The Baptist General Association of Virginia has a partnership with the Ghana Baptist Convention to launch churches and distribute mosquito nets in the African nation.
The goals are to start with about 500 congregations in the outlying towns and villages of the Yendi region as well as to distribute 100,000 mosquito nets under which people can sleep to ward off mosquito bites and the accompanying malaria.
I was part of a recent trip to Ghana as one of eight short-term missionaries who helped to start five churches, install mosquito nets and make friends. An initial reflection from that trip is available here.
Emmanuel Mustafa, (“Muss”), director of the Global Missions Resource Center in Yendi, guided our efforts. His commitment, talent, spirit and vision brought me to question my own calling and usefulness in the Lord’s work.
As I went through part of Ghana, part of Ghana went through me, leading me to certain observations and questions. Some of these follow:
Observation 1: Despite hardships, there seemed to be a strong family spirit.
Families work together. Children obeyed their parents without question. Sadly, women and girls were doing most of the work. We were told the men and boys farmed during the wet season.
While polygamy, poor health care, rigid paternalism and poverty were evident, we could learn a few things from the family spirit in Ghana.
Observation 2: There was also a great community spirit.
I had to set aside my being accustomed to America’s worship of individualism to begin to grasp it. Community life was primary.
For example, the people looked to community leaders to direct their response to the gospel. Following Jesus was not just an individualistic act. My reservations aside, it would not be the first time that the head of a house “was baptized at once with all of his family” (Acts 16:33).
Observation 3: There was an attitude of “enough.”
People seemed happy with sustenance for the day and the immediate future – a stark contrast to the “not enough” spirit of some in my homeland.
The attitude of “enough” was a welcome relief from some of the rancor and demands of America, which has so much but lines up to demand more.
Observation 4: Christians, Muslims, Traditionalists and other religions co-existed peacefully, at least as far as I could tell.
The villages might have residents of any of these faiths and more. While I met those who had become Christians and had been banished from their Muslim homes, they had been taken in by Christian families without violence.
Somehow, we have to find ways in every nation to maintain our unique faiths but live in peace.
Aside from observations, there arose some questions, including:
Question 1: Was there any purpose in our being there other than for the attention-getting influence of our white faces?
I was brazen enough to ask our host that very question. He said the fact that Americans would leave the presumed comfort and safety of home and go thousands of miles to share the gospel and the nets sent a powerful message to the people there.
“Muss” didn’t say so, but I got the sense that if our white faces helped draw the crowd, then so be it.
Question 2: Is Christianity, or at least Western Christianity, just a stopping off place for a society or culture as it evolves from primitive religions toward pluralism, universalism, skepticism, secularism, agnosticism and atheism?
I am hardly a historian, but to know something of America’s religious roots and to see where much of it is today leads me to wonder if a newly evangelized people will eventually come to the state of some of America’s spiritual bankruptcy.
Question 3: Are some attitudes and behaviors genetically rooted?
To what extent are humans’ behaviors and attitudes affected by nature or nurture? I know of no thinking person who says genetics have no effect on how folks live or think. We simply disagree on which behaviors are determined by nature and to what extent.
I have experienced some of the family emphasis, the community spirit and the spirit of “enough” in America, but it was generally not among folks like me. I am not sure I can think like that.
Question 4: Can a rich person enter the kingdom of God?
I experienced the people of Ghana as materially poor and spiritually rich. I see much of America as the opposite: materially rich but spiritually poor.
Jesus didn’t say a rich person could not enter. He just said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom.
I guess that means it will not only be rare, but extremely hard on the camel, the needle or both.
Reggie Warren is pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church in Brookneal, Virginia, and a former member of the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series on missions and local churches / denominational organizations.
Previous articles in the series are: