Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Accra and Kumasi are poor. At least by American standards. Both cities have their places of extreme poverty---the slums of Accra, various neighborhoods of Kumasi. The cities offers opportunities--jobs, modern conveniences---and so many citizens flock to them. The real poverty lies in the villages found outside the cities, and the further North or East you go (into Muslim country) the worse it gets.
Last time we were in Ghana, we spent much of our time touring the Nation, visiting and encouraging the village churches. The first church we visited three years ago was just a few minutes’ drive from our home. The church had only half its floor cemented, and its sound system was a bullhorn attached to an amplifier. (I don’t even know how that works!)
We went back two weeks ago, and the church floor was complete, and the sound system upgraded!
The Lord is blessing them, and now they are looking to bless their neighbors in Homaenase by building them a school.
The small village of Homaenase has a population of about 1,000 and is very poor. They have only a grade school, which means after grade six, if you can’t afford to go into town to school, your education is complete. There isn’t much to do in this middle-of-nowhere town. The young men have no purpose and are wrestles, often causing trouble. There is very little hope to be found. Without a miracle, without a move of the Holy Spirit, the cycle of poverty will continue through the generations.
We visited this little village while my parents were with us. We passed out candies and small toys, read Bible stories, and sang songs. It wasn’t much, but something to break the ice and get the conversation going.
I met a young man. His name was Gideon. He wants to be a medical doctor. Without God’s intervention, he won’t ever get the chance. Still, I told him to continue to study hard and get good grades. Perhaps by the time he reaches high school, things will be different.
This is not the first poverty stricken village we have visited. But the Lord was tugging on our heart strings, and we knew instantly He had something in mind for them and for us. We will be back, to do what we can to love on them, offer hope in the form of job skills and opportunities, and tell them about our Savior.
As we were getting ready to leave, Tesia noticed a little boy. He had no shoes. (Most of the kids didn’t.) He had a stubbed toe that looked infected, and was attracting flies. She pointed him out to me, but all we had with us was some wet wipes, Neosporin and Band-Aids. Better than nothing, I guess. We asked if we could clean his wound, and his mother said yes. We did our best to clean and bandage it, and prayed for healing. Then, because it was all I had with me, I gave him my socks. Hoping they would provide a little protection from the elements while his foot healed.
I walked away broken. All the worries of things that really don’t matter were gone. What truly matter was right before me; a little boy with nothing. His lack isn’t just material things, but knowledge and understanding of the eternal truth about a Savior---when we asked the kids, after our Bible lesson, who had asked Jesus into their heart; who had given their life to Him not one raised their hand!
It is moments like these that I am convicted and reminded of how much I live to satisfy my flesh. It’s moments like these that stay with you; God’s reminder of His Eternal purpose---people. We are here on earth for such a limited time, and the only thing we can do that will last beyond our death is love and be love by Jesus, and to show others how they can experience this great love, too.
My blogging skills don’t hold a candle to those of my mothers. She so beautifully penned and photographed her time here with us, that I will not try and re-do what she’s perfected. Instead, I invite you to visit her at www.justfollowingjesus.com. Search Ghana to read the several entries covering the convention and her visit with us.
With that said, here are a few of my own thoughts and reflections about the past two weeks…
Every year Bishop Frank gathers all of his churches from around Ghana for an Easter Convention. Both of our previous visits have missed the convention by just a few weeks. This year, we were finally able to attend.
Bishop has long since wanted my Dad to come and be a guest speaker. It hasn’t worked out, but this year it did! Both my parents were able to come as guest speakers for the convention.
In the weeks following up to the convention, their fame preceded them. Their pictures were plastered all over the city, and all over Bishop’s car. After their arrival, a man standing next to a poster looked up, and to his surprise looked right at my mom!
The convention was held Thursday evening through Sunday morning. Oh, how I love to worship with the Body here. Having all of the churches together was an added treat! Like anywhere else, the church has its traditions and routine-like flow to the service. But oh, the joy! The fun! The sense of celebration and freedom! They enjoy being in the house of the Lord. They enjoy His presence. Saturday evening the celebration and dancing was so intense that a haze was seen across the sanctuary; a cloud of dust rising from the floor.
During the day on Friday and Saturday, Elizabeth (mom) taught a workshop for women, and Pastor taught one for the pastors. Elizabeth spoke about knowing God’s Word. It’s His love letter to us. It’s life. It’s nourishment. It cleanses us, renews, and transforms us. I could tell the group had been listening intently, and at the end they had questions. Most of the questions were about how to get the Word in your heart if you don’t have a Bible or if you can’t read. The realization of their questions was sinking in.
I knew illiteracy and lack of Bibles was an issue in Ghana, but it’s one of those things that is easy to ignore until its right in front of you. I can’t even imagine not being able to read my Bible and meditate on its Words by myself. I have well over 20 Bibles, four in my possession now. Plus I have a few on my phone, ipod, and ipad. So easily and abundantly accessible, yet so often taken for granted.
The women’s hunger for the Truth was evident. Among the suggestions for the illiterate was to have a friend write down the verse (from a church service) and then have your child read it to you, over and over until it’s in your heart. Others suggested creating songs for memorization. For those who could read, but didn’t have a Bible (either at all or in their language), sharing with a friend or copying passages from church was the offered solution.
Easter Sunday began at 9am with Sunday School. Church ended at 2:30. That’s right. Five and a half hours. Can you imagine if church went that long in America?!? We would be fit to be tied!!! But not here. Every moment was savored. There was no rush. Christ’s resurrection was celebrated with worship and dance, special offerings of singing and praise. Declarations of His resurrection power through the preaching of the Word. It was a very memorable Easter.
The remainder of my parents time here was split between looking at future humanitarian projects with our friend Gary---a member of their church who joined us after the convention---and fun tourist activities. We went up north to the monkey village and waterfall, then down south to modern Accra.
Our time in Accra was heavenly. (THANK YOU, Truelife Church!) A nice treat to celebrate being in Ghana for one month; a time to rejuvenate in preparation for the five months ahead. We stayed at the Ramada. Ramada in America is rather dumpy, but the resort here was very nice and upscale.
Located right on the beach, they had a spa, pool, and best of all HOT running water. The feeling of clean from showering with hot water can’t be beat. It was the highlight of the weekend for me. To get a hot shower in Kumasi, you have to time it just right, taking full advantage of the afternoon sun heating the tank. Of course we never do this, because who wants to take a shower in the middle of the day when you’re not done sweating and getting dirty.
We enjoyed the mall, too, and discovered Game, a partner store of Walmart!! It was nice to see many familiar brands. What wasn’t so nice were the prices. Most definitely not the “everyday low prices” found at home.
Shoprite was our favorite store. A supermarket with real cheese, ground meat, peanut butter, Doritos, and Skittles!! I do believe our friend and driver thought us crazy as we drooled over all our familiar US foods.
Putting aside all the fun things we did with my parents and all the spoiling they did of us, the best thing for me was sharing with them our world; the Ghana we love so much. You can describe West Africa (which is nothing like the East and South Africa you see on TV) all you want; show pictures, share stories. But until you’ve been here, you don’t really get it.
Experiencing the extreme poverty, lack, and hardships endured by the people, and then watching as they offer up thanks for all their blessings and worship with joy over flowing, it does something to you. It changes you. Going into a village of children dressed in rags, discovering that they have no understanding of a Savior who wants to know them personally, it does something to you. It changes you. You are never the same.
If you know me, you know that I don’t like to cook. I can cook, but I don’t enjoy it. If I never had to cook again, there would be no void in my life. I do like to provide healthy food for my family, so I do make effort to avoid processed stuff, but I am a far cry from Mrs. Cleaver and making everything from scratch. In Ghana, you don’t really have a choice but to cook from scratch. In fact, usually you’ve even got to take it a step further than that, often making each ingredient from scratch!!
We enjoy Ghanaian food. And we are learning to cook several Ghanaian dishes. However, we still like to have foods that are familiar to us, even if it means a lot of extra work. (Humans and food, it’s a strange thing. We all like and gravitate to what is familiar. It makes us feel good, safe, and connected to home.) And what’s more familiar than a good ol’ hamburger and French fries.
We found the beef (see previous post), but now we’ve got to ground it into hamburger. So, off to Wal Mart……I mean Melcom’s we go. We purchase the last meat grinder they have--the display model. I am glad because once something is gone who knows when, if ever, they will get it again. (Can openers have been “finished” for over a month!)
We get home with our new purchase and prepare the meat. This process takes a while, as all our knives seem to be dull. Finally, we are ready. Everyone is gathered around. The big moment is approaching. We put the meat in and start to turn the handle. We see the very beginnings of our ground meat coming out the other end. Hamburger hope is alive!! ...and then the handle breaks.
Apparently, the screw (the most important part of the machine) they included was too small. The handle, which turns the ‘thingy’ inside that pushes the meat through the blade, keeps slipping. This is an obvious frustration.
We try all sorts of remedies: holding it in place, using toothpicks to make the screw fit better, searching for other screws around the house that might fit. You name it, we tried it. In the midst of our attempt to fix what shouldn’t be broken, the power goes out. So there we are, meat strewn all over, half of it stuck in the grinder, and we can’t see a thing.
After we fumble around for our flashlights, the quest to conquer the meat continues, but to no avail. So, we give up and try to get the meat out. No such luck. It is stuck and stuck good. We stick the whole mess in the freezer, and decide to wait until tomorrow when we can see.
The next day, Jody manages to get the stuck meat out. He is determined to make this grinder work. His solution: weld the darn handle on; it won’t be able to slip then! He was right. It makes taking the machine apart a little more difficult, but it works, and we’ve got hamburgers.
Dinner was an All-American treat: fries, burgers, sodas. The only thing missing was the pickles...akd the power, which went out again just as we sat down to eat.