Day 5 ends…spaghetti, again. Just like viewing habits, my eating habits are also significantly impacted when I travel abroad (and not just in Africa). I have NEVER been an adventurous eater so if there are exotic foods that everyone samples when in a certain place, I am not be in the mix. Since the very first visit to West Africa nearly 13 years ago, my diet has consisted of tea and toast for breakfast (every now and then I’ll add sausage and roasted potatoes—mind you the sausage is a diced hot dog). I don’t eat lunch because I’m usually away from the hotel during the day and the hotel is pretty much the only place that I ever eat. Dinner? In Ghana it’s one of 2 things: Spaghetti Bolognese or Grilled chicken with fries and a side salad. That’s it. Fruits and salads were no nos when I first started visiting West Africa. Medical guidance was clear: No fresh fruit, no fresh veggies and only bottled water. Today, I’ll eat a little simple salad in Ghana but not in Liberia and no fresh fruit in either place. (I overheard a member of a large group of English speaking tourists in the hotel restaurant last night reminding everyone, “No, we don’t trust the salad!” (“Amateurs”, I thought as I nibbled on my little molehill of greens…and then decided to say grace a second time just in case!)
In Liberia, breakfast and lunch are the same for me as in Ghana. As for dinner, well, ask anyone who’s ever gone to Liberia with me what the dinner staple is…Liberian Style Chicken! I also found a tasty Chicken Parmesan at The Lion’s Den and found a fried chicken basket paired with French fries that’s pretty tasty. I did try a spicy roasted fish after several years as well but thank God for chicken! Oh, and Vienna sausage! One of my first stops in Liberia is at the UN Store or the upscale grocery store downtown where I stock up on a few cans of Vienna sausage and a few other snacks. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
Wait, party over here? Last night there was a “Koffi Annan” meeting on my floor that got a little loud at times. Tonight there must be a birthday bash and the revelers sound like they’re at a college frat party. It’s 9:30PM; at 10 grandpa’s going downstairs to the front desk to make a little noise of his own!
OK, it’s about 10:30 now. The revelers are still at it but they’ve calmed down a lot so I will too. Reflecting on the day I am, of course, thinking about that sense that I had that God was going “off script” today. I did have a few surprises today. First, I had an unplanned opportunity for an extended visit with Rev. Isaac Amoah and Rev. Samuel Damptey, the OHM Ghana President and Vice President, respectively. During the fellowship we talked about everything from how ministers here often arbitrarily declare themselves Apostles and Prophets and Bishops and can even pay for the credentials to “prove” it (same happens in the States, I shared) to concerns about people church hopping in Ghana (ditto in the States) to the ongoing difficulties acquiring travel visas (same issue we’ve faced in Liberia for more than a decade). As different as we are, we are alike in so very many ways!
Pastor Isaac and I spent hours meeting 1-on-1 discussing the business of the OHM Ghana Branch, other ministry interests that I have in Ghana and continued developing our own best practices for communications. One really kewl discovery for me regarding communications was the “WhatsApp” app. It’s used by “EVERYONE” here to send messages, pictures, videos and even make calls—for free. I set it up, established an OHM Ghana group and sent my first communique. It worked! When sending texts I might get a 1 out of 6 response; with WhatsApp, the response was 5 out of 6 in short order! OK, Liberia, time to find out WhatsApp?!?
After Pastor Isaac and I wrapped up (the work included a review of the OHM Ghana objectives and calendar through June 2016 and a revised—revived?—communications plan) I spent several hours catching up on Corning work. “I thought you were out of the office”, my wife reacted when I mentioned this to her. Uh…
I started to order dinner en suite but decided that if there were any other off script moments in the offing I’d better get out of my room. I went down to the lobby and, rather than head right into the restaurant, I stopped by the front desk to ask about how I could make copies of handouts for my meeting with the OHM Ghana Leadership Team tomorrow. After showing me to the “business center”, I walked back to the desk with the guy who’d pointed the center out to me and asked him which of the many newspapers on display by the desk was the most reliable. After he (and Edith—the desk agent who’d checked me in back on Friday who’d also asked for prayer) spoke with me about the papers, as I walked away he called me back over and said, “You are a man of God. You must bless me”. I didn’t ask how he knew I was a man of God (Edith?!?) or what made him think I had a blessing for him (Edith?!?), I just said, “OK”. “I’m ready now!”, he declared when I looked like I was about to walk away (and pray for him later…after dinner…before I went to sleep…maybe…you know how we do!). Mind you, we are standing at the front desk in the main lobby of the hotel. I took his hand, he bowed his head, and I prayed with him. When I was finished I asked, “What’s your name?” Steven, he answered. “Are you a believer”? Yes, he replied. “Where do you go to church?” __________ Assemblies of God (I didn’t quite get the name of the church). It was on then! Another person at the front desk (not behind the desk—someone staying at the hotel?) stopped me and said, I want you to bless me, too! This time my interrogation came first: “What’s your name?” He replied with something I caught and then lost as soon as I caught it. (Cue the grandpa jokes!). “Are you a believer?” Yes! Where do you go to church? Again, the church was named but I can’t recall it now. We prayed. That wasn’t it…a third guy stopped me (all of this was literally within 4 steps of the first guy) and was looking like Do not pass me by! “You want prayer, too? (Yes) What’s your name? (Samson) Are you a believer? (Yes)”. We prayed. That was certainly off script! I mean, when was the last time you had a prayer chain start at the front desk of the hotel you were staying in?!?!
Back on the roads of Greater Accra, tomorrow. The revelers have started up again. It’s 11PM; time for grandpa to see about breaking up the party!