I apologize for the sudden and complete silence after my January 2020 blog.
2020 has been a unique, unusual and challenging year for all of us. Mid-March I received word from LMH that they were suggesting I temporarily return to the United States during the pandemic for a variety of reasons: the ‘unknown’ surrounding the possible severity of the virus, the scarce medical resources in the area of Ghana I was living in, and the fact that the government of Ghana might possibly close their borders. After some prayer and discernment, I decided to follow the LMH suggestion and within a week of that decision, I was packing my bags. I was told the return was meant to be temporary, but that I should take any personal belongings that were important to me should I not be able to return.
Two days before I was to leave, the President of Ghana announced the closing of all schools the following day. Thus, the girls left SAGISS the day before I did. Ghana closed its borders, including the International airport, the day after I took off for the United States. It all happened in a flurry.
My son Paul picked me up at the airport and gave me his bed to sleep in for a couple days. I searched the web and found an Airbnb to stay in for a few weeks. When I left Ghana, I had thought I would be able to see family and friends on my return, only to find everyone locked down in their own homes, working their jobs from home, going out only for groceries. Churches were also closed; Mass was being live-streamed. I was basically isolated from everyone. This was not really what I had envisioned on my return home.
The night I arrived in the US, my son Joe and his wife Alex, disclosed to me via facetime that they were expecting their first child in November. Exciting news in this time of pandemic! There was at least one thing to look forward to!
Mid-May, I moved to my sister Gina and brother-in-law Kevin’s lake home about 3 hours northwest of the Twin Cities. They have a nice, large home they were willing to share with me. Little did they know I would be there for 6 months! The lake home was a beautiful, peaceful and restful place. We had some great sister bonding and I am beyond grateful for their immense generosity.
In November, I returned to the Airbnb for what I expected to be two months. I wanted to be in the Twin Cities for the arrival of my new grandbaby and also to prepare myself for my return to Ghana.
Ghana opened their international airport on September 1st. Shortly, thereafter, Karen, my co-missionary in Damongo, announced her intent to return to Ghana in early November. As my new grandbaby was to be born in November, and with the holidays shortly upon us, I chose to wait until January 2021 for my return. In fact, the ticket was purchased for a January 7th departure. I started planning and purchasing the items I needed to take with me. My excitement to return to Damongo was palpable.
Mid-November came and my grandson was born, Remy Sterling Yonga. He is a doll and I treasure those special days when I can visit him, holding him in my arms. Being a Nana is very special!
As I continued preparing for my return, I received some unfortunate and unexpected news. I guess returning to Ghana was not what God had planned for me. A routine mammogram showed a spot which needed some further testing. After multiple further mammograms, an ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am fortunate that it was caught early and my prognosis is very good. However, it means surgery and radiation therapy, followed by hormone therapy.
Timing was very tight, so it was a mad rush to sign up for 2021 health insurance by the December 15th deadline, find an apartment so I would not have to live out of my suitcase any longer (9 months of living out of a suitcase is plenty), and move my belongings out of storage and in to my apartment by Christmas.
The pandemic has devastated the lives of millions throughout the world. Ironically, the United States has suffered much greater devastation by the pandemic than has Ghana. As it turns out, my chances of contracting the virus seem much higher here than they would have been in Damongo. The positive news for me is that the pandemic brought me back to the United States and as a result, the breast cancer was detected early. Had I remained in Ghana for the complete three years of my mission, who knows how much it might have spread before it would have been detected.However, now my three-year mission has ended prematurely. There is a sadness in my heart. I felt called to the mission and I feel I thrived there in many respects. I experienced joy and peace during my time in Ghana. I feel truly blessed to have had those fourteen months in Damongo, as teacher to those happy, helpful students; school secretary to the headmistress and dear friend, Madam Pauline; and as storekeeper to both teachers and non-teaching staff and students at SAGISS. I treasure the friendships I made. I treasure the experiences I had. I am greatly appreciative of the support given to me by Bishop Peter Paul, and the friendly welcome by the many priests and religious.
As I reread the blog entries I wrote during those 14 months, I have very mixed emotions. Smiles and laughter remembering all the good times I had in Damongo and sadness at the realization that my time there has ended. I know I received more from my experience there than I gave. It was a true gift from God. It seems God’s plan for me is now taking me down a different path. I have placed my trust in God and I know He will be with me throughout my treatment for breast cancer, drawing me ever closer to Him.
My adventure will continue……………………. but no longer in Damongo and no longer being shared via this blog. Thank you for following my mission adventure and all your support via prayer and monetary donations over the past two years. May 2021 find us all a bit more happy, a bit more holy and a bit more closer to God!