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“To Serve The Neighbors We Have …”

A Letter from Ruth Brown, serving in Ghana

March 2020

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Dear friends,

Recently in Ghana, our pastor asked church members, “What will our presbytery’s partnership with Lake Erie Presbytery bring to us?” The responses were many: “It will bring friendship.” “Unity.” “Love.” “Development.” “It will bring knowledge of their culture and as well as ours.” “We will reaffirm our commitment to one another.” “A journey together as one family.” “Unity above and beyond.” “We will join as friends and followers of Jesus Christ.”

From Sunday, February 2, through Sunday, February 9, 2020, churches in Upper Northern Presbytery in Ghana and in Lake Erie Presbytery in the U.S. gathered in their respective churches to celebrate their partnership. On Sunday the 2nd, the Ghanaian church service was conducted like Lake Erie Presbytery conducts their worship services. Likewise, on Sunday the 9th, churches in Lake Erie Presbytery patterned their services after the worship services of the Upper Northern Presbytery (UNP) of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana (E.P. Church).

The PC(USA)’s general order of worship is similar to that of the E.P. Church with the few exceptions being the dancing and the additional offerings in Ghana. Also, where there are responsive readings in PC(USA)’s services, worship leaders in the E.P. Church (with neither bulletins, hymnbooks, nor many Bibles) instruct the congregation to recite selected scripture. Worship leaders read scripture, and after every stanza or paragraph, the congregation recites their memorized verses.

On Monday evening at Saboba E.P. Church, members were quizzed about Lake Erie Presbytery. “How many churches make up their presbytery?” “58.” “How many churches do we have in Upper Northern Presbytery?” “98.” “How is their presbytery geographically like ours?” “They have a close neighbor to the northeast, New York state, like we have the country of Togo. They also have an important body of water, Lake Erie, like we have the River Oti.”

At the weekly Wednesday Bible study, the Saboba Church studied the theme, “Jesus Christ, the Foundation of the Church and the Role of the Family.” The church came to the conclusion that a partnership was like a family. On Friday at the regular prayer meeting, Lake Erie Presbytery was lifted up in prayer.

This past fall, three elders from Lake Erie Presbytery visited three health clinics operated by the E.P. Church in Upper Northern Presbytery, studying the resources and needs of these health programs. Working together with Chosen International Medical Assistance, based in Erie, PA, the new endeavor to assist clinics called “Labors of Love” has a goal of raising $50,000 to invest in the three health clinics in order to improve healthcare services for the communities. Each health clinic has specific needs. Among them are constructing buildings, renovating existing facilities, purchasing equipment, procuring supplies, developing infrastructure, assuring the availability of potable water, promoting of sanitation, providing staff training and furnishing support.

To help raise funds for the clinics, Linda Bennett of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Lake Erie Presbytery has organized women to make shea butter lotions from raw shea butter from northern Ghana. The lotions will be sold to raise funds for the clinics and churches in Ghana. Fifteen women attended the first workshop, representing three denominations and seven Lake Erie congregations. The workshops fostered unity in Christ and sharing about friends in Ghana. Ms. Bennet is also part of a prayer group that meets every Wednesday morning. They pray faithfully for their presbytery’s Ghana Partnership.

Linda Bennett wrote: “[Our church] was enriched by the videos of beautiful worship services [in Ghana] … [and videos of ] the clinics and dedicated staff visited in 2019. Our own fellowship is showing growth by making shea butter products together with our friends to support our partnership ministries. We [are grateful] for the opportunity to serve in this way, through the sharing of time, talents, and faith, which bring the Gospel to life. Psalm 133 states that where there is unity, blessings flow.”

In addition to their focus on the clinics, Lake Erie Presbytery members brought “Days for Girls” kits for distribution to church youth in Ghana. Made by Presbyterian Women, the kits contain menstruation pads made with absorbent material currently unavailable in Ghana. It is hoped that these pads will allow girls not to miss any days of school, and to remain in school until graduation. At the Saboba Presbyterian Church, we will be training a group of women to educate others about the health benefits of using these kits.

Like the members of Lake Erie Presbytery, many of you reading this letter have become like family. Thank you for your thoughtful communications, your donations to my sending and support, and your prayers for our partnership. You make this partnership possible. If you have questions about how to support this work, please let me know. Joining the partnership is enriching for all of us.

At the close of partnership week, the Saboba church sang a variation of “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love,” a hymn written by Scotsman Tom Colvin, a community development worker in Chereponi, a town in Upper Northern Presbytery just 31 miles north of my home in Saboba. The melody of the hymn came from Chereponi (https://hymnary.org/hymn/PH1990/367). The words remind us of the urging of both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) for our church to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are oppressed, as expressed in Matthew 25. To the melody from Chereponi, Tom Colvin’s last verse is: “Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you. Loving puts us on our knees, silently washing their feet. This is the way we should live with you.”

The partnership celebration meetings have been joy-filled. Truly some of the more joyous celebrations we’ve had! What an inspiration!

Love to you all,

~ Ruth


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