolla is not the best situation for anyone.  I think a used van would be great, and doable.

If you would like to help, let me know.

When a flood wipes out your school.

Children of migrant workers celebrated in grand fashion.

Perseverance, Hope, Love, Restoration.

Two years ago, Naomi, my dear friend and YLI Coach, opened a small two-room school in Sunyani, Ghana with a giant vision: educate children of migrant workers.  Its called “King James Educational Complex”*

Naomi poured her life (and personal income) into the school, but tragically in May a flood devastated the facility.  Over the last few months of watching Naomi I’ve been reminded of the power of perseverance in leadership.

“Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”     Romans 5:3-4, Berean Study Bible

Some photos of the flood and damage that was done in May

 

Photos from three weeks ago of the school, graduation, and the teachers.

Perseverance, hope, character, love.  This is how Naomi was able to rebuild the school, keep her teachers employed, and hold her first graduation; all in less than three months.  As a young widow who also lost a child, Naomi is not new to suffering.  Suffering has made her loving, hopeful, and courageous.  Suffering has forged her as a leader.

Naomi is just the kind of leader we strive to reproduce in YLI.  She’s a valuable part of our team.  If you have a heart for education and would like to support King James, please contact me.  If you know of a Christian school or organization that would consider partnering with Naomi, please let me know.  It’s a great investment!

And if you haven’t seen the video about Naomi and King James, please watch.  It’s good stuff.

*The name “King James” was not given because of a particular translation of the bible.  They are the names of Naomi’s sons James, and King.  King passed away two years ago at age 16.

 

 

March Madness — for the love of underdogs

a 91 second videochallenging commonly-held leadership beliefs.

Are you the type that is drawn to underdogs?  Did you inexplicably pick UNC-Wilmington over Duke in your bracket yesterday?  Backing an underdog is risky business, but there are few experiences more exhilarating than a David knocking off an arrogant Goliath.

Servant leaders around the world, including in Ghana, are ‘Davids’ — underdogs swimming against a current of self-aggrandizement and corruption (and yes, that’s often true here too).  YLI Coaches like Vincent Asamoah are humble and plucky leaders committed to changing the leadership culture in our world.  Vincent embraced an underdog role when he started a basketball-focused discipleship ministry in a country where soccer is king and many kids have never even held a basketball.

If you have a thing for underdogs, check out the 91 second video and visit Vincent’s page.   See for yourself how basketball, and love, are producing servant leaders in places where “leadership” and “corruption” are all-to-often synonymous.

Grateful for your partnership!

Ash Zook
Executive Director

Jesus in the shadow of the slave market

Salaga Slave MarketOn my last Ghana trip, I visited a town called Salaga, and saw the sign announcing “Welcome to Salaga Slave Market”.  It seemed a far too cheerful way to mark the dirt on which, for hundreds of years, slaves were brought from all over West Africa to be sold.  Salaga was an important way station for the African slave trade, and disturbingly, the slave market operated into the 20th century!

Three of our Ghana Coaches, Zach, Jonah, and Constant, traveled to Salaga last weekend to train and initiate discipling friendships with young leaders.  They sent me some cell phone pictures of the training which I included below.

The story of this community’s history of slave trade, encountering the story of Jesus, is significant.  Many of Salaga’s young people today are descendants of slaves or slave traders.  Our desire is to invest heavily in a few who are interested in discipleship.  I think we will all learn a lot.

Slavery is the most “depowering” evil that can be inflicted upon a fellow human being.  It got me thinking, what could YLI’s mission: Empowering young leaders to reach their world’ mean to Salaga’s young men and women?  The reminder that only freedom in Christ can truly empower a person keeps coming to mind.

We appreciate your prayer and support as we continue to follow Jesus into our world!

In Christ,

Ash

What’s new with Shoot4Life and Vincent Asamoah

vincent amos

 

Vincent has seen Shoot4Life grow over the last six years from ten young adults learning basketball on a borrowed court to a widespread program that is reaching 3000 children.  The ministry now even owns three courts.  Despite this growth, Vincent still focuses his energy on the young adult basketball coaches he is training to disciple kids. Two of his coaches are now are full time staff of Shoot4Life.  Spending so much of his time early on building his leadership team before even involving children has led to the kind of multiplication that many teach, but few have the discipline and faith to stick with.  What makes Vincent such a great leader is that everything he teaches is visible in his own life.

Vincent is 100% dedicated to training strong, committed leaders.  He talks about the joy he experiences as he watches his own son being discipled by a coach who was trained through Shoot4Life.  Many children have come to know Jesus through Shoot4Life which has given Vincent access to minister to whole families.  One boy with a particularly difficult home life entered the program a few years ago.  He now lives with Vincent and is being raised by him.  There is always something new going on with Vincent, because where you find Vincent you will also find vision and action.

Many of the children who come through Shoot4Life come from poor conditions, but Vincent has high expectations for them.   He believes he is preparing them for life.  Vincent’s mantra is that Ghana needs a new generation of leaders who fear God, and he believes that some of those future leaders are learning to play basketball with him.   Knowing Vincent as I do, I don’t doubt it for a moment.

Yakubu Zacharia: pastor, missionary and disciplemaker

YLI’s relationship with Zac began in 2007.  We’ve been watching him for a while, and this year he was invited to become a Coach.  Zac is from the Dagomba people of northern Ghana and ministers cross-culturally in a Konkomba community called Naamu.  When Zac moved to Naamu he rented a room in the home of a polygamist idol worshipper named Tumbodo.  Before long, he had led Tumbodo, along with his wives and children to Christ.

Zac also introduced me to two women who separately sought him out for prayer.  Both women were incapable of having children and had spent a lot of their money on traditional African healers, soothsayers and priests who appealed to idols and their local deities on their behalf.   Zac prayed with them that God would show his power by allowing them to conceive.  Both women did conceive and give birth to healthy babies.  Now both women attend Zac’s church with their families.

Nearly 100 adults now attend the church that Zac pastors.  Not one of them knew Christ before meeting Zac.  Can you imagine attending a church where all of the members are new Christians?

Naamu is a community where we hope to install a water project next year.  Their water source is a reservoir that is also home to a sizable crocodile population.  I saw them watching me from the water as we toured the pond in September.  Zac told me that when the water gets low the crocs often wander the village at night and even enter peoples’ homes, causing the inhabitants to climb out the nearest window!  If you would like to be involved in providing clean water for Naamu, please let us know.

 

Jonah: clean water for Sedbeni

Sedbeni is a community of approximately 750 people (>50% of whom are children) in Ghana’s northern region.  YLI Coach Jonah Manyan and his team planted a church in the community a few years ago, and it became evident to him that a lack of access to clean drinking water was the most pressing issue in the community.

P1030282
Women in Sedbeni collect water from natural wells during the rainy season

During the rainy season (typically June-September) a small river runs through a valley below Sedbeni, but during the much longer dry season the river becomes a footpath.  Around the riverbed exist naturally occurring wells (small holes in rock) unlike anything we have encountered before.  These natural wells are openings to the underground sources of water, but they, too, dry up and are insufficient to provide drinking and cooking water for the community.  Dry natural wells also often become burrows for rodents and pythons.

The Solution

The right solution for Sedbeni was two-phased.  First, the well and pump when working properly can provide some water to both the community and animals.  The cost/benefit for fixing it was a no-brainer.  In itself it is not sufficient to source the entire community, but it is certainly a part of the solution.  The water repaired pump design allows for catching what would be wasted water and directs it to a trough for livestock.

The second part of the solution was a rain-water catchment system.  Four months of the year consist of heavy rainfall, but with no way to capture and store the rain, much of the water has been wasted.  Now, a pavilion with two connecting water tanks will capture >100k liters of water, which will, in combination with the well/water pump, provide sufficient clean water for the people and livestock of Sedbeni.  As rain falls on the large pavilion, gutters direct the the water through a screen filter into the water tanks where it is stored.  Each tank is fitted with a tap that is locked when not in use.  A rubber hose connected to the tap is used to fill buckets that the women and children carry to their homes.  What they carry typically supplies their family’s need for two days!  When the rains stop in October and the river again runs dry the people will begin to tap the water.

Impact

After the completion of our first rainwater catchment system in 2010, we learned that the community was using the pavilion for a worship space as there was no church building in the community.  That church has since planted several additional churches in surrounding communities. The pavilion has also served as the first school in some of the communities in which we are working.  Children are getting clean water, learning about God, and receiving an education at the same facility!  We expect that in Sedbeni, too, the water project will deliver value beyond clean drinking water.

Water projects have also been a source of hospitality for travelers to the village.  Offering water and a place to rest for visitors is an important cultural value, so the water system provides a sense of dignity to the community.  The pavilion and water system also allows the community to host nomadic Muslims during rain storms.  The Christians in these communities are thankful for this practical way to demonstrate the love of God to travelers who do not know Jesus.

I am so thankful for Jonah and his ministry team, the water contractor and the leadership of the community.  Our prayer is that through this system, people with significant physical needs and deep spiritual needs will be nourished by clean water and Living Water, and that the gospel will continue to spread through the northern region of Ghana.

Naomi Awuni: This is discipleship

We’re starting a new video series called This is Discipleship, which give a 3-4 minute snapshot of our coaches’ discipleship ministries.  First, let us give a huge thanks to the videographer, Daniel Moye.  Daniel is 17 years old and the son of Jim and Fran Moye.  He spent a couple weeks in Ghana with Ash this summer.   Here’s a note from Ash about the first video:

One of the fun challenges of my job is to help you get to the know the YLI Coaches as people, their lives, personalities, families and ministries – how they live as disciples of Jesus.  Until now, I’ve done my best with words and pictures, but last month Daniel Moye traveled through Ghana with me.  Daniel is a fun and creative short movie maker!  This video he created  captures our Coach Naomi Awuni’s spirit, passion and winsome personality better than I’ve been able with just words and pictures.  This is discipleship!

The video is just over 4 minutes – click the photo above or this link.  Please watch it…I dare you to try not to smile.

— Ash

Transition in Ghana — 4 Ways to Pray

Dear friends,

After landing in Ghana, I drove with some coaches up to Tamale in Ghana’s north.  YLI has a lot going on in Ghana these days.  The coaches and I have a busy schedule – building relationships, planning, praying and ministering together in ‘the north’. We ask you to pray for for our time together and for our safety as we are traveling around the country.  Here are some prayer points related to the work we will be doing over the next several days.

1.  After three years of prayer and careful selection we have invited four new Coach trainees to join our team in Ghana: Zak, Constance, Francis and Achare.  This raises the number of our leadership team of Coaches in Ghana from five to nine.  With the exception of one person, the entire team and I will be retreating away for a few days together – for prayer, teaching, collaboration, and enjoying time together.

2.  Two new water projects are kicking off in the Saboba district.  I’m reminded over and over again how simple-acts-of-love that are grounded in discipleship vividly illustrate the message of the gospel so effectively, and lead to spiritual multiplication.  I’m looking forward to spending time with some of the people in these communities this week.

3.  One of the greatest needs in the Fulani ministry has been transportation.  The Fulani are a widely dispersed and nomadic people.  Not only are they hard to find, but the team has had no reliable way to visit the remote clusters of Fulani homes.  Some American YLI friends (I call them the YLI tribe) stepped up, and along with Nate Harkness and Love Nomads Coffee have raised some money for a motorcycle.  If all goes well we’re going motorcycle shopping in Tamale later this week!

4.  The Ghana coaches are in regular communication with Emanuvel Dass in India, and we are beginning to find ways to support and encourage what God is doing in India through YLI.  Its exciting to see that our coaches and leaders do not see themselves as receivers of mission only, but are also leading mission both inside and outside of Ghana!

I’ll do my best to be updating Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the remainder of my time in Ghana.  As always, thank you for your prayer and support.

Ash

3 Weeks. 3 Questions. An exploratory trip to India

While in India I was asked, “What do you need to see in order to return to India?”
My response: “I would come back for one person as long as he is the right person.”

To find this person of peace, I had a few questions of my own:

1. What are some ways God is already working through young Christian leaders in India?
During the leader gathering where I taught, I met young pastors leading small house churches in areas where the gospel faces strong opposition.  One young man is training pastors and missionaries to go to areas that currently have no Christian presence.  Emmanuel Daas, who I told you about recently, leads a growing church out of his house, and reaches out to to both very poor lower-caste neighborhoods and more prosperous higher-caste neighborhoods.

2.  Are there clear ways in which YLI could be of service to them both in their ministries and in their discipleship journeys?  
Many of these leaders expressed that they had never heard a discipleship message like the one I taught, and have a desire to go deeper both in relationship and training.

3.  Most importantly, “Is God leading YLI to begin investing in a few young Indian leaders through discipleship?”
Yes, I believe so.  To do that, I’ll need help.  And my best help is in Ghana.

I am now praying, planning and beginning to raise funds so I can return to India in June with a team of Ghanaian YLI coaches.  I am excited to go deeper in training and discipleship with Indians and Africans together.  I think that there is much for us to all learn from each other.

Thanks for praying with me, as I am still processing all that I saw, experienced and learned.  It was a lot.  I certainly saw God working creatively and dynamically through young leaders in this country in which the Christian population is small, but growing rapidly. I now consider each of these young leaders my friend and I’m moved to be part of what God’s doing there. More news to come as details are worked out.

All His best,

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