Sunday, December 6, 2009


It’s Sunday night in Adidome, Ghana West Africa. We were up early this morning after what can only be described as a fitful night of sleep for me. I guess jetlag finally gets you sometime. My time happened to be last evening.

Pastor Jacob, my host and translator for the week knocked at my door dressed in his Sunday best. “You look so ‘smart’ in your Sunday suit,” I said. “Oh. I’m just wearing my suit because I’m cold” was his reply; which I found quite amusing given the rising humidity and 85-degree temperature I felt when I opened my door. I am not in Wisconsin this December 6th. Angelo and I gathered our things and walked over to the chapel where the early service had already begun. Singing, dancing, drums, clapping and joyful exuberance met us as we arrived. I thought to myself, “It’s good to be back in Africa.”

Each morning this week before I start training these pastors in the subject of expository preaching, I take a passage and preach a mini-expository message in order to model the principles I am teaching. I had decided some time ago to teach from the book of Titus during this week. The passage I had selected for today’s message was Titus 1:10-16. The topic: “Dealing With Unsafe People.” Not exactly an easy passage or subject matter. Onward I went.

When I finished we were dismissed for breakfast. Immediately pastor after pastor approached me to tell me some story about some unsafe and difficult person in their congregation. It was as if someone had finally given these dear men and women permission to talk about that difficult someone, or that disappointing circumstance they were facing. Most had been carrying silent pain and agony for a long time. I have learned through my interactions with pastors, especially in these past couple of years that there are some subject matters that are taboo. I don’t know who declared them so, but they aren’t talked about near enough. So we talked about one of those subjects today. It clearly seemed to touch a nerve, if for no other reason than these dear saints were given opportunity to bear their unspoken grief and pain together.

Throughout today, more men and women have approached me to say, “Thank you for teaching us this week. Your words have given me renewed perspective and hope for ministry.”

So at the end of this Sunday in early December in West Africa I’m unusually tired. But it’s a good kind of tired. Come to think of it, it’s my perspective and my hope that’s been renewed.

Off to sleep,

S t r e t c h e d

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ghana Day 2

It’s Saturday, Day #3 for training. Each morning we have awakened to beautiful sunny days with a slight haze to the air due to the dust from the north. The wind is a gentle breeze and when you walk out in the morning it feels like a hairdryer is blowing against your skin. By noon the air has quit moving and you feel like you are standing in a sauna.

Each morning I have been teaching these dear servants of God about preaching. Today Angelo got up and gave his testimony. He was moved to tears telling these men and women the journey of his own son’s long history of drug abuse and alienation from his own parents. Angelo often refers to himself as a “trampler.” A corporate big-whig who would trample over anything and anyone to make his way to the top. He and his dear wife Margey had come to faith in Christ years ago through a friend in Baton Rouge, LA. But it was during the heartache of losing his relationship to his drug-addicted son that he finally renounced control and surrendered his life to Christ. He wept and so did we as he recounted the precious story of his son’s long recovery from drug abuse. Angelo has been my traveling companion on this trip and I’m deeply grateful for the friendship we are developing. Incidentally, yesterday while I was teaching the preachers I happened to mention one of the New Testament Greek words for preaching was “euangelleo.” The word means, “to announce Good News.” Later as Angelo and I walked together to lunch he told me his birth name was really “Euangellos” and his Greek-born parents had shortened his name to “Angelo.” I told him that he had come along with me just so he could deliver his “Good News.”

We both were quite relieved this afternoon during our daily break when we heard the pitter-patter of rain on the corrugated tin roof of our rooms. Before we knew it the rain turned violent and what started as pitter-patter suddenly sounded like the force of a mighty freight train rushing through a canyon. Gushing rivelets of water poured from the gutterless roof splashing the dry soil below and disappearing only moments later hardly leaving trace of a puddle. It’s supposed to be the dry season. There is an almost savannah-like quality to the terrain here. You can see for miles and miles the bush and the brush with a occasional tree poking it’s branches above the horizon which jiggles in the mid-day heat. The rain felt good! But we knew it was only a temporary reprieve from the heat. In a matter of minutes, we could feel the humidity building. It was now time for the afternoon teaching session. I was glad for my breathable Ex-Officio travel clothing.

Many of these 40-50 pastors that I’m teaching this week traveled by bus or car 2 whole days to attend this training. Almost all of them are working and serving in remote Ghanaian villages among the poorest of the poor of Ghana. Their conditions are austere and difficult and almost all of those I have talked with were responsible for not one or two churches, but seven or eight congregations. They travel village to village on bicycles providing spiritual oversight to their people. One pastor from the north, shared over lunch yesterday that his congregation’s offering last Sunday was 4 Ghanaian Cedis (Ghanaian currency)—about $2.80USD, and one of the cedis had been given by he and his wife. This same pastor went on and on about the value of the training we were providing. Penetrating stories from simple people that constantly remind me why BrookLink is doing what it does.

Today was the first day it was possible to use the Internet. I also called my wife from Ghana. It was good to hear her voice. It’s good to be here. One wonders what impact these days will ultimately have on a few pastors and church planters who come from the out-the-way and hidden places in the world. Only God knows what fruit will ultimately be born. As I lay my head down to sleep tonight I'll try to remember these familiar words: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”


S t r e t c h e d

Touchdown in Ghana

It’s Thursday, December 4, 2009. Angelo Afgrafiotis and I arrived in Accra, Ghana at 7:30am this morning aborad a Delta Airlines flight out of NY’s JFK airport. A loaded plane with crying babies. Not the way you want to spend a 10-hour transcontinental flight, but oh well, we are here.

Walter met us and took us immediately to the newly acquired IN Network headquarters. A clean, well-maintained two story with adequate parking and nicely appointed offices for the operation. We went inside to greet the staff there interrupting them in the middle of their morning devotions.

One of the first impressions here was the heat. It was stifling hot—93 degrees plus. The air was hazy due to the enormous amount of dust in the air. The cold winds from the European continent blow southward across the Sahara Desert and deposit liberal amounts of dust and particle into the Cape Coat countries like Ghana. It’s not only hot, but dry. The rainy season is during the summer months of June, July and August. In addition Ghana is only 5 degrees north of the Equator and this means you can count on heat during this time of the year.

It’s been 12 years since I last visited Walter in Accra. I was anxious to travel to Adidome, our destination for the next five days. Adidome was selected as one of the major sites for the IN Network work because it is this region where the Trokosi slave practice predominates. It’s a area of the country tucked away, hidden from the public eye, off the beaten path making for an ideal setting for a diabolical slave practice that torments women and children to thrive. We drove three hours north of Accra into the remote area of flatlands that stretched as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road. Lots of vegetation and greenery, but little arable farmland. Futhermore, there was little evidence of any form of wildlife. Walter explained that years ago as kids they would frequently see antelope and deer dart across the ball fields where he and his friends would play. But no more! The African wildlife was conspicuous by its absence.

We arrived in Adidome by 1pm. Angelo and I were feeling not only the effects of the heat, but the jetlag too. We had a small bite to eat and conversed with some of the IN workers before retiring to our rooms for the afternoon to escape the unrelenting heat and take a shower. We will begin tonight the training we are here to conduct.


S t r e t c h e d