" Ghana "

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Guest Journalist Heather

 

A day in Accra with nothing on the schedule…

 

Bread and jelly for breakfast, then a trip to LaraMart for groceries which included but was not limited to mango juice and mango yogurt J. By the time we checked out, it was almost noon, so Joy designated Robert, Elly, and Auria to find Papeye’s to pick up chicken and rice for lunch. It was the same restaurant Pastor Timothy had taken us to the last time we were in Accra. Joy, Heather, and Jordan headed back to the guesthouse with our groceries.

The rest of the day was pretty low key. After our delicious lunch and an hour or so of down time, Joy led an expedition to find the ocean. We headed in the general direction, and that worked well until we hit the busy street. No nasala crossing signs in sight, so we allied ourselves with a band of goats who had a little more street sense than we did. That was easy! Though the beach in Accra was much dirtier than the beaches we’re used to back in the States, the view we discovered of the crashing surf was nonetheless a beautiful one. We spent an hour enjoying the sea breezes, taking pictures, and silently appreciating God’s awesome creation.

 

With the rest of our afternoon free, Joy opted for getting some team journaling done while the rest of us counted up our Cedis and headed to market to see about buying souvenirs. In summary: we got a little better at crossing the crowded streets, Robert honed his bargaining skills, and Elly got proposed to by a hopeful street vendor. Can’t imagine why she turned that down. Several of the team did end up with jewelry or other African trinkets to take home. We stopped in Lara Mart again on the way back. This time our purchase included (and was limited to) candy bars, ice cream, cookies, and Pringles. We surprised Joy with the ice cream.

 

Heather and Elly whipped up some tuna sandwiches for dinner and some time after clean up, we gathered for team devos. We’ve been going through Colossians: reading through the entire book each night and then focusing in on one paragraph as we progress through the chapters. We also spent some time in in prayer for the missionaries we would be ministering with in Cameroon, for the much-missed group in Tanzania, and for personal prayer requests. James popped in afterwards to see how everything was going, and we were able to borrow some DVDs. We decided that Hugo was a safe movie option and broke out the ice cream. Parté! Jordan ate his Pringles.

 

And so ended our down day in Accra. We were thankful for the time to rest and relax. Off to Cameroon in the morning!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Guest Journalist Elly

On Wednesday morning, the kitchen greeted us with surplus mangos, eggs, and bread. If you know anything about our team meals, you’ll figure out very quickly that breakfast was composed of scrambled eggs and French toast with mango sauce. Joy prepared the mango sauce, which ended up more like a jam, and Elly made the French toast and scrambled the remaining eggs. This menu bookended Elly’s Ghanaian kitchen experiences. Abbie and Elly made French toast during their first meal prep time in Wa, and this breakfast would be the last one ever in Wa.

After breakfast Simon took Auria on a motorbike ride since she was the only nasala who had not experienced the thrill. Gabriel also came over and took Jordan back to Nambere where the congregation had a gift for him. When they returned, Jordan was the proud owner of a new pair of African slippers or as we know them flip-flops. Gabriel also had gifts for each of us: bracelets for the girls and for the guy’s moms, as well as a wallet for Robert. As we all stood around the dining room table and talked, we all did our best to avoid the fact that in four short hours, we would be leaving Wa, probably forever. With some of us choking back tears, we migrated to the backyard to take a few group photos, sing in Waali, and pray together before Gabriel left to teach a religion and morality class at Times Baptist Academy at 12:30.

Saying goodbye is never fun. And in this case, it was extremely hard. Gabriel had such a huge spiritual impact on each of us. Throughout our four weeks in Ghana, his fervent love for God’s Word and zeal for evangelism challenged us to be more passionate about serving the Lord every day.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of cleaning, laundry, packing, power outages, and unbraiding Joy’s hair. (As far as we know, Joy had her hair plaited the longest. She beat Auria by about 24 hours with the record setting 15 days. But when the fifth braid fell out that afternoon, she decided that the team didn’t need two bald leaders.) For the unbraiding process, Heather, Elly, and Mama J sat in the Seidu’s living room, chatting as we freed Joy’s curly locks. Auria joined us as soon as her laundry was completed.

We finished Joy’s hair around 4 PM and scrambled back to our respective houses to finish any last minute packing. We were scheduled to leave the compound at 4:20. During this twenty-minute time slot, Pastor John stopped by to say a final goodbye. We fellowshipped over pineapple. Jesse and John Mark brought sandwiches over for our long bus ride. Mama J won’t stop feeding you until you’re out of her reach. She’s such a blessing.

With our luggage waiting in the living room, we sat relatively quietly with Mama J. No one wanted to break the silence with words of reality. Mama J told us that Pastor Timothy was bandaging Jason’s knee and would arrive with the bus as soon as possible. She commented on our silence and noted that we were all smiling. We all agreed that sometimes you smile so you don’t cry.

Pastor Timothy pulled up just as we started to wonder if we’d be late to the bus station. We all hugged Mama J one last time and hurriedly loaded up with the help of the ever-present Simon. Jesse and John Mark accompanied us to the station as well. We arrived just as the buses were pulling out. The chaos of goats bleating, FanIce vendors trying to convince you that you want candy or ice cream, and bus station workers attempting to squeeze a few more dollars out of the Nasala shortened the goodbyes.

(Note: After much debate with himself, Pastor Timothy had decided to let us travel unaccompanied to Accra. He arranged to have James Kieser meet us at the station at 4 AM when we would arrive.)

John Mark got a little emotional on us when we tried to say goodbye. Pastor Timothy told us that John Mark really wanted to go all the way to Accra with us. We would have loved to stow him away in a carry-on, though we’re not sure how a five-year-old would manage a 12 hour bus ride through the night. Simon and Pastor Timothy hugged us all goodbye. A select few of us received a hug from Jesse.

On the bus, we were seated all together in the second and third to last rows. Robert noted, with crossed fingers, that there was no music blaring from the speakers yet.

Yet…

We all said a prayer that the conditions would not change. After about ten minutes, God answered our prayers…. with an unmistakable “no.” Oh well, the music wasn’t as loud as Joy and Robert experienced on their drive up.

The bus ride was uneventful, aside from three “bathroom” stops and three of those abominable African movies. (Actually, the third was an American action film consisting of people blowing each other up.) We each tried to find a comfortable position as we ignored the “entertainment.” We either slept, read/memorized Scripture, or listened to songs or sermons.

After twelve sleepy hours, we arrived in rainy/muddy Accra. We loaded the girls and all the luggage into James’ vehicle and hailed a taxi for the guys. Back at the guesthouse (weren’t we just here?), we all collapsed onto our own beds  and slept for another four hours.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Today was our final full day in Wa. Simon had promised to take us to the Regional Hospital in the morning, and we also had VBS in the afternoon. Not that busy from the surface. After an early breakfast, we sent Heather and Simon off to market on his motorbike. We were hoping to find some fabric to give to Mama J for a dress. However, after perusing all the fabric stores in Wa, Heather and Simon returned empty handed. We were hoping to get fabric similar to Angel’s dress fabric, but the closest fabric had the same print but different colors.
Defeated by the market but not discouraged, our merry band of six Nasala and one very tall Ghanaian set out for our tour of the hospital. By African standards, it was a nice hospital. Each department had its own building separated by covered walkways. Simon knew most of the nurses from his Sunday afternoon visitation. We saw the children’s ward and labor and delivery since those two departments weren’t too busy at the moment.

The children’s ward started with private rooms for the wealthier cliental and then opened into a 20 by 30 ft space lined by cribs. A nurses’ station was at the far end of the room. Most of the cases were high fevers from malaria and dehydration from diarrhea. When infectious disease cases are diagnosed, the children would be treated in an isolated room. Several of the infants we saw had IVs in: a situation that struck me as an improvement to some government clinics and hospitals that I’ve seen in other parts of Africa.

The labor and delivery ward was split into four sections according to the trimester and then post-partum. As we walked by the beds, the Muslim women hide underneath their colorful African scarves during the first and second trimesters. However, modesty was as much of a concern as comfort was for those women in their third trimester. In the post-partum care, the women shared their beds with their new infants for 48 hours before discharge. I don’t plan on having any children at this particular hospital, but they do average 20 births a day with a record of 26 babies.

On our walk back to the mission, a souvenir shop selling leather purses and African drums catches our attention. We indulged our urge to stop in and purchased a few Ghanaian keepsakes. Looping back through the market we searched for a soccer ball to take to VBS that afternoon, (sadly, no luck) and somehow our “short trip” turned into a two and a half hour survey of Wa. Whoops. Guess we won’t have time for round 3 of the cleaning competition…

The afternoon was spent doing laundry, packing, and working on VBS. Simon stopped by around 2:30 to help Elly to tailor her Bible lesson to better engage younger children with shorter attention spans.

In the kitchen, Auria and Heather sliced up a watermelon as a treat for all the workers to enjoy leter on our very last bus ride back from VBS in Ghana.

At 3 PM we packed up the cooler with tubs of watermelon and cold sachets, and grabbed three chairs for the skit before heading to the Seidus to catch the bus. We had to wait for Pastor John, Gabriel, and Amelia, so rather than stand around in the shade, several adventurous team members started climbing trees. Jesse came out of the house to join the climbers as they scaled a ginormous fallen tree in front of the house. Our three Ghanaian friends arrived at this time and chuckled at the sight of the Nasalla up in the trees. Simon shook his head and snapped photos.

We loaded the bus and made it to the village without incident.  But the people there must have expected us to arrive late again because no one was there. To pass the time until the kids showed up, we taught the Ghanaians ninja. Gabriel and Augustine loved it.

We were told to abbreviate lesson and song time due to a leadership meeting at Faith Baptist that evening. Heather received the memo and tried to keep her lesson for the older kids brief, but apparently Elly missed that note. The younger children listened attentively to the lesson about the fall and redemption of man for forty-five minutes. During that time, however, the rest of us got to play (or watch, which can be almost as fun) some African football with the older kids and teens. Well ok, unorganized soccer played with a flat basketball in a field of hard packed dirt, scrubby underbrush, and a cowpie here and there (just to keep you on your toes of course) may not seem glorious, but leaders, kids, and spectators alike thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Every time a Nasala girl (Joy or Heather) touched the ball the Ghanaian crowd would erupt with cheers.  I can only imagine what would have happened if one of the girls had scored.

We played until it became evident that the younger group was going to be late. We called in the group and debated whether we should go ahead and do the skit for just the older kids. For sake of time we decided against it as the younger group marched across the street. So we bid farewell to the village children, loaded the bus, and started back to the mission.

Of course we revealed our surprise to our Ghanaian friends: watermelon for everyone! We celebrated four good weeks of VBS and friendship. While those within the bus enjoyed the watermelon, the pedestrians and motorbikers we passed may not have enjoyed the rinds and seeds that were flying in all directions from the bus windows…

In the evening, Enoch stopped by our house to say goodbye, and we wrangled him into joining us for devotions. He shared with us how a friend led him to the Lord and how he had to put off a Bible degree because his Muslim uncle would only help finance his education if he pursued marketing. After several detours, the Lord had finally brought Enoch to the Bible College in Wa where he is studying for the pastorate. God’s timing is always perfect, and I’m all for it because it allowed us to meet him and his dear wife Cynthia.

Monday, June 3, 2013

After a long evening undoing Auria’s braids, we opted for a late breakfast that blurred into lunch prep and then lunch. When the 3rd match of the cleaning competition should have started, we were interrupted by a friend knocking at our door to say goodbye.

Marta, an energetic and happy 22 year old (who just finished her accounting degree), stepped in. A year and a half ago, she had gone to San Francisco as a foreign exchange student. We talked about fast food and snow: two things that the Wa have never seen. As the conversation progressed, Simon came in to spend some time with us as our final days approached. When our friends left, Elly and Heather prepared to teach VBS that afternoon.

We headed up to the Seidus’ house at 3 pm to load the van. However, because we were going to a church southeast of the compound rather than west, Pastor Timothy had Gabriel ride his motorbike up to the compound with Amelia on the back. An hour later we loaded the van and sputtered down the dirt drive, stalling twice before we reached the road. That’s a promising start.
The van bumped down the road, bottoming out on the speed humps and struggling to regain speed. As we turned onto dirt roads, the van wove around potholes paving the high school that Pastor Timothy had graduated from. However, the African roller coaster ride came to an abrupt stop. The battery was overheating and the engine was on strike. The guys poured out of the van to try to push the manual engine into obedience. Our driver Joseph, sat patiently in the front seat with his foot on the clutch waiting for a high enough speed to pop out the clutch and engage 2nd gear. But each attempt was met with the engine sputtering to a stop. Hopelessly stranded on the side of an African dirt road, we called for backup: Pastor Timothy with the bus.

We finally arrived at VBS around the scheduled ending time. Mostly men and boys were there since the women were busy with supper preparations. We sang a Waali song and split the groups. Heather basically had a men’s Sunday School class, so she ditched the illustrations and taught Creation & the Fall from the Bible. The lessons and song times were shortened. Joy and Robert led the younger kids’ song and game time. Elly taught the wiggling and squirmy younger kids Creation, or at least she tried. On our ride back to the mission house, we passed our van still stopped on the side of the road but facing the opposite direction due to the muscle and determination of Pastor John & Joseph. Our bus stopped in front of the van and backed up to connect a chain between the two vehicles. The towing was slow, so we spent our time learning a new Waali song and some clapping games. Elly and Joy taught Gabriel and Augstine the Korean pain game, which is similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors but for multiple people. If a player does the same sign, then the person calling it would slap the person according to the sign called: 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 3 1/2, or 4 1/2 times. The games was accented by shouts of “no” and “yes” in Waali.

We finally arrived back at the mission after 7 pm. Mama J had supper for us from the leftovers from the stew and rice we had had at church on Saturday. Just in case you forgot, that means that we were eating Dr. O’s goat. After dinner, Mama J stopped by to share her testimony with the group. She told how Pastor Timothy led her to the Lord while they were in high school She also shared some of the challenges and successes of their ministry here in Wa. The Lord has used them mightily here and it is a pleasure to have a part in it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Five years ago today, the youngest Seidu boy, John Mark, was born. We were alerted to this very important piece of history the previous day and made the necessary preparations. We wrapped up a puzzle and card game in green and orange construction paper and plotted to sing “Happy Birthday” every time that we saw him. This last suggestion came from Robert who tragically would be on the back of a motorbike for what we anticipated would be our first choral outburst.

Since we didn’t know who Robert was going with or what time he should be ready by, we decided on an early breakfast to be on the safe side. While we were eating, Pastor Enoch, the husband of the lady who plaited the girl’s hair, knocked on the door. We invited him in to join us for a breakfast of toast and eggs. He agreed and asked for the addition of tea. So over toast and jam, we heard the story of how he met his wife. We followed that up with a compare and contrast between US and Ghanaian dating/engagements. Apparently it’s common for a female to respond to a proposal with “I’ll pray about it” and not return an answer for a week. I’m glad I’m not a single, Ghanaian male (with a motorbike).

With breakfast finished Robert and Enoch headed out to the village where we had our first VBS. The church structure was almost complete with just the roof needing to be finished. At the end of Robert’s message three people stayed to talk with Enoch about salvation.

Back at Faith, Sunday school was in full swing. Elly led the songs for the children (including the Waali ones), and Heather taught the group the story of Jonah. By the time the service started, Robert was back with the group, which was a blessing for our special music. Jordan preached an excellent sermon that personally blessed me greatly. At the end of the service, Pastor Timothy gave a short invitation, and many hands went up. But the one hand that caught my attention was at the end of my row.

Now you’ll need some background explanation of my row to understand why this is so special. In ancient times, my family lived in Hamelin, Germany and bear the name of the river that passes through that city. Because of this I have a special connection with the Pied Piper. Wherever I go I’m followed by swarm of clapping and laughing children. My row is always stuffed with 5-9 children squirming to touch the Nasala’s hand, investigate her purse, or sing her the song their little hearts. Translation–it’s everything I can do to keep my row (in the very front) from distracting the entire church. I’ve tried depriving them of distractions, but I can’t cut off their hands. I’ve tried filling their hands with pens and paper, but they fight over the short supplies. I’ve tried dividing the singing 4 years old, but they kept talking over my lap. Today I was going to overcome them: three bodies between the 4 years old, but both still within arms reach, a handful of Waali words that imply chill out and sit still, and finally the well known shushing sound. By the second point of the sermon, they knew I meant business, and one end of the pew was enjoying peace. On that end of the pew, a little hand was raised to talk about salvation with someone.

After the service our group gathered in front to say goodbye to our brothers and sisters. As familiar faces smiled and shook our hands, it was hard to think that some of these faces, we would never see on earth again.

Today was communion followed by a meeting for the members. We dismissed ourselves from the meeting to snap photos and play with the children waiting for their parents. Of course we also hunted down John Mark and sang “Happy Birthday” at 10 minute intervals. John Mark got his gift on the bus ride home. He took forever to slowly untape a corner, glance inside, and then hide the contents from the prying eyes of his older brother.With a good bit of prodding, he unveiled his puzzle and card game to everyone. We sang “Happy Birthday” again. The Seidu’s invited us to their house for ice cream and biscuits, so we sang “Happy Birthday” again.

After the party we asked Pastor Timothy if we could help with Kid’s Club at Faith that afternoon. Pastor Timothy made some phone calls, and we were told to be ready in 45 minutes. Jordan and Robert were less than thrilled at the prospect of another inhaled meal, but 45 minutes later lunch was made and eaten, clothes changed, and the van loaded.

Kid’s Club is more in depth Sunday school with the addition of question and game time. Jordan, Elly and Gabriel taught the older teens. Jordan basically gave his second sermon from Ps 23 on a picture of godliness. Auria went through her ordination service with the questions that 10-13 years old asked. She taught on the different responses to the gospel in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. The questions that she was asked ranged from “Was Rahab justified in lying to hide the Israeli spies?” to “When did Paul become a Christian on the Damascus road or when his blindness was healed?” Robert says that she answered the questions Biblically but could work on improving her proof texts. Joy taught the youngest children the story of Ruth and how she was willing to leave her family and friends in order to follow God. The room was chaotic: little children hitting each other, babies crying to be put on their sister’s backs, and at least one baby crying because he fell of his sister’s back and hit his head on the concrete floor. At this point it was time for wiggle break. Once the hands were folded in laps, the lesson was continued and a verse learned. The Kid’s Club ended with games and reciting their pledge to serve God.

We were met at the house with a mac-n-cheese casserole from Mama J. This meal we were allowed to taste our food before swallowing. During clean up, match 2 of the cleaning competition was graded. The girls forgot to dust a the top of a door and and outlet in a corner: 2 points. They guys forgot to dust an entire window, the wooden lip at the base of the couches and chairs, and there were cobwebs in the kitchen cabinets: 3 points. So the score now stand 5 to 7–girls winning.

At Faith tonight there was a singspiration. Pastor Timothy had heard us singing Waali on the van the previous day and asked us to surprise his congregation with a group special. However, Gabriel missed the memo and had us assemble as a VBS worker group and sing the only two Waali songs that we knew with confidence. When we finished, the entire church was beaming and clapping for our songs. Pastor Timothy looked down at me to inform me that we would still have to get up there and sing by ourselves even if it was the same two songs. So after a few testimonies, specials, and a congregational song, we went to the front of the church again. We sang about how Jesus goes with us everywhere and about how Jesus stays with us throughout the day.Even though we had sung both songs before, the church was even more excited this time because it was just Nasala singing in Waali. They started cheering after our first song which gave us a chance to regroup for the second one. After one time through “Ahi ‘piele Yesu”, the audience cheered so loudly that we couldn’t repeat it.

Dr. O., we’re not ready to leave. Can we stay in Ghana for another 4 weeks?

We stayed a while after the service to take photos, sing VBS songs, and hug our friends. I was hunted down by Augustine to gather up all of the Nasala. As we dropped different families from the church off, Pastor Timothy asked if we needed any dessert. Now the accurate response would be that we don’t NEED any dessert, but do we want some: “OH YES!” Pastor picked up a giant watermelon and a pineapple. “Thank you, Pastor Seidu!” Can it be lunch now?

After team devotions, we started to take Auria’s hair out of her braids. Two hours later, the braids were gone, and it was time to sleep.