On Friday May 3, I traveled to Ghana with a team of seven other men from the church: Daniel Gibbs, Chris Jones, Tom Lott, John Manyik, Tom Martin, Phil Nysewander, and Andy Richmond. We went with the goal of constructing part of a medical facility that serves an underprivileged area in rural southeastern Ghana. Six out of our eight team members had never served on an international mission trip before.
We landed on Saturday and drove from Accra, the capitol of Ghana, to a small village nestled on the bank the Volta River.
We woke up on Sunday morning and went to church. Our team split into two groups and visited two different churches. One went to an established church near the medical facility. The other visited a new church plant, whose building had no walls and was made of logs and a thatched roof. We had a great time trying to sing in a different language, attempting to dance the Ewe tribal dance, and enjoying time with the people. We debriefed when everyone got back to the hotel. Our feelings were best summarized by Daniel Gibbs, who said, “God just got a lot bigger.”
That evening we visited the medical facility and met the Ghanaian craftsman that we would work with for the rest of the week.
The next morning we woke up and drove back down the bumpy dirt road to the medical facility. We arrived and the Ghanaian craftsman were already hard at work. We were ready to get to work as well, but that was a much slower process than we imagined. We discovered that Ghanaians built things differently than us. Most of our team members had substantial building experience, but were novices in Ghana. So we did what we were able to do. We cleaned, painted, and tried to mix concrete by hand, which is much harder than we thought it would be.
The day after that we returned to the job site in the morning and repeated the same tasks from the day before. However, this time we finished our work around lunch. The other craftsman were tiling the inside of the house, so we were unable to work in the afternoon. I asked our hosts if we could do anything fun so that we did not have to spend the whole afternoon at our hotel. They drove our team further down the bumpy dirt road until we reached the end. There, we arrived at a small fishing village. We walked to the beach and saw a group of men sitting, talking, fixing fishing nets, and building fish traps. We stood there for a couple minutes, then we saw people from the village bringing chairs for us to sit in. Then we saw them bringing handfuls of fresh coconuts. They chopped them open with machetes so that we could drink the milk and gave us spoons to eat the flesh. It was one of the best coconuts I have ever had. Even better, we were astounded by their hospitality! It was a challenging moment for me. I thought, “Am I this kind to people I don’t know? Would I be this kind to people that came to my home unannounced?” We sat there watching and talking to the fishermen for a long time before we prayed with them and departed for our hotel.
The next day we returned to the job site. But I noticed a difference in our team. They were ready to work, but they spent more time focusing on relationships. They talked more with the Ghanaian craftsman, shared pictures of their families, and asked how they could help as opposed to just jumping in and trying to work. Then I noticed a difference in the Ghanaian craftsman. They were wary of our team the first few days, but began to ask our team to help. By the end of the week, we were helping the tilers, carpenters, electricians, and masons, doing things that I did not originally think we were going to be able to do. Hard work is important, but this reminded me of the importance of relationships and building trust.
Our team was also able to meet the staff of the medical facility later in the week. It was great to meet them and hear their vision for their facility. We learned that the clinic we were building was the main medical clinic for the region, meaning that they are the only form of basic medical care for many people. (All in all, Ghana Christian Mission has nine medical clinics throughout Ghana that treat over thirty thousand patients per year.)
By Friday our team had completed almost everything we could complete. We were satisfied with our work, but even more blessed by the relationships we had built throughout the week.
On Saturday we took a beautiful boat ride up the river to the ocean. Our team was happy to see the Atlantic Ocean from the other side. We then drove back to Accra and the team flew home. I am confident that the people that flew home were different than those that flew to Ghana a week earlier. They were forever changed the by things they saw, the relationships they built, and the blessings they received.