The Buchele Adventure

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

Monday, June 18, 2007

From Accra to London: Intermission

Between Ghana to the States, we’ve stopped off in London for a few days. Getting out of Ghana was still easy but they have added the additional Inspected by Ghana Customs, step where you take your bag across the airport to have some guy peal off a sticker and place it on the outside of each checked-luggage bag, saying “Inspected by Ghana Customs”. Wow, that did a lot of good.

Going to London, the kids were not so excited, but now that we are here, checked in, and have begun seeing the Queen’s city, I think they are glad to be here. But I could be wrong, it could just be the proximity to Chain Food. It is still amazing to see how Americanized London has become, as Suzanne and I both remember in earlier days when the menu options range was between fish & chips and steak and kidney pie. But not these days, chain food is everywhere, and Starbucks!

First Meal
Kids: McDonalds.
Mom & Dad: A closet sandwich shop for some tasty sandwiches on cibatta bread (OK - so Steve cheated and had burger too)

Second Meal
Kids: Subway,
Mom & Dad: O’Neils’s Irish Pub, for fish and chips and seafood stew.

Things we noticed getting in a Taxi (alternatively five things you wouldn’t see in Accra)

1. Didn’t have to bargain the price (should have, since it ended up costing over $30). In Ghana, that kind of money would get you a cab for a day.

2. Everyone had their own seats.

3. Driving on a different side of the road. Fox adds, “remember its not wrong, it is just backwards.”

4. Cab didn’t smell, and loud African music (or as often country music) isn’t blaring.

5. And the driver was a woman.

We were expecting cold and rain, but for our three days, London was bright and beautiful. Bright - How strange it is to see the sun still shining at 9pm (and for that matter 5am), in Accra, the sun sets and rises at 6pm, every single day.

[This is the Tower of London, but I took from Wikipedia when I forgot to take one, duh!]
The Tower of London was amazing, consider that construction began 1000 years ago, and today they are still working on it. We were glad to see that it had won the “Loo of the Year Awards” in 2003, and 2005, but were wondering what happened these past few years. The Beefeaters are still as animated as ever.

[this "beefeater" was our guide]
The tour ended in the chapel, where our beefeater guide looked around and saw every seat taken and said, “the rector would like this now, wouldn’t he?” There was nervous laughter in the room, and I thought about that remark the next morning in the mostly empty Westminster Abby, where we were waiting for the service of Matins to begin. We were five of maybe 100 people who had come for worship. Coming through the gate, the rector stopped us, and asked why we were there. You see on every other day of the week there are tours—and they are packed—but on Sunday morning, the rector wanted to make sure our reason for being there was pure.

I can’t imagine a service of worship being more different that the African ones we are used to, a boys choir instead of a band; one hour long instead of two and a half; lots of quiet time-no hand clapping, dancing, or waving our arms. Instead we stood, or sat, or knelt, all in this ancient and oh so mystical historic cathedral.

I looked around, not 20 feet from where the remains of Brittan’s kings and queens were laid to rest, and felt sacred for being there, as if the walls were somehow saturated by all the prayers made there, from maybe services like this one of Matins, which has been held daily here for the past 1000 years.

I thought of all the great artwork I had seen the day before at the National Gallery, how it felt to actually view these paintings that I had come to love, when I used to use them to illustrate scripture in my sermon, as part of the story. But here in the National Gallery it wasn’t only about pictures, it was about legends, the story behind the pictures. For example, Saint Christopher [click here], who is the patron saint of Travelers. The legend goes that he was born as a tall and strong Roman named Reprobus, who later, sought out a Christian hermit, to learn how to serve our Lord. The hermit brought him to a dangerous crossing point in the river, and suggested that he serve here, as a human ferry, taking people across the river on his back. One day, he carried a small child across the river, who became heavier and heavier, and the water rose. until they were both almost lost. But they made it to the other side, where Reprobus asked what had happened, and it is said that Jesus spoke to him saying at that point he had born the weight of the world (other legends say, the sins of the world). Reprobus was then baptized by the child, and given a new name Christopher, which means Christ-bearer.

But the newly baptized Christopher was not convinced, and so he asked for a second sign, and the Christ-child told him to stick his wooden staff in the ground, where it miraculously began to sink in roots, and grow leaves, and if you look at the painting, you can see all this in it. What you don’t see is years later, when he was martyred by the emperor Decius, and then in 1969 removed from the list of approved saints by the Vatican, for lack of evidence.

I don’t remember seeing anything like this before, but the National Gallery has several unfinished works, works done by the masters that were, for whatever reason, not completed. How fascinating it was, for a non-artist like myself, to see the behind the canvas, or at least between the paint and the canvas, to see the technique, the blocking, and how, if just for a glimpse, the artist got from a blank canvas to finished painting. It made the rest of the paintings seem more approachable, more real, as if they really could be their sum of the parts. That Michelangelo left the Christ unfinished in this painting made me wonder if it was a metaphor for the paintings in our own lives, that finishing Christ is just part of our faith walk.

London was wonderful, but expensive. Fox said that the prices were the same as in the states, but in pounds, and right now, the pound is strong, really strong. For example that subway dinner the kids had as their second meal in London, cost over $24, for only two foot-long subs. Ouch.

[You're not paranoid if they really are always watching you]
Finally, in Ghana, being obrunies we had gotten used to be watched, and in London, we had the same feeling, but this time it was the security cameras, everywhere. I think we all look forward to being back in a land where there is nothing special about us, and we fit in, if only for a few months.

I’m trying something I used to do before my Flicker account filled up and I was too cheep to upgrade, posting extra photos (and in larger format) at Google’s Web Album. So if you want to see more photos on London [click here].

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Returning to the States for the Summer (by Suzanne)

[Tatum & Steve: These are the Ties that bind]

Tatum is our wonderful "Ghana" friend who helped with Youth Group this year, is or has already left, and I gave her a tie as a going away present.

As our thoughts turn to going from the Black Star of Africa to the Lone Star of Texas, we naturally have been thinking about what will be different, what we’re most looking forward to, and what we’ll miss about Ghana. In David Letterman fashion, we decided to make some lists:

Top 10 Things We’re Looking Forward to This Summer in The States:
10. Potato and tortilla chips
9. Buying NEW ready-to-wear clothes and shoes
8. Malls and Wal-Mart (believe it or not!)
7. Glen Lake Camp
6. National Public Radio
5. Manga books and book stores
4. Movies theatres
3. Fast internet (that works most, or even all, of the time!)
2. Drinking water straight from the tap

And the number one thing we’re looking forward to in the States:
1. Family and Friends!

More lists:
5 Things We WON’T Miss About Africa:
5. “Obruni!”
4. Malaria mosquitoes
3. Sweating 24/7
2. Not being “one bite away” from food poisoning
1. Light-outs

But, that seems a little harsh. Here’s one last list:

Five Things We WILL Miss About Ghana:
5. “Obruni!”
4. Asbury-Dunwell and Elim churches
3. Mangos, Greeb Bananas, Papayas and Pineapple (the best you’ve ever tasted)
2. Food prepared from scratch, will all fresh ingredients, all the time
1. Friends!

The Act of Remembering

[The village of Amakom]

I wonder how the Interns are all adapting to village life. I know Suzanne and I felt honored to welcome them to Ghana, or as they say here. Akwabba, or “You are Welcome!” We look forward to next fall, being continue to help our friends Andrew and Ju, and really any missionaries that want someone to pick up their people at the airport and/or help them transition to Ghana. As I have explored my call to ministry next year, I see it as being one of helping those who are already established in the mission field.

[teachers leading children at Paul & Anne's Orphanage]
When you consider that Ghana is 68% Christian, rising from 50% in the 1980s, it seems to me that much of the work that missionaries do is building relationships with those on front lines of local church, and the place I am most useful is in supporting them. Consider that there is, at least in Accra, there is a large expatriate community which very well may be the largest unreached people group in Ghana. These ones who work in the 1000s of NGOs here, or in the embassy, or business sector who might not connect well with the local practices of Christian worship.

The Act of Remembering
[interns first experience drinking "pure" waters]

For the Emily, Kirk and Deneise, I think my part was offering a sort of Ghana Evangelism course, showing them around Accra, and being their tour guide and giving them the Ghana 101 course. For me, this was an act of remembering, where I recalled one aspect I loved about being a pastor, that it isn’t all that different from being a tour guide. A tour guide knows the landscape, people and history, and as one who has been there, and loves the place, and wants to introduce it to others so that they will also. That’s what I loved about being a pastor, and having Interns here, showing them Accra, riding the Trotros, and taxis and just watching the excitement on their faces as they were seeing Ghana for the first time, I remembered that same excitement on people’s faces when Jesus becomes real to them for the first time.

It helps confirm my plans for next year, and this Internship with the Mission Society that I have applied for. It will center around three primary areas:
Elim International Family Church Youth Group – Continue to help with Youth Group. Currently this is in the area of music, and worship team development.
Asbury-Dunwell Church – Continue on the pastoral care team, Pulpit Supply, web-page development, and serving on their Board of Elders. [click here]
Short Term Mission Teams – I will offer my services to accompany short-term mission teams from the States as a “chaplain” who would be available to help in areas outside the scope of the mission. For example, meeting people at the airport, organizing nightly worship service, checking in with each short-term team member during the trip, or helping debrief and seek understanding of what is going on both inside and out as the week progressed.

[Grace, pointing to Ghana]
I do not see this as full time work, my primary responsibility will still revolve around my family, though we are losing Grace to a boarding school in Japan. Since we hosted an exchange student from Germany (in 1995-6), we have encouraged our kids to think about spending a year abroad, either in high school or college. Though having Grace spend her 10th grade year abroad wasn’t perhaps our first choice, staying in Ghana for another year wasn’t on her short list either. “Figure something else out,” we told her, and so she did, and we feel God’s peace about letting our middle child escape her brother’s shadow, and very eager and interested and sometimes invasive Ghanaian young men, for a year.

This week we travel to the states for 60 days, after a brief stop over in London. Transitions are always hard, and we’ve learned over the years, a transition can be made easier if there is some sort of buffer between them, and for us, that will be London.

Monday, June 11, 2007

(You Are) Welcome Emily, Kirk and Denise!

Title: You Are Welcome
[Rainy Roads]

Finally, the rainy season has arrived. In Ghana there are two rainy seasons, spring (May-June) and fall (Aug-Sept), but for some reason, the rainy season missed Ghana last fall. In fact on Saturday, when we were trapped inside with another missionary family at an arts festival (because there was an extreme downpour), we got to counting, and realized out that since we had been here (July of last year) it had rained less than 12 times.

So we are enjoying this rainy season, now that the nights are cool and the days overcast; the air is clean of dust, the birds are singing their happy song and the trees have exploded with color.

[Flowering Trees of Ghana]

The Interns Arrive
But rainy season isn’t the best time to have visitors when your car isn’t running [click here for that story]. On Thursday morning, we met “Andrew’s Interns” who flew in from the States. Emily, Kirk and Denise are first year medical students at The University of Tennessee, Memphis who have come to Ghana to work in with the Jernigans up at Lake Bosumtwi for five weeks [click here for Andrew’s Blog]. The plan was to pick them and then drive half way up to the lake, to Linda Dor (where I had the wonderful Grasscutter Soup), but if we’ve learned anything here, it is to be flexible. So instead, we ended up keeping the Interns a few days and showing them around Accra. Getting to know them, I came to really admire what they are doing, coming all the way to Africa to spend their summer working in a rural clinic. They will learn and experience so much, and it is said no one goes home from Africa unchanged, and so I wonder how God will use this time, and how it will speak into the rest of their lives.

[Amakom distance shot]

The first thing we did was ride a Trotro, which is perhaps my favorite part of a tour because it is so distinctively African. Maybe if our car was running we wouldn’t have done it this way, so it turned out to be a blessing. You can tell a lot about how a person is going to adapt to Africa by their first Trotro ride. These kids are going to do great.

RHS [Kids in Trotro]

We went to see the Arch, and Independence Square and the beach behind it. I love taking people to visit the Arch. Each time it teaches me something new about Ghana, combining the people I’m with, and what is going on in the country. Today, we walk out behind the Arch to the beach.

RHS [Kids at Arch]

Standing there, overlooking the ocean, it is an interesting place to tell the story of Slavery in this part of Africa. On the left is Osu (or Christianborg) Castle, one of the three castles in Ghana that served as collection points for slaves sent from the smaller forts, and served as a departure points for the new world. To the right, we see the twin forts of Jamestown and Usher. We are surrounded by history.
Today Osu Castle is the seat of government, Jamestown Fort is a hard labor prison, and Fort Usher is where the British detained Ghana’s freedom fighters, and is being remodeled for an unspecific purpose. Perhaps a tourist attraction?

We introduced the kids to the typical foods of Ghana, fried chicken and chips (french fries), a buffet of 20 traditional Ghanaian foods, and made Groundnut Stew at home. They loved Ghanaian food!

The Value is the Same
Accra can be an expensive place, there is so much to do, to buy, often it is experience, but there will be little of that in Amakom, where the clinic is located. The Interns will be here July 1 when Ghana redominates their Cedi, chopping off four zeros and issuing all new currency.

This new currency will be called the New Ghana Cedi, and its value, at least at this summer will be roughly equal to the US dollar 1:1, just like it was 40 years ago when I was here the first time, and before inflation set its value at 10000:1 cedi:dollar.

Some people worry about what this will do to the national economy. Will it cause a new round of inflation in a country that has already experienced a frightening amount of it in the past 50 years? I wonder about the village the Interns are staying in, where the average monthly salary is ¢60,000 [click here to read what Andrew has to say]. I figure a wise manager would pay these wages in ¢1000 or ¢5000 notes (so that it would seem like a lot). But in the New Ghana Cedi, it will either be a handful of coins, or a few bills, and largest number of bills it could be is six, and that will not seem like enough. Hello inflation.

The theme for the New Ghana Cedi campaign is “The Value is the Same”, and conversion from Cedi to New Ghana Cedi is explained in charts everywhere. There is even a catchy jingle [click here], commercials the radio and TV, posters [click here] in most shops, free bumper stickers and something in the paper most every day. Of course the opposition claims that the value isn’t the same, just the suffering.

But just in case, you don’t have it figured out, there is a Cedi to New Ghana Cedi converting calculator. As I understand you enter the current cedi amount and in another window (or a part of it) the New Ghana Cedi amount is displayed. Or you could just lop off four zeros, we’re not talking high level math here folks. Or still better yet visit the official conversion site [click here].

[“SUPPER” Currency Converter- what to do about breakfast and lunch?]

There is even a newly published book of conversion charts, and in the paper there was a positive review of the book. Amazing. So I’ve been asking around to my Ghanaian friends like Eric the former taxi driver, or my second wife, the vegetable seller, or even random cab drivers, and few get the conversion right the first time. Most just throw up their hands and say they don’t understand. I wonder what will happen in the village, and so I envy the Interns for being in that place to watch it all unfold.

On the afternoon of their last day, YaYah brought the car back with a new motor. Amazing that a motor can be changed out that quickly. In the evening we played card games, like Texas Hold-em and learned the hard way that Denise doesn’t bluff and can’t be bluffed.

[Playing Cards]

In the morning we drive to Asbury Dunwell Church, and then they were off to Lake Bosumtwi, via the Jernigan’s driver Bishop. For them, the real adventure has just begun. Godspeed to you Emily, Kirk and Denise.

[Ju and Andrew look to the future (window)]

Monday, June 04, 2007

Returning from Lake Bosumtwi

After a wonderful three days at the Lake it was time to pack up and head to Accra to pick the first year medical students at the Airport and bring them halfway up to the clinic where Andrew would meet us for lunch, at Linda Dor, at least that was the plan. Along the way, as we pick riders and such the engine starts to make interesting noises. We check the fluids, add water, but the oil is OK and so we continue. We’re on rural Ghana roads, and the skies look like rain, which is wonderful, but I’d rather be on some sort of pavement, or better yet, inside our house in Accra. So we press on, stopping to buy plantain, tomatoes, and other vegetables at the local market. When we’re all loaded up we turn to start the car. Nothing, zero. Opening the hood again I see the battery cable is completely disconnected from the battery terminal—yes those were some rough roads we were on. I have a fleeting thought about wondering just what else has shook loose, but it is soon that thought is forgotten.

At Linda Dor, this wonderful halfway spot to the Lake, we stop for lunch. We don’t know anyone who has actually eaten at Linda Dor, it is usually just a clean paid bathroom stop half way (between ¢1000 & ¢5000 depending on the mood of the attendant). For us the food is great, and I’m especially excited about getting Grasscutter Soup. I wasn’t sure I would actually do it, but at the urging, or should I say cajoling of Suzanne, how could I miss this opportunity? She, however is not so courageous, its Jollif Rice and fried chicken for her. I wrote about Grasscutters in a previous post about bushmeat [click here] but this is really the first time I’ve seen it on the menu. I expect it to taste like chicken, but it doesn’t. It tastes like a smoky beef jerky that has been cooked in a watered down barbeque sauce, and it was delicious once I got over the freak-out factor. Suzanne even tried some, but didn’t ask for seconds. Now the interesting part is if you eat at Linda Dor, the bathrooms are free!).

So then we’re back in the car on the Accra-Kumasi highway, and our car is making more funny noises, but the fluid levels are fine, and it isn’t running hot, so we decided to take it slowly and limp back. As I look back on it now, deciding to take it slowly assumes that we have control over the road, like going slowly is our choice, when really it depends on the other traffic, road construction, markets, and accidents. Every now and then one lane of the “duel carriageway” (meaning 2 lane road) is closed, and so traffic stops and we are treated to the opportunity of roadside shopping. We buy some garden eggs, something we’ve forgotten earlier. Garden Eggs are a tasty white eggplant that has the shape and color of a chicken egg. I use them in Groundnut Stew, something we’re planning to make with the Interns.

At the roadside market I see some bushmeat I can’t identify. We talk, and I ask their names. “Antelopes,” he says holding up his left hand, and (teeth clicking sound) “as for dis name, I only know name in the local language.” “Are they dead?” I ask pointing at the one on my left, and he explains the one he is holding is dead, but the other is very much alive, clinging to the dead one, and looking at me with beady eyes. “Give me some chop money,” he says, meaning he wants to eat. I want his picture, so we strike a deal, I take his picture, and dash him “some small ting” and we’re all happy. Then its our turn to move past the road construction, so I start the car, and its still making funny noises.

At about 100 km outside of Accra traffic stops again. We’re on the down hill of a valley and can see traffic stopped all the way down and up the other side. We watch a large tow truck inch toward by, followed by a row of taxis and trotros in its wake who sneak by. We pull off, and stand on our car to see a fuel oil tanker truck lying on its side blocking both ways. Eventually the tanker cab is righted, and soon cars are inching by, and so we start up again. When we get to the tanker truck, we see its been dragged off, and fuel oil has leaked all over the place. We’re stopped by an excited group of Ghanaian men who want us to pay something to pass, ¢5000. Its for the tow truck, they say, and all I have is ¢20,000, which is fine. They are getting too excited, and who knows what will happen next. “Obrunie paid 20! Obrunie paid 20!” he shouts waving the note, and we drive past all the other men collecting, and we’re on the open road again, going up the otherside of the hill when really bad funny noises start to come from the engine. So much for limping.

I can see the rain clouds, I know we’re 100km away from Accra, in rural Ghana where there is no cell coverage, and well, the thought of pulling off just in case, isn’t really an option, until the engine stops altogether, no warning, no engine oil light, no spike in temperature, just clunk, and screech (as the tires lock) and we roll off to the side of the road. We didn’t actually have to pull off, Ghanaians are funny that way in that it is perfectly OK to have a stalled car right in the center of the lane, blocking traffic. Minutes after we’ve stopped, a man comes out of the bush, asking why we have stopped. We explain, “the engine is spoiled,” pointing to the tell tail trail of oil, and puddling. Our friend flags down several different vehicles, and different options are explored. I start praying. I’m amazed how at peace I am, not really worried. I keep trying to get myself more anxious, like I’ve really got to get excited, mad, or do something, or we’re going to either get stuck out here after dark, or have to abandon it, and who knows what will be left when we return.

Kids come up to us selling strings of tree snails. Suzanne starts playing with the kids , I ask them what we would do with the snales (eat them), and where they found them (in trees, duh), and then how much they are (20). We're just hanging out, not sure what to do except not worry.

Then our friend flags down another flatbed, and this one has a wench, and a tiltbed, exactly what we need, and they are already going to Accra. While the price they will do it for is about all we have on us, and well, quite expensive (at least by 3:30pm standards), I know that in an hour it won’t seem like so much.
So they load the car on the flatbed, we say good-bye to our friend and dash him a small ting, and then sit in it all the way to Accra, until the flatbed truck has a blowout!
Great, the driver hops out, looks at it, and says, flat tire, but there are two...lets go, and he runs back and hops in the cab, and pull out into traffic.
We call YaYah (our mechanic), and he waits around to check out the engine when we get there, but when he sees it, it is like he already knows, as Bones used to say on the old Star Trek, “he’s dead Jim.”

Return to Lake Bosumtwi

[Andrew & Ju look out their new "window" in their soon to be new house]

“All we wanted was a day for the family.” Suzanne and I have left the kids with Sarah and gone to Lake Bosumtwi for a few days to see our friends the Jernigans, who run a clinic up there. Dr. Ju is telling a story about the previous day’s events, how Andrew’s cell phone rang, (which is a novelty because there is little cell phone coverage out there) and when they heard it this time, he sees there were 11 missed calls. He calls back, but its 100% local language, spoken at 120%, so to obrunie ears (even ones that speak the language), almost uncomprehendible. They find Sammy, the clinic administrator, and he tries to call back, but the cell phone coverage window has shifted. Sammy keeps on trying and eventually gets through enough to find out which of the 42 villages surrounding the lake person is calling from. More of the clinic staff is getting involved, like Isaac, the boat driver (who is also the song leader at the Methodist Church), Angelina, the charge nurse and midwife, but for different reasons. The boat is packed and ready to go, and as Dr. Ju is going down the hill toward the boat, all Angelina says, “But, you have a patient…”

[A view of the clinic from the lake]
You’ve got to understand that Dr. Ju is the most amazing, patient, understanding doctor I’ve ever seen, and to hear her tell this story about wanting a day off, and having a few words with God about the lack thereof, as she marches down the hill, it seems completely out of character. “I was angry,” she says, “I wanted to just tell these people to go away.”

At the clinic there is a mother with a four year old son who by sight is limp and unresponsive. She has carried this boy on her back for two hours, walking over many hills, but it doesn’t seem right to call them hills, but they are less than mountains, so just think of them as either really large hills, or small mountains. I guess what you call them depends on where you are on them, but for this mother, the walk has exhausted her, she is breathing hard, and her cloths are soaked in sweat, and still finds the energy to greet Ju properly in their local language, gasping between words.

“How (gasp) are (gasp) you?”
“I am fine, thank you. And how are you?”
“Fine…” and then the examination can
begin, but only minutes into it, Ju knows, it is too late, if only by minutes.
Still she goes through with the examination, praying I’m sure, and wondering what to say to this mother, who will now carry the body home over those same mountains, for more than two hours. I’m sure thoughts go to her own children, and the common bond they share as mothers, and that gets all mixed in with her being pulled away from them this morning, and wanting to have just one day with them undisturbed, that and the boat that is waiting to take her to one of the 42 villages that is her parish, and this is Sunday. “I had a really bad attitude,” Ju confesses, but I doubt anyone but God could see that, she is a compassionate doctor who loves the Lord, and that is all anyone sees, but inside there was a storm brewing.

She talks with the mother, trying to figure out how things got to this point. “Why did you wait so long?” she asks not wanting to belabor a point, but curious the same. It seems that the mother had been to a clinic in a different village, run by a different church that practices its Sabbath on Saturday, and does strictly, so even with a very sick child, this mother was turned away, because it was their Sabbath. “And that’s when God convicted me,” Ju says, and I cried with the mother. For that baby boy, for her own children, for her selfish heart, for Andrew, for all that God has called them to do, and only wanting a rest from it, but never wanting to turn away a mother, without even knowing how very sick her baby was. “God broke me,” she tell us.
[Suzanne and Luzisa reading "Pooh"]
Its Monday afternoon now, and Suzanne and I are sitting in their living room, listening to Ju tell the story. Our hearts break with her. We have come to spend a few days with Ju and Andrew, to see life from their perspective, to experience what they do, and to let Suzanne feel village life and the lake. Mostly we just talk, like adults do, play with the kids, and dream with them of what God could do in a place like this.

Since I was there last, much progress, and some regress has been made. They have a big new generator, a "BFG," my family calls it, meaning the Big Friendly Generator, named after that quirky little book by Rould Daul. The brick house, the one I stayed in last, has its roof torn off it, and the windows knocked out and a team of 20 or so workers is making amazing, almost minute by minute progress putting it all back together. All that is left from the original structure is the brick walls and when it is done, it will have been expanded by 25% and will become the new Jernigan home, complete with windows that actually shut, and AC units. Elsewhere, they have added an office, complete with internet, and AC, and after a few minutes in there, sitting at American desks, in American chairs, with the drapes drawn, you can completely forget where you are. I know I did, and when we walked out, I had a moment of disorientation, because suddenly we were back in rural Africa, and my mind is wondering, now how did that happen?
[house being reconstructed]

It is one of the things I love about the Jernigans, they are so fluid, and flexible, and forward looking and thinking. They seek the best, and what is right, and do so no matter from which direction the past has brought them. For so many, the way things are is because that is the way things were, and even though change would be a right and the good thing, their past won’t allow a different course of action (at least in their mind), and even in the midst of all this, you find them longing for a different past, one that wouldn’t have lead them to this point, and yet unwilling to make a change. But not the Jernigans, and I so admire their courage, and fortitude, and imagination, and hope, and I know God sees that and blesses it.

[large bed with Suzanne to show its size]
At night Suzanne and I stay at the resort across the lake, just a 10 minute boat ride away and sleep in the largest bed we have ever seen. It is fun to sleep in AC, and watch satellite TV (you can never see Top Gun enough times), and it feels weird to be so comfortable so far out in rural Ghana. The lake is, of course, beautiful, and in the morning I hear the fishermen singing to fish.
I’ve worried about Andrew and Ju being so far out and the only obrunies in their village, what will they do for friends? Sure they have each other, and the kids, but friends? Andrew and I talk about this, and he says its one of the things he prayed for, and believes God answered by sending Michael. For Ju, its Julieanna, the one who takes care of the kids, the house, and does the cooking, and is just a delightful person. It all works for them, and that is as much fun to see as is it is to just share their lives for a few days. Making African friends is not as easy as I thought it would be, mostly because the cultural differences are so vast. What is acceptable in one culture, is forbidden in the other, and the understanding and effort it takes to be sensitive to these differences, sometimes just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. “You learn to forgive a lot,” one missionary told me. “You learn to engage the culture at the point where you are most comfortable,” cautions Kirt Sims, a local missionary who lives in just north of Accra with his family after having first spent much time in the bush. In the end we all learn to be bi-cultural, acting as Americans when we’re with other Expats, and doing our best at the Ghanaian cultural norms when we’re not.
[Andrew & Michael talking "construction"]
[Julieanna and Luzisa by MB]

“So what is the rest of the story?” I asked Andrew when we arrived Monday afternoon, wondering about the emergency. While it was happening, Andrew was watching the kids, and blogging about it real-time, as events unfolded. But I had not been back to the internet café to read the rest of the story. Dr. Ju did go on the boat, and the emergency turned out to be a pregnancy problem and she was referred to hospital. Sometimes what happens is not as interesting as what it causes to happen inside, or put another way, how God uses it in our lives.

I don’t know where the line will be for Dr. Ju and Andrew, about where the clinic responsibilities end, and the family ones begin. I know as a pastor, I did not do a very good job of watching those boundaries, and my family suffered. There was encroachment, like squatters camped out in my life. I wasn’t sure where the church ended, and I began. The one thing we did well in the early years of our ministry—actually it was Suzanne—was to make sure that I got out of town with her for a few days, away from the cell phone, internet, or anything connected with the church. It was then I reverted, back to the old Steve. But the longer I served, the longer it took to change back, and the last several years, I’m not sure I reverted at all until we ran away to Africa. I don’t want the same to happen to Dr. Ju and Pastor Andrew, and so far they seem to be doing a good job of it, running away to a conference in Thailand, medical training in Liverpool, or just to Accra for a few days at their favorite place, The Cresta Royal (now the Fiesta Royal, but nobody will call it that), and with some friends who admire them greatly.

I don’t know where the balance will be for them between the encroachment, and turning away a mother with a sick child because—it is the Sabbath. I don’t know if there is a balance between ministry and life, it seems to me the numbers just don’t add up. They say we spend one third of our life sleeping, so why isn’t the remaining two thirds enough to manage ministry and family?
[happy mother, crying child, by MB]

As my Uncle Sid used to say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I've re-read Andrew's post and so I don't have all the details quite right, so if you want to read what actually happened: [click here].