LAST POST – August 3rd, 2009.
Well – we are done….most things anyway. Over 4000 blocks were laid, the masons will continue for a few days and make sure that the structure is roof ready. The road in front has been graded by hand, erosion control measures are complete, friendships have been made, 7 kids will go to school this year because the team is paying their school fees……medical aid has been delivered, and a host of other things. Our full report will be out in a few weeks…. there is just enough time for good-byes……
This will be our last post from Ghana, and maybe the last one we get to do before coming home. But if you don’t hear from us right away when we get off the plane, don't worry - every thing is fine.
Have you seen the movie Apollo 13? Do you recall the scenes where the astronauts are finally on their way home, and must prepare to, then actually re-enter, earth's atmosphere? Pretty intense. Coming home after a mission trip is similar in some ways. You wrap up with where you are, you prepare for the journey, you make the journey, and before you know it it seems like you are hurtling uncontrollably from one world to another. The atmosphere, the smells, the people.... everything changes. Your feet touch ground and suddenly you are supposed to step right back into the life you left. But you can't really, because you've just returned from another world, and you're not the same person you were when you left. Some of your friends and family are okay with the changes, some don't notice at all, while others want you to go back to being the person they were familiar with before your journey. As the "astronaut" returned home, you're 'supposed' to have wonderful stories to share... but sometimes it takes a while to make sense of your experience in another world, and even longer to figure out how to articulate that story in a way that is true and understandable.With this in mind, we would like to offer some helpful suggestions for families and friends of the returning missionaries. These suggestions are intended to help those returning home do so in a responsible manner and help those receiving the returnees to soften the landing. The suggestions we offer come not only out of our own past experiences but on the advice of many who have engaged in a short-term immersion-style mission project. So….here we go.
First, it's important that the people returning have an opportunity for safe space. Oftentimes a returnee will seem very weepy and emotionally down. Don't take it personally. Think of it as the "post-Christmas blues" magnified.
Second, please remember that there will be lots of time to share stories. In fact, you might get a better story, if you wait a while. There will be many questions which will be relatively easy to answer; questions about food, driving, accommodations, construction work. However, even these simple questions can bring about a strong emotional response from the team member. Please don't be surprised if this happens, and be patient. It is a normal part of processing the enormous amount of information a team member has taken in over the last month (they did visit a new world after all!)
Third, fatigue is a reality. There is jet lag, and the emotional impact of having spent a month in constant service and constant relationship building. Please allow team members time to sleep, time to 'chill', and time to be alone. We know you've missed them, but some team members may require more time by themselves than you are used to seeing them take. If you want to make them really happy - find out what they were craving while they were in Ghana and find it for them! In our discussions we've covered topics ranging from favorite doughnut to favorite places to drive. We don't want to belabour this point, so we'll close with this simple suggestion: Recall times when you or friends have experienced things like the post-Christmas blues, baby blues, the sadness of a close friend leaving.... and remember that for the next while the team members will need your patience as they adjust to being home.
A last word regarding our time of de-briefing before we head home. You might expect a call after we settle in at our de-brief location. Please don’t. Unless you have been on a project like this, it is very difficult to explain how important the process of closing the mission is. It is not something you can do “in the field” and unless it is done properly, re-entry into Canadian life can be tougher than necessary. To do this – we need the team to focus, and keeping that focus is hard enough once we arrive in Canada.
The debrief period between the in country work and arriving home is a crucial part of processing the experience. This requires the total focus of the team. Our experience has shown us more than once that a phone call home magnifies the sense of homesickness and emotionally removes the team member from the debriefing process. They really need this "time in between" to re-enter well. Everyone on the team and at home will benefit. Don't worry - you'll see them very soon!!!
So, we ask you to respect the process for the sake of your family member or friend, and those of you who are driving to pick up team members – please do not arrive before 2:30pm on Thursday…thanks.
Now – for some fun stuff… we did an exercise tonight as part of our in-country de-brief……we asked the team to respond to a “finish the sentence” test…..here are some of the results. Some are funny – some profound.
DID YOU KNOW…
…if just one person cares, you can change a life. (Darice)
…that the coldest it gets here is about 12 celcius. (Hayley)
…community is a verb. (Rachel)
…traffic lights are only a suggestion. (Mikaela)
…you can “shake your body to the Lord.” (Jennine)
…church music here is loud enough for heaven to hear it! (Melissa)
…if it looks like chicken and smells like chicken….it’s probably fish! (numerous team members)
…that less than a kilometer from where I will sleep tonight, someone will go to bed hungry. (Tania)
…that putting one person through school here can change as many as 400 lives! (Daryl)
…that two paved lanes can handle 4 lanes of traffic! (Chelsey)
…2 Ghanaians can beat 18 Obruni (white Canadians) on the soccer field :( (Hope)
…you can develop a fear of spiders – overnight!...if you find you are sleeping with one. (Jack)
…if you spend a month learning a song on the guitar, it will take a Ghanaian 10 minutes. (Steve and Jack)
…10 year olds in Ghana can speak 5 languages – fluently!
…speedometer?? What speedometer!!? (Sara)
…that yellow eyes can mean Malaria (Megan)
…and…that you can get up at 4am, do a full day’s work mixing concrete, with a Malaria headache that almost leaves you senseless – and still smile at your workmates. (Isaac)
…you can eat the whole crab, shell and all. (Kim)
…that those hot peppers are so good going in, but really hurt coming out. (Tania)
…that you really can cut your lawn with a machete. (Daryl)
…that my friend Stephen (Ghanaian) has 13 siblings, but only knows the names of 2 of them. Megan)
…that stress is in your head. (Isaac)
…that traffic jams are convenient if you have shopping to do.
…and, if you drive around long enough, eventually, what you are looking for will come to your window. (Tania)
…Ghanaians are aware that we (in the west) can help them (Africa), but we don’t choose to. Alexas)
…eve n though the people have so little, their faith is so strong. (Jack)
…families of 400 people and more, actually stay in contact with each other. (Steve)
…education in Ghana is a privilege, not a right. (Don)
…the scarier a big Ghanaian looks, the bigger the smile when you wave at them.
…everyone in the community looks after the children. (Hope)
…if you wake up breathing, it’s a good day. (Sara)
…a Ghanaian home is not restricted to a building. (Jennine)
…people don’t choose “favourites” in Ghana. (Melissa)
…Alexas will fold your clothes if you leave them long enough. (Mikaela)
…it took ½ an hour for Megan and Rachel to agree on soap placement. (Melissa)
…you should never get on the bus until Daryl is done talking. (Hope)
…there really is a “First Canadian Bank of Ghana and Cup of God’s Eternal Blessing Coffee Shop International.” (Daryl is the proprietor)
…that no matter how much you miss your family and want to see them, that it still hurts to leave here. (Hayley)
See you all when we get home.
PS - if you are hoping to pick up team members and you are NOT one of the scheduled drivers, please contact Jason for instructions....