Anna and I went to the Cultural Arts Center, in Accra Central this week. It’s the last of the major tourist attractions that we have not been to here in Accra, mainly because of the reputation it has for aggressive sellers, a reputation well earned. But hey, we’ve been here 18 months, we should be able to handle it, right?
[Anna outside the Arts Center] We went to buy a stool, or more rightly order a stool to be made. Stools are an important symbols here in Ghana. Most have a story or proverb behind them, and the Ashanti believe that the stool is the receptacle of the soul, so its vitally important that you pick the right one. Generally, the ceremonial ones are carved from one massive piece of wood, but these days they have all but been replaced by the utility stood. I assume the soul doesn’t end up in one of these.
[Here our Telly sits on a Utility Stool]
[Here is stool for a Queen Mother that we bought from that missionary who returned home after 40 years, note the twin sets of three holes in the seat…that means it’s a “female stool”] [Here is a stool in the courtyard of Emmanuel’s Mother, in Trebuom] We’re looking for stools because as we prepare to leave, I think it is important that each kid get a stool from Ghana, to always remember they were once a part of this place. Maybe that’s just me, since my parents got us stools before we left, and each of us kids has carried our stools with us where ever we went.
[John-Mark, Loreli & Steve]
This week we said good-bye to our friends the Cockrams, who have been here the past two years as workers in the Free Methodist Church, and are from Canada. It’s the first of many good byes that we’ll be making over the next few months. People that were, for a season, some of the most important people in our lives, and then they are gone, or maybe its us. Longer term Missionaries tell us that’s just the way the mission field is. But how our hearts are breaking. One missionary who left last year after 40 in the field had a reputation of not learning people’s names until they had been here at least five years. Maybe she felt like she had only so many good-byes left, and so rationed them. I wonder how she is doing back in Florida.
Last year about this time we watched a DVD of “The Motorcycle Diaries,” the travelogue of a motorcycle trip across South America that forever changed Chi Riviera. At the end he said: “I was changed. I was no longer the me I used to be.” After that movie, Suzanne asks if I think I have been changed enough to follow a practice of ministry that is sustainable. “I’m not talking about years 1,2, or even 3,” she says, “but after the honeymoon is over and you are fully entrenched. What then?” she asks. “Do you think it could be sustainable?”
There is this great passage from John’s telling of the Easter story that I might preach on at Asbury Dunwell on Easter. It comes right after the empty tomb has been found by the women, and now the bewildered disciples are wondering what to do. John says: “Then the disciples returned to their homes” (John 20:10). There is a lot of that kind of talk in the community these days, as another season of returning to our homes approaches. We want to return home changed, no longer the me I used to be.
I heard a preacher here say that his calling was to “work together and make God happy and famous,” and that he could do that wherever he was called. I like that idea, I like that understanding, I am tired of just being the guy who runs to God for help. I want more. I want something other than that to pray about. I’m tired of asking God to change things, or asking God to help this person out or that person who is struggling. I want a relationship that is more than going to this ATM of blessing.
There is an African proverb that says “nobody teaches a child that there is God,” implying that all are born with that knowledge, but somewhere along the way we learn differently. Its almost like we are speaking through someone, a Linguist they call it.
[Suzanne meeting the chief of Brekuso, where Ashesi owns 100 acres of land. Now why isn’t he sitting on a stool? Note: Man sitting to left of chief is the Linguist] In the village if you are meeting a chief, you must never speak to him directly, instead you speak through the Linguist. Tradition holds that when you speak to a chief, it is as if you are speaking to God. So just to be careful, you speak through the linguist, so that if you make a mistake, or have mis-spoken, there will be an interpretation to correct it by the Linguist so the executioners, who stand ready with machete, won’t have to carry it out. I don’t think they really stand ready, but still its for everyone’s protection, you speak to the Linguist, and the Linguist speaks for the chief, in case he makes a mistake.
I have a cousin who years ago asked God to test her, she felt so strong in her faith and confident that she asked God for more. What followed was many years of suffering, sickness, and people dying…depression. It’s a prayer she regrets praying I’m sure, and for me it serves as a warning. If God had had a Linguist, maybe he could have re-interpreted that prayer so that it didn’t lead to so much suffering. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was some sort of TIVO for your prayer life, one that could be rewound and replayed to see what was actually prayed before something big happened…like my accident. What was I praying, I wonder?
The injury has helped me realize how important playing guitar is to who I am, it’s a side of me I’ve not always been comfortable with, but even so I have almost always traveled with a guitar. I could play, but what I really wanted to be known as was a thinker. I have found those two incompatible. We were at an Art Show this week with many of Accra’s elite. We were invited because I was a childhood friend of the artist. He is really good, but has so little time for it. He said in passing, “I wish sometimes the gift had been given to someone else,” implying that they could make full use of this artistic gift. Years ago I might have said the same thing, but being injured like I was, it helped me understand things. Playing guitar, more than anything else, was the thing that drove my recovery. It was who I saw myself to be, and with it missing in my life, I wasn’t sure about my identity. So these days, as I’m relearning to play, I know I’m relearning to be who I was and who I still want to be.