Sunday, April 19, 2009

"How has Ghana changed your life?"

Another slice from my newsletter life at ALC...

This was one of the questions asked by one of our council members on my very first evening back in Norway. I found that I couldn’t really answer the question. Not because Ghana hadn’t changed my life. No. But because the changes were so many and so deep that I found it difficult to put into words.

“How has Ghana changed your life?”

The place itself provoked part of the change in me. My body didn’t quite know what do in +45° weather. And, a slightly obsessive internet-checker, I suddenly found myself in a rural area where not only was the town’s single internet connection never quite certain, the power grid wasn’t either. At least once a day the fans would stop and the TV would go blank while the nearest person would proclaim ‘lights out!’ Ghana, itself, forced me to slow down and live those two weeks at a slower pace.
And Ghana continues to force me to question whether I really need to send that email or watch that show.

Then, there are the changes that the Ghanaian culture has brought to me. First and foremost, it is a culture steeped in community and hospitality. It is a culture that welcomed me into their midst and treated me as one of them, not as an outsider. But it is also a culture that challenges me to remember the privilege in which I live as a woman in my own culture. As a young girl I did not have to fight for my basic education. As a High School graduate I did not have to questions whether or not I would be able to attend University. As a wife, in some future day, I will have the right to health and wellness. And if I am widowed, those rights to health and wellness will continue to persist. These are privileges that often do not exist for women in Ghana, and yet they are privileges I often take for granted.

And then there are the people! Oh the people! I think a part of my heart will forever reside with the people in Ghana, even if I never have the opportunity to return. Their faces and stories come to mind when I least expect it, and our relationships draw me ever closer. They taught me so much about what it means to be a disciple of Christ and a member of the body of Christ we call the church. They taught me so much about trust in God. Their petition to God for ‘daily bread’ is anything but metaphorical, and yet, when they raise their voices in prayer it is most often for those who have even less. They stick with me.

Finally, our companion ministries and the call they follow have changed my life. For they are truly ministries that give of themselves, no matter the economic climate. Ministries that follow the God’s call whether that takes them deeper into their culture or fights against their culture. Ministries that reach out to those the world considers useless and damaged. Ministries that truly live out the gospel.

“How has Ghana changed your life?”

‘Without end’ might be the simple answer to the complex question. But I sincerely hope that “How has Ghana changed your life?” isn’t the only question we find ourselves asking. Because there is an equal question that I think we need to remember and ponder:

“How have we, the American Lutheran Congregation, changed the lives of countless Children of God?”

Only after my visit in, with, and amongst our companion ministries have I come to realize that the sheer magnitude of change is beyond our grasp. It may be easy to gravitate to concrete numbers: 56 orphans cared for, 600 students educated, so many books translated. But these numbers only begin to sketch the life-changing picture these ministries bring to Ghana. Because each orphan that is cared for is also taught the worth of all human life to God. Each child that is educated is also taught a commitment to sharing his or her gifts from God. And each book that is translated teaches countless adults to read while it proclaims the Word of God. The ripples continue to spread in ever-widening circles.

“How have we, the American Lutheran Congregation, changed the lives of countless Children of God?”

Sometimes, as one congregation, we may question our ability to bring about the work of God. We are too small to support all of the countless worthy projects, we cry. Should we simply give up, we may well ask. But I hope that our companion ministries relationship in Damongo, Ghana stands tall and proclaims loudly that, as a single congregation, we are invited into dynamic relationship. We are invited into a relationship that builds up faith and tears down boundaries. We are invited into a relationship that has changed, is changing, and continues to change the lives of countless children of God—both in Ghana and in Norway.

Thank you for extending this truly life-changing relationship to me.

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