Betsy, Caragh, Grace and I were scheduled to fly out of Accra, Ghana at 10:00 p.m. last Sunday night. But the flight was cancelled so the airline arranged for everyone booked on that flight to stay at a nearby hotel to wait for another flight early the next morning. We made our way to the hotel restaurant for a very late dinner and gathered with many other stranded travelers. We had some wonderful conversations with Ghanaians, Americans and Europeans. When we told them we were visiting the Anglican Church, several people said, “Oh that Church does so much good in Ghana.”
After spending a very full week in Ghana, that is exactly what the Fishers say, too. The Church has “taken the altar to the street” with a faith-driven generosity that engages those in need in this very poor country.
Many of you already know about the “Babies’ Home” in Mampong. They take in babies whose mothers died in child birth, and the fathers and extended families are not ready to raise them. The children stay for two to six years and then return to their families. Right now 37 children are being cared for at the Babies’ Home. Maggie Addai, the director, is an energized and dynamic leader. She has been doing this for 30 years and she has the same passion for this work as the day she started. At a liturgy in which I blessed the solar energy generator given to the Home by our Diocese, I declared Maggie to be a Saint. That announcement was met with wild applause. (Now we just need to get a day dedicated to her in the calendar of Holy Women, Holy Men.)
A few weeks before we arrived, Maggie found a baby abandoned at the riverside. The river is a place where mothers sometimes leave babies they feel they cannot care for. The baby had been there for a couple of days and needed immediate medical care, which Maggie arranged. When the baby was first brought to the Home, she was unable to react to anything. She did not look at anyone. But through the care and nurture of the staff, she slowly started to respond and now looks to be held. They named her Grace. Holding this baby, we felt like we were witnessing a miracle.
We were welcomed by prayer services in a variety of churches, including St Cyprian’s Cathedral in Kumasi and the soon-to-be cathedral in the new Diocese of Mampong. The singing was beautiful, and the prayers fervent – and no one stopped when the lights would go out (a frequent occurrence). The best prayer service of all was at the aforementioned blessing of the solar panels. A large choir from the high school sang contemporary versions of traditional hymns. And at one point, Maggie led the children through the gathered congregation in a joyous liturgical dance. My daughter, Caragh, agrees; “It was a great trip, and the best part was the Babies’ Home. It is an amazingly spiritual, hopeful and loving place. I will pray for the staff and children everyday.”
The Anglican Church also sponsors the Diocesan Women’s Training Center where teenage girls are taught job skills for a variety of careers. Again, the staff is so very dedicated. Our girls were a big hit there. We had group pictures taken, but then each girl wanted her own picture taken with Caragh and Grace – all 35 of them! My daughters were happy to do it. Then we went to St. Monica’s School, a high school for girls. The Anglican Church has long been an advocate for women’s education in a country that desperately needs it.
Among other social services, the Church sponsors an eye clinic that we visited. Throughout our visit we recognized the Church to be on a mission that takes both Matthew 28 (“go forth and baptize all nations”) and Matthew 25 (“when I was hungry, you gave me food, when I was…”) seriously.
A disturbing sign of our times was clear when we visited the rain forest. During the tour, our guide brought us to the “waterfall.” The picture of the waterfall in the visitors’ center was magnificent, and we were looking forward to seeing it up close. But when we got there it was just a thin stream of water flowing over a rock formation. The guide pointed out that although this was the rainy season, and the waterfall should be gushing, a lack of rain had reduced it to this, and there has been far less rain than usual for several years now. He attributed it to climate change and, sadly, I think he is right.
Ghanaians are known for their hospitality and they certainly lived up to their reputation on this trip. We are grateful for all that Archbishop Daniel Yinkah Sarfo and Bishop Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith did to welcome us and all the arrangements they made for prayer services and gatherings throughout Kumasi, Accra, Mampong and Cape Coast. All of us in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts are blessed by our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Ghana.
P.S. The diocesan website will have more pictures of our trip to Ghana soon.