Sorting through the over 3000 pictures from a 12 day trip to West Africa provides a lot of potential for story telling. True stories, mind you, but too many to repeat. Not to mention that the most vivid of the memories cannot be captured digitally. You just can’t get the sounds and smells and sweat onto a SD card no matter how many gigabits you buy. But today I will try anyway to put a bit of it down. Just realize there are limits and expect to hear some pieces again and again.
We met at Chicago O’hare’s airport with all the fights on time and Jim with camera in hand. Introductions were made and Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan folks were easily bonded. After all, we were going to Ghana! Lufthansa treated us well and we had an easy transition in Frankfurt.
By mid morning we were off to see the fishing villages’ ministry to families at risk. How wonderful to broaden our understanding of the scope of the work first hand. As usual there were many questions answered patiently by the staff. Touring around Accra was next and lunch at the Chinese place was included. The team was starting to get to know each other. “Get to know you” games were part of lunch and the inclusive fun-loving nature of these folks was going to mark the whole week with joy.
No complaining, lots of joking, serious, fun, hard working, open and kind would describe our group. They came ready to serve and learn all that they could this week.
The team was teachable and wanted to do the most work with their time. Pastor Jacob was our guide all week. Jifa was our construction manager. Seeing Patience in Adidome was a great, happy surprise. We were taken out to see the site and get started. It had been raining so we walked the last mile into the village. Piles of sand needing moving; 5 shovels and one wheelbarrow let us get started in Kanuwloe.
Sunday: Church and Beach
Someone decided we could stay at the vocational school for church. Sweet moments as we listened to worship, shared our names, sang and prayed. One of our team members, John was struggling with eye issues. The messages were on ‘open the eyes of our heart’ and ‘Jesus healing the blind man’. Patience shared with the group about her healing and strength. We asked for prayer at the end of the service for John and the congregation prayed and prayed for him. By evening he was vastly improved and able to work the week. John led the work team and was invaluable to the construction.
We got to meet the staff of the INVTC which included Mercy and 3 of her children. Who could imagine the changes in her life over the last 10 years?
Beach time was the next order of business. It was awesome and so unexpected. We relaxed and played the afternoon away. THANKS!
Monday – Thursday: Work on the church and play with the school kids.
With amazing adaptability, the team shoveled, mixed cement, carried block, played ball, sang, observed classrooms, taught verses and did crafts all week. The routine ended up being leave by 7am to get to the construction before the heat of the day. Then we did rotations through the school. 10:30am break we played with the kids after they ate their lunch. 11-12 we did the lesson and craft with the preschool kids who are dismissed at noon to walk home. There were 70 children of all ages and the location of their class varied every day. Outside, inside, under the pavilion, divided into 2 groups, we laughed and sang and colored and glued with these little ones.
Noon lunch for us and then, 1-2pm, we divided into teams of 2 assigned to each class. Our evenings were spent preparing crafts for the kids and going over lessons after dinner. Ideas were shared and children were loved. One group suggested putting fingerprints for each child in their class on a prayer card, followed by writing a special verse. Lots of pictures, questions and answers were included in our day.
Our theme was Genesis 1 and 2. We sang about the world God made and celebrated the people He created. By Friday we each had friends for life and memories of a lifetime.
Of course the construction work continued and each day team members would comment on the amount of work accomplished because of the co-operation between village, local construction crew and our team. It will be ‘their church’ that we helped a little bit to begin. Blessing.
As we gathered to pray that last afternoon, Jacob reminded us of the importance of a church in each community. Kanolwe has no pastor at the moment, so we prayed for the person God would bring, for the congregation that will gather and the foundation built on Jesus Christ.
Friday: Farming village adventure
We travelled with Silvanus to see the work of the farming project. We met a fetish priest and his 8 wives and extended family, brought greetings and other sundries. Then we had a chance to ask questions about the farming in this part of the world. Cultures collided and we walked away wondering about the future in this sort of place. Silvanus did a great job of listening and teaching and explaining.
As we got back to Adidome, we packed up and got ready to leave early on Saturday am. We also had a tour of INVTC that helped fit together some of the pieces of the puzzle. Fabric and clothes, jewelry and beads were purchased as many felt they wanted to support the good work of I.N. Ghana. From this team 7 children were sponsored, as well as a church planter.
Saturday: Market, dinner and flight
The Ghana staff tagged teamed to make sure we had enough help at the market. Drums, jewelry, soda and cravings were all bought in good order on a hot day in the sun. Walter and Marian, Edmond and Cromwell, and Patience joined us for our last supper in Ghana. We had some adventures flying home but all made it in good time. Again the airlines treated us well and we only were short one piece of luggage, which turned up a few days later.
The takeaways for me are many. I would recommend that each team be multi-generational if possible. Eli (13 years) and Dayna (16 years) added so much to our adventure. Eli loved finding each and every critter, while Dayna had kids flocking to her. Their energy and perspective was so welcome to our team. The variety of life experience worked well as we ranged from 13 to 54 and I was glad to see each team member bring their own flavor and gifts to the group.
I also liked the size of our team. We were able to rotate through the school and cover the construction needs because there were enough of us. Thirteen seems like a large group, but it worked well in these circumstances. Having time to process during our drives and devotions helped too. Each person put effort into getting to know each other and sharing their perspectives on the trip.
There can’t be enough expression of thanks to the I.N. Ghana staff. They make all the difference in a trip such as this. As the USA team learned to trust the ‘experts’ in their home turf, it became a new way to learn and grow. Each encounter with Ghanaians added to the richness of the trip. THANK YOU