Last week we hosted an advance team from Northern Ireland who came to get the lay of the Lake Bosemtwe before a much larger team comes in July. This team was James, Alex and Rachael. Now I had met Rachael last August about our 3rd week in Ghana at the tail end of her seven week stay. It was Rachael’s Aunt who started the clinic at the Lake Bosumtwe in the 70s, and James, who is Rachael’s Dad, and had visited the clinic some 30 years ago.
The plan was for them to arrive on Thursday night and then drive up to the lake the next day, except that Rachael “ate something” at a Boxing Day Celebration, and became violently ill 9 hours after arriving in Ghana. So did 12 of her kinfolk back in Northern Ireland.
And then the excitement started. Rachael had been camped out in the upstairs bathroom all morning, but then came down to sit with those who could hold food down when suddenly water came gushing down the stairs from the bathroom. Lots of water. The tub had been leaking for months, but never like this. I’d told the landlord about the leak, and now for some strange reason just happened to show up that day, and thus began the cascade of plumbing failures.
The story really begins in October 2006, when the ball float on our pressure tank “got spoiled”. Understand that water pressure in Accra is myth, sort of like fiscal responsibility in the Federal government. To compensate, most houses have a pressurizing tank located above the house, usually on a tower, think of each house having its own private water tower. Inside the tank is a ball float cut off valve (just like the one in your toilet) that cuts off the pump from over filling the tank, except in the case when it gets cracked, and can’t float. So when the tank is full, water comes pouring out of the tank. Imagine this happening 2-3 times a week, water running down the uprights of a three story tower with a large, full tank on it. The footings get soft, it begins to lean. We call it the leaning tower of water. I mention this to the landlord most times I see him. There have been a number of plumbers out to look at the problem, most cases the solution is to replace a certain section of pipe with two elbow joints on it. I’m not kidding that section has been replaced 11 times since we’ve been here—but not the ball float.
So I’m outside showing the landlord where water has been leaking outside the bathroom and again mention the tank, but add that it looks like he will be remodeling our kitchen soon, as the leaning tower of water is poised to land on kitchen when it falls. So he calls his plumbers and surprise the replace a section of pipe near the two elbows and as a bonus, add a booster pump to whole mess. Now we have fantastic water pressure, which blows out some of the weaker joints, and guess what…water still over flows the pressure tank because the BALL FLOAT is CRACKED, but now it overflows at hyper speed. Next time I see the Landlord, I explain the problem, but now the tower is so leaning that his boys won’t climb it to look inside. When we come back after New Years week-end, the tower has been replaced and the tank is sitting on the ground. I look inside and guess what I see… a cracked ball float. There is a lot of detail missing like being without water, things stolen or ruined, workmen in the house day after day, cementing and tiling the tub back in place without testing that the repairs worked…they did, but spoiled the water heater.
[cracked ball float]
So all this is happening while the Irish are here, or up at the Lake, but getting back to the story. James and Alex waited around all morning hoping Rachael had emptied her last so they could all leave to the Lake, but soon after they left, it wasn’t five minutes before they were back, dropped her off. Thirty minutes later we were at the hospital. “You don’t have to stay,” Rachael kept telling me, “I will be fine.” I knew that, but I kept thinking of Grace (our daughter at boarding school in Japan), how if she were this sick, I would hope there would be someone to care for here there. Grace and I stayed the day, Suzanne the night, and then I was back there again to help her check out—a non-trivial exercise in Ghana.
[new tower AND new ball float inside!]
All better, mostly, we put Rachael on a bus heading north to the Lake, while we headed West for a few days to be at the beach over New Year’s. It was good timing as that’s when the real work began in the back yard, replacing the leaning tower.
Hours after we got back from the beach, so did the Irish, but this time with an excitement for the work God is doing at Lake Bosumtwe, and the part they get to play in it. They will come back in July with a team of 15 for a building project and village outreach. I only wish I could be around to help, but by then I’ll be back pastoring in Central Texas.
At first I thought I was back in “doing ministry business,” even if it was only showing folks around Accra, or keeping Rachael company when she was feeling “rather dodgy.” Now I realize it was still a “being ministry,” which felt pretty good too. Before the accident, I would have accompaned the team up to the lake, but now couldn’t handle the travel on bumpy roads. So I was glad to be able to help in some small, small way.