Posted by: mckenzie | September 20, 2008

Sarah and Mary.

This is Jane.

Jane is one of the happiest, kindest, most nurturing women I have met since being here in Africa. As I have already mentioned in a previous post, Jane is our seamstress. She has 5 children of her own and also supports her cousin, her two nieces, and her employee. They all live together in a two room “house” in a smaller village in west Accra. Jane makes her living off of $8 dresses and $4 dollar shirts. Jane had Maggie, Carly, and I over for lunch a few weeks back, and while we were there we met and completely fell in love with her two nieces.

These are Jane’s nieces, Sarah and Mary.

Mary is 12, Sarah is 10. Neither girl has been attending school for the past two years. Their mother, a self-proclaimed pastor, has been out of work for many years and their father is no where to be found. There was no extra money lying around to send these girls to school, so at 10 and 12, these girls were out of luck and out of any source of education.

When we met Sarah and Mary, both girls just seemed so full of life, so vibrant, and so full of untapped potential. There was no way that we could just sit back and let these girls fall into the trap of village life in Africa. We felt that it was so important for them to go to school, get an education, and be given the opportunity to make something of their lives. They deserve the chance to get out of their small village, go to college, change the world.

Yesterday, a few of us went to Sarah and Mary’s home, and had their Mother and them walk us to the school that they wished to attend. The girls were tested and the administrators found that both girls were extremely far behind in every subject, especially English. They also found that at 10 and 12 years of age, neither of the girls were able to write their own names.

We were given a tour of the facilities and talked to the management of the school to figure out how the payments would work to ensure that Sarah and Mary would start school this Monday. We were able to pay for their first term, whish is 15 weeks long, and the girls will begin school on Monday.

They are both so excited and could not wait to start flipping through their books and start meeting other children that would be in their classes. It was so beautiful to see, and I am so ecstatic that these girls will be given back their right to an education.

So, I’m not telling all of you this sweet story so that you can applaud my friends and I for being good people and sending these girls to school. I’m telling you this beause we need help. School is not cheap in Africa. We are so blessed in America that every child has the right to a free education. They do not have the luxury here. One term, per girl, cost $115 for 15 weeks. There are 3 terms in a year, coming to a total of $345 per girl per year. This expense does not include lunch for each girl per day, which is an additional 60 pesawas (cents) a day. It also does not include book fees, or additional teaching, because the girls are so far behind in each subject.

Needless to say, the fees add up, and it is not cheap to send these girls to school. However, we are determined to make it happen. Mary and Sarah deserve to go to school, they deserve an education and we are setting a goal to ensure that they finish school throughout high school.

I’m not really good at this whole convincing thing, but if for any reason you felt lead to help us in this endeavor, it would be an invaluable contribution to the lives of these girls. ANYTHING will help, $1, $5, $20, seriously, any amount is another day these beautiful girls get to attend school. Leave a comment, email me (millermh1@gmail.com), facebook me, whatever. Just please help!

If not for anything else, do it because of this smile..

And because this picture is cute..

Thank you for even considering this. I love you all!

Posted by: mckenzie | September 15, 2008

a lesson in thankfulness.

This weekend made up for the bad week last week, and then some. Sorry, I didn’t realize how depressing my last blog entry was until after I read it again. I promise I’m not miserable. I really do love it here, and I am constantly thankful for this incredible opportunity the Lord is blessing me with. I have nothing to be upset about. I am blessed.

(And even when I feel like I have nothing to be thankful for here, I just remember that the Panther’s are 2-0 without our #1 receiver, and life always looks a little brighter.)

This weekend was definitely the cure I needed, though. Me and 3 other friends took a bus to a smaller city about 6 hours away from Accra. We had no plans, no agenda. All we brought were a couple changes of clothes, a portable DVD player, and the first season of Lost (we finished the first season, 24 episodes, in 3 days. Not healthy.)

Maggie had heard of a random children’s home in Kumasi, so we thought we would try to figure out how to get there and play with some kids. It turned out to be one of the best experiences we have had since being here. As we walked through the gates, at least 10 kids came sprinting towards us, hugging us, kissing our hands, rubbing their faces on our arms. If that isn’t the happiest greeting in the world, I don’t know what is.

We just spent hours holding babies, swinging with kids, playing soccer with the teenagers, and seeing so many smiling faces of orphans that we could not help but be overjoyed. I finally got a true baby/kid fix, cause ya’ll know I can only go so long without being around some kids.

The best part of the whole day was that we got to be like African women and walk around with babies slung on our backs, I was in heaven. This little boy, Solomon, was the happiest, chubbiest, most joyful baby ever. Kelly, I see an arranged marriage in the future, Lucy would love him.

Sweet Juliana, the most diva-ish little African girl I’ve met.

These kids were so joyful, so beautiful. The Lord knew that I needed this weekend to remind me that there is more to my life than me. Not having food that is to my liking isn’t the end of the world. These kids are orphans; many with physical, emotional, or mental damage from a life of abandonment. I am so blessed. I love that time and time again, I enter a situation ready to change some lives, bring joy to some poeple, but I am the one the walks away feeling so filled up and refreshed. Christ’s love shines through these people, and I could learn a lesson or two from them.

Yesterday, I was in an internet cafe and a young guy came up to me, handed me a hand-writtten note, and walked away. :

“Dear Friend, Only Jeseus Christ can save. Only Jesus can and will make you life beautiful and full of meaning if only you will invite Him into your life, even now by confesssing Him as Lord and Savios over your life and asking Him to fill your life with His presence. You won’t regret it, I assure you.”

I just love that they have no shame, no reservation. They seem to chase after God wholeheartedly. It’s so beautiful.

I am so blessed. A wonderful family, friends and boyfriend that build me up and encourage me daily, and a God that is beyond any fear or reservation that I have.

Thanks for the encouragement, all the love, and the prayers. I miss and love you all!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

-Colossians 3:15

**I’m going to the hospital today, to get results back from a test they did (which is a whole other blog entry in itself) to figure out what is going on in my body. Please say a quick prayer that they can figure something out, so I can get some answers, and get healthy. Thank you!

Posted by: mckenzie | September 10, 2008

I don’t really love Africa today.

So, they always told us that there was this W shaped culture shock curve that we would probably experience while we were abroad, the first V being our abroad experience, and the second V being re-entry to the states. They said you would start on a high, of course, because you were SO excited to be abroad and so ready for new, exciting adventures. This could last really long, or really short, depends on the person. Then you would experience somewhat of a downfall from this high, and start to feel the firsts of culture shock. But I just knew that this wouldn’t happen to me; I’ve been abroad many, many times and I’ve never experienced this. I guess I forgot that I had never been abroad for 4 ½ months with only one person that I know, cut off from almost all things American, with no food that I like, no parents close by to comfort me, and a stomach sickness that won’t go away.

Needless to say, that day has come.

After a month of pure African bliss, I’m finally homesick, frustrated, and feeling downright defeated by cultural values and methods that I don’t understand. There are so many things that I LOVE about Ghana; the slow pace, the people, the language, the scenery, God’s love everywhere. And then there are things that I do not love today; fufu, banku, kenkey, goat meat, bush meat (just to name a few Ghanaian delicacies), and sitting on the toilet, with the trash can in front of me more times than I can count.

I love the slow pace, like I said, but I am also one for efficiency and time management. It’s so hard for us Americans to be in a place that is so leisurely 24/7. We are used to ordering our food and having it there in 10 minutes. Better yet, we are used to looking at a menu, seeing something that we like, ordering it, and the restaurant actually having it. In Africa, the menu is useless. The menu may have 15-20 items on it, but more times than not, the waitress hands you the menu while saying, “We have fried rice, plain rice, and jollof rice, that’s all, what do you want?”

Another little issue that I have is something that happens without fail before and after EVERY single class that I have. So picture this.. your 2 hour class of 500 people ends, you’ve have been sitting in the class most likely not understanding a single word your professor is saying because his English isn’t great, you are so ready to get out of there and go talk real English to someone. So you stand up to leave, but no. It’s 1:15, and the next lecture in this classroom doesn’t start until 1:30, but for some reason it seems to make more sense for the 500 people waiting for the next lecture to enter the classroom before the 500 people in my lecture leave. So here we go, a classroom only made for 300, but squeezing 500 people in each lecture, but now there are 1000 people in here, because it makes SO much more sense for you to come in before we get out. I mean you better hurry, your lecture starts in 15 minutes. Why wouldn’t you let us get out before you try to get in? Crazy idea, I know.

Next thing. Ghanaian people, so nice. NOT polite. At all. They push and shove and the guys will let you sit on the dirty ground before offering you their seat. They let you do all the work in your group project, criticize everything you did, and don’t say thank you once. The just yell “Obruni!” (white person) at you, like we don’t already know that we are white. But whatever.

And why would it take over a month to get a package? And why would it take over 10 minutes to pull up my email website? And why would it be so hot? Not like I’m in Africa or something..

So yes, this is just a little ranting and raving. And none of these things are big issues, but you know, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.

But it’s cool, because I will probably love Africa again tomorrow.

In other news, Happy 20th Birthday D Bowes, sorry I’m not there to celebrate! Hope it is the best day ever!

Posted by: mckenzie | September 7, 2008

funeral crashers.

That’s what we were yesterday. And it’s definitely not as fun as crashing weddings. It was super awkward and just downright strange. We drove 3 hours to the border of Ghana and Togo for the funeral of a 101 year old man whom we did not know nor did we know anyone in relation to him. Just a good ole cultural experience.

Luckily the body was in a casket, because we have heard horror stories from our missionary friends. Our friend Kirk went to a funeral and was asked if he wanted to see the body, in which he replied yes (to be polite) and when he was taken in to see it, they had the deceased person sitting straight up in a chair. Crazy. This funeral was held outside with tents and chairs set up. I wish we could have understood a word that was spoken, because I’m sure they had beautiful things to say, but it was just too hard to pay attention while someone is talking, someone is drumming, someone is dancing, and someone is riding on a motorcycle in a circular motion around the casket all at the same time. And the pallbearers almost dropped the casket multiple times while getting it out of the back of a pick-up truck.They definitely do it different around here. It was a nice service though, and it was definitely more of a celebration than a time of mourning.

Today Carly and I went to church at a different place that was recommended to us. It was really nice and crazy and upbeat, but we realized after we had been in service for a solid 2 hours that the sermon hadn’t even started yet. Needless to say, it went a good 3 1/2 hours. They know how to worship around here.

As requested, I will give you a little background about exactly where I am studying. The city that I am in is Accra, which is the capital city of Ghana. The University of Ghana is in a village of Accra called Legon and it is exactly 60 years old this year. It is an extremely renowned university in Ghana and is home to hundreds of nationalities of students. We are staying in the International Students Hostel with lots of other International students including Ghanaian, Norwegians, South Africans, and, Germans (only to name a few). The campus is in a nice location and relatively safe, considering the surrounding areas.

Now for a few pictures (mostly taken by Carly)..

All the girls in our group at the funeral yesterday..

MB, Callie, Maggie, Me, and Carly

Sweet Emmanuel from Ada.

A beautiful African sunset out the window of our Trotro (the sketchy public transportation vans we ride around the city in).

The biggest, grossest centipede I’ve ever seen (look closely at my nails, mom).

AND.. my favorite…

WE GOT PACKAGES!!! YAY! Got some candy and things from Mom and Dad, and my sweet friend Eve (thank you again so much, you are incredible.)

So, that’s all the news on the homefront.

I miss you all, thanks for reading!

Oh and a special shout out to Tom and Alice, apparently my most avid readers, I love your daughter, she is beautiful and wonderful!

Until next time, etswre (see you later)!!

Posted by: mckenzie | September 3, 2008

a few pretty pictures for your wednesday enjoyment.

As I mentioned in my last post, this weekend we went to the eastern Volta region for 4 days. We were able to climb the highest mountain in Ghana (well Carly and I went half way, but whatever, it was steep), hiked to Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in West Africa, and visited a monkey sanctuary where we fed the monkeys bananas. And a monkey peed on Maggie, which was the best part without question. It was a great weekend with so many beautiful sights and awesome memories made.

Just thought you might want to see a few pictures from the recent weeks.. enjoy!

Beautiful Jennifer and Edele.

Feeding bananas to monkeys!

Group picture at Wli Falls, the tallest waterfall in West Africa.

You know you are in Africa when…

Slimy cocoa beans that we found in the rainforest..

Last but not least.. a picture of my Aunt T..

Crazy to think that tomorrow marks one month since I’ve arrived in Ghana. The Lord has truly blessed the past month in so many ways and I can’t wait to see what the next three and a half have in store. 

More updates coming soon, miss and love you all!

Posted by: mckenzie | September 2, 2008

celebrate.

Ghanaians celebrate everything. They celebrate the usuals.. babies being born, birthdays, weddings. Funerals last for weeks with nights and nights of music, dancing, and togetherness, celebrating the life of the one that has passed. They celebrate a new harvest, a fresh rainfall. Anything and everything. They may even celebrate a new blade of grass growing in a field. They look for reasons to get together and celebrate.

Ghanaians also have this little thing they like to call AFT. African Flexible Time. Apparently if they claim this term, they are allowed to be a number of minutes/hours late to any engagement. They laugh at us Americans because we always have to know the time everything starts, checkpoints along the way, and what time we will be done. We want to know what we are doing this week, next week, and next month. We always want to make sure we have everything planned out to make sure it suites us and works for our schedule.

I feel like a lot of times I catch myself doing this. I’m so worried about what tomorrow holds that I cheat myself out of enjoying the beautiful moments of today. Having a plan for life is great and it is essential for being effective with the time and means the Lord has blessed us with. But when this plan prohibits us from living in the here and now, it might not be all that important.

This weekend I was blessed with some of the most beautiful moments, people, and places I’ve experienced in a long time. The highest mountain in Ghana, the tallest waterfall in West Africa, feeding bananas to monkeys, celebrating birthdays with friends, and so many crazy Ghanaian children.

Be present, live for now. Celebrate the life you’ve been given today, have faith that God will provide for all of your tomorrows. And enjoy all of the beautiful moments along the way.

Posted by: mckenzie | August 26, 2008

the most glorious meal of my life.

If you are currently doing the daniel fast, stop right now, don’t read ahead.

For the rest of you.. yesterday was without a doubt the most incredible day I have had since I have been on this continent. Let me explain.

Lunch- 1/2 pound hamburger with cheese, tomato, onions, so much ketchup you couldn’t even imagine, and a bun. AND an entire plate of the best french fries I’ve ever tasted. With more glorious ketchup. And freshly squeezed orange juice (i know the juice isn’t that exciting, but it was good, trust me.)

Dinner- Banana Split. That’s all. But there’s more to it. An entire banana, cut in half, on either sides of the little tray thingy. One scoop of chocolate, one scoop of vanilla, and one scoop of strawberry ice cream. Covered with whipped cream. Covered with chocolate sauce. Covered with caramel. Heaven on earth.

And tonight I split a large pizza with Carly. The gas station across the street has three “restaurants” in it called the Chicken Inn, the Creamy Inn, and the Pizza Inn. Just sounds sketchy. But every Tuesday night the Pizza Inn has a two for Tuesday special, two pizzas for the price of one. A gas station restaurant, let me remind you. But you have never seen so many white kids in one spot in Africa before. You would think they were giving out free filet mignon.

The last couple of posts I’ve had have been pretty deep for my usual self. Just wanted to throw in a post to let you guys back home know I’m not changing that much. I still love my food, same ole McKenzie you know and love.

In other news, today was the first day of classes. I had a Statistics class that may be the easiest class I have and will ever take, including kindergarten. And I’m not being cocky, cause I’m not good at math. But the entire class is about creating surveys. The whole class, the whole semester. It’s creating surveys and asking people questions. Whatever. My professor is cute; a big black man (surprise, I’m in Africa) with a bald head and a goatee. Carly and I are the only white people in a class of 200. Doesn’t look like we will be skipping that class, might be a little obvious.

Then I had Art History. 12 people, all international students, and one 70 year old professor that resembles Ghandi in every form and fashion. He is almost smaller than my mom, which many of you know is near to impossible. He’s super eccentric, but I love him already.

I tried to post pics today, with no luck. Internet is impossible here.

That’s all for now, love you guys. Peace out.

Posted by: mckenzie | August 24, 2008

Paradise.. until the sun went down.

I haven’t showered in 5 days. I just spent four nights in a grass and bamboo hut with sand floors on a deserted island in Africa. I shared a mattress on the floor with Carly. I used the bathroom in the sand and covered it up due to lack of indoor plumbing. I ate spaghetti and bread for every meal because it was the only safe choice. I’m dirty, hungry, and exhausted, but somehow I just had one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

Let me let you read a little entry from my journal that I wrote this weekend..

“I’m currently sitting on the beach of Ada, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m facing the Atlantic Ocean, but when I turn around I’m less that 100 yards from the Voltic River. This is the most incredible place I’ve ever been. To my right is a village of Ada fishers, probably the closest I’ve ever been to an unreached people group and to my left is the end of the island; where the Atlantic meets the Voltic. The peninsula is about as wide as a football field is long. The bluest sky contrasted with the whitest sand, with palm trees scattered just perfectly, makes for the most beautiful beach I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

So there you go. And trust me, that doesn’t even begin to describe what my eyes saw this weekend. There was nothing to do on this island, which was exactly what I needed. I read, I wrote, I slept, I thought a lot about life, and I just was. It was perfect.

We took a boat ride to a sugarcane village across the river and got to meet wonderful people and see incredible things. I told my mom on the phone that the way these people live is so right. It’s so simple and just how we were created to live. The men fish and provide food for the families, while the women tend to the children and prepare meals. Their entire lives consist of community and it’s so beautiful. As we walked through the village it was crazy how each “home” simply led into another home. There were no doors or locks to keep neighbors out and they lived so peacefully together. It was so cool to see.

Carly and I were playing with some of the village children and 16 year old boy named Solomon came up to us and told us that he liked the way we played with the children. We thanked him and turned back to our games, but he continued in saying, “Jesus played with little children, and in playing with these children, you are modeling the life of Jesus.” Pretty neat how we are entertaining angels without even knowing it sometimes.

I wish I had pictures for you, they will be coming soon.

Classes start for real tomorrow, the strike is off. Bummer.

OH! And I thought many of you would like to know; well Mom, I know you will be happy to know, I stopped biting my nails. Cold turkey. I just thought it would cut down on the amount of grossness going into my mouth. I get enough grossness from Ghanaian food.

Much love, thanks for the comments! I love them!!

Posted by: mckenzie | August 19, 2008

paradise.

Classes were supposed to start yesterday. The lecturers are on strike. No one knows when/if classes are starting. So we are going here (below) indefinitely, or until we hear otherwise about our courses…

And Mom and Dad, you thought you were paying for me to go to school…

I love Africa.

Posted by: mckenzie | August 18, 2008

weekend update.

So much to update you on. This might be long. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But no worries, if and when you read the whole post there is a few nice surprises at the end in the form of pictures.

So Saturday we woke up SUPER early to go to a baby naming ceremony. (The baby is pictured below in the all white.) Anyways, Baby Ivan. Super cute baby, the ceremony was nice and the mother and baby were celebrated and given many gifts by the family. We had a schmorgash board of food (i.e. rice, chicken, beef, fufu…) at 8 AM. Why can Ghanaians eat so much food so early in the morning? That’s the question of the hour. Anyways, the definite highlight of the ceremony was when the baby’s grandfather’s chair slid out from under him and he fell all the way to the ground. Don’t worry, he was okay, and he was laughing, so it was okay to laugh. I hope.

Yesterday was my first church experience and let me tell you that some Africans know how to worship. It was incredible. I felt like I was back home at Elevation 🙂 The music was wonderful, everyone was dancing, raising their hands, clapping. They were so excited to be worshiping that you couldn’t help but be excited too. It’s incredible to me that these people that have so little remain so faithful and grateful for the opportunity to serve their High God. When we went up to give our offering, I tell you no lies, every single person in that service put money in the plate. For many of them, it was all they would earn for the week but it was more important to them to bring their first fruits to the Lord than to worry about where their next meal would come from. If that is not a testament to faithfulness and obedience I don’t know what is.

Later on in the afternoon Carly, Maggie, and I were invited to a Ghanaian friend’s home for lunch. The lady that invited us is the seamstress that has been making some dresses for us. She has 5 children of her own and also supports her cousin, her two nieces, and her employee. They all live together in a two room “house” in a smaller village in west Accra. Once again, I was blown away by the hospitality of these people. She has so many people to support on a very low income, yet she invited us over and showered us with so much food and love to show her appreciation for us buying a couple of dresses from her. Incredible.

The food here is sketchy, to say the least. I’ve tried it all and I’m hoping it will grow on me because if not I seriously may wither away. I’m not a picky eater, but trust me, it’s just not so appetizing.

For some reason, EVERYWHERE we go, Ghanaians are trying to get us to dance. I think they like to watch us and laugh because we are super white and have no rhythm. And for some reason, out of our whole group, they always drag me up first. So more times than I can count since I’ve been here I have been dragged into the middle of a group of Africans and been the only white person dancing in the midst of tons of Ghanaians while they laugh and point. They love it.

Enjoy the pics, I don’t promise a lot of them because they take approx. 14 hours to upload. Maybe not 14, but close.

I love you all. Thank again for the comments, the emails, the messages, all the love. Please don’t stop!

Beautiful Mary and Sarah.

Baby Ivan at the baby naming ceremony.

Carly and I super sketched out about the fufu.

Maggie and I loving Africa.


Sweet baby Joy.

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