March 2013 Update
Kurt & Barb Matthews (1990)
SUZUKI IS BACK!
As you can see, Suzuki is our dog and we've finally got him to come to Ho with us. We had been trying to persuade him every time we saw him out in the village to get into the car with us, but he seemed frightened or apprehensive to come with us - until this past Thursday. We went out to HASU to have a meeting with the church leaders (more on that later), and toward the end of the meeting, Suzuki just walked in and put his head in my lap. It was almost like he was saying, "Okay, I've forgiven you for leaving me for so long. I'm ready to go with you now." After our meeting closed, Noah opened the door of the car and called him and he just got right in. Now he's staying at Vicki's house with us until we find our own place to live and serve. The kids are thrilled to have their long-time friend and family member back. Sometimes God uses the small things in life to encourage us.
RAINY SEASON IS COMING - YAY!
When we arrived about a month ago, Ghana was in their dry season, called harmattan, where the dust from the Sahara blows down over all of West Africa (and all over everything in our houses!). But just last week, we enjoyed a good rain. It's really fun and exciting to see it coming and it's often accompanied with thunder, lightening, wind, and my favorite - cooler temperatures! So, we are told, now we have to wait for 14 days and then the rains will start to fall regularly. It's always amusing to me when people say things like that, but they are usually right. I'm looking forward to those regular rains to fall!
GOD IS DOING SOMETHING BIG
I would love to tell you all a million reasons why I think God is doing something big here, but it's not necessarily because of a million things that I think it. It's just a few observations that have led me to believe that God is planning to do something big. As I said earlier, we have had two meetings with the church leaders out at HASU so far. The first meeting was a reminder to us about how they want to build various buildings and develop their land. We also talked about the various ministries that we started before we left that died while we were gone. It was a difficult conversation and I'm not sure that we understood each other well. However, at the second meeting, which was this past Thursday, we really connected with one another and we were able to talk freely and openly. We learned that we had disappointed them greatly because we did not come back with a report that we had raised a large amount of money for them while we were in the States. You see, they had told us of their plan to build all these buildings before we left on furlough and we said we would pray for them. To them, that meant that we were going to raise funds to help them. So, when we returned without a load of cash, they were sorely disappointed. These kinds of misunderstandings and unmet expectations happen so often here! But the great thing is that this time we recognized it and we were able to openly discuss it. The meeting ended with all of us encouraged because we understood one another better than ever before.
While we were working through these things with our church leaders at HASU, we were also having some discussions with our team about how we can build up our relationships with our national brothers and sisters and reconcile with them. A lot of people have been hurt, both missionaries and nationals alike, because of misunderstandings. It's very challenging to work in a culture that is not your own. Anyway, we have decided that we will put on a spiritual life retreat for the national church leaders and missionaries together. This retreat is planned for March 15-17 and we are all spending a significant amount of time in prayer to prepare for it. Please join us in praying for this retreat. Our main goal is to reconcile and communicate our desire to fully join hands with them in order to do God's work here more effectively. This retreat will precede our master planning meetings scheduled for the end of this month and early next month. Both are equally important and one will build on the other. I just know that God is going to do a change in all of our hearts through this. I know it because Satan is working hard to oppose it and God is lining the details up perfectly for it to happen. Thank you all for praying and for your encouraging letters in response to my sharing from my heart each week. We couldn't be here without you.
Barb, for the Mathews' clan
March 10 Update
Noah will be 13 years old tomorrow and then we will have THREE TEENAGERS! Yikes! I call Noah my "walking calculator" because he's so good in math. He is currently in the eighth grade, but he is doing ninth grade math. He also likes to read and I can't seem to keep enough books in the house for him. God has really blessed Noah since we've returned to Ghana because he found a new friend. Prosper (in the picture above with Noah) is our "son", Mawuli's, younger brother. Since he lives kind of close to the campus here in Ho, he comes over to play often. He and Noah have become fast friends and I'm thrilled about it. Prosper is a very nice young man and he's Noah's age too. It's not often that the kids find friends who are their own age to spend time with. Usually, their friends are all older. So, we are really thrilled with this blessing from God to Noah.
This has been a pretty special weekend for Noah because we got to visit Vli Falls (about two hours from us) yesterday and he got to invite his new friend, Prosper to join him. The Junges had three girls from Cornerstone University come and visit them for the weekend, so we all planned the trip to spend the day together at the falls.
Then we stopped at the Volta Home again on the way home. It was great to see the kids at the home again. Leah and Moriah love them as much as I do, I think. They have already made several friends there.
I wouldn't mind it one bit if God led us to work with these beautiful children. Really, all of the children in Ghana are absolutely beautiful and I have a strong desire to show the love of Christ to them all!
Please continue to pray for us, especially this week as we are finishing up the planning for the reconciliation meetings with the church leaders and missionaries together. Our theme for the conference is ONE MIND, ONE VOICE from Romans 15:5-6.
• Pray for prepared minds and hearts.
• Pray for a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's leading.
• Pray for a clear understanding of what God has for all of us.
• Pray that everyone would be open to sharing about past offenses and willing to work through them to accomplish reconciliation.
• Pray for our children while they are away from us. They will spend time with a good friend while we are at the conference.
Thank you for partnering with us in prayer and through your financial gifts as well. We enjoy hearing from each one of you.
Barb, for the Mathews' clan
March 17 Update
Dear Prayer Partners,
This morning we closed from the Spiritual Life retreat with our Ghanaian church leaders and we are praising God that we have begun to understand what it means to have one mind and one voice. Our theme came from Romans 15:5-6, which you can read from the banner above. We know that through the weekend "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" was glorified! Amen!
The way that God worked out all of the details for this conference to come together is still flabbergasting to me. One member of our team came up with this 'radical' idea about three weeks ago and it was planned by six team members in less than three weeks and I believe it couldn't have turned out better! Only God can do that!!! It certainly wasn't our doing that prepared the hearts of everyone for reconciliation and unity.
Our guest speaker was Pastor Joseph Akakpo, who is an ABWE GAP missionary serving in Togo, his home country (although he was born in Ghana and we like to claim him as our own). Because he has lived in the US, worked with American missionaries for many years, and has also served across cultures in Cameroon, he was the best man who could come and stand in the GAP between us missionaries and the Ghanaian nationals with which we serve.
Pastor Joseph spoke from his heart and was obviously led by the Spirit as he spoke about forgiveness, remembering where we came from, and having attitudes of gratitude. A lot of people were convicted by the Word and there were several private conversations throughout the two days where reconciliation occurred. We praise God that our prayers were answered! Thank you all so much for praying!
One of the special blessings that Kurt and I had was that our "son" Mawuli was able to come and translate for Pastor Joseph. Mawuli is a gifted translator and helped all of us to be able to understand everything that was being communicated throughout the retreat. It was a difficult job because our schedule was very full and a lot of difficult things were communicated. Mawuli did an excellent job! It's amazing that he could pull away from his work in the capital city of Accra to come and help us. Again, that was just one of the ways that God worked out the details for this conference to happen.
Kurt and I also had the opportunity to share our personal testimonies about the things that God has been teaching us, especially while we were in the US. I was so nervous that I was shaking and on the verge of tears most of Saturday morning as that was the day I was to share. When I started speaking, it was with many tears and I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get through my whole testimony because of the emotion. But God prompted Pastor Joseph to come and stand behind my chair while I was speaking. When he came to stand behind me, I felt like the Holy Spirit was empowering me to continue to say what was on my heart and I was able to finish my testimony with my emotions under control. God also gave me the words that I needed to express what was in my heart and I praise Him for that special gift! It has never been easy for me to share about my personal struggles in life, but I felt like this time I had the victory through Christ!
Another special blessing this weekend was a conversation that I had with Pastor Joseph during one of the meals. He was sharing about his children and their desires to serve God in West Africa in various ministries. One of his daughters is attending a Bible college in the US right now and studying Biblical Counseling so that she can come back to Africa and counsel girls. When he told me that, my heart leaped with joy! I have such a burden to help young people here, especially the girls who have suffered from abuse in the home. Joseph told me that his daughter would love to hear about my burden and he would connect us through email. I told him that I would also like to connect her with my friend in the States who is a Christian counselor who helped me a lot. The funny thing that we discovered is that his daughter and my friend share the same first name. Little things like that give me such joy!
Thank you all for praying for this weekend. God has begun a wondrous work that I'm confident He will complete. Our prayer now is that as we move toward our master planning meetings (on how we will reach the Volta Region for Christ), that we would continue to work together with one mind and one voice to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The master planning is currently scheduled for the end of this month. I'm so excited to see what God is going to do and how He's going to use us to do it!
Barb, for the Mathews' clan
March 24 Update
Dear Prayer Partners,
This past week we have been preparing the Bible college building and grounds for our upcoming master planning meetings. The meetings that we originally thought would be at the end of the month have been moved up to this week! Yikes! But we are really excited about hearing our national brothers' and sisters' ideas of how to reach the Volta Region for Christ. So, pray especially this Tuesday through Thursday that . . .
• we would continue to have one mind with our national partners.
• the Holy Spirit will prepare our hearts and minds to hear His voice.
• we will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading and obey His voice.
• His will would be clear to all of us.
• we would know by the end of the meetings what God wants us to do and where we should live .
We have chosen six key forward-thinking nationals to help us with this process. I'm really excited to hear what they will have to say - what they see as the needs here and how we can partner to help meet those needs. Thank you all for praying for us during this crucial time of planning.
One thing that we have to do to prepare for our meetings is to plan for the meals we will serve for lunches and suppers for everyone involved. We decided to ask Enyonam, Togbe's daughter, who is a caterer currently out of work, to come and cook for all of us next week (since we will all be in meetings and not able to prepare the meals). So, on Monday, we will meet Enyonam at the market to buy the things we need. Now, when I say "the market", most of you are picturing a closed-in, air conditioned, well-organized building where you push a grocery cart around and collect all of the foods that you need before you go to the cashier and purchase them. Well, that's not our market at all!
Before we go to market, we have to figure out how we are going to carry everything around that we purchase (no grocery carts there!). So, I gather up my big cloth bags and my plastic baskets and my oldest children who can help me carry everything before I go. If I'm planning on buying eggs, I have to get the egg crates to fill. If I want to buy oil, I also need a container for that. So, now I'm ready for market!
When we arrive, we don't park our car in a nice parking lot. We try to find a place on the road side near the market where we think no one will box us in. Then we walk up the street to push through a throng of people to squeeze into a little entryway, leading to where the vegetable and fruit sellers are.
We carry whatever we buy from the vegetable seller around with us everywhere else we go, so we have to think through what we are going to buy and try to get the lighter things first and then buy the heaviest things last. We also have to watch out for anyone else around us who is carrying a heavy load as they yell "ago!" while they are walking through the market.
On Monday, we will buy some fish to serve with the yam slice and palava sauce. Choose which one you would buy.
Now, make sure you don't put your fish in the same bag as the rice or the corn flour because everything in the bag will smell like fish by the time you arrive home. Meanwhile, you are getting quite thirsty and maybe even a little hungry as you shop. Don't worry, here comes an orange seller. She will take down as many of those oranges as you want and cut off the top so that you can drink while you squeeze. Orange juice on the go! You can buy a variety of foods and drinks while you shop, which is quite handy. But you have to be in the right place at the right time and buy it when you see it because the next time you go to the same place, you may not find what you are looking for.
Okay, I'm getting hot and tired just thinking about going to market on Monday, so I will close for now. Thank you all for reading my ramblings each week. And thank you for praying for us as we live in this very different culture. What a creative God we serve!
Barb, for the Mathews' clan
HE IS RISEN!!!
That truth is so encouraging to reflect on! We all shared at breakfast this morning why or what about the resurrection was meaningful to us. It was a great exercise and a good reminder of how important and valuable the fact of a RISEN SAVIOR is!
This is Kurt writing today. Barb is traveling to a village that has become one of the capitals of idol worship among several countries in West Africa. A friend of our team here, Cindy, is from that village. Her father is the chief there. Her mother is the head priestess. Cindy is slated to be the next high priestess - though she will have nothing to do with it of course. Thousands of people from all over Ghana and neighboring countries have come to this village this weekend to pay homage to the powerful gods in the shrine there. In fact, you cannot enter the village without visiting the shrine of the gods there. The Bible is mocked and all but banned and Christians are literally thought to be insane and not worth listening to. Cindy's father lives in England and only comes home a few times each year. This celebration is one of those times. He has graciously permitted Cindy to practice her faith (she is absolutely devout is her Christian walk) but she still struggles in many ways during these festival days while her father is home. Her father has surprisingly allowed Cindy's friends, the missionaries (us), to come and visit him and greet him - after which Cindy can leave. So I am home with a few kiddos while Barb, Sarah and the rest of the team are heading to this village. PLEASE PRAY FERVENTLY RIGHT NOW FOR CINDY'S LIGHT IN HER HOMETOWN AND FOR OUR TEAM AS MANY OF THEM WILL BE THERE FROM AROUND 2 PM TO 4 PM OUR TIME (10 am to 2 pm for you folks on the East coast).
During the last week we enjoyed another great time of working together with 'One Mind' and 'One Voice'. We invited 6 leaders from the churches here to partner with us in planning for the next 20 years or so. While our missionary team was together in Harrisburg last December, we had started working out a vision statement. As this past week started, we summarized all that we hope God will do through us in the next 2 decades through the following vision statement - 'Growing a new generation of passionate Christ followers'. There are not many words there, but let me tell you, that is a mouthful. Growing implies that our work is ongoing and that folks are not standing still in their faith. Every time we say that statement, 'Growing a new generation of passionate Christ followers,' year after year, generation after generation, as we repeat those words they should be true. Passion! That is something that needs some definite work here in many of our lives. The Gospel or the Truth of the Gospel is not some ho humy afterthought or an in-your-spare-time kind of activity! It is pivotal and crucial to everything - from farming to schooling to business to retirement to parenting! Christ is the key. People can be passionate about lots of things. It is our prayer that God will give us folks and help us train folks who are passionate about Him. With all the rest, the 'followers' part is almost a given. It is our desire and conviction to lead others to follow Christ. So our vision is so important.
We combined our vision statement with our thoughts of who we are as ministry partners and what we have to offer for the work of the Gospel here (some of us are preacher types, others are business minded, some are gifted in teaching and others in evangelism, etc.). Out of those exercises, we then identified six objective areas that we need to focus on in order for our particular team to move toward our long term goal. Our six major areas of focus are as follows: A Teacher Training College, Economic Development, Leadership Training, Regional Youth/Children's Ministry, Future Ministries and Team Development. Barb fits mostly into the teacher training college area and also the children's ministry. I will focus on youth ministry and leadership training. The 'future ministries' category is for additional team mates interested in flying on Lake Volta or starting some other ministries that will support our vision statement. Most of the work for those will be done when the personnel arrive on the scene here in Ghana. The 'Team Development' area is for directing our present team in terms of spiritual health and emotional health as well as in recruitment. Maybe we will be contacting some of you to help in a strategic ministry here for a period of time! You may have noticed with dismay that there is no objective area of discipleship, evangelism or church planting. Our reason for this is because all of everything we do is concerned with discipleship, evangelism and church planting. None of the six chosen objective areas would exist if they could not in significant and measurable ways help us to evangelize and disciple people for the establishment and building up of local churches.
The picture below is all of us giving input on the more detailed plan for each of the six objective areas.
I know many of you have been praying about our location and future ministries. Keep praying!! We do have some progress to report. Our family is now living under the same roof - which is a wonderful praise! Vicki has offered several times to move into an available mission house about 10 minutes away. We finally agreed. We are now all in the house she was renting on the campus (where Sarah has been staying the whole time). Granted, Noah is sleeping in the pantry (a 12 X 12 room), but we are thankful to be together again. We are thankful too for the Junges opening their home to us for the last few months. As far as our future ministry plans, we did cover a lot of ground last week and have some significant tools for guiding us, but we have not landed on one location for ministry yet. Please pray that over the next few weeks as we work out some details, we will have insight and peace in making that decision.
For the glory of the Lord!
Kurt for the family
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