In August, Kurt and I took our second trip to Ghana-- to train leaders and lay-leaders on making disciple-makers in general and to implement DC for Students in particular. (Details of the 2015 are here. You can read a lot more detail in my post from last year.)
Southeast Christian Church and a number of generous donors
allowed Kurt and I to take another team to Northern Ghana this summer, August
10-20. We planned to take a team of six, including Barry Suggs, Kevin Speaks,
and Michael and Dee Shaughnessy (a good opportunity to take a married couple
and model marriage and ministry for them). But Kevin’s mother died just before
the trip, preventing him from going. (As we were leaving, Chris Goodman—from last
year’s trip—and his wife Cathy, were heading to Nigeria to do medical and
This year, we flew into DC, Brussels, and then Accra. After
staying overnight in a guest house in Accra, we had a short flight to Tamale. (Tamale is now an
international airport, since Saudi Arabia now sponsors trips to the hajj.) There, we again stayed in a village/suburb north of
Tamale—in the compound run by Bob and Bonnie Parker’s Seed Ministries.
On Saturday, we revisited last’s year training site in
Savelugu. We had invited those who had started to implement DC—and encouraged
them to invite their DC’ers. In total, about 40 people came and we built on last
year’s training, refreshing and extending key principles. I taught on the
highly-relevant passage out of Exodus 18 (Jethro and Moses).
It was great to see them again! Joseph was kind to remember
my family members’ names. It was inspiring for them to pray for Kurt’s
impending marriage. And it was fun to hear Kurt try to teach the fruit of the
Spirit to Mordecai
using a family song!
On Sunday, we had to skip worship and travel to Salaga—more
rural and more difficult to reach by car. It was a three-hour drive—and it was
wisdom for the driver to complete the trip and the return trip well before
dark. Most of the last hour was a really rough road—and with the windows open,
we got really dirty. One of our biggest laughs was seeing Dee’s make-up after
the drive—the red dust bath made it look like she’d applied her foundation a
bit too much!
In Salaga, we did a four-day version of the training
we did last year—with about 50 church leaders from six different
churches/denominations. On Monday, Michael
and Dee opened with “our Identity in Christ”. If you don’t understand your
identity, then you’re unlikely to get much of what God has for you. Later on
Monday, Kurt segued to Spiritual Warfare—in particular, how Satan attacks our
identity in Christ. On Tuesday, Barry went through Neil Anderson’s “Freedom
Appointment” booklet. Spiritual warfare is probably less prevalent and is certainly
underestimated in the U.S. But it’s much more obvious in less-developed
countries, particularly where various forms of pagan religion seem to invite
Kurt and I taught through our version of Dann Spader’s “Four Chairs” model. I
taught on hermeneutical principles and then taught through Genesis 3. The rest
of the time, we divided into four small groups, simulated a DC group, and
covered material from DC201-202: “Managing Conflict”, “Intro to Leadership”,
Marriage and Stewardship. We closed with a charge and a small group discussion where
churches made plans to implement DC for Students in some form (to be encouraged
and held accountable by Francis’ team).
The Salaga folks were a bit more passionate than the
folks in Savelugu. I don’t know if that’s cultural or tribal or other. One
example: they strongly related to Moses’ passion for justice and ministry in Exodus
2-3. We were told that Islam is more forward in that region, but we didn’t
notice much difference in our few encounters. They seemed as friendly there as
they had been in Savelugu.
We were thankful that we didn’t need a translator. It’s
not as inefficient as you might think, since you can form your thoughts as the
translator is going through your last thought. But still, it’s nice to go in
As in Savelugu, there was a lot of praise and praying
out loud. I don’t know if that’s uniform in Africa or this part of Africa—or maybe
just for the groups we worked with. In Salaga, they added a lot more tribal
dancing. And they were quick to pray and lay on hands.
As last year—and even moreso—we were struck by the importance
of cultural influences. They range from Islam (religious and cultural) to
tribal norms; from the impact of weather to different norms in economics and
social life. Over and over, we were wrestling with whether a practice—in marriage,
church discipline, stewardship—was biblical or merely cultural. For example, it’s
difficult to “leave
and cleave” when you have to live with one set of parents or another—because of
finances or as encouraged by tradition. Or it’s difficult to handle mothers or
mothers-in-law, when they routinely come to live with you for 40-365 days after
the birth of a child. In matters of church discipline, this crew took things
quite seriously. We talked at great length about the biblical prescriptions for
dealing with conflict—e.g., in Matthew 18. Churches would “suspend” people or
put them in a “red chair”. There are not things that we would do. But even if
these were sins of commission, we weren’t tempted to pride because we know we
have sins of omission in this realm.
Other small moments/observations:
--There were more women this time—maybe one-fourth of the
group. As our previous trip, the women were viewed as equals, even when there
was differentiation in roles. It was very comfortable in that sense, the
opposite of what one might expect in a less-developed country with significant
Muslim influence. But Christianity had impacted these people with respect to
gender—and arguably they were more comfortable than one would see in
conservative American churches. (I don’t have enough data to say.)
--At the training, we had to deal with modest heat (cooler
than Louisville and cooler than last year—in the mid-80s). We had ceiling fans,
but without A/C, it was more difficult to hold an audience’s attention!
--One of our small groups was interrupted once by cows.
Last year, we were in a “neighborhood” of sorts, so we had a wider variety of
noise—passing children, wandering goats, and an occasional donkey. There
were many more dogs and even a few cats in this area. There were also more
trees. We were near the Volta River and closer to the coast, allowing for more
rainfall and greenery.
-The hotel in
Salaga was really nice in terms of externals but many of the internals didn’t
work. If you took pictures from certain angles, you’d think you were in an
American three-star hotel. From other angles, it looked like a dump: holes in
the wall with wiring hanging out; windows in ill-fitting holes; buckets of
water that would substitute for plumbing deficiencies. There was a really nice
TV (nicer than I have at home), but you could only get a half dozen channels
and none were worth watching. There was a nice enough bathroom, but a
non-functioning toilet in our first room and not enough water pressure for a
shower. (We took bucket baths all week.) All of this made us enjoy Bob and
Bonnie’s and the Accra guest house that much more!
-We had veggies and fruit with every meal—strange for
Ghanaians since it’s relatively expensive and apparently, they don’t like fruit
all that much! We ate goat twice—a first for me…good stuff! (That’s about how
often they eat goat, annually, there.) We usually had fish with our meals. One
weird thing: for years when I was younger, I used to joke about wanting to form
a band called “Semi-boneless Spaghetti”. I had no idea why this popped in my
head. But the funny thing is that we actually ate that dish on Wednesday at
lunch. I had to pull about 20 bones out of the spaghetti we were served instead
of the usual rice.
-The meals in
Salaga were fine. But we really enjoyed meals at Bob and Bonnie’s: oatmeal and
eggs; chicken dumpling and pot pie. Their hospitality is unsurpassed. And it
was also an unexpected pleasure for them to give us a copy of DC for Students
translated into Dagbani!
-It was a pleasure to meet and work with Parku—one of
the lieutenants on the ground in Ghana. It was great to reacquaint with Zak who
traveled with us to Salaga. In the evening, he and Kurt would “battle” in Star
Realms—with each subjecting the other to vicious "attacks". We were
quietly trying to play Splendor—and those two would be yelling and getting
excited right next to us!
-God saved my bacon at least three times. When we
switched rooms, I had placed my passport and trip money under my pillow in the
hotel room—and almost left it behind. Then at the airport, I almost sent my
Trip Packet and Book Manuscript into my checked bags when we were shuffling
bags at the airport. Given the delays we faced, that could have been somewhere
between annoying and painful.
Wrapping up: In Accra on the way back, we worked with a
range of street-level vendors and picked up a nice range of souvenirs. Coming
and going from Accra, we had pizza at a really nice mall—better than most malls
in Louisville. On the way back, we flew through Chicago—the only hiccup in our
travels, but a big one. We ended up flying back to Cincy instead of Louisville,
after a long delay, where Tonia and Zach picked us up.
The need to make disciples and disciple-makers is
universal—for time and place. In Ghana, the challenges are greater, because
people are coming to Christ, churches are being planted, but without a plan to disciple
and make disciple-makers, how can the Church grow effectively?
In all of this, we got another opportunity to
experience Romans 1:11-12—that we would be of mutual encouragement to each
other. It was good to reacquaint with old friends in Tamale (Zak, Samson,
Isaak, Joseph, Thomas, etc.) and to make new friends in Salaga (Mercy and
Silas; Moses, Benjamin, Paul, Dela, Ebenezer, Clement, James, John, Ruth,
We look forward to returning to Africa soon—perhaps again
next Summer. May God use our efforts to expand His Kingdom in Ghana, Nigeria and