Tag Archives: 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.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

If you want to make God smile, tell Him your future plans. Our plans as of late Friday night were for a crazy busy Saturday filled with personal evangelism, cleaning competitions, a trip with Simon to see what the hospital was like, and volleyball until dusk.

We prepped for an early morning with an 7:15 am breakfast. About halfway through cleanup, Pastor John came knocking at our door. We assumed he was there to give us more details about the personal evangelism that we were going to do at his church plant in the Water village. However, he sheepishly entered the living room and explained that our interpreters had a previous commitment for that morning. Considering that most of the adults in that area only knew Waali, we chose to forgo that morning’s excursion.

Instead we headed to the chapel to check if the Tanzanian team had posted their blog. While huddled around a borrowed laptop, our thoughts were distracted by a Midwestern accent declaring “What there’s other Nasala in here?” Cathy Bristol, the nurse in a village clinic north of us, walked in the chapel. She comes down every Saturday morning to check her email and to go shopping in Wa. She entertained us with stories from her time in Liberia and Ghana. When we complained about never knowing what time we were going to leave, she told us of a nursing conference that was supposed to start at 9 am sharp. She was there then, but the speaker and the other attendants didn’t arrive for another hour and a half.I guess we haven’t had it that bad.

We filled our unexpected downtime with cleaning. The first matched scheduled to be judged during lunch cleanup. The girls had 3 rooms to be judged, and the guys had only 1. Once the rules were decided on, Joy and Auria headed up to the guy’s house, and Robert and Jordan scoured the girl’s house for dust. The guys announced each of the three problems with the dramatic flare of a Charlie Chaplin film but with the addition of loud exclamations of “Aaha!” A clock, a key holder, and a lamp were either forgotten or recovered in dust from the rest of the cleaning process. Despite the guys having an easier job, they still gained 4 points: dust on the windowsills, clutter in the cabinet, dust bunnies under the bed, and the a random bottle of olive oil under a bed. I’m not quite sure what Jon or Will used that for. The ceiling fan was dusty. However, Jordan argued that he tried to clean it, but it kept making breaking noises. We generously chose not to add a point for the dusty fan. So at 1 pm the score was 3 to 4–girls winning.

With only an hour until we were supposed to leave for the hospital, Simon stopped by to tell us that he had been asked to preach at distant village the next day and needed to get his motorbike serviced. With our second plan for the day cancelled, we initiated match two of the cleaning competition: living room and kitchenette for the guys and living room, linen closet, front porch, and bathroom for the girls.

We cleaned until it was time for volleyball that evening. Like all the volleyball games we’ve played with Ghanaians, they played around us. From time to time we would hear “Nasala” linked to a laughing Waali voice. I feel obligated to name Heather the most improved player. She went from two attempts per serve to one of the most consistent servers. She also had a few good digs that earned her cheers from both sides of the net. Other highlights of note were that Joy didn’t get a foul called for having her hair in the net (partly because Eddie wasn’t the referee) and Robert/Jordan spiked with the best of the Ghanaians.

The games wrapped up early because of a program that evening for the leaders and workers at Faith. On the way back to the house, Mama J called Joy over to tell her that she had put pizza in our oven to keep it warm. Pizza! Two weekends in a row! Mama J is spoiling us. She also mentioned that we should ask Pastor Timothy if we should go to the program with him that evening.

What we get to do something besides clean?!? Let’s do it even if we have no idea what it is.

Pastor Timothy was finishing dropping off water sachets at our house and about to pull his car away, so Jordan chased him down only to find him on the phone. So we waited… The questioned asked. The affirmative given. So when is this thing that we just volunteered to go to starting? 6 pm. It’s 5:55 pm. Hmm… well when in Africa, do like the Africans do.

We inhaled the pizza and changed out of our sweaty clothes. Twenty minutes later, we were in the van headed to the church.

The program was the yearly hand off meeting between new and old church workers. Pastor Timothy gave a short challenge (mostly in Waali). Then drinks and a dinner of rice and beans or goat soup were handed out. I guess we get to be hobbits and enjoy both dinner and supper. FYI–the goat soup was made from Dr. O’s goat, the one we fondly named Lunch. It was a tasty creature, a bit stringy, but I would have eaten more if it hadn’t been for the pizza. The program finished with the previous year’s workers giving advice to the new workers about what did or didn’t work in their role. Once again, it was mostly in Waali.

During our bus ride back, the wind began to pick up, a telltale sign of a thunderstorm. It struck me that we had laundry on the line. As we raced the storm home, a battle plan was devised. Robert, Jordan, Auria, Heather, and Elly would sprint to the clothesline while Joy unlocked the house and opened the side door nearest the clothesline. With an execution that would have pleased Alexander the Great, we collected the sheets and towels into the house moments before the deluge began. If God poured out His Spirit like He poured out the rain in that storm, there wouldn’t be an unsaved person in Africa.

Friday, May 31, 2013

White glove. The very words should evoke images of panic and frantic scrubbing. Anyone who has ever spent a semester in the Bob Jones dorms will associate the words with a Saturday devoted to eradicating dirt from every crevice in the room. Being industrious BJ students, we’ve decided to import the tradition–with a twist: an all out cleaning competition. Guys versus girls. Loser buys the winner ice cream (or watermelon if the unlikely event of the guys winning occurs.) Jordan doesn’t eat ice cream and is reduced to some of the best fruit on the planet. I personally have stopped eating bananas in the States. They have no flavor in comparison to African bananas. Any market trip that returns with fresh fruit must be heralded like a conquering hero.

Unfortunately today’s market trip was strictly business or at least that was the plan. But after yelling and waving at a different group of Nasalas and recognizing familiar store owners as they drove by on their motorbikes, Robert, Elly, and Heather’s attention was grabbed by a cooler in a store containing pineapple Fanta, the best pop flavor ever! Tragically the Tanzanian group couldn’t partake in the spoils of the market trip. Sorry Will… But we did think of you while we sipped the cold, refreshing, sweet, tangy, soft drink. Hmm… maybe we’ll get mangoes tomorrow.

Back at the house, Joy, Auria, and Jordan were scrubbing, dusting, and sweeping out the empty bedrooms. Tomorrow will be match 1 of the cleaning tournament. The scoring will be golf style: a point for every dirty object or surface. By training and numbers the girls should dominate the competition, but their house is twice the size of the guy’s house. It all equals out. (I’m still expecting to be bought ice cream next week.) I’ll post the scoring as available.

Both lunch and breakfast were up at the guy’s house since the girl’s stove was out of propane. We moved one of the tables up there to create a dining room. It made for a cozy table setting surrounded by pink floral curtains flapping in the breeze and sheep grazing just outside of the window.

With VBS fast approaching, the cleaning pace accelerated. The girls are almost ready for tomorrow. For now we’ll have to hold off because we have a van to catch. (We no longer use the bus because our group is smaller.) As predicated, we were tested on our Waali song and passed with flying colors! We sang for most of the ride. The songs were in the Africa style leader and choir echoing and clapping. When we arrived at Gabriel’s church in Nambere, the doors were locked and the keys are being kept by individuals who don’t answer their phones. So Jordan, Elly, and Auria led the younger children to the field for games while the older children sat on the church steps.

Did I mention that we were being tested on our Waali? Because Simon had Heather lead all the songs today, even the Waali ones. I believe that the Ghanaians have been conspiring because Janet had Auria do the same thing for the younger group. We each kept the same roles as the previous day to help produce continuity for the kids. Both Robert and Jordan made some adjustments to their teaching styles from the previous day so that the lessons would be more age appropriate. It showed. The kids answered the quiz questions well, and 23 of the older kids stayed behind to talk with Simon about salvation. The lesson for the older kids was on the different reactions to the gospel at Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. Pray that as Gabriel does follow-up with these children and teens they will continue to be Bereans accepting the truth that they hear.

As tradition the last day of VBS must have a skit. Our short-staffed cast was supplemented with Ghanaians. We performed the doctor’s office skit. Joy was the nurse, Robert the ‘healthy’ patient, Simon sneezing, Gabriel throwing up, Auria itching, Jordan seizing, and Amelia pregnant. The children loved it.

Parting was hard. As the van pulled out, fifty smiling faces chased the van down the road and shouting ‘bye-bye Nasala’ until the dust cloud hid us from their vision.

Our van continued to bump down the dirt road through African road construction (6ft. piles of dirt waiting to be spread across the roads). Though the word “road” really should be rollercoaster, but I don’t want to get in an argument with Merriam Webster. However, I will mention that last night’s rain turned them more into water rides and at one point we derailed our van. The guys had to tumble into the brush to push, shove, and heave the van back onto the road. We didn’t get a refund for our ride, but I’m not going to complain.

When we returned to the house, the power was out. By flashlight, we set the table and enjoyed Mama J’s cooking. I’m of the mind that flashlights are to friendship, what candlelight is to romance. We sat around the table and talked long after everyone had finished eating. Pastor John came in to tell us the next day’s schedule. Seeing how both he and Joy had been to Zambia, there might have been and impromptu Bemba song followed by more in Waali. When the light finally came back on, it found us still sitting at the table laughing and clapping.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Editor’s note: Now that the Tanzania squad has left Wa, Joy, the leader of the Cameroon squad, will be writing the Ghana entries for the week her squad remains there. Then she’ll be writing the Cameroon entries. We’re mildly uncertain of the reliability of computer hardware for her, so there may be some hiatuses. Thanks for your patience.

Empty chairs at empty tables

Mission teams come and go, leaving behind new friends, church planters, missionaries, and fellow Christians. There’s a spiritual and emotional high that comes with being part of a large group serving the Lord in new and exciting places. But the day always comes for goodbyes. The team normally returns to the comforts of home with new stories and photos of friends. But we’ve been left behind. We continue the work when others leave for fresh fields. There are empty chairs at empty tables, rooms lacking laughter, Uno cards lying idle, laundry needing to be done, and fewer faces to smile at. While our perseverance is short lived in the grand scheme of God’s work here in Ghana, we have a taste of post-mission-team mission work: smiling memories of departed friends, frantic searches for game equipment that left with the group, and exclamations of “I wish…”

As the call to prayer, humming of diesel engines, and bleating of livestock echo through Wa, I’m reminded that harvest is truly plenteous, and we’re here to labor in it. While God has opened the door for most of the team to labor in Tanzanian fields, we have set our hands to plow Ghanaian soil, and we’re not turning back. However, we were facing a decrease in workforce and the guarantee of over a hundred kids (the real number bounced around 150 depending on whether you count the babies tied to the backs of their sisters as participants). To step in the gap, two of the teenage boys, Amos and Josiah (Simon’s younger brother) from Faith joined our remnant. Without the block class to worry about, we embraced the timeless culture that typifies most of Africa. Clocks are so overrated. They just stress you out about what you have to do rather then let you enjoy where you are. Now, I’m sure several of my readers who have run a VBS in the States are wondering how any semblance of order could be achieved without precise time slots for each activity. The key is flexibility in the game time. You see, as Robert was teaching the older kids the lesson on the Philippian jailer, Elly was masterfully leading the small tykes in energy-burning games. Games can stretch out as long as songs, questions, and stories last. When the older kids come marching out as soldiers in the Lord’s army, the little kids’ game time is over. The reverse is just as true. (I’ll name drop here to appease the parents and clarify the concept for the overly time-centered.) When Auria and Elly finish song time with the little kids, Jordan tells the story. More songs followed by the grand march to field to join the older kids that Joy and Heather had been leading in game time. So as you can now see there’s no need to  wear a watch.

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Embracing the Ghanaian time schedules stretched the VBS out for an extra 45 minutes and helped to break down barriers between the team and our Ghanaian counterparts. On the bus ride back, we burst into song and even learned a new Waali song. (I believe we will be tested over it tomorrow, so we’ve been practicing in the team house.) We finished the ride with learning some direction commands that should help during game time tomorrow. Back at the house Mama J had prepared another delicious meal of fried chicken, deviled eggs, and a Mexican-tasting rice. Yeah, we might like not having to share Mama J’s cooking with eight other people.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today being our last day together in Wa, nothing is scheduled until prayer meeting tonight at Faith. We were originally planning to put the Tanzania squad on the 5 pm bus out of town, arriving in Accra around 4 am; but we’ve decided to have mercy on those who are picking us up, and to give ourselves a night’s sleep, by catching the 8 am bus tomorrow morning. That will limit, or maybe eliminate, our chance to buy knickknacks in Accra, but there will be opportunities in our other locations.

So anyway, just a day to hang out together. I’m surprised at the emotional toll the prospect of separation is taking on us; we’re all going to feel a little disjointed.

One of the pastors in my class has asked if he can come see me this morning at 9; breakfast isn’t until 9:45, so I figure that’ll work. Of course, this is Africa, so he shows up at 9:45. He and I sit in the living room while the team eats. He tells me his testimony of salvation, education, and pastoral ministry over many decades. God has been good to him.

A small group walks into town to buy a few things, but they’re back sooner than expected, with not much to show for the walk; the bakery said they wouldn’t have bread until 1:30. But they got some exercise.

Leftovers for lunch; we’re getting good at that. We learn that salted yam fries taste really good dipped in mango sauce. I’m pretty sure nobody’s ever tried that before.

The morning walk group tries again in the afternoon, going back for bread and eggs. And carries them—7 hot loaves of bread and 18 eggs—all the way back to the compound. Will is the egg-man. Then Catherine, Will, Angel, and Katie make the sandwiches for the bus ride tomorrow, and Angel and Katie roast some peanuts.

There’s a knock at the door and Timothy brings us a present from the church at Siriyiri. Two roosters. We’re turning into quite the ranchers. We put ‘em out in the yard. I don’t think the folks at the airport will let ‘em go in our carry-ons.

I manage to catch a little mac and cheese, since it’s delivered just before I leave for class. Tonight is the final exam, and a little, ahem, discussion about the evils of plagiarism. They do pretty well on the final—the guy with the lowest score on Test 1 raises his score 10 points out of 50—and we get them graded and entered pretty efficiently. Pastor Timothy shows up just as I begin to discuss the papers. I describe the plagiarism and talk about why it’s a problem. Timothy reinforces what I’ve said. I note that 7 of them, who are students in the college and know better, will be expected to rewrite the paper and submit it to me by email for grading. The others will receive a penalty of 1 letter grade—pretty light for plagiarism. Timothy hands out the certificates to those who passed the course, and we’re done.

Back to the empty house—the team is at prayer meeting—and I get organized, clean up a bit, and pack. Wistful.

When the kids get back, we have devotions earlier than usual. The singing has an extra energy about it tonight, and someone notes it. Good testimonies, comments, and prayer. Then a business meeting to take care of the logistics of turning one team into two. Joy, Jordan, Robert, Auria, Ellie, and Heather will stay here for a week and then head to Cameroon; Joy will direct the team as they work with Walter and Carol Loescher in Foumban. I hate to miss that; my church supports the Loeschers, and I know him as well from his doctoral work at BJU Seminary. They’ll have a good time.

The rest of us will catch that 8 am bus to Accra, spend the night at the BMM guest house, then fly out tomorrow to Ethiopia (?!) en route to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, where we’ll spend most of tomorrow night hanging around the airport for a flight to Mwanza midday Saturday. At Mwanza, and maybe at Dar, we’ll meet up with Joslyn, a member of the 2010 team who’ll be joining us for the Tanzania and South Africa segments. Looking forward to having her back on board.

Now that all the girls have their dresses, and all the guys have their shirts, we decide to have a little photo session to recreate—kinda—the official team picture. We head up to the guys’ house, where the light’s better, and execute the shoot. For your viewing pleasure:

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Now 7 of us have to pack (I already did, remember?) and squeeze the last few hours of fellowship in before we leave. The Cameroon group isn’t going to see Abbie again until she rejoins us in Johannesburg on the flight home, so this feels a little like the end of The Team. But we’ll be OK.

Sniff.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

If I remember correctly, I think this would be my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary, if they were still with us.

Because of the late night last night, and because there’s nothing scheduled this morning, I had proclaimed this a sleep-in day. Everyone obliges. I wander out at 8 something, and the place is quiet. Time for a nice shower—it’s so cool this morning that the cold shower feels, well, cold, uncomfortably so. When I’m done, there’s still nobody up.

The power is out. I run into Simon outside, who tells me it’s city-wide, not just at the house or on the compound. I find that oddly comforting; maybe the city has taken the system down to deal with the wild voltage instability. It’s really been crazy the last few days; I’ve never seen anything like it. You can see the lights brightening and dimming as much as 20 to 30 times a minute; the voltage regulator that filters the power to the refrigerator is constantly clicking as it adjusts to the changes. The ceiling fans will cycle down, then go to turboprop so we think they’re going to lift the ceiling. My laptop power indicator flashes back and forth between “plugged in” and “battery” at the same rate as the lights’ dimming cycles. It’s plugged into a 110V circuit, and like all laptops it will handle 220V as well; I figure the spikes in the 110V aren’t exceeding 220V, so maybe the thing will survive.

Morning study time. Eventually people start appearing, but oddly, none of the guys. I say “oddly,” because two or three of them had said last night that they’d come down to fix themselves some breakfast. Around 10 Matthew comes by to report that the boys are locked in their house. They’ve made a practice of padlocking the porch entrance for security—not that we really think they need to—and the padlock key is nowhere to be found. (They don’t need to use it to lock up at night.) I saw it yesterday afternoon while doing some laundry there; they check all over where I saw it last, but no key. I have a rack of keys in my room, and the keyway in the padlock is quite distinctive, but none of my keys matches. Well, I guess we’ll just wait until Mama J shows up with the spare. They have a bathroom, and water, and we can always take ‘em some food and pass it through the bars of their cage. Come to think of it, this might be the ideal habitat for them. :-)

Less than an hour later they’ve been freed.

And then the power comes back. Two nice things in the space of a few minutes. But the irregular voltage is still there.

The church where Will preach on Sunday gave him 3 or 4 yams in appreciation. You may know that what American southerners sometimes call yams—sweet potatoes—aren’t. Yams are big—you see them in the markets here more than 2 feet long and maybe 4 inches in diameter—and the insides are white, like a potato. The girls decide to make fries out of them: salt, garlic salt, pepper, and broiled in the oven. They’re the hit at lunch. Simon comes by at 1 to say goodbye to the 8 of us who are leaving. He tells us how much he’s enjoyed the fellowship, and he gives each of the guys a pair of sandals and each of the girls a bracelet. We have prayer together.

It’s poignant.

The kids head off to VBS, and Timothy and I sit down to zero out the books for our stay in Ghana. The numbers come out good; we’ve spent less than I budgeted—and I make sure he has enough of our money to pay the bills for the week after TZ leaves, while the Cameroon squad is still here. We even kick in for half a month of internet access. The students at the college combine their funds to pay for the wireless access in the classroom / chapel, and since we’ve been using it for a month or so, it seems right to split that month with them.

A bit of rest before class, and then it’s time for the final night of instruction. I begin by collecting the papers; one student doesn’t have his done, and I give him until tomorrow at noon, with a late penalty, of course. Then we wrap up the course content with some discussion of church discipline and some membership issues: I tell them I’d like to know about marriage customs in Ghana, and about polygamy. In the former case, there are, as I suspected, multiple marriage ceremonies here: a traditional / tribal ceremony, a civil one, and a religious one. I ask which one makes the couple actually married; they say the traditional one. The civil one merely registers the marriage in the official records, and the religious one is simply a public testimony that the couple wants to have a Christian home. I ask, “The way baptism is a public profession of conversion?” They laugh, as though they hadn’t thought of it that way before, and they agree. So there’s no confusion in Ghana about when the couple can actually consider themselves married. That helps. In some African countries there’s more uncertainly, and of course Christian sexual mores make a clear answer to the question pretty important.

On polygamy, I ask what they think a polygamist should do when he becomes a Christian. To my surprise, they agree with me that he should keep all his wives and maintain marital relations with them, since he has made covenant commitments to each one. Turns out to be less controversial than I expected.

Timothy has said that we should end the class after the second hour so we can have a little end-of-class party. The team shows up, Mama J brings grilled sandwiches, several people show up with Cokes, Sprites, and Maltas (a non-alcoholic malt soda). Since most of the students seem to prefer the Malta, I try one. Taste is a little odd, not unpleasant, but not something I’d go out of my way to get. And no, not like beer. J

We close the class with prayer, and the students and the team members hang around fellowshipping for at least an hour. I head back to the house to get going on grading the papers. They’re extremely well written (stylistically), but they don’t seem to be focused on the questions I’ve asked them to answer. That’s usually an indicator of something …. And then I find two papers that are virtually identical. Yup. Most of them have copied paragraphs of this and that from books in the library or off the internet. I’m going to need to talk with Timothy about how much instruction the students have received on proper citation of sources. That will determine the type of academic penalty I assess. In the US, of course, it’s a zero on the paper. But teaching is all about holding students accountable for their instruction, and if they haven’t been instructed on this, I can hardly beat them over the head with a shovel. Cross-cultural, and all that.

Eventually the kids come back, and we close out the night with devotions. We’re all tired, and I head off to bed shortly after, but of course they stay up. They’re well aware that these are our last days all together as a team—Abbie is spending the two weeks we’re in Cape Town with relatives in Johannesburg—and they’re treasuring every moment. That’s a good sign.