I spent half of July in Ghana, in Western Africa, this summer, and the experience was (as I expected) inspiring and transformative. The pilgrimage had three main purposes: First, to see and learn from the amazing work that Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has been doing, primarily in the north of the country, over many years. This is development work at its finest, with the Ghanaian people themselves in leadership, and countless lives and homes being changed for the better forever. Women’s micro-financing for craft-to-market projects, farm and animal-raising education, mosquito net and malaria prevention teaching, and more – these programs, initially funded by the Episcopal Church, now run smoothly and effectively on their own, and they have much to teach us about equipping the poor for change.
Secondly, the pilgrimage laid the groundwork for possible partnerships between Episcopal Schools in the United States and Anglican Schools in Ghana. We visited a dozen schools, most of them overcrowded, under-resourced, and yet still filled with joy and meaningful education. We met teachers who refused to give up as their school building was sinking into the group, and students who walked for hours twice each day (without shoes) to learn all that they possibly could. Village elders give land and labor to build and repair school structures, and every child is given the opportunity to hold their first pencil and read their first book. The bishops who oversee these schools are eager to strengthen relationships with American schools, for we have much to learn from each other, and the opportunity to encourage one another brings us hope.
Finally, the pilgrimage took us to a former slave camp in the far north of Ghana, to a former market near the capital, and to the two castles in Cape Coast and Elmina where those who survived countless atrocities were bought and sold again before boarding the ships of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We stood on holy ground, and heard stories that I’ll never forget but we also learned how Ghanaians have come to own their own complicity in the trade and how, in their repentance, they have transformed their heartbreak into healing, and homecoming, and hope. I was shocked by how much of this story I did not know, and then I was deeply moved by the way forward that has emerged.
I haven’t yet found the time to truly process all that I witnessed and experienced in Ghana, and I don’t yet know what God intends for me to do with the new person I’ve become. I’m grateful for all those who supported me (and my fellow pilgrims) in prayer, and I hope that you will continue to journey with me as I share. “Me daa si” – Thank you!