As thoughts turn toward Texas

As thoughts turn toward our return to the States for the summer, now 30 days away, I begin to seek perspective on our time here so far, and mentally preparing for our next tour here. I am already longing the loss of Ghana friends who have moved, or will move away while we are gone this summer, and wonder what next fall’s crop of new ex-pats will bring. It is the way of life here, people come for a season and leave, some stay, some don’t make it and evacuate, and others ask to stay longer.

[This is the last picture taken with Suzanne’s family in Connecticut (check out Fox’s cool haircut)]

I can’t help thinking about how green we were when we first arrived, how much we didn’t know, how much we still had to learn and I wonder what next year will teach us. We are still so green, and next year I will have lost one of my teachers. Actually, he has already moved on, I’m talking about Emmanuel, our day guard who took off a few too many days to attend to the details of his wife’s aunt’s funeral. I’m not sure how it all ended, from Daniel I hear “He has stopped his work,” and in one of my last conversations with Emmanuel, he said, “The company, they picks the music, and I dance to it,” but maybe he did not like the tune. What I heard is that his post had been moved from our residence, to another, and instead reporting to work, he moved on. Emmanuel was ready to move on, and if it were not for our friendship, I’m sure he would have months ago. There was a restlessness of his soul that would not be bound to his compound and guarding it, he has had dreams of something greater, and once dreamed, he could never be the same.

[Mission Trip Steve]

I once heard a speaker explain it this way, when our unconscious mind decides something, it is like God sends an angel to whisper in our ears, “So are you going to make these changes, or shall I?” If we’re in a bad job, or bad relationship, or bad the wrong house/town to do what our unconscious mind has decided it must do, there are changes that must be made, and if we’re unwilling to make them, that’s when the Angel steps in and says “Ah! We can do this one of two ways…” the implication is that it will be done and so we have a choice to make. Are we going to quit this job, or shall the angel get us fired? Are we going to choose to move to the house/town where our dreams are waiting, or shall this angel, have us evicted? Are we going to walk away from this destructive relationship, or shall the angel get involved? As the speaker explains, if we consistently decide not to make these changes, and angel does, at some point we’re going to wake up and realize that our lives are in such a mess that only God has the kind of power to mess things up so completely.

[Emmanuel with Vida]
I wonder if this happened to Emmanuel, that his unconscious mind decided that he was destined for more, and what was standing in his way was this job as our guard. I know next month he will begin the school work to complete Senior Secondary school (High School) in preparation for University. I also know this school is expensive, and I wonder how he will afford it, now that he is out of this job, and soon to be out of another. Or will he leave Accra and move back to his mother’s family in Mpoho, in the Western Region. All I know is that when I walk outside to greet our new day guard, I already miss him, and our conversations.

I know that when we arrived in Ghana, I was ready for a change, maybe the Angel had already begun making changes in my life that my conscious mind was not willing to work toward. I hadn’t been fired, our house hadn’t burned down, and Suzanne and I were still happily married, but the one thing that couldn’t continue was the way our lives were being lived. We were ready for a change, and Ghana was all that. Now that we’ve been here a while, and we’ve found a rhythm of life that fits us well, I wonder, could we do it in the states?

Preaching
I’ve now preached here five times, all at Asbury Dunwell Church (click here for their church website I designed). I am still trying to find my voice here, my message, what this congregation needs to hear, or what the Gospel has to say to it. As I look over what I’ve said in the past, I see an overarching theme of restoring of broken relationships, and I’m not sure that it what is needed here. Ghanaians have much to teach us about relationships, and how not to let stuff, or money, pride or position come between them. God has such a fun way of testing me to see if I really mean what I say. The week after I had said the same, in one of those casual off the cuff remarks, something like “Oh, you know how we Americans like our stuff…” Emmanuel borrows my sunglasses. I guess he figured that since I had two pairs, and he “needed” one, it was acceptable for him to take a pair. After about two weeks of not being able to find this pair, I asked him if he has seen them. He does not answer and conversation drifts to another topic. Another week goes by. I finally ask “Do you have my sun glasses?” Yes, he says, but he needs them to go home to the funeral. I understand that, but I also want my sunglasses back. I feel so petty asking for them, but if I let this go, what is next, a bike, some cookware? The next day he says he has brought them, but then forgets to give them to me, and then he is off to the funeral for four days, and when he returns, he has been sacked, or has stopped his work.

In one of my first sermons, I tried to be cultural, including references to local customs, and how I was trying to understand them. Then I heard a sermon that had none of that, instead it was preached from the Chinese perspective, and the preacher just joked about his Chinese customs, and we laughed with him. But I’m not sure that works for me, when I joke about American cultural quirks, it sounds like “America bashing,” and there is already so much of that going around. It is an interesting and intellectual church, and they expect the best, and when its not offered, they let you know. But our cultures are so different and I wonder what I have to offer them.

On Thursday, I receive several frantic text messages, after many missed calls, and Emmanuel wants to see me. I, of course, am still thinking about my sunglasses, so I agree, and as expected he asks for me to plead with the company to have him reinstated as our guard. I don’t even have to ask for my glasses, after we’re done with the greetings and asking about each other’s family, he produces them, then we talk about what is next. All week-end long I wonder if coming back is right for him, and what part I should play in helping? Of all the aspects of being a pastor/boss/manager of a church, the one I least enjoyed was the balance between pastor/friend/boss with staff. I remember this feeling, the feeling of being able to pick two, and how the third I didn’t pick affects the other two. By this I am talking about the pastor-friend-boss triad, where I assume responsibility for two of the rolls, and the responsibility for the third becomes the staff-person. It is not like these rolls are fixed, they seem to rotate as the situations in life demand it. I wish I had understood this triad better then, maybe I could have been a better friend, when their heart needed one, a better pastor, when soul needed one, and a more proactive boss, when the church needed one.

Several weeks ago I had to put on the boss hat, and have that difficult conversation with Emmanuel who seemed to be away from his post more and more, attending to details elsewhere. It had become a problem, his absence was noticed, and one of these days it would be by the wrong kind of people. I think that is when I knew his unconscious mind had moved on, the conscious mind wasn’t ready, and in steps the Angel, saying, “We can do this one of two ways…” and when he returned from the funeral four days later, it was clear that Angel had stepped in.

[Offering dance at Asbury Dunwell]
When I went to see him he told me his plan all along had been to “stay at his post until we had left the country,” and I thought, but us staying another year is something he had not counted on, and now he was caught between a friendship, and the Angel saying “we can do this one of two ways….” Thank God, we’re in Ghana, and so we don’t have to choose between the relationship (staying friends) and where the unconscious mind may be leading us. It is all about the relationships!
So as thoughts turn toward Texas, I wonder about the relationships we will resume, renew, refresh, and return to knowing that each of us have changed in this year.
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