Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ghana at Last!

            I would like to start this blog by mentioning several ways that God has blessed us since we have left the US. First, none of our checked bags (we had 9 large bags, 1 car seat in a box, and 1 stroller) were lost, delayed, or damaged on any of our flights (and we unloaded in the country where the missionary conference was, in Accra, and again in Tamale, and there was a total of 3 layovers). Second, we have been charged much less for excess baggage than what we were anticipating. Third, we received abundant help from flight attendants, airport personnel, and perfect strangers as we have traveled with two little children, 3 bookbags, 1 diaper bag, 1 car seat, and 3 duffle bags through airports and on and off airplanes multiple times. Fourth, we found a car (details below). Fifth, a new acquaintance that we met in Accra the first night we arrived offered to drive our large amount of luggage up to Tamale the next morning, which saved us hundreds of dollars of excess baggage fees. Other missionaries on the hospital compound then picked up all of the luggage from Tamale and brought it up to Nalerigu so that it was all there when we arrived. Sixth, our house went under contract 3-4 days before we left the US, and the closing papers were signed a few days ago. Seventh, our passports were stamped by the immigration department in Ghana within 1 week (it usually takes 3-4 months, and we would have been without our passports for that period of time). Eighth, our youngest, Abigail, developed a fever of >102 degrees within a day of arriving in Nalerigu, and we could not figure out a source for it. After much prayer, by us and people back in the States, the fever disappeared without treatment, and she has been well since. Abigail has also started to sit up on her own. These are just a few of the big ways, among many others, that God has blessed us in the past few weeks.

            So we arrived in Ghana during the first part of May, and we spent nearly a week in the capital, Accra. During that time, we met many missionaries at the guesthouse where we were staying. Some were from the US, some from Nigeria, and others were from Ghana. Rebekah also made several new friends during the few days we were there. We also spent a couple of days with the mother of one of our Ghanaian friends from the US, and she showed us around Accra and helped us to meet some of the people involved in health services within Ghana. Since the International Mission Board just recently gave control of the Baptist Medical Centre over to the local Ghana Baptist Convention (GBC), we also met with one of the leaders of the GBC to just say hello and start to form a relationship.


            We had been told that having a car in Nalerigu, where the Baptist Medical Centre is, is practically essential. Nalerigu has a limited supply of groceries and other miscellaneous items, so the missionaries on the BMC compound make a trip to either Tamale (3 hours away) or Bolgatanga (2 hours away) to stock up on items every 4-6 weeks. Because of that information, we had been communicating with a person in Accra for the past few months regarding purchasing a car. We had mainly looked at SUVs and trucks, but after awhile, we settled on looking only for trucks. The terrain in the Northern Region where we were heading is not very conducive to cars (many dirt roads with large potholes), so a truck would be a perfect vehicle in our situation. The dilemma that we were facing was that the trucks were all outside of our price range. However, God, in His perfect timing, provided a truck one or two days before we arrived in Ghana. It was within our price range, in good shape (except for some minor problems, which were fixed), and had good mileage. I was able to test-drive it when we arrived in Accra, and it drove great. That was actually my first time driving a car in a city in Africa...quite an adventure, but that is another story for another day! The person that helped us find it drove it up to Tamale after he had registered and purchased car insurance for it. I met him there a couple days ago and drove it the rest of the way to Nalerigu. This is only the third car that I have owned, but it is the first car that I have had to purchase (the first one was my dad's old car that I inherited when I turned 16, and the second one belonged to my late grandma, and my uncle gave it to me after my first one was totaled in a crash a few years ago).


            After spending about a week in Accra, we flew up to Tamale, where someone picked us up at the airport and drove us to Nalerigu. We were assigned to the house where one of the previous long-term missionaries had stayed. The other missionaries on the compound have made our transition much smoother by providing us with some basic foods and supplies as we were unpacking, organizing our house, and getting used to shopping in the local market. Many things were left behind by the missionary family for us, and several of the items have come in very handy. Two items that have been a special treat are a yogurt maker (Lori brought some yogurt starter) and and an ice cream maker that doesn't require ice (we have already made 3 batches).


            There is a lot to which we need to become acclimated: the hot weather, the limited local food selection, the unpredictability of the electricity and internet, the daily (and sometimes multiple times a day) encounters with visitors at our front door, the local customs, the common and almost expected use of house help (a local person you pay to help cook, clean, and/or take care of your children) and the more intense preparation of foods that is needed, among many other things. God has been gracious in allowing us to feel more at home each and every day that we are here. Both Rebekah and Abigail are adjusting well to all of the change.

            One final story for this post: we found out the day after we arrived in Ghana that we actually did not have our medical licenses due to unforseen circumstances, so we had to resubmit the application. Unfortunately, it usually takes 6-8 weeks for the license to be granted after submission of the paperwork. Therefore, I am not currently working at the hospital, and there is only one long-term medical doctor (an OB-Gyn) that is running the entire 120-bed hospital. It has been a blessing to get to spend more time with my wife and kids, to get the house a little more organized before I start working long hours, to brush up on tropical diseases, and to just be more flexible with my time. However, I would like to start working soon and start reaching into the lives of the patients I treat, for the glory of God. I know that it will be on God's timing, but please pray that my medical license will be processed quickly (we will be obtaining Lori's medical license later, probably after Abigail is weaned).

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