Monday, 12 September 2011

Ray On Monday - Memories of Africa

With the local pastor and his family
 Under A Tin Roof In Africa.        

We were hot and it was midnight.
No breeze disturbed our mosquito net. Sleep was craved for but denied as we sweltered. To go into the outside courtyard was impractical, though undoubtedly cooler. Guard dogs roamed offering protection, yet unintentionally denying us those open, slightly cooler spaces.


Our rooms under the iron roof

 We were guests at this village in Ghana doing short term mission work and seminars. The previous night one of our team had been bailed up by these dogs. He had left his room to close an incessant, slamming shutter. Going out in the briefest of sleeping gear, for no one seemed to be around, he succeeded in closing the shutter. Unfortunately for him, his only door felt the pull of a wind gust and slammed shut. This created a few problems. He had no key on him. As he wondered what to do, in the starlight he noticed the two guard dogs eyeing him with suspicion. There was no smile on their mouths. Fortunately, the minister of the compound was sleeping on a bench in the courtyard. At the urgent whispered pleas of our team member he awoke. What he thought as he saw the ghost like ‘statue’ is unknown.

Knowing all this we didn’t venture out tthat extremely hot night o face the dogs, or whatever else might be out there. That didn’t help our skin. It felt like it was on fire. Even splashing it with our precious drinking water only made us feel better for an instant. Being a nurse, Mary understood the possible consequences of this condition. Prayer didn’t cool us down. It certainly strengthened our spirits. We asked the Lord to see us through the night and equip us for the day’s ministry load. Sometime early morning a zephyr of wind caressed our room. It was, to us, the cool breath of God. The outside temperature did not drop dramatically but the breeze allowed us a couple of hours fitful sleep on our floor mats.

It’s during moments such as we faced that you appreciate the promise of God’s grace for the task ahead. We felt like deflated soccer balls being thrown onto the field for a game. What was experienced was the sense of God taking our deflation and inflating our spirits by His Spirit. Physically tired we were inwardly refreshed. God in His mercy ministered through us to the beautiful folk who came to share in the open air seminars and workshops.

As the day faded we recuperated a little in the shade of a tree. It was a pleasant evening with our hosts. Night came and without electricity, only torch light, there was every incentive for an early night. It was cooler. We were very tired. Sleep beckoned. But….!

Beside the courtyard and next to our room was a fowl enclosure. Well, was it really enclosed as the fowls and rooster freely roamed in the daytime? For some yes. For others no! The previous night they slept while we suffered. Did we disturbed them? Not being able to converse with hens or rooster I’ll never know. What took place does, to my mind, have a sense of revenge.

The rooster must have had a sense of danger. He responded to this by flying up to the ridge of our tin roof. No hassles, we thought. There probably wouldn’t have been if that feathered fiend had stayed awake.
As we retreated to under our mosquito net the rooster must have dozed off. No troubles you would think. Wrong! He didn’t sleepwalk. He slid down the tin roof with the screeching sound of claws on tin amplified in our room. When he hit the gutter it woke him up. So, he crawled and scratched his way to the top again.
Silence reigned. But not for long or so it seemed to us as we sought sleep’s embrace. We didn’t keep count of the repeat performances but there were many. Another night of fitful sleeping!

In the morning we were due to travel to another village to hold a seminar and workshop the following day. However because of a communication breakdown this had to be changed. We saw it as God having mercy on weary Australians. So our hosts took us back to the regional centre a couple of hours drive away. We were to stay at ‘The Chalet.’

The impressive title was all that was impressive in a run down, former Colonial guest house. Still, it had a shower and bed. There was no cooking facility and the flush toilet had leaking problems. No matter, sleep was our priority. The bed was comfortable. The night proved uneventful, until…! It was just after 4am and we heard the cry of the mosque. It was faint and after realising what it was, we sought the solitude of sleep once more. 

The expectation of a sleep-in sometime past sun-up came crashing down at the squawk of another slightly less feathered bird. Below our bedroom windows, a guinea fowl was frantically running up and down beside a wire fence seeking a way of escape. Its squawking got more intense with every failure to find a hole. We studied the area but couldn’t see any intruder or prowling cat ready to pounce. Then we lifted our eyes to the dead tree a few metres from the chalet. On the top branch peering down were two vultures. Their intent was plain.

With some of our brothers
and sisters in Christ in Africa
Perhaps the most annoying thing for us sleep starved ‘foreigners’ was seeing a gaping hole in the fence another three or so metres further on from where the guinea fowl stopped and retraced its steps. My husband, my hero, stomped down the stairs in his pyjamas and went to face the fowl. Was that bird glad to see him? No! It only increased its decibel levels of screeching. Its frantic rushing hither and thither just became more frantic. However, my fearless guinea fowl saviour managed to shepherd, coerce, scare the bird at last into the direction of the hole. Through this escape route it scampered off and into the tall grass. What the vultures thought of Ray’s self interested compassion can only be guessed.

Did we get any more sleep? Not really. However we did have time to relax and be physically and spiritually re-energised. The next day we went to fulfil the reason for our being there. Our sixty year old (plus) bodies did find it was more of an effort to get moving than at the start of the month’s adventures. Once we got underway, God in His mercy seemed to ‘oil’ the joints. We discovered time and again that the Lord ministered to us through those to whom we had come to share His Word. It was evident to us how the adrenalin of service kicked in and over-ruled the reluctance of the bones and muscles.

Over all of that and in all we experienced, we tasted the unseen nectar of the prayers of God’s people far and near praying for us on this short term mission trip. That makes any night under a tin roof in an African village more than worth it.


  1. I meant to remind you to click on the photos to enlarge them. And would love your comments about God's provisions for you - anywhere, anytime.

  2. Wow! It is certainly amazing what lack of sleep can do to the mind and body, and you certainly had some comical and memorable moments in there too. I remember being that hot only twice in my life. One of the times, I actually slept with the fridge door open on the tile floor in our little unit - no air conditioning and no fans, just before the black Saturday bush fires. The other was in Charters Towers in North QLD.
    As for God's providence, there is certainly no lack here. He abundantly gives us whatever we need in this new journey to serve with MAF, including great health all through this Winter :)
    It's always a pleasure to read your blog Mary.