Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hear Us from Heaven

My tummy is feeling a little weak right now, and for once I am confident that my malaria medicine is not the culprit.

Rather, I think my tummy is hurting due to my own lack of self-discipline. After doing some touring around Accra today at various museums (the National Museum and the W.E.B. Dubois Memorial Center), we stopped for a midday meal at Maxmart. Let me explain to you, Maxmart is a very nice store to go to for groceries. It's quite upscale for Ghanaian standards, with groceries costing significantly more than at other places. They also have a coffee shop above the store—something that is also a luxury, so it seems. We went there today and I ordered the following: hummus and pita bread, cheese pie (essentially, similar to a calzone), and a cafĂ© frappe. Needless to say, my diet has been acquainted with beans, rice, and an occasional dish of banku so this is a lot foreign to my stomach right now. Oh well, so worth it, right?

I just was craving familiar foods, something different from the typical Red-Red, Jollof Rice, and Plantains.

It's kind of been one of those weeks. I just miss America.

I got to play field hockey this week! It was wonderful. No doubt about it. The mosquitoes attacked my legs since they hang out in the grass during the day, but ultimately I was just happy to have a stick in my hand again. Playing on the actual team is still up in the air, and I would be surprised if it actually happens, but they did check me out a stick that I can play with by myself until then. Luckily, I met a girl who plays hockey at Swarthmore in PA, so I have a buddy to hit around with! It felt so comfortable to do something I have loved to do for so long, and to be able to do it thousands of miles away from home. Still, as I played on the grassy field, with red dirt sticking to me like glue, I couldn't help but appreciate my team back home even more. I have always loved being able to play on such a fun and close-knit team, but being here has opened my eyes to how important that support system has been for me at college. Hendrix field hockey is such an important part of my college experience, and I think being away from that has made that more apparent.

Last night we went to a sports bar in Accra, Champ's, for Friday night Karaoke. I was so ready for a night out—we have been traveling practically every weekend since getting into Ghana, so it was nice to stick around town. Not to mention, I spent 6 hours with Lindy on Friday getting our hair done. Yes, it's true; I got a WEAVE in my hair. It's a different look mind you, but it is so much fun. After I put on a cute black dress, with my long, new braids, I knew that karaoke was exactly what I needed for a Friday night out on the town. The minute you walk into Champ's it's almost like being back in America again! There are sports channels playing on flat screens everywhere, a crowded bar, and tables to order some food (even Tex Mex!). I was enthralled at the chance to even watch a sport other than soccer for awhile. We watched rugby—France vs. England—and chatted for awhile awaiting the chance to sing some good ole American tunes. The minute the song book came around I knew there was really no other choice of song for me to sing. I mean, hello, how could I not sing Sweet Home Alabama? I got up on stage awhile later and tried to be as good as of entertainer as possible. I think what made it even better was that following my rendition of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, more of our group got on stage to accompany Mitch as he sang Take Me Home, Country Roads. We must have looked like crazy country lovin' American folk…oh wait, I kind of am…so it all works out J. My night was filled with singing, meeting people from South Africa, England, Australia, and Ghana, and enjoying time with my friends—a nice reminder of how much I love dancing, eating, and karaoke-ing with my friends at home. I think there's a great chance that from living in Ghana for 5 months, I am going to find a greater sense of appreciation for my life as a whole, especially when I return home. Already, I am balancing learning a new culture, with sharing my own, and thus growing to understand what beautiful blessings I have in my life. It's overwhelming at times, but very much an important part of this whole experience.

In addition to missing parts of home more this week than before, it's also been emotionally challenging as I have had to really dig deep in trying to understand how I am feeling. At bible study, before we began to reflect as a group, we meditated for 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, surrounded by the soft noises of the breeze in the wind, and the hum of the bugs in the grass, something finally hit me, something that I had not been ready to face before. In the last couple weeks of being here, for whatever reason, I feel like I have "numbed" myself to the brokenness around me. It's hard to say why or how, but I think deep in my heart, I have been overwhelmed by the poverty, by the hunger, by the brokenness. Never in my life have I struggled with empathy. Never before have I not tried to really feel the suffering of others. After all, as a Christian, isn't that what following Jesus is all about? Yet, here I was in Africa, and struggling to feel the pain around me. I think I am afraid for how much I might really feel it. For how much it might break my heart. I know I need to be vulnerable. But, I guess it's just harder to let go. It's much harder than I ever thought it would be.

God brings things into your life at just the right moments. I needed a wake-up call.

On Thursday, I got one.

I was volunteering at Kissemahn, like I do every Thursdays, and things were going surprisingly well. Even amid the normal chaos of yelling, fighting, and noise there were genuine moments of learning. I really believe there was. We were getting ready to close for the day when one of the young girls, Precious, around the age of 7 showed us her back. On her back were several lashes that looked excruciatingly painful. They were on her legs too, some that looked fresh, and some that looked like they had been healing for awhile. What I found even harder to face was hearing her cries. It was time to go home, and this darling child did not want to go home, for the fear of being beaten. As I held her and felt her sobs exit her small body, I had to pray for control as to not break down right then and there. We walked her home, myself along with 2 other volunteers, and the director of Mauhvio's Outreach, to talk with her mother. As Kwame, our director, talked with her mother I felt rather uncomfortable watching a mother being told not to beat her child. I don't agree with putting any harm on a child, but at the same time, I am 21 years old. I am still trying to understand this different culture, a culture that doesn't look down upon beating in the same way America does. There isn't a social services program, these things happen. And, while I don't agree with them, I also have a limited role to play, especially when telling a mother how to treat her child. The only thing I could really do was just love this child. And, I was able to do that. I held her hand, squeezing it the whole way to her house, praying that she would know love in this world. I can't exactly change all of my emotions in understanding the immense poverty here in just one moment, but I can confront the feelings I have been facing. I have been feeling numb to the brokenness here in Ghana, but maybe that's because I have been thinking about it on such a large scale. Because, in that small moment, I did feel Precious' pain. I could see her hurt. And, I wanted more than anything just to love her. I can't change the world. I can't eliminate poverty.

But, I can love.

Tomorrow I am going to church for the first time since being in Ghana. It couldn't have come at a better time. My eyes are getting heavy, it is time to sleep. For now, my prayer is from a song I hold dear to my heart:

Open the blind eyes

Unlock the deaf ears

Come to your people

As we draw near

Hear us from Heaven

Touch our generation

We are your people

Crying out in desperation

1 comment:

  1. Heather,
    I very much enjoy reading your blog post. Every time I read one or see pictures I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact you are in AFRICA! Your writing really gives me a feel for what your life in Ghana is like. I'm glad that you are really getting everything out of this once in a life time experience.
    You better post some more pictures--I wanna see that weave!!!! :)

    Love and miss you!!!!