Friday, August 13, 2010

Culture Shock

As we emerged from the plane into the busy Atlanta Airport, my senses were immediately assaulted by bright lights, flashy American advertisements, noise, and the usual US rush-rush hustle-bustle. I literally gasped in shock. Too much noise, too much "slickness," too much consumerism....

Driving home on smoothly paved roads, I don't feel any bumpy potholes. The other drivers stay in their lanes, come fairly close to maintaining the allowed speed limit, and don't blow their horns constantly. Quite a change from my experiences of the last couple of weeks.

Once home, I looked at our neighborhood. There were no high fences topped with constantine wire or broken glass to deter robbers as is common in the cities in Ghana. A neighbor, on his riding lawnmower, waved at us. I remembered seeing some men with machetes, hacking at the grass in front of a home in Tema...

I take a deep breath and smell....nothing, really. But the scents of acrid smoke, sweat, sea, animals, and fumes from vehicles all linger in my mind from Ghana.

I loaded the washing machine, added detergent, turned it on and walked away. Then I remembered Aggie and Maggie, sitting on low stools, scrubbing our clothes in a tub and hanging them across the fence to dry. water and a long shower, feels absolutely delicious. Though the tepid-cool showers in Ghana were a pleasure there, cooling my skin temporarily.

Gazing into the mirror, I suddenly realize that this was the first time I'd seen my image in nearly three weeks. Didn't have a mirror in Ghana; didn't need one. It didn't occur to me that it would matter what I looked like.

Taming my hair with hot rollers to make it conform to my "American standards"... why do I not think I can just let it go here, like I do in Ghana? The breeze blows it dry, the little bit of natural curl I inherited makes it wavy.

My husband comes in, bringing some groceries. We put things neatly away in cupboards and in our refrigerator. There's a gracious plenty of food -- we could live off of the food in our cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer for quite some time and not even have to go to the store. There is very little refrigeration in Ghana, even in the urban areas that have electricity. Most meals take a long time to prepare: peeling and cutting the fresh fruits and vegetables, slaughtering the goat or chicken or cleaning the fish, simmering the spices over a stove or a fire all take a long time.

On the counter, David places two ripe fresh plantains. Neither of us speaks -- but we both smile. We'll have a taste of Ghana at dinner, tonight, just to help us remember.....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer in Ghana

I found the blog of a new friend I met in Ghana this past July.  She relates a couple of days in July at the following links -

I always hope GOD does to others what GOD does to me.  The Dump is a kick in the gut.  I hope you can experience it with me one day.

These student/teachers from Dartmouth College are a rare breed that have answered the call and are making a profound difference....

From Ghana_2010_Day 17
and I'm honored to know them, and call them friends.

Heres a link to some photos from that day -


You hear the wind, yet you do not know where it comes from or where it goes to; so it is with the Spirit.


David Lee Waters Sr.,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What It's All About

Our game plan was to spend Monday through Wednesday after the team left evaluating the trip, visiting with friends, and relaxing. However I'd begun to feel a bit bad over the weekend. Saturday I nursed a scratchy sore throat; Sunday found me sneezing and sniffling. What I *thought* was going to be a simple summer cold turned very ugly. By Monday morning I was in the middle of a full-blown "asthmatic episode" which left me literally gasping for every breath. As soon as a pharmacy was open on Monday, our friend Stephen took us to get some medication for me. It was pricey (about $90 USD) but at that point I'd have maxed out every credit card I had to get some relief. I spent most of the day doing absolutely nothing. By evening I was feeling MUCH better.

For me, Monday and Tuesday is sort of a blur. I'd get up and go a while, then nap a while. But David managed to get a good bit accomplished and I joined him as I could.

David took the time to go back to the dump, taking Bishop James with him to witness the conditions there first-hand. They discussed several options about ways to help those children. Besides the obvious issue of massive poverty, they face other problems. For example, often the parents do not care if their kids go to school or not; sometimes the kids have to work picking through the garbage for items to recycle. Another big problem is that the schools closest to the dump are still about a 2-mile walk that includes crossing a major 4-lane highway.

Ideas that we are considering include purchasing a van to transport the kids to schools in and around Community 25, or perhaps trying to get a school started at the edge of the dump itself. Given the transient nature of the residents, it can be difficult to keep track of the children themselves. It is a huge problem -- and a huge burden on our hearts.

Early Monday afternoon, we walked to Jerusalem Gates Academy, where donors helped us sponsor several children out of the dump last year. We took some candies to share with the children. We were sad to see that the number of students was significantly smaller this year; the headmaster indicated that since the school was relocating, many students were going to different schools. After more discussion and prayers, we decided to look for different avenues for the dump children's education.

We stopped by Manye Foundation Academy on Tuesday. There we met five volunteers, students from Dartmouth College in the US. We spent some time talking with them, and with the headmaster. The college students were about as excited to see us as we were to see them! Before we left, they'd agreed to stop for a visit on Wednesday, and David planned to take them to the dump for a look around.

We agreed to sponsor four children into this academy. Later I'll tell you their stories, so be watching in the coming days for information about Racheal, Comfort, Raphael, and Joseph.

Also on Tuesday, David pounded fufu with Mary and Emmanuel! He later feasted on that fufu at dinner! They also made my favorite fried plantains! YUMMY!!!

Tuesday evening, I met Joann, who is heading up the Christ Harvests Academies. I am very impressed by this lady's professionalism and drive to help provide a superior education to children, and I look forward to working with her!

By Wednesday, I was feeling pretty good. It was our last full day in Ghana; we were scheduled to fly out Thursday morning at 1 am. We had a lot of things we needed to catch up with before we left, so we hit the ground running.

A few years ago we met a young man named Cedric Emmanuel who had been badly burned on his face, arms, and hands. His medical bills were covered through efforts by Waters Edge Ministries. Recently a friend of ours saw the young man's photograph -- then contacted us that he wanted to help the young man with his education. This benefactor is a graduate student at USC who is from a different country -- and has a huge heart for children. With Richard's help, we contacted the headmistress at the school where he attended. We drove to the school where she serves, and she accompanied us to the junior high school that the now 13-year-old young man attends.

Upon our arrival, Cedric Emmanuel was brought to the office. He recognized us and gave a slight smile, but did not speak much. He wears a jacket all the time to cover his scarred arms; his hands are scarred and the joints of his little fingers are immobile and twisted. One of his ears was burned off; the other is partially gone.

The school headmistress told us that before the accident, he'd been a bright and happy student. When he returned, his scarred face frightened other students and they'd run from him. She expressed concern that he seemed depressed. (Who wouldn't be depressed???) She also shared some information about his home life -- he lives sometimes with his father and other times with his grandmother; neither send enough money for him to purchase food during the day. Usually he brings about 80 pesewas -- roughly 50 cents -- which would not buy a pittance of food. The headmistress often takes him home with her and feeds him dinner at night.

We explained that a benefactor wanted to take care of his educational costs, and he smiled as broadly as he could. My eyes teared up; it was obvious that he was grateful that someone wanted to help him, that someone cared about him.

This is what it's all about:
Connecting people through the Love of Christ.


The Dartmouth students came over for a visit; it was fun sitting on the porch and talking with them. David took them for a visit to the dump. It is impossible to see that place and not feel moved...

The rest of the evening, visitors were in and out to tell us good-bye, including Pastor Johnson, Chief Takyi, Ben, Christina, Victoria & the kids. We packed our bags, and shared a final dinner together. I tasted one more slice of fresh sweet bread to hold me over till next year. Gave one more giant bear hug to Bishop James -- also to hold me over till next year.

About 8:30 pm, we loaded Richard's Jeep Cherokee with our luggage. He, Victoria, Little Anita, Christabel, and Junior all piled in to drive us to Kotoka Airport.

At 1 am, Delta Flight 185 took off. We were headed home.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weekend wrap up

Saturday and Sunday, July 17 & 18

After the long week "on the road" in the Volta region, everybody slept in on Saturday morning! I think we all needed the rest; we'd worked really hard and accomplished a good bit. Along the way we built some relationships that are precious and priceless -- and help to show others the Jesus that is living in our hearts.

The Grace Team needed to make another trip to the Accra Arts and Crafts Market and they spent most of the day there. David and I ran some errands and made some visits in and around Tema.

We spent some time in the Tema market -- searching in vain for Kingsbite chocolate. That's one of our favorite treats. However, the factory had been shut down for a few weeks for maintenance, so we learned, and nobody in the market had any of the candies for sale. Pastor Paul drove us to the Evergreen Supermarket -- a large store fashioned like those in the USA. There we found Kingsbite, and purchased several bars to share with folks back home.

We enjoyed a long visit with Richard's wife Victoria and their three children Anita, Christabell, and Junior. Last year, they moved into a different apartment. It's outside of Tema, and as we drove there with Pastor Paul King, we were frustrated at how "far out" the place seemed to be. But when we arrived and entered, we were excited about how nice the place is -- bright, airy, spacious. It is by far the nicest place they've ever lived.

Later that afternoon, we walked around Community 11 a bit. I showed David a house I'd stayed in several years ago -- just a couple of blocks from where we were this year.
As we walked hand-in-hand, my mind wandered back a few friend Rita and I walked along these same streets, laughing like a couple of schoolgirls, happy as we could be. I smiled with the memory; then remembering how our lives have changed since those times, I gave thanks.

The Grace Team arrived back home just as we returned from our walk. Everyone was excited about their purchases, and their excitement was contagious. Mackenzie modeled her new dress; John played his new drum; Sydney was thrilled with the carved birds she'd found. It was just plain FUN!!! I giggled to see the excitement among the group, and it was fun to share in their joy.

Sunday dawned and we all got up early -- we were to speak at two church services, sharing a bit about our experience with those who'd hosted and prayed for us. When we arrived at Christ Harvests the Nations in Comm. 4, the place was alive with singing and dancing and praise! We joined it, smiling and clapping. Praising Jesus whole-heartedly is one of my favorite memories of any trip to Ghana! Each team member spoke about the experiences that meant the most to them: the worship, visiting the kids at the dump, going to Potwabin, touring Elmina, worship at Kpeve, seeing village life in Adigbo Tornu, bringing pure physical water and the Living Water to Bame Atome, the wonderful people, the hospitality....we could share forever....

We left Comm. 4 and drove to the new church facility being constructed in Community 25. The building is nowhere near finished -- but that does not stop it from being used for worship and praise!! We shared once again, then left for home.

We had a late lunch -- it was our Farewell Celebration meal. The Grace Team made pasta alfredo and green beans -- I realized how much I'd missed green beans as I helped myself to seconds! Saturday night, Kristy sat on a low stool in the kitchen, teaching Ruth and Esther how to string the beans and prepare them for cooking. Their efforts paid off -- YUM!!!! Our Ghana hosts prepared jollof rice, fried chicken, bread, pineapple, kontumerie (sort of like spinach with smoked fish), goat stew, and a huge salad. We enjoyed the meal immensely -- and the company even more. We shared this meal with everyone that had helped us -- our cooks Aggie, Maggie, and Christina; Ben, Richard, Evelyn, Doris, and Bishop Godlly; Pastor Johnson and Chief Takyi; our drivers Kofi & Yaw. Other friends from Christ Harvests the Nations dropped by just to say goodbyes.

The Grace Team was flying out that evening, so they began packing up and getting ready for a long journey back to the USA. About 9 pm, goodbyes were shared along with hugs and smiles and they boarded the bus. We followed behind them in the car and helped them unload their bags at Kotoka Airport. One more round of hugs and farewells-- and they entered the airport terminal. We drove back to Tema.

They were headed home....or so we thought!
We hadnt even made it back to Bishop James' house when we got a phone call that their flight had been cancelled!!! The airline provided them with a room and some meal vouchers, so they stayed an extra day in Accra -- then flew out Monday night.
Well...actually Tuesday morning.

Ahhh Ghana time.... you just have to learn to adjust!