Today I have the privilege to share this blog with my mom, Carolyn Miller. She and my dad, Stan Miller, have the opportunity to go on mission to Ghana for the third time February 1-14, 2018. Each time they tell me their stories and about the experiences of people there, I get goose bumps. If you’re someone who is especially concerned with talking about women’s right’s and talking about tangible ways to support women in a culture where they are extremely undervalued, you’re going to want to keep reading.
Carolyn Miller – Missionary to Ghana through ASON International
Since 2015, I’ve been able to participate in a women’s conference held in Zuarungu, Ghana in West Africa. These beautiful women have taught me to dance. They have inspired me with their wonderful ability to choose joy and hope and trust in spite of the very difficult lives they live. Let me explain.
In this northern part of Ghana, much of the culture is still primitive and tribal. The primary religious upbringing would be characterized as animistic, which means that they believe that plants, inanimate objects and natural phenomenon are inhabited by souls. They believe in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe. Islam and, to a lesser extent, Christianity have infiltrated the culture giving it a unique flavor that doesn’t always belong strictly to one set of beliefs. These people see the world through very different eyes and perspective than I do. Over the past 2 years, I have had the opportunity to go to several of their villages and homes. They are very loving and hospitable people. I love them.
But as I connect with the women through the women’s conference where I have taught, I’m really saddened by the way they are treated in their culture. Few of them have any formal education at all. They clapped and danced when we gave them notebooks and pens, though most of them did not even know how to write or even read their own names. Most have them have limited say in when or whom they will marry. And then, if anything bad happens in their husband’s life, they are frequently blamed and punished harshly. It is culturally acceptable for a man to take more than one wife. When that happens, the previous wife (and any children) are often thrown out. Sometimes, after a husband takes a subsequent wife, previous wives are allowed to stay in the home as lesser wives with increased responsibility. As you can imagine, there is a lot of competition between the women. At animistic funerals, which typically last for four days, the surviving wife is dragged around the funeral pyre as she is beaten as part of the ceremony. If they survive, most are crippled from that point on. Having walked with my daughter following the loss of her husband I’m still incredulous when I consider that there are really still cultures that treat women with such contempt.
One man, Peter, is making a big difference in this part of the country. He calls his wife, Comfort, his ‘honorable’, and treats her with great respect. He is greatly respected by the others in the community and on his property he has a communal well, a school, a church and a radio station. He is an effective agent for change. He mentors a small group of young adults who are impacting this area greatly! He sponsors an annual leadership conference for pastors in this region. Until recently, these pastors have not had the Bible available to them in their language. Their form of Christianity has just been handed down by word of mouth. At this leadership conference they are given Bibles in their language, when we can get them, and they study together what the Bible actually teaches. It is really changing the landscape of faith in the region.
A few years ago, a women’s conference was added. I’ve been privileged to be ateacher at that conference for the last 2 years. I got to tell these women that they are loved and significant. That their lives matter. My husband, Stan and I get to go again this year to provide individual counseling and prayer for those attending the conferences. What a tremendous honor it is.
We also sponsor a young orphaned boy, Michael. We are excited to visit him and hear about how he is doing in school. Our sponsorship provides much-needed financing for his school and food for the family that has taken him in. I feel so blessed to be used in such significant ways in the lives of such wonderful people.
How Can You Help?
Here are some specific ways I have been dreaming about that you could do to actively support the women of Zuarungu, Ghana in West Africa.
- Pray for them! We’re praying that the truth would win in this region, that they would no longer be held captive by faulty belief systems but that fear would be replaced with truth and hope. We’re praying that this revelation would have the ripple effect of improved marriages and family systems, better health, and longer more vibrant life.
- Join our facebook group! Our trip will be February 1-14, 2018. Internet in this part of the world is sketchy at best, so I make no promises, but we do our best to connect or to get updates posted on the group timeline through family members and friends.
- Learn more about ASON International, the agency sending us. You can also watch a video featuring Peter Awane at here.
- Sponsor a child. Chose a child to sponsor through ASON International. Their school is in much need of support and their families struggle to have enough rice to go around. You would truly be making a big difference for this child.
- Purchase a handwoven basket. As a way of supporting themselves and their families, several of the women have banded together to weave and sell beautiful baskets. You can purchase a Bolga Basket online. If there is a specific size, style, or color you would like, and you don’t find it there, I can ask for them to make it when I go, and I can bring it back for you! (You’ll have to send the money with me to pay the women.)
- Support our team financially. If you’d like to donate to our team that will be in Ghana in February, please send money through the Faith Church, Austin website, or you can send a check to Faith Church, 1800 12th Street SW, Austin, MN 55912. Please specify that the money is for Ghana. The deadline is January 26, 2018.
- Donate an Audio Bible Device. Many women in Ghana are poor, and lacking in both resources to receive God’s Word and the ability to read it. We have found a solar-powered device that we would like to take to as many women as possible. They are called “Proclaimers.” According to the website, “This tough little digital player is completely dedicated to proclaiming God’s Word in the heart language of its listeners.” This gift would give such encouragement to one of my friends long after I am gone. Her whole family would benefit. The devices are $100 each and we will purchase and take as many of them with us as we can afford.
- Donate Fabric. They wear 1-yard lengths of 100% Cotton Woeven fabric, either as turbans or as aprons or scarves and use it for so many things. They can carry a baby, use it as a sling or a rag, and other things we don’t even consider. If you have any extra fabric laying around, waiting for the right project, this may be it! We would love to take it with us. (Contact Lizzie about getting the fabric to me before January 26, 2018.)
- Donate Hard Cover Children’s Books. The school has very few books. If you have any hard cover children’s picture books in fairly good shape, we would love to bless the school with more books as well. (Contact Lizzie about getting the books to me by January 26, 2018.
Thank you for giving me the chance to share this opportunity with you. Please prayerfully consider joining me in this venture. Together, we can make a big difference for the people of Zuarungu.
Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18