Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ghana 2017 - Day 30. A visit with the Presbyterian Annual Retreat

Curiosity led me to wake up early in the morning to walk to the place where the Annual Retreat of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana is taking place. They have put up a giant tent near the stadium, where a good two thousand people can gather. By the time I got there at 8:30 am it was about half full, so I got a good seat, and by 9 am the place was packed. The church has all sorts of high power amplifiers, giant screens, and enough electronic equipment to launch a satellite.

When I first got there two young deacons were rapping at full volume, exchanging throaty shouts that I couldn’t understand. They kept it up for a good few minutes, and the exchange was clearly raising the fervor among the attendants, who joined in the shouting and mumbled under their breath. Then came a chorus, and another young deacon (dressed like the others in jeans, t-shirt and ball cap), and for nearly an hour we sang in rapture beautiful psalms although I could see the fervor was starting to boil, until a dozen of people started having convulsions. This was an expected effect, for the organization included a sufficient number of aides to restrain the thrashing people, who one way or other were dragged to the front. They were the vessel through which the Lord chose to speak to their congregation, and we heard four or five of them speak the message of the Lord in between screams or chilling bouts of laughter.

To ease the mood, the next deacon asked the people to dance to the music, and in short few minutes the tone of the crowd changed from solemn to joyous. A young man and his guitar then came on stage, and accompanied a series of other deacons who engaged in a more harmonious rapping, which with the backdrop of the guitar sounded more like cowboy poetry than rap.

The final music was provided by an ensemble of men, who played percussion instruments and sang, and once again moved the crowd into joyous dancing. By then we had been there for a couple of hours, and I for one started to feel restless. But I wanted to hear the pastor speak, so I held my peace in the best way I knew. We wnte through another round of testimony (which I cynically thought was directed toward opening the purses of the attendants to the collection), and we finally approached the moment of the peroration. The speaker (for I am not sure he was a pastor) was introduced at length by a deacon who stressed that we had to listen very carefully not on account of what we were going to hear, but because the Apostle General had approved the speaker. So now I know the head of the Presbyterian Church is the Apostle General, whoever he might be.

The speaker was a financial advisor, CEO of his own company, who proceeded to give a mixed pitch of the importance of investing in securities, and how the power of compound interest guides us through the Lord’s path, and thus is the way to make the church strong and financially secure. There was a dab of spirituality in his words, but overall I was sorely disappointed that this speech had been the culmination of 3 hours of religious fervor.

After I came back home I started to work in my computer, and was happily getting ready to upload my blogs to the internet when someone knocked at my door. A smiling man expressed some surprise of seeing me very much at ease and at home, and told me they expected for me to have already gone. No, I responded, I won’t be leaving for another couple of days, early in the morning of Monday. “But this room is being given to a new guest”, he informed me. Well, that was some sort of news. So I pledged ignorance, sticking to the fact that I was not scheduled to leave for a couple more days, and he politely asked me to come talk down with the General Manager of Volta Hall.

I had met this lady before, and in a very amiable way we went through the whole puzzle again. So she pulled the letter of reservation she had from USAC, and sure enough it requested the room from June 30 to July 29. “Well, I guess they made a mistake”, I said in my most innocent voice, “I really don’t have any suggestions to make”. The Manager thought for a moment and said “Well, we cannot ask you to leave, so I will have to figure out something else. But they should really have told us.” I remained silent, with downcast demeanor, and quietly slid out the door. It is a pity, but at this stage of the game I have zero interest of moving my stuff to a new place. Lo que será, será!

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