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Church: the three-hour ride

Church: the three-hour ride

From the second we walked in we knew we were out of place. The harmonizing choir group, the amount of obibinis wearing traditional Kente cloth and beautifully wrapped headbands, and the massive cross that hung center stage—not to mention we were sitting in the children’s seating area. A woman asked for us to sit with her on the other side of the church, and there we found three seats ready for Ryan, Dan, and myself. We didn’t realize until the sermon was over that she was a longtime friend of Albert, Dan’s co-worker who plays the organ and sings in the Trinity Methodist Church choir group.

I don’t even know where to start. Being obrounis, we assumed there was no structure. We decided that our three-hour church experience was like an absurd roller coaster ride, mentally and physically. The longest time I’ve spent in a church was for a wedding, and the closest thing to a sermon has been bar mitzvah services. What I remember from the bar mitzvah services was how much standing up and sitting down I had to endure. But this church did much more than that.

After exchanging between the choir, praying, and preaching, we were sitting down for a while to watch the confirmation ceremony. Church is exhausting. Just when I thought I was going to fall asleep, the choir started again. Everyone stood up, shaking people’s hands, putting a little jig in their step with some of the biggest smiles I have seen in a while. We traveled around the rows of chairs wondering what the hell was going on. But it didn’t matter. I looked over at Dan, and we couldn’t stop smiling.

It must have just been their welcome routine. And the ride continued. Most of the time the reverend spoke in Twi so we didn’t know what was happening. Nancy, Albert’s close friend, told us that we had to introduce ourselves in front of the room, which probably had more than 100 people inside. There we were with two other Ghanaians that said their name, where they were from, and what brought them to the church—all said into a microphone. You could imagine how nervous we were. Dan was up first, and the first words that came out of her mouth were “Ete sen?,” meaning “How are you” in Twi. The whole crowd bursts into laughter replying, “Eye!,” which means “good.” They seemed pretty happy about that one.

It was the pastor’s time to speak. The emotion in his voice was like nothing I have witnessed, from screaming in Twi at the top of his lungs to singing joyfully about Jesus. But then it got intense. Silence filled the room as we began to pray, the pastor saying a few more words. We began to hear a woman moaning who was sitting down in the choir group, and out of the blue she screamed with horror. Another woman from the middle of the room began to cry out as Ryan, Dan, and I kept our cool wondering what could have been happening at that moment. A death in the family was my first guess because shortly after Ghanaians began to sing and donate money in a pot. Dan talked to Albert the following day, and apparently the women just felt heavily emotional amongst the community of the church.

It’s moments like these that I will always remember. Not too many people can say they sat in on a Methodist church in Ghana. The three-hour ride reminded me of the time I have spent in Accra: the unstructured nature of my day, my state of mind, and the wild adventures that have still yet to come. We thanked Albert for the wonderful opportunity, and that’s when we found out who Nancy was. Thank god she was there.