When two Americans meet for the first time and have opportunity to get to know each other a little bit, one question that comes up frequently is a question about identity: “So, what do you do?” This is part of our American culture. This is absolutely fine. Here, in Ghana, on the other hand, when two people are introduced to each other—often by a third person—a brief background of each person is shared with the other.
Who I am related to—either by blood or work relation—seems to be more important than the duties of my actual job. For example, at the one gas station near my house where I go frequently to fill up my truck with diesel, the young lady was pumping the diesel, who I had visited with before. The two young men, who also work at the station were standing nearby helping a middle-aged man fill up his moto.
In the course of the conversation, one of the young men refered to the young lady as “my sister.” The boy and the girl may not be related at all, but the family ties and relationships are really important here. There are times when I am shopping in the market and some of the women, who I regularly buy fruit and vegetables from will greet me, “my brother.”
In addition to learning about relationships here in Ghana, I have also been spending a big part of my time learning how to live here. I am an American. Ghana is not my home culture. Therefore, most aspects of Ghanaian life are very different (and sometimes very frustrating) to me. It would only seem logical that I would naturally be spending a big part of the last 11 months learning how to just LIVE. So when someone asks me, “So what else are you doing?” I tell them exactly what I’m doing:
1. Trying to learn a little Dagbani, the local and regional language here in Tamale and parts of northern Ghana. This is a very slow process, but I try to keep at it.
2. Making sure I have gas in my gas bottles so I can use the stove to prepare meals. Sometimes the “cooking gas stations” run out of gas. This is why it’s good to have two filled bottles, which I do, for such situations.
3. Making sure I have enough Ghanaian cedis (said: see-deez) on my mobile phone so I can make a phone call (when my phone has zero cedis, I cannot make a phone call.
My phone is a Nokia, and it’s a fairly basic one that wasn’t too expensive. Some phones here can listen to local radio stations and some can even play short videos! Working with this idea of short videos on mobile phones is one area that my LBT colleague David Federwitz and I are working with to see how we can use such technology to spread the Gospel.
4. Trying to get cushion covers and curtains made. As of this article, most of the cushions have covers. I am still waiting on the tailor to finish the rest of the chair cushions.
Maybe these things don’t sound “exciting” and they definitely don’t sound like “real ministry” (according to our American definition of ‘ministry’), but all of these and many more aspects of daily life help me to learn just a little more about Ghanaians and their culture.
And there are times that my American culture kicks in and I want to DO something. I want to develop an identity of who I am based more on the fact that I can do these things mentioned above. Of course, stepping out in faith to go where God calls you to go is not about your individual ideas or “rights.” Stepping out in faith to go where God leads you is all about Him using your talents and gifts—which He gave you—in ways that you never considered so that God will ultimately be glorified.
What small changes can you make in your life so that God will be glorified in what you say and do, and more people around you will come to know Jesus as their personal LORD and Saviour?