By Dr. Karen-Marie Yust
Finally, it is time to head for the airport and board our flight to Ghana. Our numbers are small this year: two faculty members, three students. Yet we have big expectations for this trip. We’ve been preparing for months: getting yellow fever vaccinations, applying for visas, beginning malaria medication regiments, gathering UPSem swag and faculty books to share with our hosts, renting a satellite phone, and meeting periodically to explore articles and websites on the history and religious life of this country we will call home for fourteen days. Two of our group have never travelled outside North America! One of us has been to Ghana before and looks forward to seeing friends made on that 2008 trip. We are all eager to discover the many treats and challenges Ghana has to offer visitors.
As part of our advance study, we read a popular novel, Children of the Street, by Ghanaian author Kwei Quartey. Quartey is a mystery writer and I (Karen-Marie) am a fan of international murder mysteries. This particular story focuses on the street children of Accra and the complicated relationships among Ghana’s many ethnic groups and economic classes. It highlights some of the social issues that plague a post-colonial nation: continued economic pressures from European-run corporations, imported (and inadequate) educational systems, environmental pollution, limited social services, and Westernized customs and practices that create conflicts with traditional Ghanaian values. It also portrays the beauty and quality of Ghanaian life and the depth of human responsibility and care possible in a society that resists the excesses of individualism so familiar to us in the U.S. It even exhibits some of the tensions between African traditional religions, missional Christianity, and secularism, which is a topic we will be exploring more deeply during our visit.
We begin this trip with lots of questions: how do Ghanaian Christians think about and practice evangelism? How are they responding to the challenges of globalization? What social issues are they most concerned to address? Do they experience “worship wars”? What might they teach us about practicing our faith? As we listen, discuss, and learn with our Ghanaian brothers and sisters, we will share what we are hearing and the new questions those discoveries generate. We hope you will continue to eavesdrop on our conversations via this blog, but for now, mah krow (that’s Twi for “goodbye”).