Updated: Apr 29, 2022
I always promise myself that the week after I return from Ghana there will be at least five days when I will not be fidgety. I will take time to reflect, write, ponder, pray, and rejuvenate. I will slow down, take deep breaths, enjoy leisurely walks, and relive the moments of the trip while being still and quiet.
This absolutely never, ever, happens.
After every trip, as soon as the plane lands, my feet hit the ground and they start running. This is probably not good, but I can’t seem to stay still after my return. I’ve been preparing the Ankaase Bags for sale, organizing photos and videos, brainstorming, problem-solving, and turning in circles trying to decide which important task should rise to the top of the list each hour. There is so much to do, which is why I decided it was time to write a blog post. As I’ve shared before, writing calms my restlessness and settles me down. I’m so grateful I have a prescription for what so often ails me. It’s cheap therapy.
This evening, I am remembering images of the week we spent in Ankaase. Here are a few:
Esther with her hand-broom, bending low to sweep the porch of the Mission House several times a day in a futile attempt to keep the dust and bugs away from the doorway. And while she swept, she sang hymns. In fact, she sang hymns while she prepared our meals from scratch, scrubbed the laundry by hand and cleaned the house every day. But every now and then, in the evening, Esther would stop her busyness and come out to belt out a verse of something completely random (“Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!”). And one evening she came out to model her new dress and headwrap – the official outfit of the Church of Pentecost Women’s Ministry. Everyone who meets Esther loves her, including our team. We miss her.
Comfort with her Hello Kitty backpack, filled with school supplies and other goodies. We delivered the gift to her from her sponsor, Sheilah, and it was a joy to see six-year-old Comfort receive the backpack. When Isaac took us to the Methodist School the next day to visit her classroom, there she sat with Hello Kitty strapped to her back as she sat at her desk working. As soon as she saw us in the doorway, there was the smile we had seen the day before when we visited her family.
Comfort lives with her five siblings and grandmother in a small, barely furnished two-room dwelling. There is no light in the two rooms, and only one mattress for the entire family. The oldest daughter sleeps on a bed frame (no mattress) while the rest of the children sleep on the floor near the grandmother. No mosquito nets for this family either, and Comfort suffered a bout of malaria this past year. And yet, each one of these children radiated a joy that stunned us. In fact, when we returned to the Mission House, Shannon, Melissa and I sat on our beds (with mattresses) and cried for this family. And then we pooled our resources and arranged for mosquito nets and mattresses to be purchased for them. Four of the children are sponsored (we still need sponsors for two of them), which is a beautiful gift for the grandmother who is raising them. We fell in love with this family and I’ll never see a Hello Kitty product without remembering Comfort’s smile.
Shannon and Melissa, sitting for hours with small groups of students at SDA School, attempting to teach them English. If this sounds easy, then perhaps you’ve never done it. I watched in amazement as they used songs, photos, and mouth exercises to help pull the students out of their village language (Twi). And it was hot. Forget air-conditioning and the ceiling fans only worked if the power was on. I watched as Shannon and Melissa loved these children with smiles and laughter, despite the sweat rolling down their backs.
Our ACEF staff and friends around the large dinner table each evening sharing our hearts and learning about culture from one another. I now know about naming ceremonies in Ghana and how and why the ritual takes place eight days after the baby is born. Too many infants die in developing countries. It’s reality, and so you do not name your baby until you are relatively certain that he or she will live past the first week. And then you celebrate and hold that baby high in the air as you announce the name that has been chosen. There is much more to this elaborate ceremony, which made us Westerners wonder if perhaps we had cheated our own kids. After all, my big naming ritual was to send out birth announcements.
Around that table, we talked about the differences in our cultures. My friends in Ghana are always gracious with me when I trip over cultural boundaries by saying and doing things that are both confusing and offensive. I’m learning to smile at the myriad ways that I am humbled here.
The kid who is a picky eater and has always insisted on using eating utensils enjoying Esther’s mashed yams and plantains (formally known as Fufu) with his hands – and with great gusto. And Esther danced for joy. Colin, she says, is now her son.
There are moments when my feet are on the ground here, but it seems that my heart is still moving around in Ankaase – remembering and reliving, and feeling peace in it all.