(As I finish this series of blog posts about my recent trip to Ghana, I want to conclude with the overall impact this trip had on my life as well as answer a few questions which I received since returning home. I hope you enjoyed reading about my recent trip to Ghana and I am happy to answer any questions you might still have regarding the country, the churches, and the work of God going on there. Also, I am in the process of updating the website with newer information so I encourage you to look through some of the older pages to see some of the updated information. Each month I try to add approximately 40 sermons to the website so please feel free to use it as a resource as well.)
It is very difficult for me to describe the impact a trip like this had on me, in large part because the impact is most accurately understood by the intangible changes to myself rather than the quantifiable results which are enjoyable to read. When I relate the number of people saved, sermons preached, and miles traveled, when I convey the captivating stories about life in the “Third World”, I realize the emotional high it gives you, the reader. Truthfully, I feel like the collective impression these things give is not only incomplete but often distorts the realities of mission work. Though in a previous blog I did express a few noteworthy experiences, I want to clarify that the greatest impression this trip had on me didn’t come from any profound experience but rather from the everyday experiences which are less captivating to your emotions, but which God is still using to sanctify my character.
Grandiose stories of triumph or heartbreaking stories of terrible loss is the American version of mission work because it is the only story often related by those who go on mission trips. Those who go on mission trips (including myself) tend to accentuate the exciting aspects of our trip because a less exciting (but more accurate) version wouldn’t garner much response from an American audience numbed to reality by the fantasies and fictions of Hollywood. Mission work, like real life, is most effective when the missionaries involved abandon any desire to impress onlookers and rather devotes themselves to the mundane tasks which deepen the Word of God in the hearts of those they are trying to reach.
I don’t mean to disparage any person who does mission work or any audience who is excited by these wonderful stories, but rather to refocus our understanding about real mission work. If Adoniram Judson the missionary to Burma, or William Carey the missionary to India were to describe their lives, it would probably sound much different than the way their biographers have written about them (though the authors have done an excellent job). Instead of focusing so much attention of their grand accomplishments, these men would probably define their lives with a much less illustrious description and emphasize the nagging things which they were unable to complete. They would probably talk about the daily grind of learning multiple languages, the frustrating inefficiencies of both societies, the loneliness of living among a foreign culture, and the years of uncertainty depending on people you don’t entirely know. They would probably remember all the failed plans and unfulfilled intentions.
But they would probably also talk about how God used those exact things –the daily and perceptibly minuscule trials of mission work- to refine and sanctify their lives, and how it was those things that helped them to know more of Christ and His sufferings.
Though my little mission trips pale in comparison to the work of these devoted men, the mission trips to Africa I have been a part of (which I won’t deem mission work since I don’t live on the mission field) were most life changing because God revealed to me how unlike Christ I am, and how powerful a life can be when we are more like Him.
These trips revealed to me how little I pray and how small my endurance for communing with God is. It revealed how great a suffering it was for Christ to leave His home in heaven, and how little sacrifice is required of me to do His work. It taught me how concerned I am over the trivial opinions of man which I seek to be inundated with every day, and how much those opinions control my behavior. It taught me how great a sacrifice former missionaries endured who were beaten, lost children, lost wives, learned new languages, and never returned to their native home lands, yet refused to be detoured from completing the work God called them to do. And perhaps most notably, it taught me how little I embody the person and character of Jesus Christ, but reinforced how much I truly want to be more like Him not perceived to be more like Him.
When I saw the qualities of godliness which I lack, exemplified in the lives of our Ghanaian brothers and sisters, and the fruit their lives produce, it only increased my desire to be more like Christ and less like myself. Though these things aren’t incredible stories of grandeur, I know they are the Refiner’s Fire purifying my imperfections and the work of the Potter’s Hand fashioning me into a vessel He can be more pleased with. Please pray for our missionaries in Ghana and throughout the world, both foreign and domestic. Their daily struggles are difficult to relate, but real trials nonetheless which are fashioning them more and more into His image.
Quickly, below are a few questions I received that I thought everyone who supports the fund might like to know.
Q: Can you come and give a report at our church about the mission work in Ghana, your trip, and/or the fund?
A: Yes, yes, and yes. I would be glad to travel to any church and report about the mission work in Ghana. I have already been privileged to do so just prior to my departure and have been asked since to come and talk about the work there. Please write a comment on the Contact tab on the website and I will respond as soon as possible.
Q: Do you use any of the funds to pay for your personal expenses relating to any mission trips?
A: No. I paid for all of my personal expenses unless someone specified that the money was to be used for my personal expenses. Two individuals noted that their donation was for my personal expenses regarding the trip. Any money that is not designated for that purpose is placed in the fund and used solely for the Ghanaians.
Q: How can we help with the work in Ghana?
A: Translations: I recently discovered that the Twi Bible is a translation from English, which means it is a translation of a translation. This is, of course, less than ideal. Brother Moses Owusu (who lives in Tennessee) is working on translating a pamphlet and we are gauging the difficulty of this work. Please pray for the churches in Ghana that considerations might be made toward undertaking this enormous task.
Financially: At the moment, the fund is sending monthly support to four ministers in Ghana. The purpose of this fund is to ensure them (for one fiscal year- which begins in January) mission support for an entire year. Each year we will re-evaluate the status of the fund and how much we can allocate to each work. All donations are greatly appreciated, but churches or individuals which have pledged regular donations on our website or by mail have been a huge help.
Resources: One thing they need in Ghana are educational resources. Essays, lessons, and booklets which deal with the fundamentals of Bible doctrine. It is expensive to ship items to Ghana but they will most definitely be used if you have a burden to send them.
Prayer: Pray that God would continue to teach and mature this work until they are mostly self-dependent.