I’ve received the latest email from Ghana. It is full of new stories, and photos of the missionary work there. The email and photos follow after the jump. Other West Africa Ghana Mission photos are posted here:
Dear family and friends, We are still in Accra waiting for our new house to be finished. We are anxious to get back to our post in Nkawkaw. We anticipate moving during the next week.
Our last zone conference was extremely interesting. A church member named Tito told a fascinating story about his life. He is from Nigeria, but went to Egypt to avoid problems with his family over his rejection of Muslim ideals. He joined the church and was subsequently arrested and sentenced to life in prison in Cario for being a Christian. He was charged with changing his name and teaching a non-Muslim religion, a capital offense.
Tito spent 15 terrible years in prison, was tortured, and almost died from congestive heart failure and other medical problems for which he received no treatment. He lived in a room with 60 other men designed to house four. Living conditions were intolerable; there wasn’t even a toilet in the room. There were no beds, no room to sleep and nothing was provided there. The inmates had to fend for themselves. According to Tito, whether they lived or died, the prison officials couldn’t care less.
Prison food consisted of rice, heavily saturated in oil and sand, or beans with teeth breaking stones in them, so if food wasn’t brought in by outsiders, he didn’t eat. After 15 years he was released but still had to pay the “blood” fine of $27,000 levied against him at the time of sentencing. This was the money the court demanded for not hanging him (his crime was considered a capital offense), or demanding his blood. He told the court he didn’t have the money and miraculously they dismissed the fine. He gave many other details which would take too long to type.
Next we heard from Billy Johnson, a Ghanian who literally started the church in Ghana. After reading some church literature, he knew the church was true and converted about 2000 people who met together as Mormons, even though the church did not exist in Africa, he was not a member, and had no priesthood. Largely, because of his efforts, the church came to Ghana and has been growing ever since.
Ghana has its own set of amazing church stories that time will not permit me to report.
Most of the big grocery stores in Accra appear to be run by the Lebanese. I was at a market the other day and read a sign that said, “Lebanese food is now by the cat food.” I started to chuckle until I realized I had misread it. It really said it was by the “can food.”
We continue to get stopped by the police a lot; twice on our way to zone conference. The first stop was by a female officer. She said I was going 62 kilometers per hour in a 50 kph zone, which would be 41 in a 33 at home. At this point we were in the middle of the jungle where the average speed is about 100 to 125 kilometers. After reading Mom’s name tag, the officer announced that she was going to arrest “Sister Moncur,” who was a passenger. This made as much sense as arresting the hostage instead of the abductor.
This statement was so bizarre I almost laughed, but thought better of it. Instead I said, “62 is only small, small over 50.” “Small, small” is what everyone says here to described anything that is not big. She said, “But you’re supposed to go 50 through the villages.” I told her we had an important meeting to go to and had to leave. Realizing we were missionaries she must have concluded this would not be a lucrative stop and waved us on.
Shortly thereafter we hit another road block. The officer said he wanted to inspect my license and then started talking about how President Bush was doing in America, and how much he liked him. Next he asked me for something complimentary which was the real reason for the stop, and we responded by giving him two copies of the church news. With this he wished us a safe journey, and we continued on.
On 4-28 we had a collision with a coffin.
While driving home, we stopped for a funeral procession crossing the street. There were several hundred participants, and the coffin was being pushed on a heavy cart, seen in the middle of the picture just behind and to the left of the man carrying the red flag. We could not drive around this because there were too many people in the street, so we waited for the procession to come past us.
With growing alarm I noted that the procession was coming at us, not past us. Moments later the men pushing the coffin, all of whom seemed intoxicated, rammed the coffin into the side of our truck. It collided with a loud crunch, and then the entire procession stopped and started to surround us. It was somewhat of a tense moment. The mourners were excited, loud, and intoxicated, and their reaction was unpredictable. I had a sense that things could easily go wrong, especially since they weren’t going too well at the moment.
The men pushed the coffin away from the truck and moved on. None acknowledged the collision. I pulled over and discovered a deep crease in both of our doors, as a result of the collision. In this situation there was nothing we could do. Trying to get a crowd of drunk men to take responsibility seemed hopeless, which it was, so we drove on and reported the damage to the mission home.
As we continued to drive I made a wrong turn so I pulled over and headed back the other way. Almost immediately I noticed a dilapidated car following me, and it’s occupants, two men, frantically waving at me. Feeling it imprudent to stop, I kept going and they kept following me, now turning their headlights on and off.
As we approached the street where we are staying, Sister Moncur suggested we not turn, and thereby reveal where we were staying. I agreed but pulled over to see what they wanted, after locking the car doors.
A police officer jumped out of the passenger seat and ran back to our truck. He said I shouldn’t have made a “U” turn and we would have to go to the police station with him. He tried to get into our truck, but couldn’t because the doors were locked. I told him he couldn’t get into the truck, and to just issue a citation. He reached through Sister Moncur’s window and tried to unlock the back door.
Our instructions are never to let the police into our vehicle so I told him he couldn’t get in. He kept trying and finally gave up. He was quite agitated. He then demanded that I follow him to the police station.
As we drove to the station, suddenly he pulled over. After a few minutes he walked back to our truck and said, “Are you really missionaries?” I said yes. He then said everything was O.K. and he was hungry, so could we give him something?
This is life in Africa. In an attempt to supplement their meager incomes the police set up road blocks and solicit brides. Sometimes they’re aggressive, sometimes they’re not, but dealing with them gets quite tiresome.
After this all we could do was laugh. Rammed by a coffin, and then arrested for a “U” turn was enough excitement for the day.
Here are some pictures I thought you might enjoy.
Ghana has delicious fruits. Sister Moncur is buying some at a roadside stand. They call avocados “pears.” All have to be washed with soap and rinsed with beach before eaten.
This picture captures the primitive nature and beauty of a compound in Nkawkaw. Everything needed is close at hand. Things that are not can be purchased from little huts, or small tables loaded with basic goods that are everywhere.
Laundry is done outside in tub and then hung on a line. No one has a washer or dryer. Cooking is done outside. Every compound provides benches for visitors. When we arrive, benches and stools appear from nowhere. We prefer to sit outside where it’s cooler. Everyone seems to know where everyone else is, and will tell you where they are if you ask. It is not hard to find people once you know generally where they live. Just go there and ask someone, and they’ll tell you.
The kids here start carrying things on their heads at an early age as this girl in primary is doing.
PARTING SHOT: I guess if you need a quick reaction you can call these guys.