Country on the gulf of Guinea, bordering Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Contains Lake Volta, the world's largest artificial lake. Used to be called "Gold Coast."

Ghana was also the name of an ancient kingdom in Western Africa (About 300AD to 1200AD). The kingdom of Ghana fell and was replaced by the kingdom of Mali, which was replaced by the kingdom of Songhai. Ghana was most famous for the huge amounts of gold that they traded to northern Africa and Europe. Very few details are known about the society before they began trading as they didn't have a written language. Most, if not all information we have about Ghana is from the perspective of traders who wrote about the kingdom.

The modern country was named in honor of the kingdom of Ghana.

So exotic, so breathtaking, yet its beauty comes at a bittersweet price. As I sit in a wicker hanging hammock in the shade of a lim tree, its waxy leaves sashay lustrously in the cool breeze that blows over the ports in Accra, with its modest fishing boats and its sleepy complacency. Being in Ghana, and all that it's been so far, especially now as I muse, I feel like I'm in a dream sequence. Being here, in the Mission House, is that surreal. This morning when the team was sorting donations, Casey found a white silk flower in one of the boxes. He put it in my hair, so here I sit now with my fake flower, its synthetic petals seductively peeking from behind my ear, as if I'm an heiress in an old movie, stranded in a tropical paradise, in another world. It is another world here. From akwaaba: “Welcome to Ghana,” I found myself falling in love with my new adventure; in listening to the Ghanaians speak back and forth amongst each other, I am overwhelmed. The beautiful people in Accra speak quickly and with fervor, switching from English to Twi to Ga, weaving their rich voices into a hum as their white teeth flash in their rich, smooth ebony skin.

{The first morning in Ghana}, we stepped out of the iron mission house gates into our first glimpse of Manna. I don't know what I expected, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't what I found. The grounds, or rather, Ghana’s roads, are red clay dust broken only by sparse grasses in clumps that grow amid pebbles and trash. It's not unusual to see goats, chickens, or dogs roaming free around the mission. The sun seems like it can literally swallow you whole with its unyielding rays.

There are hardly words to describe the passion, energy, color, and charisma at Manna Mission Church. The praising and singing had already started when our team walked into the church that first morning. As we `white people,' or blufanyo as the Ghanaians call us, came into the throng of a living, breathing personification of fervor, I felt so self-conscious, out of place. I, with my pasty white skin and drab hair the texture of straw, was in a room chock full of warm color. The hues were unlike any I have ever seen. The senior pastor at MMC, George Atta-Bah, at the beginning of the first service, quoted, "Even Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these," (Lk 12:27b). I can honestly say that these beautiful people would give His Majesty a run for his money. As the people were filled with the Spirit and began to sing, more colors flashed before my fascinated eyes, women spinning, turning in an ecstatic passion for our Lord, kerchiefs waving in a delightful dance to the Father. Ruby...lavender...aqua green...spiraling in motion so poised it could be choreographed...silver...turquoise...never could anyone reproduce the electricity of these people in print, art, or song. The Bible says to praise God with 10-stringed instruments. The Ghanaians interpret those '10-strings' as referring to their hands, so they clap and beat on drums. There's no tan, black, white, or gray...only a mass of believers, hearts united in praise, prayer, love, and thanksgiving.

Manna Mission Hospital is either one of the most uplifting or the most humbling experiences I've ever had. The longer I'm here, the more I realize that, barring our faith, everything is different. {Tuesday} I saw my first gbonyo...dead body. I mean yeah, everyone has seen them at funerals, but somehow this felt different. I mean we're talking "toes-sticking-out-white-sheet-covered-on-a-metal-gurney-dead"! They let the woman's body sit outside on the stretcher for two hours while the family looked for a van, truck, or taxi, so that the body could be taken to the mortuary. At one point, they had a taxi there, but the body couldn't fit in the backseat. As they were struggling to shove the corpse in, the white sheet slipped off, revealing another white sheet underneath. At first I wondered why there were two sheets on the body, and upon doing a double take, I discovered that the sheet underneath was horribly bloodstained. Yellowish, orange-ish, reddish-brown stains garishly stared up at me, especially from where the head, stomach, and chest should be.

Have I mentioned Augustina yet? No? Perhaps it's because trying to pen what she's like is like trying to describe the color yellow to a blind man. She is one of the most entirely lovely people I've ever met. Every person on the mission team is supposed to lead devotion at either the church or the hospital; for the most part, people give their testimonies. This literally scared the crap outta me. I confided this to Augustina, and she stopped working, took my hands, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, "Don't be afraid. Just talk about what God has done for you.” She proceeded to tell me her personal testimony. There were struggles there. She comes from a very poor family, and there wasn't a way to pay for the marriage that she and her fiancé Enoch desired, almost a dowry situation. To make a long and difficult story short, in the nick of time, Stina's uncle have her money and she and Enoch were able to get married, at least in the `traditional way.’ It's hard to explain, but I think that this was Augustina's very own miracle, not merely her testimony. Listening to her, I know that God will put upon my heart whatever he wants me to say.

Sometimes I forget that I'm in a third-world country. So do the other Americans. Today at the hospital, Dr. Sinn got a rather nasty electrical shock. While I was working in medical records, the power blacked out twice. That's what happens when rainfall is low in Ghana; the dam's power is hydroelectric, and when there's not much water, sometimes Accra is without power for up to 45 minutes at a time. We've been lucky so far. The lights at the mission house on the top floor flash like a strobe light. You almost get nauseous when you try to take a shower. Six children came to the door of the mission house begging for food, and Sarah had to turn them away. Sarah saw children people urinating in the street and then walking along, barefoot. “This Be Ghana,” as the people say.

Five of our missionaries, along with some of the Ghanaians, went outside of the mission complex on the first clinic run of “Gospel In Ghana” (GIG) 2003. What they saw, and the things they experienced, sunk it in for everyone that this is the real deal. "I finally know I'm in Africa," said Bob. "I've seen lizards in Florida, and red clay in Georgia, but after four days, I finally arrived in Africa.” Clarice described the squalor and filth. While she was sitting, dispensing cough syrup and vitamin supplements out of huge vats, chickens and goats ran helter-skelter under the chairs. People waiting for care occasionally line-jumped, causing fights nearly every half-hour. Apparently, across the street from where Manna was holding the clinic, there was a satanic ritual going on. The provocatively dressed natives were painted white, and beat many drums with sticks, screaming and jumping. Hermioni explained to the team what was going on, and the team said that at some points, the ruckus yonder was so loud that the nurses couldn't take the patients' blood pressures. "It was like something you'd see in an old movie," offered Bob.

Apparently, something here in Accra gives me fits. I was sitting in devotions this morning, sitting by John Wilson, who Pastor Capps has dubbed, `Smitty.’ Strangely enough, I started getting lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseous; I felt like I couldn't draw breath. The rest of the day was a blur, but I'll try to pen its events, both from my dim recollections and the accounts from the rest of the team. I guess I'm allergic to African dust, or one of the exotic plants or something. The rest of the day consisted of me taking deep drags off of my inhalers, puking from coughing so hard, and sleeping to try to ignore the increasing ache in my chest. Friday I woke up, threw up, and recuperated the rest of the day, much to the team's relief and my chagrin. At one point, I awoke to find a card lying next to me with, "TO MY DEAR ERIN" on it. Augustina had gotten me a get-well card; it touched my heart so deeply. She and Enoch are so poor, so poor that they're married in the "traditional way" but not "wedded," and she gets me a card. She is seriously a gem. Coming from anyone else, I don't know if I could refer to it as a `sacrifice,' but from her, that’s the only word for it. You know, as hard as I try to be a friend and bless my new Ghanaian naanyo (Ga word for “friend“), the more she blesses me. She is the kind of Christian that makes you want to be a better person, because of the example they lead. Her example is service. She is blessed to be a blessing, and she has been quite a blessing to me.

(The second Sunday in Ghana,) the team went to Dr. Seth's village. You know those late-night infomercials with little emaciated children, naked, and covered with a never-ending cloud of flies? This was like that. The people live in straw huts with thatched roofs and mud walls (if they have roofs or walls at all). They use the same water to drink, bathe in, and cook with. It made me want to cry because the only way to describe it is utter and complete desperation.

Is there a change in the air, or is God planning big things for me? I don't know what made me write that, but I can't help feeling it. I feel like I accomplished something. I gave my testimony this morning. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't worried about it. But last night as I was in Clarice and Monique's room trying to get into the right mindset and prayerful attitude, the Phillips, Craig, & Dean song "Crucified With Christ" kept going through my head. It was like every line had an individual meaning for me...When I hear the Savior call for daily dying Oh God, you spilled your blood, renounced your crown and pride, endured torture, and were brutally murdered, and I try to minimize my involvement and input into my relationship with you. I'm amazed at the price I chose to pay When the pain racked your broken body, could you see my face?. Let my hands surrender to his piercing purpose Whatever my spiritual gift, it's my blessed privilege to honor you, that holds me to the cross I'm a bond slave to my Messiah, yet sets me free from pain, depression, fear, rage, envy, self-pity, laziness, all that I know I shouldn't be. Galatians 2:20 is the basis of that song, and I hope my testimony glorified God. I prayed that it would, and Dr. Seth says that the Holy Spirit comes to those who have a hunger for it. And I feel like a starving man, yearning for it.

Sarah opened her psaltery and sang Psalm 102 for me. She's not a strong singer, or always confident, or always on pitch, but she doesn't care, and I thank the Lord for her music. It totally fits with the struggle I've faced while I've been here. Sarah showed me compassion. I totally feel blessed, by her. I mean, since there were several "official" GIG team verses, Isaiah 54:2 really became a point of inspiration to us. It reads, "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” Some people would read that verse and think, "Huh? What's that have to do with Africa?” In my mind, it has everything to do with Africa, and so much to do with me at this point in my life. Being a Christian is to be in the world, not of it, to go outside of ones comfort stretch your tent. Moving in new directions can be really tough, and stretching against what's accustomed is painful; when you experience ordeals, the perseverance, perspective, and strength you'll gain through the grace of God will work wonders in your life that you could never have imagined for yourself. God's really stretched my tent pegs, here in Ghana. I've never had any allergies or breathing problems outside of exercise-induced asthma, but for some reason this crazy red dust gives my respiratory system the willies! Again and again I've had asthma attacks, staggering for my inhalers, wheezing as my bronchial tubes go into spasms. When, with Sarah, I opened my Bible to Psalm 102, the chapter spoke to me. It's called, "The prayer of an afflicted man, when he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord.” As I read it, feeling utterly useless and sorry for myself (Pity party, table for one) the chapters went from piteous to praise, as the author laid his troubles upon the Lord. And it made me feel guilty, because I realized that instead of praying that God would use my problem to His glory, I had been praying for my will to be done, for my lungs to get back to normal. After that realization, I feel like my perspective has totally changed. Pastor Capps, our team's evangelism leader, said, "Erin, maybe you've been looking at this situation wrong. Maybe your mission for this time is serving in a way that you didn't foresee...maybe your mission right now is prayer." I agree, and I feel like I've grown in my personal faith. I thank the Lord that he has given me this experience in Ghana, a place on this team, friends that I believe are a blessing from God, and a deeper appreciation for the Holy Spirit. (And I'll never take drinking water straight from the tap for granted again).

This node is comprised of excerpts of a journal from June 25, 2003 to August 11, 2003.

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