by CHIPS Trustee Elfrida Calvocoressi
I visited West Africa for the very first time when I went to see the CHIPS Team in the Northern Region of Ghana.
CHIPS Team Leader Desmond and all the Team Members warmly welcomed me to Nakpayili on Monday June 9th. I was made to feel very much at home, and enjoyed all aspects of living in the CHIPS base - in a beautifully-built round house for each person, sharing their unfamiliar food, which I rapidly came to like. The afternoon siesta proved a welcome institution, as temperatures were in the high 30’s C, with 98% humidity!
I began by having individual chats with each of the team members, during the first couple of days, to get to know them better, which they seemed to appreciate, reminding me later on to follow them up with another one each!
The Bible Study sessions also proved invaluable in building them up both individually and as a team.
During my visit I saw many aspects of CHIPS’ work over a surprisingly wide area, which included an exciting,15 minute river crossing in a dug-out canoe one day! Desmond and I travelled to a widows’ group in Gbungbaliga and heard how the chickens which CHIPS had given to each member had multiplied, been sold, and the resulting money used to buy cloth, medicines and food. Some were also able to pay for school-fees for their grandchildren – thus helping not only themselves but the younger generations as well.
In Lungni I met a mixed group of men and women who had benefited so greatly from the animal-and chicken-rearing group which CHIPS started there, that they had been able to start a micro-credit scheme among the members, which I witnessed in action, giving them such joyful, obvious self-respect!
It was so good to be with the Team in Ghana for the CHIPS international Prayer Day, which was a very significant day for all of us at the CHIPS base. Everyone fasts from the night before for 24 hours, and there was a real sense of unity in the preparation and planning for the day. One of the prayer requests from the Ghana team was for rain, as the rains had delayed disastrously: On that day after breakfast, the heavens opened and we had our first major rain storm! It rained again the next day, too.
Tragedy in Bimbilla
One Friday morning, we woke up to various snippets of news about the murder of the disputed “Chief” in Bimbilla the previous night, by the supporters of the other (disputed) Chief who had died in March. I was due to go to Bimbilla that afternoon, and after discussions with CHIPS Director, Paul in UK, liaising with Desmond and those I was visiting, I went there, nonetheless. It became such a privilege to be with the Team, and with friends in Bimbilla, at that particular time of tension, sharing and demonstrating the real meaning of Christian Peace – being able, in Christ Who is our Peace, to be fearless and at peace in the heart of a tense situation.
The curfew, already in place since March in Bimbilla, was tightened, and the place was deserted when we rode through on a motorbike, but many shops opened the next day for people to buy essentials. Sadly, we heard that repercussions from the murder of the chief and of several other people at the same time, led to the uprooting of yam fields by both sides.
The CHIPS Team have built up impressively good relationships with a variety of people and in many far-flung villages and towns, regardless of ethnic or religious allegiances, and are steadily building up trust among local elders – who told me at their weekly gathering how much they appreciate CHIPS’ grass-roots, sustainable, self-help approach.