[The Accra Motor Speedway Sign] ok so the real name is Formula One Leisure La Raceway – and La is the region of town, not the French article.
We belong to a wonderful organization called The Mission Society (TMS). It’s the organization that, for those of you who support our mission here, give to. If you’re interested in supporting us [click here]. Anyway, twice a year the TMS Ghana Mission Field gathers for a four day Field Retreat, part business meetings, part worship, part storytelling and debugging the African experience, part fellowship and food, part praying for each other and this time, at least for the guys, something completely out of the ordinary. Last time they met I was laid-up in South Africa so I missed the fun. I won’t share the bulk of the retreat as it was too personal, but I will share how it started, and some thoughts about its ending.
While the Ladies got together for salsa dancing lessons, lunch and a movie, the boys went to the Accra Motor Speedway and then bowling. As you read that sentence, you might be imagining a dark movie theatre with bucket seats, super cooled AC, and a well stocked refreshments counter. You might be imagining an ultra-modern, OSHA safe Go Kart track where no matter how badly you drove, or how fast, you were always safe. You might be imagining a smoky bowling alley, complete with bowling shoes, automatic score keeping, and bad music. And you would be right about the bowling alley (except for the smoke), but everything else, the bad music, the bowling shoes, and automatic score keeping terminals was state of the art. Accra has no movie theatre, just a few places that rent out a room with couches and a projector. And Go Kart track, I mean The Accra Motor Speedway I mean the Formula One Leisure La Raceway was … well, let’s just say it was the perfect guy venue.
[the track] First off, when they check you in you sign a release form. The form said the usual, La Raceway holds no responsibility for any accident or injury while using their facilities, etc. The only odd thing was that it specified that it would not be held responsible for any malfunctions with the cars that resulted in injury. Looking at the cars, I could imagine that this clause was exercised quite frequently. Most of the cars looked like they were held together with spot-welding, spit, and a prayer or two. Fox, being the rebel he is, refused to sign his name, and instead signed himself in as Brad Pitt.
[“Brad Pitt” signs the waver] Sorry Mr. Pitt, if you get a call from the La Raceway, well, that was us, committing fraud. Oddly enough, though the mechanics scanned the paper and counted the names, they failed to recognize they had a celebrity in their midst. Or perhaps lots of Brad Pitts visit the La Raceway. It’s a pretty common name nowadays. After signing, our attention was directed to the rule board.
[Fox studying the rules – its always best to know the rules before you break them] I’m not sure why they did that as no flags were to be seen, just a guy standing in the hot sun with a watch and who would whistle and wave you down when your time was up. Cost $7/10 minutes.
[da boys – Fox, Ken, Chip] I must say it was a blast racing around the track going so fast so close to the ground. I’m not kidding, there was hardly an inch between the bottom of the frame and the track, and you’re screaming around it flat out. These cars handled really well, seemed to hug the road so well that flipping them seemed almost an impossibility. You should have seen Fox, he careened around the track lapping everyone at least once. Makes a dad wonder where he learned how to do that (too many hours of video game Need for Speed, I’m guessing).
[Just remember this IS dangerous]
Overheard at the track: “It’s like a real-life Mario Kart!” OK – so these kids, or Ken at least, really are playing too many hours of video games.
[The Jackson Boys – Father & Son, can you tell which is which?] There were three working cars that day, though most of the morning, it seemed like there were only two working. While we were racing, they were getting the next one working.
[working on a car without wheels – doesn’t it look like a “speeder” in the original star wars movie?] [race car graveyard or is this the spare parts department?] I know how they feel, we’ve had a lot of car problems this past month. It all started when the radiator leaked fluid and we missed the Outdooring Ceremony [read about click here]. About every month I’ve had that radiator patched, and this time I asked that they just replace it. Big mistake, next the alternator went (replaced it), then the starter (replaced it), and this week the weak battery (replaced it too). Now I think we’ve pretty much replaced the electrical system no so our troubles should be over, or at least the need to push start the car. Interesting thing about the batteries, they are shipped to Ghana dry. When you buy a battery, they open the box, and the “clerk” dons safety glasses, gloves, breathing mask, and then adds a quart of battery acid to the battery, dipping it out of a huge plastic garbage can of acid. Then you can’t use it for two hours.
[Adding battery acid] Car repair is an interesting process here. New parts are almost unheard of, so there is a booming used (or Home Use as it called) market here. I mean there is a whole section of the market devoted to used parts [read that early post when I almost lost an entire car [click here]]. The repair shop we frequent carries no spare parts in inventory so when they need one, YaYah sends one of his boys off to the market to pick, and a few hours later he shows us with it, be it an entire engine, starter motor, or alternator (all three we have replaced at least once). The other oddity is how YaYah and I are friends, but the people who work for us seem to quarrel a lot.
After the Accra Motor Speedway when went bowling at this twin Chinese Restaurant and Bowling Alley. Suzanne and I had been there when we first came to Ghana when Fox had a party there, and we thought the food was more Ghanaian, than Chinese. This time the food was excellent, or maybe our mouths just can’t tell the difference anymore.
[The Men of the Ghana Field Mission]
Then it was bowling for leftovers from lunch which Mr. Mozley won with a score of 125 even though he bowled in sock feet – What! No size 14 shoe? The bowling alley was in good shape, and most everything worked well. They even had a kid bowling guide, but no bumpers, which would have been nice. Fox was kind to let me try twice, both of which ended up in the gutter, but it was fun to try, even if it meant learning that this arm is not quite ready to resume the competitive bowling circuit.
[kid bowling tool]
[Mr. Mozley and his winning form] Over the next few days all the Ghana Field Missionaries gathered for business meetings, worship time, fellowship, and for me a deepening friendship and respect for these career missionaries who have given up everything to serve God in this place. Truly some of the most remarkable and humble people I know.
The last thing we did at the retreat was to pray for each other, and for those who are in transition, or soon will be. My friend Margaret, Anna Mozley (Michael & Claire’s first born, and first child to leave the Ghana mission field when she leaves for college soon), Erica (an intern who has been Caylor’s homeschooling teacher the past hear), and Ju and Andrew who are expecting their third child next month. During communion, Michael spoke about how maybe at the Last Supper, Jesus wanted the disciples to remember this moment, to fix this image in their brain of this place and time when they were all together. That’s what it was like for me, a moment fixed in time, for in a few weeks, that group we have grown to love so dearly over these past two years will scatter, never to reunite until its around the heavenly banquet table.
As they laid hands on us, and prayed, I felt a since of peace come over me. Driving back, I commented to Suzanne, “Its the first time I feels like we can really leave Ghana.” (now less than eight weeks away). Before that I was swimming in denial. As we prayed for Anna M., I saw how close these two families that had come to Ghana over 10 years ago, had become. Now with the first of their extended family leaving, it felt like the end of an era. Looking around at the now seven families, and all these young children, I all saw how God had called us, then brought us together, then given us to each other and now is letting us scatter. I was sad, and OK with it all, and at peace, for the first time in months.
[Ju Jernigan – expecting to deliver at Lake Bosumtwi]