In 7 short weeks, my first year in Ghana will have been completed. Hard to believe! So many new experiences; so many blessings from God.
October brought with it new neighbors! Francis, Paulina, Anne and Nathan moved in to Mary Shaw’s bungalow next door.
It is wonderful hearing the sound of young children laughing! Nathan bangs on our gate door, calling “Granny, Granny, Granny”, when he wants to visit. The other day, he started calling me “Granny Diane!” Very cool! We kick the soccer ball in the courtyard, which always brings back great memories of kicking the ball with Joseph and Paul in their young years.
October also brought my 60th birthday, which fell on World Mission Sunday. Saturday evening, Karen and the girls planned a surprise birthday party for me, where all the girls sang to me and we had jollof spaghetti and cake.
Sunday morning, we travelled to Sawla to celebrate a special Diocesan Mass with Bishop Peter Paul, where I was introduced to the packed church and specially prayed for. Lunch with the Bishop and a number of priests and religious was enjoyed.
We closed out October, the Month of the Rosary, with a special Mass at the Grotto.
Francis had some young men from the high school he teaches at come and dig us a garbage pit. Anne had to jump in before any garbage was dumped in!
SAGISS was also blessed to receive some special American visitors. Carol Hofer and three of her friends, Dr. Irene Allen, RoseAnn Morrow and Kari Green from Michigan, are with a group who sponsor six girls’ education at SAGISS per year. They have been sponsoring the girl-child’s education in northern Ghana for many years. Carol taught at Damongo Senior High back in the 1970’s as a Peace Corps volunteer. They educated the girls on certain health and hygiene matters and gifted them with hygiene kits and Rosaries. The girls greatly enjoyed their visit, and welcomed them with some tribal dances. Karen and I had a great time visiting with people from back home in the United States!
My Food and Nutrition Form 1 class ended up with six girls.
The teacher for the Form 3 Food & Nutrition class ended up transferring to another school, so I picked up the Form 3 class to end the term. There are only 3 girls in that class. It isn’t easy picking up a class in the middle of the term, but we are managing. The girls are taking their end of Term exams and will be leaving for Christmas vacation December 20th.
Karen and I spent a weekend in November in Tamale to attend a Diaconate Ordination. The ordination was beautiful and inspiring. Seventeen men who will be ordained priests in the next year came from both a Diocesan seminary and a Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) seminary. We celebrated with two young men from the Diocese of Damongo, Rev. Maclean and Rev. Clement.
We were excited to reunite with the SVD seminarians we spent the 12 day TICCS Cultural program with a couple months earlier. See previous blog.
The weekend included a visit to a restaurant that served stone hearth baked pizza! I hadn’t had pizza since I left the United States, more than 10 months earlier. I ordered the Hawaiian – pineapple and ham. It was totally delicious! I ate the WHOLE thing! So, so good!
Thanksgiving came. I had to work that day. Karen cooked us baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, pumpkin bread and apple crisp. We topped it off with some sweet red wine. It was tasty! It was definitely not our typical Thanksgiving; missing our families even more than we do typically. However, it was a day of Thanks! I thanked God for my family and their understanding and support for my mission, I thanked God for the courage He provided me to follow His call to Ghana, and I thanked God for the many graces and the mercy He has blessed me with.
The Damongo Diocese WUCWO (World Union of Catholic Women Organization) Celebration was November 29 – December 1. My boss, Headmistress Madam Pauline, is the President of the Damongo Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (DCCW), so I was involved in some of the preparations. She made sure Karen and I bought our CCW “cloth” so we could wear the uniform with the women from the various parishes that gathered for the weekend at the Unity Center. It was a special weekend, meeting women from many villages. It was surprising to me that the majority of them did not speak English. There was a lot of communication done simply by sharing smiles and laughs with one another!
I have been reflecting on my life here in Damongo and my relationship with God. The Liturgy here in Ghana is very lively and upbeat. Throughout my life, I have encountered a number of different types of liturgy. The church we attended as a family when the children were growing up, (Church of St. Gerard Magella in Brooklyn Park) had a liturgy supported by modern Christian music, including piano, guitars and drums rather than an organ. For many years, I loved the music in that church. I listened to popular Christian artists on the radio and in music videos. It was uplifting and gave me a positive, sunny disposition for the day. It fit where I was in life and in my spirituality at the time. As the years went by, at some point, that Church was not providing me with what I needed. I needed quiet, reflective time before Mass – to pray and connect to God, not people in the pews talking; I needed kneelers (which the church did not have) during Consecration; I needed some solemnity, some reverence.
I eventually found my way to the Cathedral of St. Paul, which gave me what I was yearning for. The music took a 180° turn. Suddenly, I was listening to choral organ music. The Church was quiet and peaceful. There were numerous side chapels with kneelers. They offered two daily Masses – one in the evening that worked perfectly in to my work schedule. There was incense, kneeling and reverence. In time, I met many wonderful, spiritual, like-minded people and enjoyed time with them doing various service projects. I felt at home at the Cathedral, it was like a family. But sometimes when we get too comfortable, God decides it is time for something new.
When God called me to mission, I was praying the following prayer: “I wish that all I have be Yours, and I put it in Your hands: My soul, my eternal salvation, my liberty, MY SPIRITUAL PROGRESS, my life my health, my family, my possessions, my work, and whatever good deeds I can accomplish, so that You will arrange these things according to your will.”
The first time I said that prayer, I was actually scared to pray it. Could I actually trust God with all these very important things? Could I give up control? Could I accept God’s will in these areas of my life, rather than my own desires? Was I praying for something I would later regret? Would I be able to handle what God decided to give me?
My SPIRITUAL PROGRESS. Sometimes, I wonder if I have progressed spiritually since coming to Ghana. I do not doubt that by the time my three years is up, I will have grown closer to God. I trust God has a plan and as long as I trust Him, I will be closer to the person he created me to be. I really miss Eucharistic Adoration. It was such a blessing to be able to be in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel with our Lord in the early morning hours – just Him and me. I could talk to Him about anything. I could feel His presence.
Sometimes I long for Eucharistic Adoration. Sometimes I wonder how I could have given that up. It was such a blessing. So wonderful, I can’t even put it into words. But then I remember the prayer – I am putting my Spiritual Progress in God’s hands. I am trusting that God knows what He is doing in my life. I know God loves me so much that He wants only the BEST for me. He wants me to know He loves me. Even though I might not understand how or why certain things happen in life, I know in the end it is all for my best. As long as I let God be in charge of my eternal salvation, my liberty, my spiritual progress, my life, my health, my family, my possessions, my work and good deeds, then I know all will be fine. God loves me and wants only the best for me. He can do so much better for me than I can myself. I trust Him. I will continue to strive to turn over control of my life to God, because “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has conceived the things He has prepared for those who love Him”.
“Only in God is satisfaction to be found….. I am allowing God to bring me the most thrilling plan existing, one I cannot imagine……
The adventure continues……