Monday, November 29, 2021

Mission Presence

On November 14, 2021, I boarded a plane for my trip back to the USA. It has been over 3 years since the start of my missionary journey. In August, 2018, I began my four-month formation program in Los Angeles, CA. Shortly after completion I flew off to Ghana to begin what has been an amazing journey.

Prior to leaving Ghana I watched as 30 exceptional girls from the class of 2021 graduated from St. Anne’s Girls’ Senior High School. I had the privilege of organizing their graduation ceremony. These girls were first year students when I arrived in January, 2019. It was a blessing to be able to watch as they went from giggly girls to serious young women. Many of the girls have shared with me their desire to be teachers, nurses, and lawyers. Two girls from the Home Economics class told me they plan on opening their own pastry shop. Accomplishing these goals will not be easy given the economic situation most are facing but I believe with God’s grace anything is possible.

Here is a portion of the message I gave them before saying my good-byes:

"Always remember your GOD! Remember the Holy Spirit. He is with you, wanting to guide you. Pray to him.  Ask him for his assistance, especially in times of uncertainty.

Remember God’s son, Jesus, and how he lived his live here on earth. Whenever you are challenged to make a decision, especially one involving morality; right versus wrong, good versus bad, ask yourself “What would Jesus do?”

Also remember Mary, our Blessed Mother. No one has a more special connection to Christ, her son, than she does. Pray the rosary daily; not just in May and October. Carry it with you as much as possible. The rosary is powerful. It is a weapon in our battle with the evil one. When you feel tempted put the rosary in your hand, and ask that Mary will guide you."

I pray to God that I have made a difference in at least one of these girls’ lives. I have decided to extend my mission work for one more year. On January 19,2022, I will once again board a plane. This will be the beginning of my fourth year as a missionary in Damongo, Ghana. I pray that my presence will have a positive influence on at least one more person with whom I will be living amongst.

This post is dedicated to Diane Yonga. She and I arrived in Ghana together in 2019 to begin our 3-year commitment as missionaries. I know I would not have been able to survive without her support. She and I learned together how to live in an environment foreign to us both. Diane’s journey was cut short because of a cancer diagnosis. Her condition is now very serious. Please pray for her. 




Friday, September 24, 2021

Recycling With A Purpose

 “Good garbage breaks down as it goes. That’s why it smells bad to your nose. Bad garbage grows and grows and grows. Garbage is s’posed to decompose” These are lyrics of a song by Tom Chapin, an incredible children’s song writer (google the song Good Garbage. You will love it).  In order not to add to the bad garbage problem here in my village, I put my empty water bottles to good use. Last Christmas I made a Christmas tree out of empty plastic bottles.

Now I am using plastic water bottles to grow vegetables.  The process begins by cutting an empty bottle in half and inserting a sponge in the top section.  I invert it and place it on top of the bottom half which is filled with water.

Next I add soil to the top and plant a seed. The sponge continuously absorbs water from the bottom and keeps the dirt moist. My first plants to germinate were zucchini.

I also make planters out of empty plastic bottles and once the seedlings are large enough they are transplanted. Pigs, goats, sheep and chicken roaming around my bungalow keep me from having a conventional garden outdoors, therefore my “water bottle garden” is located inside my gated courtyard.

The zucchini fruit on my plants have yet to be plentiful but the flowers are beautiful.



I am also growing cucumbers and green beans.


Although it does not seem that recycling a few water bottles will make a difference, if we all do our small part it will. And let us not forget that God gave us this beautiful planet. He is the Creator. We must show God that we love Him by stopping and even reversing the destruction we have already caused.  To quote again from another Tom Chapin song: “This pretty planet spinning through space, you’re a garden, you’re a harbor, you’re a holy place”.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Novice Night

Every year here at St. Anne’s Girls’ Senior High School (SAGISS), where I live, Novice Night occurs. The Freshmen, or Form 1’s as they are called, are "hazed" by having to take part in a silly tradition. Those being "hazed" dress up in togas, wear hats made from leaves, paint their faces then parade around campus singing.



Does not sound like "hazing", right? Did I leave out that on their face is painted the word FOOL! And as they parade around they sing “We are fools!”



It really is silly but that’s where the silliness ends. For the rest of the night the Form 1’s take part in modeling, dancing and singing competitions. They are also required to give a speech on a topic of their choice and answer questions presented by the judges. At the end of the evening one of the new girls, a Form 1, one of the “Fools” is crowned the school’s Queen. Not such a foolish event after all! 



Thursday, June 17, 2021

Seedlings

Over the years Ghana has experienced depleting forests. There are numerous reasons for this such as: forest fires, Illegal charcoal production, China’s exploitation of Ghana’s rosewood trees, uncontrolled mining and logging as well as the expansion of cocoa farms. In April 2021 Ghana’s Lands and Natural Resources Ministry launched a GREEN GHANA initiative which aimed to plant 5 million trees in a single day across the country. The government provided free seedlings to people of all walks of life including those in our little village here in Damongo.


The date set for the big event was June 11, 2021. On Thursday, June 10th 6,600 teak and 700 mahogany seedlings were delivered to our Secretariat. That very day over two hundred Primary and Jr. High students came and collected 460 seedlings. On June 11th, the day of the event, hundreds of trees were distributed.


Fr. Felix from St. Anne’s Cathedral collected 200 mahogany seedlings to plant on the grounds of the new Cathedral. Fr. Francis Xavier drove over two hours to deliver 250 seedlings to one of our Diocese’s 13 parishes. Other parishes sent trucks and cars to collect their share of these very healthy gems. When I left the Secretariat Friday at 5:00 p.m. men were busy planting the 500 trees they were allotted. The students at St. Anne’s Girls’ Catholic Senior High School where I live planted over 500 teak seedlings in just two days.


I am so proud of the country which I have called home for over two years now. WAY TO GO GHANA!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Climate Change

There are two seasons in this region of Ghana, the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season is just that; HOT and dry! There is no vegetation and everything is brown.  

It is not uncommon to have bush fires at this time of year. Several have come very close to my bungalow. The girls here at St. Anne’s Girls’ Sr. High School where I live are used to battling the flames, one bucket of water at a time. At first I ran in the other direction when the blazing flames were approaching. Now I help fill buckets.


The rainy season has just begun. It is beginning to look more like a jungle than a desert. It is amazing how quickly brown turns to green. 

While fire destroys the environment during the dry season, rains and wind will take a toll during this season. This year’s rains and wind, however, have caused immense damage not typical for this area.  Roofs have been blown off homes and shops, and floods have washed away entire dwellings. Here at St. Anne’s several sections of the wall surrounding our compound have been washed away.

Climate change is occurring here as it is all around the world. The changes can be devastating not only to the environment but also to the health of those already marginalized. Flooding increases cases of malaria and cholera. A decrease in the water supply due to an extraordinary dry season, which we had in Damongo last year, increases the incidence of guinea worms, and an increase in temperature causes more cases of cerebrospinal meningitis. Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of how climate change can affect the health of those I live amongst. Living in this part of the world makes me realize more than ever how important it is for us to slow down the global warming that our way of living in excess has caused. Let us pray that the world comes together to save our planet as well as all of us who call it our home.


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!


Mission Presence

On November 14, 2021, I boarded a plane for my trip back to the USA. It has been over 3 years since the start of my missionary journey. In A...