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Busy, busy, busy in Ghana by Kim Lawson
May 16, 2011

Wednesday, pastor Rans, his family and an elder, surprised us with a gift of yams, a turkey and a goat (a cute one at that :). This was a very generous gift! Every time that I work on the room that will be his office, I imagine him working at his desk enjoying the wonderful view of the valley he has through his windows. The church is really blessed to be built on a wonderful piece of property.

The building is dictating the length of our work days as the mortar needs to set before we can continue, so Wednesday afternoon we left a little early to tour the over 500 acre NEA compound we are staying in Carpenter. They farm ostrich, emus, cows, turkeys, pigs, goats, guinea fowl, and telapia (fish). The fish eggs are initially harvested and hatched indoors, then grown in a man made pond and in 10 large holding tanks that are placed beside the vegetable garden so the waste water can be used to irrigate and fertilize the soil. The sites that NEA has developed are designed to be quite self sufficient with solar generated back up batteries and generators. The programs are developed to be self sustaining so that although they work with donated funds for special projects and development, they can continue to benefit northern Ghana without external funding. The program and it's success has drawn the attention of CIDA and other organizations who have come out to tour the operations so that they might try to duplicate the success. For approved projects, CIDA matches every donated dollar by 3!

Thursday morning we started with a visit to Subinso's palace to meet the chief council, the queen mothers, the royal family, government representatives and even leaders of the Muslim church were there. They were dressed in their fine robes and everyone noticed their black and gold ordained sandals. We presented them with the many suitcases of school supplies. They were overwhelmed with the generosity of the gifts, and the fact that we had all paid our own way to spend time teaching their children, and the fact that we funded and were now helping build the church. They had never seen anything like that before. One thing that struck me as being very surreal, was that we were sitting in a rather primitive northern village of Africa, and we were made aware of the tradition and formality of the event, yet we sat in plastic lawnchairs and the meeting was interrupted several times by the villager's cell phones that had very loud musical ringtones. It is like we are in an area that is caught between the old and the new.

Later that day, the same chief, leaders and officials walked to our building site and offered as a gift 7 large bowls of yams and a ram goat. A very generous gift at this time of the year. As we shook their hands the final time, many of us were shocked by the very good English the chief's representative could speak! Earlier, Les was using some hand motions when trying let him know that Ghana had a good soccer team...the chief had never indicated that he understood his words the whole time! :)

Friday, I had the opportunity to spend the day in the school with Liz in the Grade 2 classes. The teaching team has been working in 3 primary schools that basically share one general playground along with a junior high school. There is a Muslim primary school, run by a Christian school mistress that was one of David's schoolmates, and two Catholic primary schools. The Muslim school had locking doors on the classrooms, but the other schools are built with 1/2 walls or window frames without windows and doors. At night the students carry the teacher's desks and chairs into a locked building. Otherwise there is nothing in the classroom but small chairs, tables and/or desks, but in many rooms, there weren't enough for every child, so they sat and worked on the floor. The walls have no pictures or any colour at all...just chalk boards. In some classes, the teachers were wonderful and helped the children understand the lesson we brought, and in some, teachers didn't show up at all.

Friday evening, Joyce and Brenda went out of their way to decorate the dining hall with balloons, and bake some chocolate brownies and banana muffins (for the Ghanaians who don't like chocolate) to celebrate Vivianne's birthday! We have been eating extremely well, but what a treat to have a chocolate dessert! Other than one evening when a yummy banana custard was served for dessert, we normally have fruit instead.

Many evenings it has rained, and one day the rain chased us off the jobsite, but on Saturday, we decided to work in the rain. It had been so hot and humid that at first we were refreshed, but then it poured so hard it was hard to work as the floor, ground and the concrete was being flooded out. We took shelter in the small building onsite and as it eased, some went into the schools to repair chairs and desks, as others went back to finish forming up the porch area. Because it was Saturday, only two of the classrooms were open at the Islamic school. In order that we could get in and fix the desks, a few of the many kids that were watching the guys work, took it upon themselves to shimmy up and over the walls to open the locked doors from the inside. So much for the security of locked doors on the only school with them :) Driving back in the bus to the compound that night in soaking wet and muddy clothes, socks and shoes, and surprising quite chilled for the first time since being here, I had to remind myself that here in Africa, the rain is considered a blessing from God...even in the secular world. We have been very thankful for the days we've been able to work under cloud cover. The midday sun can make it almost unbearable to work in and every breeze is welcomed. When we met with chief representative, he made the comment that God must be very happy we are here, because before we came, they were experiencing a drought.

With the cooling rains, we've also been able to enjoy more of the African bug life. I mentioned before that we were surprised by the lack of the creepy crawly and the flying variety, but no more! We keep many of the lights off in the evenings at the compound to avoid attracting the many flying ants, beatles, spiders and moths the size of small birds! The occasional scorpion gets everyone's attention :). Mosquitoes still seem to be few and far between, but everyday in the shower I seem to discover a couple more mystery bites mostly around my ankles.

Saturday, the entire team was at the site. Although some are not 100% well, they have felt well enough to come and do what they could. It was the first time since Tuesday that everyone was there. We even found buried treasure! Sam noticed that a trowel was buried in the poured bond beam. It was first thought to leave it there, but Rans wanted to make sure we had the dozen trowels we started with, so after 15 minutes of chipping, it was free :)

Sunday was a very special day. Although we were given an extra 1/2 hour to sleep in, I think most of us are now getting up naturally at about 5:40 am with the sound of the roosters, guinea fowl, pigs and goats that graze and wander outside our windows.

The day started with another wonderful breakfast and then we were off to the rather large town of Kintempo. Our drive there was mostly over washboard or partly washed out red dirt roads due to the rain we've been having. As we bumped and weaved our way along for about 45 minutes, we passed several of the villages that the young pastors we are working with are from. Joe went in the back of the cargo truck with about a dozen of the pastors, but by the time they arrived at the new church we were dedicating that day, there were at least 60 crammed in...mostly women all dressed up in their beautiful gowns and headpieces. They had stopped in every village along the way to pick them up. There is a steep hill along the road, and the men had to get out and walk up it so the truck could make it up...Joe was thrilled :) One thing we noticed about these more remote villages off the main roadway, was how much more friendly they were when you passed through (most everyone paused to wave at us), and how tidy and untouched they were by the commercial world. In many of the other villages on the paved road to Carpenter, many houses are painted with the local cellular network colours and logos for advertising. The dirt road drive really made us realize we are really the northern regions of Ghana Africa. It amazes me to see how far people walk and bicycle, in the incredible heat, along the highways and dirt roads to get wood and other supplies that they carry on their heads or strapped to their bikes.

We were treated like guests of honour at the church in Kintempo. The service was held outside under tents in front of the new church that is built up on the top a hill with a great view. After much time spent singing, dancing and sharing testimonies, David spoke on the importance of building our houses with the important things that last...not hay and the things that will burn away. (1 Corinthians 2:10-17) Les was honoured and surprised to share the ribbon cutting ceremony with David, for as David explained, we would not be here for the ribbon cutting of the church we are building. How awesome that we could experience this church our minds I think all of us could imagine what the church we are building in Subinso will look like when it is finished after we leave, and how happy the people will be for it.

On the way back on the red dirt road, we detoured to the Fuller Falls. The waterfall was beautiful with beautiful stone benches and tables fashioned at the base in the shade to create a restful area to relax and enjoy the view and the sound of the very loud rushing waters. Brenda had spent Saturday baking banana muffins and making mountains of tuna, egg and cheese sandwiches on homemade bread for us to enjoy at our picnic by the falls. Thank you Brenda!!! We have been so spoiled :)

Once we got back to the main paved highway, we were very thankful once again for Simon's skilled driving and for the smoothness of the paved road! We stopped in Bamboi at the toll stop and learned of a funeral in the town for a 30 year old mother who was killed in a fatal car accident a couple of months before. The tradition is that the body is buried and they mourn at the time of death, but at a later date, the entire community and many who come from a distance gather for a 'Celebration of Life' type service. David thought it would be good for us to experience and so we walked in together and shook the hands of everyone in the front rows of the 4 sided courtyard where hundreds were sitting quietly several rows deep as an announcer on a loud speaker system announced the arrival of people and the gifts they brought for the family, and loud 'disco' music played. Every time more people would arrive, they would shake hands like we did, present their gift, and sit. Apparently this happens for hours into the night. The gifts (money is what we saw), helps the family pay for the gathering and the food and other things they provide for those who have come from a distance. We sat for a while, met Joseph, David's older brother he speaks about in the book (looks just like David!), and got our permission to leave.

While we were there, sitting on the ground behind me were 2 small children between the age of 1 and 2. They happily sat there playing with broken stones from the ground, a metal valve stem, bottle cap and piece of garbage electrical tape. I was amazed at the creative way they played with them just as if they were well designed toys (although they were certainly not CSA approved!). Otherwise, looking around at the people and sitting amongst them all day, you realize how we really are created the same, and we all adapt to our living environment.

We were back to Carpenter by about 5 pm...just enough time for a nap before dinner at 6. Our day of rest was a special day of experiencing more of the African culture and beautiful scenery.

As always, we appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

God is good!!!

Filed under: Missions Blog


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