|Newfoundland Catholic Renewal||
|Newfoundland Catholic Renewal||
Sure enough, as I looked down on the cargo deck it was lined up with tankers with flammable liquids. I guess there was enough fuel on board to blow us up and more to spare.
Last year, I had the privilege of traveling to Ghana with an evangelization team with Renewal Ministries. At the beginning stages of the planning, I thought I would be traveling with Miriam Wright from Ottawa, whom I had met when we had an Unbound: Freedom in Christ Conference in Newfoundland when only later I understood that Miriam was traveling on a mission trip to Tanzania – not Ghana. What a surprise that was me! This meant I would be the lone Canadian on the trip and also meant that I would have to travel to Africa by myself. Brett Heiser, the team leader and the others were traveling from North Carolina. I was truly intimidated by the prospect and thought I would pull out of the commitment at that time. Jumping off a cliff to me would have been just as inviting, as I had a bad experience in a European airport the year before. But with God’s grace, I was able to persevere with the trip and the kindly travel agent was able to route through Amsterdam, which they suggested would be the easiest for me.
In Ghana, our team worked with the local Ghanaian Charismatic Renewal team, delivering talks to the local people in the Volta and Afram Plains Regions. We conducted healing and deliverance sessions of Unbound: Freedom in Christ and catechist training formation. We did training sessions for the local Charismatic Renewal, youth sessions, and other parish outreaches. I myself gave a number of talks, such as Called to Holiness, Called to Leadership, The Year of Faith, Faith and Repentance, Forgiveness, and Call to Conversion. People would walk by foot for hours for these programs. They would eagerly listen, take notes and take to heart all that was given to them. The Church is alive and vibrant in Ghana and has abundant vocations to religious life. I had the privilege to meet many beautiful people, holy priests and nuns, as well as the Bishop of Ho Diocese, the Bishop of Korfidua, and the Archbishop of Kumasi. I certainly was blessed and received far more than I gave.
I was deeply affected by the Ghanaian people’s joy in adversity, their hunger for the gospel of Jesus Christ and their living out their faith in every day life with whole-heartedness and without reservation. I am acutely aware in the midst of their spiritual richness and material poverty in Ghana, of the devastating spiritual poverty and desolation of North America and our urgent need for re-evangelization. Since I have returned home, I have been meditating on Revelations 3: 17. “For you say, “I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,” and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
The Ghanaian mission team is part of a Charismatic Catholic lay community called Adom Fie (meaning House of Grace). The previous year, they lost their vehicle in a car accident. The roads are very dangerous in Ghana with numerous fatalities yearly. In fact, a young priest who celebrated Mass for us the two days before we left to return home told us that his friend in the seminary, a priest of three years was killed just the week before. Indeed, the travel was frightening, as I can well say by personal experience. To do the work of evangelization, they have to hire drivers unknown to them to drive them. They do not know if these are safe drivers and they are putting their lives in danger. They are also doing work in other countries in Western Africa, such as Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo upon request of the local Bishops. When I returned home, I could not forget about their need for a car. I really have no skills for fundraising, yet the more I tried to dismiss it from my mind, the more that this particular need would not leave me. So shortly after I returned, I had a yard sale and made a total of $167.00. I had no particular plan in mind – I just thought I would gather enough to put towards their efforts in raising the money. So, I continued to share this information with co-workers and other people that I know in the Church because it continued to be placed upon my heart. I received some very generous donations from the CWL and from individuals that I knew in Renewal. Charismatic prayer groups also gave money towards this cause. Then someone suggested that I approach a local car company and “ask” for a car. Me, ask for a car! I had to pray a lot about that one, as I am not bold in asking for things, and the thought of doing it was extremely intimidating. However, eventually, I got the courage from God and wrote a letter about what I was looking for. Shortly after, I got a call to go up and meet with the general manager of a car dealership here in Corner Brook, and we were given a car, a used Toyota Matrix.
Now the problems just began! I had fundraised enough to send the car to Africa on container ship, even enough to send towards the continued building fund for Adom Fie. But we needed a charity to work out the details on the donation – a Canadian charity that does work in Ghana – not as easy to find as you might expect. So I started to work and pray on this – reading about tax law and speaking to agents from Revenue Canada. Many times I had to ask for prayers on this particular problem as I could not understand how I had wound up with a car and had no way to transfer it to Adom Fie. I asked God, why had He placed this task on my heart, to have it fall apart at the eleventh hour! Many agonizing weeks went by. Finally the connection was worked out through the Companions of the Cross, because Fr. Francis Donnelly had worked with Anthony Assibey, the director of Adom Fie in the past. And then I was put in touch with Ken Gorman, who is the business manager for the Companions.
After that, every detail went agonizingly slow. It was difficult to procure insurance – no one wanted to insure the car. Yet, we finally got the insurance on it, so I could get it to Halifax, NS from Corner Brook, NL. Then, how to get it registered and licensed. Every step there was a problem, right until the last day before I was to travel with the car. However, at every critical juncture, an “angel” stepped in, someone who heard of this predicament and what we were trying to do, and just helped to make it happen. It was a real lesson in trust. Ken and I had many interesting phone calls trying to figure out what to do next.
Finally I traveled in April to Halifax and boarded the ferry to get to Nova Scotia. Normally, there would be hundreds of people and cars travelling on the seven hour journey, but there was hardly anyone else on the ferry. I thought it to be so eerily strange, that I asked an employee, where everyone else was and was told that the ferry this particular day was carrying “dangerous cargo” and that only 20 vehicles were permitted on board. I so I was even fortunate in being able to get a reservation to cross. And it was the only day in my schedule that I could make that trip – not a day earlier, not a day later. Sure enough, as I looked down on the cargo deck it was lined up with tankers with flammable liquids. I guess there was enough fuel on board to blow us up and more to spare.
As I sat in the ferry, looking at the small icebergs floating by, I thought about a song that I used to listen to years ago. The name of the song is called, “Bottle Rocket”. The refrain goes like this, “I’ve got a bottle rocket. Got a little light to testify. No power's gonna block it. No darkness gonna stop it. I've got a bottle rocket. Gonna let it fly. Let it fly .” I have often thought that the Holy Spirit is like this, when we let Him have control in our lives – now that is dangerous goods! Dangerous for the enemy!
Anyway, being a driver from small town Newfoundland, I was a bit concerned about how to get the car through the Halifax traffic and down the harbour front terminal, being GPS free. So I did, what I knew to do, I prayed. Then it occurred to me to find a hotel, and then I would be sure find a taxi waiting outside. Why should I need to know where to go, when every taxi driver in Halifax has this information? Then I hired a taxi in front of the Lord Nelson Hotel to lead me down to the Ceres Terminal. This was the last harrowing experience I faced. When I got there, I went in a security building to sign in, and was informed that I would now have to wear a florescent orange safety vest. I was just waiting for a dreaded yellow hard hat, but luckily I didn’t have to put that on! They warned me of the dangers of driving in the port, but finally, the shipyard staff took pity on my and had me follow one of the workers out to the terminal that would process the paperwork. I navigated this car to its final destination, between the enormous harbour cranes and heavy equipment and when I parked it, I knelt down on the pavement and gave thanks to God. Never was I so happy to finish this task! And our little Toyota Matrix was not the only one in line. There was a line of ten to fifteen of these model cars – all on the way to Africa. Apparently, the Matrix is a highly desired model in Africa. Who knew, except God, what was the right car for Adom Fie?
Finally, the car arrived in Accra, Ghana, in June. It again took a long while to process the paperwork, and for the group to receive the car, but they did finally receive a couple of months later. Not only was this car blessed by my bishop, Bishop Peter Hundt, of the Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador on the first evening of our Life in the Spirit Seminar in Corner Brook, but it has also been blessed by Archbishop Mattias Nketsiah, Archbishop of Cape Coast. As you can see, it is a very blessed car, and I pray that they will have many years of faithful and safe service from it for their ministry work.
I give thanks to God and all those who helped, especially the Companions of the Cross and Ken Gorman and the many people involved in Charismatic Renewal in Newfoundland, who were so generous. And what I have learned is this: there are many things that we know that we are not competent to undertake, but if God places it on our heart, we must try to follow through and to let Him use us, as weak as we are, and as hopeless the situation appears to be to figure out how we are to do it. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9-11. God does have the plan; we just need to get with the program!
Newfoundland Catholic Renewal