I asked our team members to each consider writing up their thoughts about our recent trip to Ghana so that you could all get some other viewpoints than just mine. A lot of our team has shyed away from the writing aspect in sharing these things, but I know that they have had many opportunites to share verbally in general conversatons. A few written trip highlights have trickled in, so over the next few days I will be posting some of our team members perspective-changing moments and/or what God taught or revealed to them on our trip.
Thoughts from Chris, owner of Bella Homes, and head of our construction projects in Asikuma:
“Ghana and the gospel…”
One of the strongest emotional challenges for a lot of us on this trip was being immersed right into the people of the village. For a lot of the team it was their very first time on a missions trip, first time out of the country, first time to Africa, first time to a third world country, and first time to be face to face with someone that will work their whole life and likely not earn as much money as we do in 6 months. This is very hard to deal with for your first time, though it gets a little less overwhelming each trip. However, it is still not easy, not fun, very uncomfortable and very challenging. I did not prep the team for this as I almost forgot what my first time was like 10 years ago on my first missions trip. In hind sight, I don’t think I could have prepared them for this and perhaps it was best I let them experience it firsthand without any preconceived notions.
Why is it so hard? It varies for all of us, some of the more common reasons I believe are that it makes us feel bad about ourselves, guilty that we have so much and they have so little. It also completely invades our personal bubble being mobbed and surrounded by crowds of people asking for shoes, money, clothes, and food. Here in the US, we all have our own space, we have perfectly staked out boundary lines around all of our yards, we drive massive vehicles for just one person, and everyone knows whose stuff is whose. We ask each other “how are you doing?” and we always answer “good”, even though we are not because we don’t want to share, we don’t want to get into each other’s personal lives and space.
In Asikuma, once you leave the hotel, you have no choice in this matter. As soon as you walk out, you will have 5 or 6 kids grabbing and fighting with each other just to hold your hand as you walk along the street. Then, just trying to work at the job site, you have sometimes 50 people staring at your every move and another 4 or 5 people literally standing right beside you, behind you and in front of you, wanting to be near you.
It is hard. We came on this trip in large part to work, but we could not just simply work. We were not able to do what we do best. We had to find a way to work around, work with, work for and sometimes work under the local people. Local people that had never even seen a real cement truck or a hammer drill, were there to teach us, tell us, force us to learn their local ways of building with the 100 year old technology they had and the materials they had. It was very humbling. Back home, we can produce. We have all the technology right at our finger tips, we have teams of people under us that do what we say when we say it, without question. In Asikuma, we had none of this. We were not able to communicate very well, not able to explain how we build, not able to use our tools because the power did not work right, and ultimately not able to lead them. We were respected on some level, but nothing like we were used to back home, nothing like we felt we deserved. After a few days, we even began to realize a lot of our small tools would end up missing at the end of each day. We would get upset if our tape measure was not in its place when we needed it. For example we started the trip with 9 tape measures and come home with none.
It was easy to question, "Why are we here? Why are we doing this? Why did I come this far, spend this much money to be disrespected, stolen from, begged of, hoarded, surrounded, humbled…. Why? Why? Why?"
There is only one answer – the gospel.
It is Jesus’ example that we are called to follow. If you read any of the gospels, you see Jesus being constantly surrounded by the poor and needy, constantly asking of him, constantly begging, never a moment by himself to have some quiet time, he even had to jump in a boat just to get a little ways off shore to have a moment to stop and - not run away - but stop and teach the crowds and to show them compassion.
Jesus was accepted by a few, but hated and ridiculed by most - laughed at, spit on and ultimately killed by the most horrific, painful death in recorded history.
Our time in Asikuma is nothing like Jesus’ time on earth - we are nothing like Jesus. But, in our little perfect world here in central Iowa, going to Asikuma is perhaps as close as we can get to a real life, modern day gospel. It is just a small little glimpse of the example Jesus laid out before us.
My biggest take away from the trip is the conviction and challenge God has laid out before me. Yeah, I can feel good about donating my time and resources if I were to sinfully compare to others who do nothing for the Kingdom. However, that is not what are called to. Our only example is Jesus, the only judgment we can look to is Him.
We (collectively) have so much to learn and so far to grow in our faith that we react with anger over a missing tool while Jesus, in the middle of being crucified, is asking God to forgive the very people that are torturing him to death….
Being among the needy is not supposed to be easy. If we go thinking we will be worshiped and thanked over and over again for our generosity, we are going for all the wrong reasons. It is not about us, it is about doing what God calls us to do. God does not promise it will be easy and fun, he asks us to give it all, everything we have.
That is my challenge, what God has laid on me….