Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."

It is Palm Sunday.  The children have gathered early.  They will be walking to Adjen- Kotoku, carrying palm branches and singing praise songs.  When they arrive at church, the fellowship of believers will continue the procession through the village, celebrating the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.  It is a very exciting day for Christians in Ghana.

Yesterday, Mr. Wisdom cut palm branches from trees in our Rafiki Village.  Last evening and early this morning the Mamas and children worked diligently to fashion weaved palms into headbands, crosses, and flower-decorated fans.  This morning the children dressed in their finest clothes.  But, the most wonderful thing to see was how the nationals took what simple things they had and fashioned them into something beautiful.  And when they added their sweet voices singing words of praise, it was an almost transcendent experience.  We so appreciate the simplicities of life here, and that people know how to mark the moment.  This morning we are filled with joy!

The week has gone well.  We have finished GAMES.  Team Zambia was the overall winner.  This was exciting as the team was made up of the youngest children participating in GAMES, and their team leader was Mary (who is mentally challenged).  How wonderful that on more than one occasion David has slain Goliath!

The children are finishing their two week break from school.  We have played many games, watched many movies, competed in a football match, written sponsor letters, worked on crafts, and done much cleaning.  Tomorrow it is back to the routine of school.  There may be a little sadness tonight, but the past two weeks have been packed with fun! 

Diane's biggest day this week was Wednesday when she left around eight in the morning to go to Mokola.  Mokola is a quintessential African market in Accra.  There are blocks and blocks of street vendors, hundreds of small kiosks (here that means tiny rooms packed full of things for sale), a few shops, a mixture of sounds and smells, thousands of people ... and a very hot sun!  She returned to Rafiki around seven in the evening, so it was a very long day; but productive.  She was able to buy four outfits for the kids who will be celebrating their birthdays this month, and around seventy pair of church shoes for the kids.  One should remember that we don't have access to traditional shoe stores here, so this meant that Diane had to haggle with many street vendors throughout Mokola to find that many shoes.  What an exhausting day; but, you all should be proud of Diane ... she is discovering confident boldness buried in that sweet spirit of hers.  Randy plans on Diane becoming a sales broker in international commodities upon the completion of our mission stint.  :)

Yesterday Randy was joined by two of the fifth grade students as he cleaned his classroom and moved around computers to be ready for school tomorrow.  It was really a delightful time as he discussed with Maa Bea and Ray their ideas about the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection.  (Randy was actually doing prep work for his Easter sermon that he will be sharing in Akotoshie next week.)  Sometimes great truths can be expressed so simply ... out of the mouths of children.  Randy encourages all of you to listen to kids every now and then, they are pretty sharp.  After their theological seminar, they returned to our house for "cubes in water" and a game of Pass the Pigs.  Some days just don't get any better than that.  Just in case you are wondering, Randy finished the game with zero points; so obviously it is not necessary for him to win to enjoy himself, although he remains competitive. :) 

We must close for now, as it is time to go pick up the children from church.  "Coming in the name of the Lord ... " takes many forms. Keep your eyes open for opportunities this week.  Hosanna!          

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"It's Lonely at the Top" ... and Other Musings from Adjen-Kotoku

It is amazing that time is relative.  We have now been back in Ghana for three weeks, and it feels as though we never left.  There were so many things happening that we really haven't had time to think about our experience of returning to a place that is now so familiar.

School is out for a couple of weeks between terms.  We are in the middle of GAMES (a five day schedule filled with games, art, music, enrichment, and sport activities).  The children are even now extremely excited as Mr. Rob and Madam Libby, previous ROS missionaries with Rafiki, are coming in this afternoon for a two week mini-mission stay.  They had previously served in Ghana for four years, so this is a really sweet time for the children.

We have had GAMES activities each morning, afternoon sessions in which the cottage mamas have been sharing traditional Ghanaian story-telling and native crafts such as pottery and broom making, mid afternoon (when it is too hot to do anything else) showings of nature films, and evenings of watching movies and eating popcorn. Obviously this is out of the ordinary for us, but the children are on break, and we know that idle hands lead to mischief, so we try to fill the days with pleasurable and educational experiences.  We have just completed day three of GAMES and will finish the whole program Tuesday evening with awards and other special recognitions for the children.

Three times a year we have the children write letters to their sponsors.  This is no small undertaking as we have 118 children in Rafiki Ghana, and the number of sponsors per child can be as many as six.  Thankfully Libby will be coordinating this and we hope to have them completed by next Friday.  It is a tender moment when children tell us that they have written their sponsors letters, but have not received any letters in return during the year.  This reminds us of how important the relational aspect of sponsoring a child is, and how the smallest things can make the biggest difference.  Of course, the perspective is much different when one is the child waiting.  The African culture is one that values relationships much more than productivity, so the children are doubly sensitive.

Diane has spent the lion's share of the past week writing sponsor reports for each of the children.  This involves a summary page for each child, including updates on health, academics, spiritual development, and anecdotal accounts of what each has been up to during the past four months.  She hopes to complete this task tomorrow, and get back to her usual routine next week.

Randy has been enjoying the break as RICE follows the same schedule as the Rafiki schools, and he has been out of the classroom.  This has allowed him to spend most of the days this week with the children.  Do you remember the days of the "dance card"?  Then you'll understand when we say Mr. Randy's "sit next to you card" is full for the remainder of the break.

Diane often remarks, "It is lonely at the top."  This translates into "Nobody likes you when you are in charge and have to be the one who disciplines everybody."  But this afternoon, during the nature film, she was seen stroking the temple of a little boy's head as it rested in her lap.  Maybe it isn't as lonely as she sometimes imagines.

Now that you know what we have been up to, we will share a couple of the thoughts we have been carrying around in our pockets (we certainly don't claim they are original): Children are too often entertained, and too seldom engaged.  This was evidenced by our showing of Disney's Jungle Book.  Although a classic and one of our favorites, it seemed to be too slow moving to hold the attention of all the children.  We heard the word "boring" several times.  It is difficult to imagine that these children in the Rafiki Village in Ghana have been exposed to enough of first world culture that they actually find themselves disinterested unless it is action packed, high volume, fast paced, supersaturated non-stop sensory stimulation.  In our well intentioned efforts to give them a taste of being a kid in America, we have not done them any favors.  (Don't even get me started about Santa Claus and what we have done with Christmas.)

The second thing that has been heavy on our hearts is the idea of the value of a day.  Coming to Africa we brought with us a willingness to do whatever is needed.  The response to needs has taken many forms, some of which have been efficient and others not.  Some have been a good match with our gifting and passion, others not.  Most often we struggle with the disparity between what we feel competent to do, and what we are asked to do.  On occasion we realize that some of our tasks are so menial that anyone in the world could do them.  Then we are reminded of some of the great truths we have learned during our lives: It is more often the willing rather than the qualified that God uses.  It is not about us, but about the revelation of God's glory.  It is for a time such as this that God has us where we are.  It is by faith we walk, not by sight ... without faith it is impossible to please God.  We measure the success of a day's work in terms of obedience.  

Does it really matter that one spends an hour playing with children when there are so many other things one is qualified to do?  We think so.  And so did Jesus ... who was the only one qualified to save the world. 

                   

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"It keeps getting sweeter and sweeter ..."

To the faithful who have consistently followed our blog, we send our renewed greetings from Ghana.  As you know we have not published a blog for the past four weeks and we want to let you know why.

We have just returned home from an unplanned trip to the United States.  Praise God for His faithfulness and provident care.  Randy was having some medical and dental issues that needed to be explored and addressed.  By God's grace all of the investigation was able to be completed and no pathology was found.  He was able to receive the dental care he needed.  Now we are back to Rafiki without the distraction of concerns about health.

While in the United States, working around the schedule of appointments and procedures, we were able to connect with some of our friends and family. What made it really fun was the fact that we were able to surprise some of them by simply showing up at their homes and school (Hey, G-Baby!!).  Their reactions were priceless to us - shock, befuddlement, tears, lightheadedness :), and joy. After these reactions we did use wisdom and let our moms in on the surprise, as they both have heart problems.   It was a wonderful time of refreshing and catching up with many we love. Oh the joy of sitting long at a friend's table!  If you were among those with whom we connected, thanks for making that happen.  If we missed you this time, we will definitely make it a point to see you on our next visit.

We were able to stop over at Rafiki headquarters for a few days before our flight back to Africa.  This provided some rest and opportunities for each of us to meet with our supervisors and the leadership of the organization.  Randy was able to share his desire to return to the elementary, junior high, and senior high classrooms. This is what he has found to be most fulfilling and the greatest opportunity to impact the lives of the children here.  It was made clear that he had been assigned as dean of the Rafiki Institute of Classical Christian Education and that his main priority is the adult education program.  Please join us as we pray that God will give Randy a peace that is beyond his own understanding and a passion for RICE that supersedes his other interests and desires.  If indeed God has called, He will be faithful to provide, and Randy will experience contentment in any circumstance.

The plans for RICE are extraordinary though.  Next month we will start our second class of RICE 1 with an estimated enrollment of 18, even as the first class completes its work and becomes certified to teach in or open a new pre-primary school.  RICE will eventually expand to include five levels, with graduates of the government approved program qualified to open and operate their own private K-12 classical Christian school.  We will be breaking ground on the new building for the Advanced Learning Institute later this spring. At full enrollment we will have 108 students.  By the time the first class graduates, we should be an accredited teachers' college offering bachelor degrees in Classical Christian Education.  The Ghanaian Ministry of Education is very excited to work with Rafiki to bring this opportunity to the people of Ghana.  This is a huge task, but we serve an incredible God.    

Upon our return to Ghana, we hit the ground running as we had our usual responsibilities to assume, there was catching up to do, and the Home Office team from Florida headquarters arrived for its semi-annual inspection and evaluation.  There were long days and short nights.  We were thankful for the weekend to arrive and be able to reorganize and rest.

The team noted great improvements in the overall spirit of the village, the attitudes and behaviors of the children, the school and teachers, the physical plant, and the progress of the programs in which we are involved.  We were reminded that it often takes fresh eyes to see the progress that is being made, and that those in the midst of the battle often lose objectivity.  The team was wonderfully encouraging, and we felt refreshed, inspired and challenged anew by their visit. They are so good at this aspect of their job that as Diane puts it, "life, as we know it, seems to be suspended for those days of their visit, and when they leave,one once again feels alone and inadequate." But we soon remember that we do not stand in our emotions, and we praise God for both His abounding presence and supply.  We also praise God that He is continuing His good work here, and that we are experiencing transformation.

Diane has been given additional responsibilities.  She is to work with Mr. Menta, our national assistant village director, to oversee the transition of our graduates from their residence here in Rafiki to their enrollment and attendance at university.  This includes researching schools, assisting in application, making arrangements for room and board, and assuring that everything gets done in a timely manner.  We jokingly say that she will have first hand experience in "pushing the kids out of the nest."  That is the universal goal of every parent, isn't it?  To do it well is the challenge. 

Diane knew that upon our return Mr. Randy would be met with excitement and gladness as he is adored by all the children - he is Mr. Randy, you know :).  But being Mrs. Consequence, she knew the children would not have the same outpouring of affection for her return.  But her sweet little boys from cottage 8 (most of whom are stinkers, sweet stinkers:)) asked her if she would be here for Christmas.  She translated that, "we don't want you to go again". Again, her translation only :).          

The most exciting thing that has happened since returning to the Village has been the visitation of salvation!  One of our most difficult children, the centerpiece of many dysfunctional dynamics within the Village, for the first time of which we are aware, sensed a conviction about her behavior and terrible relationships with other children and adults.  She expressed remorse and a desire to be freed from her behavior because she didn't "want to be like that anymore."  This was an open door for the sharing of the Gospel. Only God can know the heart of man, but we believe that she is now a Christian.  Join us in praying for "E" as she experiences the transformation that is possible only through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, an account of a "kiss of grace."  Margaret, a student in RICE 1, was asked by a fellow church member how her course was going.  She answered, in true Ghanaian vernacular, "RICE keeps getting sweeter and sweeter, now they are adding stew."  Praise God for progress ... even if it is "small by small."

Thank you for loving us and caring about what we do here.  May each of you daily experience the sweet, sweet love of Jesus and may there always be someone in your life who wants you home for Christmas.    

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Are you sleeping ... or waiting to hear from the Lord?"

For the past several weeks the Rafiki Bible Study has been in the book of Acts.  Both of us have greatly enjoyed the study, and are impressed with God's desire and design (from before the beginning of time) for all nations to come to know Him.  It is a privilege for us to be part of God's work here in Africa.

Earlier this week, Randy was discussing with his class how counter-cultural it is in America to confess that we are totally dependent on God and the work of the Spirit to accomplish anything good in our lives.  He was attempting to explain that "The American Dream" has fostered a fierce spirit of independence and the delusion that "we can achieve anything if we work hard enough."  In response, one of the students commented, "Many people think Ghanaians are lazy, but we are just waiting on the Lord."  Later that afternoon during computer session Randy looked around the room at his students ... all of whom were sitting at their desks, breathing heavily, heads bowed, eyes closed ... and he wondered what they were hearing.

Diane is in the process of training a woman who she thinks will be a wonderful cottage mother.  This is an answer to many fervent prayers.  Thank you for sharing that burden with us.

Our small study groups are up and running, and the young people seem to be excited about sharing time with us as we explore what it means to honor God through our living and the choices we make. 

We had a great celebration on Valentine's Day.  Diane has been teaching the Love Languages in her cottage mothers' training time. The special occasion provided an opportunity to actually put into practice what they had been learning.  During Thursday's meeting Diane had the mothers make a special Valentine for each of their children, expressing specific words of encouragement and affirmation.  It was no surprise that some of the mothers had a challenging time - a reflection of both the mothers and their kids! With encouragement they were all able to complete the task ... but there was one lone valentine on which the only thing written was "Happy Valentine's Day."  We need to pray for that kid and his mother.  We decorated the dining hall, plastered the walls with our own valentines - telling the children how much we loved them and why, served Fanice (ice cream) as a special treat after supper, and showed the movie The Love Bug.  We think they all felt "loved on."

Last evening we had four of the high school guys (Randy's small group) over for games and treats.  We played Catch Phrase which has always been a favorite of ours.  That was a funny cross-cultural experience, but the guys were great and had a lot of fun.  During Pass the Pigs, Carlos quoted an old Ghanaian saying which is profoundly true: "When you have nothing, you want some. When you have some, you want more.  When you get more, you want it all."  It is amazing how truth is indeed universal.

Today Randy was walking with some of the young boys after coming back from church.  Martey was sharing some of his thoughts.  He asked, "Mr.  Randy, what is that thing they call you after you're gone?  It starts with an R."  Randy answered, "Randy?" Martey said, "No, it's your ... r... rep ... reputation.  You have a good reputation."  Randy smiled, because of the compliment; and because Martey had learned a lesson one day in class. "Reputations are important things."  They are indeed.  

So now that you are at the end of this blog and find yourself breathing heavily, with your heads bowed, and your eyes closed... well, we were just wondering ... are you sleeping, or waiting to hear from the Lord?                    

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Signs

"Signs, signs.  Everywhere are signs, blocking out the scenery and breaking my mind.  Do this.  Don't do that. Can't you see the signs?"

The memory of this old song from the 70's came to mind last Sunday.  We were off duty, which means that we should be bothered in our home ONLY if there is some EMERGENCY.  But that Saturday we had heard the familiar "Knock Knock" on our front door at least a dozen times. The next day we decided to put up a sign of our own that read, "Good Sabbath.  Madam Susy is on duty this weekend."  Later in the afternoon we watched one of the junior boys come to the door, read the sign, take it off the screen, and lay it on the ground.  He then stepped over it and knocked boldly on the front door.  We did not answer.  Later we opened the door to see what had happened and there, still on the ground, was our sign.

It is not like we have a whole lot of time for philosophical pondering, but we would have to be pretty obtuse not to catch the spiritual symbolism of that!  How many times does God put signs right in front of us, and we just set them aside and bull ahead with what we think we are to do.  We are still chewing on that one.

Diane should have known Monday would be a challenging day. She went to the bank to withdraw money from an ATM before going into Accra to pick up postal packages, get a hair cut and buy groceries.  The ATM canceled the withdrawal (but still charged our account - another story in itself).  The normal 45 minutes into town stretched into four hours, because of unusually heavy traffic. When she arrived at the post office, it was unfortunately the wrong one. Instead of traveling to the other side of Accra, she turned around and came home empty handed for the day.  Some days are just like that.  She should have read the signs.

Later in the week, Diane went on home visits to check out three potential cottage mothers.  She was very excited about two if them. At the end of the day there was only one who qualified to proceed, fortunately she was the one Diane thought had the greatest potential.  The other two?  Well, one talked more about her salary than about anything else.  The other?  She spoke in tongues.  Both bad signs for applying to Rafiki.

Wednesday afternoon upon Randy's return to his RICE 1 classroom after lunch, he found Angelina stretched out across three chairs. And there was Margaret stretched out on the floor.  Fortunately this was not a sign of lack of interest, but more a sign of the heat and humidity.  See, the climate here is tough even for the nationals.

Now, how about some encouraging signs?

Today Randy received an e-mail from home office inquiring about the progress of RICE (Rafiki Institute of Classical Education) of which he is dean.  They wanted to know how many working computers we had at present and how many we would anticipate needing for the next term which begins April 14th.  Randy explained that he had three students now, eight working computers, and anticipated no need for more computers in April.  The response was something like, "We expect there to be eighteen new students in April, so you'll need at least ten more computers."  We think this is a sign of  high expectations, but Randy is going to take it as an encouragement.            

Last year Randy was able to spend nearly every day with the children of the Village because he taught in the primary, junior, and senior schools.  This term he has been taken out of the schools to supervise the development of RICE.  He very much misses the students, especially the junior and senior high students.  God has been particularly gracious this past week; as not a day went by without one of the students coming up to RICE and checking in with Randy, just to let him know they were missing him.  Perhaps that is a sign that some relational progress was made last year.

The guys study group started this past week.  Randy is using Gene Getz' Measure of a Man to help the guys understand what manhood looks like from the Biblical perspective of Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus.  Eleven guys were invited, but only four chose to attend. Randy thinks this may be a sign of losing the relationships he developed last year because he is no longer with the guys daily, but it could also be a sign that he needs to buck up and trust more in God's sovereignty.  Ah, just when one thinks he's got it.

Diane did travel back into Accra on Friday, and had a little better day than earlier in the week.  She made it to the bank, where the ATM again charged a withdrawal to our account without surrendering any cash.  Is this a sign or fraud?  We're working on it. She then made it to the correct post office where she was able to pick up a delightful package sent to us by our dear friends the Volners who were attempting to spoil us for Christmas.  Oh, better late than never! It is a sure sign that we are loved!  We received many mini M&M packs in our gift box and now, two days later, they are gone.  A sure sign we (i.e. Diane) is still undisciplined when it comes to chocolate.

Earlier this week we received an invitation from the children to attend a play they were presenting.  The envelope was addressed to Mr. and Mad. Diane (abbreviation for madam, we hope!).  Or, do you think that is just another sign?

Signing off for now.  We love all of you!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Zero Words per Minute ... and Two Hundred Thirty Six Errors"

Randy has completed his second week as Dean of RICE (Rafiki Institute of Classical Education).  We are at the very beginning of developing this program, whereby national men and women are trained to become teachers in or headmasters of institutions that employ Christian classical education technique and curriculum. As is the case with everything at the beginning, we are progressing slowly and discovering and addressing problems as they come up.  The first class consists of three people, each in their sixties, who come on recommendation from the Methodist Church of Ghana.  They are lovely individuals who have great hearts for God and desire to use their remaining years to serve in preschools in order that they might be used to bring children to the Lord.  It is a testimony to their faithful obedience that they would get up early each morning, Monday through Friday, incur the expense in time and money to make the hour or two journey from their home to come to Rafiki and spend seven hours on the computer each day to become certified after the twenty week program is completed.  The courses will eventually expand to two and one half years, and qualify the graduates to participate in classical schools on any level from preschool to senior high school. That is the theory behind the program ... the rubber meets the road when we discover that the students have no computer skills or even basic typing skills ... and we must indeed start from the very beginning.

So, when Randy heard "Zero words per minute ... and two hundred thirty six errors" as Margaret's response to how she did on our BeaconMavis typing skills test earlier this week ... his balloon was just a little deflated. It was a reality check; always something difficult when working under visionaries.  Yet it drew Randy back to standing on the promises of God and trusting in His sovereignty.

Our week has been very busy, and activity has been swirling around us; yet when the dust settles we feel as though there has been little accomplished.  Randy spends his days with his three senior citizens, working through the RICE curriculum with them.  Diane teaches the cottage mothers a couple of times a week for a couple of hours and spends the rest of her time hearing about the insults that are tossed around like hot potatoes among the children.  Several times this week, when we came together after our day's work, we asked ourselves, "Where are we, and how did we get here?"  And we remind ourselves that reality consists not of the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen .. for we are just sojourners on the earth ... passing through on our way to a heavenly rest.  We believe this is what God is teaching us even as He pries the reins out of our hands.  Randy's motto, "I have no expectations, only hope" is ingrained more deeply with each passing day.

That all said, we felt some definite "kisses of grace" this week.  Diane received a wonderful e-mail from a person she has never met, delivering prophetic words of encouragement.  Randy has had some delightful and enlightening conversations with Stephen, one of his RICE students, at early morning devotional time as they have been studying Acts and the power of the Holy Spirit.  (There is definitely a different manifestation of the Spirit here in Africa ... just like in the book of Acts ... than anything we have experienced before in our walk with the Lord.)  We are both excited to be starting weekly small group studies with several of the junior and senior high students.

This weekend we have said goodbye to two delightful mini-missionaries who have been at Rafiki for the past month.  Dr. Dan and Madam Kathy were not only talented and hard workers, but also refreshing for our spirit.  The fellowship was sweet and their stories brought both tears and belly laughs.  Such is the dynamic of the body of Christ.  Tomorrow we welcome Phyllis, a reading specialist from Washington, who will be with us for a month.  It is wonderful to see how God meets the needs of His covenant community by moving around  people and things for divine appointments.

Finally, for all of you back in the States, we understand today is Superbowl Sunday.  We are not great football fans, but we definitely enjoy the tradition of hunkering down on a cold winter's evening for a few hours of rowdy entertainment and handfuls of delicious snacks.  Enjoy it for us!  Might it be a high scoring game, well played, with few mistakes.  And think of us ... we're here in Ghana grinding out small gains and intercepting insults. :)            

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Too Many Chiefs...

We apologize to the few of you who may have been concerned that we did not post a blog last week.  We are alive and well in Ghana; we have just been incredibly busy.  We'll try to update you on the most important happenings of the past two weeks, and trust the other details simply don't need to be shared.

Last Saturday, January 18th, was a wonderful day here in Rafiki.  This was the day that we celebrated the first graduation, of the first class of senior secondary students, in the first Rafiki Village to open in Africa.  As you can imagine, it was a monumental experience.  There were seven students total.  Our desire was that they would feel celebrated, successful, and inspired to move on to bigger adventures.  Like all graduations, it was a bittersweet day.  Much laughter, good memories, and many tears.  The ceremony was absolutely wonderful, and the day's celebration will linger long in our heats and minds.

The graduation ceremony itself was a testimony to the Sovereignty of God, and how he brings all things together.  Our speaker was Dr. Augustine, who happens to be high up in the Ghanaian education system. He is a gentleman who works in the division of education, which actually oversees the national accreditation process for schools and curriculum in Ghana.  The initial connection with him was made by one of our home office staff who was flying in to Ghana.  He started up a conversation with the person sitting next to him, Augustine, during the flight over from America.  Chris explained that he worked for Rafiki which has ten orphanages in Africa, and has plans to implement Christian Classical Education training in all of our villages. He shared the mission of Rafiki and gave a general synopsis on how we were doing in Ghana.  Augustine shared his belief in God and faith in Jesus Christ, and then went on to share the burden he had for his homeland of Ghana.  As a government official he is responsible for accreditation of schools and curriculum, and had been praying for a Christian based program that could be introduced into the Ghanaian system, as he is convinced that the problems of Africa will be solved only by the grace of God.  A heart like Augustine's and a vision like Rafiki's is a perfect match.  Now we simply need to wait for God's timing for our curriculum to be approved and implemented in national government schools.  There is just something about God's timing, as he moves the chess pieces around.

One of the remarkable events of graduation was the participation of local chiefs in the celebration.  In Ghana it is very unusual for people to live on their own land.  In fact, our Rafiki Village is built on the land of the Quaye family who has signed a 99 year lease with us.  It is tradition that the local chief attend any event that has anything to do with the land that is owned by part of his tribe. Then there is the local village chief.  He comes to any events that occur around the village of Kotoku.  And finally the area chief, who generally wants to be involved in everything, just to be in the loop.  We had another group of chiefs walk in during the middle of the ceremony, walking directly in front of the speaker.  There was a momentary pause, and then the headmaster announced, "We have some more chiefs who have apparently joined us.  I am sorry, I don.t know what you are chiefs of, but you are welcome."  Now some of the chiefs had on multicolored toga- like robes, carried lion-head staffs, and were accompanied by their own tribal entourage.  Quite African.  Quite memorable.

The words from the graduation speech that seem to still be "hovering around" are those shared by Augustine. He spoke of schools of higher learning in Roman days.  When entering these schools, the students were called scholars because as everyone knows when one graduates from high school at the age of 18, one knows it all!!  The second year in the Roman schools the students were called wise men because they had come to realize they didn't know it all.  The third year they were called learners because they realized that one never stops learning. It was a well spoken word.

The grandest thing of the day was the feast we shared after the ceremony.  Everyone who attended, participated, were related to anyone in the village, or happened to just sneak through the guard gate joined in the meal.  We were reminded that eating a meal is not just something you do during the day, but that it can be an all-consuming ambition in life!  We had to turn away some of the local children who came through the gates simply because they knew some event was happening, and when there is an event, there is usually food.  We certainly can not fault them for their efforts.  Most of the food was native Ghanaian.  We had some delicious barbecue skewers, but became a little concerned when after prolonged chewing, we were still unable to swallow the meat.  It was a very strange chewy, spongy sort of  ... goat stomach.  Well, that is probably better than the large snails some of the ladies thought they might be eating.  Culture ... you got to love it.

The past two weeks have been very busy and somewhat chaotic.  We had a total of seven mini-missionaries here at one time.  Although we love them, and hugely appreciate the projects they are able to do for us, their presence breaks the routine of the children.  As one could imagine, each person comes with an idea of what they would like to do with the children, according to their own reasonable schedule.  Combining that with the break from school for the holidays, the disrupted flight schedule for those returning from furlough, the writing of over 300 sponsor letters, a three day sports competition, movies, student produced plays, cadets, medical clinics, injuries, and multiple suggestions as to how it all could best be done, makes for swirling heads and tired bodies at the end of long days.

In the midst of this, Diane has been doing some rearranging of the children's cottage assignments; in hopes of placing the children in the best situation for the meeting of their special needs.  In general it has been successful; but not a day goes by when she is not approached by a child or mother requesting that some other change be made.  We would appreciate your prayers in this regard: that God would affirm the decisions that have been made, that children would settle in, and that all parties involved would benefit from the changes.  No one likes changes, you know.

Randy's greatest accomplishment (tongue in cheek) was reducing his teaching load from 7 classes of Bible, which involved 75 students, to one class of the RICE (Rafiki Institute of Classical Education) and three students.  It should be noted that he started with six, but experienced a 50% attrition.  Some of his elementary students asked why he had quit teaching them and started teaching people who were so near death.  It was not easy explaining the overall vision of Rafiki which includes establishing a program that will certify teachers of Christian Classical Education, and eventually offer bachelor degrees,  Change is hard ... for all of us.  Besides, he explained that people in their fifties and sixties would not appreciate hearing that they were on death's door!

It is not all work and no play however.  Yesterday we went into Accra with several of the mini-missionaries. We shopped a couple of open air markets, ate a delicious meal at Frankie's, perused Hakim's jewelry shop, and took the ladies to a last shopping spree at the Wild Gecko.  We came back to the Village and watched the children's production of their original play, Delivered.  We came back to our house, relaxed, popped -corn to eat along with our M&Ms, and watched an episode of Lost before going to sleep for a well deserved night's sleep. (Though many of you have experienced the series Lost, we had not. Our fellow ROS shared her DVDs and we are hooked. The truth about being in Africa is that one enters a time warp so it makes no difference what is current.  Someone even left the series MacGyver behind, which we have never seen!)

Today we have our new sign posted at our front door. "Good Sabbath.  Madam Janet is on duty.  Please do not disturb us."  We hope to get much accomplished today as our list is long ... but, there is only one chief in our house.  Diane says, "How!"