And so, call in hand, they set forth, ready to conquer the world! What missionary hasn’t felt that way as they prepare for the new adventure. We are invincible, we are called, we are ready, we are……nuts.
Taking a look at the country of Ghana, we learned that it had once been the showcase of West Africa. A former British colony, Ghana became independent in 1958 during the time of independence for many African countries. Their first president, Kwame Nkrumah, stepped into a country well established in the cocoa trade. Ghana provided much of the world’s cocoa at that time, however, after poor management of resources and several coups, the country had spiraled downward until the economy was in shambles. After flight lieutenant Jerry Rawlings had taken over once, then allowed free elections, he was forced to stage another coup when things continued to go badly. We were stepping into this time of his second take over.
During our language training we had a visit from missionary Phil who worked in Ghana with his wife and their two daughters. He filled us in on how things were in the country and what to expect. What shocked us most? Learning that there was nothing available in Ghana and that we’d have to plan to buy a 3 year supply of anything we thought we might need during our first term. Even food was at a shortage, and what was available was to be left for the local people. Phil told us that he himself had once gone to the market to bid on a bag of rice. Since he could outbid everyone else, he got the rice. However, the people of his town were angry and asked him why he didn’t bring his own food instead of taking theirs. After that he vowed he would never take food from the town again.
At this point Tim and I had been married for about 3 months, living the entire time in training and being fed. I had no idea what 3 days of food looked like, let alone 3 years!! Thankfully another couple was also assigned to Ghana, Mark and Barb. They’d been married some years by then, so when Barb went to the store to make an order, I’d follow along and if I liked what she was buying, I wrote it down as well. Twenty cases of soup?? Sounds good!! And what does 3 years of toilet paper look like? Planning to start a family during that first term? Suddenly we’re thinking about diapers and tiny clothes!! We learned there was a company called “Eureka” that would prepare food, flash heat it and seal it in tin packages. The meals apparently had a shelf life of 10 years. Many cases purchased! Did I know what I was doing? Not a clue.
You might be asking, “Where do newlyweds get the money to purchase a 3 years supply of everything they will need? Good question! Originally the Mission Board said that they would advance the funds, but later backed off on that. Eventually a dear saint in our congregation “lent” us the funds we needed. I put that in quotes because later she said that she didn’t need that money back. Messy, scary, frustrating at times, and definitely expensive, but we finally ended up with 13 barrels and a large metal tank in which to pack all our goods. The tank was specially made for us, and would be used for storing fuel at our mission station. Since fuel was not available in our area, we learned that our business manager, Fred, would be sending fuel up to us periodically. Any time we’d travel then we’d have to carry the fuel we’d need to get from Point A to Point B. There was so much to learn! But it was all coming together. Our good friend, dentist, and a member of our church, Dr. Rick Stern, offered the basement of his business to use for a staging area. By now we’re in the dead of winter, so this gave us somewhere warm in which to do our preparing. Don’t pack anything in quantity, it looks like you’re bringing it in to sell. Be careful packing this next to that. Soap makes everything stink and taste funny. Don’t take anything you don’t want to lose. Etc, etc, etc!!!!
Another word we had to learn was “visa.” For me this was never anything more than a credit card. Now it was “permission” to visit another country. LCMS World Mission, the agency that was sending us out, was working on getting our visas into Ghana. Our original plan was to leave for Ghana right after Christmas. We’d soon learn that “plans” are just a formality. We are always at the mercy of someone or something else!