Ghana 11.07

1 November 2007

We were to meet at the Dayton airport at 4:45pm.  By 6:00pm everyone was there and checked in.  The flight itinerary was:  Dayton to Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Accra, Ghana.  The flights went very well considering all the possibilities for delays, changes, and missed connections.  I took a long, symbolic drink from a water fountain in Minneapolis because I knew it would be several days before I took a drink out of a water fountain again.  (It is disturbing to think that the water I use to flush my toilet is cleaner than the water millions of people drink.)

2 November 2007

We arrived in Accra this evening.  Two of us had luggage missing.  We looked and looked then completed lost luggage forms, so we were the last ones out of the baggage claim area.  It was dark and we were tired.

  • This offered me a chance to build my faith.  Let me explain.  Over a period of time, I started to see repeatedly in the Bible that peoples’ faith unleashed God’s power.  I felt convicted about the requests that I made of God.  I asked myself, “Do you believe God can do this or that he will do it?”  I decided that faith believes he will, not just that he can.  I now look for opportunities to make requests of faith, and I felt this was an excellent opportunity.  I silently asked God to deliver those lost bags within two days, and I believed he would.  Watch for these bulleted areas to learn more about the luggage and see more prayer stories.

We stopped at a very nice hotel for a bite to eat, and then we drove a few hours to our hotels.  The ladies stayed at one hotel, “The Palace”, and the men stayed at another hotel, “The nonPalace”.  Actually both were fine.  There was tile on the floor, a bed, and sometimes electricity and water.  We got settled and slept the night away.

Saturday 3 November 2007

We all gathered at “The Palace” for breakfast.  Wow!  Fresh fruit, eggs, cereal, coffee, fresh juice, etc.  This is feast was repeated every morning.  Breakfasts were awesome!  Each morning, with just a couple exceptions, we also had “Time With Father”.  Each person would silently read some verses from the Bible and then jot a few notes about what spoke to them from their reading.  When everyone was done, we would take turns sharing with the group what we read and wrote.  I have some good memories of our times sharing around that table.

We then traveled to the village where we would be working on the pole barn.  Several in the village warmly welcomed us and followed us to the construction site.  We spent the day setting the supporting poles, cutting lumber, “treating” lumber, etc.  A crew of Ghanaians had done a great deal of work prior to us coming.  The foreman was glad to have us join in the work.  The heat and humidity (both in the 90’s) worked us over.  We went back to our hotels to clean up before dinner.  The “nonPalace” did not have running water to the shower that evening so we had bucket baths.  This “no flow” situation was the norm for the week, but most of us adjusted.

The evening meals were mostly foods not uncommon to USA tastes.  However, each evening one Ghanaian (pronounced gah-KNEE-ahn) dish was prepared for the curious ones in our group.  As with any food, some of us liked some of the dishes that others did not like.  Overall it was great to try the local cuisine.  It got dark about 6:30pm so we found ourselves ready for bed earlier than usual.  (trivia – Before the invention of the electric light bulb, the average American slept ten hours per night.)

Sunday 4 November

We had another great breakfast, Time With Father, and we were off to church in Accra, the nation’s capital city.  Actually, one member remained behind because he volunteered to preach at the village where we were working on the pole barn.

We arrived at church at 8:45am; it had started at 7:30am.  There were actually two church services.  Both are in English and then translated.  One service was translated into Tre (sounds like “tree”) and the other was translated into Gah (sounds like “gahh”).  English is the official language of the country (and taught in schools), but there are many tribal languages – Tre and Gah being the dominant ones in the area of the church building.  Between the two services each member of the team spoke to a “Sunday School” class.  It was uncomfortable for some of the team members, but they all did great.

Each service had singing, dancing, and hankies waving.  And it was a blast.  One of our team members immediately joined in when the dancing started!  It makes me realize that I worship too restrained and sober.  The two sermons were given by two of our team members. They each did a great job.  Before the second service started, the congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to two of our team members whose birthdays occurred during our time in Ghana.  Out came a cake, and they blew out the candles!

  • A third member of our team also had a birthday while in Ghana, but she was not in the church service.    She became sick during the previous night, and she was resting at the pastor’s house.  The congregation spent several minutes praying for her healing.  By afternoon she was laughing and able to eat some food.  This bolstered my faith.

This particular Sunday was “Founders Sunday”, a time to honor the pastor.  At one point people were allowed to come forward with gifts for the pastor.  Several brought cash, and a few brought wrapped gifts.  My favorite was when a man brought up a goat and tied it up front!   (The pastor loves goat meat.)

Remember that church started at 7:30am?  Well, we were dismissed at 1:45pm.  Tell that to the people who complain about long church services in the USA!  We went to a tourist hangout for lunch, and it was time to sleep by the time we got back to the village.

Monday 5 November

  • I didn’t understand.  I had asked God to deliver the bags in two days, and Sunday night marked the end of the “two days”.  Yet I didn’t see any bags.  I had prayed in faith!  At breakfast I prayed aloud that I didn’t understand why the bags had not arrived, and I asked for an immediate answer to this situation.  As soon as I said “Amen”, someone said that the bags were here.  The luggage had arrived Sunday while we were gone, and no one had told us.

We went back to work on the pole barn.  However, some of the team also taught and played with the children.  Others looked at some of the medical needs and provided as much care as they could.  (We brought a tub of medical supplies.)  Three of us went to the village where a water well would be drilled.  We didn’t think it would be completed by the time we left, but we still wanted to meet the leaders of the village.  What I vividly remember was the look in their eyes.  It was a mix of hope and fear – kind of a worried joy.  They were ready to burst with joy at the thought of fresh water.  Their village was over 120 years old, but in that entire time they always obtained drinking water from creeks and ditches.  During the dry season, the nearest water was seven miles away.  Yet there was the fear that something could prevent the well from becoming a reality.  Many times before they had been promised a well, but the promises were not kept.  In the back of their mind was the fear of another broken promise.

After an exhausting day, we ate another great supper.  Night fell, and we headed to our rooms.  However, some of the men spent some time playing card games: Blink, My Word, and Quitch.  During the week, these games became popular among other team members (especially Blink) and provided an outlet for our more competitive sides.  But, in any case, again it was early to bed.

  • I had some trouble sleeping Monday night.  So I prayed for a team member who was having some trouble seeing that the reason for the trip was greater than building a pole barn.  In fact, on the way home Sunday evening they asked me if there were any more “required social events” during the week.  I said that we would go to the market on Saturday.  They explained that by “required social events” they meant church services.  I prayed sincerely that God would speak to their heart.

Tuesday 6 November

Today was a slow day at the worksite.  The foreman of the Ghanaian work crew seemed reluctant to have us work on our own when it came to the roofing.  The team showed real class.  We were the servants there, not the bosses.  We spent more time than expected sitting/watching and trying to find things to keep us busy.  However, sometimes the hardest service is waiting.

  • At lunch time I tried calling some USA people to give my greetings and pass on prayer requests.  I could have kicked myself that I didn’t take more phone numbers; the only ones I could call were the ones whose phone numbers I knew by memory.  Anyhow, I asked people to pray for clouds in the sky.  The sun was sapping us bad.  We tried to watch out for each other and make sure we took frequent breaks and drank lots of (bottled) water.

Some of the group went to the village where the well was to be dug.  They were going to help the villagers pour a cement slab that would surround the well.  This would allow water to run off and not create a big mud hole around the pump.  They worked until dark, and came back tired and dirty.  However, once again we had no water or electricity, and it made cleaning up less refreshing than desired!  (Two of the men moved to “The Palace” the next day in an effort to find running water.) 

Already, our team members were impressed with the abilities and work ethic of the local people.  Some of our team, me included, were concerned about how certain things could be done.  “How can we get the trusses up?” and “How will the pump be fastened to the concrete?” were a couple questions that haunted some of us.  Well, we learned that this wasn’t the first building or water well these Ghanaians had ever done, and we learned a few things from them!

Wednesday 7 November

  • When we walked up to the job site, I looked above and saw clouds blowing in.  I had to smile and remember the prayers for clouds.  I called the team together and explained that the clouds were complements of God in response to people’s prayers.  In hindsight, I would have asked you to pray for a dense cloud cover!  But we had clouds every day, and every fluffy cloud helped. 

Today was another “not-allowed-to-work” day at the pole barn.  We did what we could around the site, and we spent more time with the children in the village.  I thought I’d show them some soccer skills that I developed in my college days, but something happened.  It seems that after a very short time of running around on the field, most of the oxygen was removed from the air.  Gasping, I went to the sidelines and watched the youngsters.  The body ain’t what it used to be.

We left the job site early today.  That early departure will give us time to clean up and rest a bit before we eat because tonight we travel to another village for an open-air crusade service. 

  • At supper, I stressed to the entire group that it would be great if everyone would go to the crusade.  However, I knew that the heat and work can take a toll.  No one should go if they don’t feel up to it.  I was surprised when the person who had wondered about “required social events” announced that they were going to the crusade. They explained that they came as a servant and that’s what they plan to do – serve.  My surprise was swallowed up by faith.  Good things were happening.  And every member of the team went to the crusade.

We arrived at the crusade site, and I was overwhelmed.  It was packed.  I would guess about 400-500 people were gathered.  It had already started when we arrived.  They were singing and dancing and waving their hankies.  All of us were asked to sit at the front on an elevated platform.  I felt uncomfortable, but I guess it is part of the culture.  Most of the team spoke during the service: a prayer, telling their spiritual story, or giving a sermon.  It was a great experience for all of us.  We returned to our hotels tired but richer.

Thursday 8 November

I went to the village where the well was to be drilled.  Actually, it was drilled but the pump was not yet attached.  It was a dedication of sorts.  Some people from the village gathered to thank us and we thanked them for their kindness and grateful spirit.  We presented some gifts to the chief and elders then planned to return to the pole barn worksite.  But the chief and elders had other ideas.  They wanted to honor two of the team members by making them honorary chiefs!  After more song and dance we finally headed back.

I talked to the pastor about the lack of working opportunities.  He talked with the foreman, and the foreman explained that he didn’t want us to fall and get hurt.  After being assured we would be fine, the foreman allowed some of the team to work on the roof.  (They ended up working until dark.)  The rest of us left early to get ready for the second night of the crusade.  I gave the sermon that night.  It was pretty short, but the pastor was more than able to expand on my few words.

Friday 9 November

Six of us joined the Ghanaian crew to complete the pole barn.  The rest of the team went to the village that had the well drilled.  They wanted to witness the first bowl of water being pumped from the well.  About noon I was starting to wonder what happened to them.  They had been gone several hours.  Upon their return they explained.  When the water began to flow from the pump, the people became so ecstatic that they sang and danced for two hours.  As they danced by the members of our team, they would lean down and use their hankies to wipe the team members’ feet.  It was a time that none of the team will soon forget.

After lunch some of the team hiked up a mountain near the village.  They didn’t make it to the top, but they did get a grand view of the area.  We all packed up, returned to the hotels, cleaned up, and had a great meal.

  • After the meal, we had our “Time With Father”.  As we went around the table, person after person shared how they came intending to bless others but have been blessed so much more than they ever gave.  Some vowed that they would never be the same.  Their words were answers to my prayers that individuals would have personal revivals.

 Two members of the team again went to the crusade, and the rest of us packed and rested.

Saturday 10 November

At breakfast one of the team members who went to the crusade had great news.  In the village where the well was drilled lived a voodoo priest.  He had been around as work was done, and team members had talked with him.  He was also at the crusade Friday night.  At one point he stepped to the front and announced that he had seen many people promise a well for his village.  But this group, a group who worships Jesus as God, actually delivered.  He wanted everyone to know that he wanted to serve this Jesus also, not the spirits of voodoo.  What a great story!

We arrived at the pole barn by 7am for the dedication service.  During the service, the team walked to the meeting “hall” of the village chief.  He was delighted with the pole barn.  In fact, he had given the land to the church for the building of the barn.  He proclaimed that no other God but Jesus would be worshiped in that structure.  An elder sprinkled some powder on my arm as an act of gratitude.  He said that I should return next year to be honored as the “chief of progress”.   I guess I’m going back.

The dedication service was long but enjoyable.  Singing, dancing, prayers, sermons, and a ribbon cutting had the service end two hours later than scheduled.  We had a long, full day ahead so I served as the cowboy trying to herd everyone along.  We loaded up, went to the market for some souvenir shopping, went to “Coco Beach” for some great pizza, an ocean view, and a great shower!  A long, hot ride to the airport preceded some waiting in lines, but we were all boarded as the plane left on time.  If all went well, we would be in Dayton before 4pm Sunday afternoon.

Sunday 11 November

Well, you know how the unexpected can happen.  Dick, one of the team members, became ill in the Amsterdam airport, and he and I spent a few days in the Amsterdam hospital.  Shirley, his wife, arrived Wednesday the 14th before 7am.  (We had been in contact about her arrival so I could book a flight out on the afternoon of her arrival day.)  I left Amsterdam just after 12noon and arrived at my house about 7:30pm – with great memories, a changed heart, new friends, and jet lag.  Life is great.

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