June 21, 2013

leaving. friends. Ghana

"God has created man lofty and noble, made him a dominant factor in creation. He has specialized man with supreme bestowals, conferred upon him mind, perception, memory, abstraction and the powers of the senses. These gifts of God to man were intended to make him the manifestation of divine virtues, a radiant light in the world of creation, a source of life and the agency of constructiveness in the infinite fields of existence."
~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 352

Emil Ampong (aka World Peace) with his keyhole garden
if anyone has moved from one country to another, it involves more than packing and arranging one's necessary documents.  there is a much deeper process at work.  it involves reflecting on all that was experienced, the highs and the lows, the good and the bad, while constantly wondering about the new land and culture about to be discovered..

as i prepare to move once again, this time from Ghana to Kenya, my thoughts and actions are centered upon those souls with whom i have been blessed to meet and know well.  despite the difficulties i faced living here, and the challenges which came from everyday life in a developing country, i met many beautiful gems of souls who i will miss and remember with gratitude and joy.  these souls enabled my journey in Ghana to be woven with a thread of joy..

while sitting on a small, wooden chair with the children's class recently, i began observing the young souls sitting around the table.  they are a sample of what life is like here for most children.  one child had his toes hanging over his sandals and the other had very worn sneakers without socks.  two were tending to their younger sibling like parents instead of being able to be just children.  they struggle and bear their difficulties quietly.  they take a broken pencil tip and use a plain razor to carve out a new point.  they all have the sweetest smiles but need a lot of encouragement and ability to make them laugh before they will smile for a camera.  they are taught to respect adults in a way of always deferring so they find it difficult to speak what they think or feel.  most attend public schools which are shamefully inadequate in every way, so their educational experience falls far behind those of the middle and upper classes of the world.  as the girls become jr. youth, they are expected to help with their mother's work (usually selling goods) so their free time is very limited, while the boys are mostly free to roam around and play football most of the time (making it easier for boys to attend jr. youth groups than girls no matter how much the mothers agree to a time that is supposed to be best).  they all wear uniforms to school and feel proud to attend school.  they share and take care of each other most of the time because adult supervision is not a common reality..

the children i have come to love dearly have that indescribable African spirit which radiates through them in gentle and all-pervasive ways.  in a similar way amongst the Xhosa children, it took many months of being ever so patient with their quiet, non-responsive manner of engaging in dialogue before the friendships were able to blossom.  in addition to being able to trust me, i feel that most of the children growing up in poverty have not been able to develop their self-esteem well enough.  the complexity of the relationship involves me being white, but more than any other factor, i believe they haven't received unconditional love from the society around them.  this is the magnet and glue which has served to bond us.  my love for them is what brings out the joyful radiance when we are together.  i truly see the Beauty of God in them; when i look into their eyes and connect with them at the soulful level they can feel it..their soul responds to it.  this is how i live here: spreading the love of God from my heart to others' hearts, one soul at a time, until relationships turn into friendships and eternal bonds of spiritual unity..

from left to right: Jude, Magdelene, Emil, Eunice & Gideon
hanging out with the junior youth is pure delight.  we have shared so many moments of joy and laughter, of thoughtful reflections and sharings, as well as devotions full of singing, drumming and reciting.  i am in the process of interviewing each of them on the camera video, asking them what they remember most about our 2 years together.  when we had our last group session, i asked them what they have learned since being in the group.  their comments included responses like: it is better to prefer others before yourself;  be more kind to everyone, not just people like yourself; and strive for excellence.  one told me a story of how he now had a good friend who was Muslim (he is a Christian).  listening to their responses was quite touching; i felt as if they really are learning the principles of spiritual education even though they didn't talk too much in most of the sessions.  i recently received a card full of hearts and expressions of love from Magdelene; she is one of the most amazing girls i have ever met because of her love for God, purity of heart and insightful mind...

saying goodbye to the Kayanja family
our family was also blessed to meet 2 families at school who are from Uganda.  our 3 families supported each other through the difficulties we all faced from how Ghana functions as a whole.  we developed friendships that will last a lifetime.  meeting them was the best part of attending BIS Ghana.  we lifted our spirits by encouraging each other through tests and difficulties, reminding each other of the blessings that come when we bear and endure.  i would listen to their stories and no longer feel alone in my struggle to deal with how things occur here.

our family grew much closer together these past two years because we spent most of our time at home after work and school.  when we first moved here we felt adventurous.  we drove out to the 'botanical gardens', up the coast to a beach 'resort', and on the other side of the city through hectic traffic to visit a junior youth group.  after experiencing congested roads and poor quality attractions we lost our interest in exploring further throughout the regions of Ghana.  except for a weekly trip to eat at a restaurant, we found nothing to do in Accra.  there were no parks with grass to have a picnic, or a clean and free stretch of beach to enjoy the ocean.  it has been only recently that we discovered DUNK, the NGO dedicated to improving the lives of kids through basketball.  we started bringing the kids and enjoying the community spirit of our boys playing basketball with the local kids who were part of the program.  those experiences are my favorite because it's all about relationship building, character development and having fun together.
DUNK tournament

looking back at how we felt limited in terms of traveling throughout Ghana i can see how it benefited us; we were able to develop closer relationships with our neighbors because we were around all the time.  i would take a walk to buy groceries and hang out.  before long i was known as 'aunty Pamela' instead of 'obruni' (white person).  i became a part of the neighborhood.  this is where most of the acts of service to God were shared -- singing with children, building trust with the jr. youth, playing soccer with everyone, bringing baked goodies to share, offering devotions in our home, listening to stories and the hardships of life, and developing a garden to grow food.  i enjoyed driving and riding my bike on the terracotta-colored dirt roads, buying local dishes on the side of the road, watching the goats play, having children run up to our car window and give us a pounded fist with a bright smile, and being surrounded by beautiful patterns on clothes and in the stores all throughout the city.

these memories are what i'll remember most about Ghana..

enjoying academic success of our children with the Kayanja family at the BIS graduation

Nwando, our next door neighbor from Nigeria, and our guards, Melvyn & Uncle Fred

Baha'i friends
kids building a keyhole garden

hanging clothes to dry

kuri kuri

inside a ripe cocoa pod

Ama with Sholomite sleeping on her lap
Augustin, our driver, and Uncle Fred, our guard
sister Grace and her family - they owned the local grocery store down the road
Boadi Ampong - last time together saying goodbye, in front of the maize field
Emil being silly wearing his sister's glasses
we shared such a kinship; it was very hard to say goodbye to Monica
Joshua Ampong, one of the cutest boys in the world :)
Gideon, our first neighbor friend who became part of our family
Eric and Joshua on the compound wall where they live
little Joshua in his jammies feeling proud of their keyhole garden
Monica showing me what was growing in the garden
Emil took care of Joshua with kindness and joy all of the time
Catherine Ampong getting her hair braided
just before leaving Accra
our last hugs

though it was difficult living in Ghana most of the time, it was never difficult to share these friendships.  God puts people on our path wherever we live.  i feel most blessed to have met these friends because i am a richer person for knowing them..

June 12, 2013

a day with DUNK

our son, Dyami, was invited by DUNK (Developing Unity, Nurturing Knowledge) to play in one of their tournaments for the 12 and under team.  this was such an exciting invitation for Dyami because he loves basketball and wishes that he was able to be a part of what DUNK is doing.  since we are leaving Ghana soon, it was the perfect opportunity for him to experience being part of a team and playing a competitive game.

in between games the team sometimes warmed up by passing the ball to each other.  the boys on the team were very kind and brotherly to Dyami.  the coach played him a lot even though he wasn't as good as some of the other players because he knew this was Dyami's only chance to play with the team.  the team won both their games with ease, and Dyami went home feeling like he made new friends and is ready to be on a team in Nairobi when school begins this autumn.

these girls were singing and dancing on the sidelines to cheer on their team
what i loved about hanging out at the DUNK tournament was the infectious spirit of joy that pervaded the event.  a dj played all kinds of good Ghanaian songs that made the kids sing and dance.  the speakers were so big and so loud that it felt like a basketball party instead of just a competition.

team spirit is always such a beautiful thing

sweeping the court, Ghanaian style

June 01, 2013

'nobility is yours' ~ video

nobility is our God-given station.  it is the station of our soul.  it transcends all other stations.  it is our destiny as a human race..

i love the gems of oneness in this video!