Ghana: Exceeded Expectations

Plop…plop…plop, plop…plop, plop, plop…

*Fwwooooooooooo!*

The rain started falling, slowly at first, but it quickly increased in magnitude as the wind also started to surge through the open windows.

“In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light my strength, my song; This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm…”

As if emboldened by the message of the song, the rain started to pound on the tin roof with a deafening roar as members of the choir quickly ran to close the windows.

“What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease…”

We increased in volume as we continued to sing, but we were no match for the storm that seemed to laugh at us as it grew louder and louder.

Someone pulled out a microphone and a portable speaker for me to use as I directed the choir, but in only seconds we were drowned out once again.

At the end of the first stanza of “In Christ Alone,” we surrendered: “We’re going to have you divide up into your sections and practice the songs on your own because we can’t sing any louder without ruining our voices.”

Rainbow in GhanaThis was one of several memorable moments from Making Melody Camp in Ghana a few weeks ago.

In my last post, I talked about my upcoming trip to Ghana to help with a music camp. Well, now I can tell you about it in retrospect ­čÖé

The traveler within me wants to tell you all about the trip to get there, but I will hold those details for now and just tell you about the music camp itself.

The inaugural Making Melody Camp started with a music theory class on Monday morning and concluded with a choir concert on Friday night. Each day consisted of several hours of musical instruction interspersed with choir rehearsals.

Making Melody CampWe went from 8am to about 8pm every day, and we were thoroughly exhausted when we went to bed each night. Between the heat and all those hours of musical instruction, we were drained. A few people also dealt with illnesses, but God gave us just the strength we needed to fulfill the ministry that he gave us that week.

On Monday we started off uncertain about how much progress we would make, so we had a tentative plan in mind but chose to play it be ear as we went along. Olivia Ferguson, a high school music teacher from Michigan and my co-teacher for the week, and I had lofty goals about how much music theory we wanted to teach, how many songs we wanted to prepare for the concert, and what techniques we wanted to teach them for singing and leading music in their churches. To put it simply, we wanted them to have the ability to read music and sing 2-part harmony by the time the week was over.

Olivia Teaching MusicAs Monday came to an end, we were completely drained. The people had showed great enthusiasm, but we were not yet convinced they were up to the task of four more full days of learning and singing.

But as the week went along, the students picked up the material more quickly, they asked many, many good questions, they took notes on everything we said, and during their breaks, they were filling out worksheets or practicing music on their own.

Music Camp Students in GhanaWe dumped information on them like the downpour of rain that we experienced almost every evening there, but they gathered it all in as eagerly as the Mapes (the missionaries we stayed with) collected the rain in 55-gallon drums for use in the mission house.

By Friday morning we had taught them how to count basic rhythms, identify note placement on the grand staff, and recognize time signatures and key signatures. Olivia taught us how to use solfege to read music even without a piano present. Our concert repertoire consisted of eight songs, with several of them sung in 3- and 4-part harmony. It was so fun to see their eyes light up as they figured things out and implemented them.

I also had the opportunity to preach several times: Sunday night, all five mornings, Thursday night, and Friday night at the concert. We talked about the use of music in the Christian life, and the students listened attentively and responded well, so that was another source of encouragement.

Teaching Music in GhanaBy Thursday, the unspoken wall between teachers and students had fallen down, and we all worked and sang together as friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. We sang a lot and laughed a lot as the week sped along to the Friday night concert, the culmination of our collective efforts.

Words and pictures cannot fully express how blessed the week was. It absolutely exceeded my expectations. I did not quite know what to expect, but God took whatever expectations I had and replaced them with an experience so much more wonderful.

The people, the culture, the music, and the daily thunderstorms contributed to a week of ministry that I could talk about for hours.

Olivia said it well in a post on Facebook: “I submit that you have not reeeeally sung ‘Showers of Blessing’ until you have sung it in a chapel in Ghana with 40 students as the rain THUNDERS down on the roof.”

Having been there and done that, I heartily agree!

The Friday night concert deserves a post of its own, so I will write about that next time. Until then, love God, love people, and dream big!

Going, Going…Ghana!

North America? Check. Asia? Check. South America? Check. Europe? Check. Africa? Almost checked ­čśë

I love going on vacations, but it’s not something I get to do often. However, God has given me the privilege of traveling a lot for ministry, and so far ministry has taken me to South America, Asia, and Europe. Africa is next as God has opened the door for me to help organize a music camp for national in Ghana.

Dan and Karis Mapes, missionaries in Ghana, asked me to help them with an inaugural music camp after hearing about my previous involvement with Semana de Música Sacra,  music camp held every year in Northeast Brasil.

Some of my responsibilities include picking out the theme and the music for the week, teaching music classes, and preaching each day during the week.

Semana de Musica SacraThe goal is to help the churches there lay a strong foundation for using music as a means of ministering to each other and opening up opportunities to reach the unsaved in their communities. In many countries around the world, musical training is not as accessible as it is in the US, so music is a great way to connect with people in other localities and cultures.

My trip will be near the end of August, and I need to raise about $2,000 to cover vaccinations, a tourist visa, airfare, and travel/lodging expenses while in Ghana.

If you would like to partner with me in this ministry by donating to my trip, please email me at pastor.joshuang@gmail.com to let me know, and I will give you more information on how to do that.

I am praying for 21 people who could help in the following ways:
-$200 from 7 different people for airfare
-$30 from 10 different people for travel in Ghana
-$50 from 3 different people for housing/food
-$60 from one person for Ghana visa

Also, if you would like to pray for me and hear about this ministry, you can do so without feeling obligated to give financially! Once again, just email me at pastor.joshuang@gmail.com and let me know that you would like to receive my updates as I prepare and then participate in this ministry.

Looking forward to what God will do!