Thursday, January 2, 2014

back in the states

We haven't shared anything on the blog in quite a while. Obviously our posting will slow down now that we're back in the States, but you can always follow Landon + Kate's blog for more frequent updates about the girls!

Teddy and I arrived back in Wichita on Black Friday. We've been readjusting to life in America slowly but surely--all of our winter clothes were in storage and it's been COLD in Kansas, but other than that we had a smooth transition. Landon + Kate very graciously take time out of their busy days to send us updates and although we miss the girls we know they are in very capable hands.

We've been able to meet with the Eight Oaksters a few times since we got back. After praying semi-ambiguously for so many months, it is incredible to join together with this group and pray and talk about the girls BY NAME, knowing their personalities and stories and seeing their faces.

Truly and honestly, we cannot overstate how thankful we are for the support of the amazing family that surrounds these girls--and for the opportunity to witness their redemption.

I just have a few pictures for now--we hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The Lord worked in astounding ways in 2013. We're excited to see what 2014 has to hold. And as always, thank you to everyone who has contributed to Eight Oaks in any and every way: our girls had a real Christmas this year with presents and food and laughter and twinkle lights!! Glory to God in the highest.
a PE lesson with Uncle Teddy. hilarious.
Little Sarah
Mercy making fufu!
this dough is made by boiling plantains and yams and pounding them until the consistency is smooth and elastic: it's then shaped into balls and eaten with soup! We liked it a lot, it's much sweeter than akple.
everyone took a turn pounding the dough...the whole process takes a LONG time and that stick is h-e-a-v-y.
one afternoon the girls climbed the papaya trees and feasted.

we miss the girls AND the fresh fruit.
Rosemary (Bernard + Celestine's great-neice). She's a doll--we love when she comes over.
Rosemary + Richlove
Richlove, Lucky, Regina. I call this "Serious."
I call this "Not Serious."
the girls usually wash their clothes in the morning and then lay them on the concrete to dry in the afternoon sun. This is about 5:00pm, when the sun starts to set.
sometimes the band at the local college starts playing music and the girls run out to the front porch, stand on the railing, and dance. It's entertaining to say the least. This is Lucky:)
Dina, Sarah Sr., Gloria, Richlove, Lucky, God's Way
The Yellow House has officially been kid-o-fied...we found this crayon masterpiece on one of the walls.
We took group pictures the day we left...which wasn't the best idea because all the girls were very sad and most were unwilling to smile. And Gloria, true to form, fell asleep:)

Papa Bernard with his girls--Left to Right Regina, Lucky, God's Way, Dina.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

attitude of gratitude

Do Americans understand what “giving thanks” means? Do we understand the significance of this national holiday?

I’ve worked in retail for going on 5 years, and endured several 12-hour shifts on Black Friday, so I tend to think that we’re missing something.

Teddy and I are leaving Africa today…on Thanksgiving. And truly, I have never felt more aware of all that I have to be grateful for than I am today.

At the top of the list are these eight girls:

Let me assure you that no one needs to educate these children on the meaning of Gratitude. They rejoice and say “thanks” for every gift they receive. One of my favorite stories is when Landon + Kate were conducting an English lesson, and at the end each girl received a tiny piece of candy. Little Sarah started to unwrap hers and eat it, and was promptly scolded by the other girls, who proceeded to bow their heads and pray a blessing over their “toffee.” They are the farthest thing from “entitled” that you can imagine.

We have so much to be thankful for…God is so good.

We are excited to return to the States, but our hearts are heavy to be leaving this beautiful place that has become Home and these wonderful people that have become Family.

And on this holiday of Thanks, we want to again articulate our appreciation for each and every person who has aided and supported us on this journey—through prayer, finances…anything and everything.

We are thankful for Landon, Kate, Bernard, Celestine, Mercy, and Helen, who make leaving easier because we know without a doubt that the girls are in excellent, capable, loving hands. 

We are thankful for our families who have been so incredibly encouraging from the beginning.

We are thankful for The Father’s House—for Jeff and Lori for “fanning the flame,” and Matt and Tammy who have provided priceless guidance and assistance.

We are thankful for our Eight Oaksters back in America who have been faithful and who stepped up to the plate to keep things running when we left in August.

We are thankful for Taylor, Lauren and Ryan who have managed the finances and been willing and content to do what is, honestly, a pretty tedious and thankless job.

We are thankful for CityLife, NewLife, Greenwich Road, River Walk, and all the other churches who have funded and sustained us prayerfully.

We are thankful for Ghana, for Jesus, for FREEDOM and new life in Christ. We are THANKFUL that we serve such a mighty God.

<<Prepare yourself for picture overload. It's been awhile since I last posted>>
This was our first time meeting Sarah, Regina, and Richlove. 
We traveled for roughly 16 hours on Tuesday. 
It was obviously exhausting.
With Davi Mercy in the airport. 
Back home, helping Mama Helen sort beans for dinner.
Little Sarah getting a fire going. I told Mercy that kids in America aren't allowed to play with matches which she thought was hilarious. 
This girl fanned the flame and sustained it long enough to cook a whole pot of beans. She's seven. I'm all like, "Do we have any lighter fluid?"
It makes my heart so HAPPY to see EIGHT little pairs of shoes!
Picking beans. 
Gloria has displayed an amazing talent for falling asleep in the most unlikely of places & circumstances: including but not limited to under the dining table, in the pantry, and outside on a pile of beans, as seen here.
This is one type of Ghanaian breakfast called Tom Brown. It's a porridge made with beans, roasted corn flour, and peanuts. We love it. 
Counting lessons with Uncle Teddy
Dina + Flower
Left to right: Dina, Gloria, Richlove, Regina, Lucky, Sarah Sr., God's Way, and Sarah Jr.
We were trying to get a picture of them jumping off the little ledge...
There was a lot of falling and laughing, but not much jumping:)

Nothing beats hearing these giggles or seeing these smiles. We love them so much. We love that they are FREE.

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One big happy family.

We started as a group of five students sitting around Teddy and Ellie's dining room table. Now, around 20-25 students are consistently involved in Eight Oaks, including this lovely bunch of students and a few who are not pictured here. Photo by Megan Radley

A year and a half ago, I never would have imagined that this rag tag team of teenagers would one day become my family.

We come from all different walks of life, different friend circles, and different personality types. Sure, we all knew each other and, admittedly, a lot of us were good friends prior to Eight Oaks. But being friends is nothing compared to being family.

Over the past year, a core group of us have fallen in love with these eight girls together. We met together, prayed together, and, since most of us went to school together, we lived life together.

A little over two months ago, the time came that we realized that we really wanted our family to grow. New members had been trickling in over the months, but we wanted even more people to experience the sense of belonging and of fellowship that we had discovered. So, Kate and I got up on stage during chapel, spit out a few heartfelt words about Eight Oaks, and by God’s grace, our family started to grow again. 

For the past three months, though, two very important members of our family have been missing. Teddy and Ellie left for Ghana on August 8, and we have missed them ever since. We have received sporadic updates, emails, and photos from them, but we all dearly miss sitting in their apartments on Saturday mornings with them, drinking coffee and talking about life, Jesus, and eight little girls whose names we did not know. 

Obviously, we are overjoyed in the fact that they were faithful to the Lord’s call to go to Ghana, seeing as eight precious little sisters have since been added to our family. Still, we are beyond excited for them to come back.

During Teddy and Ellie’s absence, though, we have all learned what it means to step up and be leaders. Caleb and Jack suddenly had to lead the group, and all of the tedious little details that Ellie usually took care of were now passed on to me, Madie, and Taylor. In the midst of all that transition, our family was growing rapidly, and we had to get new members caught up and informed.

Things were not always easy. I spent many nights praying that the Lord would keep this whole thing running because, when it comes down to it, we’re just a bunch of high school kids. We don’t know how to run a non-profit, we don’t know how to fundraise, and we definitely don’t know how to save girls out of slavery. Despite our inexperience, God blessed us richly in ways that we never would have imagined.

For one, we have been blessed by all of the adult leadership that has guided us from the outside for the past several months, such as Mr. Loftin, Mrs. Goodvin, and Mr. Kriwiel. We have been blessed by various Trinity students who aren’t involved with Eight Oaks randomly giving us a fist-full of cash or a check. We have been blessed by finally being able to learn that when we choose to live a selfless life we find true joy.

We were blessed through our struggles as we drew closer to one another in the midst of difficulties. We learned to have each other’s backs. We learned to forgive. And, above all else, we learned to love each other just as much as we love those eight little girls.

My desire is that, as little boys and girls in Ghana find freedom, young men and women in America find freedom as well. We always want this family to keep growing, I believe that, by God’s grace, it will. 

-Clare Alise Warrington