Expectations of Challenges

In the lead-up to moving to Ghana, I tried to get a handle on the challenges we would face.  I now find myself reflecting on how my expectations match or don’t match reality.  Analysis below:
Heat and humidity : it is pretty hot and humid, but tolerable in the shade.  I think it will be hotter in March. It is actually already getting hotter, but…

VERDICT: it is better than I expected.  I guess I was braced for living in an oven.

Traffic/congestion/chaos on streets: 

There is a lot of traffic and people sell things on the streets through taxi windows, but mostly they are not pushy and very polite.  Most people seem to follow traffic rules and obey stop lights, etc.  I have seen much worse in Cairo, Amman, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Rome, and downtown Los Angeles

VERDICT: way better than expected

Mosquitoes: I get bit everyday, but the Mosquitoes are small and the bites don’t bother me as much as the ones in the states.  Now, this is very different for Hannah.  Her bites on her leg become very big and itchy.  We have creams to help. 

VERDICT: better than expected, except for Hannah it is much worse.  We are working on that.

Air quality
I have been in much worse in Cairo and Kolkata but since no one mentioned the air quality here, I did not even think of it beforehand. I have read that we are here in the season where dust blows south from the Sahara and that is what I think I am experiencing.  I seem to be the only one affected by it or noticing.  Last night I think someone was burning trash nearby.

VERDICT: Worse than expected.

Feeling lost/getting around

This is going great!  The combination and prevalence of competent taxi drivers and the functionality of Google maps with GPS tracking is making this a breeze!  I am also growing greatly in my friendly bartering skills with Taxi drivers.  My next line to try “20 cedis for this route?!?!?!  What do you think I am, an Obroni (white man)?”  I predict they laugh and knock it down to 15 cedis.

VERDICT: way better than expected

Being constantly asked for money

There is definitely a lot of need here and there are people on the streets asking for money through car windows, but they have been so polite and delighted when my kids smile and wave at them that they switch into fun conversation mode. They are so polite and non-pushy that Hannah remarked yesterday that she has been surprised that there are no people in Ghana asking for money, like people told her.  She says there are more in Davis.  We are happy that we can ease her and the others into seeing and understanding and caring for the needs around us, without the kids feeling overwhelmed by requests.

VERDICT: way better than expected


I have loved the food so far, though we have not yet tried traditional Ghanaian food.  We’ve had great Turkish food twice and I finally had Lamancu  (la-mahn-ju) for the first time since I was in Turkey in 2003. Great! We’ve also had a shirt of shawarma wrap and a burger.  Kids have found Mac and cheese, pizza, etc.  Breakfasts have included scrambled eggs, waffles, French toast, etc. We are drinking lots of tropical fruit smoothies and eating lots of mangoes ND banannas.

VERDICT: incomplete, I want to say great, but I feel I have not yet ventured out of my comfort zone. 


I wondered if all our luggage would arrive, and in one piece.  Mostly, it did!  Once plastic bin arrived shattered (the only one of that brand), but they kept all the pieces and 3 men carried it out by hand to me.  One bin went missing but arrived on the next flight 24 hours later. I waited at the airport for 2 hours, but got it.  Some bins had been searched by TSA, but all were re-zip-tied.

VERDICT: better than expected!

I once was lost, but now I’m found!


I wondered how my kids would fare in their first introduction to a very different land.  They amaze me!  They have great attitudes most of the time!  They are resilient and strong and wonderful.  There is laughing and joking and playing. Of course there is also whining and bickering, but not more so than in the past.   My kids are brave and creative and awesome.  They have dealt with a lot.  I thought Hannah would flip about the lizard in our room.  But after a couple minutes, she said, oh, whatever and ignored it.

Hannah’s designer dress!

A knight ready to slay Dragon Dana

Housing search:

I think we found a house!  It was kind of overwhelming when we were going around with a local real estate person, but then a life-long missionary (23 years in this city), came to our rescue, spent 6 hours with us, fed us in her house, showed us the house she would choose, and BAM, we’re taking it (way cheaper and way better than what we had been shown earlier by the agent).  Thank you God!  The one obstacle was security, but IJM investigations staff (a 30 year veteran American police officer and a 20 year veteran of Ghanaian military) gave us a long list of security improvements on the house we should make, that when done will meet their standards.

One thing I will forever be grateful is the help of Dana Armstrong, whom I have known for 9 years and who has volunteered a month to be with us here and help us get our lives up and running.  As I write this, she is watching our kids while Joy and I spend the morning at a coffee shop, praying, Journaling, blogging, and discussing what we need to do.  Thank you God and thank you Dana!

Blessings to you all!  Please do comment on these posts as it let’s me know that people are reading, which inspires me to keep writing!

We love you all!

33 thoughts on “Expectations of Challenges

  1. So grateful you are there and that most every aspect of your new life is “better than expected.” Praying for the 5 for Freedom–for continued adjustment, for safety and security, and for God-ordained experiences that will stretch and grow each of you for greater service in the Kingdom. Grace and Peace!


  2. That’s a great report, Matt! We just “discovered” you on YouTube! That’s when it hit us again how much we miss you. We are thrilled and excited that you are where you should be. AND miss you very much!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for these posts, Matt! We’re glad you are making a good transition and with a positive attitude. Keep that spirit of adventure!


  4. It iis so good to hear from both you and Joy in these postings. The two perspectives are helpful to a mom/ grandma who is far away and misses you all.


  5. Dear Matt: I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I went to bed wondering about your housing situation and woke up to find that you have one. It’s great to hear that you and Joy have already found a coffee house for caffeine, conversation and blog composition! Keep posting pics as well. Loved seeing through the windshield of the taxi. I’ll be praying for Hannah as she gets accustomed to the mosquitos! Looking forward to more news.


  6. Thanks for the update! Praise God that there were more “better than expected” experiences than you thought there’d be. God is good!


  7. Hi Matt,

    I enjoy reading your posts and it keeps me up on how to pray for you and your family. Thank you for serving us in Ghana with IJM.




  8. Thanks for all the information about new beginnings that aren’t as hard as expected mostly. You didn’t include the initial sleep deprivation so you’ve recovered from that probably! Keep up the posts when the timing works for you. Prayers for all of you, especially those mosquito bites! Lorell


  9. I enjoy reading your updates. Several times, I wanted to click the ‘like’ button–am I too used to Facebook? It sounds like things are going well–we pray that that continues. Hi to Joy, Hannah, Peter, Abigail and Dana from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am a friend of Jodi’s and am loving reading your updates. Please keep them coming! I am praying for you and your family and am amazed at your faith and strength. Thank you for all the good you are doing in Ghana! I’m excited to follow along on your journey!


  11. Love to hear and read of your God-inspired adventures. I am in amazement as a mom of three I feel like just getting them all in the car is a challenge and you’ve both taken them to Ghana!!!! Prayers to you both!!


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