Shea Butter Story

Much of the shea butter of the world is produced in the region around Tamale, Ghana, where we’ll be moving. I loved this touching video showing how Fair Trade purchasing of shea butter by The Body Shop gives women not only jobs, but it also builds clinics, schools, and wells for the rural communities around Tamale. (And it makes a great Christmas gift!)

I also am falling in love with the faces and voices of the women in northern Ghana. I remember meeting a woman in college who was from Ghana, and falling in love with her accent. I could sit and listen to her for hours, and always wanted to work with her in groups, just so I could hear her speak. I can’t wait to be around Ghanaian English every day!


Indignation at the Incarnation

Last year at this time, I was gathered around with a group of friends at a Christmas party. The fireplace was crackling, coffee was brewing, desserts were digesting, and we were reflecting on how God was speaking to us at Christmas.

For me, it was the Incarnation. Why in the world would an omnipotent God wrap Himself in flesh to be born as a baby in a stable? Imagining the situation anew is almost offensive. Jesus, please, not in a manger, there’s donkey drool in there. Please, Jesus, at least a small palace or the temple, not in a temporary shelter away from the comforts of home– anyone’s home. No Jesus, not born to a poor teenage girl from Nazareth — at least choose a family with some clout or prominence.  Your message is too important, Jesus, to not bring it to a better platform than a poor homeless baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough.

Today, I’ve still more comfortable with a Jesus who is not quite so humble. The Divine nature, I’m satisfied with. Healing disease, casting out demons, walking on water, ascending into Heaven on fluffy white clouds with crowds standing in awe — that’s a Jesus who is easy to get on board with.  It’s the mucking around with fishermen and tax collectors, hiding out as a refugee in a foreign land, starving in the wilderness that doesn’t sit well with me. The Creator of the nighttime stars depending on the kindness of strangers for a place to lay His head at dusk. Letting snotty little kids climb on His divine lap while He tousles and parts their matted hair with the same hands that parted the Red Sea.

It’s just, well, distasteful, Jesus.

While I am comfortable with the divinity of Christ, the indignity of the Incarnation is difficult. Why? Because if the Creator of the Universe is as Humble as He is Divine, there is no room for my own pride. My arrogance stands in stark contrast with a glorious Savior who chose humility when He deserved everything but.

If I am striving to be like Christ, I cannot only be comfortable with the trappings of His blessings, I need to embrace the trappings of His humility as well. I want Jesus to use me to heal and to teach because I love the splendor of His omnipotence. But if there a place I will not live, an indignity I will not endure, an economic status I will not tolerate, or a death I will not die for the sake of His kingdom, my pretense flies in the face of the humility of the Incarnation. After all, Jesus,

“Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:6-8, NIV

Jesus, it would be so much easier if you were born to a wealthy public figure in a sterile maternity ward, lived in a 2500 square foot house with a couple of cars, and never spent a hungry or homeless night!

Two weeks ago, I explained the Incarnation to Addie and Palmer over dinner — how Jesus left the perfection of heaven to come and live on stinky earth. And even though Jesus deserved so much more, sometimes Jesus was hungry. And sometimes Jesus didn’t have a place to sleep at night.

The kids were wide-eyed in awe. “But sometimes in Africa we were really hungry and we didn’t have any food or know where we were going to sleep. Jesus knows what that’s like?”

There was no place He would not live, an indignity He would not endure, an economic status He would not tolerate, or a death He would not die for the sake of His kingdom.

Indeed, I’m blessed to embrace the Divine wrapped in the indignity of the Incarnation.

Nativity with text

Straining Toward What Is Ahead

Academics has been my love for a long time. I started teaching at the university level 13 years ago, and I knew that it was a great fit for me. I love college student, I love teaching, and my profession is medicine. I’ve always called myself “half pastor, half professor.” It’s not that I don’t like practice — I do. But my issue with practice has always been the unnatural pace.

As annoying as it is for patients to have to wait to see a medical provider, it’s so much worse being a provider. In a typical appointment, I have to:

  • Review the patient’s chart, all their past diseases and treatments, allergies, family history, etc.
  • Interview the patient, letting them talk for at least 2 minutes, uninterrupted
  • Negotiate a plan for the visit, based on their needs, and what I need to cover
  • Finish interview
  • Do physical exam
  • Put all the symptoms together with the exam and make a diagnosis
  • Determine patient’s need for treatment or testing
  • Determine what needs to be done for health maintenance (routine bloodwork, testing, etc.)
  • Order testing and write prescriptions, calculating dosages and checking for drug interactions
  • Educate the patient on what they have, what needs to be done, and any side effects, expectations, etc.
  • Document all of the above
  • Code the visit for payment, assigning numbers which quantify the visit

Sometimes I’ve gotten 12 minutes a patient. Sometimes I’ve gotten 20. It’s really hard to do a good job while being efficient, personable, thorough, yet unhurried. It’s nearly impossible to truly look a patient in the eye and be present. And if one patient is running late, it sets the whole schedule back. It’s really hard to make up time when I barely have enough time to begin with. If a patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, then there is no hope of staying on schedule. All the while, you know that in spite of doing the right thing, all of your patients are going to be angry for the rest of the day, and long after they are home, you’ll be working on charting, call backs, hospital rounds, prescription refills faxed in from the pharmacy that have to be found in charts, and on and on.

I felt like patient care was getting reduced to clock-watching and a panic-driven pace.

When we moved to North Carolina, I applied for a license to continue to practice medicine here and discovered something unusual about PA practice in North Carolina. If you are not actively practicing for 2 years, your license goes under review and you are required to apply for re-entry into practice. The process is not clearly defined, but the only PA I knew of who had gone through it had to shadow a physician for 6 months before being granted a clear license to practice. That means no income for 6 months. Because I stopped practicing when I became Program Director, my two years is up in the next few months.

So I had a decision to make: stay in academics and lose my license to practice in the next few months, or go back into clinical practice.

In September, I got a call from the practice that is the gold standard of physician home-visit practices in the nation.They see adult and geriatric patients in their homes and in assisted living facilities. There is no time crunch to see patients, as patients are seen within a window of time, as they wait in their own homes making dinner, reading a book, or watching their favorite TV show without being exposed to other sick people. I would see the same number of patients in a week that I have previously seen in a day. I’d work out of my home, but I’d have lab and radiology staff, and an online support team. I’d carry my “office” with me in a rolling doctor’s bag with everything from vaccinations to suture kits. The schedule would be flexible. It reminded me of John Wesley and how when he made pastoral calls, he and his fellow ministers would care for a person’s physical health as well. I think it’s the way Jesus would practice medicine too — going where the needs are, seeing people in their own homes, taking time to look a patient in the eye and listen.

At the same time as deciding whether or not to move to Ghana, I had to decide whether to stay in academics and lose my license to practice, which would make it very difficult to get a license back, here or anywhere else, including Africa.

Or I could leave academics and go back into clinical practice, which would help prepare me for the mission field by refreshing my skills, and allow me to maintain my license, while practicing in what I feel is a God-honoring way.

DSC04420 - Edited

One of my favorite residents at Mercury Courts. I miss them all!

After praying about it and consulting with mentors, I am transitioning back into clinical practice. I will still continue to do some guest lectures in the PA Program here, but my focus is going back to clinical practice. I have already started seeing patients one day a week, and I absolutely adore my patients. They remind me so much of the people at Mercury Courts that I worked with and loved for 6 years in Nashville. I love the fact that I have enough time with each patient to appreciate who they are. And I get to live out the gospel through medicine among the geriatric population in preparation for living out the gospel through medicine in Africa.

We had no idea when we moved to North Carolina that God would have so many changes in store for us. The things we thought we loved and depended on are rapidly changing. Jobs, our house, our friends, our financial security — the things we have had any dependence on — are fading in importance compared to the ultimate goal of following where God is leading us.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:7-14, NIV

Six Months to Surrender

What started as a simple conversation at a Sunday lunch 6 months ago has culminated in our appointment as missionaries to Ghana, West Africa. How exciting it is to be asked to be a part of God’s work!

It certainly wasn’t an overnight surrender, but a process of clarifying what God was asking of us:

We realized that during our adoption, we had never considered living incarnationally, going to where our children were most comfortable, rather than bringing them where we are. God challenged us to consider moving our children back to the culture of their birth, where they would be in the majority, and we would be in the minority.

We discovered that the needs in both of our ministry fields were tremendous in the region of northern Ghana. There is one physician for every 93,000 there. Only 4 ordained ministers serve the more than 50 Wesleyan churches in Ghana, and one of the fastest growing areas for Christianity is just across the border in French-speaking Burkina Faso.

Addie and Palmer have had important voices in our decision, and both of them have let us know that they have hearts for those still in Africa. They have prayed about it and understand that God has asked us to move there. Almost every day, the children ask about Africa, and are excited to have an experience in Africa with an intact family, food in their bellies, and Jesus in their heart.

God confirmed His call through them, and also through the healing of my asthma. I’ve been off of asthma medicines for four months now, when previously, I could not go more than 24-48 hours without a sense of suffocation. What tremendous freedom I have now to breathe deeply and easily, and now I want to use my new-found breath to carry His healing to Ghana!

After traveling and seeing the needs up close, we decided we will be living in Tamale, in northern Ghana, approximately 100 miles south of Burkina Faso. I will be learning tropical medicine with the intent to both practice and create sustainable health practices in Wesleyan churches in remote areas where access to medical care is limited.  Ken will be helping to develop pastors and churches in French-speaking Africa, especially Burkina Faso, and also in English-speaking northern Ghana. Addie and Palmer will be developing friendships and sharing the love of Jesus with kids their own age. Because they won’t have so many of the cultural barriers that Ken and I will, and they know what a difference Jesus has made in healing their hearts from their wounds of the past, we think the kids may be the very best missionaries of all.

Now, it is time for us to begin the process of getting there.

We will be spending as long as it takes for us to raise a team of supporters who will partner with us in prayer and in finances so we can answer God’s call. We know that God has already begun to call people to surround us — many of them, if not most, read this blog.

Has our story challenged you? Inspired you? Made you excited about what God is doing? If so, we believe God is speaking through our story, and inviting you to be part of our partnership team.

Here is what we need:

  1. Prayer warriors. We need 400 people to sign up to support us at least weekly in prayer. We will be calling on these people to pray for us in changing circumstances, and give praise to God when He chooses to work through us.
  2. Financial supporters. We need churches and individuals to partner with us financially, especially in faith promises starting now and for the next four years. Faith promises are a demonstration that you believe that God will provide for you financially in order to support us. You are serving as a conduit of His blessings, and get the joys of being a faithful manager of His resources. Often, faith promises stretch a person beyond what they feel comfortable with financially — that’s where the “faith” comes in! We need:
    1. 17 churches to partner with us at $500/month; or
    2. 170 individuals to partner with us at $50/month; or
    3. 340 individuals to partner with us at $25/month; and
    4. One time financial gifts to help us with our start-up costs, since we will be the first Wesleyan missionaries to Tamale!
  3. Opportunities to share our story. We know that the Holy Spirit speaks through what He has been doing in our lives, and the more we share our story, the more others are drawn to Him and what He wants to accomplish in hearts in America, Canada, and Africa. We are available to speak at churches, retreats, conferences, etc. and would love the chance to tell how God is working miracles to bring more people to Himself.

If God has spoken to you through our story, we believe He is calling you to be a part of our team. To sign up, please click here. Know that if you join our team, we will pray for you, share with you our updates, news, and prayer requests, and communicate with you through newsletters, emails, and even snail mail on a regular basis. We are fully aware that we cannot do this without you!

Thank you for reading our story. Is it your turn to be a part of it?


Making a Dent: Plans for Medical Ministry in Ghana

As we drove past the 339-bed Tamale Teaching Hospital in our Global Partners van, I was amazed at the size and beauty of the structure. The hospital campus was buzzing with patients and providers. Clearly it had been, and is continuing to be, renovated, including the addition of a neonatal intensive care unit. The hospital welcomes students from all around the world to train there, and was voted the best teaching hospital in Ghana in 2013.

My first thought was to of course admire the hospital resources available in the community. Perhaps the medical care situation in northern Ghana wasn’t as dire as I had thought.

Then I started to do some math.

Tamale Teaching Hospital serves the 2.5 million people in the northern region, 1 million people of the Upper West, the 1 million people of the Upper East, as well as part of the region of Brong Ahafo and its 2.3 million people.

It also serves the countries of Togo, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso as the regional referral hospital.

More than 6 million people. 339 beds.

Can you imagine a city the size of Toronto, San Francisco, or Philadelphia having only one hospital? Can you imagine trying to get care there?

Even as I looked at the beautiful facility before me, I began to feel the suffocation of health care shortage.

The ratio of physicians to patients is one for every 93,000 in the northern region of Ghana. The question is not as much what will I do, but how will I manage to make a dent in the overwhelming need?

In Ghana, earning the right to practice medicine is an interesting blend of paper and tribal processes. I will need to meet with the Chief District Medical Officer, and first ask to learn about medicine in Ghana. I cannot come in as an expert who is ready to practice. Though I have taken a missionary medical course focusing on treatment of diseases of Africa, I know that there will still be a steep learning curve to understand not only the different diseases that exist there, but the treatments that are available in Ghana. After a time, I will need to return to the Chief District Medical Officer to ask permission to practice.

photo 3My desire is to learn alongside the physician working at the SOS International Children’s Village in Tamale. Not only do they treat the orphans that live in their orphanage, but the health center is open to the community. Since the only physician there is male, and Tamale is predominantly Muslim, I look forward to ministering to the health needs of the Muslim women who are prohibited from being touched by a male physician. When we visited the SOS medical center, the waiting room had dozens of people waiting to see the one physician. When I asked if I could shadow and volunteer, a look of relief spread over the face of the administrator. The answer was a relieved, “Yes.”

My heart though, is still working to address the health care needs beyond just myself. I simply cannot meet the needs of 93,000 people by myself. I can barely make a dent.

My dream is to eventually move beyond making a dent to helping develop sustainable programs to address medical needs, especially in rural areas. We have learned much from the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone about the need for training community health leaders who can disseminate information, treat basic diseases, and know when to refer to larger medical centers while they can still be treated. I hope to use the networks of The Wesleyan Church in Ghana to raise up leaders to help meet the health needs of their communities. In the future, I would also love to welcome students, medical personnel, and other volunteers from the United States and Canada to help provide training and practice to meet the enormous medical and spiritual needs in northern Ghana.

In some ways, I realize that this may sound less than spiritual. But as I look to scripture, I am fascinated by the role that healing the sick played in Jesus’ life and ministry.

Matthew 10:7-8 says, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

Jesus’ commands as He sent out the disciples were overwhelmingly about healing the physically sick, not just declaring spiritual truth. One fifth of the gospels is dedicated to the healing miracles of Jesus, far more than any spiritual conversion stories.

Healing the sick is Kingdom work. I may not ever fully understand why medical work is so close to the heart of Jesus, but I am so thankful that I can live out the gospel in such a tangible way.

Ultimately, I will be focusing on ministry through medicine in Ghana, learning and eventually practicing medicine in the northern region of Ghana. I will also be developing programs to improve health outcomes in Ghana utilizing the networks of The Wesleyan Church to decrease transmission of infectious diseases, reduce child morbidity and mortality from preventable diseases, and improve women’s health outcomes.

Making Sure More Have a Merry Christmas!

It is amazing to see how God has worked in the lives of our children over the past two years, and it is our sincere hope that we would continue to have an impact on the orphan community while we are in Ghana. I hope to volunteer at a clinic that is on an orphanage property, treating not only the orphans there, but the Muslim women in the community as well.

Not everyone is called to pick up and move halfway around the world to help orphans, or even to foster or adopt an orphan. But we are all responsible for caring for the fatherless, the poor, and the foreigner. Scripture encourages us over 30 times to care for the fatherless, to include them in our prosperity, to defend them when they cannot defend themselves. Cultures of poverty can lead to families having to give up their children to orphanages or selling them into slavery. Most of the world’s orphans have extended family, but they are too poor to care for the children. The good news is that by adjusting our spending habits, we can significantly reduce the number of orphans and slaves in the world. In this season of abundance and generosity, please consider to remember where your gifts have come from, and the hands that were made to produce them.

chocolate_slavery_mainFor instance, there are 242,000 young people in slavery in Ghana, many of them children, and many working in the chocolate industry. Most of us buy chocolate near the cash register that supports that slave industry. If we were to look a little harder in the candy section, most grocery stores carry Fair Trade chocolate, such as Divine Chocolate, which is produced by the farmers in Ghana who are paid a not only a fair price for their crops, but an additional financial investment to help bring their communities out of poverty.

Coffee is another commonly purchased item that we almost all have in our homes. In fact, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, next to oil. Coffee growers typically receive as compensation only 10% of what we pay for coffee when we buy from the big brands. Growers are often forced to sell their coffee for less than what it cost to produce it, essentially enslaving them as they have to work their way to pay off what it cost them three years to grow.  If we all pictured those trapped in poverty by our brand loyalty when we hit the switch on the coffee machine in the morning, it wouldn’t really be “the best part of waking up,” would it?  If instead we all decided to purchase Fair Trade coffee rather than the most popular brands we see advertised, we could shape the way coffee growers in third world are treated and compensated, bringing hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty.

Those are just two examples of how our dollars can be used to treat those in developing countries with fairness and justice. There are many more ways you can consider making your dollar go a lot further when shopping this Christmas season. Here are just a few of the hundreds of opportunities you can take part in to help defend the cause of the poor, the orphan, and the foreigner.

Shop to Support Adoptive Families

Child Sponsorship and Gifts

 Fair Trade

  • The Hunger Site — A huge site that offers the opportunity to shop to benefit causes that are important to you — Fair Trade, Autism Awareness, Breast Cancer Research, and more. Hundreds of items at great prices from toys, to apparel, to footwear and more. You’ll find lots of great items at this store!
  • PACT — A Fair Trade clothing retailer of fun and funky basics — socks, underwear, t-shirts, and hoodies.
  • Global Mamas — Sells unique handcrafted items in colorful fabrics made by Ghanaian women to improve their standard of living.
  • — Faith-based Fair Trade organization bringing craftsman out of poverty by connecting them with consumers in North America.
  • — Fair Trade retailer since 1946 providing a wide variety of merchadise for all ages from around the world.
  • — Supports artisans around the world and provides opportunities for adoptive families to raise funds to bring their families together.
  • — A store and subscription-based Fair Trade service that ships grocery items every 3 months for around $1 a day. Introduces consumers to the variety and quality of Fair Trade items.
  • — This popular retailer is continually expanding its selection of Fair Trade products, but you MUST search for them by typing in “Fair Trade.”
  • Fair Indigo — A retailer that allows you to shop your conscience, carrying Fair Trade, USA-made, upcycled, vegan, and organic items. This retailer has been a consistent favorite of ours!

Other ways to reduce the number of slaves and orphans in the world

  • Buy clothing and household items at second-hand stores that support charity rather than slavery.
  • Buy coffee from Fair Trade sources, then add more Fair Trade products over time.
  • Review  or to rate practices of the retailers you frequent.
  • Investigate your slavery footprint at

Even if you may not be able to make a difference with all of your purchases this Christmas season, each and every purchase helps! Your dollars let retailers know that you care when they donate products to good causes, use ethical sourcing, and pay their workers fair wages. Every time you make a purchase, you are essentially voting on how you believe we should treat employees around the world.

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3 NIV

Thankful for Two Years

Two years ago, Addie had been just diagnosed as being developmentally delayed. In spite of the fact that we now knew that she was six, the experts determined that she functioned at the level of a three year old. She could barely climb stairs while alternating feet. She didn’t walk as much as she toddled. Her femurs were bowed from rickets. Heavy metal deposits laced her bones. Her bone marrow was hyperplastic (enlarged). She only spoke a few individual words of English. “Balloon.” “Dog.” “Airoplane.” We had no idea what she was thinking or feeling, except for her grief expressed through peeing on furniture, hitting other children, and stealing toys from school.

Today, Addie has met her goals for her IEP in language, reading, fine motor skills and gross motor skills. She plays hockey on roller blades in the driveway. She loves to read, and to talk. She is loved by her classmates. She tells stories, expresses her feelings, loves Jesus, and has the gift of intercession. When faced with high expectations, she rises to them, even if she wants you to believe she’s not capable. Her speech therapy this year has helped her make amazing strides in her articulation. God is doing amazing things in Addie’s life.

Two years ago, Palmer screamed for hours after every trip to church, but we were never sure why because he didn’t have the words to express what was wrong. He was being moved from Kindergarten to first grade after only 6 weeks, because we had just found out he was 8 instead of 5. His teacher reported that he said three words, “Yes, no, and pizza.” The expression on his face varied from flat to livid. He was defiant to women in authority. He was an angry grieving boy, who would not allow anyone to comfort him in his sorrow.

Today, Palmer loves going to church. He can repeat verbatim the lessons told in Sunday School, children’s church, and even adult service. He loves God, who has transformed Palmer into a joyful leader with a discerning eye for how things work and how to make them better. He loves to ask difficult questions, like “Why are there so many doctors in America and not enough in Africa?” and his greatest dream is not a trip to Disney or an XBox 360, but for there to be enough doctors in Africa to take care of the sick people there. God is doing amazing things in Palmer’s life.

Two years ago, Ken was working six evenings a week and all day Saturday and Sunday, between Upward Sports, college ministry, and regular church activities. It was exhausting him and breaking our fragile family. Time when all four of us were together was rare.

Today, Ken is able to be a stay-at-home dad, newly appointed missionary, and volunteer minister. He is allowed to preach (his primary spiritual gift) at least once a month, and is able to dedicate his full-time efforts to getting us to the mission field. Ken is renewing his knowledge of French and preparing to minister to pastors across West Africa in English and French. We eat dinner together at our dining room table every night. God is doing amazing things in Ken’s life.

Two years ago, I was battling a third week in a row of pneumonia, which triggered my asthma. I was on mega doses of steroids and antibiotics just to keep me breathing, and starting a new $3500/month shot to try to keep me from being disabled from my asthma. I was too busy to be hospitalized, as our new little family could not take any more absences with Ken already being gone every night. Yet between working, taking care of Addie’s medical needs, re-aging the kids, getting them moved into new grades, and functioning as a single parent in the evenings, I was too busy to get well. I was suffocating physically and emotionally.

Today, I have been off of all asthma medicines for four months, even when we went to Africa, where the air is smoke-filled from hundreds of thousands of people burning their trash. I feel better than I have felt in a decade. I am preparing to start a new clinical job where I will be seeing geriatric patients in their home, carrying my doctor’s bag with all my clinical supplies with me as I travel. This opportunity will refresh my clinical skills in preparation for the mission field, and allow me to practice medicine how I feel it should be practiced: patient-centered and holistic, without the pressure of seeing a new patient every 12 minutes. God is doing amazing things in my life.

Today, I am thankful for two years.

Jewett (5)