Saturday, August 23, 2008

Peace on the Mountain Top

"Logba Tota"
The very name of the place makes my heart feel calm. Of all the places I've trod upon this earth, Logba Tota is the one that I equate with peace.

The view of "upstairs Logba" from Fount Hill. The church building is near the top of the hill, just left of center.

I first visited Logba in 2001, during my first visit to Ghana. We drove several hours from the coastal city of Tema, passed over the bridge at the Akosambo Dam, and eventually arrived in a small village. I thought we'd arrived -- only to discover that we were only "downstairs" from our destination. We were at the base of a mountain; we were heading up the mountain to the "upstairs" village! I've since been back to Logba nearly every time I've gone to Ghana. It's my favorite place -- for many reasons.

The road twisted and turned as we snaked up the side of that mountain. We passed thickets of bamboo, groves of cocoa trees with bean pods hanging heavy, and the bases of huge silk cotton trees -- and as we climbed higher and higher, we'd encounter the tops of those same silk cotton trees. My ears popped as we drove even higher, the engine of the van whining in earnest, catching another gear as the road became steeper.

We made one final hairpin turn and began climbing the drive to Fount Hill, the home of Chief Togbe Takyi VI that is used as a mission house in Logba. The driver put the van in park, I'm sure the engine was grateful for a rest!

I jumped out of the van, eager to relive old memories and make new ones. Twirling around in the yard with my arms spread wide, I just wanted to hug the place to my heart!

The house hadnt changed a bit. It's wide tiled porch wrapped around the front and one side; the tiles always felt cool and welcoming. Many times I've sat on that porch, laughing and talking with friends, getting my hair braided, sharing confidences with a girlfriend or two... once my friend Barb and I even spent the night out on that porch, just communing with God in the night air, listening to the night sounds of the rainforest jungle.

As it is with all growing things, small trees had become larger ones. Much of the view of Lake Volta in the far distance was obscured now, but I managed to walk between the trees and peek through the leaves in time to see the sun glinting gold on the water at the very edge of the horizon. I was reminded of another sunset, another time, in which the power of the Holy Spirit was present in so much beauty that we were all amazed by the glory, and we fell to worshipping God spontaneously.

That realization that God is amazing and beautiful and mighty and glorious -- and deserves all praise and honor -- is part of what makes Logba such a special place. Never have I felt or seen or experienced the Holy Spirit any deeper than at Logba Tota. The Spirit is just **there** -- you can almost reach out and hold God's hand, it feels that real.

From the home atop Fount Hill, one can look out any direction across wide valleys and over to the next mountainsides. Small villages dot the jungle; at night you can see the lights glowing from those villages. Some of those lights are electric now...but many are still firelight. At night, it's like seeing a thick, velvety blanket sprinkled with golden sequins, sparkling in the moonlight.

The closest village to the house is "upstairs" Logba Tota. I've been in this village many times. We've enjoyed ministering there through vacation bible schools and crusades in times past. I noticed this year that most homes now have electric lights. I recalled a 3-night crusade we had in the center of town seven years ago.. We preached by the light of one small incandescent light bulb dangling from a pole -- at that time there were only 2 houses wired for electricity in the whole town.

The buildings in this village are built literally on the mountainside. Homes made of masonry or sheets of tin perch on rocky ledges. Narrow rocky paths wind around steep hills to other homes and the church. Some of the paths are so steep that rough steps have been hewn out of the rock face of the mountain. This particular evening, we were going to be speaking at our church there. Christ Harvests the Nations planted this church here several years ago. The building -- which is fairly new --sits way up high, near the very top of the mountain, and the path leading to it is very narrow and steep. I struggled to make it. My asthma kicked in terribly, and I had to stop twice to use my emergency inhaler. Two men -- one on either side of me -- held me up as we slowly climbed that hill. I was gulping in air as best I could. I was very weak when I finally got to the church -- but the action inside soon breathed new life into me!

Church service was in full swing when we arrived. It was nighttime, I think about 10 pm when we began making our way up the hill. We could hear the praise long before we actually arrived. The drums were throbbing, the shakeres were rattling, the voices were raised in praise, and I was eager to get into the middle of it all! The church was packed with people -- men, women, and children -- all praising God with all they had to give! Ladies danced, waving colorful handkerchiefs; the babies tied to their backs bounced along with them in their dance (some sleeping peacefully). Then the men took a turn, their feet pounding the floor of the church in perfect time. The drums beat so rhythmic, so pulsing, it was impossible to be still. That beat just begins to pound into your blood, into your very soul, throughout your whole body -- like a stone hitting water and rippling throughout the whole pond.

(Now that I am home again, I dont hear drums like that. But if I close my eyes, and sit very still and focus my mind on that faraway hilltop, I can drift back into that rhythm, and my mind faintly hears the kettle drums, shakeres, and djembes and I just want to sway with the beat, losing myself in primal worship of God our Creator.)

We spoke that evening at the church. When Rev. James introduced me he said, "MomAnita has returned to Logba because she knows you have something special here. And she brought a HUSBAND with her!" Well, the whole crowd cheered and applauded at that! The Reverend went on, "To MomAnita, there IS no Ghana without LOGBA!" He's right -- it is Logba that my heart yearns to return, year after year! And then -- because he had been one of the men helping me climb that mountain and knew what a difficult time I'd had he said, "She'd rather die climbing this mountain to share Jesus with you, than be asleep in her comfortable bed!"

What a profound statement!
I hadnt thought about it being a choice to climb that mountain or not. It was a part of the trip that I *wanted* to do more than anything! But his words stayed with me and will continue to be a reminder in years to come. I mean, climbing that mountain -- in the dark -- took almost every ounce of strength I had! It was hard, rocky terrain -- the slopes were so steep it was very difficult to manage. It was night time (at home by that time I'd have been in bed!). And yet, Rev. James had just remarked that I'd rather die getting to them to share Jesus than be comfortably sleeping at home. But I wanted to share Jesus with those people. I wanted to share their worship. I wanted to share with THEM, to breathe that same air, to hug each one of them, to love them like God has told me to love them! To just BE a part of it all!

How many times do we feel that way? How often do we really go out of our way to share Jesus with another person? How many times have we felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to speak about Jesus, only to clam up because we worried about what someone would think of us if we talked about God? I know I'm guilty of smothering that nudge to share, for fear of how it might be received. Would I go way out of my comfort zone (get out of my comfortable bed & climb a mountain in the middle of the night) to share Jesus with a stranger? I did, and it was wonderful!!

It's a challenge! Being a follower of Jesus Christ is ALWAYS a challenge, but it's a BEAUTIFUL challenge! It will move you beyond what is comfortable for you; it will stretch you beyond where you think you can go. But just as there were strong people assisting me as I climbed that mountain that night, God always sends His strong help when we face challenges. Especially when those challenges are in His name or to His glory!

Pastor Johnson translated for me as I preached at Christ Harvests the Nations in Logba Tota.

I have more to say about Logba Tota, but for now I will leave you with a question. How far have you stepped out of YOUR comfort zone for Christ? How far are you willing to go?
I promise you that if you tell God that you'll follow him wherever He leads, you'll never regret it! You'll be challenged, that's for sure, but you'll love every moment of it!!

Blessings, love, & peace,
Anita <><

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