One of the students at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, Tony Johnson, is spending most of the summer break in Tamale, Ghana. Tony will be working with the school and the local congregations. He will also spend time in the villages working to share the gospel of Christ. I wanted to include his latest post about his perspective of the last few days since arriving in Ghana. If you would like to read additional posts in the week ahead, you can go to his blog site and subscribe. His latest report is below for you to read.
I know I normally post on Wednesday, but for the first couple of weeks at least I will try to post twice a week in order to share what it going on in Ghana.
Thursday, May 26th
During the morning we went out to see the new school location. One thing that becomes immediately clear is the vision for the future that Steven has. The site is a total of 4 acres and initial building includes a school office, living space for visiting teachers, 6 dorm rooms for students that will house 8 students each, bathrooms and showers, and a large classroom. The 48 students will double the current capacity of the school while still being much more comfortable than the current space allows. Even with these improvements, that is just the beginning of what Steven has envisioned as he has already laid the foundation for the next set of dormitories, and the building is set up for an additional wing to be added for classrooms at a later date. The school and dormitories are contained in a walled area of three acres (more about the wall in a minute), with the remaining acre outside the wall being set aside for a worship center to be built for the local community as well as the students. The posts have been set for this building and Steven hopes to be able to lay at least a foundation soon. Even though the land has been purchased it is important to build on it as soon as possible in order to keep someone else from making a claim on it, or even having the tribal chief sell the land again to another person. This week we hope to see the roof put on the new building and hopefully the remaining carpentry work completed (door and window frames.) There is still much work to be done, but you can see the great opportunities the site will make possible. There is room to build a house at a later date on the property for whoever is overseeing the work here as well as a place to put in a garden that will allow us to teach the students how to install and manage drip irrigation (and thus give them a means to sustain themselves once they return to their villages) and provide food for the students.
Now, about that wall. It is actually quite safe here in Tamale, but walls around the compound are a good idea because of the possibility of tribal violence. The school here is unique in it has students from many different tribes living and working together. In the class of 15 that is graduating next month there are nine different tribal languages represented, and most of the students are not from the tribe that is local to Tamale. So when tribal issues do arise, as they will from time to time, the wall, which will be topped with razor wire at a later date, gives the students some level of protection and comfort until the dispute gets settled.
Later we went to town to do some grocery shopping. Never have I missed Wal-Mart so much! You go to one store to buy your household supplies (laundry soap, etc.), another to buy your basic food supplies, and another for frozen meat, another for bread, and your fruits and vegetables from the street corner vendors. Very interesting experience.
You can buy most everything on the street, which is good, because the closest Wal-Mart is a couple thousand miles away.
During the afternoon we met with the leaders of the school to discuss budget items and the upcoming graduation and lectureship. It is important to get the leaders from the local congregations to come to the lectureship and graduation to see the school in action, but it isn’t as easy as just sending an invitation. Because most people in Northern Ghana barely make enough to feed their families it is necessary for the school to provide a place to stay and meals each day for those coming, so the invitation is limited to 4 from each congregation in addition to the student’s family and guests. While it only costs 3 Cedis for space in the local hostel (about $2 US) and about 2 Cedis each day for traditional Ghanaian meals cooked by the women of the local congregations, the budget for a three day lectureship is huge by Ghanaian standards. During the meeting the rainy season officially began in Tamale. The rainy season lasts from late March to the end of September here. It doesn’t mean it rains that much though, not like in Southern Ghana, it just means it rains occasionally. During the months of October through February, the hottest time of the year, it does not rain at all here. When it does rain in the rainy season though, it really rains. Power went out about an hour before the storm got here and we got to enjoy a beautiful electrical storm light up the sky. Then the winds and rains came and lasted for a couple hours. The electricity came back on after the storm cleared the area and this morning everything is a little cleaner and the plants a little greener.
Friday – May 27th
This morning we spent working on getting supplies for the new building, something that is a little more difficult than calling your supplier and having him drop off 400 sheets of plywood. After much discussion we all headed over to the local shop to see what was available. After much waiting around the carpenter who is doing the work showed up to inspect the wood, and while I’m not 100% sure (since the carpenter doesn’t speak much English and I speak none of his tribal language), I believe we got what we came for. And it only took 4 hours to take care of!
One thing that has quickly become obvious to me is that the culture is one where much talk precedes any action, even one where the decision has previously been made and all that is necessary is taking care of business. Of course, with my Americanized “let’s make a decision and get going” way of thinking, this is quite a change. One of the things that Steven has done well here is help balance the “let’s see what happens” culture with a little “let’s make it happen” attitude.
During the afternoon I worked on my class material for a while. It will be interesting teaching here as I try to figure out what level to teach the classes at. I don’t want to make it too easy as it is a Bible College, but at the same time I don’t want to assume they know something that they might not have been exposed to in the past.
I capped my day off by taking a walk up to Tamale Polytech, the local university. Tamale is a large town by any standard, and I have seen a number of white people so far, but the little children still like to call out and get a big smile when the white guy waves to them.
During the evening Alhassan a young man who graduated from the West Coast School of preaching in Takoradi and now assists the Director of the school, set up the projector and screen outside of the school compound and showed a movie on the life of Jesus (based on the book of Luke). The students came out to watch and a pretty good crowd from the local area came to watch as well. The film was in English so Alhassan translated it into Dagbani, which is the language of the Dagomba tribe which is prominent in this area. Showing movies like this gives the students a chance to interact with the local community, and hopefully opens some doors to preach the gospel as most of those who come to watch are Muslim. It was a fun evening for the students and for those who came to watch.
Saturday – May 28th
Today is an off day for the students here in Tamale and most are taking advantage of it by doing their laundry, cutting one another’s hair, or just sitting outside and visiting. I took my first attempt at laundry this morning and what is called “bucket washing.” Never again will anybody with a washer and dryer available to them be able to elicit any sympathy from me because they have “all this laundry to do!”
After laundry I went exploring the neighborhood by walking to the construction site of the new school, which is about a mile from here. It is interesting getting directions from place to place as there are no street signs and most of the roads are just paths that have been created by people over time. The people are very friendly and almost everyone greets you as you walk through their neighborhood. I stopped to help a young lady and her daughter who were trying to level a 55 gallon drum of water on some rocks and as we talked it was obvious that she was concerned that I was trying to walk too far. She kept telling me the next village was too far to go by walking. I don’t know that I ever convinced her I was just going for a walk up the road a little way. Later in the evening I road back up to the site with Steven on his motorcycle and was able to wave to her, so she knows the crazy white guy didn’t try to walk across Ghana after all.
The afternoon was filled with a meeting of the Bible School staff and the leaders from the local congregations. It appears that there will be many such meetings in the coming weeks as preparations for the graduation continue as well as working out all the little details for the class that has just begun. I will begin teaching this Monday morning for 4 hours each day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for the next 5 weeks. I was only planning on having 30 hours for each class, and it looks like I picked up an extra 10 for each one. Good thing I have lots of extra material, so I will be able to extend the “How We Got the Bible” segment in the Old Testament Survey class and devote more time to each of the books in the New Testament Survey class.
This evening Steven’s wife Karen made chicken tacos for dinner. I have really been spoiled with her being here and cooking every night so far! The students generally eat local fare each night, banku (corn mush) and boiled yams seem to be the staples. There are plenty of local food options as you walk down the street, but I’ll be sticking to either Karen’s great cooking or my own efforts outside of a few restaurants that Steven has pointed out as safe for us out of towners.
Tomorrow we head out early to a couple of the villages to worship with the saints. Steven will drop Alhassan and I off at one and then He and Karen will visit at another. I am looking forward to speaking to the church for the first time here in Ghana! Thanks for your continued prayers!