Annual IJM retreat

Climbed the tallest mountain in Ghana, fed a wild monkey, and ate Jollof for Thanksgiving.

They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Africa. They don’t eat turkey or stuffing or pumpkin pie. And you don’t get the day off.

Instead, Wednesday through Friday this week was our annual IJM staff retreat. We travelled 3 hours outside Accra to a city called Ho (seriously).

We had teaching, worship, games, a poolside dance party with a live band of Ghanaian police officers (in uniform).

On Thanksgiving day we took a trip a couple hours further north and visited the monkey sanctuary. I bought 35 bananas for about $1.20, determined to feed a monkey. But carrying this huge load of bananas through a monkey sanctuary soon became a liability. I don’t know what i was expecting, maybe some kind of more controlled environment like a zoo, or perhaps encountering one slow moving timid monkey at a time that I slowly befriend with a banana?

But you see, that’s now how it is when you enter an African monkey sanctuary with 35 bananas. It was terrifying! They just came on us suddenly from every direction. They were lightning fast. They were sneaky. They were everywhere.

One came charging down a branch out of the heights and leaped like 12 feet in the air between trees right over my head (like just a few feet over me). I freaked out and through a banana to Gregg, our legal fellow and that high-flying monkey leaped from the tree onto his shoulder and ate the banana. I quickly distributed them to the IJM staff, not just out of the goodness of my heart, but also out of some primal instinct to not be the target of every wild monkey in the jungle.

I eventually worked up enough nerve to coax one onto my shoulder, but as you can see, I was not relaxed, at all!

But hey, I did it and got a picture!

Then we climbed the highest mountain in Ghana. We started at 900 feet and climbed to over 3000 in about 52 minutes.

These are the 3 Americans in the office. Gregg is our legal fellow. Naana is our aftercare intern.

Matt and Leo, the two IJM Osofos (pastors)

On the way down with Patrick, our IT guru

This is Ade. He sits across from me in the office and makes me laugh. He is part Nigerian and loves to tell jokes in Nigerian Pidgin English, or broken English. “Ade body dey mell! Dat boy need showa giddy giddy!”

Everyone who attempted the climb succeeded. I was stunned by the determination of our oldest members of our team.

I felt pretty homesick and missed all the thanksgiving food and family.

But here is what I am thankful for. .

An amazing team to work with

A life full of adventure and laughter

Meaningful work

Safety and health

My loved ones back home in good old California that I will see in a month

My family to return to that saved me a plate from an embassy celebration.

My Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who is faithful and never ceases to surprise me by going everywhere I go, before I get there.

Matt

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