Ghana Together works with our Ghanaian friends of Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered and managed non-profit, to improve social, educational, and health conditions in Axim, Ghana. Together we accomplish projects, connect WHH to resourceful individuals and organizations, and create sustainable programs. We make a real difference to real people in a local, grassroots effort. Our website at tells our story.

Jan 30, 2012

Church in Axim

St. James Methodist Church, Axim,Ghana on Jan 29, 2012--an ordinary Sunday service
The women in white belong to a women's service group and wear distinctive dresses.
Yes, I do attend church in fact, since the services are long and the churches are clustered, I usually attend more than one! Partly this is because I find the services warm, inviting, and inspiring, even though I cannot understand more than a few words. I sit there, and sort of get in touch with myself and find myself calming down and relaxing---shedding my feeling of foreign-ness just a bit and getting my head and heart more or less in alignment as best I can. And I connect with folks I know, etc.
Today in the Anglican Church, the preacher started his sermon dramatically by sort of slugging himself in the forehead, and I caught the words “David and Goliath”, so I knew generally where he was going. He ended by saying in English that we are small “David’s” sitting on God’s shoulder, walking together...and he walked around a bit and everyone clapped. And I thought to myself since everyone here walks a LOT, it probably was the perfect metaphor.
But mostly I love the singing---these most ordinary people sing so beautifully. And when the drums kick in, well, yes... I know a couple of church musicians are reading this. Here’s how it works: the lead singer in the small choir starts singing, whether hymn, response, etc. In the Anglican church, this is a woman. While she is singing the first few bars, the keyboardist is searching for the key by playing individual notes until he finds the ones she’s singing. It’s his job (young guy) to match her and build the chords around the notes she has started out with. There are disadvantages---today there were two guys and the second guy obviously wasn’t very experienced, and we had quite a few strange chords. BUT, the advantage is she is a really good singer, and she knows all the songs and knows exactly where to start so it fits the voice range---not to high or too low. So, actually, it works well, and when they get rolling, it’s really wonderful. People divide into parts (fifths) and then the drums find the rhythm that works and off we all go. If we had a hard time getting it going on the first verse with the whole “key matching” process, the pastor or someone will call to sing it again. It’s worth going to Africa for! J
Today I thought I had bad luck because when I left the Anglican service, I walked over to St. James Methodist church and they had just launched their quarterly congregational business meeting! I was ushered in to the usual front/side seat and there was no polite escape route. But, I quickly became fascinated. First, leaders gave reports --- all in Fante. Energetically, with expression and conviction. Then the photocopied financial details were passed out to those who raised their hands (very detailed...I was impressed). Then, Mr. Kwofie, an accountant who attends the church, gave his auditor’s report and certified that the records were accurate.
Now came the best part. It was explained to me that this is the one time during each quarter when anyone can stand up and say before the entire congregation what he or she likes or doesn’t like about anything at all regarding the church. Many persons came up. Each started by saying “Christ is Risen.” The congregation responded, “He is Risen Indeed”. Then, the natural Ghanaian oratorical skills began to flourish. Ghanaians are not a shy people, generally, and they speak their minds. Some comments were obviously critical; some were positive. Both men and women had their say. There was much gesturing, clapping for some, and much cross-conversation, laughing, vigorous arguments, etc. as people started to discuss among themselves in the pews. I’m not sure if anything was settled or if someone was writing things down...I imagine the leadership was paying attention. It was explained to me that this is in their church constitution since Ghana is now a democracy and so they have full participation by everyone.
Then suddenly it was all over. We enthusiastically sang “We Thank You All Our God”, plus another hymn and spilled out into the street, with much laughing and conversation. Suffice it to say, it was BY FAR the most spirited congregational meeting I have ever attended, and I’ve been to quite a few!
Another reason to go to church is that it doesn’t hurt to have several hundred people know you’re in town. I feel quite accepted and protected. It also gives me a chance to say a few words before the congregations about why I’m here and make the connection with local leaders. I say “few words” because my American-accented English is tough for them. Americans are rare here.
Mr. Bentil and I went to Friends CafĂ© to have lunch and discuss next week’s schedule. The only thing on the menu was a dish called “Local Food.” It was palm oil soup with two balls of rice in it and two balls of what I think maybe was the fat of something—beef maybe? I tried not to think about grasscutters. I courageously ate the liquid part of the soup, which was spicy and OK, and the rice. Maybe I’ll lose weight here!
Back to the hotel and a nice conversation with Jonas, the owner/manager. A good guy. Dinner was perch in sauce and two mounds of rice. Then a conversation with a fellow diner who is the Ghanaian equivalent of an FBI agent. He not only investigates crime but also policies that don’t seem to be working. The example he gave was if many students from a school are failing the standard tests, his job is to find out why. Interesting. Tomorrow I get to solid work. Bye for now. Maryanne from Axim, Ghana