Like every day at NEA, the Leyaata Hospital Commissioning Day began under the gazebo for devotions. Pastor Dale Dawson from Uxbridge Baptist Church gave an inspiring address and didn’t appear to blink an eye when a delegation of paramount chiefs—in full chieftaincy regalia —arrived and took a seat in front of him. When Dale was finished, they made a presentation to David and Brenda Mensah, speaking about the significance of this hospital to their people. It was the first time I had ever seen a chief cry.
After breakfast, the talking drums began to speak—announcing the festivities and guiding everyone to the hospital site. According to David, 9000+ people gathered on the grounds to celebrate and commission their hospital.
As different tribes began to arrive, they gathered under black and red canopies adorned with the colours of the Ghanaian flag. The crowd formed a massive square with an open field in the middle, which was reserved for the traditional cultural dances. Colourful and intricate dresses, robes, jewellery, headpieces, and umbrellas stretched as far as I could see. The sounds of different drums, whistles, and the blasts of cannons filled the air, and traditional dances from the various tribes took place simultaneously. It was a celebration like I had never seen.
As they moved around the site, there was strong security and military presence surrounding dignitaries and officials. However, when the guest of honour—Nana Tibalakala (Paramount Chief David Mensah), arrived, the security detail that formed a protective circle around him was his pastoral team in their finest suits and collars. It was a striking, symbolic, and moving proclamation of who David Mensah trusts with his life. And this also sent a poignant message without words that NEA chooses prayer and peace over weapons and conflict.
The ceremony to commit this massive facility into God’s hands and the “custodians of the land” was rich. The list of introductions was long and impressive. Many dignitaries and officials made speeches, but when David Mensah rose to give his address, he called all of us—his international guests—to stand with him. Cindy Lambier, Jacques Lapointe (Chair of the GRID Board), and I gave speeches. I was honoured to announce that our team was giving the gift of a training centre. This centre for health education and research will be a key piece of our ongoing involvement at Leyaata Hospital. It will allow us to support the educational needs of the staff and bring virtual and in-person training to professionals from all over Ghana. What an honour for me to have my hand on the shovel with Brenda Mensah, the Deputy Minister of Health, and Chief Solomon of Carpenter. My only regret is that our surgical team leader Mr. Rob Hicks missed participating in the sod turning as he and our paediatrician, Anne, had to catch a plane.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a large group of dignitaries and paramount chiefs were toured through the hospital by the Leyaata Hospital medical staff. As they weaved their way through the outpatient department, eye clinic, dental clinic, ER, surgical theatres, ICU, labour and delivery ward, chapel, and CT scan room, I enjoyed watching their faces and noting their comments.
“How can a facility like this sit on Carpenter soil?” “The only place I have seen this piece of equipment is in the regional hospital in Accra!” “I delivered my babies too early! They should have been born here!” Many were speechless with mouths open wide. Others wept as they spoke of women who will no longer die in childbirth and of the children who will no longer die before their fifth birthday. The facility looked spectacular, and even the TV monitors in the waiting rooms were providing public health education. NEA fed all of the guests a hot lunch.
Brenda made an extraordinary presentation when we finally gathered in the dining hall for dinner late last night. In 2013, Brenda, David, Jacques and I sat in a little room in Uxbridge with a blank piece of paper. Our goal was to sketch our dream of a hospital and list what services that hospital might need based on our Ghana Health Team data. She called it our “van Gogh” because every service listed on that “wish list” now exists in the Leyaata Hospital. Brenda enlarged and framed that sketch for the Senior Leaders of Leyaata Hospital. She wants them to hang it in their office to remind them that we need to be people of vision. We need to be generational thinkers. We need to dream.
If I had to choose the most exciting part of the day for me it would be when the Board Chair of the Christian Hospital Association of Ghana (CHAG) announced that they want to expedite accreditation for Leyaata Hospital to become a tertiary care teaching hospital that includes Family Medicine. This is our dream for Leyaata Hospital. This dream may become a reality much sooner than we expected.
It is hard to know how to best close off this mission (part of that may be because I am very motion sick trying to write this on a bumpy bus as we journey back to catch our international flights). Our hearts and minds are full of what we were privileged to be part of and what our next steps will be in this global partnership. But, as I consider all that has taken place over this past week, one overarching lesson has risen to the top for me.
Pastor Bob Whitaker told a story about a concert that was held in New York City for a famous pianist. In the front row sat a mother with a little boy. She brought him to the concert, hoping to inspire him that one day, he too could be a famous pianist. While the big crowd was awaiting the start of the performance, the little boy slipped away from his mother and made his way up on the stage. He climbed up on the bench and began to play “Chopsticks.” The crowd booed and yelled for the mother to remove the child from the grand piano. Just then, the famous pianist appeared from backstage, came up behind the boy, and reached around his small frame. He placed his big strong hands on the keys beside the hands of the child and began to play a counter melody to enhance his “Chopsticks.” All the while, he whispered in the boy’s ear, “Keep playing. Just keep playing.” Together they filled the hall with a masterpiece.
This story challenged many of us on my team. As we look at the massive problems facing our world today, it is easy to think we have nothing to offer. Sometimes, it is so hard to know how even to begin. As Bob reminded us, “Go to the piano. Just go to the piano and allow the mighty hands of God to enhance our small and imperfect offerings and create something beautiful.”
So many individuals have dared to go to the piano with their “Chopsticks” and partner with NEA in Ghana since our first Ghana Health Team Mission in 2007 and now, we are watching and hearing a symphony. The Leyaata Hospital is a masterpiece, and we thank God and each one who stepped up to the piano.