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Hip, Hip, Hooray!

2015 St. Paul's Akramaman

2015 St. Paul’s Akramaman

In 2007 Pastor Becki Neumann, Bruce Neumann, Judy Chaney, Mercia Laryea, The Mother’s Union and I open St. Paul’s preschool to 87 children and 45 parents who were not sure about this idea of putting children into a classroom. Here we are eight years later with more than 180 children in the school, which now includes a creche and proper preschool for K1 and K2 (In the U.S. we would say K4 and K5). Last Friday 34 children graduated from K2 and will enter Class 1 in September. Many of these children have been in St. Paul’s since the age of 2.

Nora 2009/2015

Nora 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

John 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christiana 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

Christian 2009/2015

These four precious children have been followed closely because they were the first of our Child Sponsorship program. In 2009 when Ellie Deane saw the photo of Nora she siad “I have to help this little one. What can I do?” and our Child Sponsorship program began. Thanks to Ellie, Bruce and Becki + Neumann and Trinity Episcopal Church, Waterloo, these four children have been in the program since the age on 1 year. They have received free tuition, health insurance, uniforms, vitamins, shoes, books, toys and help for the family when needed. We have about 15-20 children who need sponsorship every year. For $35 per month, you can provide HOPE to leave a life of proverty. Contact me at info@gmhope.org or check out our website.

There were many educational dignitaries at the graduation. St. Paul’s have become a model preschool and a child may not enter St. Paul’s primary until they have graduated from the preschool. Mr. Daniel Budu Asiedu, Municipal Director of Education, stated “Whether we like it or not, these children will be our future leaders so I plead with parents to take an interest in your child’s education.” Mr. Michael Daniel Narh of Obeyie School also stated “I predict in the future we will trace the education of our Nation’s Leaders to this school.” Wow, I feel like a proud Mama! Enjoy the photos.

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Seat or Feet?

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All across America people sit in churches week by week, singing and listening and learning what it means to follow God, to follow Jesus who leads us into the heart of God. And for many, the journey to God ends there, in the pew, or in the chair; but for some, the pew or the chair is not the end of the journey toward God, but the beginning.

When my family prepares for any journey we readDSC_0116 everything we can about our destination, we try to learn about the exciting things in store. Following Jesus leads us into the heart of God. What is it like there? What does God say about religion? God, through James, says this, “[23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. [24] For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like… [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:23-27 ESV, emphasis mine).

The heart of God is filled with His love for the world, the whole world; and, I am convinced it also holds sadness that so many who have so much are so clueless about real need, true joy, and faith that has feet and not just a seat.

DSC_0929For 50+ years my faith had a seat, but no feet. I was convicted of being a fan, but not a follower. And then Ghanaian Mother’s Hope happened. Through the quiet wooing of the Holy Spirit I found myself on a plane bound for Ghana, and my faith, and my life have never been the same.

Is your faith “true religion?” Does your faith have feet? Have you been hearing… and ignoring the still small voice of God? Notice James doesn’t say, “send money.” He says, “visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” V.I.S.I.T.

Visit. Your life will never be the same. Your faith will never be the same. Your understanding of God will never be the same. Visit. And, you will have stepped more deeply into the heart of God.

 

 

Becki Neumann+, Board Member,  Rector, Christ Church

I thought I had been exposed to everything. . . by Elizabeth Werbiskis

Eliz babyOne of the things I requested of Debi Frock, founder of Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope, on this Ghana trip was that I get the opportunity to do more than just help with Reading Camp, sight-see and shop. She granted my wish and then some! Tuesday, Debi and I went to Denchira, a new village, to deliver treated mosquito nets to families. The visit was pre-arranged by Auntie Sarah and Auntie Elizabeth, nurses at who do medical outreach for the Anglican Diocese of Accra. They made sure all the women and children from Denchira were gathered and Debi was able to talk to them about Malaria and ways it can be prevented. Debi asked the women and children to raise their hands if they had had malaria…everyone raised their hands. I know when we visit Ghana, we’re required to take either a daily or weekly malaria preventative but I never thought about what the locals actually do to prevent contracting malaria.
Someone else had been thinking about that too.owen 1 Debi told us about an 8 year old boy in Lake Worth, Florida named Owen who decided to forego receiving birthday presents this year and have everyone donate money to GMH because he didn’t want kids to die from malaria anymore. The money donated allowed GMH to buy 85 malaria nets, 50 of which we delivered in Denchira. Helping Owen’s vision reach the final stage was an extremely rewarding opportunity to be a part of. I was so excited to get out to the new village and help these families. We also brought toothbrushes and toothpaste to hand out to the families as well as flip flops, pillow case dresses and GMH bracelets for the young boys and girls.
After my experiences in Akramaman both this year and last, I thought I had been exposed to everything – the extreme living conditions, the poverty and need everywhere, the kids with such promise and little hope of more. What struck me in this new village was the urgency that the people felt about “getting” the things we were providing.

As I stood with Debi, Auntie Sarah and Auntie Elizabeth handing out the bracelets and flip flops, I was nervous because I didn’t know who to choose to give them to and I didn’t have enough for everyone. I was also intimidated by the need of these people in front of me. I know they have nothing and all I had to offer was a little rubber bracelet. As soon as I started handing out a couple bracelets to kids near us I was swarmed and it became overwhelming. Even harder than managing the mob in front of me was understanding why some kids were grabbing more than one bracelet when there were others that had none.bracelets
I had expected a sense of gratitude, which was certainly there, but because these kids live with constant need, there was also a sense of “still wanting”. That was hard for me to understand because when we “want” something it’s not nearly to the same scale as their “want”. It made me realize the difference between my wants and needs and theirs. When you have everything you need, your wants become material and almost unnecessary. When you have nothing, you want everything because you can’t distinguish the difference between a want and a need.Malaria nets for twins

Elizabeth helping at Reading Camp

Elizabeth helping at Reading Camp

 

Elizabeth donated 80+ pair of flip flops for children at the camp and in the village

Elizabeth donated 80+ pair of flip flops for children at the camp and in the village

 

True Drew from Ghana

Drew Josh NiiI woke up this morning around 6 am. We were  to leave around 7:30 am to visit 4 schools that serve rural villages. My roommate, Joshua, was already up and getting ready for school. I took my vitamins and got set to workout but was soon greeted by the power going out. Next thing I knew, Joshua, brought me a battery operated  lamp so I could see. The sunlight was just starting to come in but it was still a bit dark. Wow! Rather than grumble about the loss of power he’s serving my needs. He may only be 8 years old but I have the best roommate! They really get what it means to be a family unit in Ghana.  Everyone knows their roles and they work well together daily. This is how Africans survive.

After my workout and a nice cold shower, Debi asks what I would like to eat. We recently got some good bread and cheese so I suggest a cheese sandwich. Next thing I know Mercia is bringing out a breakfast fit for a King. Eggs, fried spam, fried onion, plus a grilled cheese sandwhich…I’m always so grateful for every meal I eat here in a different way then I am back home. Most times I don’t know what or when the next meal will be.

Not long after breakfast a driver arrived in a Road4-wheel-drive pick up truck on loan from the Anglican Diocese of Accra. Many of the roads to the schools we visited today are not paved or even flat. There is the threat of rain so my guitar rides in the front seat with me strattling it between my legs. The roads are very slippery and muddy as the rain falls. Quite a few roads had little streams running across them. Traffic is very slow, about 10 miles per hour. We bounce and bounce across the many bumps and potholes.  Debi told me to stay loose, like jello, as we bounce along to keep from getting sore. My bones rattle along with the truck.

The first school we visited was a little tough to find because of road construction. Finally the driver doubled back and found a way around the construction.  In Ghana it is best to have a driver on a long trip like this one. There are lots of little taxis all around too. Every tro-tro (small vans used as local busses) is packed twice over. I’m glad God provided a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for today’s adventure. Being on the road is always an adventure.

At each school, the kids were excited when we pulled in. Debi is on fire teaching… the children are really getting it too. They are learning the importance of wearing shoes, eating good food, washing hands, etc. The coloring book is a BIG hit. This means they can share the message with all their friends.

Abossey Okai Public SchoolThe word that kept coming to my mind all day today was “resolve.” They are very good at going with the flow here! Two schools we visited had classrooms that are outside. What I mean is they had open walls. So you could be teaching a lesson and all of the sudden hear a goat!  At another, the children were piled onto the veranda. Desks are different over here. Three children share a desk. And I didn’t see them fighting over space for their coloring books either. They helped each other see whatever page Debi was teaching from. There were always children from other classrooms lurking about as well. I mean how often does a blond haired blue-eyed American with Norwegian heritage visit their school flexing his muscles and playing guitar!

The kids did such a great job singing and flexing their muscles. Being StrongWe did some jumping and dancing as well. I have an acoustic guitar so I have to strum very loud to cut through all the excess noises. There was not one school where you had an enclosed classroom cut off from all the noise of other classrooms or street sounds.

At one school a little girl got sick at her desk. Her friends helped to clean her coloring book off. When ever we would leave a school they would keep singing the words “Being Strong” as we pulled out. The children waved and smiled too. Such joy!! We left a few CD’s at every school so the teachers could continue to teach the song I wrote..

When we got home, I was exhausted and took a short nap. I awoke to another amazing meal. This time Debi and Mercia had made some fried potatoes and chicken stew. We had vegetables as well. I am blessed every day to be here.

Nii Marty

We learned that Mecria’s grand baby, Victor—we call him Nii Marty, has malaria. He is only 7 months old. He sleeps in a room with windows and screens. They spray for mosquitos frequently.  This is very dangerous for anyone in the sub-tropics but especially for a baby in Ghana. Mercia is keeping him cool and trying to get him to take the medicine. Joshua is helping. The first 24 hrs are crucial and watching his listless body is heart wrenching.

Fortunately Mercia has experience with this and living in the city Nii Marty’s parents could get to a doctor fairly quickly.  This is a big contrast to the the rural villages where we work. Mothers walk miles and miles with their baby strapped to their back to find a clinic. Many babies die on the way to the clinic. Seeing Nii Marty sick like this really brings this health message close to home. Malaria is very real and very serious! I’m praying right now…

As I sit  on the couch, I am thankful to God for another day of life. Soon it will be time for bed. Tomorrow we will visit more schools and I’m sure I will be treated to much more Ghanaian resolve.

Thanks to everyone for your support and a special thanks to Owen Levine, the 8 year old boy in Lake Worth, Florida, who gave up his birthday to provide Being Strong Coloring Books and crayons along with 85 Malaria Nets that will be given out next week.

DREW

PS. So far we have taught 700+ children the “Secret” and given out over 600 coloring books. Many thanks to JAMSBooks and Jean MacKay Vinson for this great health care tool.

King Peggy – a Book review

photoBook review: King Peggy

by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman

As a GMH alumni, I strongly recommend the easy read true story paperback “King Peggy” by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman available from Amazon.com, new and used. Regardless of whether you are a past participant, a future possibility or a much valued supporter, King Peggy puts you in a village story that parallels the hopes and frustrations of the GMH mission.

 Peggy Bartels is a Ghanaian born 20+ year employee Assistant to the Ambassador at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington DC. In August of 2008, to her great surprise, (I will leave that read for you), she finds herself accepting her royal destiny as “King of Otuam, a dusty behind the times village of 7000+- Fante tribal people off the Cape Coast road between Accra and Elmira Castle.  Alumni! Are visuals emerging?house

On her initial visit, Peggy found conditions in Otuam much as GMH founder Debi Frock found in Akramaman. No electricity, no health facilities, minimal schooling and the critical component, no water less than an hours walk with a bucket on your head and dirty water at that- this job performed every day by the village children before school. Dust and pot holed roads, dilapidated buildings and an ingrained resignation that it would always be like this because it had always been like this. You can see hope in the eyes of African children, but most tribal village adults don’t believe anymore. The difference between Otuam and Akramaman was the corrupt leadership. King Peggy’s efforts to improve the village condition met roadblocks at every turn, until she eventually realized the village elders had basically chosen her, assuming her gender and out of country residency would be a weak deterrent to their on-going theft of power and money. Road

They didn’t count on Peggy Bartels.

 African tribal leaders are chosen by “the spirits” although genealogy helps and gender is of no consequence. Suburban Silver Spring, MD condo living Peggielene Bartels, chose to accept the will of the Ashanti spirits that resided in the royal stools (seats or thrones) and assume her responsibility as King of Otuam. In a village with no functioning tax base, no industry and little government subsidy, King Peggy struggled against corruption and tradition to bring water, health, education and basic quality of life facilities to Otuam, while only on the ground there for a few months each year.  With no village resources, she had to continue her embassy employment in the U.S. as the only consistent funding source for the Otuam projects. Now, six years later, King Peggy and Otuam have been adopted by a large DC church congregation and adequate funding is available to continue the move towards health and opportunity augmented by a functioning tax base and a developing local economy.

The book is a delightful read of African beliefs, customs, tribal histories and appeals to the spirits that reside in everything, even wooden stools. The hardships and conditions facing Otuam are familiar to those of us that have been in country with GMH. We have experienced the pot holed road trip to Accra, the tro tro’s, street hawkers, big eyed children with their own siblings on their backs, lack of water, health care and hope.

King Peggy chose to shoulder the burdens of Otuam by herself and it’s a compelling read but I am proud to be a supporter of GMH, bringing that hope and future to Akramaman and other villages through the work and commitment of many hands, hearts and treasures. If you have been, read King Peggy for the memories. If not, read King Peggy to better understand what you are helping to achieve in Ghana through your support of GMH.

Gail Morton Gail

Gail, the cute blonde on the left,  traveled to Ghana with Debi in 2005 and 2006 to export the Cursillo movement in the Episcopal Church. During those trips, it was traveling to the villages that moved Debi to start Ghanaian Mothers’ Hope.  Gail has been a strong volunteer for the organization. For several years she organized the silent auction for the Spirit of Ghana.

 

Just how far would you walk to save your baby? Writings from a non-runner who just ran a ½ marathon.

Debi dancingWe have all been influenced in our adult lives by things we did as a child. I loved going to Sunday School because it was fun, exciting and my teacher, Ella Deane, was so encouraging. That made me want to teach Sunday School—and I did for 30+ years. My piano teacher, Jack Hasslinger, made me enjoy piano so for several years I taught piano so others could enjoy it. My Dulaney High School music teacher encouraged me to become a soloist at my church. 20 years later when I switched to a church near his home, he was so excited every time I sang and would tell everyone around him—“She was my student”.  These are just a few of the very positive experiences that I had growing up that have shaped who I am today.

But there is that one experience from 5th and 6th grades at Hampton Elementary School in Lutherville, Maryland, that definitely made me hate the idea of running. Field Daythe words still strike fear in my heart. Each year several local elementary schools would come together to compete in small track and field events as well as kick ball and a few other sports.

My body was never quite the sports spectacular type.Debi 1960 I definitely was more the arts and music model. Getting a “C” in PE was a good grade for me.  In our house you needed to be on your death bed to get a day home from school so faking illness wasn’t an option.  Signing up for the sport of your choice was also not an option. The teachers wanted to look good so they were going to choose the best in each sport. So what do you do with a kid who is the not best in any sport? Cross Country Running.

Yep, I was that Cross Country Runner who placed last in both 5th and 6th grade. I know the course was not that long but to me it was a marathon. At the end I was so out of breath and beat red in the face that I wanted to die of embarasement. I came in way, way behind everyone else—I’m not even sure anyone was left at the finish line to see me cross it. This experience made me hide under the table if any one even mentioned the word running.

Fast forward 50+ years. I am invited to travel with my daughter, Kathy, and a few of her high school friends to Myrtle Beach, SC, where they will participate in a DIVA ½ marathon and 5K race.  It sounds like fun and a chance to spend a little mother-daughter time. I can hang around and encourage them as they run.  But after checking it out, I realize this race is all about women. It actually sounds like there are more activities than the race but you must participate in at least one race. Okay,  a 5K is just a little over 3 miles. I’ve been walking about 3 miles every other week. I rationalize that can do 5K and decide to sign up. Unfortunately the 5K is sold out. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I sign up for the ½ marathon—truly I did not realize that we were talking 13.1 miles. I had 7 weeks till the race. I called my daughter.

When she came to after fainting, she asked how was I going to train. Good question—no answer from me. Collecting herself, she suggested I do a little google research on training for a ½ marathon. Now was as good a time as any to begin so I announced to my husband that we would walk 6 miles that night. He made it through 3. And my training schedule began. Walk 3 miles, then 5 miles, then 9 miles. I averaged 18-25 miles per week- walking.

IMG_1413During my training I realized how little I walk. I drive to the store, the doctor, the bank, the movies. But the women in villages in Ghana walk for everything, especially for the health of their children. What is it like to walk 10 miles or more with a baby on your back? I decided to try it. Not wanting to risk the life of a child, I felt a cabbage patch doll might be a better fit for me—after all I am a non-walker/runner. I might stumble and fall and hurt a real baby.

I trained for a week with my new “baby”, Teresa. She traveled to Ft. Lauderdale with me, hopped a plane for Myrtle Beach and prepared for her debut on Sunday, April 28. She was pretty calm. As for me, I was that little 5th grade girl preparing to fail. I was so afraid that I did not tell many people that I would running a race. Those I did tell thought I had lost my mind.  As the day loomed closer, I made the decision that I could not fail at this. The women of Africa were depending on me and I could not let fear hold me back from finishing for them.  So I wrote to the press to tell them that I was running.  Once I announced to the world what I was doing, I could not back out.

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3,608 people signed up for the ½ marathon and another 2,000 for the 5K race so just picking up my number was frightening. Being last in a field of 20 is not quite the same as being last in a field of 3,600. I have to say that Kathy and her friends were very encouraging to me all weekend but when I took my place near the back of the field of runners, tears were flowing. Quickly other women began to talk with me and encourage me. Jolo, Michele and Jill added me to their group. The race was on. Baby Teresa was firmly positioned on my back. The day was overcast and not too hot. I wanted to stop but the baby kept me going.  In the real world of Africa, if I stopped she might die.  Adreneline kicked in about mile 6 and kicked back out about mile 11. Then I met Sally, who is close to my age and going to be ordained a deacon in January.  She and I walked/ran together. NEWS 13 called at mile 12 to tell me they were at the finish line waiting to hear my story. I had a renewed purpose and I was unstoppable. Once I rounded the curve and saw the finish line my legs got into gear and I found the strength to actually do a full run to the finish. I got my tiara, my pink boa and my medal. Mostly I got back my dignity and I learned what it takes  for my African moms to carry a child a long distance to receive medical care.248143_10201042461641390_1617258861_n

Will I do it again? I am searching the internet for race opportunities as you read this.

Debi Frock/Founder and Executive Director417861_10201042460881371_2058455340_n

PS. I finished 3,494 in a field of 3,653, one minute and 6 seconds behind my target goal.—It was the bathroom break that cause me the extra time. Check out the news video at http://www.wbtw.com/video?clipId=8820512&autostart=true  Find the link on our Facebook Page

Anita and Drew Report

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We loved this trip on so many levels! If you are thinking of going to Africa please consider going as part of a GMH mission team. You will get into the culture and be with the people in genuine, authentic AND safe ways. We were in schools, churches and homes, markets, with vendors and malls, in cities and rural villages. We got to do some “touristy” things. We listened, learned, sang, danced, laughed hugged and cried. Think about it. Is God getting you ready to go?

`AND on behalf of the citizens of Africa we thank you for making so many coloring books with life giving, life enhancing, messages about hygiene possible for the future leaders of Africa!

It was our privilege and delight to share with about 600 children in song, word and image these powerful “secrets.” The Secret will continue to be shared by GMH teams all summer long. Please follow the journey on the facebook page GMHope.org.

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