A place that brings tears
15.04.2013 - 15.04.2013 80 °F
Ghana has a higher ranking that most other African countries on all the scales that apply. It has less crime and corruption, more education and freer elections, a higher standard of living, better health care - and, oh dear God, it is poor and dirty and it breaks your heart. Yes, the roads are well built, but few cars travel on them. Yes, most people are not starving, but the women carry water jugs every day because there is no running water. Yes, they have a thriving local industry in fish and in salt, but look below at the harbor and the salt pans. The GDP in purchasing power is $1363, #18 out of the 53 African countries.
Not only is the view of Takoradi (where we docked) depressing, but we went from there to the Cape Coast and the Elmina Slave Castles where we had to face the enormity of suffering that human beings can inflict on each other and the knowledge that the world is still not free of slavery. Cape Coast is actually a kind of pretty place, a large white compound and fort built by the Portuguese on the coast. Some of the chambers were used as storerooms, and others for slave storage. We stepped inside them and saw the single air vent, the trench for waste, the slot through which “food” was brought to the forty or fifty or hundred people crammed within. There were dungeons and cells where slaves were put to die and a long dark corridor to the gate of no return where they were loaded onto boats. At Elmina, we stood in the courtyard where women were chosen for rape and we climbed the stairs up which they walked for the event. It all made no sense. Why would the slavers not keep their “products” in better condition - and then the answer: because weak, sick slaves couldn’t rebel. It was a somber time in those dungeons, facing the evil that seemed to be there still.
We came out into the sun, at the corner of the building; stairs led up to the second floor where there was a chapel. A CHAPEL?????? Above the men’s dungeon?????? What could they have been thinking? What kind of prayers did they say? Did they pray for compassionate hearts before they went to whip the next batch of slaves? Who led those services? WHAT could he have been thinking? We got an answer to that question because his grave was there in the sun, in a place of honor. He was a Ghanian native who went to seminary in England before returning to serve at the Cape Coast church. The church is used today for a children’s library. It was too much to bear. I began to weep and couldn’t stop.
Where is there any hope? Strangely it is seen in the hovels that line the roads. These open air one-room spaces that often serve both as homes and businesses bear signs with names like:
Glory to God Beauty Salon
Thank You Jesus Fashion Center
With God All Things are Possible Beauty Salon
By His Grace Cell Phones
Humble Work Furniture
God is King Tailoring
The Lord is My Sheperd Fashion Home
Ghanians believe in the power of names. God bless them all.