The Buchele Adventure

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Blessing of being Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3).

As most of you know, a little over three months ago, I injured my shoulder in a swimming accident. It was in late afternoon when I picked a boogie board at Anamambo, and then met a large wave that dislocated, and fractured my shoulder, plus wrecked most of the nerves in my right arm.

In those early days of the accident, when people were still coming to the hospital, or stopping by the house to pray for me, we were still hoping for an immediate supernatural healing, but as the weeks wore on, and the pain increased, it was clear that wasn't happening. I flew to South Africa for a second, well actually third opinion, and there learned that the good doctors at 37 Military Hospital had missed something, and so in South Africa (with their high powered CAT Scanner, and digital X-Ray machines) they operated and put my shoulder back together.

In December I came home from South Africa after a month. The shoulder was healing fine but I was in a lot of pain. Somewhere around Christmas, the pain became manageable, and today, 3 months and two weeks and a few days since the accident, I've been let me out of the sling, and I have maybe 10% use of my arm. It will be another 13 months before I will know how much of my arm and hand use I will get back.

I tell you all this because this accident and its pain has given me a new perspective on what poor in Spirit means. If there is one thing constant intense pain can teach you is about being poor in spirit. And so in that sense I have come to realize my life was blessed, but its not the kind of blessing I would wish on anyone.

In the hospital in South Africa, I became fast friends with a guy in the bed next to mine. We were in the rugby ward, 10 beds filled with guys with shoulder problems, all due to rugby except me, and the next to me. His was golf. When I was back there last week for a check-up, and learned the news was very good. It is healing well, but is still a very long journey, but they said results look promising that my shoulder will recover 100%. Anyway, while I was back in South Africa, and went out my friend from the hospital, we sat in his car, waiting for his wife and I asked him what he had learned from all this.

A little background. He has three sons, one just graduated from University, the second just left for University, and their lastborn will be leaving in 2 years, for University. In other words, soon they will be empty nesters. They have been married 31 years, 10 more than Suzanne and I.

He said before the operation he spent the week-ends playing golf, and after hanging out at the club, or with his buddies. But since the operation, he and his wife have been seeing each other, eating at fine restaurants, going out to movies, and talking, and he has discovered this love for his wife that they had lost for each other, and how interesting, he shared with me, that this happened before they became empty nesters. "I don't know what we would have done then," he shared. He said he felt blessed, because now they had time to get things right before the house became empty.

I've thought a lot about what I've learned these past three months, what I can learn about myself in this situation, and what God wants me to teach me.

I must say I'm not all that comfortable writing about this aspect of my faith, and what I've learned about it. As a pastor I've been with people in the worst situations, I've seen faith strengthened, I've seen it falter, and I wasn't sure I wanted to learn what I was going to learn about myself, and what I believed.

I've been humbled by the sheer number of people, and churches, and organizations worldwide that have prayed for me, and for a quick recovery. Though it doesn't look like those prayers are going to be answered, part of also me wonders what it would have been like without all those prayers. If you were one of those who prayed for me, let me say thanks.

I also know how tired I am of talking about this injury, answering questions, and telling an account of how it happened. It is almost like this accident is defining me, and I do not want it to become all I am. True it happened to me, but it is not who I am, and I certainly don't want to be the guy who used to be something before the…oh you know, that accident.

I guess what I've learned is what I've seen others who have lost a loved one, or everything in a house fire; who have lost a business, or something they thought they could never live without. What I saw in those people in that situation learn, and what I maybe have learned myself, is that indeed life does go on. Whatever that thing is, or was, when it gets stripped away, the membrane between heaven and earth becomes especially thin.

I used to say that events like this can either draw you closer to God, or make you run screaming from God, and I never could predict which direction a person was going to go. I watched in myself with a sort of disinterested fascination as the days, weeks, and months went by, when I was in so much pain, and how unrelated the fact that that healing that wasn't coming, was to what I knew I believed about God.

That if God chose to heal me, great, and if God didn't, I'd get by, I'd still believe, and need to worship Him. So to me, the blessing was not in what God did, or didn't do, but in all the stuff that got stripped away, that at the end of the day, all I wanted was to believe in God, and know that we are not alone, that God is with us.

And as I went back and looked at the parables that Jesus used to try to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven was like—and there were many--it seemed to me that maybe that was the point he was trying to get across, is that we are not alone, that God is with us, and that we've made our relationship with God a whole lot more complicated than God wants it to be, even now.

When Jesus says, Blessed Be the Poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven, he is saying that even when you think you have lost everything, you have just lost the things of this world, but never God. Being poor in spirit means there is just less to separate you from the love of God.

The Apostle Paul makes that point in his letter to the Romans, saying: For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sections of this post were taken form last Sunday's sermon as I preached on the first of the beatitudes, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Goats run and Sheep don’t when they see a TroTro – West African Story Telling, part 3

Blogger was not into doing pictures, so check out our Xanga site for the posting with pictures:

Sometimes the stories of West Africa are short and carry a warning, like the one Eric (our driver) has been telling me lately about the beggars in Accra, of which there are plenty, plenty. If we're stopped, and they come toward us, Eric brushes them off, never making eye contact, and saying "next time," but Sit comes out as one word, "neztime."

"Some of them are witches," he says. "They look like us, but they are witches, you give them something, something and they turn it to blood." I hear this story maybe once a week, usually as we are slowing to a stoplight. I guess he wants to make sure I remember. This time I question him, "its true," he claims, "there was a report on the Telly."

Now we're driving up to a long line of cars, stopped for the red light, or policeman directing traffic. As we slow, I see the blind guys with the young kids who lead them around start to angle toward us. I used to scold them, saying "small boy, ah! he should be in school. Small boy needs his education." I think for being blind they have exceptional eyesight when it comes to seeing Obrune in cars. Accra also has the windshield washers, who do it without asking and have their timing down to a science. Always finishing with still plenty of time for extortion, but Eric also brushes them off sayin, "neztime" and I don't look them in the eye. We make a formidable team. But the crippled are the worst, I think, limping from car to car, collecting change, and I feel most guilty about not helping them.

[French speaking beggar I used to give to]

"Mr. Steven, don't give," Eric pleads, "they are witches!"

It seems there was a certain man in a car who came to a stoplight where there were five beggars. Because he pitied them, he gave them each some change or "some small thing," as they would say. What he did not know was that one of them was a witch, and the witch turned that "small thing" into blood, and used that blood to steal his soul." The story goes on about him never being seen again from that day on, or other times becoming a witch by the roadside, begging for change, "even now that could be him," Eric says.

"So, I don't give," he says emphatically, point proven, and then to the beggar, "neztime," but next time never comes.

Other times, a West African story is implied, but lost, so that what remains is the moral; a proverb if you will. Consider the proverb of the Tortoise and the Snail:

Had there only been the Snail and the Tortoise in the forest, there would be no gun-shot.

[snail – tortoise pic]

The literal meaning is the hunter could pick the tortoise or snail without firing a gun, but that isn't the meaning of the proverb. Among the Akan, a gunshot is considered the first sound of war, and so the expression, "there has been a gun-shot," (sic) implies that war has broken out, and if only there were no guns fired, there would always be peace.

But of course the forest is filled with more dangerous animals than the snail or tortoise, and so the hunter carries his rifle, and there will always be war.

Of course, Americans too have their own version for the Tortoise and the snail. It seems as Snail was crossing the road, he was run over by Tortoise. A policeman came along and asked how it happened. "I don't know," replied Tortoise, "it all happened so fast!" ba-dump-ba!


Finally, West African stories explain the way things work, like when a herd of goats on the road will scatter as a TroTro approaches, but the sheep will stand firm. It seems that years ago, when goats and sheep used to ride in TroTros as humans, as opposed to on top of them with the luggage and other things, there was a problem when it came time to pay. When you ride a TroTro, you pay when you get off, and the fare is based on the distance traveled. Goat did not have enough money, so when the Mate demanded the fare, Goat ran away into the bush. When it came time for Sheep to get off, he had only a large bill, but the Mate didn't have change, and said "next time." So the goats scatter when they see a TroTro its because they know they the Mate will come after them for the fare. The sheep stand on the road, forcing the TroTro to stop, honk, or nudge them out of the way, because they waiting for "next time," and their change.

[goats – at edge of bush]

[sheep – note: pic taken of them still waiting in the road]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Tortoise and the One-Legged Man -- West African Storytelling, part 2

I thought about Tortoise, and the way they had won the race, and even about Ghana’s son Delight over our New Year’s outing as we stayed near a beach that is part of the federally protected Green Turtle egg laying and hatching zones. There is even a sign there saying "Don’t chop the turtles!" Chop being bush word for eat. I wonder if the Fante, who live in the coastal villages nearby, have stories that featured turtles. The only difference being that turtles live in or near the water and have adapted to swim by holding their breath underwater, while tortoises live primarily in arid regions, and are built for storing their own water supply and walking on sandy ground.

But for whatever reason, the tortoises seem to be a popular tricksters, who show up more frequently, and not only in Akan stories, but also the Igbo of Nigeria who tell of a greedy Tortoise, who tricks the birds into giving him all their food for a feast. When the birds discover what has happened, Tortoise is dropped from the sky, hitting the ground and shattering his once smooth shell. But he is redeemed when a great medicine-man in the neighborhood'" patches Tortoise’s shell together again, and that’s how the Tortoise got his shell.

But perhaps my favorite story, or at least the one I think about the most is of the One Legged Man and the Tortoise, from a collection of West African stories that Hugh Vernon-Jackson collected in the 1950s.

It seems that Tortoise lived near a village where the people were well off, but he himself was not so, one day he prepared a feast and invited the whole village to come. It was a night when the moon was high and round. When they had arrived, he gave them food and then they gathered them in the courtyard. Tortoise played the drum, his children played the flutes and the villagers began to dance, for they could not help themselves. They danced until they were exhausted, and then danced some more until they lost all their senses. At dawn the villagers went home, thanking Tortoise for his kindness.

Weeks later, when his family has run out of food, Tortoise and his wife take the drum and the flutes to the prosperous village where they hide in high grasses and bushes where the people could not see them. When evening came, Tortoise started to play the drum while his children played the flutes.

The villagers heard the drumming and immediately left their work, and whatever they were doing to dance. While they were dancing, Tortoise sent his wife and younger children into their empty houses to take away as much food as they could carry. Then Tortoise and family hurried away in the darkness.

After the drumming and dancing was over, the villagers found that much of their food was missing, and they were hungry.

Again and again Tortoise would come to the village at evening time to play his music, and again and again the villagers could not resist the sound of the drumming and they left everything in order to dance and Tortoise and his family would steal the food from the homes of the villagers.

Finally, the people went to the palace and complained to their King that they were losing their food. The king summoned his councilors and wise men of village to discuss ways in which they might find who was behind the drumming. The village witch doctor was summoned, but the next night, he too got caught up in the dancing. Meanwhile, Tortoise’s family was carrying away the food of the village.

Again the king called his councilors and wise men of village, and invited everyone else. "I will give 100 pounds to the one who finds out who is behind the drumming."

After he had spoken these words a one-legged man, leaning on a stick, came slowly forward until he was in front of the king. "May your life be long," he said to the king. "I will find out who is drumming and stealing our food." The villagers laughed at the one legged man offering to try for the reward, saying he was foolish. But the one-legged man again asked permission to try, and the king said "I wish you success in finding who is drumming and stealing our food."

On that same night Tortoise again came to the edge of the village. Again he played his drum, and while the people danced, his family began stealing their food. Only the one legged man didn’t dance. He heard the music and wanted to dance, but with only one leg could not. Therefore he went into the tall grass, where he saw Tortoise drumming, and then to the homes where he saw them carrying away the food.

The next day the one-legged man went to the palace. "May your life be long," he said to the king. "I have discovered who is drumming and stealing your food."
"Speak," the king ordered. "Tell us who has caused us such great trouble."

"Tortoise," he said. When the villagers heard the news, they were filled with wonder at the trick Tortoise had played on them. They rushed to Tortoise’s house where they drove him and his family away, never to return. The king gave the one-legged man his reward of 100 pounds, and he received the gratitude of a grateful village.
The one-legged man built a house and sent for his family to live with him. He had many children, and came to own many farms, and from that day forward became a councilor to the king and gave wisdom to the village for the rest of his one-legged life.

When I first read that story last year, I wondered what the one-legged man represented. If the village represented the church, and drumming was the temptation to world to dance to its rhythms, but what did this one-leggedness represent? It was his woundedness that saved the village, even when they laughed at him.

I think about a story story called the wounded healer, a Christ figure who sat by the gate of the old city, wounded and wrapped in bandages. He was a healer, but would not unwrap or change his bandages for fear he might be called upon to heal a damaged soul and not be ready. Again, the healing comes from his brokenness, and like the one-legged man, had he been two-legged, the village would have certainly been lost.

A dear friend wrote me after the accident and said: "We are all born good but the Lord provides the great in the form of challenges that we must overcome and learn from." I wonder if this is my moment of greatness, the test, as it were, and I wonder how I am doing? Is there a village to save, a drummer to find? I have to hope that there is some greater purpose that I can point to some day and say "Ahh, how different my life would have been, and to think I could have missed it, had I not learned and overcome ____."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Tortoise and the Hare – West African Storytelling, part 1

Stories reveal so much about the culture they come out of. Take the classic Fable of the "Tortoise and the Hare." [click here to read]. The way I grew up hearing it, Tortoise challenges Hare to a race, a race nobody expects him to win, but Tortoise does win because he works hard, and doesn't give up, AND of course Hare is lazy. The Akan people group have a different version of the story. The basic elements are the same, a tortoise, and a hare, and eventually a contest between the two…and the tortoise wins, but how Tortoise wins is different. In the African version, the honor (or honour) of all tortoise are at stake, and so Tortoise calls them together.

"I have called you together because this is a matter that affects not only myself, but the honour of every tortoise. If I win, then the glory will go to our family as a whole; if I lose…then we are all disgraced."

So Tortoise recruits his brothers who are about his same size, and color (or colour), and gives each a number. "Number one, go hide in the bush some fifty feet from the starting line," he tells them, "and number two, some 40 feet beyond that." The plan is for the runner to jump into the bush at the same time the next one jumps out of the bush ahead on the race course. Hare will see what is happening and thinks its magic.

I'm telling this story to Suzanne the other night, how similar the stories are and how differently they reach the same end. When she hears how the African Tortoise wins, she yells, AHHH, HE CHEATS! It's an exasperated yell, one born of too much time taken dealing with too much of the same issue…cheating. I hadn't noticed her wearing that Academic Dean hat, but I look closer, and see, ah yes there it is. I wonder if it's like the pastor's hat I used to wear, that you can never take it off.

After the race, the King congratulates Tortoise, calling him the swiftest animal in the forest. "It was the triumph of unity and cooperation," Tortoise says, "we won because we stuck together."

The author goes to great pains to say that this is not a story about the "means justifying the end," nor is this the kind of deceit that is considered a value in the Akan society, but then adds, "it shows the value of unity, mutual aid, and corporation for the peaceful and harmonious functioning of human society," I would add West African Society.

For me the two stories highlight the different values of the two societies. Though it is one of Aesop's Fables, the version I grew up with really represents the Protestant Work Ethic, that so defined the early United States. That "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," through hard work, and never giving up. It also contains a warning to the lazy, to the ones who are over confident, who think victory is easy. Victory is never easy…it takes hard work, and never giving up.

The Akan version is just as beautiful, for it brilliantly shows how African societies work together. Though to us in the West, it may look like cheating, in this society, it is an appeal to a higher moral ethic, and that ethic is that a family (or village) must work together in unity to see that disgrace never comes to it.

An article in Time Magazine that celebrated Ghana's 50th last year illustrates this value well [click here to read it]. It talks about one of Ghana's sons who is 18, and tall and lean. His name is Delight, and Time calls him the chosen one, because frankly, he is his family's only hope. Later Delight says: "If I fail any of my exams it will be a disgrace to my church and family. Everybody's eyes are on you." This quote really disturbed Suzanne last year when she read it; it perfectly describes the magnitude of the problem that institutions like Ashesi face when trying to, in the words of its mission statement, "educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the critical thinking skills, the concern for others and the courage it will take to transform a continent." When any failure is seen as a disgrace to the student's "church and family", as Delight put it, then how can students really learn? Learning involves challenge, which involves setbacks, which might be viewed as "failure".

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Covenant Prayer

This past Sunday was the first of the new year, a time when many Methodist Churches devote time to all or part of the Wesley Covenant Service. Parts of this service date from the mid 1750s, though for me I've been participating in all or some part of this service since 1983, when I was a student at UT, and attended University United Methodist Church in Austin.

[Anna and sparkler last 4th of July]

Years later, as a pastor of a young Church, I found this particular service difficult to produce, as there was so much liturgy, readings and commitment…and none of it fast paced. It harkens from a day when people had longer attention spans. Still I find it an important part of the practice of my faith, a time for me to get a fresh start from the mess I've made of my relationship with God. Instead of trying to fix or repair things, the power of this service comes from its fresh start, the clean reboot of my faith, followed by a clear reminder of what it means to be a follower.

That said, it prays very differently for us here in Africa. In Texas, the prayer was more hypothetical, like, in theory God could use me this way, but unlikely. Safe; well, sure, I'll do what God wants, but surely he wants me to be a pastor in Central Texas and Suzanne a professor in a nearby town. And I imagine that some in the congregation only halfheartedly prayed the Covenant Prayer, in a room of ambivalence. Who believed God would hold us to these words? But this past Sunday, as the Very Rev. Asher said these words, and we repeated them,

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

I knew I had really prayed this prayer and saw how God was answering it in my life. Not exactly what I had in mind.

The Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.


Folks have been asking about my recovery, how it is going, what God is teaching me, and what I've learned.

[Path to grotto on other side of Lake]

I feel honored and humbled to have had so many people worldwide praying for me. I think I know what it feels like to be prayed for around the clock and the world. Still the recovery is slow, like the first steps of a very long journey. I am grateful to have such a supportive family, especially my sister Beth who put her life on hold to stay with me in South Africa, and treat me for a few weeks when Suzanne couldn't be there. For my sister Sheron, who Fed-Exed some massage oil that was a God send, for Maureen, who shared her family with mine in Pretoria (and Adzo who set it up), for Nelda & Charlie and my Dad who both sent money when we really needed it, but most of all my wife Suzanne who has never given up on me. I'm a pretty independent person, and so to need, and accept help from so many loved ones, well, I don't know where to begin to say thanks.

Most days I'm pain free, sleeping through the night, and getting good physiotherapy. My mind has learned to block out the pain, I've been mostly off pain medication since Dec. 23rd, I say mostly because about once a week I take a pain holiday, and load up on meds. Sleeping through the night is great when it happens, maybe one in four nights, and only in the last three weeks. Physiotherapy has been fun alternating between Galina, the Ukrainian who works on me with all the efficiency and gentleness that Russians are known for (or, not!), and Suzanne (not my wife) who is so compassionate, knowledgeable, and caring that just being in the same room with her makes me feel better. Last time I fell asleep while she was working my arm through the stretching exercises (usually a very painful process).

Suzanne (my wife) says I'm improving, though she thinks it's is hard for me to see. I see it, but the progress is so slow. I am learning how to work around my mostly useless arm by adapting: I can play guitar (although he's NOT SUPPOSED TO BE DOING IT, adds his wife), but I can't hold the pick for an entire song. I can type, but I have to hold a pencil in my right hand fingers to hit the keys hunt and peck style, while the left touch-types.

[riding bikes PramPram orphanage]

I've weaned myself off the sling, but I can't ride bike, drive a car, cut vegetables, or open jars, but the biggest frustration is that I can't open the fingers on my right hand, and I have little muscle strength. I can clutch things, but not open my fingers to release them. Doctors say this is due to the nerve damage, and the nerves might regrow (at the rate of one inch per month). I've given up praying for a complete immediate miracle restoration of my arm and shoulder, though I do still pray that for my hand and fingers. Wouldn't it be cool to wake up one morning and be able to completely open and control my hand?

[football match at Lake Bosumtwi]

I remember people I knew when I was a pastor who got so angry with God, nominal believers who prayed for a miracle that never came, and then blamed God. "Why did God do this?!" Or "How could God allow this to happen?" I admit I've seen turn offs to those roads along this recovery way, but I am a little scared of where they lead. Oh, I know God is a big God, and can handle us getting upset with him, but I'm not sure I want to be that angry with God, and certainly don't want to do this alone. Yes, I do wish this cup would pass before me—and clearly it isn't—but that doesn't mean I want to go it alone from here.

So I guess it's time for a new Adinkra symbol, and this time its Denkem or the Crocodile. The Akan say that because the crocodile lives in water, but breathes air, it represents the ability to adapt oneself to all forms of conditions and situations in life, especially those which seem difficult and beyond their control. Which is maybe the whole point of the covenant prayer we prayed on Sunday: we have to be constantly willing to adapt to what God has in store for us, for better or for worse. Lessons Suzanne and I are both learning here in Ghana, in very different ways.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Irish are Coming!

Last week we hosted an advance team from Northern Ireland who came to get the lay of the Lake Bosemtwe before a much larger team comes in July. This team was James, Alex and Rachael. Now I had met Rachael last August about our 3rd week in Ghana at the tail end of her seven week stay. It was Rachael’s Aunt who started the clinic at the Lake Bosumtwe in the 70s, and James, who is Rachael’s Dad, and had visited the clinic some 30 years ago.

The plan was for them to arrive on Thursday night and then drive up to the lake the next day, except that Rachael “ate something” at a Boxing Day Celebration, and became violently ill 9 hours after arriving in Ghana. So did 12 of her kinfolk back in Northern Ireland.

And then the excitement started. Rachael had been camped out in the upstairs bathroom all morning, but then came down to sit with those who could hold food down when suddenly water came gushing down the stairs from the bathroom. Lots of water. The tub had been leaking for months, but never like this. I’d told the landlord about the leak, and now for some strange reason just happened to show up that day, and thus began the cascade of plumbing failures.

The story really begins in October 2006, when the ball float on our pressure tank “got spoiled”. Understand that water pressure in Accra is myth, sort of like fiscal responsibility in the Federal government. To compensate, most houses have a pressurizing tank located above the house, usually on a tower, think of each house having its own private water tower. Inside the tank is a ball float cut off valve (just like the one in your toilet) that cuts off the pump from over filling the tank, except in the case when it gets cracked, and can’t float. So when the tank is full, water comes pouring out of the tank. Imagine this happening 2-3 times a week, water running down the uprights of a three story tower with a large, full tank on it. The footings get soft, it begins to lean. We call it the leaning tower of water. I mention this to the landlord most times I see him. There have been a number of plumbers out to look at the problem, most cases the solution is to replace a certain section of pipe with two elbow joints on it. I’m not kidding that section has been replaced 11 times since we’ve been here—but not the ball float.

So I’m outside showing the landlord where water has been leaking outside the bathroom and again mention the tank, but add that it looks like he will be remodeling our kitchen soon, as the leaning tower of water is poised to land on kitchen when it falls. So he calls his plumbers and surprise the replace a section of pipe near the two elbows and as a bonus, add a booster pump to whole mess. Now we have fantastic water pressure, which blows out some of the weaker joints, and guess what…water still over flows the pressure tank because the BALL FLOAT is CRACKED, but now it overflows at hyper speed. Next time I see the Landlord, I explain the problem, but now the tower is so leaning that his boys won’t climb it to look inside. When we come back after New Years week-end, the tower has been replaced and the tank is sitting on the ground. I look inside and guess what I see… a cracked ball float. There is a lot of detail missing like being without water, things stolen or ruined, workmen in the house day after day, cementing and tiling the tub back in place without testing that the repairs worked…they did, but spoiled the water heater.

[cracked ball float]

So all this is happening while the Irish are here, or up at the Lake, but getting back to the story. James and Alex waited around all morning hoping Rachael had emptied her last so they could all leave to the Lake, but soon after they left, it wasn’t five minutes before they were back, dropped her off. Thirty minutes later we were at the hospital. “You don’t have to stay,” Rachael kept telling me, “I will be fine.” I knew that, but I kept thinking of Grace (our daughter at boarding school in Japan), how if she were this sick, I would hope there would be someone to care for here there. Grace and I stayed the day, Suzanne the night, and then I was back there again to help her check out—a non-trivial exercise in Ghana.

[new tower AND new ball float inside!]

All better, mostly, we put Rachael on a bus heading north to the Lake, while we headed West for a few days to be at the beach over New Year’s. It was good timing as that’s when the real work began in the back yard, replacing the leaning tower.

Hours after we got back from the beach, so did the Irish, but this time with an excitement for the work God is doing at Lake Bosumtwe, and the part they get to play in it. They will come back in July with a team of 15 for a building project and village outreach. I only wish I could be around to help, but by then I’ll be back pastoring in Central Texas.

At first I thought I was back in "doing ministry business," even if it was only showing folks around Accra, or keeping Rachael company when she was feeling “rather dodgy.” Now I realize it was still a "being ministry," which felt pretty good too. Before the accident, I would have accompaned the team up to the lake, but now couldn't handle the travel on bumpy roads. So I was glad to be able to help in some small, small way.

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