Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back from Africa

After a long absence from my blog, I thought I’d post a short (?) summary about my trip to Ghana this summer:

This marked the fifth year God allowed me to travel to Ghana. And each trip, despite some similarities, is different! This year, it rained. And rained. And rained. I think we had more rain this summer than we had the previous four summers combined! Coming from 100+ degree heat in Texas, and no rain to speak of in months, it felt great, but it did impact our free time and it hindered some from attending. And this year, I led the team for the first time. Since I already knew the general routine, and we had no “rookies” with us this trip, it wasn’t hard, but it felt a bit different being “the man” J . And this year, most of those attending the conferences were new to us.

In Accra, we had some new and some returning participants, but in Abetifi, everyone was new to us. The denominational leadership we worked with the last four years had transferred to a different region, and all the participants from last year graduated from the program. So, with all new faces, we weren’t sure how we would be received. We were, in fact, very well received – maybe even more enthusiastically than before (and the previous group was very enthusiastic!). In previous years, the participants were local church leaders, but this year, the participants were all pastors. Since there are more churches in the region than pastors, each pastor is responsible for several churches – up to six! So, even though the total number of participants was down from previous years, the training actually impacted more churches.

Every year, I ask the question, “why go back”? Here’s one reason, from one of those who attended in Accra: “I can tell from the teaching of this subject that the sermons I have been hearing are not based on genuine knowledge of how to study the Bible… I really don’t hear the Word. I am also guilty because for many years of preaching and I have followed in the same line of what I now disapprove. I have never been exposed to this method of studying the Bible so pray with me that I will faithfully become a disciple and peach from very deep and genuine study of the Word. Would you permit me to arrange for such teachings to be conducted for some others?” The “method” looks at the test to determine what the original author communicated to his audience, then thinks through how that applies in a given cultural context (“Observation – Interpretation – Application”).

And then there are people like David, a local farmer we met last year. On a day the rain let up enough to get out, we walked to his farm, hoping we could see him and his family again. David saw us walking up the road and ran to meet us! We talked about many things, including the gospel, and, just was we were about to leave, his brother walked up carrying five coconuts he had just cut out of one of their trees. We knew we couldn’t leave just yet. He cut the tops off the coconuts, and we enjoyed both the refreshing coconut milk the fresh meat. It’s difficult being half a world away and wondering how the family is doing, and wondering how God is moving in their lives. Please pray for David and his family!

And there is the commitment and passion of those who attend. Just as the last training session in Abetifi started, the power went out, which is not an unusual event. Todd, a friend from Arizona who was part of the team, was about to begin teaching Romans 8, verse by verse. But, with no power, the room was pitch black, with only the glow of Todd’s computer screen lighting the room. He asked if they wanted to continue in the dark, and they all enthusiastically said “YES”! For the next hour, they listened and took notes by the light of their cell phones (an aside: almost everyone has a cell phone; they buy minutes as they go.) Their enthusiasm to listen and learn was humbling. Their response sparked in me a greater passion for learning God’s Word! (Just as Todd finished the session, the power came back on!)

My repeated praise is that it is an incredible blessing to be able to pass on some of the training I received (2 Tim. 2:2). I hope to return to Ghana again, and other doors may open as well (I’ve recently been invited to Nepal, which is an interesting story in itself – at least to me!)