Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Challenge for Africa - A New Vision

Africa needs a revolution in leadership...the most important quality that the African leadership needs to embrace, and which is desperately lacking across the continent, is a sense of service to their people. Too many Africans still live in hope that thier leaders will be magninimous enough not ot take advantage of their weakness and vulnerabilty, and instead to remove the causes for why so many continue to live in fear.
The revolution in leadership and the need to instill a sense of service cannot be confined only to those at the top of African societies, however. Even the poorest and least empowered of Africa's citizens need to rid themselves of a culture that tolerates systemic corruption and ineffieciency, as well as self-destructive tendencies and selfishness. They must grasp the available opportunities and not wait for someone else magically to make development happen for them; they must realise that,no matter how meager their capacities and resources, they have the means to protect what is theirs. Africa's peoples , wherever they are in society, need to hold politicians and themselves accountable, value long-term sustainability over short-term gain and instant gratification, and plan wisely for an uncertain future rather than settle for an expedient present. Instead of milking the cow called Africa to death, everyone should feed, nurture, and love her so she can thrive and provide.
( An extract from the book - "The Challenge for Africa - A New Vision" by Wangari Maathai)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the reel of far off hymn
That hails a new creation:
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest loudly roars?
I hear the truth it liveth;
What though the darkness round me close!
Songs in the night it giveth:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I am clinging;
Since love is lord of heav’n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway clears
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of God restores my soul,
A fountain ever springing:
All things are mine since I am love
How can I keep from singing?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Risk the Sacred Journey

Each of us stands at the gate of tomorrow, facing the future. At times, we have walked in wonder and awe; at other times, we have moved along in the flood of fear. Looking back, we may recognize that amid the joys and struggles of this journey, we have been companioned by a grace-full Presence that has held us together and led us on. This is not simply a journey through a string of days and years. Rather, This is a Sacred Journey, one that is held in and surrounded by Mystery. Although we long for someone to translate the risks of this journey into logical explanations, we often find ourselves in the foreign land of faith. We stand on the edge of our hopes and dreams and ask in trust to be led and supported by a Love and Energy much larger than we can imagine. We ask to walk here in courage and integrity, as we attempt to discern the voice of God amid the cacophony of our doubt and fear.
To risk the journey and face the future is simply to walk in faith, for there are no linear words that capture the massive Mystery of God. We stand clothed in grace and showered with blessing. At times we see the flecks of light; at other times we see only the shadow of the silhouette. But always, both in our knowing and in our unknowing, we are escorted into tomorrow by Love, who gives us everything we need. (Doris Klein CSA)

Technological Advancement in the Novitiate

Over the past week, we have been doing self & program evaluation as well.
One afternoon as I perused through my evaluation sheet, I came across one of the
Questions which read; what in the program have you found frustrating?
Without wasting time, I identified browsing outside the house as a frustration, since most of the computers are slow.
Anyway the internet issue is no longer a frustration as the facility is available at home. The weekends are now lively in the house.
Thumbs up to the formation team for providing this service and indeed we are now living in the real 21st century.

Celebrating life!

On Saturday the 4th of July, 2009 we had the opportunity of celebrating the birthday of Auntie Kay Braby in our Novitiate community.
It was all in all a blessing to celebrate the life of an elderly woman who has dedicated a year of her life to Africa & Ghana [Tamale] to work as a volunteer at the age of 80. Auntie Kay is a Canadian retired Social Worker and she has decided to come to Ghana to help and live with the orphans and vulnerable children at Anfaani’s Children homes.
On that day we also celebrated belatedly the birthday of the Novice director who is now half of Kay’s age. It was incredible day of questions for Novices as we felt challenged and at the same time enthused by her story. In the prayer session we listened to Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” which calls all of us to make the world a better place for you and for me.
It was a pleasure and a blessing to have her stay with us again recently for three days. For all of us it was an inspiring experience.

Being opened to relate

When I was thinking of the mentally challenged people I tended to always make grandiose statements of them being hostile. However, this has been challenged since I started working with the feeding program during my ministry time. Most people will even think negatively of them even before interacting with them. For me it was fear that was making me not to open my heart to them. Now that I am working and interacting with them I am not only happy but my happiness comes from fulfilling the primary purpose of life, that is love all humankind as I have loved you. I have also come to realize through my interaction and eating with the mentally challenged, a happy person has something to do, someone to love, somewhere to call home and something to hope for as Dr. Abdulai has done. Those brothers, sisters and parents may not yet be the happiest or best put together person you know, but for me the Lord hasn’t finished with them yet. All I have to do is to make them full members of our larger community making the world a better place for me and you and the entire universe.

Opening words on Luke’s Gospel by the Midwife (Br. Henry)

To go from Mathew’s gospel to Luke’s Gospel is like coming out of SS Peter and Paul’s Parish in Tamale and straight into Abu Abu Market (Biggest Market in Tamale).The Christianity that Luke presents is no longer a cause for martyrs to fight for, like in Marks church in Rome, nor is it only the obligation of the initiates to keep the new law given by the New Moses on the New Mt. Sinai in the Sermon on the Mount. Luke’s Message is a message of common sense for all people. He is the first humanist, whose writings take us right out of Israel into a world that the other evangelist never dreamt of.
Where Marks Gospel was too barbaric and Mathews too Semitic, Luke’s educated and orderly Greek approach was ideally suited for presenting the Gospel to the Greek world. It is Luke alone who tells us of Elizabeth, of Anna, of Jesus’ woman helpers, and of the widow of Nain. All the stories of Jesus’ mother Mary come from Luke: She plays no part in Mark, and is totally silent in Mathew. Without Luke’s Gospel we could we would never have heard of the prostitute that washed Jesus feet, of the swindler Zacchaeus, of the repentant terrorist from Calvary, or of Jesus last words of forgiveness. It is also Luke alone who records Jesus parables of the Prodigal Father, of the lost sheep and the lost coin, of the Pharisee and the Publican, and Dives and Lazarus. It is no surprise to find that Marks recurrent phrase, ‘They were afraid’ has in Luke become:'they rejoiced.'
Luke, therefore, sets out to write the continuation of the biblical story, showing how the Gentile Church of his own day emerged in continuity from a faithful and restored Israel, organizing his narrative as a whole into the pattern of the final Prophet of the people.
(Jordaan - Extract from Br Henry’s Input)

A week of revelations

In classes during June, I discovered new ideas about things I have never known before. Just to mention a few. I noticed that that there is a big connectivity between the Old and the New Testament. I realized that that the Hebrews used the Old Testament. This came across when I came to understand that Hanna the mother of Samuel sang the magnificat when presenting her child to the temple (1 Sam 2: 1-11).
Mary the mother of Christ therefore borrowed a leaf from Hannah’s book and sang her song of praise during the visitation (Luke 1:46-55). The visitation story at the same time captured my attention on the recollection day which was wonderfully facilitated by Br. Frank Keane. The theme I drew from it was service. Mary showed a good example of service when she went to help her cousin Elizabeth.
It dawned on me that the visitation was probably the time she acquired her popular title that has been mentioned over the ages, “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”. I came to understand how tradition is always passed on from age to age.
In the history of the Christian brothers, some concrete statements made by the Founder have also remained. The living example is when the Brothers encountered financial problems at the initial years. When Edmund was asked how to go about it, his answer was “Providence will be our inheritance”. All this brought into my conviction that experiences are also connected. My special gratitude therefore goes to all the formation team who are helping me to see things in a more different and mature way.

A remarkable week at TICCS

The week starting the 14th June was a remarkable one with numerous events packed into it:
Friday evening was an emotional day for most Novices including myself knowing that it would be the last night sleeping at TICCS. As we received our certificates of attendance, novices begun to realize that soon we would no longer be here. Dinner was great, a buffet with as many as 20 different Ghanaian dishes .
It was amazing how attached we became to the immersion and cross-cultural study and people we encountered in just a short amount of time. On Saturday we said our emotional goodbyes as the TICCS Director drove us back. Everyone in the bus was quiet as if upset with the leaving. I believe every novice is the richer having entered into this cross-cultural experience. That evening we had a welcome back to the community party.
At least the course has and will help us to have a greater understanding of the indigenous people and a tool in our ministries and community peace building.
On Monday the 22nd, we had the evaluation as the community and my conclusion was “Crossing over to another culture is probably the most difficult, albeit the most satisfying thing that an individual can possibly do.” As the globe shrinks there is an ever increasing need to cross these illusive barriers. The feelings of uneasiness and excitement were not left out of these moments of discovery and I quote Br. Phillip Pinto;
“We have been on this journey for years, the danger with this is that many of us we feel that now we are in a comfortable relationship with God, that the God we have known all these years is all there is to know. We get upset with people who question this understanding of God, who question the church, who challenge long held beliefs and belittle the devotional practices we were brought up on”
The ultimate purpose of the Cross-Cultural training is to assist us (other people) to participate fully, effectively and joyfully in the local culture as we share the love of God and his will for all of the cosmos.

Dagomba Dancers move the novices!

It was Friday afternoon towards the end of our orientation course at TICCS, that when the novices had all gathered together the beautiful Dagomba cultural dancers began. They performed three traditional dances namely, Bamaya for men only, followed by Damba the festival dance and Tora for women only.
All the novices were overwhelmed and they gave out some money which was placed on the dancer’s forehead as a sign of appreciation for the performance. Finally all the novices were invited to join the dance. It was like inviting the starving man for food since everyone was just waiting for the opportunity to dance. Peter Kabia opened the floor for the novices and as they say that if one finger gets oil it soils the others, and soon the stage was packed with novices.
It was so beautiful that everyone who passed along the road either had to bend his or her neck towards the gate or stop at the gate to stare at the troupe. I realised that we have good dancers amongst us in the novitiate. There was no Star or Guinness involved here, it was the spirit of the Choggu Dagomba Cultural dancers that moved the novices. Even some novices who rarely dance were not left out without showing their talents. James was one of them and then Nicholas who left people’s mouth watering.

... and the dialogue continues!

Who said the inter-religions dialogue is an initiative of yesterday? From my experience at TICCS I learnt that in fact Islam and Christianity have been engaged in a productive dialogue right from the birth of Islam, when Waracks Namful a Christian monk first revealed to Mohamed his mission and call from God. Generally for a long time Muslims and Christians have been living together. The Theologians from both sides became the catalysts, responding to every mosquito bite with hammers which to date has led to sharp division among the groups.
Today as we all know we are engaged in tireless inter-religions dialogue, but the question that we ask ourselves as we continue the discourse is - what should we forget for a successful dialogue? Is it
our faith or mission propagation? The answer you and I have it. As noted by our neutral lecturer the competition for mission propagation among religions here in Ghana is more bloodthirsty than the price of cement hence the need for this talks.
From this 75minutes class I realized that not only does this dialogue seek to find amicable solution to their hatred, but also to bring a common understanding of Theology, Spirituality, Scripture and development for the widespread good of everyone.
Having said and done that the big question still remains why are we divided, why is it that Ghana’s different religions cannot live harmoniously under one roof? We are all moving toward one thing, fulfillment with the divine, only that we are traveling in diverse vessels. We all proclaim one product, ‘Love of God’ but in different containers.
Brothers and Sisters we can be shown that we can live together irrespective of our religion, we have been given an orange lets not ask for lemon, rather lets lemonise our selves.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Bigger God!

I have come to understand God can’t be possessed by one religion. God is revealed and contained equally in the Quran, the Bible and elements of African Traditional Religion.
Our Congregation Document, ‘Be my disciple’ states “I am waiting for you beyond your boundaries, your concepts, your understanding.” TICCS made me to reach here instead of criticizing all practices of Muslims, African practices, diviners and many others. I learnt I should let them say something to me.
Like one facilitator Dr Mohamed said our aim is one, Love of God and Neighbor, and there is nothing like Christian love, Muslim love or Traditional believers love of God.
With this unconditional love of God no one can define it in religions. The differences occur in vessels that we put the love of God in but the content or product is the same.
Now I have a bigger and wider image of God. As a Christian I can’t proclaim my religion to the best yet I must respect other religions and be at peace.

Weavers and Potters

One of the common dressings of the people of Tamale is the smock. A smock is a cloth worn as a top similar to a T shirt. However, it is made from a heavy cloth which has stripes running from the top to the bottom. The cloth is made in such a way that it projects outward at the waist level. It has been my desire to know how it is made. One of the most spectacular sites we visited was Gumani. I thought it was a big factory where there were big machines for weaving. On arrival there, I was surprised to see wooden stands on the ground and a long roll of threads extending from what seemed to me like sting sieving structure. It was explained to me that it was with this locally made structure that the weaving of the materials takes place. It seemed so difficult to weave. But when I was given an opportunity to operate the weaving machine I was amazed how simple it was. The problem would be fixing the strings in it and then the major concentration is focused on the speed.
It was a moving experience to learn that people have been using these traditional means to earn their living and sustain their livelihood. With the money they make they gather their provisions and ensure continuity of their business through buying threads from other traders. The machine gave me the impression of how talented we are. God made a great computer for man. One that if well utilized can bring about great transition to the lives of people.
In another encounter where people have used their natural computer so creatively is that of the Potters. Many times I hear of modeling as a great art. God indeed is described as a potter. The experience of witnessing this art attracted me to imagine Gods creative action. All the specific events of picking the clay, rolling small round shapes and joining them together, giving them a smooth surface and then a good finishing was lovely. It takes no effort to think like this. In fact it took about twenty minutes to complete a beautiful flower vase.
One of my resolutions towards the end of the visit was to try as much as possible and utilize my mind in all sorts of positive ways. To be creative even to the simple activities that the majority considers outdated.
(Peter Muthini Ndivo)

A crucial encounter at TICCS

The experience of TICCS did not just have an effect on us alone but also on the many people that we met and interacted with. For instance, meeting Lourey, a minister to be with the United Methodist Church from US, was such a wonderful experience that left an impact on both her life and ours. In our sharing with her, she was frank to tell us that she was uncomfortable at first when she heard that she would join 14 African men for the workshop. However, the time we spent and interacted with her challenged her way of thinking. The more we shared with her the more she discovered that she needed our presence and also understood who actually the brothers are. Her thoughts about the brothers were different from what she saw. She says that she was surprised by the way we engaged ourselves in different activities such as visiting the diviner’s home as well as twisting our bodies in what they called ‘Ghanaian traditional dance’. And on one occasion where we had a buffet, she says that she never expected any of the brothers to taste beer or the local stuff popularly known as ‘pito’ which she saw happening. At the end she asked herself a question, who are the brothers then? She said the more she stayed with us the more she discovered new things that she didn’t expect and the more she admired the zest we had in our short stay there.
Our last night with Lourey before we left was such a unique one for both of us. We spent some quality time with her sharing of the many good things we had encountered in the workshop until the time we retired to bed. She was sad to see that we are leaving.
What impressed me was that Lourey’s attitudes were changed within a short period of time we spend together. Lourey is now a good friend to us. How beautiful it is to enter a place and at the end find out that you come out different from what you were before!

Another experience of TICCS

One would really wonder where in earth on African takes supper in the middle of the evening. That was the situation on Wednesday 17th June, when as part of our studies at TICCS we went to the village approximately 2km away.
We began the afternoon by visiting Shekinah clinic where we had a new learning of Dr. David’s “corporal works of mercy”, starting his clinic under a mango tree where he first operated a young girl with a nose tumor, and his engagement with about 200 lepers in Tachine further north in Ghana.
From Shekinah we proceeded to the village where before supper we were taken to around the village paying homage to the sub-chiefs. You can imagine moving from one place to another and always the first thing to do in front of the chief is to squat, and answer all the questions with “naa”. No room for objecting any of the chiefs questions here. So imagine how uncomfortable I was to answer that “my wife was doing well when I set off.” By six we were welcomed for supper in one of the compounds. Kola nuts were offered at the start. The meal was purely traditional guinea fowl and Tz, no chairs, table or spoons only mats on the ground. Bowls were shared. Tradition was followed to the letter, even the lady we were with, was left alone on a mat, not to share her bowl with any male.
You can’t visit a traditional village without having a chance to taste a traditional delight, the chance to taste a pure and strong ligour “achikwetsi”, our local changaa’ or Zambian ‘kachasu’.

First day at TICCS

At the end of the first day at TICCS we had discovered a lot about the linguistics in Ghana. It is amazing that many local dialects are spoken here (+ 60 languages) but none is official. The English that seems common, only 40% of the population surprisingly can manage to express themselves in it.
Already on the first day we had a round view of Ghana’s diverse cultures.
African Traditional Religion(ATR) was learnt in depth. It has no founder, no temple/altars/ and is often inappropriately referred to as Ancestor-worshipping, Fetishism, Superstition, Animism, Heathenism, and Paganism amongst many names the early missionaries used. To me all these varieties of ATR because like any other religion, at least they have something they believe in- especially the fact that “nothing has come to be and will come to be without the Supreme Being (God), and put human beings in their hierarchy at the centre of universe.” I think what matters is the attitude towards the given value.
The climax was an afternoon when we visited the Dagomba chief Choggu Naa. I was shocked to see how conservative and traditional some things are. In fact what I witnessed I had heard in stories many a times but I had considered them as myths. For the first time I saw real kola nuts and there is no fiction here. As a mark of respect to the elders, squatting was done as a sign of saluting the chief and we drank water from the host as a symbol of Amaraaba(welcome). The traditional chief is so respected by the subjects that no eye contact is allowed, no crossing of legs and no talking directly to him, but through the representative of the elders. He is said to have fathered 39 children and they speculate that he is 105 years old. Indeed this community is deeply rooted in their traditional way of life.

TICCS Welcome

The warm welcome at Tamale Institute of Cross-Cultural Studies (TICCS) made us look forward for yet another week of learning and experiencing new things about Ghana especially the Northern Region where we are based.
Around 4; 30 pm we left the Novitiate community and arrived earlier to acclimatize to the new environment. After a welcoming meal a very friendly and gentle man known as Fr. Marek, the Director of the Institute gave us the introduction about the weeks course and showed us around the place.
We had the opportunity to meet a lady called Lourey from USA who is studying to become a Methodist Pastor and she was the only female among us the course participants. The purpose of the course is to look a bit more deeply into the patterns of knowledge and behavior found among Ghana’s people.