Today marks the end of our first full week in Ghana. During that time, the missions team has prepared, run and torn down 3 clinics serving hundreds of impoverished people in several villages who have little to no access to medical care. We also participated in the local church service with Kyle Gustafson preaching a message on adversity and have represented Cuyahoga Valley Church at the commissioning of the Nzema Baptist Hospital.
The conditions here in Ghana have tested our stamina, both physically and emotionally. We have had extremely long work days with minimal breaks in grueling temperatures. Even getting rest is a challenge when most rooms are about 82° at night and using the bathroom is an event. There is the occasional blackout that lasts for hours and several team members are dealing with sicknesses ranging from dehydration to bacterial infections which are commonly gotten from the food or water. Compared to what we are accustomed to in America this sounds tough, right?
But this is not about us.
In Philippians 2:4, Paul tells us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” As you read further, we see that Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man.” (v. 7) If the example of our Savior was to humble Himself and be obedient to the point of death on the cross, how can we do less? Jesus gave up everything for us, paying the penalty for our sins that we may have the opportunity to repent and believe and, through faith in Him, be restored in relationship to God.
God has called this team here to serve the Nzema people’s physical needs but the bigger picture is that we are here to share the gospel message of hope and salvation through Jesus Christ. We have the privilege and responsibility to share this good news with hundreds of people. No matter the harsh conditions we face, I have seen everyone on this team humble themselves in the name of Christ that we may care for these people and love them well.
There was no clinic today as it was a day of rest and renewal for the team. However, as we all know, there is no rest from being missionaries for God. Thus, we took the opportunity to visit the nearby village of a coastal people group called the Fante. In the village, there was poverty on a level I had never before experienced. The only possessions these people had were those needed for survival and most “homes” were a single hut smaller than most bedrooms with a dirt floor and a bed made up of rags. Furniture generally consisted of a bench or possibly a chair. There was no electricity or modern devices I could see.
It was obvious that life, day after day, was hard and challenging for the Fante. Their work was to provide for that day’s needs and then do it all again the next day. They did not have an abundance of possessions but what they did have was a harmonious existence within the village with a true love and care for one another like a large, extended family. Everyone we encountered seemed to be content, happy, and welcomed us.
Although faced with the challenges of providing today’s meals and needs, the Fante were outgoing, friendly and unstressed. Many took time to engage with us, walk with us, show us their homes, and even allowing us to play with and hold their children. It was an amazing and humbling experience. This level of community and interdependence to meet needs is something that is not found in the American culture of consumerism.
Being with the Fante people today reminded me of Philippians 4:11-13 in which Paul writes, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In and every circumstance, I have faced the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
This lesson is why our circumstances and possessions do not matter. This is why it’s not about us. What matters is our faith in Jesus Christ and that we are an obedient and humble servant to spread the gospel. God used the Fante people to remind me of that today.
I spent considerable time in prayer at the beginning of the year seeking God’s will. He laid it on my heart to go on mission to Ghana. After serving the Nzema people this past week and seeing the Fante village today, I know why. God has used this team to impact the lives of these people in the name of Jesus. God has also used these people to change the life of this man.