Ghana is thousands of miles from Carmi (White County, Illinos, USA)
And further than that, in terms of culture.
Robby King, minister of First Christian Church of Carmi, told his fellow Carmi Kiwanians Thursday afternoon about the mission trip he and his son, Bart, took to the west African nation in May.
King went to the impoverished land (where an average Ghanaian earns about $10 each month) at the invitation of Ghana Christian College to conduct marriage seminars. He and his son (who had graduated from McKendree College just three days earlier) left Evansville, Ind. May 11, flew for 14 hours (with a stop in England) and spent more than a week in Africa.
Speaking to the club, gathered at Two Tony's for its weekly luncheon meeting, King narrated a PowerPoint presentation featuring dozens of color photographs of Ghana and its people.
The Americans visited Accra, the nation's capital, which lies on the coast at the southern edge of the country, as well as villages in the northern section of Ghana.
Most marriages in Ghana, said the speaker, are based on old tribal customs and are arranged "business propositions," more like the purchase of a wife than a consensual union. Consequently, many husbands abuse their wives, and some of the women are actually killed by their husbands. Polygamy is common in Ghana, as well, with some men having two or even three mates.
His task, said King, was to teach his listeners the "Biblical truths" about marriage. And his task was made more difficult because some Ghanaian Muslims had urged their fellow citizens not to trust the words of the American. King told his listeners that he came to them not as an American but as a Christian, he said.
The first seminar was conducted in Accra, and most of the estimated 300 people who attended were partners in arranged marriages. After he taught them about the sanctity of marriage, King said, many of the people expressed the hope that they and their spouses can someday be married in a Christian ceremony. The meetings also resulted, he said, in the conversion of six people to Christianity.
The second seminar was held in a northern village, where no white man had been seen for three years and where no Christian congregation was in existence. About 80 people (including 30 children) attended.
People asked a lot of questions, said the speaker, and the seminars were lengthened by the necessity to translate everything he said (particularly in the north, where few speak English). The people of Ghana speak 10 to 12 languages.
"Did we accomplish anything?" asked King, then answered "Yes! God allowed His work to take place" during their trip.
Here is a summary of other points made by the speaker during his address:
-- GCC is about 40 years old and trains men to go into the villages and preach the gospel.
-- The Ghanaian government, led by a good president, is strongly supportive of the work of the Christian workers (though the country has a large Muslim population). "People are dying left and right from AIDS," said King, and the Christians' teaching about the sanctity of marriage is seen as one way of fighting the AIDS epidemic.
-- The Kings stayed in only one hotel during their visit, and though modern by Ghanaian standards, security was somewhat short of Western levels. The skeleton key used to enter the building was identical to each of the room keys.
-- Ghanaian Christians worship in an exuberant manner, using drums, instrument and dance, as well as prolonged singing.
-- Visiting northern Ghana is like going back thousands of years in time. The village where the Kings spent much time was two miles from a source of water, and the women carried water in vessels atop their heads. It had electricity--but few people owned anything that uses power. There were no cars, and a few bicycles. Many of the people live in cone-shaped huts (most buildings are made of an adobe-like material in the north, concrete blocks in Accra). The town is 36 miles from the nearest clinic--and travel is difficult. And with poisonous vipers and cobras all about, being bitten is normally fatal.
-- The nation's industry is largely confined to the Accra area. One of its main exports is the cocoa bean.
-- One church member the Kings met has two wives and 16 children. The Christian churches don't require polygamists to divorce second and third wives, but following New Testament teaching, men with more than one wife cannot hold positions of church leadership.
-- The normal diet includes roots beaten into something resembling dumplings, which are very filling, as well as goat meat, the meat of animals they hunt (such as monkeys) and "road kill." Ghanaians do not waste the meat of animals killed along their roads. The Americans were fed largely chicken and rice, along with sheep sauce and bread. Ghanaians drink milk from cows (but not goats, which King said are "everywhere" and are valued for their meat). The Kings also enjoyed bottled water and Coca-Cola products.
-- Bart spent some time teaching the children of the village, then began to distribute 1,000 pieces of candy and some little toys he and his father brought with them. The children crowded around him, alarming him a bit, because they had never eaten candy or played with such a toy.
-- The Ghanaian people are, by and large, very industrious. But they lack "know how" and the machinery required to raise crops in an efficient manner. "They live day to day," said the speaker, adding that "It hits you hard to realize how much we have and how little they have."
-- The people they came into contact with love America and appreciate the help this nation has extended to them. And the people--within and outside the churches--were very nice to them, King said.
The speaker showed photos of homes and churches, animals they saw at a nature preserve and people they met in Ghana, including William Darko, a preacher who visited Carmi earlier in the year.
The speaker was introduced by program chairman Brock Bolerjack.
Linda Williams won the weekly 50-50 drawing, splitting $28 with the club.
Corn Days contribution cards were passed out to members, who were urged to collect donations from area businesses. The money helps finance the annual October community celebration.