A Visit from Home IV – lasting impact

In the morning I take Ashely & Maddy to buy fabric, get hair braided, get dresses measured, and later Karl & Peter to buy fabric, sightsee and have shirts made, then we all go to Osu’s Oxford Street. It’s clear to me that I’m dealing with a family well seasoned by travel. They take the press of hawkers in stride, and after a few transactions are getting best price in the bargaining. Amazing.

For dinner it is Groundnut Soup, the national dish of Ghana [click here for recipe at end of post]. Eric pounds some fufu, and the kids are fascinated by the process. We also serve Omu Tuto, or rice balls, which we think they will prefer, but when we sit down to eat, everyone prefers fufu, and the kids eat it in the traditional way, (with their hands). Amazing.

Then it was off to the airport, and sad good-byes, but happy memories of sandcastling together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about something that George Whitefield wrote near the end of his life, comparing his ministry with John Wesley’s. In many ways Whitefield was the better preacher, drawing larger crowds, getting more prestigious preaching invitations, and doing it in more churches, but in the end he realized, Wesley’s work would be the more remembered. What would be remembered is the product of his organizational skills, which we now call as The Methodist Church. I’ve been thinking a lot about it because of what I’ve learned in this two year hiatus. The biggest surprise for me was watching, admittedly from a great distance, what endured and what didn’t in the church I once pastored. It’s maybe the same feeling that George Whitefield had as he watched much of what he had worked on wash away as time and the tides took their toll. I am glad to have this chance now, to learn this lesson, to see how so much of what I spent so much time on, didn’t last. They were sandcastles, or as my dad called them footprints in the sand. It’s not that sandcastles are a waste of time as much as they are a means to and end, and that end is the relationships that develop while building them. I thought the castles were the end, and spent more time on them than on the relationships. I didn’t see that then, and was too arrogant to learn, because much of the work I did building my castles, I did alone.

I should have known this, after all the church I worked in while in seminary experienced a pastor change while I was on staff, and I watched as much of the ministry of the former pastor, who I loved, wash away. There was no one to rebuild his sandcastles. What remained then, and does to this day, at least to me, was the mentoring he did for me in my preparation for the ordained ministry.

I’ve been forced to think about my lasting impact here in Ghana, and it calls to mind the words the interim pastor spoke when he was appointed. “I’m not here for a long time,” he said, “but I am here for a good time.” Maybe that’s not what he said, and I just remember it that way, but those could be my words about my time in Ghana, at least the part about having a good time. What has forced me to look at my lasting impact here is the request from Hyde Park United Methodist [click here], in Austin, that joins First Baptist Church of Pendelton Hill (Connecticut), and The Church at Horseshoe Bay (Texas) [click here] in partnering with our ministry. They asked for a presentation, and I see how difficult it is to sum up 18 months of ministry in just six minutes. Nonetheless, its forced me to take a hard look at how we have spent our time, and doing so calls to mind a Ghanaian proverb, “The beautiful cloth does not wear itself.” It means that no matter how good we are, or intend to be, our goodness must make a difference to others, it must be “worn” like a cloth. The proverb councils us to take a sober estimation of ourselves, and nothing does that like putting together a seven minute video of our life. But it starts me wondering, how does this part fit in with the parts that came before it? And what difference did it all make, or to get back to my tag line of the last few weeks, “What you do may not change the world, but it will change you.” Is that enough? I mean I feel changed, and have come to realize that much of the change has come as a result of this injury, creating in me precisely the type of change that had to be made in my life. I was such a do-er, and not always to the betterment of humankind. Now I’m forced to be more of a be-er, at least that’s what it feels like in our eight minute video.

Well, to view the video, [click here].

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