Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hungry Hungry Hippos

(author's note: i realize that 3 months is a long time for us to go without posting, but we've been out of town, and tired, and pretty much lazy. the hiatus is over. for now.)

No matter what type of faith you belong to, if any, you probably have some preconceived notions about what church is like. In my own mind, I have notions of what it SHOULD be like. But those are never realized because the church is made up of screwed up people. Maybe that's why it's so cool for me to be a part of one. Something inside me likes messiness.

It became clearly evident to me on a Sunday morning across the world that everything I though about church should be thrown out the window.

Early morning Sunday, we wake up to go to a church service. Joel is asked to deliver the sermon the night before. This is very strange to Joel, because part of his job is to make sure everyone knows what happens in church weeks before it ever happens. The church building feels like it's rural Mississippi in the 1950's summertime. Everyone has fans. All the doors and windows are open. It's also hot.

There are songs that I'm relatively familiar with. Old hymns. Not like "Just As I Am" old. More like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" old. The men sit on one side while the women sit on the other.

Church in Ghana is really a challenge to see how focused you are. At least it is for me. There are women breast feeding in the middle of the church service. Yes that's right. People are walking by the building and yelling.

The prayer time is the best. When Ghanains pray, it's like an auctioneer going off with everyone else yelling their own prayers. But it lasts for a while. There's improvisation. There's a spirit that is unbelievably real. It dawns on me that my definition of group prayer is very limited.

Later on in the afternoon, we take a group of Ghanains from the church further in the North to see the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary. You paddle up the Volta River on the Ghana/Burkina Faso border to see Hippos in their natural habitat. We keep a good distance away. When they come up for air they spray water like a geyser. It's scary to see just eyes and a large nose out of the water.

On the way back, our guide laughs at us when we ask if anyone has ever been harmed by the hippos. He relents and says no, but he doesn't sound too convincing.

Also on the way back, one church member sees a fisherman come out of the river with his catch. She buys it right there on the spot, and she keeps it in a sack on the van as we drive back...for an hour. The smell is hideous, but her smile is very large when she thinks about the fact that dinner tonight will be quite different that what they normally eat. It seems that food options are one of the many things I take for granted.

Today has been different than any other. But to watch church through different eyes, and to be frightened by giant images of God's diverse creation has been an experience I am happy to be a part of.

But tomorrow we visit another town.

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