A 7 AM church service is practically nonexistent in the States, except maybe the occasional sunrise service on Easter morning. But if anyone was tired when we walked into the unfinished cement building occupied by First Baptist Obuasi, all tiredness was wiped out.
I can say for myself that I've never been in a church service as lively or as impactful as the one here in Obuasi. There's something incredibly empowering about seeing extravagant, vibrantly colorful Sunday best dress and shameless, free dancing all mashed together for pure celebration of our Creator. I think (at least for myself) that sometimes we can get so used to the structure of the way we express our faith that we forget to realize that there is no rules we have to follow to praise our Lord and Savior, and I'm so eternally grateful for being reminded of that by the beautiful Ghanaian worship this morning. Plus, there isn't anything that will put a bigger smile on your face than a dance party for Jesus.
Vincent's message that followed was absolutely outstanding. He spoke with such a presence and power about using every talent for God's glory no matter how big or small. I've read the passage and heard sermons on it before, but none quite like Vincent's, and I think it is because he so clearly embodies his message in his everyday life. Every talent God has given him has been overflowing in his work during this trip; his message was truly authentic.
After service we met with the students/young adults above the church in a breezy, open, "under construction" sanctuary. I sat beside two twins in full African dress, one whose name was Rejoice, who is studying management. Another boy I spent time with, Eugene, is studying computer engineering. They were both so passionate about their education. What hit me was when Eugene said, "The thing about Ghana is we study and study and study and put so much in with so little output. We (pointing to his friends) dream of studying in America because there are so many more resources to learn here that we don't have."
It makes me feel guilty of when I complain about school or studying, because all these people my age want to be able to do is learn as much as possible to be able to grow the communities in the country they love. Too often I feel burdened by what is actually a privilege in my life; something I want to change.
We also set up an impromptu photo booth that was a smashing hit; I still find it funny that "selfie" has become a universal term.
After a wonderful lunch, we headed out for an experience of a lifetime: being invited into Chief NaNa's palace, chief over 87 villages in Ghana, including Obuasi. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we felt a bit out of place and nervous walking into the home of African royalty, especially since we were told lifting your left hand is a huge sign of disrespect. There might as well have been super glue between my side and left arm because when I walked up to shake Chief NaNa's hand, my left arm might as well have been an extension of a stone statue.
After much dialogue between the elders, chief, and Vincent – and a friendship formed between Sarah Smith and the chief (she received 100% Ghanaian chocolate and pictures of the chief and has been promised an authentic African robe in the mail) – Chief NaNa announced that because of the work he has now seen Vincent do, he is granting him 7 acres of land to build a recreational center and church for the community. The joy in Vincent's face spoke for itself. For a man so dedicated to God's call in his life, I am so happy that our team was able to help Vincent's dream take further steps forward.
Riding back to the lodge, I couldn't help but be captivated by the villages outside the windows. I know I speak for everyone when I say there is a big part of us that has fallen in love with Ghana and the open hearted people here. And despite the poverty and seemingly stricken world these people are living in, the joy and happiness they have in simplicity is something I wish I had. I came here thinking I was here to fix the broken, when really I found myself to be more broken than them in ways I had never noticed.
Spaghetti was for dinner, accompanied by our Christmas morning excitement for the change in pace. We recognized the 6 hotel staff members who do everything from cooking to cleaning to running the front desk. As I sit outside writing on this beautiful Ghanaian night, I'm deeply saddened that the trip has flown by so fast, knowing a big piece of my heart will be left behind, but I hope and pray that one day, God will lead me back.