Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's Time for a Timely Reminder on Time. Broken Cisterns. Hindenburg. 4-Minute Mile. Living in Modern Babylon.

For "Scripture Sunday":

It's Time for a Timely Reminder on Time

"Sometimes cultural differences can give you a new perspective on God's Word. Maybe there's more we can learn about what it means to "redeem the time."

"We need your help."  The words were those of Nana Amisah, the owner of the land upon which the small town of Kuntanase, in the central part of Ghana, is built. (Nana is a title.) Nana Amisah explained the needs of his community and how I, perceived as a rich white Western visitor, might be able to help. I even had the offer of a school or clinic named after me—assuming I would pay for it, of course.

But it wasn't just in comparative wealth that I was feeling the difference between the cultures. At the end of my two-week visit to Ghana in December I was feeling the difference more than usual.

Traffic Jams, Torrid Heat and No Toilets

We had gone to Kuntanase for Sabbath services. Accompanied by Pastor Richard Dua, we had been scheduled to visit Pastor Ofori Manu and his congregation a 2 1/2 hour drive from Accra, Ghana's coastal capital.

At least, that's how long it normally takes to get there.  On this particular Sabbath, however, a small town en route had decided to hold a special Christmas market and traffic was backed up for two hours. There we sat in our car in extremely hot and humid weather with no air conditioning. Sweat just poured off me and my clothes were soaked through. I had no prospect of cleaning myself up for 48 hours as that night I was to be dropped at the airport for my return trip to Michigan.

When we did finally get there, we had to walk the last mile as the side road was blocked by a traditional Ghanaian funeral attended by an indeterminate number of people. Naturally, that last mile coincided with noon, the hottest time of the day, and was uphill!

By the time we reached the hall, this old obroni (Twi for "white man") was breathless and V-E-R-Y uncomfortable. I was drinking water by the bottle and was still thirsty. The congregation of 96 people had been waiting patiently for my arrival and was ready for my sermon. Delivering a sermon at noon in the heat of the West African bush is quite a challenge—my glasses kept steaming up and I had to keep closing my Bible to keep the sweat from ruining the open pages. The corrugated iron roof only made the heat more intense. I was hoping for some air to circulate through the windowless building, but nothing moved—least of all, me.

Sadly, because it had taken four hours to get there, we had to leave soon after the service in order to get back to Accra before sunset at 6 p.m. But as we were about to leave, a message came from Nana Amisah asking me to come and greet him.

In West African culture, nothing is more important than the greeting. Wherever you go, whomever you visit, whomever you might bump into while walking down the street, must be greeted. "Hello. How are you? It's a pleasure to see you again. How is your family? How is the farm? How are your goats and chickens?"

No matter how anxious a hot and sweaty obroni might be to return to "civilization" (at such moments defined as any building with air conditioning!), the greeting must be completed or offense can be given.

So we walked back down the hill (slightly easier, but by this time it didn't matter anyway), past the funeral procession ("Mr. Rhodes, Nana says you should greet those attending the funeral." "All 100-plus people? We'll be here all day—I have a plane to catch!").

By this time I needed to get away as soon as possible. It wasn't just the heat. Eight hours after leaving the hotel nature called and I needed to go somewhere, as soon as possible. I asked where the nearest appropriate facility was and was disheartened by the reply, "21 miles from here." "21 miles???? And how long will that take?" "Mr. Rhodes, the road is bad, full of pot holes. It will take an hour, maybe slightly less."

And we still had to greet the Nana! A hurried greeting is more insulting that not greeting at all, so I had no alternative but to grin and bear it.

We entered the Nana's home. There were fans in the living rooms. "If he has fans, maybe he has the other thing I need," I reasoned. But it was not so. Few homes in Ghana have toilet facilities—most people just use a hole in the ground. Only hotels in big cities built for Western visitors have flush toilets, along with a few Western-style restaurants and businesses.

Realizing that there was a need to get moving as soon as possible, the two Ghanaian pastors kept reminding the Nana that time was short and I had to return to Accra for my plane. We were soon able to leave. But now Pastor Ofori Manu's landlord also had to be greeted. Our walk through the town continued as we went to his home. When we got there I personally was relieved that he had "gone out" and therefore could not be greeted. We were now free to depart and begin the one hour journey to the nearest bathroom!

Greetings a Top Priority

The importance of the greeting in West African society cannot be overly stressed. It is very much a part of the local culture which, at times, can seem quaint to the Western visitor, but at other times (see above) frustrating. It is one of the first things any visitor to Ghana must adapt to. Observing visitors making this adjustment is often quite revealing and always interesting.

When it comes to time, America and Ghana are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Americans are very time conscious, whereas Ghanaians have little concept of time.

Many years ago, a Ghanaian told me a joke about a native of the country visiting Mexico. The man had a few hours to kill before catching a flight back to Ghana, so he hired a taxi and guide to show him around Mexico City. He began asking the taxi driver questions. "I keep hearing this word maƱana a lot. What does it mean?" The taxi driver explained: "No hurry. Tomorrow. Maybe. Do you have a word like that in Ghana?" asked the cab driver. The Ghanaian responded: "No, we have no word like that in Ghana that conveys such a sense of urgency!"

It's quite an adjustment for Americans who like everything to begin (and end) on time, who want to get as much done as possible in the shortest possible time and who certainly don't want to waste time greeting everybody at great length. A simple "hi" should suffice, with a brief wave of the hand.

An American businessman once told me, soon after we first arrived in Ghana 25 years ago: "You know, signing a contract here means nothing. It won't hold up in court. It's not until the Ghanaian businessman takes you by the hand and walks you down the street introducing you to all his friends that you realize you've got the deal!" (Yes, men hold hands. That's another custom—maybe a subject for a future article!)

In Western culture probably nothing is more important than money and time. "Time is money" is a famous saying. In Ghanaian culture, time and money are not as important as people. No matter how much time you might lose or how much a delay could cost you financially, greeting people comes first. It has to be done. In my mind, I've sometimes likened it to my upbringing in the north of England—whenever anybody came to visit, my mother would automatically "put the kettle on" to make tea for the visitor, whether he wanted a cup or not! It had to be done. That was the local culture and nothing could interfere with it.

The apostle Paul writes of the importance of "redeeming the time" (Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.).   But have we ever stopped to realize that this can be interpreted differently in different parts of the world? To Americans, the words convey the need not to waste time, to always be doing something, as this is thought pleasing to God. To the peoples of West Africa these words would have no such meaning.   Rather, noting the wider context of the passage Paul wrote, the emphasis would lie elsewhere. "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (verses 15-16).

Faith, Family and Friends

We live in a time when the world is full of great evils. It is clear to many that things are only set to get worse. Ghanaians are aware of civil disturbances in neighboring countries between Christians and Muslims that could threaten Ghana itself. Many also remember a time 20 years ago when Ghanaians suffered horribly through famine and political upheaval.

What helped the people survive was faith, family and friends.

Ghana is a very religious country. Of course, most of the religion practiced there is false religion. Satan has deceived them just as he has deceived the rest of the world (Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

But their varied religious beliefs are very important to them and give them a strong faith. A great deal of time is spent on religious practice, including all day (and even all night) church services.

Along with religion is devotion to family and friends. Culturally, relationships are far more important than making money, advancing a career or accumulating things.

Without realizing it, the culture has stumbled upon a great Christian truth, revealed to us in Matthew 22. "Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, '"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'"
(Matthew 22:35-40 [35] Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
[36] Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
[37] Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
[38] This is the first and great commandment.
[39] And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
[40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.)

I've traveled widely and I can honestly say that I know of no other people more friendly than the peoples of Ghana. Many visitors comment on this. It is incomprehensible to Westerners that a nation with an average income of $25 per month can be happier than we are in the West. But they are. Perhaps that should tell us something?

The unhappiness that many in the West feel in their lives comes down to the fact that they don't follow the simple priorities set by Jesus Christ. Rather, they put money first. Time is money, which means that there is little or no time for a relationship with God or with their fellow human beings. The result is a great emptiness that they try to fill with physical things, along with alcohol and drugs, both prescription drugs and illegal drugs. But these will never fill the gap, a gap that can only be filled by reestablishing priorities.

Yes, it can be frustrating sometimes having to "greet" everybody in Ghana—and it certainly takes time. But it's also an opportunity to bring joy to others, to show love and concern for our fellow human beings.

I may not be able to build a school or a clinic in Kuntanase, but I was able to represent the United Church of God and the United States of America during my brief visit to the town—building a bond between us that will long be remembered. UN "  From:  Article by Melvin Rhodes.

Broken cisterns

“Going green” is all in vogue, as the need to conserve – and the practicality of recycling – becomes even more compelling in crippled economies around the world. Things that were once thoughtlessly discarded are now often repurposed or recycled. More energy-efficient methods of doing daily chores and routine tasks are being sought at every level. It just makes good sense to do some of these things.

Recently, while helping someone install rain barrels to catch the runoff of rain water from the guttering system on the roof of their home – a practice that was common in another time before modern water delivery systems were in place – I thought of an obscure Scripture that holds much meaning for those who will pause to ponder it.

In about 635 to 605 BC, Jeremiah, sometimes referred to as the “weeping prophet,” wrote a stern warning to the “house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel.” In this prophecy, he outlined the sins of the nation and gave the terrible consequences if the people refused to change from their sinful ways. In Jeremiah 2:11-13, he wrote: “‘Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate,’ says the Lord. ‘For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water.’

What is a cistern? Like the rain barrel, it is a device for storage of water for later use, usually underground. In using this analogy, what was the prophet saying to those people long ago, and is there a message there for us today?

Clearly, the people of that age were ignoring the plain instruction on how to live their lives. They were not keeping the commandments; they were not concerned for each other. Their leaders were leading them astray, and they willingly went along with it.

The “living waters” provided by a loving God were not being retained. No, these truths, pictured by living waters, were being placed in broken cisterns where they were spilled and did no one any good.

We have that expression in English idiom today when we refer to some unfounded scheme or some unworkable idea by saying, “Why, that just won’t hold water!”

How about it? Will the things you believe and practice hold up under the scrutiny of God’s Word found in the Bible? Will your beliefs “hold water”? Or have you, through neglect or lack of study to determine the important things in life, hewn out for yourself broken cisterns that can hold no water?”

Tomorrows World can provide you, if you are willing, information to prove that Israel – to whom these words were written – can be identified in these modern times, and that these words written so long ago apply today. In v. 32 of this same chapter, God said through Jeremiah, “…Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number.”   This is an apt description of the age in which we live today.

It doesn’t have to be that way. These life-changing truths can be learned and a way of life that does “hold water,” the living waters, which pictures the Holy Spirit, can be lived. With this Spirit, genuine change can be made to begin living a godly life, with all the blessings that it brings now and in the soon-coming Kingdom of God, at Christ’s return.   Our literature, all of which is free of charge, can help guide you in hewing out cisterns which are not broken, to contain the spiritual blessings God provides."  From:  By J. Davy Crockett III

On This Day:

The Hindenburg disaster, May 6, 1937:

"On this day in 1937, the German airship Hindenburg, the largest dirigible ever built, explodes as it arrives in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thirty-six people died in the fiery accident that has since become iconic, in part because of the live radio broadcast of the disaster.

The dirigible was built to be the fastest, largest and most luxurious flying vessel of its time. It was more than 800 feet long, had a range of 8,000 miles, could carry 97 passengers and had a state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz engine. It was filled with 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen, even though helium was known to be far safer, because it made the flying ship more maneuverable.

The Hindenburg had made 10 successful ocean crossings the year before and was held up by Germany's Nazi government as a symbol of national pride. Flying at a speed of 85 miles per hour, the Hindenburg was scheduled to arrive in New Jersey at 5 a.m. on May 6. However, weather conditions pushed the arrival back to the late afternoon and then rain further delayed the docking at Lakehurst. When the dirigible was finally cleared to dock, Captain Max Pruss brought the ship in too fast and had to order a reverse engine thrust. At 7:20 p.m., a gas leak was noticed. Within minutes, the tail blew up, sending flames hundreds of feet in the air and as far down as the ground below.

A chain reaction caused the entire vessel to burn instantly. The nearly 1,000 spectators awaiting the Hindenburg's arrival felt the heat from a mile away. Some on the blimp attempted to jump for the landing cables at the docking station but most died when they missed. Others waited to jump until the blimp was closer to the ground as it fell. Those who were not critically injured from burns often suffered broken bones from the jump. Fifty-six people managed to survive.

On WLS radio, announcer Herbert Morrison gave an unforgettably harrowing live account of the disaster, "Oh, oh, oh. It's burst into flames. Get out of the way, please . . . this is terrible . . . it's burning, bursting into flames, and is falling . . . Oh! This is one of the worst . . . it's a terrific sight . . .oh, the humanity.""

Roger Bannister breaks four-minutes mile, May 6, 1954: "On this day in 1954, at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, medical student Roger Bannister becomes the first person in recorded history to run the mile in under four minutes.

Roger Bannister was born in Middlesex on March 23, 1929. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to school, so he ran his way in: Bannister won a track scholarship to Oxford, where he studied medicine and was a running sensation. He caused a furor in England when he declined to run the 1500 meters in the 1948 London Olympics so he could concentrate on his medical studies. He did run in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, but finished fourth. Again, the British press scorned him. He then resolved to break track and field’s most famous barrier, the four-minute mile, a feat many believed to be impossible. Bannister had limited time to train, as he was enrolled at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School. He would run 30 minutes most days, focusing the rest of his time on his study of neurology.

On May 6, 1954, Bannister was running for the Amateur Athletic Association in Oxford against runners from the university in their annual match. He ran with two friends, who paced him, and then sprinted the last 200 yards, for a record time of 3:59.4. Later that month, Australian John Landy broke Bannister’s record by less than a second. The two were then made out to be rivals.

In August, Bannister and Landy met face-to-face at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, where 35,000 spectators watched what was billed as the "mile of the century." Landy led Bannister the entire race, but Bannister out-sprinted Landy down the straightaway to win by five yards and less than a second, 3:58.8 to 3:59.6. Their two times were the third and fourth recorded miles run in under four minutes in history."

The program on WGN this morning:  "Living in Modern Babylon"
About Daniel, how he stuck to his beliefs and was rewarded for it by God.    Applies today, too. 
Transcript at:



Jay and I went to the Church of God that we had seen last Sunday on our way back from Becky's Cancer Benefit.  It was a great service, and the message was very interesting.  It is only 8 miles from our subdivision.  The meeting that we had been going to in Conroe was in the mornings, which Jay prefers, but at this one the hymn singing and sermon starts at 2.00 pm.  We arrived early, so we were able to enjoy some of the Bible Study before the service.  We were welcomed by so many people, and they are all so friendly that I would have liked to stay longer, but Jay gets nervous around new people.  There was a pot luck afterwards, but Jay wasn't up to staying for it, yesterday.

1 comment:

Dizzy-Dick said...

There are a lot of good people and good churches around. You don't have to look very far.