We spent a lot of this day on the road. We were invited to a couple of different church plant areas that are part of Christ Harvests the Nations. In these rural areas, wherever they plant a church they also start a school.
Our first stop was at Labo Labo, whose pastor is Ted Heavenway. (Yes, that's his real name! Often Ghanaian pastors will change their names to reflect their Christian beliefs.) Bishop James met us there, along with Chief Takyi. The pastor shared with us that the church school began with 10 kids but after 4 months they had 46 children enrolled. They meet under a palm-roof, seated on wooden benches on a dirt floor; the three classrooms are divided by tarps strung from the ceiling. This building doubles as a church building for services.
Pastor Heavenway explained that while 46 children were enrolled, they all did not always attend. Some days, the children are needed to work on the farms to help support their families. Another deterrent is that the church and school building are across a very busy road, and the people have to dodge heavy traffic in order to attend. Indeed, as we were visiting we saw several large trucks and cars speeding by -- it is indeed a hazard. Most towns have zebra lines and speed bumps to force people to slow down, but there are none in Labo Labo. Believe me, with Ghanaian traffic, you can be taking your life in your own hands trying to cross a busy road!
We asked the Pastor what his top three priorities were for the school at Labo Labo.
He said the number one need was the zebra stripes and speed bumps for the safety of the children. This would cost 200 Ghana Cedis (less than $150 USD).
The second need was for a more permanent structure. The concrete blocks would cost about 3000 Ghana Cedis (about $2100 USD). He indicated that the community would provide the labor to construct the facility.
Teacher salaries are also on the list; this school pays about 30 Ghana Cedis (about $21 USD) per month to the three teachers. Currently, their salaries are paid by fees collected from the students; but sometimes they are not paid because the families cannot always afford to pay the fees.
We talked with the pastor some more, and our team sang some songs with the students. Before we left, a team member had partnered with us to provide the money needed for the zebra stripes and speed bumps. We are thankful for this generous heart who now "has a speed bump in Africa" providing a safer walk to church and school for many people.
Since we had another invitation, we were not able to stay long. We boarded the bus and began driving to the town of Dzodze -- pronounced "jo - jeh" -- almost like a twangy "Georgia". We asked how long a drive -- and were told about an hour. An African hour is about ...oh.... 2 and a half, maybe 3 sixty-minute spans. You never know exactly how long you're going to be on the road, nor if you're going to be having regularly scheduled meals.
We stopped back by the house in Ho and ate some lunch, then continued toward Dzodze. Seemed to me like we rode forever! At last, we stopped by the side of the road. Bishop James wanted to show us a mango farm that Christ Harvests had recently established in order to raise funds to pay its pastors. The 17-acre plot of land had been cleared and a crop of corn had been raised; then they planted the mangos. The first harvest will come off in about 3 years.
Back on the bus -- the town of Dzodze was only another 5 minutes away. Christ Harvests has a church and school meeting in a more permanent structure here. The tin roofed, concrete building housed about 120 children in the nursery, kindergarten, first and second grades. Five teachers serve along with Pastor Wisdom. They serve one meal each day to the students. We noticed that this facility made good use of rainwater harvesting, with guttering and downspouts draining into a huge hand-dug cistern.
Chief Takyi introduced us and we visited a few minutes with the teachers and staff before going outside with the children. We gave them a soccer ball and some other supplies. The team again sang songs with the children. We learned from our conversation with the pastor and teachers that their single biggest need was appropriate toilet facilities. Their second need was for a vehicle to help bring children to the school. Third and fourth priorities for them were land and a permanent structure for a larger facility to serve as church and school.
Time was getting late; we waved good-bye to the kids as we boarded the bus and headed back to Ho for the evening.
Sometimes we face frustrations here. The time factor is always an issue -- we from the US tend to be very focused on using our available time, but our African friends are not that concerned about it. (There was an article in today's Ghana Daily Graphic newspaper about this very issue). And to them, driving 2 or 3 hours is no big deal -- but to us, it is almost an ordeal. And sometimes I feel as though we spend so much time traveling from place to place that we don't get to spend quality time with the children.
Another issue is with utilities. Electricity and water may go off, at any time and stay off for quite a while. This happened at the house in Ho: the water was off for about a day. While I can see that this is improving in Ghana, it does still occur. And to visitors it can be a real aggravation. (I am remembering the "rolling blackouts" they had a few years back. Electricity was off for 12-hour periods every three days. I'm grateful THAT practice has stopped!)
Back in Ho for the evening; we asked about going to a service at Pastor Thywill's church, but none were scheduled. So we relaxed and planned for tomorrow's trip to Logba Tota.