Monday, April 5, 2021

Resourcefulness

One way to survive is to be resourceful. Ghanaians living in my village have to manage with what they have available to them. I witnessed this recently at St. Anne’s Girls’ Catholic Secondary School where I live and help out when necessary. Every Sunday after Mass, when money is available, I drive the Headmistress into the village to buy 23 loaves of bread. This is a real treat for the girls. They enjoy bread and tea. If they are lucky milk will be provided as well.


Recently the school decided to build their own bread oven. The ant hill you see here, which is made from clay that the ants obtain by digging down into the earth, was knocked down and mixed with water. Bricks were formed and an oven was built. An old bicycle wheel was used to form the opening. Because the rainy season is approaching a roof was erected using fallen down limbs from trees. 


Now that is being resourceful!

I can’t wait until the oven is fired up and the smell of freshly baked bread fills the air.


Monday, March 8, 2021

Mission Dream

Being a missionary is something I had dreamt of for years. I would picture myself working overseas in an orphanage. I love being around children; holding them, singing to them, laughing with them. 


God had a slightly different plan for me, so it seemed. The Diocese of Damango, Ghana, was looking for an accountant. Lay Mission-Helpers felt I was a perfect fit. I wouldn’t be working with children in an orphanage but I trusted this is what God wanted of me. 


Little did I know as I traveled to Ghana that I would get exactly what I had dreamt. I am around children daily. I hold them, sing to them, laugh with them. My joy is twofold. I use my expertise as an accountant working with the Diocese, something I enjoy doing, plus, I experience daily the happiness of being around God’s little ones. 



God is good all the time. Jesus, I do trust in You!


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Joyful in Ghana

After eight months being isolated in my son, Joshua’s, apartment, two Covid-19 tests in the USA and one when I arrived at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, as well as 12 days in quarantine at my bungalow, I was finally back to my Ghanaian life.  It will be a bit different here now that my fellow missionary, Diane, will not be returning. Diane is well missed not only by myself but by the entire Diocese of Damongo community.

I have been back nearly two months. While in the USA I had time to fully comprehend the 14 months in which I lived here. I thought, WOW, did I really do that? Was I really chased by an elephant yet not able to wait until I could go on another safari? Did I really find a scorpion in my washroom yet not worry about how many more were living in my bungalow? Did I really eat dumplings and sauce with my hand and decide I would never go back to eating certain meals with a fork or spoon again? What seemed like unusual behavior when sitting in my son’s apartment in the USA reminiscing about my way of life in Ghana is not unusual at all now that I am back. 

Since returning I celebrated Thanksgiving with my adopted Ghanaian family Francis, Paulina and children Anne and Nathan. As I did last year I made a Christmas tree to give my bungalow some Christmas spirit. Ghanaians do not typically put up Christmas trees; evergreens do not exist. This year I made a tree out of plastic bottles. 



I enjoyed a quiet Christmas Eve watching a live stream of my home Parish’s (St. Florian in United, PA) Vigil Mass, attended Christmas day Mass at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus church in Canteen, Ghana, the parish of my dear friend Sr. Rubina, and watched a live stream of Christmas day Mass from the Greensburg Diocese Cathedral in Greensburg, PA.

For the New Year’s celebration I traveled with Madame Pauline, the Headmistress of St. Anne’s Girls Catholic Secondary School (SAGISS) to her hometown of Nandum. Many of Madame’s nieces and nephews were there for the Holidays as well as her brother, Fr. Remigius Siesegh who works at the Vatican in Rome. The children and I kept busy doing what I am now famous for, making Christmas trees.

I attended a vigil Mass on New Year’s Eve and a Mass on New Year’s Day. Both Masses were held outdoors. 


An ensemble of xylophones and drums played as anyone who could stand danced. The congregation enjoyed seeing me join in. Many young men gathered around showing me steps and helping me dance to the rhythm of the drums. During one Mass it was announced that a clan had adopted me. What an honor. In the village everyone has two names; one English and one tribal. I was given the name Noriree (I’m sure I spelled it wrong), which means JOYFUL, and joyful it is to be back.  

GOD IS GOOD 

Friday, October 9, 2020

God Is Good All The Time

 

God has been especially good to me. He called me to serve and I answered. I was sent to a place that suited me. I was more than delighted to be in Damongo, Ghana; it had become my home. Then this explosion! The COVID-19 pandemic broke out and for safety reasons I travelled back here to the USA. 

Frankly this is somewhere I do not want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I am so well cared for. Joshua, Jacob, Trevor, Debbie, Kate and Audi welcomed me back with open arms. I have been living with my oldest son Joshua since I returned on March 19, 2020. The accommodations are terrific. How can I complain about a bedroom with at 65” TV? Who would ever complain about living with a son who is an excellent cook? He knows what I like to eat (sushi, buffalo wings, shrimp cocktail, steak) and is willing to prepare what I want whenever I ask. A little side note: I want to blame him for the 45 lbs. I gained in the last 7 months, but we all know I can’t.



When I left Ghana I thought I would be here in the USA just a few months. Obviously I was wrong. This return has been difficult for me. I started thinking, “What if I can never go back to Ghana? What will I do?” I know that Jesus is with me and I trust in Him, but hey, I need some help here! I’m getting a little concerned. I needed someone to talk to, some spiritual guidance.  I heard of a seven-day Silent Directed Retreat being held at St. Paul of the Cross Monastery in Pittsburgh and decided to go. Yes, ME, silent, even at meals. No, I did not get kicked out. Amazing!  

I had never met with a Spiritual Advisor before and had no idea what to expect. The moment I sat down in front of Fr. Curtis Kiddy I felt a bond, a connection. Fr. Curtis did not just listen to me, but he heard me. From the beginning he knew exactly what I was feeling; he understood. The way we were able to communicate with each other seemed somewhat mystical. When I left the retreat I did not know what was going to happen next in my life.  I did leave; however, once again believing that God would help me through this.

I began writing this blog weeks ago. Since then I found out I will be boarding a plane on November 9, 2020, in Pittsburgh.  I hop on another in NYC, and another in Accra, Ghana, where I will fly to Tamale, Ghana. From there I will be driven two hours to Damongo, my home!

 

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME

ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Coming Home


Although not mandated to leave, Lay Mission-Helpers (LMH) recommended that we missionaries return temporarily to the United States until the Covid-19 pandemic is under control. It was fairly easy for me to make the decision to return. I feel I am healthy, but I am over 60 years young and at a higher risk than others.

Am I happy to be here? Not really. I unexpectedly had to leave my home. I left a life in which I was comfortable.  As strange as it may seem to most of you, I will miss hand washing my clothes, bucket bathing, and eating my favorite Ghanaian meal with my hand. I will miss the look on vendors’ faces when I speak to them in Gonja, the language of the largest tribe in my home town of Damongo. I will miss the security guard at the Secretariat where I work struggling to teach me the language (I blame being 61 as the reason for my slow learning). 

Though my son’s will always take care of me, you could say I am technically homeless. I sold my home and gave away nearly everything I owned before leaving for mission. Right now I am living with my oldest son in Greensburg, PA. Once out of quarantine I will visit my youngest son in Pittsburgh, PA and at some point fly to Colorado to spend time with my son in Boulder. I have friends that say I am not homeless, for as long as they have a home I have a home.


One might ask: “Does not having a permanent home scare you?” The answer is a definite NO! If I do not make it back to Ghana, I will find a mission house in the U.S. in which to live while I continue to serve God’s people.

God has called me to mission and that is what I am meant to do. Every day I end my prayers by saying:
   
JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU!


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Remarkable Women


The World Union of Catholic Women Organization (WUCWO) is a group dedicated to unify women around the world in religious, educational, social and service activities for the glory of God. I was surprised when I found out the organization exists in Damongo, Ghana, my hometown.

The Diocese of Damongo hosted a conference the weekend of November 29 - December 1, 2019. I helped with the affair. Honestly, I never thought we could pull it off. Four hundred women were expected to attend. Women travelled from parishes up to four hours away. Not only did we have to provide sleeping quarters, but we had to feed them. Feed 400? Without stoves or ovens? How were a few women going to prepare meals for so many?

Women in Ghana are incredibly hard working. They were able to do what I felt was impossible, and do it without any sign of stress. Amazing! Enjoy the videos and pictures I took of these remarkable women.

The process begins by preparing ingredients that will make up the sauce (soup) served with the meal. We all know any good soup begins with garlic and onions.


No stove? So how do you cook sauce?


The meal will consist of the sauce eaten with T Zed, a mixture of ground maze (corn) and water.


Wooden spoons here are a bit larger than we are used to.



So is there any protein in the sauce? Of course there is, nothing other than chopped up cow’s head. Don’t worry, it was cooked well.


Next the women put the maze, which now has a consistency between porage and bread dough, into plastic bags. This “dumpling “ will be dipped into the sauce when eaten with the meal. I will show you how in the last video.


And what better way to end the first night of a conference than with dancing.


So how is soup with T Zed eaten? Well, just know no utensils are needed.

We pulled it off, the conference was a success!

This blog is dedicated to Dr. Stephen Mills and the staff at Excela Health, Latrobe, PA. Thank you for being avid blog fans. 


Friday, December 20, 2019

Merry Christmas To All


I will definitely miss my family this Holiday Season. Traditions of the United States such as stringing Christmas lights on homes and streets in communities, wrapping presents to be set under an evergreen Christmas tree, and sending and receiving Christmas cards, I have not noticed here in my little village of Damango, Ghana.

Traditions that my Slovak family observe will definitely be missed. There will be no Christmas Eve meal including pagach, oblatki, pierogis, and kolachi here in Damongo. The Slovakian Dance group will not be performing here at the Cathedral, and the First Catholic Slovak Union will not hold their Stede Vecer here in the Diocese hall.

I will miss all these events terribly. However, being here during this Christmas Season as well as the next two Christmas Seasons I will be able to adopt new traditions.

One part of Christmas I would hate to miss out on is having a Christmas tree. There are no evergreens here in Damongo, or even trees that resemble an evergreen. Therefore, with stems from bushes that grow near my bungalow and two containers of dental floss I made my own tree.
I had no idea how my crazy idea of making a tree would end up, or that I could actually do it at all, but as you see from the pictures I did it! Sitting in my living room, called a hall here in Damongo, sits my tree. I saw Christmas lights about a month ago in a store two hours from here and bought them thinking I would hang them on a wall, or a door frame, just to be able to have some sort of Holiday spirit. My little friend Anne helped me construct the tree. Without her I never would have finished.
What I did not realize was the reaction I would get from those who saw my creation. It is so fulfilling to see the looks on faces of those seeing a lit tree for the first time. We in the United States take things for granted. Something as simple as a tree with lights is an amazement to people here. 

There are similarities between Ghanaian Christians and American Christians when it comes to celebrating Christmas. We both prepare ourselves for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ during the season of Advent; the “Coming” of our Lord. During this Season we both take the time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  Diane, my fellow missionary, and roommate, already decided we would attend both the Midnight Mass – THE ANGELS’ MASS, as well as the Christmas Day Mass – THE KINGS MASS. What will happen next we do not know. Will we be invited to gatherings for special meals? Will there be a community gathering? That is yet to be seen. What we do know is that we have been preparing ourselves for Christs’ coming, and that he will come, he has come, and that is what the Season is all about.

Resourcefulness

One way to survive is to be resourceful. Ghanaians living in my village have to manage with what they have available to them. I witnessed th...