Ghana? Where’s that?” My dad has always had this way of being subtle. I have to ask specific questions if I want to know the details. He had just told me that he and my mom were going to Ghana. He answered my question by pointing silently to a place on the globe that we keep in our kitchen. Spinning it almost 180 degrees, he placed his finger on this place in Africa that I had never heard of. I felt my eyes grow big and my first reaction was to fire off questions as fast as they would come. I asked “When?”, “How long?”, and most importantly, “How?” He answered with a smirk and with as few words as possible, “This fall, the Foreign Mission Committee is sending your mother and me along with Rev. Moore and his wife to help do some mission work.” I could tell that it was hard for him to hide his excitement with so little expression. I was certainly excited for him. My dad had never been overseas, much less to Africa!
Mission work has always been something that has seemed far away to me, probably because it usually is. I thought that it was something that I would let other people take care of. It was hard for me to picture Christians in other lands, outside of the formal Christian life-style that I have become so familiar and comfortable with in northwest Iowa. The trip that my parents took to Africa has, however, made a big impression on me.
The first thing that I have learned is that this kind of stuff is real. I mean, mission work is not just for the few, brave, and the adventurous. God calls ordinary people, just like my parents, to do mission work in His Kingdom. (My father is an elder in our congregation.) My parents had a hard time believing that it was real at first, too. It was hard for them to imagine that with just 13 hours of flying, they would be half way around the world, in Ghana, Africa. In one of the few telephone calls that we made to each other, my mom said to me, “It’s an entirely different place, Michele. It’s like another world.” My parents were given the awesome opportunity to experience a culture that is very different from their own.
I have been able to grasp little glimpses of Ghana with the video that my dad took while he was in Africa. I have gotten a better understanding of what other people’s lives are like in other places. One thing that really struck me as I watched those videos and heard the stories behind them is that even though the people in Ghana live so far away, they are people just like us. The women like to dress beautifully and the children love to play, but more importantly these people love the Lord. They worship differently with their drums, tambourines, and singing, but they worship and praise the same God that I do. These are real children of God who are devoted to loving Him. I have developed a certain love for these people because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. My heart goes out to them, and I have realized that they need our help and support as fellow Christians.
That is the main reason why I have learned, secondly, to think more globally. I don’t just think of God’s people as being concentrated so much in one area, like the United States, anymore. I think of them as being scattered around the world, spread thicker in some areas than in others. They are all a part of God’s Kingdom. By learning to think more globally, I have come to see how important it is for me to love and serve my neighbor, no matter who they are or where they live.
It has been eight months since my dad came back from Africa. I think that everyone in my family has seen all of the videos, pictures, and slides by now, but I don’t know if we’ll ever hear the end of all of my dad’s stories. He hasn’t talked about his trip much lately, but every once in a while, his eyes will light up, and you know that he has something to share. He surely isn’t shy about being eloquent then. My dad’s tan may have faded, and he might have put on the few pounds that he lost in Ghana, but one thing is for sure. He won’t ever forget his experiences in Africa, and I don’t think that I’ll ever get tired of hearing him talk about them either. It’s a small world after all … isn’t it?
Michele is a member of our Protestant Reformed Church in Hull, Iowa.