Road Conditions (where are we going?)
After we arrived in Ghana, we were delighted to find out that on top of everything else we were scheduled on Tuesday through Friday evenings to preach at “revival” services at a mission church (church plant, in my vernacular). We had anticipated one evening at a local church, but certainly had not expected four!
All we knew about the church we were going to was that it was part of the same denomination as the church we had first visited. We were told that the pastor was a fairly young man, a former DTS student, and the current Vice President of that denomination.
About 6:30 our taxi arrived. Being very close to the equator, it was fairly dark by that time so to us it already felt quite late. The taxi was driven by a young man named Stephen, who attended the church where we were going. So, we hopped in (having the longest legs, I got to sit in the front) for what we expected was a 20-30 minute drive.
About five minutes into our journey, we came to the famous Tema roundabout. I had never heard of it before, but I assume that it must be famous, because it seems like you can’t get anywhere without going through it. As a result, it seemed like everyone in Tema was trying to go through the roundabout at once. There were traffic police stationed at various points to try to keep things flowing. We saw almost no police at all in Ghana, except for the serious-looking guys at the airport, and the traffic cops. Traffic cops in Ghana are apparently all-powerful. No one messes with them, and you do as they say. Finally – it seemed like an hour had passed already – and we made it onto the roundabout, and subsequently we were through, and on our way.
Traffic, however, had not improved much. You recall my earlier post about honking – well, there was lots of it. Cars were everywhere, as well as bicycles and pedestrians, including the ever-present peddlers with baskets of whatever on their heads (or, occasionally a cage containing chickens).
We trudged (can you trudge in a car?) along for a while, when all of a sudden our driver left the road and took off across a vacant lot. I think we all were expecting him to find another street at some point, but that never happened. The rest of our journey was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Keep in mind that it was quite dark. As we left the familiarity of the paved street, we also left any regular street lighting, and entered the Third World. For the next 20 minutes or so we drove through shanty villages, turning this way and that way down aisles lined with shanty strip malls. It reminded me, actually, of a carnival midway, with throngs of people milling about, vendors with fires selling roasted something, more peddlers wearing their wares as hats. It was cooler, of course (still very warm, mind you), so people were out and about.
Sometimes we would make a quick turn between a couple of shanty-kiosks and head down a different path. I still have no idea how Stephen knew where he was going. Everything looked the same to me – there were no streets, to speak of, so there were no street signs. Just colors and sounds and smells – mainly partially burned exhaust fumes.
Then, before us, in the middle of the path we were on, appeared a large pile of gravel, preventing any further travel. I expected our driver to turn around and pick a different route, but instead he had a quick exchange with someone off to our left, then proceeded to park the car. “From here, we walk” he said, “it’s close now.”
So, we gathered our stuff and set off on foot. He pointed to a plywood ramp, which we quickly realized was a bridge over the open sewer. He led us past the shanty market stands into an alley, which was nearly pitch black. We could see enough to follow the person ahead of us, but not well enough to know what we were walking on. It was probably better that way.
Within a few minutes, we entered an opening, and there stood the small, concrete-block church, complete with electric lights, about a hundred plastic patio chairs, and a full-on sound system complete with wireless microphones. It had been an amazing journey, but we had arrived, and were very warmly welcomed.
The next night, we brought flashlights.