A Travellerspoint blog



The power of the community

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A few years ago Hope, buried a young nurse from Ghana. Because this woman had married a wonderful man in Hope’s parish, she was living in the US – until she died unexpectedly and far too soon. Many of her family came to the funeral from Ghana. Their hearts were broken, but they knew what to do when a loved one dies. Their life in Ghana was a kind of liturgy (which means the work of the people) in itself, a life ordered and supported by the community and by tradition. The Ghanians knew how to say their farewells at the casket, what songs to sing and dances to do; they had a special ablution ceremony and customs to sustain the grieving husband and children and parents-in-law.

On our visit to Tema, we saw where the strong foundations of this “liturgy” came from. We went first to the Palace of the Tribal Chief. This palace sits in the middle of a residential district. Now “residential district” is a gentile euphemism for a terrible slum that extends for miles, with a “residence” consisting of three walls and a flap all covered with a tin sheet. By contrast, the “palace” was therefore astounding: a large stucco building with many rooms, surrounded by a wall and an ornate gate guarded by two lions. It had electricity, fans, and upholstered sofas and chickens scratching in the dirt. We met in the reception hall. The chief was not present as he was in mourning for the death of his son. Ten tribal elders were present on his behalf. These included his linguist (the elder who spoke for the chief and wielded a large gold wand), the chief warrior, the chief fisherman, the historian, etc. Their flip-flops were stunning!

On our behalf, our interpreter (named Elvis) asked permission for us to visit the community. The historian delivered quite a long saga on the tribe's origin in Israel and its move, as a lost tribe of Israel, across the Red Sea and Africa. We obeyed the local etiquette: shake with your right, receive with your left, don’t cross your knees, let the elders speak first. We introduced ourselves, had a ceremonial signing of the book, drank water, received a sculpture given to the ship, and said a prayer for the chief’s son.

Then we visited the Tema Manhean School where the children had assembled in their uniforms even though it was a Sunday. They sang to us, presented a play about baby-naming and then clustered around each of us to practice their English. Bill’s students wanted to know how his hair got white and whether President Trump was really making everyone walk around without clothes. Not everyone had desks in this school; the class size is about 40; books are in short supply, and the students are very eager learners.

Next we went to a fish smoking facility, actually a large area in the midst of the slum housing. Stone fireplaces were buried in the sand, and a large shed held hundreds of racks for the smoking process. This endeavor was managed by Auntie Beauty, an older Ghanian woman who bought the day’s catch of herring, sardines, anchovies, etc., washed them and spread them on racks, put the racks over the fire, turned and turned the fish and rotated the racks, added sugar cane to the fire, and finally produced smoked fish that would keep for a year in a basket. (There are few refrigerators here in Ghana.)

Next door was a gari processing “plant,” another dirt area with stools in a circle. There cassava tubers are peeled, washed, and grated, and the product (gari) toasted. The waste product is tapioca, used to thicken soup. It didn’t look like Kraft pearls.

Throughout these experiences, the people talked of how their forbears had taught them their ways – and how they were passing along the customs, too. Some of their children were choosing other paths, and that seemed to be okay. Some of these traditional “ways’ seemed eminently sensible. Here’s one: tribal leadership. From the beginning, the chief has come from one of four families, who serve in turn. The King serves for life, and when he dies, the King Makers (from another family) assess candidates to see if they have the virtues and character of a King – moral probity, kindness, strength, wisdom, and patience. This process continues so that if each King reigned for 40 years, it would take 160 years for the first family to have another monarch. In the meantime, everyone is focused on being truthful, wise, kind, etc.

Here’s another custom: At an annual spring festival, the songmaker writes texts commending tribal members for their good deeds, contributions, and successes and also condemns the notorious behavior of others. Another: when life gets difficult and the elders have to pray and think, the chief issues a ban on noise, so that people walk quietly, children don't shout, no drums or musical instruments are played. We visited in the middle of a three week noise ban, so the children clapped our welcome instead of singing to us.


Posted by HopeEakins 05:24 Archived in Ghana Comments (0)


Sunday, April 28, 2019

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WORSHIP Aboard the Silver Whisper at 5:30 pm on April 28, 2019

HYMN: That Easter Day with joy was bright

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray. O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in the darkness for the godly: Grant us in all our doubts and uncertainties to ask what you would have us do, that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Reading from the Gospel of John
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (20:19-31)

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

Thomas missed Easter. Thomas was the one of Jesus’ twelve apostles who walked away from his community, so he wasn’t there when the risen Christ came into the room. Thomas didn't see Jesus show the nail prints in his hands and in his feet and the wound in his side, and Thomas didn't hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you.” Even when the eleven tried to tell him all about it, tried to tell him that, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas didn’t believe. The evidence was only second hand.

Doubting Thomas, he is called, and Doubting Thomas gets bad press. Most of us prefer people who are sure about what they believe. We don’t want our politicians to waffle on issues. We want friends who say what they mean and mean what they say. The preachers who attract the greatest congregations are those who claim to know exactly what the Bible says. And the Roman Catholic doctrine that the Pope is infallible on matters of faith and morals is very attractive to those who want absolute answers.

But I get nervous about such certainty. I actually like it when a politician says, “Upon due consideration and study, I’ve changed my position on this subject and here’s why.” I get nervous when anyone is so convinced that they are right that they close their minds to considering anything new. I get nervous when any Church claims to know the mind of God without question, because we human beings aren’t smart enough to comprehend the mind of God. I want all of us to have what we Anglicans pray for those who are baptized: an “inquiring and discerning heart.” I want us to ask big questions and look for big answers. I also want us to reognize that God is far too big for us to grasp.

Doubting has been given a bad name, as if it were something that only bad people or weak people do, so when we call someone a Doubting Thomas, we are not paying them a compliment. Yet if we are honest, we know that we all have doubts, and that those doubts are actually a way of deepening our understanding and our faith.

This week, Bill and I watched a ship’s movie called The Theory of Everything. The film is the story of Steven Hawking, world renowned theoretical physicist who first described black holes. Throughout Hawking’s life, he never stopped questioning, doubting, and often rejected his eariy work in favor of new understanding. Another proponent of scientific doubt was held up by Lewis Thomas, the former chancellor of Sloan Kettering Institute, who said, “There’s something badly wrong about how science is taught. We need to look not so much at facts as we do at bewilderment because scientific facts are incomplete. It is only the strangeness of nature that makes science interesting, and science, like poetry, ought to be taught as a sort of moving target.”

Now were Lewis Thomas’s words rephrased to address Doubting Thomas, they would go like this: “There’s something badly wrong about how faith is taught. We need to look not so much at facts as we do at bewilderment because the facts about our gracious God are incomplete. It is only the mystery of God that makes faith exciting, and faith, like poetry, ought to be taught as a sort of moving target.”

The community of faith often seems like the last place to reveal our doubts. The Church often seems like a place where everyone shares a common belief because we proclaim a common Creed. It is not so. If you have doubts, you are not alone. Thomas was not ashamed to bring his doubts to his fellow disciples, and we can and should do the same.

And when we doubt, we should remember this: it was in the pain of Thomas’s doubt that God was revealed to him. Thomas began by thinking that he couldn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he could touch him and see him. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe," he said. And he didn’t believe. But Thomas stuck with his community and came back to be with them. And when he did, Jesus came to him, and in the end Thomas found the One who was so close to him that he didn't need to reach out and touch him after all.

The Prayers, interspersed with the words of Psalm 111

Risen from the bonds of death, Jesus stood among his disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” We pray that Christ’s holy peace may extend throughout our world and within our lives.
Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Open our minds and hearts to bring a new peace upon this earth, that old hatreds may die and violence and war may cease. We pray for the leaders of the nations and all in authority, remembering those charged with responding to the bombings in Sri Lanka.
God has shown his people the power of his works in giving them the lands of the nations.

Fill us with compassion for our brothers and sisters in need. Heal the sick and pour your blessing upon those who minister to the suffering.
The works of God’s hands are faithfulness and justice; his commandments are sure.

Inspire and guide all teachers and coaches, tutors and advisors. Bless all schools, colleges, and universities that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery and the pursuit of wisdom.
Great are the deeds of the LORD! they are studied by all who delight in them.

Give us reverence for your creation that we may so care for this earth that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty.
God’s work is full of majesty and splendor; his righteousness endures forever.

Shelter and protect all who are in need of refuge: those accused and imprisoned, the homeless and fearful, the mentally ill and the weak, the addicted and those in recovery.
God makes his marvelous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

Be with those who doubt, those who live with uncertainty, those whose faith and hope are weak.
God gives food to those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.

Remembering those who were injured and those who died this week on the ferry Amfitriti, comfort the bereaved; receive those who have died and gone before us into your arms of love.
God sent redemption to his people; he commanded his covenant for ever; holy and awesome is his Name.

Give us grace to acknowledge our sins and seek your forgiveness, always trusting in your mercy.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; those who act accordingly have a good understanding; his praise endures for ever.

Bless those with birthdays and anniversaries this week, remembering David and Una Snell and make us grateful for the signs of fresh hope and new life all around us.
God’s works stand fast for ever and ever, because they are done in truth and equity.

Summing up all our petitions and all our thanksgivings, we pray in the words Jesus taught us
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit, and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

HYMN: We walk by faith and not by sight

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins and the Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Altar Guild: Directress: Jane Kline, Jill Ingham. Usher: Douglas Kline

Expected time of next service: Sunday, May 5, at 9:15 am

Posted by HopeEakins 11:32 Archived in Ghana Comments (0)

Takoradi, Ghana

African reality vs. Chamber of Commerce

sunny 90 °F
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The ship’s Shore Excursion Desk provides information about Takoradi, Ghana; it says, among other things ...

Takoradi... is quickly becoming one of West Africa’s premier tourist destinations. With so many stores to choose from, shopping in Takoradi can be hectic. Top restaurants that will make that shopping very easy include the Garden Mart for general shopping and Dimples Clothing for all your boutique needs.... The Market Circle boasts of offering the best produce in the region.

Well, we went to Takoradi, and we were not tempted to look for one of those top restaurants. We can’t show you the market in full detail because the folks get VERY agitated if you start to take a photo – and we didn’t want to risk offending ANYone. So these “stores” are really plastic mats and little stands on the street. The items the boys in the photo hold on their laps are dried fish, not pineapples, and the scent around them confirms that. There are no carts – most everything is carried on the head. You actually don’t see much because you are so busy looking at the pavement holes and being careful not to fall in. Your ears are also assaulted by street preachers, politicians, and hawkers shouting into microphones – and beggars demanding (not asking for) dollars. The folks are not very friendly. On the good side, this is a real African adventure, not a tourist center. One important feature: there’s minimal garbage on the street. The temperature was about 90.

So we walked all around Market Circle and returned to the ship where friendly merchants had set up their shops shipside. Hope acquired many kente cloth items; Bill bought a kente cloth hat to wear on the ship’s Africa Night. We also got more rhythm instruments for our African service on May 5.

Posted by HopeEakins 05:46 Archived in Ghana Comments (0)

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