The tall green grasses of the African plains waved greetings to us as we rode into the city of Tamale in the church van. The African sun brought unrelenting dry heat to the land. Mud huts sat huddled along the roadside in small villages. Motorcycles and scooters buzzed around our van on roads that were, dare I say, smooth, for the first time since we arrived in Ghana.
As we entered the city, the contrast of centuries surrounded us. For the most part, the clock had been turned back 100 years or more. There were no supermarkets, fast food restaurants, or anything much in the way of modern conveniences. The evidence of poverty was reflected in the numerous children who worked along the roadside during school hours. The gaunt faces of hunger were dispersed through the crowds. The homes of pieced-together scraps of wood, metal, mud, and grass were scattered among the brick walled-in palaces. Mud huts sat next to modern gas stations with mini-marts. Internet cafes were hosted in ramshackle ruins. The church on every corner was replaced by a mosque in every neighborhood, and the haunting calls to prayer echoed through the air. Almost all women had their heads covered, most in a hijab.
This was definitely not the same as Accra.
My brain fought to push back the images of radical Islam in my mind, and I prayed that God would replace the thoughts put in my mind by Western media with His perspective.
I began to envision Jesus standing over the city of Tamale, just as He had stood over Jerusalem the week of His crucifixion. Luke 19: 41-42 says,
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.””
I began to envision the spiritual darkness that these people live in, especially the women of Tamale. They are limited in their contact with people outside their families. Their husbands often control how much health care they get, what spiritual influences that they have, and the punishment for disobedience can be severe. With one physician for every 93,000 patients in this region of Ghana, health care is already scarce. But considering that Muslim women cannot be cared for by a male physician creates a nearly impenetrable gender barrier.
The story of one woman in particular hit home with me. Her name is Lapah, and she had been sick for many years. She had sacrificed animals. Still sick. She had prayed to idols for healing, with no results. When the Jesus Film came to her village through the ministry of Global Partners, she prayed to receive Christ, and prayed for healing. And the power of Jesus Christ healed her. Not only was she saved, but her daughters were saved as well when she shared what the One True God had done for her.
In southern Ghana, Jesus is on every sign. Modern conveniences are everywhere. Life would look a whole lot like what it does here in America. Accra would be comfortable.
In northern Ghana, Islam is on most signs. Modern conveniences are hard to find. Life would be much harder — finding food, water, and relief from the desert sun would be a daily struggle. Tamale would be intimidating at best. Frightening at worst.
But which city does Jesus weep over?
For years I have said, “I would rather do something perilous for the sake of love, than nothing for the sake of fear.”
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:18, NIV