Tag Archives: family

MEMORIES OF GHANA

Kumasi has been on my mind a great deal this week.

Ghana’s second city was called “the garden city” before independence in 1957.   It’s not very green now, but the city still has the biggest open air-market in west Africa and a number of attractions for visitors.   It remains the home of the Asantahene, the King of the Ashanti, one of the most powerful men in the Republic of Ghana.

Exactly forty years ago, my wife and I were visiting the city once a month. We pastored a church there, as well as one in Accra, the capital, where we lived.   One of the joys of visiting Kumasi was spending time with Charles and Comfort Akowuah.   At the time, Charles was the deacon of the local church. He had a huge chicken farm outside of Kumasi.   The Akowuahs had two children, Loma and Richard (also known as Yaw).   Our children and theirs would play together.

We first arrived in Ghana on May 27, 1978.   At the time, the country was going through some major problems.   The economy had collapsed with an inflation rate of 600%, the military was in power, a “palace coup” took place just a few weeks after we arrived, and a revolution took place a few months later.   It was difficult to buy anything in the stores.   We were in culture shock for a while after arriving.   Charles and Comfort were a great help.

At some point during our first five-year stay in Ghana, Charles was ordained an elder of the church.   We worked very closely in serving the Ghanaian people.   During that five years, the church grew considerably.

We maintained our friendship even after a split in the church in 1995, which affected just about every country in the world.   We had dinner with them on our last visit to Ghana.   Whenever we visited Kumasi, we would visit the restaurant they started over twenty years ago, “Friends Garden,” a popular, open-air meeting place right in the heart of Kumasi.   Conversations would always last late into the night.

Sadly, Charles died of cancer on Sunday.

Charles’ funeral will not take place until 20th October.   This will enable friends and relatives in the Ghanaian diaspora to get back to Kumasi for the traditional funeral rites.  Ghanaians have the best funerals in the world.   If I could be there, I would be, joining in the celebration of Charles’ life.   His son, Richard, will be there from the United States; sadly, their daughter died some years ago, from complications that arose from sickle cell anemia, the end of a life-long struggle.

Thank you, Charles, for some wonderful memories.   Comfort, keep the business going – we hope to pass through Kumasi again someday. Will red-red or fufu be on the menu?

Damfira due, dear friend . . .

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LONDON TERROR – INCIDENT OR ACCIDENT?

The road to Kumasi was always a challenge. It was exactly 168 miles from our home to the center of the city.   The journey could take anything from 4 to 6 hours, depending on traffic and weather, as well as the state of the road, which varied.   There were well-paved stretches of road, but there were also considerable distances of mud, where you could easily get bogged down, especially if it was raining.   The rain was always a tropical storm, a. positive deluge, which could quickly wash the road away.   There was no shelter, just thick rain forest on either side of the highway.

Sometime in 1982, during the rainy season, my American colleague and I, together with our son Kurt, who was only three, were driving back to Accra from Kumasi, after dark.   We had four church members in the back of our Landrover (jeep).   In the middle of a heavy storm, we had a major accident with a bus, full of passengers heading to the capital.   We were all under a deadline, as there was a curfew at 10pm.

Our vehicle was hit by the bus and completely turned around, as it spun into a stone wall, demolishing it, before coming to a halt.   I had grabbed hold of our son (there were no seat belts in those days).   He and I did not have any serious injuries; my colleague, Steve, had a cut on his head and at least one of our passengers was thrown out of the back of the vehicle.

Making things worse was the endless, heavy rain.

A vehicle stopped to help.   The driver, an Ethiopian working for an NGO, gave Kurt and I a ride to our home, about two hours away.   We arrived just before the curfew.   My colleague was not far behind.   Days later, I tried to find the driver of our rescue vehicle.   I had no success. To this day,   I wonder if we were rescued by “an angel unawares.”   (Hebrews 13:2)

In the weeks that followed, we had no vehicle.

It turned out that the bus driver was drunk and had been dancing in the aisle while driving in a heavy storm.   Theoretically, we could have gone to court and received compensation from the bus driver’s company to buy a new vehicle.   But it wasn’t that simple.

Our lawyer, a prominent Ghanaian, said it would be pointless going to court.   The local police were not co-operating and the judge and jury wouldn’t either. One reason was tribal affiliation.   People in Africa identify with their tribe, first and foremost.   As the people on the jury would be of the same tribe as the accused, who came from that area, the man would be found not guilty; so what was the point of going to court?

That’s how it was explained to me.

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago when watching Sky News.   There was a report about a terrorist attack in London, when a 29-year-old Muslim man from South Sudan deliberately ran his vehicle into a group of cyclists riding past London’s iconic parliament building.   The man was in London to obtain a British passport, having just been granted British citizenship.

Sky News questioned some of the man’s friends, all Muslims.   They were all in agreement, that the incident was just an accident, not a terrorist incident, that Muslims are always blamed for terrorist attacks, when no Muslim would ever do anything like that.

It reminded me of that accident almost 40 years ago.   Again, tribal affiliation makes policing virtually impossible.

Thanks to Acorn, a streaming service similar to Netflix, offering shows from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, we have been able to watch a number of shows from England.   Crime shows, especially, portray the complexities caused by the reality of multicultural Britain, where everyday policing is made virtually impossible for the same reason it was pointless trying to have the drunk driver of the bus prosecuted following our near-death experience.

If the man is still alive, he is probably still driving buses in the pouring rain on difficult roads, dancing in the aisle while consuming lots of beer!

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AUSTRALIA AT 25

Sometime this week Australia’s population reached 25 million. Nobody knows exactly who is number 25 million – it’s more likely to be an immigrant arriving in the country than a new born baby; but 25 million is now the number.   Australia, in recent years, has been taking in 240,000 immigrants a year, compared to an average of 70,000 per annum in the twentieth century.

Prior to Gough Whitlam’s Labor administration (1972-75), Australia had a “white Australia” policy, in an attempt at preserving the country’s European culture.   At the time, most people were descended from the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples of the British Isles. Today, with declining birthrates in western Europe, most immigrants come from Asia and the Middle East, peoples of very different cultural backgrounds.

Eighty years ago, the big fear was of a Japanese invasion.   After World War II, there was great concern about the Chinese.   Neither invasion took place.   But a new generation of Australians is permitting a different invasion of their country.   The end result is likely to be that Australia will become an Asian republic, with all that implies.

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TRAINS AND REPTILES

This has been the last week before our grandchildren in Lansing return to school.   (The grandchildren in Indiana have been back for two weeks.)

I took Aubren on Wednesday for a day in Durand, a small town east of Lansing that has a railroad museum and remains a fairly busy train terminal, almost all freight.   This means you can sit and watch trains while eating lunch.   Aubren loves it and likes to play with the model train in the museum.   We were there for a few hours.   The man in charge at the museum said that they get many autistic children visiting.   For some reason, they love trains. He certainly felt at home there.

On Thursday, it was Leeson’s turn.   I took him to a big pet store to see all the snakes, lizards and spiders.   At first, he wanted me to buy a tarantula. He was inspired by a young lady who was standing next to us, checking out all the creepy-crawlies before buying one.   I saw no evidence that she was married, which is just as well.   I would also caution all single males to check out the girlfriend’s hobbies before contemplating marriage!

But, Leeson wasn’t so interested in tarantulas as he was in snakes. We ended up in the snake section (yes, there is one), where he asked the manager if he could hold a snake.   Yes, he could.   He chose the candy cane corn snake.

He held it for some time, offering me the opportunity to do so.   I declined, saying I needed to keep my hands free to take pictures for his mother.   My excuse worked!

Leeson is only five and asked the store manager, Jason, lots of very intelligent questions about snakes and how to take care of them.   He revealed that he already has a garter snake, which is hiding in the woodpile in our back yard.

In conversation, I told Jason I was watching PBS’ ‘The Outback,” on the previous evening.   Australia has more dangerous creatures than anywhere else on earth (and they still have 240,000 people settle there each year!).

Jason told me he had seen a documentary on Australia, where the American presenter commented on all these dangerous creatures and asked the Australian animal expert if there was anywhere in Australia that was safe.   The Australian responded with: “Yes, the classroom!”   Good point!

Through these two boys I’ve learned a lot about both trains and reptiles, far more than I ever wanted to know, in the case of the latter.

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COLORADO TRAGEDY

A young father in Colorado murdered his pregnant wife and two young daughters on Monday.   We’ve had similar tragedies in Michigan in recent years.

It seems that, today, parents (particularly the father or step-father) are the greatest danger children have to face.

It’s a national tragedy.   Why does this keep on happening?

Apparently, the couple was having financial problems and had had an argument that morning.   TV news reported from outside their home, which was a modern mansion.

Coincidentally, I checked a new book out of the library this week. The title is “Squeezed:   why our families can’t afford America,” by Alissa Quart.   According to a recent newspaper article, 70% of Americans are struggling financially.   They live paycheck to paycheck and are heavily in debt.   It starts with student loans, then a car loan and a mortgage and progresses downhill from there.

But, why does a small family like the one in Colorado, need such a big house?   A PBS documentary over twenty years ago showed that the average family home in the 50’s and 60s was 1,100 square feet, with a garage for one car.   Forty years later, the average new home was 2,000 square feet, with a 2½ car garage, usually used for storage.     Now, it’s even worse.   The title of the documentary was “Affluenza,” highlighting a disease that too many people suffer from.   We need bigger and bigger homes to store more and more things!   And it’s all built on debt.   Where’s the sense in it?

The stress that it all leads to is causing irreparable damage to families, including divorce and violence.

We don’t know yet why the man in Colorado flipped and killed those he, at one time, loved.

There’s never been a greater need than there is now for God to fulfill the last two verses of the Old Testament, a promise to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,” prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”   (Malachi 4:5-6)

I find it unfathomable that a husband and father can do what this young man did in Colorado.   A father’s role includes protecting his wife and children. Instead, today, too often the husband and father represent the greatest threat to the safety and security of everybody in the household.

Of course, we have, in the last few decades destroyed the family in many ways, including totally upending God’s financial system.   In the past, parents had to have children, partly so they could take over the family farm as they got older and could then provide for them in old age. Now we have social security.   It’s taken away the “need” for children, who are now disposable.

How much worse is it going to get?

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FAMILY UNIT – FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY

Lark-Rise-To-Candleford-net-worth

“Lark Rise to Candleford” is a BBC series set in 1895.   It’s about two geographically close communities, one poor and the other fairly affluent, and how characters inter-act with each other.   The series started in 2008 and ran for four seasons.

My wife and I have been watching it when time permits.   We are now halfway through the third season.

We usually watch it after the latest episode of “Agatha Raisin,” set in contemporary England.   Shown originally on Sky TV and filmed in the Cotswolds, one of the most beautiful areas in the country, Agatha Raisin is an amateur detective (Agatha! Get it?), who has moved from London to the Cotswolds for a change of pace.   She must be having second thoughts as the small village she lives in has at least one murder per week.   Every murder is tastefully done – no extreme violence here, no, not in England.   No guns.

The two series could not be more different.   We unhesitatingly recommend the former, but are not likely to continue to watch the latter.

In 1895 the residents of Lark Rise and Candleford all lived in accordance with strict societal rules.   These included biblical standards of morality.   This cannot be said about the residents in Agatha Raisin’s village, or even of Agatha herself.   Agatha Christie would be appalled. And Queen Victoria would certainly not have been amused!

What a difference 120 years has made to the family and morality.

Pause for a moment and think of how much it has cost us on both sides of the Atlantic.

The high costs of welfare are largely to cover-up the breakdown of the family system in this new liberal age.   These welfare rolls have put us on a toboggan slide to insolvency.   They have also added to the violence in our society as mothers often choose single parenthood over marriage as a way to get more benefits; boys without fathers are more inclined toward crime and violence.

A report from England two days ago highlighted how teenage girls there are increasingly unhappy.   Family breakdown leads to unhappiness and increases the likelihood of addictions and suicide.

The anti-biblical society we have created has put 65 million babies to death in the US alone, following the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.   These 65 million have been replaced by an equal number of immigrants, many of whom make no attempt to assimilate, while some are openly hostile toward us. Aside from the moral consideration, wouldn’t it have been better to raise those 65 million babies to be productive members of society?   Faced with growing existential threats, they would also have added to our military strength; after all, the greatest strength is people, not technology.

Generous welfare benefits in western countries are also contributing to the migrant crisis, as hundreds of thousands of economic migrants are attracted to the West by all the freebies.  Not all are refugees fleeing wars and persecution.

It’s a complete mess.  It’s clearly time for a rethink.  It’s time to restore the family to its traditional role and reverse the role of the state.

Christians believe that God created the family system — “male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24).   To a certain extent, this is still a basic principle of our law – the marriage relationship takes precedence over other relationships.

However, what we fail to see is that within the biblical parameters we have the perfect welfare system.   For thousands of years, this was the foundation of every society, a family system in which the various members of a family helped and supported each other.   It is still the basic unit of most cultures around the world.

The irony is that, in the event of a financial collapse, which is inevitable at some point, we would see the family unit restored, as people would have to help each other again.

We might even see some sense come back into the financial system. One of the characters in the first season of “Lark Rise” is now serving time in debtors’ prison.   Until 1905, in Britain at least, people were sent to prison for their debts, until family members could save the money to pay off the debt and get them out.   Today, the accumulation of debt in the western world is no longer a crime – and it’s even legally possible for people to walk away from their debts. This cannot be good for the economy.

The more Biblically aware Victorians believed that “if a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10)   They would have been appalled at the very idea of state welfare.

Another scripture that influenced the Victorians was written by the Apostle Paul.   “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Timothy 5:8).

The family system was the foundation of society.   It’s taken quite a battering in the last century, but still survives – and will be needed once again in the event of a national or international calamity.

OBSERVATIONS II

Puerto rican debt

President Obama has called for urgent action on climate change, to save the environment for our children and grandchildren.

We are not likely to hear him call for massive reductions in government spending so that our children and grandchildren do not have to pay back the $18 trillion debt the last two generations have accumulated.

This problem is arguably more urgent than climate change.

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We’ve been hearing a lot about Greece recently.  The country has some serious financial problems.  Now Puerto Rico is in default.

“Puerto Rico’s outstanding debt of $72 billion is far bigger than Detroit’s $20 billion bankruptcy two years ago but a fraction of Greece’s $350 billion in obligations.  But unlike Detroit, there’s no law allowing Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy…..  ’There’s no big daddy to rescue Puerto Rico,’ says Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.”   (“Puerto Rico defaults on $72bn debt”, USA Today, Tuesday.)

As everyone with a credit card knows, eventually you have to pay the balance.

It’s no different with countries.

How are we, or our grandchildren going to pay off $18 trillion of national debt?   How long before it’s $20 trillion?   Will that be the psychological barrier that prompts the rest of the world to say “Enough!”?

What’s happening in Greece could also happen here.

In Athens, the Stock Market reopened yesterday after a five-week shutdown due to the financial crisis.   Shares fell dramatically, with some investors losing 25% in one day.   Shares of the Greek National Bank, once trading as high as $27.50, dropped to $0.09 Monday.

The general feeling is that the worst is yet to come.

It could also spread to other countries with a heavy debt load.

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Our economic woes are certainly increasing.  One reason is the drought, which is severely affecting some parts of the country and has been for four years.   This has led to many of the uncontrolled fires we are witnessing on the nightly news.

The drought stricken land reminds me of God’s warning to the ancient Israelites, that if they did not obey Him, there would be some serious consequences.

One of those consequences would be drought.   Note:  Deuteronomy 28:23 – “The skies above will be as unyielding as bronze, and the earth beneath will be as hard as iron.”  (New Living Translation)

Is God trying to tell us something?

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I haven’t been able to post any articles for a few days.  This is because all eight grandchildren were staying with us last week.  The four oldest, all girls, are aged 8 to 10; the four youngest, all boys, 2 & 3.   Needless to say, I spent the week pre-occupied with little time to think, let alone write.

But it was fun having them all and we’re looking forward to the next time — over the Labor Day weekend.   Family get-togethers are so very important!

 

 

 

SHARING SOME GREAT NEWS

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Today the Rhodes family is rejoicing.

We just received the news that Diane, my wife of 39 years, is cancer free.

It was on the last day of my hospital stay in the University of Michigan hospital, Ann Arbor, that she was told she had cancer – endometrial cancer, to be exact.   One trial was ending but another was just starting.

Last Friday, just six days ago, she had a hysterectomy at the same hospital. We had to wait until today for the pathology report to see if any cancer remained. We’re pleased to say they got it all. We would like to thank everybody for their prayers.

We thank God that she is fine and that, God willing, we will have many more years together.

This year has been quite a year. When I was in the hospital, Diane was told twice that I might not make it.   When she was told she had cancer, there was some concern that she might not have got it in time.

But now we can both rejoice that we are on the road to recovery and that all is well.

Our three adult children rejoice with us. If they understood, our eight grandchildren would be celebrating too, as they all love Grandma.

For the last hour, our 31-month-old grandson Aubren has been on my lap as if to celebrate the news. For some reason he loves the nursery rhyme “Hickory Dickory Dock,” which he only discovered a few days ago. He keeps climbing up to sit on my lap, pointing to my laptop and saying “dock.”   His younger brother Leeson does the same but Leeson is taking a nap, so Aubren took his opportunity to fill the gap and have some special time with Grandpa.

What a blessing family is, through all the trials that come our way. Through loving and supporting each other at all times, family bonds are strengthened. Thanks also to our church family and many, many friends. We love you all!