Day five started with incredible worship and a wonderful message to kick off the new year at International Central Gospel Church (ICGC). I wish every Christian in the United States could take part in the worship at ICGC as the passion for Christ is so alive in every member of the church. The joy of living for Him radiates through each person attending the service.
The message was a simple one to start off the new year. The theme for this new year at ICGC is for all followers to take those next steps to live a righteous life for Christ. The pastor started today’s service with identifying priorities that will allow us to live according to Christ and the righteous life he describes in the Bible. The core of the teaching was over Matthew 6:31-33:
So do not worry, saying,‘What shall we eat?’ or ’What shall we drink?’ or ’What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The pastor clearly explained in this new year of 2011 our first priority needs to be the kingdom of God. He went on to explain that many times we have priorities that we put before the kingdom of God. These things could be our work, our friends, our social activities, our personal development, even our family. However, it has clearly been written in scripture that our first priority needs to be seeking the kingdom of God.
He went on to explain in more depth as to how we can determine if the kingdom of God is really our first priority or whether we are like so many Christians who only claim it is their first priority. The pastor gave us three concrete ways to measure our priorities.
Measurement I: What do we spend our TIME doing? Where you spend the majority of your time is where your highest priority typically lies.
Measurement II: Where do we spend our MONEY? Typically the things we spend our money on give clear direction to what priorities we hold in highest regard.
Measurement III: Where do we provide the most EFFORT? Whatever we work the hardest at will typically determine what is most important to us.
It was a simple message but such an important one as we head into a new year with new opportunities from God!
Following church we headed to Nana’s village in the eastern region. I cannot remember the exact name of the village but Nana is the chief of the village which only enhanced our experience. As we arrived into the village in our 15 passenger van we were quickly surrounded by many elders greeting Nana as this was his first trip to the village in the new year.
They quickly escorted us through the village to an area where they had about 30 chairs set up in a circle. After we went through the line greeting all the elders we took our chairs. In African culture the elders and appointed officials have a tradition that goes back thousands of years of welcoming the chief to the village for the first time each year. They do this elaborate ceremony pouring shots of Schnapps onto the dirt floor as a sign of giving respect to the ancestors and calling on their wisdom for the new year. The entire ceremony lasted about one hour and I was even asked to address all the elders which was quite an experience since none of them besides Nana spoke English. It was quite the intimidating environment but it was a moment I will never forget.
Following the ceremony we handed out various gifts to the children within the village. I am not sure where all the children actually came from but by the time we finished we were surrounded by a few hundred children elated to receive our gifts and to touch the women’s hair. The joy we were able to bring a child with a small bag of chips or couple of pieces of candy really begins to put in perspective how much I have lost my joy over the small things of the world.
After we finished in the village we went to a little remote spot just on the outskirts of the village where Nana and Esi stay when they come to work in the village. The place is in the middle of the ‘bush’ as they say - kind of like a forestry area in the United States - with 4 small 2-bedroom homes. The homes were not big enough for all of us to sit inside of so we set up tables outside the homes on a small slab of concrete. Esi was with us which meant we had a car full of food with us and more snacks and drinks than you could have ever imagine could appear from a single car. As we all sat down to visit in the middle of an eastern region mountain village to our surprise Esi pulls out a popcorn popping machine!!!! Our only reaction was “HUH???!!!!!” We were in an area with no running water and what appeared to be no electricity but that was until we saw an extremely long extension cord being pulled from one of the houses to operate the popcorn machine.
So, there we sat on top of a mountain in the middle of the bush with sun hidden behind the hills and we had freshly popped popcorn. All week I have said expect the unexpected and let God do the rest, but I am not even sure God could have gotten a popcorn popping machine to operate in the place where we were located; so tonight I guess we can say expect the unexpected especially when you are with Esi. The great news was that not only did we have fresh popcorn, but the only light we had within at least 10 miles from where we sat was the popcorn machine itself which lit up our gathering with all the light one would need.
After a couple of hours taking in the scene and talking we headed back down to Accra which was about a two and half hour trip. Our night was not over there. As we returned to the hotel the entire Kingdom Hoops team was waiting for us. We had planned a dinner at the hotel for all the boys and it gave us a great chance to get to know the boys on a little deeper level. The highlight of the meal was the announcement that Grace had been brought into the Kingdom Hoops Ghana family as the boys announced that she is now considered their sister.
We got all the boys back in taxis and on their way home at about 10:30pm and we were finally able to call it another night. What an incredible day and an incredible experience. I am not sure what God taught me today but I think it was the simple fact that He is everywhere and He can especially be felt in the most remote parts of the world.
Good Night from Africa,