|Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC, with some children from Asafo, Ghana.|
July 28, 2009. Asafo, Ghana (Africa). The second annual HELPING HANDS medical mission to Ghana brought a team of
15 doctors, nurses, and volunteers from the United States to
the town of Sefwi-Asafo this past April 23 to May
Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC, accompanied the group for the
second year in a row as the chaplain, with
the mission of providing spiritual care to the people and
to the missionaries.
In the following chronicle, Fr Jeffery Jambon
recounts a chaplain’s experience of ministering to souls in a
land marked by special challenges, contrasts, and surprises.
Medical Missions in Sefwi – Asafo, Ghana, Africa
Jeffery Jambon LC
I had the honor and the privilege of
attending as a chaplain the 2nd annual medical missions in
Ghana, Africa. I attended last year as chaplain, so this
made things a little easier going into the duties this
We assembled together at JFK airport in New York,
ready to board our flight. After a brief greeting with
a handful that I knew from last year and a
first time greeting to many newcomers we got on our
We left on Thursday evening getting into Accra, Ghana’s capital
at 8:15am. We took a bus for a 12 hour
ride to Sefwi – Asafo. This trip was deeply moving
for me. I enjoyed each moment as I thought about
the simplicity of the thousands as they walked along the
streets going about their business. I prayed a lot, consulting
our Lord about how many were in good terms with
him as I glanced through the crowds. The poverty is
most evident. Of the 12 hour bus trip, I think
half of the delay was due to the massive potholes
we had to dodge and occasionally fall into. It was
a missionary experience for me as I prayed my office
of readings and rosary thinking about the souls outside the
window and those we were going to meet throughout the
week, including the missionaries themselves I was becoming acquainted with.
|Ghana (in yellow) is located on the west coast of Africa.|
Friday evening late we finally arrived and we had Mass
in our private chapel in the St John of God
hospital facilities (which years ago was part of the hospital
that the Spanish sisters lived at).
Saturday morning we had
meditation, Mass, and breakfast. We prepared things for the pharmacy.
I was happy to help, too. We worked hard thinking
about the many people that would benefit in body and
soul from our efforts.
Saturday afternoon we went door to door,
inviting the locals to participate in the Sunday Mass at
the local parish, St John of God Parish next to
the hospital. We broke out in three teams of evangelizers
since we only had 3 interpreters. We were 15 missionaries
in total. In my group, I experienced a deep sense
of God’s peace and action. Many sought my prayers and
blessings as a priest. In spite of the many distracting
and pressing kids that were noisily searching for a handout
around us, I was able to see the beauty in
most eyes and the faith in which they received their
Sunday morning we had a mini-retreat. I was able to
give a longer sermon about the Samaritan Woman progressing in
generosity. I understood that God was preparing our missionaries for
At 9:30am we had the 3 hour Mass with
Msgr. Simon Assamoah who hosted us and helped us organize
the trip. He was the one we stayed with last
year at the Bibiani location down the street about a
2-hour drive away. The 3 hour Mass consisted in attention
|"As the days went along during the week, the normal challenges increased. We had more people coming waiting for medical treatment. Our team never let up, all kept working hard trying to do what they could to see the more urgent medical cases."|
and searching for Christ. All participated with dance, but few
received communion. At the end of the Mass, Msgr. Simon
advised them to put things right with the Lord since
he was the vicar of the diocese. Nevertheless, it was
a ceremony to remember as our missionaries received our commission
crosses after the homily.
After the Mass we went down
to the hospital with the people and Msgr. Simon to
be present at the inauguration of the hospital donations. We
were able to donate 50 of the latest hospital beds
with many other medicines and supplies. All of this was
worth more than U.S. $400,000, I would easily guess.
we started the medical missions per se. Mass, meditation and
breakfast preceded each of our days. We had an extraordinarily
good start. The doctors, nurses and volunteers gained confidence as
the time ticked throughout the day with the duties they
professionally carried out.
Monday evening I gave my vocation story.
It was an honor for me to share with the
missionaries how much good I received from Christ through the
Church and the Legion. I appreciate their attention.
As the days
went along during the week, the normal challenges increased. We
had more people coming waiting for medical treatment. Our team
never let up, all kept working hard trying to do
what they could to see the more urgent medical cases.
A kid had bulging blind eyes – we made sure
he got there first where he also received my blessing.
When I was blessing the throats, invoking St Blase’s protection,
I came across a mother who had a child with
his inner ear hanging outside of his head, it looked
like a tumor. When I saw her, I “hoisted” the
boy over the fence and brought him up first in
line. Throughout the week I was able to pray the
rosary in groups as the people were waiting for the
doctors. I was able to impart many blessings, nice to
know some Muslims were among them!
I was able to
then for a day open my own clinic to receive
people for “counseling.” It was amazing to see the needs
and fears of the people. Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Baptists, Methodists,
Anglicans, Spiritualists, Catholics… they all poured into “my clinic” searching
for a blessing, a prayer, and a sound piece of
advice. There were many suffering from voodoo type curses. I
|"The doctors, nurses and volunteers gained confidence as the time ticked throughout the day with the duties they professionally carried out."|
think the Church has a lot to still do in
those lands for the New Evangelization!
Another good thing I
dedicated myself to was to try to communicate with the
young people and children. I averaged about 3 to 4
hours of soccer every day. Since I didn’t speak Twi
(Ghanian language) I thought that this would be the way
to communicate. I was able to see who was who,
their tendencies and I was able to encourage virtue and
motivate them in the virtues they performed. I place in
the hands of Mary the little I was able to
achieve through this. I also was able to do something
similar to smaller kids with a bottle of bubbles. I
blew bubbles for hours as the kids loved it and
were utterly amazed.
On Friday we closed the clinics at
12 noon and took a trip to Kumasi which was
supposed to be a 6-hour tour in total. The missionaries
were tired but were enthusiastic to buy their souvenirs. The
chauffeur drove like a maniac and made things worse for
the team. While we were flying through a village at
a high speed, a little boy came darting out in
the middle of the road. The driver slammed on the
brakes and hit the horn – the boy stopped and
was spared. Thank God I prayed the Hail Mary, Guardian
Angel prayer and gave my blessing before we started the
trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride out to Kumasi although
others expressed weariness. I again was fascinated by the landscape
and the people walking along the roads, hoping that each
had a love of Christ in their hearts.
to Kumasi. We were immediately plagued by vendors. We were
escorted shortly after by Augustina, Msgr. Simon’s niece. She was
very nice to show us around. She brought us to
see the University of KNUST. It was a first Friday,
so the Catholic chapel there had adoration of the Blessed
Sacrament. It was great to say hello to Christ.
also took us to visit the king’s palace, of the
most successful tribe of Ghana, the Ashanti. The museum was
very nice. Then we drove through one of the busiest
markets in Western Africa to see millions walking around trying
to make ends meet. Here was also a spiritual fascination
for me. I truly thank God to allow me to
have been there to see this even though we just
drove right through there.
We were finally brought to the
section where we could buy souvenirs but a thunderstorm hit.
I stayed in the car. The car at this time
was losing all its brakes so we had to get
another van/bus. This took some time. Once we arrived to
the black market of transportation to get the new bus
my heart scanned the scene, I felt compassion for all
the poverty-stricken I saw there. Arriving there we were finishing
our team rosary. I most gratefully offered it up for
these people. I gave a CD and a half (the
money currency of Ghana) to a poor little family and
their faces lit up with gratitude.
We finally took off
with our new van / bus. We got to Msgr.
Simon’s rectory in Bibiani (the mission site last year). We
had a nice celebration for a successful mission. Msgr. Simon
concluded with words of gratitude for the hard work that
the missionaries were able to accomplish in God’s grace. We
arrived back to the place we were staying at, St
John of God in Asafo at 1 a.m. or so.
The keys to our rooms were not to be found
so Doctor Harrison and I went down to wake up
Br. Bartholomew and solve the problem.
Saturday we had our
Sunday Mass in the evening so Saturday morning the missionaries
had a chance to sleep in. Nevertheless, 7 or 8
showed up for private Mass and a spontaneous directed meditation.
Tired and happy, we still were able to take a
group photo and go to the school opening ceremony with
Bishop Joseph Francis Kweku Essien of the Waioso diocese. Msgr.
Simon and the bishop sat up on the stage and
celebrated by music and talks all day long… literally all
day long. After 4 hours many of our missionaries went
back to Asafo but 5 of us remained and then
had lunch with Bishop Joseph Francis at 3pm.
we sat next to the president of the only Catholic
University in Ghana. It was an interesting encounter as he
spoke about the hopeful prospects of educative success for years
to come thanks to the initiatives blooming, congratulating Msgr. Simon
for his help in establishing a Catholic high school in
the remote region of the Northwest.
We celebrated our Sunday
Mass at 6pm Saturday evening and then had a dinner
with the Brothers as a going away celebration. After we
concluded, we got on a bus at 10:30pm and traveled
all night long down the bumpy road to the airport,
which this time only took 8 hours instead of the
12 coming, since we avoided traffic in the middle of
the night. Everything was on time and we are grateful
to God for having given us the opportunity to serve
Christ in the poorest of the poor.
I would like
to thank all the missionaries, especially Doctor Phil Kelly. He
worked so hard and was most patient adapting to all
the bumps and bruises of the day. I would also
like to thank Jennifer Dornbush that spent a lot of
time organizing practical things for the trip. We remembered Lupita
Assad and all the HELPING HANDS administrative staff working silently trying to
make the smoothest missions possible for us and THAT IT
WAS. Thanks to all and God Bless!