Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thoughts from Laura Carpenter...thanks to Nate VanderStelt

Last week, when I shared that Laura was going to be in Ghana, one of the regular readers of the blog asked if I could have Laura, as well as Fanny and Allen, share some responses to some specific questions.  

Below is the beginning of Laura's thoughts on these questions..

What are some of the things that give these brothers and sisters great joy when they experience other cultures?

I love the accent, the formal way of greeting and even engaging in conversation, I am Madame, younger women curtsy when they meet me, the homes that I have visited range from quaint to really nice.  I love the way I see extended family living together.  I love seeing mixed income neighborhoods (that’s good and bad).  Of course I have eaten really good Ghanaian food!!!  To see folks who represent my heritage; to some how in a strange way connect in a deeper way with my history.

What gives them concern, pain or brokenness?

It is becoming painfully clear to me in my travels that many Africans do not understand the African American struggle.  This makes me angry and want to teach African American History classes, because when I start to share some things they don’t know about our history, they are surprised, appalled, sad and feel misinformed or not informed at all. I don’t mean to sound angry, but I am!  I have not gone to Cape Coast yet (to the slave castles) but I am still feeling some pain.  Ghana is a pretty strong country compared to other African countries and Ghanaians seem to be independent, not desiring a “hand out”.  However, I still see the evidences of a struggling 3rd World country – intermittent electricity and water supply, corrupt government, extremely poor people, sick people, mentally unattended, orphaned children, Chinese and Lebanese with the big contracts like road construction and building (I believe) . . .  It also makes me sad to see BET offered as one of the television stations, so Ghanaians can get a skewed image of African Americans, compounded with what they are told by some whites prior to coming America about lazy, violent, drug-abusing African Americans, and they should have no dealings with us, its true!  Many Africans I meet tell me that.

How do they see God’s people rising up (or not rising up?) in each context?   

I see a woman like Fanny Atta-Peters, she is the executive director for Hopeline Institute, the NGO that Renita works with to help develop, train, mentor African business owners.  I have met some ingenious, entrepreneurial folks like Gallant Kwame the Yummy Cashew Company owner, Rev. Theophilus Quartey who owns a mushroom farm and leads a growing group of mushroom farmers, who are making a mushroom juice (it’s actually pretty good and good for you), mushroom flakes, even mushroom powder; there is Alberta, who owns Albie’s Shoes (yes, I had to get a pair); the brother who is middle man for manufacturers and trains folks to sell all kinds of products from cutting boards to camping lanterns, and the list goes on . . . I am so proud to now know these determined folks.

My final thoughts . . . for now . . . for real this is just the beginning and patchworked thoughts
Some might say why focus on taking just an African American team to Africa?  I believe from past experience with teams and my own personal experience, if we don’t focus on and encourage African Americans to see the value that they/we bring to this work, we opt out, really without much thought.  Here are some of our thoughts: It sounds good, but I couldn’t do that, will they accept us, it’s do dangerous, I’ve never done anything like this before . . . and the list of negative thoughts continue.  I really truly believe this way of thinking is a result of being socialized in a racist society.  A socializing that tells me who I am, who I can be, and the worse thing is tells me that I have nothing to do with those people on the other side of the Atlantic......and that just is not true.  And it tells our African brothers and sisters they have nothing to do with us, until one of starts to talk to the other and we find that a bridge needs to be built between Christian Africans and African Americans especially.  I want to help build the bridge; I know by the power of the Holy Spirit it can be done.
View from Aburi, north of Accra overlooking a project of family housing that an orphanage is building to better serve the orphans in a more foster family setting.
As Laura was missing her grand-daughter, she had a hard time keeping her hands off the babies.  I have the same problem!
Mushrooms growing out of bags.  This mushroom farm can hold up to 6000 bags of these mushrooms and harvest mushrooms on a daily basis.
Rev. Theophilus, a former pastor now farmer who trains people in mushroom farming as part of his business as a mission.
Yummy Cashews - a picture that captures the spirit of the day, lots of learning and laughing.  On the left is Fanny Atta-Peters (Director of Hopeline), then Laura Carpenter, then Ebow Graham (program manager for Hopeline Institute), then the owner, Gallant Kwame,  He has 22 employees and processes 2.5 metric tons of cashews per month.
Alberta is a fiesty SME owner and a great participant in our SME class.  Here she is in her shop, and it was the only time during the day when we "lost" both Fanny and Laura as they got caught up in shopping instead of listening to this business owner's story.:-)
Sunday at Elim Family International Church, Laura led worship.  And we really worshiped.  It was beautiful and if you know Laura, you aren't surprised.  She received many invitations to move to Ghana and do this on a regular basis.  It was another Reed family thing as well - Hannah is in the back singing backup and also played the flute with me, I'm on the far left, and you can't see Noah, but he was doing the data projection.  What a blessing to do this together!