Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In the Beginning

23 September

         If we came from monkeys then this birthday boy came from one of these cute, friendly and colorful ones. Never, I assume, did he think that he would ever spend a birthday in Accra, Ghana, in West Africa. What an adventure it is. It's the twists and turns that make life interesting. I want to thank Barry for the love and the time he has invested in me, David, Steven, Kristen, Bryan, and Kimberly and now their families. Without him there would not be us. It is that simple.      

         Our first date was to go water skiing. He was marvelous, I was a joke. The best I could do was to sit on the skis. I could not figure out how to tell my legs to push themselves up. What was he thinking? Why would he ever ask me out again? But he did and went on to teach me and with patience beyond measure everyone else whoever came in the boat. We are all still proud of him.

        When David and Steven were born I read and article that said that fathers should be the ones to read to their children starting at six months. So at six months that became the routine. Through children and grandchildren that has been what Barry does. We bought a Kente Festival book and then I found him reading to the villagers and showing them the pictures in the book of their own people. It was a thrill for them. Reading is not the norm. He hated to stop. He is our Pied Piper of reading. 
        He is also the official stroller pusher. Beginning with David and Steven I could push until Dad was there. Then it was hands off. When the grandkids were in the stroller it was automatic who pushed.

        Thank heavens he was also the homework helper. Now here in Ghana he is in approximately the same role. This is Jonathan. His print shop is at Last Stop in Kwabenya. Barry is helping him with his business plan so that he can present it to an institution that might give him a loan so he can 
expand his business.

        We have met many wonderful Elders serving the Lord here in Ghana. This is Elder Sadare who returned a month ago to Nigeria. Barry does a great job showing them the love that he has for them and their service. It is a great chance to have close relationships with new sons and daughters.

       Then there is me. I am proud to be here with a man that was willing to invest in me and us.  I cannot even understand how I could be so blessed. Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good. For here you are loving me.... Thank you so very much. I love you with all my heart. We all do.

         Obviously, you are not old yet. No one here in Ghana seems the least bit frightened when we drive down the streets. You have many years left. We have been blessed and protected. Let's continue this journey, all of us together. Happy Birthday!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fetching Water

Kente Cloth, Bare Feet and Earthen Pots

         On Thursday afternoon just before sundown women walk to the River Tordze on the edge of Kpetoe to symbolically fetch water for the festival visitors. This ancient tradition has been revived to demonstrate the great hospitality of the people of Agotime. Barefooted, nearly all the women of the community go to the river. There they decorate themselves and each other. They are dressed in different traditional Kente attire balancing earthen pots that they fill with water from the river. Walking back to the village they sing and dance until they reach the forecourt of the Paramount Chief where each woman pours her water into a big pot at the palace.

The village women begin to come to the river.
The white body paint is so striking.

They gather grass and wind it for head pieces to balance their pots.

     This was such a colorful and heartfelt expression of how much water plays in the lives of all of us. These little ones with their big eyes were perched here on the bridge with all of us ready to sell water and someday in the future they will carry on this tradition of fetching water.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Kente Festival

 Color and History

         Last week we helped celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Kente Festival in the Volta Region in Agotime Kpetoe, Ghana. This festival celebrates the beauty that is the Kente Cloth that is indigenous to Ghana but it is certainly more than 20 years old. In fact the history of the cloth dates back to its origins between 300 and 1600 AD. by the people of the Asanti. The Asanti tribe still makes up about 70% of all the people of Ghana and they still have a King today that lives in a palace in Kumasi. His name is King Asantehene Osei Tutu II.

        It is also held that Kente was originally designed and originated with raffia weaving in a town near Kumasi called Bonwire. Its traditions go back to the earliest of West African weaving around 3000 BC. Archaeologists have found excavations that have revealed spindles, looms and weights.

        Kente is the national cloth. There are many types of Kente. Each has its own symbolism and name, telling the history, culture and social practice of the weavers of the cloth. Kente is used for different purposes and for different functions. The weaver derives names and meanings for the cloth from moral values, oral literature, philosophy, behavior, individual achievements, animal life, proverbs and social life. The beauty of the Kente is the color, chosen for its symbolism and visual effect. The weavers themselves are all small men with great arm strength and very agile feet. I have not seen a female weaver. Single strips are woven with very fine thread and are less than six inches wide and of varying lengths. Then they are sewed together to make these massive pieces of gorgeous colorful cloth. 

This Holy, a Kente weaver in Ho

His loom. See the thread spindles on the ground?

Holy's uncle. No loss of muscle tone and he is in his late 60's. 

The need for muscle mass is here pulling the tread held tight with these blocks.

Some of Holy's designs.
This is an antique piece, at least 10 ft by 10 ft, that I saw at an art gallery.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Happy Day

        Thanks to the help of some friends we have finally gotten a project done that we have been working on for about eight months. Maybe you have sensed that different people here in Ghana have touched us deeply. There is not always a specific reason, just that sense that you want to help because you feel a connection no matter how remote. Just such a person is a beggar that is on one of the corners that we frequently pass in downtown Accra. His name is Yeboah. We have tried to get a skateboard for him to sit on. 

        Other beggars have told us to go to a certain area in Makola market. We have had gofers in the market look for skateboards for us at "sports" stores. We have looked for shoe skates in the shoe area of the market. One beggar offered to sell us his for 100 cedis. That would be many days work all at once. We even were taken to medical supply stores by people trying to help but we had no success in any area that we tried.

        In the interim we were able to get Yeboah a wheel chair that he has at his house. The Church has given thousands and thousands of wheel chairs out around the world. Ghana is no exception. The Church donates them to the government and then they pass them out. Through our welfare department we were able to get the name of the man at the ministry in charge of the wheel chairs and send Yeboah there. He was so excited.

        One of the businesses that we met through Andy Meede at the Stanford SEED Group was a furniture manufacturer called Furnart. The owner Nii made us the board several months ago but we could never find a skate. Sister Hill went home to Canada for a wedding and sent a kind email asking if there was anything she could bring back for us. Yes please, how about some pecans, blueberries and a roller skate? She sent her son on the excursion to find one and was able to find a pair for $5.00 at a used store. When she arrived back in Accra we went with skate in hand to Furnart and they assembled it and even added the cushion. It is the fanciest beggar's skateboard in town. We were so elated to get it delivered today. Smiles are always the greatest reward.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Birthday Time

To Bryan

        The year is winding down and fall is upon us, at least somewhere in the world. As this day winds to a close in Africa Bryan's mom and dad send the very best of birthday greetings to number three son. Bryan is now as old as Jack Benny. He may have to look up that relationship. Bryan hasthe good humor and bright smile of a good comedian. I know, I know, that wasn't Jack Benny's persona but it is Bryan's. Bryan usually sees more good in people than they see in themselves and is more forgiving than so many. These are credits that set him apart. Even though most see him dancing to the beat of his own drum we think it is what makes him unique. Sometimes it's hard to see that.

        He was born in 1976, America's Bicentenial. We wanted to name him after his two grandfathers. He could have been Benjamin Franklin Wade but that irony in the Bicentenial year seemed a little too much. So Bryan Christopher was chosen instead. I think maybe that patriotism rubbed off a little. Both of his grandfathers would have been proud of his ROTC experience and his love of scouting. He even achieved the Order of the Arrow after his Eagle and still loves the program and has had scout leader responsibilities.

        He served his church mission in San Paulo, Brazil, loving the people and the Portuguese language. Like his dad with his German if Bry hears Portuguese his ears perk up and colored lights start flashing.

        He loves games and Batman and Kymberlee, maybe she wonders who is first, and Jayden, Tanner and Ethan. Bryan loves life. There is no doubt about that. Happy, happy birthday. We love you so much.