The Ghana Experience – Part 3 (I Lied)

I ended the last Ghana blurt by saying I was going to write next about cross-cultural ministry. I actually don’t have a clue about cross-cultural ministry. I don’t really have a clue about ministry to my own culture, or I’d have been a lot more successful at it.

YWAM Ghana DTS ClassBut, I will talk a bit about my experience trying to teach the “Gospel truth” to the students in Ghana. I may not have explained it before, but YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission (clever, using the first letter of every word like that). I’d known about YWAM since the early 70’s, but have never had any personal involvement with the group prior to this trip. I was tremendously impressed with what these handful of people are doing in Ghana.

I had spent many, many hours preparing for my classes over there; I had not done any teaching quite as extensive as what was called for over there, and that in itself was intimidating. When I left, I was as prepared as I could possibly be. I a good sense of the general concepts I wanted to convey, and had loads of notes ready to go.

shanty-town mission churchHowever, the more I taught the more I realized that I had a lot of material that I simply couldn’t teach there, because it wasn’t “me.” I knew that I could teach it in the U.S. without any problem; in the context of American culture, I would have been fine. But, when removed to this foreign culture, the material couldn’t be translated by me. While I believed it to be true in an objective sense, I didn’t own it; I had no authority to teach it, and I think it would have been obvious.

This sent me back into culture shock; I was doing okay with the food and the heat and the humitidy and super-bright sun and lack of hot water (or sometimes, any water) for showers, but now I had to adjust to me. What did I have to say to these people, some of whom were called to evangelize the Muslim community, or felt called to minister to the orphans of war, or were planting churches in very less than ideal situations?

Me waiting to speakThe result, I believe, was very good. It was good, at least, for me. I felt I was able, on a fairly consistant basis, to speak – alot – with authority. I couldn’t always address questions about how a certain issue should be handled in a certain culture, but was able to convey principles of truth and allow them to apply these trans-cultural truths to their home cultures.

I don’t know what impact – aside from a few individual responses by students, which I greatly appreciated – I had on those I taught. I do know the impact that it had on me. By being so removed from my culture (for the first time, unless you count living for several months in Canada), I was able to better see myself, better know what it really was that I believed, and find that I was happy with what I saw (whew!). I was not just another arrogant American white guy with a conveniently packaged gospel. Underneath that arrogant, Americanized white exterior, is something that held up okay in Ghana.

I’m still trying to find out what that means for me, back here in good old America. But, that’s a topic for another time.

The Ghana Experience – Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1, start there.

YWAM Housing As I said, it was exhausting, but in a very good way; nothing we did (even sitting on the beach watching kids and fishermen) was filler. They weren’t just trying to keep us busy, the good foks at YWAM Ghana had a purpose for everything they were doing. It wasn’t always planned as well as we would have liked, but we adapted, and they adapted for us, and it worked.

The second point I will make about my trip to Ghana – and I use the word “my” on purpose, as I am looking at this more or less existentially as opposed to a “what I did on my summer vacation” kind of way – is that it stretched me. Or, at least I thought I was being stretched. In reality, I found that my limits were much larger than I thought, like Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade,” where he steps out on to what looks like empty air, to find a quite solid rock bridge (wow, what a cool analogy, like stepping out on “the rock,” you know…). Okay, enough silliness.

I was exhaused when I arrived, after 30+ hours of travel, and I think that just being that tired had a lot to do with my initial culture-shock. That, and the heat (everyone kept telling us how cool it was, compared to the past few weeks). This was also the furthest I had been away from home, ever, and I was not in control, of anything. Thank goodness for international cell phone service; I was able to call home, and connect with the world from which I was now physically removed.

I begged off doing much the next morning, but as I “caught the groove” of the church we were visiting, and realized that I was not without something to share with these people, and that they had things to share with me, I began to ease in a bit.

They made us feel as “at home” as possible, trying to give us food that we could at least recognize. Lots of fried chicken, lots of rice, and this wonderful red sauce that I am positive kept me on pepto-bismal throughout the trip. The pineapple was absolutely incredible- I still miss the pineapple. The people were absolutely wonderful – much more gracious than anywhere else I’ve been.

We had also each brought ample supplies of Starbucks coffee and French presses, so we were not without a little taste of home (except for our 2-3 days in the Central Region, where we learned to appreciate Nescafe – it’s really not that bad, if it’s all you have).

By the time we were ready to leave, about 10 days later, it had begun to feel like home, and I had some mixed feelings about leaving, already thinking about when I could return.

Next: thoughts on cross-cultural ministry.

The Ghana Experience

YWAM Ghana

In March I went to Ghana along with my brother-in-law, Fred Allen, and Ken Perkins, to be guest teachers at the YWAM base in Tema. It was, for me, an incredibly stretching experience. I have wanted to write a recap of the trip, but so far I haven’t been able to find an appropriate way of wrapping it up in a small enough package.

I will say a couple of things about the trip: One, it was exhausting, in a good way. Fred had asked them to keep us busy, and they had no problem doing that. We hit the ground running, as it were, getting into Tema on Saturday evening (next time I go to a foreign country I’ll try to arrive in daylight, so at least I can see where I am), then speaking Sunday morning at a local church and that evening at the YWAM evening service.

We were scheduled to teach the first week at their normal DTS school (3 sessions per day), the School of Worship (2-3 sessions per day) and a moning seminar. Fred took the majority of the seminar, and Ken and I split most of the other 2 schools. Then, for 4 evenings we held “revival” meetings at a mission church planted in the middle of a shanty town; that story in itself would take a while to tell.

Saturday, we held a worship conference (it was supposed to end around noon, but as I recall it went well into the afternoon). Sunday we had a “day off” as it were, as we traveled to the central coast region and spent some time visiting the oldest slaving castle on the Gold Coast (another story in itself) and discovered our hotel was walking distance from an un-touristed, palm-lined beach. Monday and Tuesday we spoke at a Leadership Conference attended by several key church planters in that region; these days ended in the early afternoon, so Monday afternoon we had a bit more time to relax by the Atlantic. Wednesday Ken and I had a very quick shopping trip to a craft market in Accra, then we were off to the airport for the 30+ hour trip home.

So, it was exhausting.

As this is probably long enough for one blog entry, I’ll continue with pt 2 another day.