Reflections from Ghana

We arrived home from Ghana last Monday morning around 6:00 am. So I've had a few days to recover and begin to reflect upon what was a remarkable experience. Here are a few of my initial thoughts along with some pictures. 

The power of compassion to open the heart...

Komlanyili is a remote village that is home to some 600 people - easily overlooked, ignored and forgotten. This is the village where our church (in partnership with Young Leader's International - YLI) funded a clean water project. Before the dedication service a group of us took a long hike to the current water source for the village - a deep, dirty hole in a long dried-up river bed. It was filthy and unfit for people - yet this was their only source of water. 

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The celebration that followed back in the village was special - women and children dressed in beautiful colors, lots of traditional music and dance. The chief of the village joined by chiefs from a number of surrounding villages. The chief was warm, gracious and deeply grateful for our presence - openly welcomed Christians to his village. Throughout our presentations we freely shared the Gospel - the gift of clean water being freely given because God's love for them is freely given. Since the project began a few months ago a number of people have come to Christ - the first in this village. The gift of clean water, a simple gesture of compassion, now stands a metaphor for God's love and generosity - opening the hearts of people in remarkable ways to conversation about Christ. Every time the people of Komlanyili enjoy clean water they will be reminded of God's love for them!

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The natural way the Gospel is seeded and spread...

Through this natural gesture of compassion the gospel has been seeded in Komlanyili. Some miles away is another village - Kpenchela - where YLI sponsored a similar clean water project. This village has a small church being pastored and discipled by a group of young leaders led by Pastor Adam Brown. We learned that this church Kpenchela is already sending folks to Komlanyili every week to support and disciple this new church. The gospel being seeded and sustained - miraculous but so natural. It's the same wherever we live. The gospel is seeded and sustained by people and relationships.

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I was sobered by how hard life is for some...

Every day...every day...is a struggle for survival in this part of Ghana. I found it hard to imagine the challenges of everyday life. I was speaking to one of the YLI leaders who farms for his family and friends. I asked him if he enjoyed farming. His first response told me I had just asked a really dumb question. He politely smiled and said he farms not because he enjoys farming but because his family would starve if he didn't. We struggle more to feel satisfied with life. The difference is big - we so easily lose our way over things that generally are neither important nor essential. We are wise to pay closer attention to those around us for whom life is hard. They have something valuable to teach us.

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I am deeply grateful for a new generation of younger leaders committed to following Christ and loving people...

It was refreshing to spend a week with a group of Ghanian young men and women whose passion, character and commitment to Christ left me humbled yet deeply hopeful about the future. And I feel very proud of Ash Zook. Ash is the director of YLI, also part of our church family and a good friend. His vision, leadership, love for Ghana and the YLI leaders is deep and compelling. It's a real privilege for me to enjoy a friendship with a younger leader of such character and commitment. My vision comes alive and my heart remains hopeful just hanging around with him.

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As different as our cultures may be the challenges of keeping Christ central is very much the same...

This last reflection is more sobering. With all the great things the western mission movement has brought to Ghana it has also confused Christ with western culture. To this day the Ghanian church struggles to separate following Christ from the western forms they inherited. In a place where the heat is wilting (and no A/C) and an African culture where people never wear coats/ties - preachers must still preach in a coat and tie - because that's they way they were taught decades ago by western missionaries. While this may seem silly (and small) to us the tragic reality is that the Ghanian church is paralyzed by such discussions. Couple that with the challenges of presenting Christ within the traditional/pagan African culture and the pressures are real.

Wherever we live keeping Christ central and distinct from cultural expressions and forms is always tricky. Too much of the conflict we face in the church is less about Christ than the forms we use to communicate Christ within our own culture. Whether we are incarnating Christ among a muslim community in Tamale, Ghana or among a post-christian community in Fayette County, the challenge is the same - a prayerful, creative and courageous clarity that refuses to confuse Christ with culture. 

Fighting for your hearts,

Gary