I am the proud husband of the champion of church Joy Robbins! 🙂 Explanation below…
Last Sunday, I was a guest preacher at a traditional Anglican Church here in Accra Ghana. It went well! Mostly.
- I woke up at 4:40am, got decked out in my only suit (which is unfortunately made of wool and I live at the equator and it’s the hottest season), and found that my favorite Taxi driver arrived at my house right on time at 5:20. This amazed me. His name is Yaw Mensah and I met him last Sunday when he drove me home from church and proved himself to be an excellent Twi teacher. I have turned every Taxi ride into a Twi language lesson! He taught me a couple of key Twi phrases he said I should throw into my sermon…which I did, trusting that he was not pranking me!
- Made it to church at 6am, checked in, and entered the 6:15 service as part of the formal processional.
- Around 7, I learned of a change of plans and I would only preach at the 9 am service, which I did my best to just roll with, saying “I’m here to serve.” Though, I’ll admit that inwardly I was thinking, “Man, I could have slept 3 more hours!” My family arrived at 9am, while the first service was still going (finished at 9:30) and they were called up front to be introduced to the congregation. I was worried my kids would really hate that and refuse, but I was so grateful they rolled with it and even said their names into the microphones (3 times each) when they were asked! This was repeated at the next service and again, they nailed it.
- Mercifully, I was only asked to preach at this service (the previous week, I was massively out of my element- see an earlier post)
- The sermon went well! I think. I greeted the church with the Tax driver’s words “Me Ma Mo achiyo” (spelled phonetically, I have no idea the proper spelling), meaning “Good Morning (addressed to a group)!” They understood and seemed to delight in this, so I dropped the 2nd phrase from the Taxi driver, “Enay Yebeka Nyame Asm” (Today we preach the Word of God)! This drew smiles and cheers. Thank you Taxi driver for this lesson (and for not pranking me by making me say something crazy like “Don’t listen to me, I am a crazy man.” Of course, I hadn’t paid my taxi yet, since he was waiting to take me home, so I kind of knew he would not mess with me.
- Reggie was so great to have as my translator. He is such a laid-back guy that he puts everyone at ease, while also being a very fun “life-of-the-party” type. Everyone at the church seems to love him. So he and I were able to banter and joke and build off each other as I preached. Occasionally, he would stop in the middle and teach me a word in Ga (while Twi has become the most common language spoken after English, Ga is the traditional language of Accra and of this church) and make me practice in the middle of the sermon! Of course, this was after I made him translate “Reggie is the most beautiful man in the world” just to mess with him.
- I preached on the lectionary text on Jesus’ baptism- describing the way satan seeks to put idols on our hearts such as money, power, and reputation. When we worship these things we commit the sin of idolatry, which I argued always leads us to the other category of sin, injustice. For example, if we love money more than God, we will be more willing to harm one of God’s children to get that money, than if our love for God is leading us to love people. This made the connection to IJM’s work against slavery. I showed some photos and explained the situation of the boys on lake Volta that are victims of human trafficking and forced child labor in hazardous conditions. This fired up Reggie and gave him the segue (which I think was unplanned) to introduce to the church for the first time a major Anglican project to build a home for rescued boys from Lake Volta! We’ve been discussing this with him for a while. Its the reason why we first met, but it seems this was the moment he unveiled it to this congregation, also announcing that their associate pastor was named one of 4 priests to help coordinate the effort! The congregation cheered enthusiastically and I think there was a lot of enthusiasm.
- I then concluded the sermon by calling them heroes in this struggle and promising that we at IJM would pray for them and encourage them as they do this wonderful work.
- It seems Reggie has promised the congregation that I will be back regularly over the next 2 years as I am doing a sort of learning/teaching program with the Anglican church during my time here. I think I’ll roll with it.
- Then came the offering. Man, offering here is an experience! Dancing, marching, loud African music. Multiple rounds! Even friendly competition! I promised I would explain how Joy won that trophy in church. Here goes…
- On this particular Sunday, it was decided that people would dance up to the front and give their offering in 7 different groups, depending on the day of the week they were born. Everyone knows the day of the week they were born here, because it becomes one of their names. I am sometimes called Kwame here because I was born on Saturday. The IJM drivers all call me Osofo Kwame (Pastor Saturday). Joy is Amma because she is also born on Saturday. Well, when it came time for Saturday-born to give offering, Joy and I jumped up and joined our fellow Kwames and Ammas and danced whole-heartedly down one aisle and back up the other- putting some offering in the plate. (Note: my dancing apparently has been discussed in Anglican circles because I was at a separate event days later and heard someone who wasn’t there say “I heard about your dancing!” I choose to take that as a compliment.) Well, the offerings were counted and it was announced that the Saturday-born had given the most, so we were all called up front and presented with the trophy! Joy was selected to receive it on behalf of Kwames and Ammas everywhere. We took pictures, had a special prayer for our group, and took our seats. Joy was blushing big time as she held the trophy for the rest of the service and then at the end (about 1:30pm) marched out with the rest of the priests, acolytes, choir, etc in the recessional!
- After church, the ever-hospitable hosts took us to a local restaurant owned by a church member for a quick 10 minute snack that took a couple hours, but was very good and very generous. Then Yaw Mensah took us home, as I regaled him the tale multiple times of how his Twi phrases went over in the sermon, much to his delight.
- We all returned home almost 10 hours after I left for church that morning, exhausted, but grateful. God is good.
- At some point the night before, I remembered something and was at ease. It was this: I was not going to “make a presentation to strangers.” I was going to worship God with my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I love the church, and they are the church, and Jesus is in their midst.