Friday morning was a morning to remember. As is the NEA tradition, we all gathered under the gazebo one last time for a final devotional led by Soale. Rachel led us in singing, the NEA staff prayed for our team and Soale gave message which he entitled “From Tears to Joy.”
The rest of the day was spent organizing any remaining supplies and medication for distribution to local hospitals and clinics, as well as packing away all our team equipment so that we would be ready to return when NEA sent out the call. We realized that the NEA pastors never took the time to bring their health issues to the medical team while we were in Ghana, so Dr. John, in his compassion, stepped up and ran one last African walk-in clinic all morning for anyone who needed care.
Friday evening was a night to remember. Our team was decked out in their new Ghanaian clothes and we had a wonderful celebration under the stars.
All NEA staff and their families, volunteers, translators and our entire team gathered for a feast. Every table had both Ghanaians and expats dining together and sharing memories of our fortnight. For the first time ever we had a DJ at the party. Prosper organized beautiful music that played out over loudspeakers while we feasted on a roast beef dinner.
Special guests included the Chairman and Secretary of the NEA board, Mr. Nantogma and Dr. Harunah, as well as Mr. Gyamfi from the NEA office in Tamale. Speeches were made, thank yous were given, and then each team member received a container of freshly shelled NEA peanuts.
Midway through the party, the power went out and we were treated to a stunning display of the night sky. Utterly amazing. After dinner the dancing began and I do believe we witnessed the first ever “congo line” on the NEA compound! We did not want the night to end but our alarms were set for 4:45 am, so off to bed we went for a great night’s rest. (Well … some of us had a good rest. It turns out that as our party was ending, a funeral in the village directly behind our surgical team’s residence was beginning. This traditional funeral involves very loud music and wailing that went on until daybreak!)
Saturday morning was a morning to remember. Whenever you try and move 61 people from the remote Northern Region of Ghana to the capital, you must anticipate some challenges. We had prepared our team to be ready for anything and called on them to approach challenges with flexibility and adaptability. We decided to adopt Dr. Francois’ motto that when something went wrong we would simply would say “super fun” with a french accent (su-pehr fun!) and deal with challenges together, as we have every day on this mission.
So when our coach did not arrive for the 5:45 departure we knew we were in for a super fun day. At 6:45 am we decided we needed to implement Plan B, which involved all 21 veterans remaining behind and sending on the rest of the team in our small church bus and every NEA vehicle. This seasoned group didn’t hesitate to wave goodbye, knowing we had 15 hours to find a way to Accra. At 7:00 am I proceeded behind the training centre to see whether Abraham and Stephen were ready to implement plan B, only to find them, together with all the NEA staff and pastors standing in a very large circle, holding hands, and praying about this decision. Miraculously, the coach rolled in and after a collective AMEN we tearfully said goodbye to our dear friends and hit the road for our 4 hour journey to Kumasi (where our flight was due to take off in 4.5 hours). A corn field pit stop and a super fun short cut got us to the airport with about 30 minutes to spare. The airport team was ready and waiting and willing to bypass a few protocols to get us all on the plane, which took off on time.
We were thrilled to reach the Accra airport with every team member and every bag accounted for, but the excitement wasn’t quite over: one team member misplaced their passport and another team member was refused boarding at the last minute due to suspicious items in her checked bag (which was eye equipment). With a super fun attitude and some intense prayers on my part (following the NEA staff’s lead from this morning), team members pitched in and together we overcame our final two obstacles. At the gate, sleeping pills were handed out like M&Ms and this very happy but very hot, sweaty, and haggard team settled in for the rest of our journey home.
In Ghana, messages or lessons of importance are often communicated by using a proverb. It seems fitting for me to sign off on our 2016 mission with the proverb associated with the dress I wore to the team party:
My dress shows single trees broken at the base alternating with healthy, vibrant groves of trees. “When a single tree receives a storm, it breaks,” is the proverb of my dress. It implies that alone, we will fall whenever we face the wind or storms of life. However, when we are part of a grove or community of trees we flourish. A grove allows protection and support from the storms of life. The intertwined roots of the grove provide life-giving nourishment to one another. This proverb captures the heartbeat of our mission and of the relationship between NEA and GRID in so many ways.
As a team of individuals from Ghana, Canada, UK, Germany and Spain, we have been able to accomplish more than we could have asked or imagined because we did it together. With God’s help, we supported each other, we protected each other and we gave nourishment and life to each other as we worked towards a common vision — providing health and hope to many thousands of men, women and children in Northern Ghana.
My prayer is that many more will be added to the beautiful grove of trees that has surrounded the people of Northern Ghana until such a time as every man, woman and child has the year-round health care that every human being deserves.