Tag Archives: Ghana

The Power Of Half

This book, by Hannah & Kevin Salwen, tells the story of a family who decided to “stop taking and start giving back”.  Spurred to “help people” by their teenage daughter, the family decided to make “giving” a family activity.  One event led to another until they decided to sell their home and give half the income away.  That’s when things get interesting, tense, and miraculous.

I really enjoyed watching the growth of the individuals, and the family as a group, as they learned how to give.  This family teaches, by their own mistakes, the value of giving wisely and for the long-term good of the people being served.  They are honest about their disappointments and frustrations.  They reveal how their motives changed from self-centered to other-centered – and how that process doesn’t always feel good.  But they also reveal the great reward of doing “charity” right.

And I must confess that I took special interest in their work within Ghana.  It was fun for me to recognize towns, foods, and events as they described their visit to that West African country.

I strongly recommend this book for family reading.  Who knows what your family may do as a result?

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Ghana 11.10

Three of us (Michelle, Mary, and myself), all attendees of Ginghamsburg Church, traveled to a small village in Ghana, West Africa called Noka.  This was the year that the CHE* program would officially begin, under the leadership of fellow Ghanaians.  Here’s our story of those seven days.  Italics are personal commentary – just for a little flavor.

Friday 26 November & Saturday 27 November – After passing through four airports in about twenty hours, we stood outside the Accra airport.  From there we rode to Ocheman Palace Hotel where we’d eat and sleep the next several days.  It sure wasn’t a palace, but it was clean, had running water, and on the occasions when electricity was working we even had AC, TV, and lights.  At lunch time, we met with Dai Hwan, Ema, and Reverend Gibson to discuss the schedule for the week.  All lived in Ghana, and they were the people I prayed would take the reins of directing CHE in the village of Noka.  Dai Hwan is in charge of developing a CHE internship in Ghana, Ema is the CHE director for all of Ghana, and Reverend Gibson is the pastor of the church in Noka.  Reverend Gibson had a well prepared schedule for the week so there was little to discuss.  They knew we were sleepy, so they left us early in the afternoon.   I fought the sandman until 4pm.  I woke up at 10pm, worked on my talk for church tomorrow, read, and then went back to sleep.

Sunday 28 November – Lots of children, several women, but not one man from the village attended church service.  We sang, prayed, and danced (not me) before I gave the sermon.  The ladies each gave a lesson to the children, and I talked about Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls.  At eleven, we took a short taxi ride to Reverend Gibson’s village to visit the church there.  The church was having a fund raising effort, and they pulled us into the program.   They invited us to pop a couple balloons, after which they explained we needed to give a donation for popping them.  I wasn’t real keen on that approach.  That evening the three of us debriefed on the past couple days.  The CHE concept was new to both ladies, so the concept of development versus relief was a primary discussion item.  All of us had inclinations to “fix” things for the people in Noka, an action that would have negative impact on the long-term progress of the village.

Monday 29 November – After breakfast and group devotions, we headed to Noka.  We immediately went to the home of the chief to request a meeting with the village council.  The chief wasn’t feeling well.  He said that he had “the fever”, malaria, but he would still try to gather the council members that afternoon.  From there we walked through the village to invite people to the village meeting tomorrow.  In our walk, we observed, asked questions, and basically tried to learn about the people of Noka.  We also met a man who made baskets, and we placed an order for seven.  Additionally, we placed an order for some wooden spoons from the village spoon maker.  After a lunch of bread, we met with the council regarding CHE.  Development, helping yourself, is a hard sell after people become used to handouts.  Several comments in the meeting insinuated that someone would have to give the village money in order for them to make any improvements.  We were back at the “palace” in time to have our debrief session before dinner.  One of the discussion points was the village’s great need for fresh water.  It is a hard thing to not “fix” what seems so obviously broken, but development emphasizes the development of people more than real estate.  We needed to let them take ownership for what they wanted to improve and how they would accomplish that improvement.

Tuesday 30 November – Today was the village meeting for Noka.  We planned to be there by 9:30am and start the meeting by 10:00am.  We didn’t get there until 9:50am and the meeting didn’t start until 11am!  About thirty people attended, plus most of the council including the Councilman – the person who represents Noka at the district council.  It was an excellent mix – men & women, young & old, well-dressed & not so well-dressed.  They formed a circle for better discussion.  The ladies entertained the children under a couple trees a short distance away.  I sat on the outside of the circle.  All discussion was in their tribal language, Twi, so I tried to stay alert by watching nonverbal language.  Ema led the discussion, using questions, skits and diagrams, keeping everyone involved.  He focused on two main topics: relief versus development and identification of the main problems in the village.  Out of several possible problems, the overwhelming favorite was to reopen the primary school.  It had been closed because the people in Noka had stopped paying the teacher’s salary.  The council confessed their poor leadership, and promised to improve.  One man voiced that he had moved into the village years ago, and was disappointed by the disconnection of the people from each other.  Those listening responded with concern and consideration.  Ema was encouraged by the honesty and humility shown by all the participants, especially the leaders.  Reverend Gibson was relieved.  He was concerned that people would label him as a failure if CHE did not go well, and he felt it was a great success today.  Back at the hotel, we had our debrief time.  Both ladies sensed great accomplishment in the meeting.  Out of habit, we lapsed into attitudes of “what they need to do is…”.  However, we at least caught ourselves doing it.

Wednesday 1 December – Isaac, a young man from Noka, joined us for breakfast this morning.  I asked him to pray for our meal.  His prayer was not what I expected, and it reminded me of the difference between our two worlds.  Isaac prayed that Jesus’ blood would purify the food from all harmful things and bring good health to our bodies – not disease.  I’ve never even thought of praying like that for any meal – ever.  I asked him what his mother had to say about the village meeting yesterday, and he replied, “She said that if a good thing comes to your house why would you not invite it in?”  After breakfast, we headed to three villages in the north.  They have been exposed to CHE for some time, and we wanted to see what those villages looked like.  The first village was like a poster child for the potential of CHE.  When CHE was started the school was a bunch of kids sitting under a tree.  They now have a cement block building with a metal roof.  Members of the village built thatch-roofed building first.  Then a church paid for bags of cement to be used for construction of the school building.  The village made all the blocks and built the school building.  Before CHE, students did not eat during school.  Now each child receives a free lunch.  The village rented a portion of farm land and planted a community farm.  Members of the village sow, cultivate, and harvest the crops.  The proceeds are used to pay for the children’s lunch.  Students are taught the basics as well as three languages: their tribal language, English, and French.  The second village had no school.  They did have a still to make palm wine.  The chief of this village is not ready to support CHE.  He is waiting for someone to give them money to start their development.  The third village is a bit separated from the road.  We had a thirty minute hike through the brush.  We had a warm welcome, and we were amazed at the quiet, attentive conduct of the children.  This is the school where I had my CTC/NHS photo taken.  We had a long bumpy ride home, but it was an excellent, educational day.  In our debrief time, we realized that we saw the results to accepting or rejecting CHE.  We also gave high praises to Dai Hwan and Ema for their dedication and wisdom.

Thursday 2 December – The head pastor, Apostle Odai, came to the hotel this morning.  Four others were with him, one of them being a girl from the UK.  She was going to give a lesson to the children in the village where we were going this morning.  Reverend Gibson wanted us to have a CHE meeting in a village near Noka.  He felt they would be an excellent match for CHE.  On the way to the village, Gibson, Ema, Dai Hwan and I discussed what the next step should be for Noka.  Gibson felt we should get money donated and build a school building.  Ema and I encouraged him to develop the people before developing the real estate.  The “gotta have money” mindset is tough to change.  We see that in the USA!  The meeting had several people in attendance and went well.  We drove back to Accra from there and stayed in the guest house of the church.  We ate supper at a resort on the ocean beach.  It makes the best pizza!  I think it’s because the chef makes the crust fresh for each pizza.  At our debrief it became apparent that the CHE concept was taking hold in our minds even though our hearts still wanted to “fix” stuff for them.  The disparity between the village and the city of Accra (just two hours drive) was enormous!  Each of us wondered what impact this trip would have on us once we returned to our normal routine in the USA.

Friday 3 December – Today we drove to the market.  Actually, I drove part way.  The clutch was giving Valerie, the Apostle’s wife, some trouble.  I was looking forward to meeting some of the people in the market that I had come to know over the years.  However, I was very disappointed with one of them, he calls himself Colin Powell.  He was different – rude, pushy, and wanting money.  The ladies surprised me by how quickly they finished their shopping.  We headed back to the guest house, but had more car trouble.  Valerie got so frustrated that she just turned off the car right in the road.  I jumped out and pushed her off to the side.  Odai took me to meet a missionary who is connected with the United Methodist Church.  On the way, he voiced his opinion about CHE and the need for money to have development.  I agreed, but I felt the money should follow action by the community, not precede it.  The missionary and her husband were wonderful to meet.  They were quite familiar with CHE, and even gave me contact in the USA that can help me find my way in the UM Church foreign missions hierarchy.  We headed back to the guest house where we showered, packed, and headed to the airport.  Our flight departed at 12:30am Saturday 4 December, and we arrived in Dayton at 12:30pm of that same day.  We crossed five time zones to accomplish that feat!

I consider this a near-perfect mission trip.  I am so elated to see the CHE process in excellent hands – Ghanaian hands.  Ema and Dai Hwan can visit Noka easily, offer insights, and be excellent resources.  I am eager to return next year and see the progress.

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Ghana 11.09

This journal describes a trip to Noka, a village in Ghana, West Africa from November 6 – 15, 2009.  For a background on the history with Noka, click on “Changed For The World” tab at the top of this blog.  To see pictures related to Noka, click on “David Phipps photos” at the top of the right margin.  Print like this is general descriptions.  Print like this indicates my personal views and feelings.

 

Friday 6 November – Saturday 7 November

Eight of us were leaving Dayton airport for a seven-day mission trip in Ghana.  We were to have nine people, but one member contracted pneumonia which was immediately was followed by pleurisy.  That left myself and seven ladies.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was nervous to say the least.  We only had one suitcase with a weight issue, and that was quickly remedied by moving some items to an underweight bag.  Our flights all went very smoothly.  We had a good flight schedule with plenty of time for transfers.  Personally, I can’t remember starting a trip so tired.  I was asleep before the plane from of Detroit left the ground.  We breezed through customs after some delay in getting all our bags.  Someone had removed them from the pick-up location.  One member of our group found them stacked on the other side of the room.  We were greeted outside the Accra airport by some young girls from the hosting church who were dressed up in native apparel.  We drove straight to the church’s very nice guesthouse where we immediately went to bed.  I had never been to the guesthouse, and I was pleasantly surprised.  It had individual bathrooms, a fan, tiled floor, and even A/C!   Another group from Greenville, Ohio was there at the same time, so I briefly visited with them.  I laid awake about an hour then fell asleep.

 

Sunday 8 November

We planned to skip the 6am service but would attend both the 8:30am and 10:30am services.  That meant a 7am breakfast where we ate with the Greenville group.  The Greenville group was doing some medical and construction projects in locations different from Noka.  However I learned that they would be staying in the same “hotel” as us later in the week.  In fact, I would be sharing a room with one of the men on the team.  Between services, everyone was involved in some type of teaching: children, youth, or adults.  Church services were unusual and challenging experiences for some of the team.  This congregation is much more demonstrative than what we were used to at our church.  And there was an attention to appearances that was greatly different than our church.  Everyone, both groups, traveled to “Pizza Hut” for some of the best pizza I have ever eaten.  The pizza is literally made in a hut.  And I think it is the dough that I love.  It is all handmade – none of that premade cardboard-like stuff at the pizza chains!  Delicious.    We made the journey to our “hotel” over some rugged roads.  The roads have been under construction for three years.  Progress is so slow.  We grouped by roommates and went to our rooms to unpack.  We were dropped off at the hotel, and our transportation returned to the capital city, Accra.  Our team was alone.  I kind of felt abandoned.  I was pretty concerned about what tomorrow held.  How do we get to Noka?  Are they prepared for us?  What about food?  I met with all the team to explain that I planned to travel to Noka by myself to see if our arrival was expected and preparations made.  I slept pretty well considering the jet lag, heat, and unknowns.

 

Monday 9 November

After a light breakfast, I asked the cook to use her phone to call our host pastor, Apostle Odai.  He assured me that the local pastor would greet us at our hotel and two cars would arrive to take us to Noka.  It all happened as he said.  I was so relieved to see the local pastor, Reverend Gibson.  He is a great guy and great to work with.  Our project for this trip was to give a physical exam to all the children in Noka.  The results of these exams would be used to accomplish our trip purpose on our last day in Noka.  I’ll explain that in full in my Friday 13 November journal entry.  Children were waiting when we arrived so we quickly set up and began the medical exams.  We were extremely busy through 2pm.  The count for that day exceeded 150 children.  It was a long day.  I was really impressed by how the team worked together and maintained positive attitudes in spite of the heat and hard work.  We had a team debrief after we cleaned up and ate.  Topics of concern ranged from how well the day went to whether they should buy local attire “off the rack” or have it tailor-made.  Personally, I was not accustomed to the quantity of words spoken. 

 

Tuesday 10 November

Breakfast was good, and it was followed by a good time of team devotions.  Each member shared their insights on some verses about “faith”.  The feelings shared reached into hearts and there was open, personal sharing with tears.  Each morning we used the same format for devotions but with a different theme.  We asked the cars to drop us off at the edge of Noka so we could walk through the village and interact with the people.  This walk took longer than I expected, but I’m glad we did it.  The team really seemed interested in the people and the village.  Children and parents were waiting on us so we continued with the exams as soon as everyone was ready.  Today we added another item to our schedule.  Two of the nurses began teaching a couple villager members how to wash and bandage wounds.  It seemed that most of the team understood and accepted the concept of CHE and how CHE impacted what we did.  We did not want to do anything to or for the members of the village.  We wanted to work with them so they could continue the work after we left.  We were back to the hotel by 3pm so we could clean up and rest.  We were to go to a revival service tonight!  The revival service wasn’t like the ones I grew up attending.  The music was loud – like hurt your ears and shake the ground loud.  There was dancing, demon deliverance, and screaming preachers.  Each night two people from our team spoke.  Some gave a testimony and some gave a “sermon”.  The Greenville group joined us tonight, and my roomie moved in.  Both of us slept like rocks.

Wednesday 11 November

After breakfast and team devotions we headed back to Noka.  While the ladies gave a clinic to the children about brushing their teeth, I met with ten members of the local church.  We had a discussion/Bible study on the importance of discipleship.  As with last year’s study, they were great students.  They really enjoyed discussion and responded to what scripture taught.  That afternoon we walked through the village to meet more people and invite them to the revival service.  Almost everyone we met said that they were coming to the service that evening.  But they didn’t.  They were being polite by saying what they thought we wanted to hear.  I was able to talk with a man who made spoons to sell in the market.  I order one from him.  And I played a quick game of TT (table tennis).  I lost.  Our car driver took us to an area where bamboo was growing.  One member of the team is in love with bamboo; she was smiling ear-to-ear.  We prepared gift bags for the village council and the church leadership, ate dinner, and headed off the revival again.  Apostle Odai insisted that we attend the revival services, but I only agreed to attend two of the four evenings.  They are a great experience, but they are also very exhausting. 

Thursday 12 November

After breakfast and team devotions we headed back to Noka.  Again children were waiting on us, so the ladies began right away.  I had been asked to repeat yesterday’s lesson for people who did not attend Wednesday.  I had picked up a head cold so I had a really sore throat and was tired.  The lesson went okay, but I did not add much enthusiasm to our time.  Lunch allowed me to try a meat pie, pear “beer”, and a fresh-picked orange.  All of them were great!  The spoon maker that I met yesterday brought me a spoon with his name burned into it.  I paid his standard price, about seventy-five cents.  We walked the village for a short time and then went back to the hotel to shower and relax before dinner.  Except for just a couple times, we always had electric and running water in the hotel.  This has not been the experience in the past.  It was a blessing.  In fact, the village of Noka now has electricity.  Progress is coming…slowly!  We were not attending a revival service tonight so we had a team debrief.  Most of the talk turned to critiquing the habits, customs, and actions of the local people.  As I listened, I found myself being judgmental of the others’ comments.  Talk about a hypocrite!  I shared with the team on the first night that this has been the most difficult trip I have ever led.  Yet I believe I’m better for it.  I’m glad for the lessons learned, and I pray that I won’t need to relearn them.  Being judgmental is one of them.

 

Friday 13 November  (Yikes!)

Today is the day.  We meet with the village council this morning.  The whole purpose of the trip occurs today.  Taking the information gathered from the physical exams, the nurses on the team determined three health problems that occurred in numerous children.  We intend to present these findings to the village council and propose possible solutions.  The mission trip will be a success if they respond positively and accept responsibility for implementing the solutions.  But before this meeting, we need to go to the market to buy head scarves.  The ladies wanted to have the local women show them how to tie the scarves.  Then the ladies would wear the scarves to the revival services tonight.  I underestimated the importance of shopping on this trip.  Eleven members of the council were there as well as a number of people from Noka.  One of the nurses shared three positive things seen in the children: respectful, well nourished, and happy & secure.  Then she shared three things that caused concern: wounds on the feet, infected skin wounds, and breathing difficulties.  We paused here to allow the council to respond.  They asked great questions, requested further explanation, and were very engaged.  Things were going great.  But the village chief could not attend.  I was concerned if any kind of decisions or commitment could be reached.  The nurse then did a great job explaining three things that could be done to help prevent these conditions.  As she spoke, another nurse wrote bullet points on poster-size paper for all to see.  We left all our information with them.  Some of the council members can speak English, and finding someone in the village to read English would not be a problem.  Again, there was great interaction and focus.  One of the methods of prevention was to have the children wear shoes.  A father who lived in the village stood and explained that he was barely able to earn enough money to provide food for his family.  He could not afford shoes.  Several people nodded their heads in agreement.  I assumed that getting shoes for the children would not be something the village would try to do.  A rather long discussion followed, in their tribal language.  Bits and pieces were interpreted for us.  The summary is this – A council member said that the village should start a shoe fund to help buy shoes for children.  Many agreed.  Another man stood and said that he did not want this to be just talk.  He pulled five Cedis (about $3.50 – a little over a day’s wage) from his pocket and said he was making the first contribution to the fund.  A basket was passed around, a treasurer and overseer appointed, and the fund was instantly operational.  I was ecstatic!  This response exceeded my dreams.  Truly Noka showed us that they were a village of action.  A council member said that they would do the things needed to help their children.  “When you return, we will show you healthier children.”  I then showed the council a world map and then a map of Ghana.  They seemed fascinated by both.  I then explained that I am asking the members of the church in Noka to make a map of their village.  The map will be very useful as the village plans their development and as the church plans their CHE program of visiting families in the village.  A long discussion followed, it was good as far as I could tell, and we concluded the meeting by presenting gifts to the leaders of the church and village.  The gifts were mainly personal hygiene items like soap, toothpaste, lotions, etc.  We went back to the hotel for lunch and packing.  Four ladies went back to Noka to visit and look around some more.  Immediately after the revival we drove back to the capital of Ghana, Accra.  We went to the guest house and went to sleep.   I don’t think I set my alarm!

 

Saturday 14 November

We went to the market from 11:30am to 4:00pm.  The market is quite an experience.  The vendors are quite aggressive, and can be irritating after a couple hours of tugging, yelling, and shoving things in your face.  It was kind of like a feeding frenzy.  One lady ran out of money and ended up trading her watch for something.  There was a lot of money spent.  On the way back to the guesthouse, we stopped at a hardware store to buy machetes and at a snack stand to buy crackers.  The crackers were packaged in red, white, and blue wrapping with a picture of President Obama on the front.  They were called “Obama Biscuits”.    We had a smooth check-in and departure at the airport.

Sunday 15 November

The flights all went without a hitch.  The team arrived in what seemed to be good spirits; it’s always good to get home.  And I headed to Bob Evans for my traditional re-entry meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and ice-cold water.

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Ghana 11.08

Prior to the trip – I felt anxious.  I had a presentation to give the leadership of the village that was new to me.  It was a proposal for the village to adopt the CHE concept of development.  (see www.LifeWind.org )  I wasn’t sure how the leadership of the church and village would take to the concept.  I didn’t feel that the team, composed of four women and me, was prepared or bonded.  Adding to my already anxious state, the malaria medicine I was taking (Larium) had a side effect of anxiety with possible suicidal feelings.  Isn’t that just peachy?  Thus we begin the adventure.

On the plane – I was worried about my worrying.  I was anxious about my anxiety!  I had been praying about it and tried to rationalize it away.  Finally, on the plane, I asked myself how a pastor dealt with rejection of his preaching.  And I was struck by the fact that he probably considers his job as sowing and he lets God take care of the harvest.  From that point on I had tremendous relief.

Saturday – I thought our flight went very well, and the motel we were in was basic but comfortable.  But there were a couple situations that gave me concern.  Soon after we checked into the hotel one lady went with a man she did not know to get something to eat.  She came back with a meal of fish and tubers.  I stressed my concern about leaving with someone she did not know and the safety of the food she was planning to eat.  She seemed to understand.  We arose early planning to conduct a three-hour children’s crusade.  The four ladies had prepared a great deal for this event.  But, in typical African fashion, they took a long time and we were given about 45 minutes of the three-hour crusade.  The ladies did fine; they adapted well.  It was a good way to start the week.

Sunday – Three of the four ladies spoke at church.  They did well.  They were not as flamboyant as the local pastor; he takes his style from the TV preachers.  It was good for them to just get the experience.  We traveled from Accra to where we would be staying, near the village of Noka.  I slept most of the way.  The ladies were enjoying soaking up the fact that they were in Africa.

Monday – We started the day with Read, Reflect, and Respond.  (Read some Bible verses, reflect on what it means to me, and respond back to God.)  The topic was Servant Attitude.  I was struck by a phrase in Philippians 2:3 – “consider others better than yourselves”.  I was carrying an attitude very different than that description.  I reminded myself several times through the week that I was the “least of these”. 

The morning training started an hour late, but that is not unusual.  It was well attended but only with church people.  No one from the village council was in attendance.  I was disappointed by that status.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people from neighboring villages.  And I was encouraged by the eagerness of the young men to learn, and their excitement gave me hope for the future of Noka.  The lessons were very discussion oriented, and being allowed to discuss in class was different for them.  The normal method of teaching is lecture.  Actually, there isn’t much difference between teaching a class and preaching a sermon except the volume of delivery.  So they really embraced the chance to voice their opinion and debate with others.  The team members did a great job of being involved without being overbearing.

Some local ladies were hired to “cater” lunches for everyone.  It was mostly rice with some tomato-based, spicy sauce.  I’m sure it was the best meal of the week for many of those in attendance.  The members of the team loved it.

The afternoon and evening was unassigned.  I want to note that we had a lot of unassigned (free) time on this trip.  That troubled me at first, but then I realized that some in the group could not handle the pace of last year’s trip.  God arranged a trip that was just right for the people involved – last year and this year.

Tuesday – Another group is staying at the same hotel with us.  They are from the Netherlands.  They are members of a recently formed foundation that is attempting to create jobs in the region.  We shared our philosophies and desired results and concluded that we could potentially aid each other.  They are very well funded, and they pursue this as full-time jobs.  We exchanged contact information and promised to stay in touch.

The morning lessons went just as well as they did yesterday.  Of course we started an hour late.  I enjoyed the fact that the lessons were preceded by singing, dancing, and prayer.  It was an energizing way to begin.

Lunch today was a green vegetable that reminded me of “greens”.  We also had cooked yams and cooked plantain.  It really tasted good!

Again, we had the afternoon and evening unassigned.  Honestly, that really helped me because it gave time for the group to debrief and for me to prepare the next day’s lesson.  My required preparation time was a little longer than if I was presenting in the USA.  We were meeting under a tree.  There was no board, electricity, or tables.  I brought a stack of 2’x3’ paper to draw visuals, record answers given, and show how everything connected.  This required me to consider what I could write the night before to use for discussion starters without giving the answers.  Being outside also allowed me to use a stick to draw or write in the dirt if needed.

Wednesday – I awoke to discover that Barak Obama was elected President of the USA.  The people in the village were excited and happy for his election.  I had underestimated what Barak’s election meant to so many people outside of the USA.  I pray that he does well, and that he and his family are kept safe.

Today is the final day of lessons.  I drew the entire concept together, and this proved to be the most challenging part.  I wanted to stress that this program was designed not for relief but development.  Understanding the difference between the two seemed elusive for some in the group.  With much debate and review everyone’s views finally seemed to align.  I stressed that participation in this program was their choice.  If they did not think it was good, I would take no offense.  It was their village, not mine.  I only asked to be informed of their decision by the end of January.

Today was the first day that Apostle Odai, the leader of the church, was in attendance.  He and I still are apart on some ideas, but I believe our callings are complementary.  I have much to learn from him about dedication to God, and I might have something to offer him regarding the value of taking time to build relationships.

We had an unassigned afternoon followed by a crusade in Noka that evening.

The crusade was an open-air affair with singing, dancing, testimony and a sermon.  The local church took care of all the preparations and led the singing.  The crowd took care of the dancing.  We, the team, joined in the dancing.  I’m sure the locals were quite impressed!  J  The team members did the testimonies and sermon.  It was a wonderful, memorable experience.  We returned to the hotel about 9:30pm.

Thursday – This morning we walked around the village discussing three things with people: 1) the crusade on the following two nights, 2) their opinion regarding the needs of the village, and 3) their own spiritual beliefs.  Personally, I found this time incredibly interesting.  On points one and three, they seemed to answer as they thought I wanted.  They promised to be at the crusade (which they weren’t), and all of them believed in Jesus and went to church (which they did not).  However, on point #2 the answers varied.  They included: public sanitary latrines, clean water, more children attending school, more students taking classes above grade six, loans to start businesses, peace in families, and illnesses – especially malaria, “the fever”.  I’m a bit overwhelmed right now with all their needs.  Where does one start?

We had an unassigned afternoon followed by the crusade in Noka that evening.

It rained that night, but we waited it out and had a decent crowd.  Again, the speakers did a wonderful job.  I really admire their willingness to jump right in.  Again, we returned to the hotel after 9:30pm.

Friday – Two members of the group took the day to visit the castle on the coast that served as the departure point for slaves being sent west.  The other three returned to the village to do more door-to-door visiting.  The interpreters with me that day took me through some places that I had never seen.  I was taken aback by the number of homes in the area.  It had to be hundreds!  Not all the homes were in the village of Noka, some were technically in other villages, but I sure couldn’t tell when one village started and another stopped.  There are a lot of people within a thirty minute walk of the church in Noka.  The potential is enormous.

Again, we had an unassigned afternoon followed by the crusade in Noka that evening.  It was the most energetic of the three crusades, a fitting conclusion to the week.

We drove back to Accra, the nation’s capital, arriving at our hotel about midnight.

Saturday – After a late breakfast, we headed to the market to gather bargains.  I think everyone had a good time bargaining with the merchants.  I reconnected with a merchant I had met last year.  He has great English, is smart as a whip (he can name every US state as well as its motto, its capital, and several major cities in it.  Then he’ll do the same thing for about any nation you can name.)  But he’s trapped.  He can’t afford school so he’s stuck in the little booth at the back corner of the market trying to make a couple bucks a day.  Had he been born in the USA his entire life would be different.  But he wasn’t, it isn’t, and it won’t.

We headed to the church in Accra to be videotaped about our experiences.  We enjoyed making fun of each other’s performances.

Then a quick change of clothes, a racing trip to the airport, and we were on our way home.  Everything was pretty uneventfully, and we were all glad to touch down safely in Dayton.

Summary – This is the hard part.  I really don’t know what we accomplished.  It’s not like “We built a house for a needy family!” or “We held a Bible school for all the children.” or even “We treated 100 patients a day in a mobile medical clinic.”  We did some teaching, preaching, visiting, and praying.  We didn’t do anything to or for the people in Noka, but we did a lot with them.  And honestly, if Noka embraces this program, that will be our story each year.  We will simply go to be catalysts for the village of Noka to change itself.  The focus will be on people, not projects.  It’s harder to build people than to build a building.  It takes longer to get the foundation done.  And the job is never really done.  There are always areas that need more work.  But I believe that’s where God’s heart is – people.  So, we’ll carry on a step at a time.

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