(This continues Greg’s blog about his mission trip to Koforidua, Ghana. Read Part One for some backstory on the trip.)
Let me tell you, if you think you’ve been on a long plane ride – go to Africa. Ten hours sitting in a plane is quite the experience.
Because I had things to do back in Mesa, I was meeting up with the rest of the mission team in JFK airport. I figured, ‘there’s plenty of time to get to know them on the flight.’ After boarding, I got the guy sitting next to me to switch seats with my friend Jon. We spent a while telling each other “We’re on a plane to Africa!” and messing with the TVs attached to our seats.
Taking off from New York, you don’t get a lot of time over land when you’re flying east. Right after we took off, we were over the ocean – a new experience for a kid from the desert of Arizona. I watched the endless Atlantic pass underneath for a few hours, and then tried to fall asleep. I woke up and looked out the window… still ocean. Jonathan and I caught up about youth ministry and life… still ocean. I watched a movie, and then another movie… yep. Still ocean underneath me.
Hours later, the little GPS map built into our TVs told us we were approaching the continent of Africa. We were up so high that all I could see were clouds, but eventually they broke and I saw land. (I don’t really know why land was such a relief, because my fear of crashing into the sea should probably be matched by a fear of crashing into the ground.)
We continued east, and soon were in our initial descent towards the Accra airport in Ghana. As Jonathan and I gathered up our stuff, all I could think about was how far away I was from anywhere I’d been before. Ghana is basically a third of the Earth away from Arizona – that’s a long way no matter who you are.
After trips to customs, baggage claim, and some other officials, we met up with Paul and Bernice (our hosts) and headed to our mission home. Then we slept. A lot. Most of that first day, we simply got adjusted to the time zone and the weather (very hot, very humid).
But the next night, after a day of meeting different people around the town, we went to Mass at a local parish. The Mass was in Twii, one of the most common of Ghana’s forty-nine local languages. When the priest processed in, he raised his hands and said… “The Lord be with you.” He didn’t say it in English, but I still knew what he said. The Mass, and all its parts, were the same. The universal celebration of the Eucharist was truly universal – a third of the world away, Jesus still made Himself present. After Communion, I meditated upon the crucifix in the church. Christ, nailed there with his arms open wide, made true that old childhood game of “I love you this much.” As I prayed, He said “There is nowhere you can go that I haven’t saved the people with my cross. I am the Savior of the world.”
I think Christ dying for all humanity was something I knew in my head growing up, but this was the moment it became real to my heart. God died for each of us; every single person is loved enough that He would die for them. But think about that sentence. Every. Single. Person. Any country, any continent, any hemisphere – anywhere you can go on Earth, Christ is savior.
This week in the Mass readings, we focus on Christ as the living bread who gives us eternal life. Take some time in the next few days to pray for those all around the world who know Christ… and for those who haven’t yet met Him. The person you’re praying for might be on a whole different continent – or maybe just down the street. Spread Christ to all people, because His Good News is for everyone.
Peace of Christ