January 28, 2018 was an exciting day in Nalerigu. Mr. Robert Jackson, US Ambassador to Ghana, paid us a visit with his wife and an entourage of embassy representatives. Among them was Mr. Jimmy Mauldin and his wife, both former missionaries at the Baptist Medical Centre. Jimmy served as the BMC Administrator for several years in the 90s. He is now the Economic Adviser to the Ambassador in Ghana.
Ambassador Jackson first received a tour of our hospital led by Dr. Tim Cahill and Mr. Stephen Yiddi. After which we had a meal together at the BMC guesthouse. All the American citizens living in East Mamprusi District were invited (my family, the Cahills and Rachel, a PeaceCorps volunteer in Jawani).
The visit concluded with a visit to the NaYiri in town. I was very proud of the wonderful welcome that Nalerigu’s paramount chief, elders and subchiefs gave our Ambassador. He too was very impressed and promised to continue to USAid’s efforts to assist the people of the Northern Region, specifically mentioning CHPS and indoor mosquito spraying.
The NaYiri gave the Ambassador an honorary title of Sumniraana or “Chief of Good Relations.” Ambassador Jackson graciously accepted and responded to the lunsi‘s call to dance Damba (watch their video clip on Facebook).
After Spain, we took a train to the Languedoc-Roussillon coastal region of France to visit our friends the Darriets. You may remember that last summer William officiated their eldest son’s wedding. The Darriet family were the BEST hosts and took us to all sorts of cool places in their incredibly beautiful and historic region!
After our meeting in Madrid, we headed to Barcelona for two days to explore that beautiful city.
We also spent time see the city’s famous landmarks and also visited the Barcelona Aquarium with the kids.
Over the New Year holiday our family attended a missions conference in Madrid, Spain. Though most of our time was spent learning at the meeting, we did get a full day to tour the city. Some of the highlights of our time in Madrid were seeing the new Star Wars movie, visiting the Museum of Natural Science and seeing the incredible art collection of the Prado Museum.
Americans have this bad habit of lumping all non-English music into this one big genre called “World Music.” This year (as is the case every year), if you glance at “2017 Best World Music” lists, you’ll see that West African musicians dominate the genre.
Here are a few of my favorite West African albums that came out this year. There are a couple longtime favorites of mine (Amadou et Mariam, Tinariwen), but I was introduced to a lot of new artists in 2017.
Another trend I noticed this year is West Africans who are immigrants (or children of immigrants) making music that is a fusion of their family’s traditional tunes and their new homeland’s.
Now that we are in the midst of the Christmas season, Christians are focusing on the first few chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke where the events surrounding Christ’s birth are detailed. In churches around the world, congregations sing beloved Christmas carols proclaiming the Savior’s birth and pastors wax poetic about that singular event’s eternal implications.
However, you don’t find many carols or sermons delivering the details of Jesus’s lineage. One hymn that I know of – “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming” – briefly mentions that the Christ is “of Jesse’s lineage coming” but it doesn’t go into nearly as much detail as Matthew 1:1-17 or Luke 3:23-38.
The fact that Matthew opens his gospel with that genealogy is a big signal to the fact that this is very important information. In the cultures of that time, one’s heritage was very important. In contemporary Western cultures, we don’t put much stock in one’s pedigree. That’s probably a result of our history of deposing the aristocrats of old and embracing republican ideals.
However, just because West doesn’t care about genealogies doesn’t mean the rest of the world is over them too. And nor should they be. It’s important to know your history.
The Mamprusi, among whom I live, treasure the genealogy of their kings. The center piece of the annual Damba Festival is when the king’s praise singer and all the drummers sing through the current overlord’s genealogy. The process takes over an hour because it isn’t just listing the generations over several centuries. The singer praises each king with song stories and proverbs that describe the attributes and events of his rule.
Damba occurs around December every year and it always brings me back to the genealogies of Christ in the gospels. If you read over the names in Matthew 1, there is a story behind each one. Often you can head over to the Old Testament and read about the events. Some are exciting and others quite shocking (I’m looking at you, Tamar!).
Genealogies can remind us that God is in control and that our lives have purpose. God ordained the lives of every single ancestor of yours and guided events leading up to your own arrival in the world. He created you and put you here – at this time and in this place – for a reason.
Jesus’s genealogy is evidence that God had a plan from the very beginning of the Hebrew nation (Abraham, Matthew 1:2) and even the beginning of mankind (Adam, Luke 3:38) to send a Savior. And that Savior, to quote the aforementioned hymn was:
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens every load
* UPDATE * My friend and church music genius Kenny Peters pointed out that the less-known Christmas carol “While Shepherds Watched” mentions that the Savior is “born of David’s line.”