Living in Ghana I tend to read a lot of blogs, some of our colleagues in the field, others from people who just moved here. It’s almost an expectation, move to Ghana, start a blog.
Somehow I had ended up (mostly likely some enticing clickbait) on www.desiringGod.org, and was reading “What’s Wrong with Western Missionaries” [click here]. It’s a great read, but the cliff notes version is that they are too self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency is a quality admired and encouraged by Americans, and especially by men but when author Nik Ripkin wrote about the missionary who was known as “The man we love,” the reason leading to that love was “because he borrows money from us.” He borrows money from the people he came to serve.
I’ve done a lot of things here in our time in Ghana, and I’m constantly looking for more experiences to add to our bucket list, but borrowing money was never on, nor a candidate for that list. It never would have occurred to me, and so after reading it, I prayed a silent prayer for an opportunity that I might be open to.
Next day a final year student invites me to lunch and as we get near the front of the line to order, he says, “this lunch is on me.” Now I know he is a full scholarship student, and my unconscious reaction was, “Oh, no, you can’t buy me lunch, it should be I who is buying you lunch,” but then the words from yesterday’s silent prayer come back to me, and I said, “Okay, that would be great.”
To talk and share a meal is something our students learn when they come to Ashesi. Talking while eating is not part of the normal culture of Ghana, and you can tell what year group a student is in by what she/he does at lunch. The first years are mostly silent; the final years, won’t hardly shut up.
Outside Ashesi, rarely have I observed Ghanaian families eating together, and when they do, they eat in silence. Sometimes I have been invited to dine with them, and that means sitting in another room, eating by myself while the rest of the family is off working, cleaning the kitchen or watching TV. It is a strange and lonely experience.
Now it wasn’t as easy as just buying lunch, as the accounting system in the canteen isn’t set up for such generosity, but they figured it out, and we had an interesting conversation over a lunch of RedRed, plain rice and fried chicken. [Here is my RedRed’s recipe]
Mostly we talked about his summer internship, and if it involved doing what God created him to do. I love these conversations because it will not enough to just do what you are already good at, it has to lead toward that which the creator created you to do in this world. While he was good at what he did last summer (and secured an open job offer), he did not feel this was his purpose. That is the great value of a college internship, to try–in a low-stakes environment–how something fits, and learn early on if it will be enough.
You know, I have trouble accepting help, not only in Ghana, but back in Texas too. The past month when I was helping to care for my mother-in-law, so many friends and people I didn’t even know offered to help, and I couldn’t always accept. I won’t be a candidate for “the man they love” anytime soon if I don’t learn to be as accepting as I try to be in giving.
So be patient with me, and keep asking and when I offer, be a good example and accept.
PS: Even if you are not a missionary, I recommend reading the blog on “Whats Wrong with Western Missionaries” [click here].