Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Opportunity To Return

The opportunity to return.

The opportunity to see friends and to meet new ones.

The opportunity  to participate in a Medical outreach, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people who don’t receive medical care.

To let my feet once again touch the soil and hear the sound of many voices yelling over one another.
To smell the hundreds of smells in the market, overlapping one another.
To see the colorful fabrics and clothing, the bright smiling faces of the children, and the beautiful African landscape spread around me.

To return to the place I called home for a year. To the place that captured my heart, and forever changed my way of thinking and how I see the world.

Will we return? I do not know. We are days away from making a decision, and my very body seems to yearn towards the answer. Will we return for a few weeks with a Feeding The Orphans team? Or will God have us stay here, and do something else?

Oh Lord, may you give us wisdom. Show us the decision you would have us choose, not what we want or desire. Open our eyes to where you want us this summer, whether that’s in Ghana or here in America, or maybe some other country.

But deep in my heart, a whisper is echoing through me. “Ghana...Ghana...Ghana…” Oh how my very body desires to be back there. Just to be back in the place that God molded and stretched me. Back to the place where I sweated, cried, and laughed. To the place where we faced heart-ache and struggles. To the place where our family grew close together. To the bumpy roads and terrible traffic. To the sound of hundreds of children laughing and screaming as they see white people walking towards their school. To have small hands grabbing for your arms or clothing, anything to be near to us.

Back to the place that has my heart, and has never let go.

We may have been separated in distance, but I never forgot...and hopefully, soon, I’ll be able to reunite with the country and people that stole my heart.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What's Going On Across The Pond

Wow, what an awesome, crazy last two weeks it has been. It’s been filled with laughter, tears, sorrow, and joy. It starts with a crazy bunch of obrunis (white people), 350lbs of medicine, and crowds of Ghanaians wanting to see a doctor. 
I remember pulling up in Ningo that first morning and seeing a couple hundred people sitting under a canopy tent. Another hundred or so were standing and sitting outside the tent, waiting their turn to be seated. After sitting in line for several hours, the patients were brought into the building where our makeshift clinic was being held. They got their blood pressure, pulse, and general complaints taken by one of our three triage nurses. Then they got to see a practitioner, who prescribed whatever medicine we had to help. They stopped by the pharmacy to fill out their prescription and then finished with going to the prayer room. 
It was so awesome to be able to look around the room at any given time and see someone praying over the patients. The Ghanaian patients were being prayed over multiple times during their visit, not just in the prayer room. 
In Hondzo it was very similar. We were able to have the clinic in the school FTO built last year.

Throughout the clinic a lot of similar cases were coming through: high blood pressure, TB, malaria, pains, scrapes, and allergies. 
There were several unusual cases. In Ningo, Dad treated several people with bad leg and foot injuries. One lady had surgery on her foot a few years prior, but it never healed. The whole top of her foot was open.
In Hondzo, a man had a terrible wound on his lower leg. He had been bitten by something fifteen years earlier. His leg was swollen and it literally looked like his skin had split open and had decayed away. There was only so much Dad could do for him at that point, but he cleaned it as best as he could. Later that day he saw a lady who had been in a car accident three months earlier and had a fractured shoulder. They hadn't set the fracture properly and her shoulder joint was out of place. She couldn't even lift her hand up. The best Dad could do was to put her in a splint and immobilize her arm to let the fracture heal.
Dr. Denton had a little girl who had an abscess on the back of her head. When he opened it and drained it, some of the Ghanaians looked like the would have turned white if possible. He had to extract all the infection. The girl, who was probably ten years old, had big tears running down her face as she tried to be brave and sit still. There were several cases of desperate need, and the team did the best they could with what they had. Even so, this was more extensive care than they were getting in a community that has no medical service at all. 
If you would like to see pictures, click on the links above for each patient. But be warned, they are not for the queasy stomach. 

While Dad was one of the main practitioners, Mom was on crowd control and made sure all the Ghanaian patients knew where they were going (Her favorite job, isn’t it? Bossing people around). Us girls were mostly on kid duty. All day we were outside with the kids, and there were plenty of them. We shared the gospel, sang songs, played games, told stories, and sometimes just simply sat and talked. As the week progressed we were able to switch in and out with the other positions and get a taste of what was going on in the pharmacy, prayer room, etc. 
We saw a grand total of 1,401 patients! 

Our time doing the medical outreach was great, but it was so hard to turn away so many others. We didn’t have the means or time to see all of them. It broke my heart to have Ghanaians come up to me, begging for them or their child to be seen by a doctor. Or what was even harder was when they asked for a Bible after we had run out. A Bible was what they wanted most, and yet we didn’t have enough.  

Last Sunday afternoon our family flew to Bolgatanga, a town in Northern Ghana. That evening the medical team flew back to America. 
Our time in Bolga was short but sweet. We enjoyed getting to spend time with the kids and visiting the schools. 
We returned to Tema Wednesday, and Thursday we took Dad and Grandma to the airport. It was sad/weird sending them off. It’s even weirder to think we’ve got two more weeks before we’re going back also. We got word Friday night that they arrived safely back in Knoxville.

In nine short days we'll be boarding a plane back to America. Where has the time gone? It feels like just yesterday we were arriving here, yet it also feels like years ago. So thankful for the time we've gotten to spend with friends here and to reconnect with them. 



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Arriving In Ghana & Reuniting With Friends

I apologize for the delay in getting news out that we arrived safely Sunday evening. We have had several nights of no power, and during the day we have been busy! Our few days in country have been filled with reuniting with friends, settling in, and preparing for the medical team coming over. Weather here is hot, hot, & more hot. 
Tuesday we got to visit the Nyame Dua and GMI orphanages. Oh, what a happy reunion! We didn’t get to stay as long as we had hoped, but it was still good to see the kids and hug their necks. We are eager to go back and get to spend more time with them. 

A highlight from each orphanage: 

Nyame Dua: There is a boy there named Joseph, who is 18 years old and is deaf. Many of you may remember the blog I wrote about him last time we were here - he wrote in his sponsorship letter that this was the first time he had ever celebrated his birthday. He is currently attending a deaf school and learning sign language. The Mommy and Daddy of Nyame Dua tell us that Joseph is doing amazing at this school, and while there he becomes a new person. For the first time in his life, Joseph is able to communicate with his friends and truly be able to understand them. Us girls took a sign language class in America this last year, and Maddie is very interested in pursuing sign language as her degree and helping teach it internationally. It was so cool to be able to watch Maddie and Joseph talk(through sign language). Our previous conversations with Joseph have always been short and very basic questions. Yet now Maddie was able to ask him in more detail about his school and learning sign language. 

GMI: The highlight had to be when we pulled up. Will Suppes (the couple currently in Ghana with FTO) was driving with Dad in the passenger seat. With his sunglasses on the kids didn’t originally recognize Dad when we pulled up. But when Mom rolled down her window in the backseat, screams began to echo throughout the home. Before the car was even parked Mom’s door was flung open and kids tried to jump into the car to hug her. We could barely even get out of the car. 

The medical mission group arrived safely yesterday morning. Today we had our first clinic outreach day. It was a long, hot day but it was awesome. We saw a total of 401 patients today, and will be seeing more in the same village of Ningo on Monday. Please keep us in your prayers as this is a very dark and heavy village. 
More details and pictures to come of our medical outreach!! 

Thursday evening I saw three boys in a market. But before I tell you the rest of this story, let me paint you a picture of what markets in Ghana look like. Shops are positioned along the streets, but then on the road are hundreds of people. Hundreds of people set up their goods on plastic tarps on the street, in front of the actual shops. The roads are crammed with people coming and going, buying and selling. Animals are wandering around, horns are honking, people are calling. As you walk along the road, you change from one section of market to the next. Clothes, fabric,  house hold items, food-which ranges from vegetables to crabs to pigs hooves. You can pretty much buy anything you ever need at these markets. 
It is not uncommon to see children in the market. Many of them are young, strapped to the backs of their mothers in fabric. But these boys couldn’t have been more than ten years old, and were alone. Their clothes were dirty, and in their hands they held big plastic bags. I watched as they walked the streets, bending and picking up plastic bags and plastic water saches (what water comes in). They smiled shyly as they saw me watching them. Obrunis-white people- in the marketplace are pretty uncommon. I don’t know their stories. I don’t know if they have parents or if they are orphans. Maybe that’s the way their family has money to buy food. I don’t know. But when I looked at those kids, my heart broke. I desired to know their story, to know them. 
The chorus to JJ Hellers song, “Your Hands” echoes through my head tonight as I sit on a relatively comfy bed, fan blowing overhead, and the images of these children replaying in my head. 

“When my world Is shaking, Heaven Stands 
When my heart is breaking, I never leave your hands” 

Being in Ghana again is amazing. However, it is also heartbreaking. With reunions come goodbyes. With joy comes sadness. And I’m reminded once again, of how blessed America is, and how much we have and take for granted. Tonight, take a minute to be thankful for the simple things in life. Your family, a roof over your heads, a bed to sleep in, constantly running water, electricity. Don’t get sucked up into the fast pace life America offers. Take a moment to step back, and really thank God for all the simple things we take for granted every day. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

We're Going Back

Can you believe it's been seven months since we returned to America from our year in Ghana? For us, it is so hard to believe, yet the days have flown by. Everyday we catch ourselves thinking and talking about our friends in Ghana and the adventures and hardships we experienced. I am excited to get to be the bearer of amazing news! Some of you may already know, but this summer the Ochs family will be returning to Ghana! The sad news is it won't be for nearly as long. We will get to spend several weeks in Ghana, and are very thankful for the time we'll get to be there. We will be joining a medical mission team with Feeding The Orphans (FTO) for this trip, and our family will get to stay a few extra weeks after the medical team comes back.

What will we be doing?
The medical mission team will mainly be serving in Hodzo and Ningo. Both towns are very poverty stricken areas that don't have any medical clinics, and are both very close to our hearts. Hods is the village where we helped FTO build the school last year. The residents have to walk at least two hours to go the nearest clinic.
Ningo is home to Palace Chapel Church, a gathering of believers we visited frequently while in Ghana. Nino however, is an idol worshipping town-and incredibly dark.
We are estimating that we will see 2,000 patients, and will probably have to turn many people away. On the team there is one Medical Doctor, Dad-an Anesthetist-, several nurse practitioners, two nursing students, and a pharmacy tech. About ten others are going to make up the non-medical side of the team, and will offer much needed ancillary support.

After the medical team leaves, our family will get to visit the orphanages and schools we ministered at last year while in country. We are VERY excited to be reunited with our friends there. We are planning to make a trip up to the far Northern part of the country, Bolgatanga, to visit the Nyame Dua orphanage. Once there, we will return to some surrounding schools we visited twice last year.

Many people have asked if there is anything they can do to help. Prayer is the biggest thing, and we would be extremely grateful if you kept these things in your prayers while we are in Ghana:

  • Medical Mission trip would not just focus on physical healing, but also spiritual
  • Reunions with friends
  • That we would be an encouragement to missionaries
  • Safety for traveling and health
  • Purposeful in our time in Ghana
  • Through all circumstances we will honor God with our attitudes (even through heat & trials)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some Christmas Ideas

Hopefully since my last blog, you’ve all come up with some creative, fun ways to celebrate Christmas a little differently this year. I imagine that with only three days to Christmas, most households are getting a little stressed. I wanted to share some ideas with you about specific ways you can get involved with Ghana this Christmas. 
1. You can donate/buy products from Feeding The Orphans. Every time you buy from FTO, all the money goes back to Ghana, supporting the single mothers and helping feed children. They have amazing stuff for sale that will make great birthday or Christmas gifts…or even just to get for yourself! (Feedingtheorphans.com)
2. You can help build an orphanage. In Ghana, there is an orphanage called Nyame Dua. They have two homes in two different towns. In one of the towns, they have accepted so many kids into the orphanage that they have reached their absolute maximum. They need to have a new home to continue bringing kids in and giving them a family, education, and teaching them Christ’s love for them. Please, help us give a home this Christmas!  
There are two ways to do this: One, you can donate through FTO, and specify that the money is for the Nyame Dua home. The other way is to buy products from Gideon’s Gifts. All the proceeds from Gideon’s Gifts goes to the Nyame Dua house. (And yes, Gideon’s Gifts is named after Gideon from Nyame Dua who died a few months ago. Gideon's Gifts has a Facebook page where you can purchase and learn more about what you're supporting.)

Please get involved this Christmas by making a difference! Even if its just giving a donation to orphans and widows in Ghana. It makes a huge difference and trust me…It’ll affect you as much as it does them. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Merry Christmas!!

Oh where have the days gone? I can hardly believe it's already December! Christmas trees, lights, egg-nog, and the familiar tune of Christmas music tell that one of the world's favorite Holidays is coming up.
As always, Thanksgiving and Christmas bring many warm memories and fun events. However, this year the Ochs are a little out of the regular routine. Our family has never done Santa and several years ago, we stopped giving presents. We realized that for our birthdays we would celebrate us, but on Christmas, we were celebrating Christ and the birth of Jesus. But it's kind of hard to do that when your neck deep in all the latest gadgets and toys. (Now, please do not think I am picking on anyone who believes in Santa or gives gifts at Christmas. These are just the views of our family, and what you do with your family is between you, them, and God.)

While in Ghana, the outreach we did on Christmas day was one of our most favorite outreaches we did while there. It forever "spoiled" Christmas for us, and shed a new light on how to celebrate the Holiday. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, go to "Give This Christmas Away" from our past blogs.)
Yes, we did put up some Christmas decorations...we aren't going for the Scrooge affect, just a more focused Christmas celebration.
It's so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, isn't it? We (I am including myself as well) get so focused on finding the perfect tree and getting every toy on our wish-list, that we quickly lose sight of why we even celebrate Christmas to begin with. CHRISTmas. Friends, it isn't that hard to remember. His name is in the actual word!

Here's a challenge for you: As a family, find one way you can make this Christmas less about us and our stuff, and more about Jesus and His birth. Maybe it's cutting down on gifts, and using that money for a missions organization of your choice. Or maybe it's doing a half-day mission trip, Christmas caroling, or even making cookies and giving them to your neighbors or friends from school/work. It doesn't have to be extreme and expensive. Sharing the true meaning of Christmas is a simple conversation, that is easily started when you reach out to those around you.

I pray you have an amazing time with your family and friends this Christmas, but don't lose sight of that sweet baby in the manager and why He was born. Reach out to those around you. Receive a gift that will last more than just temporary toys and electronics.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Well, I hadn't planned on this being my first update state-side. I've been working on a nice update to tell everyone what's up with the Ochs family...but for now that will have to wait.

Today, I write with a heavy heart. Because across the ocean, a young boy from Ghana is now sitting up in Heaven. About two hours ago we got a text from Daddy Paul, who runs Nyame Dua orphanage in Teshie, Ghana. Yesterday Gideon, about 15 years old, was visiting his mother and step-father in another town. Gideon was riding a bike when a motorcycle hit him. He had a broken leg and was unconscious. This morning they planned to move him to another hospital via ambulance, because the hospital where they were at said they didn't have the means to care for him.
About an hour ago we received a text saying Gideon didn't make it. He never woke up and was never transported from the original hospital.

With sobs wracking her body, Abby asked the question everyone was thinking:
       "Why Mom? Why?"

The horrible part is that we don't know why. Why God decided to take that sweet boy home is beyond me. However, it's in times like this we cling to Romans 8:28:
              "All things work for the good of those who love Him." 

So as we mourn for Gideon down here, we take comfort knowing that he has received the ultimate treatment and is now feeling no more pain, no more suffering, and no more hurting.