Being a missionary in Africa leads to all kinds of strange questions. While in the States on furlough last year, I was continually surprised at the things people could ask me about my field with a straight face - in fact, many times I had a hard time keeping a straight face myself! Now, I'm not making fun of anybody, it is just easy to forget that most people don't know much about the great place I get to live. So for any of you out there that are Africa-illiterate, here are 10 interesting facts for you!
1. Africa is a continent, not a country. In fact it is a very large continent with 56 different countries and over 737 million people. So, no, I probably will never see your friend in Kenya or South Africa. Those places are very far away from where I live!
2. We live in the country of Ghana. It is in West Africa, an area, not a country, in the western part of Africa. There are roughly 20 million people in Ghana. From the searching we've done, we think there are about 30 Baptist missionary families in our country. That's a pretty big ratio!
3. We live in Ghana, not Guinea (in Africa, too), and not Guyana (in South America). We've been introduced as missionaries from all those countries! (see prayer card on right side of screen :))
4. No, we do not live in a grass hut. I know, everyone in Africa lives in a hut, right?!? Actually, and I know this isn't as exciting, we live in a concrete apartment building! In fact, the majority of people in Ghana live in concrete buildings. Even in the villages, most people make their houses out of mud bricks and then overlay them with concrete. It makes them much stronger!
5. Yes, we have big cities here in Ghana. We live in the city of Kumasi which has between 2 and 3 million people. The largest city is the capital, Accra, which has about 5 million people.
6. Almost the only place we can see wild animals is at the zoo. No, we do not have giraffes, lions, monkeys, or wildebeasts running around. There are some elephants and antelope on game reserves, but that is the only place you will see them in the wild. If you go into the deep forest, you can see monkeys, but most of the time we only see them here when someone has one for a pet! And sadly, there are no lions or giraffes in West Africa. They were poached out a long time ago.
7. Many people ask me if I'm afraid of the snakes, spiders, and crocodiles here. Actually, I don't see them here too often. The only difference between here and the States is that if I see a snake or a spider here, I kill first and ask questions later, since almost all of the species here are poisonous. Not common, but poisonous.
8. No, we do not eat monkey brains, or any other really wierd things like that! Yes, that is a real question that someone asked me! We eat the local food, and I also do what I like to call African-American cooking. I take ingredients I can get here and try to make it into something familiar. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't! For example, I make a version of taco salad here, but I substitute plantain chips for tortilla chips, since we don't have tortilla chips here, and then I make my own salsa. Delicious!
9. Yes, people here wear clothes. Most people here wear clothes just like we wear in the States. In fact, most of the clothes people wear here are things that have been donated to places like Goodwill, Red Cross, and other charity organizations. The things that are donated are sold here (yes, sold), and that is the clothing that most people wear here on a daily basis. Most people also wear what we call "local clothes", meaning clothing of a traditional style and print. There are seamstresses and tailors on every corner, so anything you can think up, you can have sewn!
10. Witch doctors, voodoo, juju - yes it is here, but it is not common to see traditional fetish priests, idols, or sacrifices on a regular basis. These things are here, and they are powerful, too, but they are not as blatant as in some places. Most people here are deathly afraid of the fetish priests, spirits, and curses, but they will not take part in it unless they feel like they have no recourse. If a family member gets sick or dies, or they really need money, many people will go to the priests in secret for help. The fear is what really binds them!
So there you have it! Your first ten facts towards being Africa-literate. Now go out and surprise somebody with how much you know about Ghana. And, don't forget to pray for the salvation of the people of Ghana, too!