Ghana Update Sunday

Legon International Church (LIC) was where we worshipped with hundreds of our brothers and sisters in Christ from Ghana. Located right on the campus of the University of Ghana, LIC has excellent worship – a blend of hymns and praise choruses. Some of the songs were in English; some were in Twi (pronounced “tree”- the area trade language); many were sung in both languages. The prayer time was very well done and the message was excellent. Most North Americans would’ve felt right at home.

My heart was moved during the open prayer time as so many prayed for peace, their country, and those in need. I was reminded that many of our prayer times are full of requests for physical health – and many of the Ghanaians have physical needs, too, but their prayer concerns focused on corporate needs for the Body of Christ both in Ghana and around the world.

After the 95 minute service we had a wonderful lunch at a Turkish restaurant outside, under a canopy. The heat and humidity didn’t make being outside too uncomfortable.

Lee took us on a driving tour of Accra. The mixture of wealth and abject poverty is difficult to describe. Many of us will be posting pictures, but even they do not adequately portray the desperate conditions on one side of a wall, while on the other side wealth is provocatively ostentatious. We are all gaining a fresh understanding of God’s great concern for justice in our world and asking questions of each other and ourselves for how that will impact what we do with this revelation.

On the tour, Lee stopped at a casket maker and we saw the primitive workshop in which this craftsman produces some amazing works of art. We were all stunned at the number of people living in a very small area. Children, adults and animals were all together in a space smaller than most two car garages. But even though they have so little, they smile, laugh and enjoy each other.

All of us continue to be impressed with the Ghanaian people and have concluded that a major difference is that theirs is not a culture of entitlement. No one expects something for nothing; what they have – and that is very little – is actually an exception in a culture where there isn’t a system of providing shelter, food, etc., for everyone.

We saw the new presidential palace which is unoccupied since it was built by the former president who was a member of what is now seen as the opposition party. We drove past acres of sprawling living quarters made of corrugated metal, cardboard, and pallets where there are no real streets, or running water and most of the sewage runs in an open gutter but where there is some electricity so there are hundreds of bamboo poles sticking up in the air with TV antennas. A few blocks away we passed the new U.S. Embassy with scores of security cameras, guards, walls, iron bars and huge satellite dishes.

Spiritually, two things stand out:

1. There are church signs all over. One would expect to find a lot of churches in a metro area of 3 million people but we are learning that most of these churches are teaching a gospel of prosperity not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is discouraging.

2. Among the many churches, the best looking facilities are Mormon. Perfectly maintained buildings and green, manicured lawns. Frustrating.

The day ended with Michelle’s version of tacos and wonderful conversation around the tables.

Thanks for praying for us.

Ghana Update Saturday

Today we visited two radio stations. Lee, who has spent more of this life in Africa than on any other continent, drove as expertly as anyone I have ever ridden with. He dodged thousands of potholes – on some of the roads the surface area covered by potholes was greater than that which was not. Most of us wouldn’t even consider driving on these roads unless we were on our recreational 4-wheelers. However, one look at the cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, motorbikes, and pedestrians who are all over the road and one realizes this has the potential to be a very interesting ride!

Rarely are there any lines marking the middle of the road and it would be useless anyway since drivers swerve from one side to the other to avoid the next pothole, some of which are large enough to swallow a Prius. Speed bumps – which seem totally useless when there are so many potholes – combine with goats, sheep, dogs, chickens, cattle and children to add to the confusing obstacles. I enjoy a good roller coaster ride but like getting off when the ride is over. Imagine a continuous coaster ride which is also a demolition derby and lasts for more than 8 hours.

But it was worth it.

Comments from team members included:

“can’t get over how many different items you can buy while sitting in your vehicle. The selection is better than most convenience stores back home”

“crowds of people, swarms of people and still more people” (Greater Accra has a population of about 3 million)

“people will gather and sell anything”

“the level of poverty is shocking but I can’t say that I’ve ever seen so many people who seem to be so happy” (Average income is $3 or less per day. Many live on less than $1 per day.)

The first radio station we visited is located in a city called Asinfosu and the other is in Asamenkese – both have been on the air for six months. They are located in rented facilities and both have a reception area, news room, and studio. We saw up-to-date computers and digital broadcast equipment that almost seems out of place when the surroundings are so undeveloped. Here are some observations:

· At both stations the manager and staff are young, energetic, engaging. Their youthfulness is one of their greatest assets.

· Both managers talked about how the stations have embraced their cities by focusing on local news, sports, and events.

· The people have responded enthusiastically to the stations and the Gospel is being broadcast and life changing testimonies are being shared.

· Local tribal elders are welcoming the station managers because they understand how much influence radio has on the people.

One station has an Internet Café as part of their ministry. Ten computers are set up for people to use and most evenings there are people waiting. Again, it almost seems out of place but makes sense that followers of Christ are setting the pace with technology.

We were able to present a few of the solar powered radios at each station. TheoVision is HCJB’s partner in Ghana and they want to be very intentional about how the radios are distributed. The goal is to establish listening clubs or groups where a leader is accountable for those who listen to significant programming by leading in discussions and doing follow-up.

It was a grueling day. We did stop at a restaurant in Asamenkese for a lunch of chicken and rice or chips (French fries). Then, for supper, Lee and Michelle and several of their staff members, took us to an Ethiopian buffet. The food was excellent. The total absence of utensils was challenging. The conversation around the table was stimulating.

The experience today was priceless.

Ghana Update #3

Today Bill and I were able to join the rest of the team. We had no problems with customs and Michelle met us at the airport. Within two hours after landing we were at a shopping area looking at small outdoor shops featuring clothes, carvings, baskets, etc. We didn’t buy anything. Lee suggested we simply look over what is available and then come back next week right before we depart.

We arrived at the Soinus’ home which has a wall around and within the wall is the garage that Lee’s Dad remodeled into the HCJB offices several years ago. The bicycles were worked on some more and Lee tested them in the courtyard.

Tonight we all had dinner at Lee & Michelle’s and most of the HCJB staff. How exciting to meet them and hear some of their stories as we sat around the tables for over an hour. We walked to the Guest House where the guys are staying; Mary Fisher and Amy Bethea are staying with Lee and Michelle.

Tomorrow we plan to leave the city to visit a radio station and possibly distribute some of the solar-powered radios we packed in our luggage.

Pray for us as the time difference is 5-6 hours and sleep cycles are off.

Ghana Update #2

Bill and I arrived Accra, Ghana without any additional delays past a late departure from Dulles. Both us got a huge welcome from the rest of the team! We are at Lee & Michelle’s home for food and to meet more the the HCJB staff. It’s very warm here. Feels good but may become uncomfortable when we try to sleep.

GHANA TRIP REPORT 1 – Learning to Wait

A seasoned travel agent gave me some sage advice more than 30 years ago. He said, “If you’re in a hurry, drive! If you fly you need lots of time and patience.” That has certainly been true so far on this Vision Trip to Ghana!

The snow started at noon in Kansas City. Bill Smith, from Camdenton, MO, and I were supposed to fly to Washington Dulles at 5:21 but there were delays, mostly due to the snow storm. At one point, as we were sitting on the snow covered tarmac, the pilot came on the intercom to report that the deicing crew working on the Airbus ahead of us had become confused and had to start the deicing process all over again. We sat there for an hour. Even though the pilot made up a lot of time in the air, we still arrived at Washington Dulles at the same time as our flight to Ghana was taking off.

We laughed, even though we didn’t feel like it, as we were sent to three different United Airlines service areas before finding someone who could help us. If we could give an award for the most helpful person of the day, that agent would’ve won, hands down! What we found out is that we have to wait 24 hours for the next flight. There really aren’t any other reasonable options.

The airline gave us a number to call to get a room for “travelers in distress” and we ended up at the Westin in Reston Heights, VA – free shuttle, reasonable price. We got to the hotel and 1 am and slept until way past 9 this morning. Used the hotel shuttle to go to a shopping area where we found a nice restaurant for brunch.

Didn’t do much walking around since we left our coats in Kansas City! Who needs coats in Ghana where its 90 with 85% humidity?

We have our room until 8 pm tonight – we have to be back to the airport around 8:30 for our 10:43 pm flight to Accra, Ghana. We are praying there are no more delays – snow is predicted to begin here in the DC Metro area later this afternoon!

We keep reminding ourselves: This is an adventure! We are practicing patience and praying we don’t need more. We are treating shuttle drivers, hotel staff, airline agents, and waiters with respect and gratefulness; trying to delight in the world where God has placed us.

I have a missionary friend who tells a story about God bringing someone into his life “to make me a better Christian than I want to be.” If that is our situation, so be it. Father God, make us better Christians than we want to be!

Is Marriage Sacred?

This is a real situation. The name of the pastor is disguised but everything else is true. We’ve all heard about this and maybe it’s even happened in your church. It would be a helpful exercise for us to share our reactions and responses.

It was a rough weekend for Pastor JD. One couple in the church waited until after the holidays to tell their family, friends, and church that they are getting a divorce after 17 years of marriage. They have two teenagers at home and in spite of hours of counseling with JD and multiple appointments with a Christian therapist, they are calling it quits. Legal papers have already been served.

From all outward appearances they are committed Christians; members of the church. No outsider would think anything but the best about this couple and their family.

Why is JD so upset? Neither the husband nor wife is having an affair or accused of unfaithfulness. There is no evidence or accusation of any addictive behavior or substance abuse. There are no huge debts.

This couple claims they have “fallen out of love.” They say, “Our marriage isn’t fun anymore” and “the fire has gone out.”

How sad.

They want to meet with the Pastor to talk about how to tell the church and to find out if the husband can continue as a Trustee. JD is wondering what to say; how should the church respond?

What would you say? Would you seize the opportunity to talk about the sanctity of marriage? Bless them both? How would your church respond? Would there be discipline? Could the husband stay on as a Trustee? What about the teenagers?

Macro Skies, Micro Self

The other night I talked about God with Brady, my grandson who is in second grade. If you asked, Brady probably would not report that the conversation was about God – but it was. We talked about space; the earth and sun, the planets, galaxies, and the speed of light.

We live in a fascinating world which is just a speck in a massive galaxy and our galaxy is just one among many in a universe the size of which we cannot even fathom. God made all of it. Jesus holds it all together. (Colossians 2:15-17) And yet, God loves you; He knows everything about you even how many hairs are on your head, and He is concerned about you.

A huge concept for a second grader but one that is extremely important – for all us. Did he understand it? No. You and I can barely grasp the staggering enormity of Creator God caring for us like a father cares for a small child. There are many conversations yet to come. As adults we have a responsibility to talk about these things at every opportunity. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

In a world where Self seems to be the ultimate ruler, we are called to a counter-cultural message: This is God’s universe and although I am just a barely discernable speck God calls me into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, His Son.

God is not small but we have a way of continually reducing Him to fit in our world. That is why we are moved by David’s Psalm 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”