The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Auto Parts Black Market

This week finds us preparing for next month, preparing for final exams; preparing for Christmas; and preparing to return the Patrol, which has been our transport these past four months. As you may recall the Jernigan, (Mission Society Missionaries here in Ghana) lent us their Nissan Patrol when Dr. Jernigan went to the UK to study tropical medicine, and Rev. Jernigan followed to take care of their kids. Sounds familiar, the Rev. following the Doc to take care of the kids. This SUV has been an amazing blessing and opened up parts of Ghana to us that we might not have seen, places like the villages Emmanuel took me to, the beautiful coast, the hills outside of Accra, and the Auto Parts Black Market.

On Monday, Emmanuel and I went looking for a lens. About week two of driving the Patrol, I backed into a garbage can and it put a crack in the left rear lens (or taillight). Today we have set about the task of placing it. First we went to the dealership where the Patrol was purchased, but they had closed, or moved, or were under renovations, or for whatever reason, the windows were boarded up and they were not ready to receive us, or as they say, “we met their absence” so we continued looking. Just down street was Japan Motors, which also sells and services Nissans, but they too were under renovation. We stopped to ask in no less than six different departments (and buildings) at Japan Motors before finding the Spare Parts Department. Along the way we found the Service & Repairs department, and I asked if I could drop the car off for repair, but they told me I had to go buy the part first.

The part costs 1.86 million cedis, roughly $200. which was about what I was expecting, but Emmanuel thinks we can do better in the Black Market. So we’re off to fight traffic—it has taken us almost two hours to get to this part of town from dropping off the kids--or what I thought was traffic, but it turns out to be just a warm-up for the real traffic. The Black Market is one street off from Keneshi Market, a market I have passed by or been to several times. Who knew it was there? It isn’t a market so much as it is a street choked with parked cars, and lined with used car parts. The only thing that keeps the car parts from spilling into the road and blocking it is the gutter.

"Gutters" in Ghana
Have I told you about the gutters here? Some might call them open sewers, but Ghanaians call them gutters. These cement ditches are about one foot wide and 2 feet deep, sometimes they are six inches wide and two feet deep, other times 3 feet wide and four feet deep. Gutters line most city roads, usually on both sides and create a sort of reverse curb, and ever present danger of falling in one. I’ve actually stepped into one, but thankfully it was dry at the time. Gutters collect the rain, sewage, garbage, pee from men relieving themselves, children bathing in them, and just about anything you can imagine that could float or be washes out to sea. It is actually an amazing feat of engineering when you realize that every gutter was hand dug and is uphill from something, and whatever it collects flows to somewhere else. Mostly it floats or flows to Jamestown, the lowest part of Accra. Jamestown is home to one of the oldest prisons is Accra at the colonial Fort James. Next to the prison is the lighthouse, we visited some months back. That Saturday we were in Jamestown, the gutters were full and overflowing, and had quite an odor about them, which is understandable since this is the lowest point of the city, and all that sewage has got to flow somewhere. From here it flows out to the sea, and from atop the lighthouse, you can see its gray mixing with the blue seawater.

[Suzanne & Anna enjoy donuts in Jamestown, but look in the lower right and you’ll see full gutter. While that may look like an almost full ditch, there is actually 2 feet of sewage below.]

But our house doesn’t flow into the gutters, we have a septic system; but still we have gutters on our street and so each morning as I am backing out the car, I fear accidentally falling in to one. Once I saw a taxi accidentally back into a gutter as I was driving by (he fell off the gutter bridge), and I saw that telltale sign of blown tire, the blast of chalky air rushing out. The tire (or tyre as it is spelled here) was spoiled (as they say here). So gutters add interest to an already exciting driving experience, and here in the Auto Parts Black Market, I’m threading my way with maybe 10 inches of wiggle room between parked cars, moving cars and the gutter.

[Gutter bridge to our house]

Add to this the 100s of people rushing us from all sides. A boy steps out of the crowd, puts his hand on the hood (or bonnet as it is known) and blocks us. He directs us to park here. A parking space appears where there had be 20-30 men milling about in what looks like a parking lot, just off the street and over a gutter bridge. We pull in. As I do this I’m wondering how it will be getting out, but then more boys appear. “What do you want obrunie?” they ask. Emmanuel explains, and off they run, returning with man a bit younger than I, who is the lens specialist. He says come with me, and so we follow, and each step I take I see more and more car parts lining the street, transmissions, steering wheels, carburetors, exhaust manifolds, engine blocks. It isn’t like they have 1 or 2 they will have 100 of them stacked up in this unholy pile, and I’m wondering where they all came. The Patrol! Suddenly I have a vision of us getting back to where we had parked the Patrol and only finding a chassis frame, resting on the ground, the rest of it stripped (and for sale), and I’m wondering, “What would I tell Andrew?”

“Lets go back,” I say to Emmanuel and turn around. He follows and within minutes we’re back at the Patrol, except now there are two cars parked behind it and three in front and now it would be impossible to leave. The man we had been following returns with a taillight lens, but it is the wrong side. “How much?” Emmanuel asks. “Four Million,” I watch as Emmanuel tells him he could get it at the dealership for 1.8. The man doesn’t budge on the price. A boy watching us runs his finger across the small dent in the bonnet. One time I had parked too close to a tree, and when the wind blew, it added a small dent. It was a month before I could confess it to Andrew, and by that time I had noticed some scratches on the inside of the windshield (or windscreen, as it is known), and thought the guards had done this cleaning it. I confessed in an email, and Andrew writes back:

> The Patrol is HIS so don't worry. The scratches on the inside of the
> windscreen/windshield were there already on the new replacement
> that I got right before we left. It is covered with dents and scratches due

> to the roads to Amakom at the Lake and roads up north in
> church planting – so don't stress over a dent or scratch.

I must admit that my first thought when I read “The Patrol is HIS so don’t worry” was “Oh, great, now I’ve dented GOD’s CAR,” and how’s that going to look? But now there are greater things to worry about. Emmanuel is still arguing for the lens (and perhaps the car) with the black market auto parts dealer, and I’m thinking, “how is that going to look if I lose GOD’s car? Boys are gathering around, young men are leaning on the Patrol, and running their fingers across the paint and windows. The next day, when the night’s dust has settled, I see fingerprints all over it, like a CSI investigation. At the time it has looked like they were evaluating it, wondering what they could get for this part or that.

“Letsgo,” I say to Emmanuel, and off he goes to find car owner number #1, to ask him to move it. Now a third truck has pulled in behind cars #1 & #2, completely blocking the street so traffic is completely stopped. The mood of the place is changing, rising, and I think about locking myself in the car. I think about putting it in low four-wheel drive and making my own way out, ramming the cars that will move, and driving over the ones that won’t. Now, there is perhaps 30 men and boys milling around us, and it has the feel of a riot forming, pushing and shoving at me. The parts dealer is back showing me another lens. This time he wants eight million cedis for both lamps, he can’t just sell one, he says. This is the black market, so when did they start caring about rules?

I tell him no. “Why?!” he says.
“Because I can get it for 2 million at Japan Motors.”

“But you are here, eight million” and he points at the lens. I notice it is the left hand side, not even the one I need, but maybe that isn’t the point. Maybe the 8 million just to get out of here in one piece. I start praying, “I wonder how you’re going to get YOUR car out of here?”
I tell him “I will not buy this from you, it is too much”

“Eight million for both he says,” like maybe I didn’t’ get it the first three times, and I say “You’re crazy, I do not want both, and Japan Motors sells for 1.8.” You’re crazy. Did I just say you’re crazy? Can I even say something like that? What if he takes it wrong? What if he is insulted? So I smile widely, look him in the eyes, and take the lens he is holding and admire it. I hand it back and thank him for this very nice part he has shown us, but no I do not need. We shake, brother shake, shake again, and snap. “Good-bye!” He smiles and walks away into the crowd. The tension breaks, something has changed. The truck blocking traffic has moved, and driver from car #2 has just showed up and is backing out.

Now its only car #1 blocking us, but maybe two inches of spare room from the width of the Patrol and car #1. On the other side is the shell of a car that that clearly hasn’t moved for a long time, its car #0. What happened to that owner, I think. I get in and put it in reverse. I wish the Patrol had those back-up sounds, like industrial equipment, beep, beep beep.

Emmanuel stands in the street directing me, and blocking traffic. Everyone is motioning for me to back out more quickly, but I take my time. Isn’t that’s how we got into this mess in the first place? I manage to slip between car #1 and what is left of car #0, and then over the gutter bridge, and at one point I roll down the window to collapse the side view mirror as to avoid hitting a fence post. Then it is only a four point turn to miss the cars parked on the street, and the gutter and all the while not falling off the gutter bridge. Then I’m back on the road, with 100s of people, a gutter, and the parked cars, but at least we can move, and the Patrol is safe for now, and we’re unharmed.

“Lets not do that again,” I say when we hit the main road, and are thrust into a different sort of traffic. Emmanuel agrees, “I think Mr. Steve has gotten a very interesting driving lesson this morning.”

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving (or, Grace and malaria) by Suzanne

Well, this Thanksgiving was nothing like we have experienced before; we have a lot to be thankful for. Thanksgiving, of course, is not a holiday here – the kids had the day off of school since it is an International School (with about 20% American enrollment), but Suzanne still needed to teach two morning classes at Ashesi. Since we were invited to some friends’ house beginning at 4pm, her office mate and co-teacher Aelaf agreed to take the afternoon lab session, for which we were thankful. However, none of our plans turned out as they were planned…

Grace had been sick all weekend, with a low grade fever, general malaise, and a stomach ache. Although we are wary of malaria whenever any of us are not feeling well, malaria doesn’t present as stomach pain, and so we assumed she ate something, also very common here. Maybe she did, and the malaria just took an opportune time to surface. By Monday evening she reported feeling better, did her math homework, and thought she would go to school the next day. We were thankful that she was feeling better. Early Tuesday morning, however, she came into our room with a high fever, shaking, crying, saying that her head was pounding. We were thankful that she got out of bed to tell us, as we might have not discovered her for another hour or more (the usual school day wakeup time). We decided immediately to take her to the hospital, and were thankful that we had already decided where we would take someone in such an emergency – the clinic that both a colleague at Ashesi had recommended and that was also on the list of recommended clinics of the Lincoln School. She was doing so badly that we decided we better both go, so we woke Fox and Anna, told them to make their own way to school via taxi, and set off in our borrowed car to the clinic (we were thankful to have a car and not have to take a taxi in such a circumstance). In the parking lot, a guard came and saw Grace’s state and called immediately for an orderly with a wheelchair, who came running, for which we were very thankful. Once in the clinic we were thankful we both decided to come, since Grace was immediately whisked off to be examined, but one of us (Steve) needed to stay and fill out the admission forms. The nurse saw her straight away and took her vitals (her fever was 104) and then we waited maybe two minutes to see the doctor – how thankful we were for that! We realized later as we were on our way to the lab to get the blood work that if we had waited even 15 more minutes, we would have been in a queue to be seen. Six am seems to be the right time to arrive at the clinic! The doctor said that he would start treatment straight away for acute malaria, since her symptoms presented that way (fever, headache, tenderness in the liver area), and he would order blood work to check for several things. We were thankful to be wheeled immediately to the lab for the blood work (also no waiting) and then to a bed in a shared room. They started her on an IV straight away, with malaria meds, and also gave her two shots, one for pain and another different one for malaria. After not too long she said her head wasn’t pounding quite so badly, and then she fitfully slept much of the day, in and out of awareness, with the attentive nurses checking on her and giving her the medicines as the doctor had ordered (the Ghanaian nurse asking if she could come into our sheeted room partition: “Please, am I invited?”). Mid morning the doctor came and reported that some of the blood work had come back, the initial test for Typhoid (which we learned later is unreliable, the reliable one takes 3 days to culture) came back negative, as did the smear for malaria. However, he still thought it was malaria due to the symptoms, and said that it is not uncommon for ex-pats on malaria prophylaxis to have a negative smear yet still have malaria (the doxycycline can suppress the parasite in the blood although it can still be active in the body). With that news, Steve continued the morning at the hospital, and I went off to teach a class at Ashesi.

I returned around noon with lunch for Steve and I, water, clothing for Grace and Meadow (her stuffed bunny) and other supplies. She was still alternating between being hot and cold, sweating profusely, and although her head was still pounding (we could watch her heart beat in her neck) she reported it was better, especially if she stayed still. Lunch came, which was light peanut soup and fufu, Grace’s favorite Ghanaian dish. That brought a smile to her face (after the wincing to sit up to eat it) for which we were thankful. Aelaf offered to take the Thursday Computer Organization class, which was supposed to be my last one to teach before we switched off – I was so thankful for that, because it wasn’t yet prepped and now I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Steve went off to do some errands and get kids from school, and would return to do the night shift with Grace (he knows that if I don’t sleep well, I get really run down, so I was very thankful that he would spend the night with Grace). Sarah (the Fulbright student who is living with us) came to visit during the day, which brought another smile to Grace’s face, for which we were thankful, and she offered to help us however she could. Evening came without much improvement, but we were told that malaria takes 24-48 hours to respond to the medicines, and in the meantime it is difficult to control the symptoms. That evening I called Lori (per a friend’s suggestion), a US Embassy nurse friend of ours, to discuss the symptoms and course of treatment Grace was receiving. I was so thankful to have her as a sounding board. Although she was not convinced it was malaria (since with such a high fever she would have thought the parasites would be found in the blood) she said the course of action was fine for her symptoms and such (you don’t mess around with possible malaria) and even if it was just a bad virus, the IV and pain meds alone would be helpful. I went to sleep feeling reassured by everything.

The next morning the kids set off for school early by taxi and I returned to the clinic, to find that Grace had had a “rough night”. She had vomited, her fever spiked again, and at one point she got freaked out, refused to stay in bed and walked up and down the hall with her IV before collapsing in bed again. Steve said at one point he tried some guided imagery with her to calm her down. “Think of the most peaceful, happy place you can think of.” (Pause) “Where are you?” “In a really nice American hospital’ came Grace’s reply. So much for the guided imagery. The night doctor gave her a shot of antibiotics, just in case. When I saw her the next morning she was weak and sweaty, refusing to eat breakfast. I realized that I was supposed to teach at 8am (whoops) so I called my TA (what a great time to have a TA!) and asked him to discuss one of the readings I had handed out, an article, with the class. It was 7:30am and he said fine, no problem. I was very thankful. The doctor came by again on his morning rounds, assured us that he was still convinced it was malaria, but would call in a specialist that afternoon to get another opinion, and in particular to see if he thought she should stay on the antibiotics. So now I was becoming less assured (they really don’t know what’s wrong with her!), and just at that time I got a phone call from Rebecca, Grace and Fox’s math teacher (and wife of Ashesi President Patrick) who had just heard from Fox that Grace was sick in hospital. She told me that when her daughter Afia got so sick with malaria after they had been here a few months, it also didn’t show up on the blood smear, which she again said was not unusual, and that at the time she had gotten reassurance from a friend who was a peace corps doctor. Wait a minute, I said, we know a peace corps doctor! I was so thankful for the timely advice! I texted Fox to get Miriam’s Dad’s phone number (he is the “International Man of Leisure” that Steve has run across several times at the internet café and at school, and is Miriam’s Dad – Miriam is on Grace’s soccer team and in Fox’s play, and they live just 2 blocks from us). His number came back to me late morning, I called him and he said he would come soon. In the meantime one of the nurses asked if we wanted a private room (we didn’t know there were such things!), Steve went to check them out (they’re nice, he said, – like a hotel room!) and inquired the price – an extra $50/day. We can definitely afford that. In the night apparently the older lady in the bed next to Grace yelled “Mama” all night long, and they wouldn’t turn the light out. I was very happy to move away from the shared bathroom – shared by 3 other sick people and their visitors, with no soap in the sink! I was thankful to always have antibiotic gel and wipes with me! We moved quickly to the private room, which was glorious – 2 chairs and a small couch, a private toilet and sink and tub (still no soap, but gotta love that antibiotic gel) and air conditioning (which we couldn’t use due to Grace’s fever). Today was Fox’s 16th birthday, so Steve went off to do the necessary errands – get money (remember the cash economy – the hospital wanted daily deposits of 1 million cedis, plus Fox birthday supplies, etc.) , pick up birthday cakes, last minute birthday present shopping, food, etc. These errands take SO LONG – definitely no one-stop-shopping here. Again, he would return in the evening, since it was clear that we would be another day in the hospital. Patrick (Ashesi’s President) came as we were moving rooms, having heard from his wife where we were. Just a quick visit – he had just returned from a trip to the States late the night before. Paul came around noon – the last time they were in Ghana he was a peace corps doctor; this time they were here on his wife’s job and he was in the process of getting employed by another one of the clinics in town. He complimented our choice of clinics, and said it was where he would take his own kids. He assured me that they know how to treat ex-pats here, and know exactly what to do for malaria. He said it was far safer to get malaria here than in the States, where doctors just don’t have the experience with it. He looked at the medicines they were giving her and assured me that this was state of the art malaria treatment – a potent quinine derivative in combination with a Chinese herbal drug. The antibiotics he said was likely a shot in the dark, but since she was so sick likely a prudent course of action – it would protect against Typhoid (since the initial test is not so reliable) plus many other things. All in all he said she was getting exactly the right care, they were doing exactly the right thing. I can’t even express how thankful I was to hear that! It’s not that I didn’t trust the clinic and doctors, it’s just that we DIDN’T KNOW and she was SO SICK and we’re in a foreign country, it was just glorious to get such a confirmation of the current course of action. Grace was in the midst of what turned into a 4 hour hard nap, the best she had slept since she had been sick. When she woke, she was hungry (!) and feeling better (!). It was like magic – she went to sleep SICK and woke up 4 hours later, well. Still sweating in the weird, profuse way this disease seems to produce, but back to her old self. The specialist came in and examined her at dinner time, and although she was better he said it was too early to release her – they needed to make sure she didn’t spike again. So, another night in the hospital, but at least this time it was in a private room (without “Mama!” all night long, and they had control over the ceiling fan and lights). The doctor even ordered her removed from the pain/fever medicine for the night (which when I talked to Paul later he said was also exactly the right thing to do – since we were hoping to be released the next day, they needed to see how she would do without the fever reducer). Steve returned to spend the night, and I went on to the next whirlwind, Fox’s birthday.

Steve had already picked up the pizzas, which were very aromatic in the car (I hadn’t eaten anything but a bagel all day!), and had left Sarah and Anna at home preparing other food and the house. I picked up Fox at play practice at 8:30, then went around and picked up various friends, and descended on our house around 9:30pm. They (all 15-18 year old boys) devoured pizzas and apples and pears (the pears were a big splurge, and were delicious!) and sodas and cake. Then we opened presents and visited for awhile, and then I drove them home again. Fox went with them – since there was no school the next day (Thanksgiving) they were having an all night Gamecube party at one of their houses. I was thankful he seemed to have a good time at his birthday celebration, despite the lack of priority it had in reality received. I returned home to find that Sarah had cleaned up, for which I was very thankful! I made carrot pineapple salad for Thanksgiving the next day (which ended up a soupy mess), and went to bed after 1am, exhausted but thankful that Grace was better and Fox’s party was over.

I awoke realizing again, whoops, I had lab at 8am and forgot. Again I called Collins, my TA, and again he said fine, no problem. Aelaf was already going to take the 9:30am and 3pm classes, so I was off the hook for Thanksgiving! I did call Aelaf and tell him I would be in to make up an assignment for the 3pm lab – he said it was not necessary, but when I asked him what he would do in lab he said, “oh…” so I thought the least I could do was make up the assignment for him. Steve left the hospital early since he was preaching at the 9:30am American Thanksgiving service (can we throw in any more stress here?) . The Ambassador read the President’s Thanksgiving Letter, and Steve said it was a very nice service. He returned after with Anna (Fox had gone with his buddies to the American flag football game at the school), and the timing turned out perfect – the doctor had seen Grace and released her, we were just waiting for the final bill and take-home meds. Since she went from being so sick to basically well in such a short time, the general consensus is that it was malaria which responded to the meds – again, typical of malaria I am told. We said goodbye to all the very nice nurses (sisters), who all said, “She is better, praise God!”, got our bill (total bill for 2 ½ days, doctors, lab, medicines, etc.: about $350 US dollars), loaded up and drove away. They dropped me at work before heading home to settle her into bed there. I got my work done just (barely) in time for the 3pm lab, and offered to help with the lab since Aelaf looked very busy, but he said, “no, it is Thanksgiving – you should go home.” I was very thankful for his kindness. I went home, Grace was up and alert, we played a card game and then settled Grace back on the couch for a nap while we went to a friend’s home for Thanksgiving dinner.

We had accepted Christina and Nate’s invitation to Thanksgiving some weeks ago, with the promise that we would bring a bit of the food. This morning at church Steve told them we didn’t think we could come, since we were so exhausted and Grace would not be able to come with us. In fact, when Nate heard Grace was in hospital he asked if we would like to bow out. But later, Christina called to say we should just come and eat and run, but not bring anything. It’s so hard to accept such kindness, but we agreed and were so thankful. We came to their house at 5pm (after settling Grace into a nap) and had an absolutely glorious time visiting with so many nice people, and had an absolutely wonderful dinner of turkey and all the fixins. We did indeed eat and run, but unfortunately got home after Grace had woken, hungry, to a dark house (an unscheduled “light out”). So our poor malaria-child fumbled in the dark for candles and rechargeable lanterns, and found herself crackers and groundnut paste for her own Thanksgiving dinner. Poor thing. So, we don’t win the parents of the year award after all. She did thankfully accept the turkey and fixins we brought home to her though. Shortly after we arrived back home, two of her friends from school came over to visit, which was nice and brought another nice smile to her face. So she ate her leftover Thanksgiving dinner while they ate leftover Fox birthday cake, and visited. One of her friends, David, asked if she smelled like that “hospital smell” – you know, that antiseptic hospital smell. Well, I thought, that’s not really a problem here! While the facility was adequate and the nurses and doctors were very knowledgeable and attentive (Steve says he’s never seen that high level of care (and concern) in any of the Texas hospitals he has visited doing pastor calls), it was still an African hospital – I won’t go into detail as I don’t want my Mother to get too worried. Let’s just say that it was a unique experience, which we hope not to have to repeat, ever again. But, most of all, we were so thankful to all the nurses and doctors, and friends who called and were called to gave with advice, and Paul who came to visit and consult, and Patrick who also came to see us, and my TA and Aelaf who covered for me at Ashesi, and of course God, who helped us through this very blurred experience which was: Grace and malaria.

Week-end Trip, Day 4 -- returning to Accra

I wasn’t sure how this day was going to end, who would be returning to Accra, who was staying, and when we would get home. Yesterday, when I was waiting around with the girls, Ruth said she was staying here with her mother, while Anna said she was going back with her father. I had heard nothing of this other than the brother-in-law that Emmanuel disliked so was planning to return with us today, the family would not have him, they said.

That first day, on Saturday when we were going to visit Vida’s sister in Ayem, Emmanuel and his father-in-law got into quite a discussion about Cory, and at one time I remember him shifting into English saying “You are a bad father!” Things got very tense, and I was looking forward to see how this worked out. Cory was of course, back in Mpoho at the “Guest Lodge” and so they could talk freely, with Vida and myself and the girls in the car. When we go there all was smiles, and we dropped him off, and picked up some new passengers.

It seems like every time we got into the car, the passenger list changed. People would be added, subtracted, and I got the feeling that I was their driver. It is OK, I know I’m being used, but I’m using Emmanuel too. I’m seeing things, and getting to visit places I would not normally get to visit as a white man. I’ve taken about 600 pictures and not once been hassled, or had to dash somebody or buy a permit to take pictures.

In Africa they say, it is allowable to have friendships based on mutual assistance, or to the mutual benefit to each part. They don’t have to be based on friendship, and I feel a degree of that during this trip. From time to time I have to put my foot down and say, no, but mostly I’m along for the ride, or really to drive the ride.

Today the plan is to go to BOPP, the giant palm oil processing plant in the area. It is an hours drive there and when we arrive we learn that there is no one there to approve the plant visit, so we are turned away. Emmanuel decides to visit the home of his ancestors, and we spend a few hours creeping our way through the town of Banso. He just doesn’t get the whole car thing I think sometimes, or doesn’t understand the danger in it all. At one point we’re driving down this road, I’m being really kind here, it is really just the space between peoples homes, and the ditch that runs through town, he is directing me here and there, and while I’m being very careful to creep along at 5 KPH, it is rough road, and when he wants me to turn down yet another “road” I balk. “We can walk, “ I say, but that is not really the point is it. The point is to arrive in a car. Later I explain to him that in Accra, I will park the car and walk a half hour just to avoid driving on Oxford Street, a busy street near us which is always and all times is a traffic jam. It is a concept that he has clearly new to him. I’m figuring out that cars are not so much about transportation, as they are for arriving in, or more clearly to be seen climbing in and out of, and I’ve had enough of it. We park and walk, and get there a whole lot faster (and safer). Ah, cross-culturalism. I’m also cranky because we’ve been without water now for the whole morning, he came in my room and collected my water, and so I’ve been without, it is really hot, and he doesn’t like it when I run the AC. At the next stop I ask for a coke, anything, to drink as it is almost noon and I’m sure not going to be drinking out of the water bottle he has been sipping on all morning.

We get to the great uncle’s house--by walking--and finally sit down, and again we are asked, what is our mission, Emmanuel goes into it with great detail and when they are about to shake hands, I add, “and there is nobody chasing us, so you don’t have to hide us under your bed.” The room erupts with laughter. You get us, obrunie, I can see it in their eyes. I’ve been in about five Ghanaian village homes this trip and am beginning to see a trend. A typical room is about 15x20 feet and divided in half by a floor to ceiling sheet. Behind the sheet is a double bed and there may or may not be a window in that part of the room. On this side of the sheet there are five wooden chairs, a table for the TV, and a coffee table. The chair cushions are covered with a bright blue covering that often has some biblical saying or concept, like God is Great. The bed also serves double duty as an overflow couch, but people sit on the sheet divider. It is a compact yet highly functional arrangement. Cooking is done outside on open flames or charcoal, but I am not sure where they eat. I am guessing outside.

When the cokes are finished, we say good bye and head off to the Guest House, when I see the twin spires of a catholic church, Notre Dame of Ghana I nickname it. We drive into the church yard, actually a school yard and I get out to take pictures. It isn’t long before the headmaster is out there asking me what I am doing, thankfully he doesn’t ask my mission, or I’d have to go into the whole narrative thing, instead I explain I would like to take pictures of this church building because it has an unusual structure. Actually, I’ve ready taken several, as I have learned that sometimes people like this get all authorian with me and ask to see my credentials, or permit, or some other ridiculous documentation, but none of that is happening today.

He says “The man who built this church, he has kicked the bucket long ago.” I smile at the headmaster and say, “Now that is not an expression I have heard in a very long time, kicked the bucket.” He beams, and together we talk about the building and walk to the front to take more pictures. It is an echo of Notre Dame, smaller, and made out of concrete and I see they have just restored it, or the inside of the building. I wish I knew more about it, but I feel like he needs to get back to his headmastering. I look inside the open air building and see the altar is on the opposite end of the church from the spires. I’m about to ask more when Emmanuel shows up and gets all possessive about me, like I’m HIS obrunie.

Ghanaians can be so rude to each other, or at least it sounds that way to me. I’m having this nice conversation with the headmaster, learning about the building and then Emmanuel walks up gets ugly with him. I’ve seen him do this other times like when we were getting the car inspected, and the process wasn’t working perfectly. He gets ugly with they man in charge, and I want to say, just relax, don’t make things more difficult for us. Too late, now he is upset with us. I’ve seen this in other places, like when the appliance guys showed up to install the washer and didn’t bring the right equipment to drill into 12 inches of solid concrete. The Ashesi guy gets ugly with him, and all but calls him incompetent. Maybe he was, but the next day, that washer is installed and perfect. Maybe it is a cultural thing, or motivational thing that I just don’t get, but I know it makes me uncomfortable, and I feel shows a distinct lack of respect for the other person.

We’re back in the car now, and after picking up a new passenger, we get back to the guest house about 11:30am. Vida is nowhere to be found, again, and so Emmanuel calls her and says to me “Please, she is coming.”

“Please… is coming” is an expression that could mean someone will be here anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours. For example, when the guards leave their post to pick up some dinner, they say “Please, I am coming,” they say as they are leaving the yard. When I was here in 1968, the expression was “I go-come,” but you don’t hear that much anymore. So after he has told me she is coming, I suggest to Emmanuel that he pack up so we can leave after lunch. I’m already packed up, so I sit down and entertain his girls, and then go take a nap. Big Mistake. I wake up and the house is just as it was an hour early. I’m trying not to be all uptight about things, but I keep thinking “Please, she is coming.” I remember him saying, it could mean 10 minutes or three hours, and now I guess it means the latter, and so I text message Emmanuel. “Time to go,” I write.

All day long he had been telling me how we were going to get on the road early, so I wouldn’t be driving in the dark. Not driving in the dark left a long time ago, and I’m starting to get concerned. Well, lunch is rice and a wonderful cabbage-okra stew, and then we’re packed up and on the rode by 3:30. It still means we’re gong to be pulling into Accra about 8:30pm, three hours after dark, and while I know these roads, I still don’t like driving after dark on them. Mostly I’m concerned about what the passenger list will be, will Vida come home, will Cory be with us, will the girls be split up?

When they arrive, they are very apologetic, but all smiles with each other, as whatever the Warwa was, it has changed into Jojo. It is good to see them getting along, and the whole way back they talk in Twi. It has the sound of people who love each other, and I’m glad things have worked out for Emmanuel. He managed to make it home with his wife, children, and not his brother-in-law. I have got to hand it to the guy, he did well.

Prologue – they say that cross cultural friendships like this are difficult at best, impossible on average. There are just too many differences to get over. I think Emmanuel has done much to accommodate my western-ness, meeting me more than half way, and when you think about it, the week-end was pretty amazing. I didn’t get sick, I ate typical home cooked Ghanaian food, and got to experience village life. Well, sort of.

The next few days after we get back are a little weird. He has been BMOV (Big Man Of Village) for a week-end, and now he returns to be a day guard. I’ve been his driver and charge, and now I’m back to being his boss, and the transition feels strained. Yet he seems happier than I’ve seen him in weeks, and it has to be nice not having the constant irritation of his brother-in-law.

The most common question I've been asked upon returning: "Was it fun?" Hmmm, fun, interesting, once in a lifetime experience, cross-cultural, yet but when I think of fun I think of skiing, I think of a long week-end with Suzanne in Seattle, I think of anything to do with Austin, but Mpoho, fun? No not really, still I'm glad I went and feel blessed for the opportunity.

See more picture of the week-end adventure

Monday, November 20, 2006

Week-end Trip, Day 3

This past week-end I went to the Western Region of Ghana, with our day guard Emmanuel to visit Vida’s ancestral village, as well as the village where his mother lives. This is day three (Sunday).

See pictures from Day 3

On Day 2 we visited people, on Day 3 they visited us. It is Sunday, and so it begins with a long walk around town where we meet up with Emmanuel’s father-in-law, the Twi singer from last night. He lives at the top of the hill that the town is built around and here he gets a great breeze. We sit on his porch, and he asks our mission. I’m getting the hang of this, but thankfully no cokes appear. I’m about coke’d out. What does appear are goats and chickens, who move in and out of the porch area where we are sitting. He shares a duplex with another family and I watch as his neighbor pulls out a machete and whacks away at a 2x4 of mahogany, and adds the chips to the fire. He is cooking palm nuts. I watch the hens come in and pick up abandoned scraps, and the goat tear at a plastic bag, and think about Bird Flu.

Ghana is a country that has chickens everywhere. When we were waiting to be notified that we were going to Ghana, a bird flu epidemic broke out in Nigeria, a country two countries away and roughly seven hours by car. If bird flu had made it to Ghana, we wouldn’t be here now. I think about all the chickens I we have seen, how they live with the people here, going in and out, mother hens and their little chicks. These are a hardy lot and you never see a dead one on the road, as the stupid ones died off long ago. These are smart and very fast chickens. I think about how hard it would have been to contain an epidemic here, the hundreds of thousands of chickens that would have to be rounded up and slaughtered. It would be unstoppable. Emmanuel asked about it once, and I told him about the epidemic that almost kept us from coming and he said he didn’t believe it, that he would be against the slaughter of chickens to stop the epidemic. He is a wise study, and when even he won’t believe this is necessary, what chance does the rest of the country have?

After we visit a few more people it is time for church, and when we return, Emmanuel’s mother and her brother are there to pay a visit. I ask them their mission, and they tell me they are here to thank us for our visit yesterday. This could go on forever, I think. Me visiting you to thank you for visiting me, you calling on me to thank me for visiting you… We shake hands, I offer them water, as that is what we have, but Emmanuel’s girls are way ahead of me and they have already finished their water. They send Emmanuel away and then plead with me to take him to the US, or sign the papers so he may emigrate. Oh, so this is your real mission, I think. We get this a lot here. People will just come up and ask for us to sign the paper so they may go to US. If only it were this easy. I tell them I don’t really know how this all works, that especially since 9-11, the emigration restrictions are tight, and I tell them I don’t know what I can do to help Emmanuel get to the US.

When the visit is over, Emmanuel asks me to drive them back to her village, Trebuom. Today the road work is complete so it should only be a 15 minute drive (it turns out to be 25). We take Margret (his mother), and Kofi (his uncle, her brother). Margret is 53, and has remarried. Emmanuel’s father died five years ago, but his mother had left him years before that and moved back to Trebuom. Emmanuel is 32 and the eldest of nine children. He is he grandson of one of Ghana’s “Big Six,” (Aku Adjie) the founding fathers of Ghana where were arrested in colonial times and now their faces are memorialized on the ¢10,000 note. As the eldest, he has many of the qualities of and eldest child, a bit of a controller, and always thinking he knows best. So it is an interesting dynamic getting ordered about (I’m a youngest child), and yet I’m his boss, and sometimes I disagree with him, or ask him just how does he think this is going to work out (and it ruffles his feathers)?

For example, Sunday in Ghana, is the day when many people go to the beaches. We had planned to spend the afternoon at the Busra Beach, but one thing led to another, we visited more people--it will only take 10 minutes (that would be 10 Ghanaian minutes, or two hours)-- and by 2pm I wonder if we should go to the beach at all. I lay out the schedule, and it is like he has never thought of time that way. Sure enough, I am within 2 minutes of the schedule as it plays out, except that we leave the beach 30 minutes early, and so there is time for a short tour of Fort Metal Cross, in Dixcove. Later that night we learn there is a riot in Dixcove, and 2 people are killed, but we see none of that when we are there. We see a 17th century supplier slave fort (it supplied Africans to the big castles to be shipped as slaves) that is being restored to turn it into a bed and breakfast. How weird would that be, I think, sleeping in a dungeon where 100s died painful deaths?

Thinking of time as a series of events (with start, duration, and transition times), is a foreign concept. Literally. Time is not thought of that way in the Ghanaian culture. I’m not sure what the metaphor is. We’re in the car driving home and talking about a trip up to northern Ghana, where the first stop would be a town call Kumasi. The end point would be a northern a town called Tamale, (pronounced Tom-a-lee). Emmanuel says it is a eight hour drive to Tamale. We argue about it a bit. “So what kind of hours are we talking about?” I ask. “Ghanaian hours?” He looks hurt. “It is eight hours I say,” he tells me and I counter, “eight hours will just get you to Kumasi,” unless you’re talking Ghanaian hours.” “What does this mean, Ghanaian hours?” he asks. I tell him about yesterday, visiting his mother, and in-laws how he thought it would only take one hour, and I ask, “One Ghanaian hour, and how many rest-of-the-world hours did it take…four and a half.” Ghanaian hours are different.

So we’re back to heading to the beach now after so many delays and when we get there, guess what, at 4:02, I predicted 4pm, so I’m feeling pretty smug, and Emmanuel is surprised I can forecast rest-of-the-world time so accurately. “What time is it?” he will ask every time we get into the car now, to see how close I am to predicting how our programe will play out.

I guess what I had begun to notice that first night, was that if I took time to involve myself in the schedule of events, asking questions about this or that aspect, pointing out the unrealistic parts, that it was possible to stay on a schedule measured in rest-of-the-world hours, but it didn’t just happen naturally.

So now it is 11:15am on Sunday, and worship at the Methodist church has been going on now for one hour and fifteen minutes give or take an hour. We drive—it is a two block walk, but this is something he loves, showing up in a big car, the only car in the parking lot. This is a new experience for me, showing up half way through a worship service. Its not new to a lot of people, but for me this is a first. We get in just in time for the announcements—I fall asleep, and Emmanuel is aghast, but it is hot, I’m dressed in funny cloths, and for 20 minutes they have been giving announcements in Twi, and it is feeling like Community Radio again, and its payback for the lost sleep that morning. My eyes shut, and I’m not praying, not even close. He nudges me, just like Suzanne does sometimes. Then it is the offering, actually they do this twice. Here, and in many of the churches we’ve worshipped at, instead of passing the plate, you go forward (dancing along the way) and place your offering in a basket up front. If you are a tither, then you also place a notebook along with your offering so that the elders can record your contribution and return your book during the service. We don’t go up the second time, and the elders of the church approach us, and ask “What is your Mission?”

Next thing I know I’m in front of the church being introduced, “I bring you greetings from Texas, US,” and the pastor comes to stand over us and prays, in English. Then it is time for the sermon, and the repeated phrase is in English, Put your whole trust in God, and it is only 15 minutes long. This is the shortest sermon I’ve heard in four months, and then church is over, and we go out and shoo the goats from under the car and drive all of two blocks home, except that we don’t drive home, we go to the next town over to visit his sick cousin, whom he found out was sick only this morning. It will only take 10 minutes, he tells me (10 Ghanaian minutes I think). Two hours later, I’m wondering out loud if we should bother going to the beach at all.

We do and Busra beach is wonderful and unlike any we’ve seen in Ghana, more like the beaches of Belize, where the water is waste deep about a half a mile off shore and not rough at all. I’m the only one who goes in the water, Emmanuel and the girls stay on shore. Ghanaians are afraid of the water, and in most places they have a right to be. Ghana has some of the nicest beaches and strongest undertow I have ever experienced. It really feels like someone is pulling at your ankles when the tide goes out, and I’ve heard of a legend about the witch of the sea who steals people and sucks them out to drown. But Busra is different, and I hope to bring my family out here because swimming by myself isn’t as much fun as it is with the family.

We are home by 7pm, just about what I predicted, and dinner is fufu and light soup, it is wonderful, but I am not that hungry, plus one of our missionary friends told me the key to not getting sick when you are going on village visits like this is to eat “small, small” (to eat small portions).

When Ghanaians want to say little, they say “small, small”. I wonder if it is a Twi-ism, anyway it has crept into our family language where we say “small, small” now, and it always brings a smile. Tonight ends as yesterday ended, with Vida absent, Emmanuel, out looking for her, and the girls and I singing along with their grandfather, but we have visitors.

I am told they have come to greet me. This is Vida’s sister and husband from yesterday, the first home we visited yesterday morning. They have come to thank me for my visit and now want a ride home. I tell Emmanuel that it is dark and I don’t feel safe driving these roads at night. He asks again and the singing grandfather steps in for me, pleading that I am tired and can not drive them. I feel bad saying no, but I am beginning to get the feeling that everyone wants a ride in the car, and while I don’t mind, I do mind at 9pm on a very dark night. In the distance I hear thunder. We walk them to the Taxi station and for ¢20,000 they take a taxi. I would have gladly paid that two dollars not to be on the road that night.

So we go inside and sing songs, and I hear more Twi versions of standard hymns plunked out on honky-tonk guitar. I am looking for another song, and grandfather says, “Please pastor, it is almost raining.” So what I think, we’re singing. “Please, pastor, it is about to rain.” Oh, I get it, he can’t leave until I allow him, and so we stand, I thank him for visiting and singing, and then tomorrow promise to visit him at his workshop. He walks home before the rain begins.

As I go to sleep that night I am thankful that I am not out driving strange dark roads in a downpour that will last most of the night.

See pictures from Day 3

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Week-end Trip, Day 2

Day Two, Saturday.

This past week-end I went to the Western Region of Ghana, with our day guard Emmanuel to visit Vida’s ancestral village, as well as the village where his mother lives. This is day two.

See pictures from Day2

The plan for the day (or programe as it is known here) is to go visiting relatives, attend church (Emmanuel’s family is Seventh Day Adventist, so they worship on Saturday) and then in the evening, for Steve to deliver a lecture on Marriage, Families and Child Care. I have some serious reservations about giving such a talk, the greatest being that when one proclaims to be an “expert” on something, one invites trouble into their life. So while I may have a very good marriage and family, who needs trouble? So I have reservations about giving such a lecture. Another reason is that I think Ghanaians practice family life much better than we Americans. For example, here we are in the ancestral village of his wife, not far from the village of his mother, not far from the village of his ancestors, and he knows a lot of people, and they know him---by sight. “Adjie,” they say with this huge smile that seems to say “what are you doing here?” He has married the local girl, and now is a part of their family, and they know him.

I actually wonder if Mr. Emmanuel Adjie has some alternative motives for wanting me to talk about marriage, perhaps he wants me to lecture his wife about marriage, and has picked her home church as the venue. The Tuesday before we left I ended up doing some cross-cultural marriage counseling for them, something I know I am not qualified to do. It seems that he and Vida have were having a WarWa, which means very big fight, and in his anger he has said some things he regrets, and while he is at work (guarding my home), Vida has taken him up on those words, and moved out with their youngest daughter, Ruth. She has gone to stay with a sister in a part of town he does not know. After much WarWa, her kid brother, Cory, (remember Cory from day 1?), has delivered her to our house, and now I’m sitting in our living room, listening to their stories. Emmanuel just wants me to order her to come home, as the white man, authority figure, boss, and I won’t have anything to do with that, even for him. Crazy me, I think they should actually work things out, and apologize for unfortunate choices they have made. At the end of the day, Vida has moved back in, and the trip is back on and so here we are in her home town, going to visit relatives before going to church.

The villages we are going to are about 20 minutes away by dirt road, except the dirt road has washed out and is being repaired that day, so we take the long way around, about an hour. Church is at 10am, we leave to go visiting about 8:30am, and each visit takes about an hour and even I can see it isn’t going to work out.

We go to the first village, Ayem, to meet Vida’s elder sister. Most of the transactions are in Twi, and so I really have no idea what is being said other than the occasional obrunie, or Methodist, which I can pick out. Twi is a funny language in that they freely mix in English words, like numbers, or western concepts that have no Twi word equivalent. The general form is to be invited into a house, and to sit down. If there is a place of honor, I am directed to sit there, if there is a fan, it gets pointed at me. Immediately someone will ask, “What is your mission?” and one of us is expected to go into a narrative about what has brought us to this point in our journey. Later Vida’s father explains to me that they ask this so the people will know if you are being persued, so they may hide you under their bed if necessary. When the narrative is done, everyone shakes hands, snaps, and bottles of cokes appear. I am the only one who is not expected to share my coke, and the conversations really begin.

Have I told you about Ghanaian hand shakes? In the course of a typical conversation I’ll shake hands five or six times. It starts with a western handshake, then moves to a brother handshake, and then back to the western one, and then we carefully arrange our middle fingers so that we release, we can snap our fingers in unison, and if we mess up, we’ll try again.

The next town we visit is Trebuom. Trebuom is down another dirt road and is the town that Emmanual’s mother lives in now, and the one Vida was born in. Her grandmother still lives there, her mother died years ago. On the way to Treboom we see a Palm Wine Tapper, and stop and get out to examine the process. Palm Wine is a sweet wine that comes from the sap of the palm tree. They uproot the tree down, let it sit for a week and then make a square funnel shaped hole near the top, and a hole on the bottom in which the sap drips out. The sap is collected in gallon jugs, the jugs are poured into 50 gallon drums (previously oil drums), and then allowed to ferment for a week.

Emmanuel, Anna, Ruth and Vida all sample the milky palm wine; I’m not that brave, so they give us a bottle to taste later, but over the night it exploded (the fermentation process was still very active). It takes 8 trees to fill a 50 gallon barrel, he tells me, and there are 250 trees in this area to be harvested.

Trebuom does not have electricity, and so the village you see is different than many of the other villages we will visit. The huts are mud and bamboo instead of concrete, and there are not power poles connecting a web of wires strung haphazardly overhead. There are no TV antenna stretching to the sky on tall bamboo polls. The government has plans to move the town five miles down the road, halfway between the towns of Mpoho and Bopp. When the town has moved, they promise a regional hospital and to bring power (“light”) to it, but until then, it remains unchanged. We visit Emmanuel’s mother and her husband, along with Vida’s grandmother and her aunts. While Vida is talking, the village children take us to the cocoa plantation, and we pick cocoa pods. Vida gives me some drying cocoa beans to taste, and Ruth shows me how to eat them. Yes, it takes like (bitter) cocoa, wow!

The longer we are in Trebuom, the more children follow us around. They will stay just out of reach, and their eyes watch me. Anna and Ruth snuggle, and rub my hairy arms, the village kids are fascinated, and it seems that everyone in the village comes by to have a look at the obrunie. We follow the usual format, what is your mission, cokes, shake hands again, snap, and then they talk. I smile and play with the kids and try to shake their hands, but they will have nothing to do with me, except to stare. It is now 11:30am, and church service we were planning to attend is well over, I think.

At noon we head back to Mpoho, and by 1:30 we are back, where we change into church cloths, long pants, long sleeve shirt and a tie. It is too hot for this, I think. All the way back Emmanuel has been fielding calls from the people at the church asking where we are. He is exasperated, and confesses he thought the visiting would take no more than an hour and here it has taken over four. In the original plan, he was to preach that Sunday in church, but for some reason that plan has changed and it is a good thing, since we missed church, but not the Harvest. They waited until we arrive before starting the Harvest.

Harvest is a quarterly event in the local churches here. It is a fund raiser in which several churches will gather to help each other out. A well-to-do person is selected as the chairman, and about 30 others are on the committee. As far as I can see, these are figurehead positions for this particular Sunday. Some churches auction off produce that people have brought from their farms and gardens, but this afternoon it is more of a talent show of different groups of people getting up and singing in incredibly tight four part harmonies. Of course, I have my guitar and so I sing too. During the singing people come forward and put money in a bucket. Sometimes people dance all the way up there and make a great show of putting money in the bucket, other time they is like what I imagine I would be like, embarrassed.

The first time I am introduced, and I sing the song, Meet With Me, a fun little ditty, and then I sit down and listen as there is more speaking, and a few other groups perform, including the chairman, who is actually quite good. The congregation is not what I had expected, mostly children from 5 to 18, and then a group of parents, and about 30 other adults who are part of the committee. They are expected to get up and contribute from time to time. Vida is elsewhere, visiting with family I guess.

The first time I sing, the congregation doesn’t know what to do with me. The second time, I am introduced again, and I bring them greetings from Texas and the US. I sing a song about marriage that Suzanne and I wrote when I was in seminary (Kelly & Melina's Wedding Song). They are clapping and I hear people harmonizing on the refrain. I sit down, and later I am introduced for the third time. Emmanuel and I are having a discussion.

“I don’t think this talk is the one I’m supposed to give,” I say, pointing to the prepared talk on marriage. “These children,” I tell them, “they are too young to be married.” “But Mr. Steve they have already announced that is what you will speak on.” We go back and forth, and then he says to tell them that this is what God has laid on my heart to share with them.

This Adventist church has gathered with another church called Trumpet, and together they are doing a Harvest to raise money for a building. Right now we are meeting in an outdoor school assembly hall. So when I am introduced again, I tell them about Foundation, and how it was just four years ago that we moved into our first building, and how I look forward to the day when you will have a church building of your own. I begin the prepared text, going into God, Family and Everything else, before launching into The Emergency Sermon.

“As a missionary kid,” an MK once told me, “You must be ready to pray, preach or die at a moment’s notice. Since I’m not a missionary, then all I have to be ready for is to pray and preach, and so like most preachers I know, I always have an emergency sermon in my brain, ready in a moment’s notice just in case we need to break the glass and use it. For me this sermon’s latest incarnation was called God’s FAQ, or Frequently Asked Questions, but the twist is that it is God who asks us the questions. It’s a pretty generic sermon that can be adapted to many situations and uses the Bible to ask people to self examine their lives to see how God could use them. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to pull out this sermon, and today, I am glad I have it.

A funny thing I’ve noticed about the Ghanaian churches: they are loud. I don’t know why, but they always have the amp turned up so loud that it distorts. So loud that it has long ago blown the speakers. So loud that I wonder if they even need to put potentiometers on the volume control knob, or would an on/off switch achieve the same affect? So the pastor and I pass the microphone back and forth, English, Twi, English Twi, very loudly.

I’m not sure my preaching connects. Preaching is so contextual, and to be effective you have to know the context, otherwise, as Bob Shelton[1] once said, “you’re just bootlegging the gospel.” Today I felt like a bootlegger. Before it is time to leave, they ask if I have one more song, and so I pull out one from long ago that has a cool whistling part at the end. The congregation really gets into this one, and when I start to whistle, the place erupts with joy. It is fun to finish well, and Emmanuel manages to slip us out after the song, but well before the Harvest will be over. It is now 5pm and we have been visiting or at church all day.

At night, after a wonderful dish of Groundnut Stew and pounded rice balls, I sit around singing with Emmanuel’s girls and their grandfather. Vida is off talking with her family so she misses her girls singing This Little Light of Mine, Tradin’ My Sorrows, and Shout to the Lord. They bring out a hymn book and we find songs to sing like I Surrender All, and Old Rugged Cross, and then their grandfather sings a verse in Twi, their local language. How fun. I wish I had a recording of this very African voice singing To God be the Glory, in Twi, with this honky-tonk guitar behind it.

Then it is off to bed to await the roosters and community radio, bright and early, tomorrow morning.

See pictures from Day2

[1] Dr. Robert M. Shelton was my Sr. Preaching teacher, and later president of Austin Seminary (

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Weekend with Emmanuel - Day 1

This past week-end I went to the Western Region of Ghana, with Emmanuel (our day guard) to visit Vida’s ancestral village, as well as the village where his mother lives.

[Kofi (Emmanuel's Uncle) & Steve practicing a snap-handshake]

This is a trip Emmanuel and I have been planning for several months, and as the day neared I must admit I felt some anxiety about giving myself over to another culture. I think I was more brave before I “ate something” and got so sick the last time, and so there is great fear that it might happen again. Emmanuel has gone to great lengths to make sure that it does not happen, bringing Vida to cook for us, enough water to last the week-end, and staying in a guest house.

Because Emmanuel is our day guard, he had to ask for some time off. If the security company found out that we went away together, he could be transferred to another house, as they do not like the client and guards to become close. So we had to dash his supervisor, and a relief guard so that we could leave early. Turns out we had to dash that relief a second time as his supervisor had kept all of the dash he was to split.

We left Accra about two hours later than we had planned and hit the massive traffic jams that are a fact of daily life for those leaving Accra. There are two routes out of town going west that connect to the same highway. One route is shorter, the other longer. The short one is a two lane undivided road (that splits into four and is choked with TroTros) and the longer route, is a three lane divided highway (and also choked with TroTros). We take the former, the one route I told him I did not want to take. “I show you shortcut,” he says, and I’m all for that since this route is always a mess. I don’t know what it is about Emmanuel, but when I tell him that I do not want to take a certain route or go to this certain place, it turns out to be exactly where we go. So now we’re caught up in this dangerous, highly fluid congestion of traffic and I ask, “So when I told you the Tema Highway Extension was the one place that I did not want to go to, you took me here, why?” He does not answer and seems genuinely surprised the traffic is this bad.

This is a cross-cultural weekend, and so I know there will be other issues, like the African way of handeling money. I’ve noticed this before, that when we’re at the market, Emmanuel likes to negotiate the price in the local language, and then tell me the final price in English. He takes my money to pay for it, counts it and hands it to the seller. If there is change, Emmanuel pockets it. I didn’t notice this in the early days, and thought maybe I was giving Emmanuel the money to count, to make sure it was the right amount. Now we’re on the road picking up last minute things from the hawkers that show up when the traffic flow slows. Things like bread. When you come from Accra, the tradition is, you bring a loaf of bread. There is actually a town that specializes in bread, the once we’ve called “market town” in other entries, that the one obrunies here have nicknamed Bethlehem, because of the bread venders. Lots of venders selling bread. Bethlehem means “House of Bread,” and so Vida and Emmanuel are picking out different loaves here and there and it seems like the price is always $15,000, and all I have is ¢20,000 notes. The ¢5,000 note change never quite seems to make it back to me.

Its dark now, and we have been on the road for 4 hours, and we’re nearing Cape Coast. It is time to stop for dinner, and I’m getting tired. I do the calculations in my head 90 minutes for dinner, and still two more hours drive, and we’re talking midnight before we get to the guest house. Too late for me. I propose we spend the night in Cape Coast because as it gets later, the TroTros get crazier, and it is already unsafe. We pull over to a travelers gas station and in we go to buy more bread and ground-nuts (peanuts). I’m thinking this is a snack dinner, which is great, we’ll be on the road that much quicker (turns out we were actually buying breakfast). This time when the change comes, I grab for it. There is a bit of a struggle, and he makes up some excuse about wanting to dash the store clerk, and I say no, which is funny since he is always telling me to not dash people. Like earlier when we stopped to fill up the gas tank and the bill comes to ¢605,000, and just like always he takes the money, counts it, and as he is walking away I say, “dash the attendants ¢5,000” and he says “Nope!” Later I ask the attendances, “Did he dash you?” They say no, and I’m pulling out money to dash them, and he walks up. “Why did you not dash them like I asked?” He says “We do not dash attendants,” well I do, and the guy who lent us this car, asked that we do.

Now Emmanuel was an filling station attendant many years ago and so I ask him if people ever dashed him, “yes” he says, and did you not like it when people dashed you? “Yes” and so why did you not dash them, and he has this story about how they had tried to cheat me, and I’m thinking, but you pocketed their dash, and so who is cheating whom? Later I will kick myself for not just going more with the flow of things. Actually, I think I am going with the flow pretty well, especially since there is a steady flow of money out of my pocket. Obrunie ATM.

They say that one of the differences between the Western World and Africa is how westerners will let money ruin friendships. The joke in the West is if you want to lose a friend, just loan them money. That would never happen here. Money is treated like a community resource, maybe like water from a well. A neighbor asks for some water, and of course you would share, so it is when friends/family/neighbors ask for money, if you have any, it is theirs for the asking. I’m trying not to be annoyed at his sticky fingers, and figure I’ve brought three months of his salary for the week-end, and so we should be able to make it last.

After wrestling over the change, we come out of the travelers store, it was an actual nice store, up to 7-11 standards, clean, well lit, and air conditioned. Outside side we find Vida has commandeered a table from an outside bar, and found chairs to put around it. The table is set and she has brought a tackle box full of Jollif Rice, and she serves us.

In the early planning stages of this trip it was to be Emmanuel and I on a week-end adventure, and then he decided to bring Vida along, to cook the food, so I would not get sick. Since Vida is coming, so do his girls, Anna (8) and Ruth, who just turned 5. When we pick the family up, Cary, Vida’s little brother along too. Cary has been mooching off them for the past few months, and I gather is in the doghouse with Emmanuel, something about loaning him cedis he was saving for his girl’s school fees, and now that loan has turned into a dash. I rarely hear Cary speak and never in the presence of Emmanuel, he is more of a quiet shadow the whole week-end, who washes the car every morning before I wake up. So its all six of us around the table eating Jollif Rice.

[Ruth & Anna]

The Jollif Rice was great, the setting, a little surrealistic. We’re sitting under the African sky, eating African food and Elton John is blasting out of the bar’s speakers. “Good bye Norma Jeanne, though I never knew you at all..”, It’s his tribute to Marilyn Monroe, the one that so mournfully calls her a candle in the wind, that burned out too young. At 9pm we’re back in the car heading down even darker unknown roads, and I notice something about time that won’t be obvious for another few days.

[The backyard grave of Stephen Krakue]

By 10:45 pm we have arrived at the “Guest House,” in the town of Mproho (pronounced m-po-ho). The guest house is a two story building former home of one of Mpoho’s favorite sons, Stephen Krakue who died two years ago and is buried in the back yard.

[Unpaid bills on the electric meter]

Now his elder brother operates it as a guest house, but how long that will continue seems uncertain. There is some trouble paying the utilities, and the water has already been cut off and looking at the electric panel, the light seems to be next.

[bucket showers]

Hello bucket showers. Since there is no water in the building (or as they say, “the pipe is not flowing”), water has to be brought upstairs in buckets from the community water tap across the courtyard. Emmanuel had warned me about this, they had asked “Will obrunie bathe in bucket?” except when he asks it sounds like he is saying barf instead of bathe. “Will obrunie barf in bucket?” and I’m thinking, I hope not, but he is talking about bathing, and I assure him it would be OK.

I have to laugh, because when we get there, there are three buckets. One of the “Steveisms” I talked about with staff was the theory of the three buckets, and here they were.

The Three Buckets
In life there are three buckets: faith, friendship/family and work/calling. Each bucket needs a place to get refilled, the faith bucket at worship; the friendship bucket, with friends and family; and the work (or meaning) bucket as we follow our calling. The problem comes when we start combining buckets, say our complete set of close friends come from work, but then something happens and we get fired. What about those friends and how awkward is that going to be the next time we see them? In this example the work and friendship buckets were combined and when the work bucket went bad, the friends bucket was spoiled too. Combining two buckets is dangerous, combining three is lethal, and therein is the problem with work in the church. Too often, we church workers combine our three buckets, we work at the church, our friends are at the church, and our faith gets fed in church. But what happens when an unpopular decision is made, one that our friends don’t agree with, and they take it out on us?

At first the three-in-one buckets felt great because all three buckets were always full, friendship, faith and work. But then something happened, or to put it another way, someone pooped in the bucket, and now it stinks. It stinks to work at the church, and our friends are angry with us, and the one place we fed our faith, also stinks. Someone pooped in the bucket, and the there buckets were not distinct, they all stink.

Its not a matter of if poop will appear in one of the buckets, but when, and when it does, wouldn’t it be great if at least one of them didn’t get some stink in it? In those times, its only the non-stinky bucket that provides the support we pastors and church staff need to get us through the current poop producing crisis. But working in the church it is hard to keep the buckets distinct, therein lies the problem.

Fortunately, there is a toilet in this guest house, so nobody has to poop in the buckets, but we do have to empty them into the toilet to flush it, so we do wait until it is brown to flush it down.

[picture of my room]

My room is nice, and large by Ghanaian standards. It has a great overhead fan, lots of air flow and a comfortable bed. I sleep alone in my room, and everyone else sleeps in the other room down the hall We all sleep well, until 5am (OK – so the roosters started at 4am, but you get used to that in Ghana). At 5am, its time for Community Radio. Community Radio is a loudspeaker system that blasts from atop of a tall pink building, the tallest in town. The broadcast, if you can call it that, is a man shouting announcements for 45 minutes in Twi or Fante. That first morning, in a sort of half awake state I thought it was the imam at the local mosque calling the faithful to morning prayers. I thought he was praying for me. Late in the afternoon Emmanuel translates one of the announcements when they are being repeated. “Chainsaw operators are required to attend a meeting tonight at 7pm...” The last morning we are there, I hear the guy singing Happy Birthday, but this morning, our first, it has brought me to full awakeness, and I’m ready to begin the adventure.

[This is the Community Radio broadcast tower]
[the 4am Rooster, I'd prefer to change his name to "stew"]

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Monday, November 06, 2006

We are Rich, We are Poor (by Suzanne)

It seems I am continually bombarded with this strange duality in which we are living: we have so much money, yet we have so little money. It is a strange place to be.

[Gloria, Suzanne & Anna at Prampram's 8th Anv. Celebration]

We have so much money, for obvious reasons. We live in a nice house (with hot water and AC!), in a nice neighborhood, with a car (albeit borrowed), and guards, and someone to help clean our house, and plenty of food – we even waste food sometimes, which is, you know, not polite, at the least, in a land of the hungry. “There are starving children in Africa” – Steve and I both remember that catch phrase from our childhoods. And there are hungry people here, or at least those with little – little clothing, little food (not near the food choices we have!), no electricity, dirt floors in their houses. There is no question we are well-off in this country.

However, our children attend probably the nicest and most exclusive school in Accra. Full of people on expense accounts. Many people whose children attend Lincoln have the tuition paid out of expense accounts (as we do – 2 of our 3 kids’ tuition is paid for by Fulbright, which is one of the reasons why the Fulbright grant was so wonderful for us). Others at Lincoln are just downright wealthy. So, it seems, most ex-pats (of the U.S. or some other country) or locals at Lincoln have generous means of living here – cars and drivers (some families have a car and driver just for their children; others have a car and driver for each child), DSL and DSTV (cable TV) in their homes, household help, generators for when the light is out. Which is fine with us, to each his own, definitely, but, kids being kids, there is a lot of “how come we can’t have…” And the answer is, frankly, well Fulbright is generous, but not THAT generous. Fox especially spends as much time at The Mormon Compound as he possibly can, where they have lots of good food (much of it American), a pool, internet and DSTV and generators and xbox and all the rest (and, I might add, VERY nice people – I’d like to hang our there too – who wouldn’t?).

[Anna's FIRST dance...and doesn't she look great!]

So, last Friday night the kids had a dance at school (all three – Anna’s first dance – she was SO excited, and had a great time) so Steve and I went on our second “date” since we’ve been here – we have been out to lunch before, while the kids were in school, and on our 20th anniversary we went our to dinner (which turned out to be a mosquito-fest), but this was our first evening out since early August without kids. Wanting to make the most of it, we went to what we had heard was generally regarded as the best French restaurant in Accra. And it was lovely – we had wine and Perrier and appetizers and main dish and dessert and decaf expresso/cappuccino and it was all fabulous. Our bill came and it was 800,000 cedis (about 90 dollars – with tip almost $100). Which was fine – it was a great evening with wonderful food and our first major splurge. But on the way home, we talked about how much money that was – perhaps a months’ salary for many of the workers at the restaurant, and with tip almost exactly a months’ salary of each of our guards, who work six 12-hour days a week. We got to thinking about what it would be to spend a month of our U.S. salary on one dinner – we decided it would be something like flying to Paris and eating at the finest restaurant in Paris and then flying back. And how we would absolutely condemn as grossly extravagant anyone who would actually do that. Yet, here we are, doing the equivalent in Ghana.

And, yet, we wonder what we will do when we give the car back in early December, or how we will cope with the heat when the light is out during the hot, dry season (i.e. should we buy a generator), etc. But, these are all really choices for us – we choose to live within our means, although we could dip into savings or live farther at the edge of our means if we really wanted to. But, for most Ghanaians, their lives are not their choice, but what the world has dealt them, their lot in life. How fair is that? It’s not. But, it is how it is. And in the meantime, we keep making our choices, to live in the upper class of society here, but our rationalization, I suppose, is that we choose to live near the bottom edge of the upper class. There really is no middle here – you are either rich or poor. You either have choices, or you do not. And I have always had choices. But there are those who have never really had much of any. That reality has reached a new level of clarity for me, these days.

The next day (today), after the expensive French restaurant, we went to Pram Pram, to the orphanage that we go to most Saturday mornings. This time I talked a bit with the director of the orphanage, and asked where these kids come from. “All over Ghana,” she says. I expect to hear about AIDS. Instead, she tells me that the mission (which is funded out of Germany) started as a mission to street kids in Accra. In fact, they still have a day center for street kids in Osu, not far from our house. The orphanage grew out of the realization that some of these kids had no functioning parents and really needed a living situation, a home. They started with 15 kids, 8 years ago. In fact, tomorrow we will go back for the 8th birthday party of the orphanage – there will be a service, and music, and dancing, and food. While we were there today I was asked at least 20 times, “Will you come tomorrow?”

[The Oprhanage Director being interviewed by George, from MercyShips]

The director told me that most kids have at least one parent alive, but they were on drugs, or mentally unstable, etc., but that just recently they have come to have true orphans as well, children whose parents had both died. But, that was not the original mission, just how it has evolved. She starts pointing out kids to me. “See, that one, his mother is a prostitute and didn’t want him, so we took him in as a baby.” “This one,” indicating a 2-3 year old boy walking by, “his mother was very depressed and tried to commit suicide while she was pregnant with him. They (the Ghanaian gov’t/social system) have no way of dealing with that, so they locked her in prison. Prison is no place for a pregnant, depressed woman.”

[Gloria, looking at her stickers]

“And you know Gloria, the fair-skinned one.” I know Gloria – she is always a delight. 9 years old, with a glow of joy about her face. “Those scars on her hands and feet - her mother did that to her, with boiling water.” I am shocked. Not just at the cruelty, which is of course shocking. But to Gloria? I watch her closely today, although I often spend time with her. She has the most beautiful eyes, and is so loving, and her face really does glow with joy. I see the scar on her hand, which I hadn’t noticed before (it is on her bad hand – she has a bit of palsy or something, so I had never noticed how yes, that does look like a burn). And, she always wears aqua-sock type shoes, but now that I look I see the scars poking out from the edges of the shoes. She has a deep and, now that I know her history, shocking, scar around one eye as well. How could any mother have done that to her? Beautiful, joyful Gloria.

[Gloria, dancing with the other kids to the song "I Can Only Imagine"]

Later, the kids practice a song that they will sing and dance for us tomorrow. I tear up as I watch them, and I can’t help but think that what this mission is all about is trying to give these kids some choices, some hope. Still maybe not what most kids in the States would have, but more choices and more hope than growing up as a street kid in West Africa. I really want Gloria (and Praise and John and Stephanie and Steven and Kudjo and Joshua and Sarah and Matthew and …) to have the kind of hope and choices that every child of God deserves, but don’t always get, because life just isn’t always fair.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ted Haggard & the story of a Hunter and his Antelope-Wife

As news has reached us concerning Ted Haggard, the highly public pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, who has [resigned/stepped down] over allegations that may prove to not be completely unfounded, I am reminded that this Sunday marks the beginning of my fifth month of stepping down (for completely different reasons). This Sunday is All Saints, a time when we remember those who have left us, and one of my favorite: the candles, the memories, the hearing the names read into the great cloud of witnesses, and the bell. I know I’ll experience none of that this Sunday, and part of me will long to be elsewhere.

Throughout these five months we have worshipped in many settings, at the church we were married in twenty years ago, at the church where I felt my call to ministry (11 years ago). We worshipped in one of the few United Methodist churches that survived Katrina with all its shiny new hymnals (the old were ruined in the flood). A charismatic church by the sea, another one that could be the Ghanaian twin of my the church I once pastored, another in a five hour worship service and finally an accidental church, now five years into the accident.

It was supposed to be a Chinese Church. In Ghana, the Chinese are a largely unreached people, ignored by the local culture, and ignored by the missionaries, and so a pastor from Singapore felt called to start a church to minister to them, but learned it would have to meet on Sunday afternoons, after the lunch rush, after the hungry Christians going out after had been fed. When the pastor went to rent a room to meet he learned that it could only be rented by the day and so there it sat all empty on Sunday mornings, waiting for Sunday afternoon. So a simple Sunday morning worship service was started. Lets see who shows up, and five years later, some 200 people show up each Sunday, by accident. This accident has started seven other local Ghanaian churches that all meet outside of Accra.

This week marks my fifth month from behind out from the altar, and to my surprise, it wasn’t that hard to escape. “Being ordained,” Barbara Brown Taylor was once told, “is not about serving God perfectly but about serving God visibly.”[1] Her rector continued, it is about “allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall.” He adds a final word of advice, “You probably won’t be much worse than other people, and certainly you won’t be any better, but you will have to let people look at you. You will have to let them see you as you are.”

I think that was the hardest thing for me to do, letting people see you as you are and the easiest thing to undo when I stepped away five months ago. I could be myself instead of the character the parish wanted me to be. I had heard people remark, “are you really a pastor?” or “you’re so unlike (or different than) any pastor I’ve seen” and I wasn’t sure what to do with things like that. I often felt like a imposter in fact my first email address was umpastor, for which the spell checker in Microsoft Word would suggest imposter. Was this a sign from God, I wondered, was I an imposter? Two years later I changed it to just pastor but those lingering feelings continued.

I thought that was a good thing, at the time —wondering if I was an imposter—It kept me honest, it kept me from becoming the title, Reverend, but it also kept me from leading with confidence, what if they learned my secret?

There is a West African Story I just read of the hunter and his antelope-wife[2] that resonates along this same line. It seems that one morning the hunter was hiding near a watering hole in the grass, when a herd of antelope appeared. Before he could draw his bow and shoot, the herd began removing their antelope skins, changing into women and dressing in fine cloths. He watched as the antelope-now-women went off to market, laughing and singing songs.

When they were gone, the hunter took one of the skins and hid it in his hut. Evening came when the sun was setting and he hid in a tree and watched the antelope-women return from market to look for their skins. One couldn’t find where she has hung hers, the other antelope helped her search, but after a while, they gave up and left. She began to cry and he came down from the tree.
“Why are you crying, young woman,” the hunter asks. At first the antelope woman would not tell him.
“You can trust me to keep your secrets,” the hunter promises her. At last the antelope woman admitted that she had lost her skin which would have made her an antelope again.
“I now have no home and do not know what to do” she cried.
“You must marry me,” said the hunter and he told her about his family and that she would be welcome in his house. The hunter promises to keep her secret, and then admits that it was he who hid her skin. She still marries him and together they have three children and life a happy life until one day…

Now, the hunter’s first wife was always asking her husband “Where did your new wife come from?” She does not know the secret of the antelope-woman. Sometimes the hunter tells her she came from a village far away, other times she is the daughter of a great hunter, but this does not satisfy the first wife. One day she tricks the hunter with too much palm wine.
“Tell me where your new wife really comes from?” And because of the palm wine he tells her the secret of his antelope wife.
The next day, the first wife quarrels with the second, and she says: “Do not be so proud, you are only an antelope and your skin is hanging from the roof in our husband’s room.”

The antelope woman, learning that her secret has been discovered, goes to the hut of their husband, finds her old skin, softens it in a pot of warm water, and gently slides it over her body. She transforms back into an antelope and bounds away toward the hunter, who is now a farmer, working in the fields with their three children. She tells him farewell, and that he has been good to her. She strikes her tail against their three children and they are each transformed into handsome antelopes. Together they bound away unto the African savanna over the strains of the hunter-now-farmer crying “stay, stay…,” as they disappear into the savanna never to be seen again.

I think about this story and wonder why it is still told today, why it speaks to me now, could I be the antelope-wife, and the antelope-skin, my former life before seminary and being a pastor? Instead of putting on a robe, I took off a skin, and God took it and hid it until five months ago. I decide the hunter must be God, and the church, his first wife. I think about the years I spent in service to others, to the church (his first wife), and to God (the hunter) and those I left behind, especially staff. I wish I could have slapped my tail against them and transformed them into antelopes so they could bound away. I think about them because they followed me into this house of the first-wife, hoping I would stay, hoping I could protect them...

Of course I am not alone. About the same time I was softening my old antelope skin, Suzanne (my only wife) had a friend who was softening hers. She was a colleague of my wife, and when it became too much she put on her old antelope skin, sold their house, packed an enormous crate and the same week we left, bounded away to New Zealand with her husband and their two children; running away from a profession and institution she thought would feed and nurture her, and didn’t. I can relate. Why did we think the institutions we poured our hearts into could love us back? Why did we think that they could sustain and care for us?

On the Sunday my church moved into its first building, the Jack & Edna Riley Center, the Bishop came to consecrate it. During the presentations I said to Jack, the foundation pastor: “I have heard it said that an institution like the Church can never show its love for those who serve it. As much as we may love it, and give our best year’s to it, we must realize—and not expect—that it can love us back.” Now Jack had forgotten his hearing aids that morning, so he couldn’t hear a word I was saying, and everyone would soon forget it, “But Jack, I hope you will remember this day, because this institution loves you.” How naïve I was to have said that, having only been in out of my antelope skin for three years. It would be two more before I really learned what perhaps Jack already knew that day, that institutions can’t love you, only the people within them.

Yet now five months into this new life I have visited new watering holes and removed the antelope-skin of this new-old life. Inside I see I am still a pastor, inside our friend is still a professor, and so I wonder if the problem isn’t with the skins, just when we stay out them too long. The skins protect us, they keep us human. I think a significant, and perhaps unappreciated, part of the story comes when the hunter confesses to the antelope-woman that it was he who took her skin, and still she marries him. What is that about? Didn’t I go into this pastoring eyes wide open, knowing its dangers, the long work weeks, the over scheduling, how mean people could be? Yes, I went into the house of the first wife knowing the hunter had hidden my skin, but why did we keep it a secret from the first wife?

Because the warned us to. In seminary, they warned us soon-to-be-pastors not to get too close to the people of their parish (or they would learn your secrets). They tell us to sustain our faith outside the success or failure of a particular appointment or ministry setting (because it would change). They tell us not to let the church become our whole life, but they don’t tell us why, only experience can teach that.

“Ministry is allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall,” the rector warned Barbara Brown Taylor before she suited up for ministry. “You will have to let people look at you. You will have to let them see you as you are.” In terms of the hunter and the secret of the antelope-skin, I think the disclosure we keep from the first wife and those who worship in her house was letting people see you as you are. It was too dangerous.

“Tell me where your new wife really comes from,” they ask and though we tell the story of our call to ministry, how we took off our antelope skins, they can’t believe the story behind it, that God would really call someone as common into ministry. They want more and when they learned how mystical my leadership style was, how it wasn’t that I heard from God, or made a well thought-out business decision as much as it was gravitating toward an answer or solution, they balked. The secret was out.
“Do not be so proud, you are only an antelope and your skin is hanging from the roof.” So I asked and received permission to put on that skin for a year and run away to Africa.

Reading about the sad circumstances surrounding Ted Haggard, I am reminded what Barbara Brown Taylor was warned: “Being ordained, is not about serving God perfectly but about serving God visibly.”[3] Ted Haggard did that, why just last week I heard Ghanaian pastor tell a story about Haggard how he organized a prayer ministry to visit the location of murders in his city to pray over that spot of violence and the people it would touch. Over the years, this prayer group and many like it were credited with changing their city. Godspeed to all who seek to serve God not perfectly, but publicly.

[1] BBT, Leaving Church, p37
[2] Vernon-Jackson, Hugh, West African Folk Takes, 1978, p9 “The Story of a Hunter and his Antelope Wife”
[3] BBT, Leaving Church, p37