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.

The Occasionally Positive Consequences of Vanity

Okay, so I freely admit it – I google myself on occasion. It has often been quite interesting, as I see myself quoted and “borrowed” and linked to in various blogs and sites around the world – sometime I’ll list some of them.

Today, I had the very pleasant surprise of discovering that I was mentioned in a high school memory in a blog by Mike Haubrich, a guy I haven’t seen or communicated with in about 30 years, and in a nice way at that. (If I recall correctly, Mike was, among other things, the guy who turned me on to John Prine.) We grew up in the Lake Woebegon-like community of Hallock, Minnesota, you betcha. Mike is a talented writer, so his memories are fun to read, and you’ll probably enjoy reading them even if you’ve never been there. Here’s an excerpt:

Rich had always wanted to see the Northern Lights, he had heard about them. The day that he and Jay got to Hallock, they were lucky enough to run into Alden Swan. Even though Alden had graduated from high school, he was still living in Hallock, playing Christian Rock when he got the chance, teaching me a thing or two about bass guitar. He was a good role model kind of guy. Rich asked him about the Northern Lights. According to Alden, “Heck, they practically live here. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of chances to see them!”

Northern lights are way cool. Kind of like hallucinagenics, but the colors are really there. I haven’t seen them in years.

Check out Mike’s blog, and read the whole story of the Baptist missionaries, Rich & Jay. For the start of the topic on my home town (you should have Paul Simon running through your head about now), go back into July 27, I think it is: tuibguy.messagemonster.com.

So far, my vanity searches have been good experiences – people actually read some things I write, and no one has called me a wacko or anything evil (as far as I can remember). Today was especially nice.

Talk Radio

I became somewhat of a talk radio junkie a couple of years ago. It started when I wanted to listen to something somewhat intelligent as I ate my lunch (I tend to eat lunch in my car). I was listening to NPR, but the extreme liberal slant – especially obvious during the beginnings of the Iraq thing – drove me nuts.

I listened to Christian talk radio for a short bit, but the extreme wacky right slant (I’m sorry, it’s not just extreme right, but there’s a definite “wacky” edge to a lot of it) drove me nuts, too. It’s terrible to feel weird being a Christian, because of Christians….

After a while I discovered Sean Hannity, who happened to be on when I was usually out for lunch. I appreciated hearing news that you can’t find on the mainstream media (again, there is a definite left bias, often in just choosing what stories to talk about). Hannity has some interesting guests on, and tries to let both liberals and conservatives express their opinions.

However – talk radio is inherently flawed. Talk radio host have absolutely no reason to resolve any issues. There is no incentive to bring together people in discussions that may actually produce any sort of reasonable solution to issues, or to serve as a mediator between contrasting opinions.

They make their money out of controversy. It is in the best interest of radio to create conflict. Without conflict, the show is downright boring. Who wants to listen to people agree with each other? What is entertaining about reasonable people talking about reasonable things? Certainly Hannity and the others are not shock-jocks, but the point is the same: if there is nothing provocative, they lose their audience.

It scares me, sometimes, when people call up these radio hosts and blabber on about how great they are, and what a great service they are doing to the country. Certainly, there is value in bringing issues and hidden news stories to light (such as the current “Able Danger” issue – try to find a story on that anywhere else…). However, don’t these people realize that the shows are to some extent manipulating thought and causing division?

Certainly a synthesis of ideas is not always the answer- that’s flawed, too. However, Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He also said he came to bring a sword – not all issues can be resolved.

I hope that people who listen to talk radio are thinking critically, and are picking out what is good, from what is just inflammatory rhetoric. But, considering the majority of the people calling in, I tend to doubt it.

Sundays

Remember when Sunday was a day of rest?

I was sitting in church yesterday, thinking about this, when the time for announcements came, and coincidentally, a nice little talk about how it was everyone’s responsibility to serve on Sunday mornings, and in your bulletin’s a list of things you can do. I guess maybe the Hebrew word for rest really means serve. (After all, it’s called a worship service, isn’t it?)

Okay, I am being facetious, and a little bit obnoxious. I know about all of the things that need to be done on a Sunday morning, especially when you rent space in a middle school. It’s like washing dishes. No one really likes to do it, but it’s got to be done.

But, really what has to be done? Do we need a full band, and bookstore, and a gazillion sunday school classes? Take setting up chairs, for instance. Sure, we need chairs (although I understand the Russian Orthodox – the ones in Russia – stand for 2-3 hours every Sunday). What if we made a sign that says “please take as many chairs as you need, and put them away when you’re done?”

The problem, like most things, is not that a little service on Sundays is a bad thing. The problem is, how much is enough, and how much is too much? The problem is the escalation of things that need doing and the demands on our Sundays, that destroy a day of rest, and a day of worship.

We need to be doing a constant cost-benefit analysis, or else the escalation takes over, and soon we are not just serving, we are down-right working on Sundays. And, I should mention, most pastors take Monday off to compensate for their work on Sundays. I’ve spent years working my buns off for various churches, including Sundays, Saturdays, evenings, etc. Much of it I’ve enjoyed – it’s fellowship, it’s fulfilling, and so on. But, after a while, sometimes it just turns into work.

One thing I’ve learned from the escalation cycles in my own life – other people often don’t understand when you do a cost-benefit analysis, and see that it’s time to retrench.

Oh, well.