Yesterday I posted a journal entry from my first mission trip to Aflao, Ghana. As I prepare for a Mrs Disciple 101 post on prayer, these journal pages seem fitting to share with you. I am going back and inviting you along for the journey!
August 3, 2011
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. What then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble of hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:26-28, 31-32, 35, 37-39
If it does anything, traveling to a developing country will strengthen your prayer life. Ghana ranks 133 on the Human Development Index (as a point of reference, the USA is ranked 4th and the lowest country is 172). The HDI factors in life expectancy, knowledge/education, and standard of living (income). In the meetings leading up to our trip, we were advised to take the following precautions:
- Pack food for a week. Food preparation by the locals could introduce harmful bacteria into our system resulting in debilitating illness (i.e. spending a lot of time over the bucket). You don’t know how anything is processed/prepared so it is best to prepare it yourself.
- Do not shave, scratch, or open your mouth in the shower. Ghana’s water system is rudimentary and does not undergo much purification from the flush to the faucet.
- Do not take long showers. We only have one tank of water to last us all week.
- Hide your money and valuables when you go through customs. You never know what the officer will want (items taken in the past include batteries, cash, lotion, Beanie Weenies, unopened bottled water, knives, etc).
- While Ghana is a democracy, we could encounter trouble in customs or with law enforcement. They often add additional fees without cause.
- We have to go through several police/military checkpoints on our journey from Accra to Aflao.
- Keep your backpack close at all times. Someone may decide to help themselves to your lunch or water.
- Closed-toed and heal shoes on at all times. The dirt we walk in is also the public restroom.
- Cover yourself in bug spray the minute you step off the plane and never stop. Take your Malaria medicine.
With all of these precautions, I certainly prayed for safety and health throughout our journey, as were my family and friends. God was faithful. My mosquito count was around 6 (4 of which I killed); no bites. No scratches. No extended time over the bucket. No dehydration. I never feared for my safety.
There were a few events that caused me to pause and marvel at God’s power over men and circumstances.
Even before we left US soil, the Lord was with us. We were down 2 team members due to a car accident. Somehow we had enough people to get their suitcases full of medicine checked in. The lovely ladies at (airline name withheld to protect the “innocent”) were good to grab our suitcases off the scale before it hit 50 pounds. As the scale crept up, 47, 48, 49.3, 50.8, “close enough!”
Our next obstacle, making it through customs in Ghana with about 20 bags of medical supplies and medication for which we did not have proper approval. Can you say, “pray without ceasing!”? We had our ever-present security–a member of the President’s security. His uniform helped, I am sure. But I rest in this, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1). Most of us walked through without pause, being waved through by our security and the customs officials. A few had their suitcases opened and promptly shut without a word. “It is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). When I sing “if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us” during Sunday worship, please understand if I cannot hold back the tears. I have now lived through an experience of my God being bigger than government and policy
Some of our team members experienced illness during our trip. Members of the medical team breathed in a lot of orange dirt and developed some sinus trouble. Some experienced anxiety and fatigue. We prayed for them as a group. Our Southern Baptist ways don’t compare to the passion and conviction with which the Ghanians pray.
Before we ever arrived, these faithful prayer warriors fasted and prayed. They had someone praying each hour in the days leading up to our arrival. Even the children at the home fasted and prayed. Pastors rose at midnight to cover our team and their people in prayer as we slept. When they prayed for healing over our sick workers, they prayed with power. Their voices rose in one accord, growing louder the longer they prayed. It was the most powerful “prayer meeting” I have ever experienced. I believed that God would answer. What weapon formed against man could stand against such powerful prayer?
Many of our team members experienced miraculous healing. They took their medications, but recovered quicker than the medical books say they should. Our God is greater, our God is stronger! Some continued to struggle. Yet, they were able to complete their work through grace.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, i delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
After our prayers, we sang in unity this beautiful Ghanaian hymn:
Thank you, Lord
Thank you, thank you
Thank you, thank you,
It confirmed in my heart a certainty that God heard and he answered.
Our journey ended much like it began–with a walk through customs. This is the part of the trip that many people had things taken from their luggage on past trips. I prayed without ceasing once again. God was faithful once again. While some had the contents of their suitcase dumped on a table, nothing was taken. My bags caused an “alert” with the little residue swipe, but a second swipe came through clean. Even then, I felt calm. I had 9 days of jaw-dropping answered prayer in my heart. I knew the Lord’s purpose would prevail.
I will exalt you, O lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.
Sing to the Lord, you saints or his; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
O Lord, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me; O Lord, be my help.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.