The second brilliant installment in our series from Katie who’s in Ghana, sharing her thoughts on mission.
Tizet is a stodgy, jelly-like substance made from maize flower, often served with a soup on top: sometimes slimy green leaf soup, sometimes lurid orange groundnut topping. I was served Tizet on my first day in Ghana, and Miss Manners would suggest that I had to eat the whole thing with a smile on face, however my stomach told me differently. After two bites I had to stop, to save being sick at the table. This kind of experience is bound to happen to anyone in an environment they’re not used to. Having talked a bit about what Jesus says about mission in the last blog, this one is about some of the practicalities of being overseas: what it feels like to serve the poor and the ups and downs of day-to-day life.
There are so many ways that people serve when on mission that it’s hard to pinpoint one neat explanation of what it feels like to serve the poor. For me, a lot of the time it feels like not doing very much. By this I mean that not every day is packed full of extreme poverty fighting activities. I spend one hour four days a week reading with two kids, hardly ground-breaking, but it needs doing. I prepare lots of resources for the school, which entails A LOT of stapling. Again, I don’t often feel like I’m making a massive contribution, but without it the kids wouldn’t have workbooks. I don’t wake up every day with pride swelling in my chest at the good works I’m doing, I’m usually too hungry to think about anything other than breakfast. Serving the poor here in Gushegu has more often than not felt like a lot of mundane activity, with flashes of brilliance in-between.
If we’re being completely honest, those of us who are going overseas, or even just thinking about poverty, can struggle with finding poor people a bit strange. In the same way that we feel nervous before our first day of uni, or starting a new job, we’re not sure what to think about people who may be different from us. If anything, being in Ghana has made me examine my own ‘weirdness’, and ask myself loads of questions about how I make my judgements, why I assume my way is the most logical way, and how open I am to loving and being loved. It can be quite uncomfortable to shine such a bright line on my own psyche, but in the process I hope to grow in humility and grace. Yes, lots of the things people do here seem strange to me: why would you eat Tizet every day? Why do they stare at me all the time? But I know that they find me equally baffling, and so I hope in the process of befriending people that we will all climb down our ladders to find common ground.
Lastly, every day has its ups and downs. I would imagine mine would be similar to yours; I miss my boyfriend, my parents, and feeling clean. It’s easy to spend a bunch of time thinking about the things I’m missing back home that I close my eyes and ears to what’s happening right here, right now. There are days when even my highs don’t seem that great, and I find myself rejoicing over a squashed mosquito or a cup of really really cold water. But there are times when I can’t believe how blessed I am that God has taken me on crazy adventure of discovery to know him more completely and love his world more fully.
My Mum advised me the other day to “look for beauty in the dust”, and this has certainly been true for my time in Ghana so far. I’ve had to work hard at seeking out the extraordinary in all the ordinariness of life, listening out for God’s voice in the storms and his beauty in the dust.