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A Chaplain’s View of a Mission in Africa
GHANA | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC, tells the story of a recent medical mission in Ghana, Africa.

Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC, with kids in Ghana
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 3.

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.

***

Helping Hands Medical Missions in Sefwi – Asafo, Ghana, Africa
By Father 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 year.

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 way.

We left on Thursday evening getting into Accra, Ghana’s capital
Ghana map in Africa
Ghana (in yellow) is located on the west coast of Africa.
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.

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 blessings.

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 selfless service.

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
line to get into the clinic
"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.

Monday 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
doctor with kid from Ghana
"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.

We arrived 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.

She 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.

For lunch, 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!


PUBLICATION DATE: 2009-07-28


 
 

Related links

Altius Foundation
Catholic World Mission
Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center


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