Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Prayer For Ghana (and for me)

God, I have my heart set on Africa – on Ghana. Anticipating a trip to Ghana is a call to faith and to trust. It forces me to think about how you must consider this place.

How do you see nations? How do you understand us?Where does your allegiance rest? You do not pledge  allegiance to flags of nations and you do not sing their anthems. You are not allied with political parties and you do not vote. Do you see the lines we draw?

I ask your compassion on Ghana. Rain down your generosity, your redemption, and your love on this place. Highlight its beauties and expand them to all Ghanaians. Loosen the grip of poverty and make slavery  history.

I take you with me. I desire to take the love of God to Ghana, to children whose lives have been wounded in a system of poverty, slavery, and abuse. I want to share your love with them.

I seek you there. To assume that you are not already present in Ghana would be to think so very little of you. I go to Ghana to find you as well. There must be a side or many sides to you that are revealed in Ghana that are not or cannot be witnessed where I am sheltered in my privilege and culture.

I go to witness poverty. I want to see with my own eyes how the evil of poverty crushes souls. But I do this not to feel good about my own comforts, though I am sure I will. I want you to reveal the poverty in my own soul. Expose my poverty and deepen my soul.

God, I have been asked to go to Ghana because I have a skill that is needed there. But God, I need Ghana as much as it needs me. I do not want to be the same man when I return.

I lift up these thoughts, desires, and request in the name of the one whose story ends in the redemption of all things.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When I found a good day

When I found a good day,

I was knew it worth something,

Into the pocket of my mind it went,

Never to be forgotten;

Never to be neglected;

Good days are never promised;

They provide no promise on their own;

They exist singularly;

They occupy their space.


When I found a good day,

I knew it was worth something,

And only so big;

How could a good day get bigger than it is?

I wondered and wondered.

Some people get precious few good days;

Some people – none at all;

Perhaps if I shared the good day it would grow -

Turn physics on its ear,

Create more energy than it had mass?

Could it be the only way to stretch a good day

Is share it – share it without delay?


When I found a good day,

I knew it worth something,

And I knew you had a part in it.

Thanks you, for today could have gone so wrong,

So terribly terribly wrong,

But it didn’t,

You wouldn’t let it,

And I cannot pay you back,

For the economy good days is not a fair exchange,

I must honor you,

I must find someone short on good days,

And stick one in the pocket of their mind.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Send Me To Ghana

Want to help me go to Ghana and work with Touch a Life and Connor's Song? Here is how you can help.

1. Prayer support: Please pray for these organizations, the children they serve and for me as I prepare for this trip.

2. Financial Support: Three ways to do this (A & B are tax deductible):
    A. online: Click here and then click on "give" and fill out the information. My trip name is          "Ghana (Psych)"
    B. Snail Mail: Check pay to order of "Lipscomb University" ||| memo Gonzalez Ghana (Psych) ||| mail to Lipscomb University Missions One Univerity Park Dr. Nashville, TN 37204
    C. Purchase books from the sidebar on this blog and I get 4% - all of which will go to this trip.

3. Social Media: Follow me on twitter (@fajitaboy), share my posts on facebook, link to my blog, and follow videos on youtube.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ghana: Why go there?

(Click here to support this mission)

Why go to Ghana West Africa?

It is a question I have been asking my self for a couple months. It is a deep question – complex and multi layered. Here are a few of the things that motivate me on this trip. Some of these motivations are more pure and some are somewhat more self-indulgent. I will be transparent. I share these motivations for a couple reasons. One is that I want you to be “on this trip” with me as much as you can from wherever it is you live. Another reason is that some people consider trips of this kind, but get muddled by their motives (am I doing the right thing for the wrong reason?) and end up passing on something great. I have come to realize that I will never have all the right motivations to do anything good, but that does not have to stop doing good.

Anyway, what follows are brief insights into what is motivating me, for better and for worse. Each of these runs much deeper as this is simply an overview.

1. I was asked. Back in late Fall of 2012, my friend, Nan Deal, called me and point blank asked me to go to Ghana. When a friend asks you to do something meaningful and important, when she says that you have to offer is what is needed, it is hard to refuse. Plus, Nan’s passion is kind of contagious.

***Social science geek alert*** In my research on volunteering I learned that the number one predictor of people deciding to volunteer was that they were asked to volunteer. Seems simple, but the reality is that many people never get asked. They are willing and have the resources, but need a catalyst. Nan was my catalyst for this trip.

2. Friendship. Piggybacking on point 1 is that I have a deep and long friendship with Ron and Nan Deal. We became friends back in 2001. We have walked the road of joy together and shared in grief together. Shared experiences with good friends seem to gain in value over time, like wine, I suppose.

When their son Connor died from an unexpected infection, they lived in Amarillo, Texas and we lived in Burnsville, Minnesota. We drove down for the funeral because 1000 miles is not too far to be with friends in their grief. The work in Ghana is how Ron and Nan focus their grief energy. Their ministry is called, Connor’s Song. The song of his life is alive in this effort. How could I say no?

3. History. In 1996, I was at a fork in the road. I would be a marriage and family therapist or I would be a missionary. I could not make up my mind. I asked God to help me see my way forward, but I got nothing. I wanted a Moses style burning bush (yes, I need it to be that obvious), but heaven was silent. I decided place this life decision in the hands of the MFT admissions committee at Abilene Christian University (thus proclaiming my abdication of responsibility for this decision). I was accepted to the program and my life took a turn away from missions and toward MFT. It felt like a “no” to missions. 

And yet this missionary call in my life kept a slow burn with an occasional flare up as the winds of mission would whip up. Although I have done good things locally that most certainly would be considered missions and have supported others on their mission work, the passion burns still.

In a sense, this trip to Ghana begins a redemption of sort. It is not that I made a wrong choice to go the route of MFT (I would never have met Ron and Nan otherwise), but rather a different pathway. Where I wondered whether God has said “no” to missions, perhaps the answer was “wait.” Or more likely it was, “You will not be mature enough to handle it for about a decade and a half.”

4. Privilege. This is a tough one for me. My parents were high school educated, working class Americans, fighting hard to qualify as middle class. During my childhood, my father was a janitor and paper route driver and my mother had several jobs – child care, paper route driver, and server at Carbone’s Pizza (yes, occasional free pizzas was a nice perk here). It was all they could to make ends meet.
My mother would say we were privileged because of God’s love for us – status and money were irrelevant. She would be right.

I have this rare blessing in the history of the world – to be a university professor at an American university. Though I am not getting rich in cash, I am rich in status, opportunity, and training. Learning how to understand what this means, especially in the family context form which I came, is not always a simple task. My family system has no historical hooks on which to hang this life I am living.

One thing I know is this, if I do not leverage the opportunities of my training and position toward service I have missed out the best and most important part of having such a unique privilege.
In short, this trip is helping to SAVE ME FROM the many pitfalls and obliviousness that privilege creates. The seduction of privilege being self-indulgent is great and nuanced and almost invisible.

5. Guilt. Related to privilege is guilt. Why me? I did not choose to be born in America. I did not choose to be intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually capable of being where I am now. I am blessed, got lucky, or something. Almost every single aspect of me being situated where I am in life had absolutely nothing to do with me.

I could be a child slave just as easily as I could be a university professor, were I born into a different family in a different culture and in a different geography. I live in an unfair situation. I have so much privilege that I could ignore most every pain in the world and not even feel an impact on my life. What is fair about that?

Yes, I feel guilt. Yes, this trip will be a small salve on this guilt – I think. What I hope it does is to provide perspective and improved motivation to do more of this kind of mission.

Guilt is not the best motivation and should never be the only motivation, but I would not be honest to deny that it is there.

6. Adventure. I have been so eager to get a chance to do something I have never done before. Although everything I do the first time meets this criteria, this trip takes it to a whole new level.
Part of this motivation is to see whether I can even do it. I am 43 years old this week and feel the beginnings of decline in some aspects of my life (e.g. if I sprint I will probably pull a muscle). For the rest of my life I will be asking, “Can I do this”  AND “Can I still do this?” It will be so rewarding to know I can and so informative to learn I can’t. It’s win/win.

I reflect on the wise words of one of my mentors, Al Ogren, a founder of my favorite places on earth, Flaming Pine Youth Camp. Al has been retired for several years now, but still goes on the five mile hike through the Northern Minnesota forest. He looked at me a couple years ago and said, “Chris, do you know why I still go on the hike?” “No, why do you still go on the hike?” I answered. He conjured a familiar and knowing smile and said, “I still go on the hike to see if I can still go on the hike.” How did he know how much I needed to hear that?

7. Example. I want my children to see and to experience mission before they go to college. Although they are not joining me on this trip, plans are brewing for their participation in the future.

Plus, my goal for next year is to make a mental health missions travel course out of this trip. I want to expose students to a new world, a new way of understanding their training, and a new view of their privilege. I am situated to influence students – and everything I do influences them somehow. What better way to leverage this place I am in than share experiences with students?

8. Ghana. I am learning about Ghana. The more I learn the more I am inspired. As I see it now, before arriving and experiencing, Ghana is a national of contrasts. It has a rich culture of music (e.g. high life music) and is deeply religious. It has educational opportunity and is rich in some natural resources. It is politically stable as best I can tell. There is a lot strenght and beauty in Ghana. I have the feeling that once I get there, it will be easy to find much to love.

At the same time, there is widespread poverty and limits to access to healthcare and education. Many live on less than $1.25 per day (e.g. how can that even be done?). Poverty has lead to the terrible practice of child slavery. There is widespread abuse of children in this way. Inside the forced labor is physical, emotional and sexual abuses.

As much as there will be to love, there will be much that will break my heart.

Well, that is a brief (really? you call that brief?) thumbnail of some of what motivates me to go on this trip to Ghana. I am sure that once I meet the children there, they will become a direct motivator for me to return. I am sure I will grow in attachment to this group more and more and more. I cannot wait to meet the team that will be there.
I hope my motives are purified on this trip, but even if they are not, good can be done in spite of me.

(Click here to support this mission)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Send Me To Ghana

Dear Family and Friends,


Greetings! I pray that this letter finds you well. I am half way through my third year as a professor at Lipscomb University in the Psychology Department. This year we launched a new Masters of Marriage and Family Therapy program and I was appointed director. It is an exciting and humbling time in my life. I am grateful to God for where I am situated in life right now.

One of the most exciting things happening is that I have been invited to participate in an amazing opportunity and I want to invite you to participate with me. In the Fall of 2012, I was invited by my good friend, Nan Deal, to participate in an amazing opportunity with an organization called, Touch a Life ( This organization operates in Ghana, West Africa to rescue and care for child slaves. Child slavery is a significant problem in Ghana, where a child can be sold into slavery for as little as $20. Touch a Life partners with another amazing organization called Connor’s Song ( to use art and play therapy at therapeutic art center to help heal the traumas of child slavery.

Specifically, I have been asked to provide evaluation and assessment of the current clinical and mental health capacity for the care facility. Along with a highly skilled Play Therapist, Dee Kernodle, I will evaluate the level of trauma of the children in the care facility, make recommendations for immediate and long term care, and help to develop a model for care for rescued child slaves after they have been rescued and provided basic needs (food, shelter, clothing etc).

On March 15th, I will depart for Ghana with the entire trip lasting 10 days. I will join Dee Kernodle and a whole team of people with various roles. During these 10 days, I will:


·         Observe operations;

·         Engage with the staff and with the children;

·         Consult with Dee concerning assessment and evaluation as well as developing recommendations;

·         Visit Lake Volta, the place where thousands of children work as slaves

·         Assess the future potential for graduate Marriage and Family Therapy students to visit Touch A Life and Connor’s Song and provide training and clinical services. 


It is big task and I am honored to be invited to be a part of it. But I know that I cannot do this alone. So I am inviting you to join this effort in three important ways: Prayer Support, Financial Support, and Social Media Support. Please join with me in as many of these three ways as you can. The chart on the next page gives more details on how we can team together to benefit rescued child slaves.

The trip is being funded entirely through donations to cover travel, lodging, food, and other travel related costs (e.g. immunizations). It is estimated the total cost will be $2500. If more money is donated than is needed, all overage will go to support the work at Connor’s Song (the therapeutic art center in Kumasi, Ghana). Accounting of funds available upon request. All financial support is considered a charitable donation as Lipscomb University has not for profit status – you may deduct donations from your taxes.

I thank you in advance for your prayer support, your financial support, and your social media support.




Chris J. Gonzalez, Ph.D., LMFT

One University Park Dr.

Nashville, TN 37204



Twitter: @fajitaboy




Prayer Support:

·         Add me to your prayer list:

o    Be prepared mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually

o    Successfully accomplish the mission


·         Touch A Life

·         Connor’s Song

·         Pray for the children of Ghana who are still enslaved


Financial Support:

·         CHECK

o   Pay to order of: Lipscomb University

o   Memo: Chris Gonzalez

o   Mail to:

§  Lipscomb University

§  Missions Department

§  One University Park Dr.

§  Nashville, TN 37204


·         CREDIT CARD / ONLINE ***Starting Jan 15th***

o   STEP 1:

o   STEP 2: Click on “Give to a mission trip”

o   STEP 3: Fill in information and selection trip name “Ghana (Psych)”


·         PURCHASES

o   All amazon purchases made through my blog earn 4%. All earnings until departure will go toward the mission effort.

·         EBOOK

·         “Running Away From Home” is a memoir I will publish soon on the kindle format. All proceeds (70%) help this mission effort.


Social Media Support:

·         Blog:

·         Facebook: friend me

·         Twitter: @fajitaboy

·         Youtube: