I’ve just returned from 9 days up at Lake Bosumtwe with a mission team from Alabama’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Birmingham, and First United Methodist Church in Sylacauga, led by Father Stephen McWhorter. It was an interesting mission trip, perhaps not the one they had planned for, but certainly the one God wanted (to read Andrew’s thoughts [click here]). On the afternoon of the last day, we tried something I’m calling The Picture Project. I had hoped to do it the first afternoon, but as so often happens in Ghana, events conspired to prevent us. So now its Friday afternoon and either now or next time or never.
The idea came after last year’s mission trip [read about it Blog1, Blog2] when so many pictures were snapped of the people who came to the free clinic. As we were planning this year’s trip, I asked Andrew to have the team bring 50 or so prints of those pictures so we could give them out to the people in the village. I am pretty sure I was the only one who got the significance of what we were planning to do, but folks went along with me anyway.
So on Friday afternoon, Jody, Cherry, and Sidne joined me on a stroll into the village, where we showed the pictures to one of the shop owners, and asked “Do you know any of these people?” and then “Can you take us to them?”
Turns out only five of the pictures were from that village but still the experience of handing out those five pictures was nothing short of wonderful. Understand that by and large people here do not have pictures of themselves. Our previous guard Daniel once showed me his whole collection, about six pictures in all, dating from when he was in the Ghanaian Army, to the different jobs he has had, to one of his family taken long ago. I added several to his collection, and he was most appreciative. So when we brought these pictures to the village, and found the people in them, it was great fun to watch them study the pictures and smile.
Here is what it looked like, both the picture we gave out, and then them posing with the picture.
Final Thoughts – It was a good feeling I had walking up the hill after handing out pictures in the village. There is something about it that felt so right: meeting people where they were, and giving them something they need. It wasn’t like when I went on a Mission Trip to Belize, and felt like the Great White Father, handing out junk as trinkets that was just not appropriate, that and the guilt of knowing they were most likely made by Chinese prisoners or child labor. Oh, they were gracious enough, but I could tell, they were just being nice. They did not need or want our junk.
But this time, people were excited about what we gave them and it was good for us to get out of the clinic area, and be with people where they lived, or waiting for them in the courtyard (which serves functionally as a living room) and of course seeing the look on their face as they stared into the eyes of the photo wondering is that me?
You see I am not a doctor, or nurse, I can’t do dental work, or manage large construction projects, I can’t dig a bore hole (well) or learn languages easily, so on most mission trips I don’t feel very useful. Sure, I can smile, play guitar, take pictures, and pastor people, but these are not the things that by and large needed in the developing world. My skill set is much more attuned to the already developed world, so at the end of the day on a mission trip, I don’t often have that feeling of accomplishment that I sense that others do. I often wonder: What did I really do today that made a difference?
[Cherry headloading YaYa’s load]
So I guess what I liked about The Picture Project, was the feeling of doing something good and connecting with the people of Amakom. This picture of Cherry about says it all, and couldn’t have happened if we had not gone to the village. It is said that the three components of a good mission trip are connecting with God, connecting with the people you came with, and connecting with the people you came to serve. We had done well on the first two, and that last Friday afternoon we got to do third. It was a good trip.