Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reflections on Ghana

We landed in Nashville at 9:00 this morning, and there was a wide range of emotions going through me. Of course I was excited to sleep in my own bed tonight and was excited to eat a Blue Coast salad for lunch. I was excited to see friends. But more than anything, I still felt a heaviness in my heart, a sadness. I honestly wasn't ready to leave yet.

It may seem a little crazy that I would feel so attached to girls that I only spent 4 and a half days with, but it felt like we were just really starting to feel like sisters with the girls at Sweetwater at the very time we had to leave. As one of my teammates said, it felt like the first day was just getting to know each other; by second day we were feeling a little more comfortable with each other; by the third day we were friends, and by the fourth day we were family. And then we had to leave. I know we barely had time to scratch the surface of these girls' stories, but nevertheless, my heart was just bursting for them. They really dug themselves in deep.

I was thinking today about all that this trip meant to me, and I feel like I'm just barely getting started, but a few things that have come to my mind so far...

First of all, I have been encouraged to see that the teen girls ministry that God has placed so heavily on my heart is one that does, in fact, translate to other cultures. I was skeptically wondering whether or not the InsideOut / Girl Talk ministry would really "work" cross-culturally. And I was amazed by how much it did. As I mentioned on my first blog about the trip, we truly are all cut from the same cloth. Although the outside manifestations of it may look different from culture to culture, we are all struggling with the same lies and the same core questions. Truth is still truth and lies are still lies, whether you are in the U.S. or West Africa or China, for that matter... This was so encouraging to know, because it means that the message of InsideOut / Girl Talk is one that is important for teen girls in every culture and every pocket of the world to hear. And it works, because it is built on the Word of God and empowered by the Spirit of God...both of which stand the test of time and of culture.

Secondly, I learned that at the end of the day, Jesus is truly the only One who change hearts and changes lives. I will admit that coming in, I was also skeptical about the actual effectiveness of a home like Sweetwater house, being managed by Americans but run by Ghanaians. And I just can hardly believe what I discovered. These young girls are coming in with some deep-seated issues and pain and struggles. And after hearing some of their stories, it would be easy to think that there is little hope for them, that it will require more than what a "normal" person can give them to help them work through these issues. I myself have even said that I don't have the letters behind my name to be able to help these girls in the ways that they need.

However, God really opened my eyes this week to the truth that JESUS changes lives. Professional psychologists and counselors and doctors don't change hearts. Jesus does. The Spirit does. I saw this through the lives of the girls at the Sweetwater House. These girls are coming in as broken, abandoned, sad, hopeless little girls and after only being in the home for a year are now vibrant, strong, passionate, FUN, young women who have a heart for the Lord. And this is happening with not one psychologist or professional counselor on staff. There is ZERO explaining it outside of Jesus, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit changing lives.

And WE, the church, have been given this Spirit. We have been given this empowerment. Not the government. Not rehab facilities. But the church itself. Jesus empowered His church to complete the mission of reaching a hurting world. As Nancy Alcorn says in her book Echoes of Mercy: "Just as Christ gave His Great Commission to the church and no one else, He also equipped the church and no one else to carry out His commission. Just as no other institution was appointed to 'heal the brokenhearted,' neither was any other institution equipped for such a healing work. Only the church has both the authority and the power to bring restoration to broken lives."

There is so much HOPE for these young women. I think I had actually doubted and wondered if these girls who had seen and gone through so much would ever actually be okay - if they would ever be whole again. I see so much promise in their eyes. I see dead hearts and dead sp-
irits coming back to life. I see beauty coming from ashes, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. It was such a beautiful thing to see...hope. To remind myself, I bought a wood carving cut in the shape of the Andrinka symbol for HOPE.

Learning all these things has done nothing but intensify the stirring in my heart for teen girls ministry, overseas work, and reaching out to hurting young women, particularly those being rescued from human trafficking. There were innumerable things that happened this past week that encouraged me or that answered questions that I had.

At the end of the day, I just continue to pray that we would seek out that which God has given us a passion and a fire and pursue it with a vengeance. That we would give our lives, our time, our energy over to eternal things, not temporary ones. After this week's experience, I don't know how I'll ever be able to settle for anything less.

I truly cannot wait until Jesus returns and there is no more of this pain and brokenness. No more tears and no more questions. But until that day comes, may we just continue to fight the good fight and keep the faith, so that what Paul said of himself might be true of us: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day..." (2 Tim 4:2).

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