Meetings and night driving
Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
30Trip End Mar 14, 2011
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Where I stayed
Elmina Beach Resort
After an 08:00 breakfast, Tom Clark finished arrangements for our morning meeting with the pastors who had asked us to come, and I worked in my room. We had scheduled the meetings to start at 09:00 and figured they would start between 10:00 and 11:00. In the event everyone arrived by 10:00, and we could start at that time. We opened with prayer and then Tom asked how we could help and what questions we could answer. They had many questions about many recent events pertaining to the association that Tom and I had served for the last 15 years, up until recently. We explained as carefully as we could the situation as we knew it to be, what we had experienced personally, and what had led us to be part of the new church association that started last month.
We found that due to easy access to the Internet and the factual information to be found there, these elders were remarkably well informed about the international situation concerning our church movement. They also had concerns about the way certain things had been done in Ghana, and explained some questionable situations and decisions that caused them ethical concerns locally.
After several hours of discussion, they asked if they could be excused to discuss the situation among themselves. They stepped outside and while Tom and I waited in the conference room and worked on our laptops, we could hear an occasionally animated discussion outside carried out in Twi, the Akan language spoken by a number of tribes in Ghana, and the local lingua franca of African dialects.
They came back in. "We had" stated their spokesman “already made our decision before you came, but we wanted to wait until you arrived and talked with us to confirm our decision.” He explained that they wanted to be part of the new association and would immediately send their resignation letter that had already been prepared.
While they reviewed the letter one last time, Tom went to the business center and printed the paperwork they would need to request recognition of their credentials and acceptance in the new association.
I remembered working with these friends more than 10 years ago as they worked to become part of our church movement. I had spent a great deal of time in Ghana between 1999 and 2002; sometimes staying for weeks at a time. With my wife and young daughters I spent 6 weeks here in 2000, living in a local home and teaching almost continuously. That summer was quite a family adventure! We frequently had no running water, sometimes for up to a week, daily power outages, and we traveled every week into remote parts of the country where white people, especially white children were very unusual curiosities. It had been challenging, but also a wonderful education and the experience was very rewarding.
Over those years, with a number of fellow ministers from the US, we visited congregations, held seminars on all sorts of topics, and I was very pleased to be present and participate in their ordinations in early 2002. Following that event, the Ghanaian region was transferred to the responsibility of another minister.
By the time we finished this work, it was nearly 17:00; we had worked straight through the day with not time for lunch. Having finished and Tom having made his travel plans for the next few days, we ended the meetings and walked a quarter of a mile to a restaurant that had been told to expect us about then. The staff had a plate of chicken and either fried rice of Jollof rice (a deliciously spicy local rice dish) ready for us. We talked and joked over the meal until it was time for some of us to leave to go to Takoradi for an evening Bible Study.
Ben, a local member who drives a taxi, was to provide our transportation. We left at 17:30 for the 90 minute drive to Takoradi, where the study was to start at 19:00. After an hour on the paved coastal highway road, we arrived in the outskirts of Takoradi and then turned off on to a pothole-filled dirt road and drove another half an hour. We arrived right on time, but since things run on “African time” as they call it here, the local church members didn't arrive until an hour after that. About 30 people were present in the end, including some standing outside with babies or small children.
After a prayer to open the meeting, Tom explained why were present, and that we would answer their questions if they had any. After each statement the paper Jospeh Baah translated into Twi for those who had trouble with English. There were questions about what had happened, why the situation had been allowed to get so bad, and what we would do to see that it didn’t happen again. They were good questions and very understandable.
Through the African night
A typically African experience happened when we attempted to get back in Ben’s taxi. The key suddenly wouldn’t work in the door lock. Neither door lock. So all sorts of things were tried, in a region where resourcefulness is a necessary skill for everyday survival. The doors were pushed and pulled, the trunk lock was tried, windows were strained, men worked on every side of the car to find a way in. Finally someone removed the door molding from a back window and was able to slip the molding itself in a space created by its removal and open the door.
We waved goodbye and started out through the dusty, gritty air, heavy with smoke and humidity, and slalomed slowly over the dirt road toward the highway, bottoming out now and again. The humid night air caused a fog to form on the windshield, and the ancient windshield wipers did little more than move the film around glass. Visibility was therefore poor and there were a few white-knuckle moments as we left the Takoradi area. Oncoming traffic, especially the headlights of big trucks was literally blinding. When he couldn’t see the outside white line, Ben’s strategy to stay on the road was to move toward the oncoming traffic. By moving to the center line he risked clipping a truck, but at least he knew he wouldn’t run off the road….
We arrived, safe and sound, if a bit dusty, back at the hotel at a little before midnight. Tom and I had hoped for a cold beer, but the bar was closed, the refrigerators padlocked for the night, and the receptionist informed us that no one had a key. Disappointing.
We took our laptops to the lobby where would get on the Wi-Fi network and, via Skype, reported to members of the administrative team back in the States. Then Tom called Mary, and I called Marjolaine on Skype to give and receive news before turning in. It was a tiring day, but productive and we were able to help the people we had come to serve.