Glorifying God and Searching for my roots
Mah-jue Good Morning
Medaase Thank you
I left LAX for Tamale on Tuesday 7/12/05 along with Pastor Wayland Wong, Sarah Lau and 6 pieces of luggage in tow. Pastor Wayland’s United Premier card took us to the head of lines and the flight to Frankfurt was very pleasant. Our layover in Frankfurt was just under an hour and we flew directly into Accra rather than going via Lagos due to bad weather. God knows I needed to be on land because I was tired of sitting.
We were picked up and taken directly to the W.E.C Guest House. Our first meal in Ghana was noodles with tuna and orange slices. The rooms were air-conditioned but the ceiling fan was sufficient. The windows were screened. YEAH! We did burn a mosquito coil but there were no mosquitoes that night. At the Guest House we met Ivy (from Hong Kong) who has been a missionary in Wa in northern Ghana for 2 years; Winnie (also from Hong Kong) who has been in Wa with Winnie for two months and is expected to stay for an extended time; Prudence who was on her way back to Taiwan after serving in Wa for 4 years and was going home, sick with malaria. These three young women ARE true missionaries. They live in an area that has no electricity, poor housing and poor water supply among other things. As a child, Dorothy Henry was our family’s household helper. Here is Accra another Dorothy was the household helper. I told “Accra” Dorothy about Jamaican “Dorothy” and she remarked that God sends Dorothy’s to take care of me.
The next day we hired two taxis and went around Accra: Independence Square, Art Center (actually is the tourist craft market), La Palm Beach Hotel where we met Hercules who Pastor identified as my African “brother”. We went to the University of Ghana campus and stopped by Nkruma monument but did not go into the park as there was a charge and not worth it.
Friday we got up at 4am to go to the STE bus station for 6:15am bus to Tamale. We arrived in Tamale about 11 hours later and were given an orientation by Pastor Joshua. We were advised: “Do not cross your legs and do not shake them. Use your Right hand to wave.” These instructions took some effort as I am used to crossing my legs and waving left AND right hand.
It is said that Ghana is a Christian nation. The signs from Accra to Tamale certainly reflect that … but do they really mean what they say? I took note of some signs and the thoughts that came to my mind. For example:
– God is Great Enterprise
– Fear not Refrigeration Ltd. (Don’t be afraid! There may be a monster in the fridge.)
– Sacred Heart of Jesus Anglican School (Sacred Heart of Jesus sounds more Catholic than Anglican)
– “Quarility” Blocks (misspelling)
– The Vine School
– Hope Block Enterprise
– God the Most High Lubricants
– Don’t give up Community School (Don’t give up, even if you have to stay at this school forever)
– God is Alive Estate Developer (Estate planner OR Real Estate sales?)
– In God we trust Farms (Trust in God and we will bear fruit)
– By his Grace Fashion Center (It is only by his grace that you may look good in these clothes)
– El Shaddai Maternity Home
– Perseverance International School
– Gods Grace Sand & Stone Supply
– Promise land Photo & Video
– All Shall Pass – tailor (I cannot figure this one out. Do you walk pass the tailor?)
– Christ our Hope Beauty Salon (There is hope for your complexion)
– Rejoice in the Lord Beauty Salon (You will come out rejoicing)
– The Same Love Cold Storage
– Jesus is Alive Internet Café (He is alive even in this Internet Café)
– Peace & Love Store
– Christ heals Herbal Center, Cures HIV. (We know Christ heals but their claim to fame is curing HIV???)
Writings on Taxis:
– Slow but sure
– God is King
– What a wonderful Jesus
– Your kingdom come
– Psalm 42
– The Judgment Day
– Exaurst pipe
– Diversion means Detour
– Licensed Chemical Seller = Pharmacy / drug store
There are corn patches everywhere, coffins for sale by the roadside, blocks holding down loose zinc on roofs, big three-legged pots (cauldrons) bubbling as they cook by the roadside, many mini-buses, trucks loaded to the hilt with bags of coal. We watched about 10 men try to load a pick-up (like a Toyota open back pick-up) with 3 cows, six goats and 4 men sitting on top of the cab of the truck. The cows would not co-operate so the men lifted one small cow off to put a big one on. They then reloaded the small cow and put the goats in between. This was quite funny. The pictures we took were not clear since we dared not go close to take them. There are many Cow crossing signs but no Pedestrian crossing signs. Bicycles, motorcycles, taxis, chickens, goats, and cows all use the same roads. Animals comfortably lie in the middle of the road until car horns are honked at them.
Roadside delicacies include huge snails hanging out of their shells, grass cutters (looks like a hedgehog), even a leopard. There were and abundance of plantains and bananas, oranges and wonderful, yummy mangoes. Many fruits were common to Jamaica: Green banana, guinep, “aleaf” (calaloo), papaya, sugar cane, susumber, plantain, dasheen, Coolie plums, almond, cashew, guava, sweet apple (sweet sop), water coconuts.
Kenkay is not very tasty and the same as duckunoo. I was told by our taxi driver, that this is made differently from region to region. The Ashantis add a little sugar to their duckunoo as the ones I had in Jamaica. This confirms that some Jamaicans are from the Ashanti tribe of Central Ghana. Could it be that our forefathers came from Mampong in that region since there is a place called Accompong in Jamaica? “Accra type” of ken-kay is fermented 2-3 days & takes a week to process. The yams I had were similar to the white yam in Jamaica. There was dasheen and sweet potato but I did not see any yellow yams.
Butter bread is the same as the hard dough bread in Jamaican. There was also sweet bread and wheat bread. When the Ghanaians visit their family, they usually bring them bread as gifts. There was a lot of bread being sold on the streets especially in Accra.
I had fufu lunch with Pastor Joseph and his wife Mary. They were sensitive to my difference in culture/eating habits and allowed me to wash my hands in a bowl first. They asked me to say grace and we began to eat. There are no utensils and you tear off a piece of fufu (pounded yam made into a ball) and dip it in a bowl of gravy and meat. They served chicken. It was very tasty but I could not finish my fufu. Afterwards, Madam Mary brought soap for me to wash my hands. I refused the soap. I am happy I tried fufu at Pastor Joseph’s house.
Restroom facility on the way was very poor. You pay 200 cedis to use the toilet / no paper, 500 cedis to use the toilet / small amount of paper and a cup of water to wash your hands but then what do you expect for U.S 2 cents and 6 cents.
I loved the huge, tall trees among the thick vegetation. I looked at them and saw strength, power and majesty. I looked up to them, looked at them with awe. The Flamboyant tree looks like Poinciana. Shea trees bear nuts used in cosmetics and produces shea oil.
Tics trees are very strong and are used to make electric poles. It is said that if a car hits this tree, the car will be destroyed – not the tree. The Baobab tree looks like “stinking toe” tree and is a fetish tree. One of these trees is in a corner of the compound where we stayed. There is a man-made mound of dirt outside property wall where people sit on to worship this tree. The mound is slowly being washed away each time it rains.
I met “Joe” at the Tamale bus station. He is one of 9 children. He is the second child, 11 years old and the only one going to school. There is not enough money to send everyone to school. I talked to him about loving and serving God and encouraging others. Gave him a “What on earth am I here for?” book before he was chased away by a guard. A crowd of young boys who also wanted books surrounded me to get copies. I pray that Joe and the others will accept Christ and know the full meaning of salvation.
Some children were dressed in peach colored tops and brown pants/skirt uniforms. Others dressed in light blue tops and navy bottoms attend private school. Many children were wearing the old type of sneakers (“puss boots”).
Women wash clothes in the streams while their children bathe and play in the streams just like I used to see in Jamaica. Women have babies strapped on their backs while balancing loads on their heads and walking all at the same time. Juggling and balancing in a circus is no match to this feat.
I was afraid to take a photo of a little girl, who was about 5 years old, because she was in the Tamale chief’s compound. There she was with her hands on her hips akimbo looking at us and strutting around – she was a cute little woman!
There was a man with deformed legs mending shoes by hand. He seemed quite happy and reminded me of how fortunate many of us are yet we are so lazy.
I met a Korean missionary family: Kim and Eun Young Lee who are learning the native language while raising SuiJi and Chung. There is a Canadian missionary family: Brenda and Conrad Dueck from Manitoba, Canada, living in Passa. Passa has no electricity and they are home schooling Nathaniel, Joel, Stephen and Samuel.
In Kumasi I saw two boys about 8 years old walking – one with his arm over his buddy’s shoulder and I imagined that this is what friends are for.
Peter (watchman) was born 7/10/71. He is a very pleasant young man and is a Christian who worships in a neighboring district. I told him my son’s name was also Peter and he wanted to know about my Peter, how old he was etc. and remarked that I could be HIS mother too.
Amina is Pastor Joshua & Catalina’s household helper. She is Muslim and her sister works for the Lees (Korean missionary).
Bartholomew works on the Computer School’s building construction site. We went to visit his village – Tolon Kumungu and I got my desire to go into his grandmother’s mud hut. Her meager possessions included a “mat” hung from the ceiling that she sleeps on, pots, knick knacks, and a cabinet of some sort with some eating utensils. I wondered how anyone could survive on what she had yet she was quite happy and smiling as she showed us her hut. I prayed for her in that hut and asked God to meet her needs.
I sadly noticed a man washing his face in puddle of water that settled on the street. We waste our recourses especially water and that puddle of water was so precious to this poor man.
Sunday Worship is like “Poco” church in Jamaica. There is a lot of dancing, hand clapping, and loud singing, especially as you dance up to the front to drop your collection in a container. I saw a young man dancing and waving a white handkerchief. I recall seeing this when I was a child in the “Pocomania” church. The pastor’s daughter was breast-feeding her son, Jerry, behind me. Can you imagine what a stir this would cause here, yet it is a natural thing to do there.
We worshipped at a Church held under a tree. I waved to a little boy and found out that my wave meant “Come” rather than “Hi”. Naturally, he did what he was supposed to do – he came and sat next to me on my chair. He put his hand next to mine and touched my finger. We sat there together and he was looking down on our hands. I think he was checking the difference in our skin colors. I took him by the hand and danced to the front to drop collection. I later asked him, “Do you want to go play with yours friends?” He said, “No, they are not my friends”. He spoke very clear English. He told me his father died and his mother lives in the compound next to the tree. I asked him to tell his mother to come to church. Before, I could get his name he disappeared. I guess we went back to play with his “friends”.
The Students and tutors
Joe came as a refugee from Liberia. He was separated from his family many years ago and has since found his father. Now that he is finished with the computer classes, he is trying to find work. He may also have to consider going back to Liberia eventually.
Prosper was the most eager to learn how to do public speaking. His mother and sister came to visit and he called me over to Pastor Joseph’s house to meet them. His mother is a school teacher and his father is an agricultural teacher.
Ismail is Muslim and President of graduating class. I shared my heritage the first afternoon I was there and Ismail welcomed me and called me “Mother” and. I was surprised!
Christian is very bright and very quiet. He has frequent (migraine) headaches and may need an eye exam. I am not a doctor and just guessing a diagnosis.
Blaise is from Congo. His parents were missionaries to Chad. He speaks 10 languages/dialects fluently. Among them are English, French and Arabic. His native tongue is French and has a beautiful singing voice. He took a break off from his second year at University in Chad and will return there this month.
Kevin Holdener from Switzerland came to assist Pastor Joshua. He is 21 years old and from Zurich, ended a 2-year work contract and will stay in Tamale for 3 months. He is a charming and brave young man. I watched him pray and could see God in his face.
Matthew from Hong Kong contracted Malaria but was on the mend when we left. He served in Mali for a year and plans to get married soon. He was there to teach AutoCAD and is in Seminary School in Hong Kong.
I could tell more about the other students but this would be quite lengthy. They are all precious and have their own unique talents. At lunchtime the students do not leave and most did not eat. They probably could not afford lunch and I could see the hunger in their faces. Belinda said she could not take part in the Speech activity I conducted because she was hungry. I felt guilty eating my tuna sandwich each day. I gave them Tic Tacs which were not much help and handed out an extra sandwich or two each day. I had to do this secretly as there was not enough to give all 30 or so students.
By the second day of class, Prosper had adopted me as “Mom Cherry” and needed help with writing speech, Benjamin needed help with doing a Curriculum Vitae (Resume), Georgina needed help with Excel, Ismail needed help to design the Graduation Programme and a letter to rent graduation robes, Pastor Joshua needed help with designing forms so I was really busy. I completed all of the above and more before I left.
It rained heavily for two days. The raindrops seemed heavier that I have ever experienced and were pelting on the roof of the pick-up as we drove through it. There were children being drenched while “trying” to walk to school. I went to the Internet café and sent many messages and discovered later that nothing went through. I thought we got a good deal at under US$1 per hour, it was too good to be true, and it did not work for me.
Corruption is rampant in Ghana. I met Moses from Nigeria at Frankfurt airport and he told me that one does not have to pay to see any chiefs or leaders in his country. In contrast, we had to pay to see the chiefs and the imam in Ghana. Ismail was our guide to visit the Imam (head of the Muslim church). This Imam did not talk as he was too old so someone spoke for him. As we drove by his house another day, I saw him sitting outside looking quite strong. Hmm, I now wonder if he was genuine.
The local pastor, Pastor Joseph, took us to Salaga. This is where the slaves’ journey started. It took us 2 hours and one of the worst drives I have ever had. We drove on an unpaved red dirt road in the heat of the day with no air conditioning, and, the car had no “shocks” but had bald tires. We got the shakes of our lives. I could not take pictures of the children in Salaga. I did not want to capture their poverty and the dirt. I shook one child’s hand and it was tiny, limp, and almost lifeless. The NDC (National Democratic Congress) was having a rally and there was a lot of commotion. Men were riding and revving up their motor-cycles, singing, shouting, bugle blowing and car horns tooting. Our car was stuck in the middle of the scene for a few minutes and I was concerned. Politics is politics anywhere you go and I disliked it.
We visited the Slave Wells (Wan Kam Baie): Shallow “bathing wells”. Slaves were bathed here and their bodies rubbed with shea oil to make them look shiny. Water was taken from regular deep wells and poured into these “bathing wells” to bathe/clean them.
We visited the Slave Gravesite located under a huge Baobab tree. Slaves who died were dumped under this tree. There were areas on the tree that shackles were nailed into the tree. If they thought the slave was not dead, they would nail him to the tree so he would not get away and surely die there. The tree is about 300 years old and there was a sense of sorrow and pain as Pastor Joseph asked me to pray. What can I pray for at this spot? I thought. I prayed that God would help us to put the injustices of the past behind us and help us to move forward. There is a lady “tending” the tree who brings milk daily and perform a ritual.
We visited the Square where slaves were sold. The original tree, under which they were sold, fell in 1970. Another has been replanted close-by. The village “square” was busy on the Saturday morning. Animals and people populated the area. It was hot and dusty and I was tired and thirsty. I wondered if the people were also hot, tired and thirsty. I imagined that they were quite accustomed to their situations and I was spoilt and not accustomed to a harsh life.
Africa is not for the faint-hearted!
Flying cockroach in my pants: I put one leg in my pants and out came a flying cockroach. I trapped it under a plastic lid and sprayed repellant all around the rim of the lid. I am not sure what happened to it since the Amina cleaned and the lid was removed from the ground. I never asked, don’t care. After that, I made sure I gave my clothes a good shake before I put them on.
“Polly” lizard in my suitcase: I saw a little lizard in the bathroom and shooed it away. I am afraid of lizards! I did not see the lizard again until I started packing and decided to rearrange things. He jumped out of my suitcase and I did not see him again.
The night we got to Tamale, there was a toad by the front door. I call them frogs and I don’t like frogs. For about seven nights in a row he was there and then was missing for another three. He eventually returned looking bigger and fatter just before I left. Could it have been a different one?
In the northern region (Dagumba, FraFra, Bolga) the huts are round. As we went further into the central (gonga) area, the huts are square. We stopped to buy coal across the street from where children were waving and shouting “Chinese”. Dagumba is the main tribe and they are mostly farmers. These men move south in the dry season and there is 50% literacy among the group.
Some interesting information
The largest mosque in Ghana is being built in Bolga Tanga (north of Tamale). This is certainly another area to be evangelized. World Evangelical Church was started 65 years ago, the Evangelical Church of Ghana started in 1975 and now has 150 churches or 4,000 members including children.
I visited the Slave Castle in Cape Coast. Here I saw the horrors of slavery in the slave dungeons, the Door of No Return on the inside. However on the outside, the ocean scene is awesome. There were boats coming in from fishing and men were chanting, singing in rhythm as they pulled the boats to shore. It was beautiful watching this process. I saw great poverty around as I looked down from the slave castle on to the shacks by the beach. What a contrast to the beautiful area!
My partner and I got stuck in Frankfurt for a day so we booked into a hotel and did a City tour. On the tour, I found the “Reggae Pub”. It was closed but I was surprised to find a Jamaican Pub in Frankfurt.
For the people of Tamale, time seems to stand still and I can understand why. During the time I was there, I did not listen to radio, did not watch TV, and read the newspaper only twice. I did not know the second London blast occurred until two days later when someone saw it on the Internet. Now I am back into the busy life at home. I have been corresponding with students and others and I will share some of the notes I have received.
Note from the Student Body:
“The two weeks that you spent with us was like a year. We learned a lot from you. It is our fervent hope and prayer that this trip may not be your first and last time. Thank you for your kind gesture”
Note from Williams states: (-He wrote some information on Ghana for me. In one of our Table Topics speech session, I asked him to “Tell me about Ghana, the land of your birth” in two minutes.)
“This is just to show my appreciation for your kindness and concern. In fact, you are more than a mother”.
Prosper’s email stated:
“Thanks for the nice time we had together, you have been a wonderful Mom to us. You make an impact in my life… Your son, Prosper”
“…Let me say once again a very big THANK YOU for your kind and inspirational words. I promise to live up to them always…”
Joe writes (quoted as he wrote):
“Words alone are inadequate to express my feeling since you left. Really I appreciated your visit. Among all the visitors than been coming, you really show the different. Even though your skin is white but you have the African nature in you and we felt it…”
Even if I did not teach them Excel, office procedures, speaking skills; I impacted their lives and that is my reward. God has given me so much to share, I will continue to do so as I allow him to lead me and speak through me.