Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ghana Day 1: The Tema Harbor and Christianity and Islam

Our berth awaits us in the Tema Harbor
Blog Entry #14: Arriving in Tema, Ghana

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fishing boat outside Tema Harbor, Ghana
Morning today brought a hazy entrance to Ghana’s largest harbor at Tema, 20 miles west of Accra, the capital of Ghana.  We made our way through dozens of large ships anchored outside the breakwater while waiting for dock space, and past the occasional early fishing boat to make our way into Berth 11, our home for the next 4 days.  Pilot boats guided us in, and wedged us neatly in between two large cargo ships, one importing tons of rice from the U.S.

Soon we were greeted by the sounds of African drumming, as a Ghanaian drumming group gathered on the dock below to welcome us.  We also had an excellent briefing from Ryan Bowles, the Chief of the Economic Section in the US Embassy here, and a SAS alum from 2002.  I was struck by his attitude of humility and honesty in answering our questions – too often in short supply in the embassy briefings I have attended in Central America over the years.

Then Pat and I were off with our group of 23, headed toward Accra and meetings at Trinity Theological Seminary about Christianity and Islam in West Africa.

Driving through Tema, Charles, our guide, helped us to practice basic Ghanaian phrases: “akwaba” = hello, “macheeng” = good morning, “maydasay” = thank you.  Though as the former British colony of Gold Coast English is the official language (Ghana gained its independence in 1957, the first African colony to achieve independence in the post World War II era), “Twi” is the language of the Ashanti people, one of Ghana’s largest ethnic groups, and it is also the official language of education and literature.  So we are trying to lean at least the basics, such as “umtase” = I don’t understand… J

Trinity Seminary, founded in 1942, is Ghana’s largest seminary and is operated cooperatively by five of Ghana’s historic Protestant denominations.  We met with Dr. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Vice-President of the Seminary and Professor of Contemporary African Christianity and Pentecostal Charismatic Theology.  He gave us a very interesting lecture, noting that in contrast to many of its neighbors such as Nigeria to the east, relations between Christians and Muslims in Ghana are largely harmonious.

Prof. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Trinity Theological Seminary
The big change in religious terms in recent years has been the rapid growth of Pentecostal groups in Ghana, who have mastered the TV and Radio media to spread their message and have developed a lively worship style incorporating upbeat music and dance.  Indeed, everywhere we drove we encountered billboard after billboard of different Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, campaigns and events.  Dr. Asamoah-Gyadu explained that religiosity is deeply infused throughout Ghanaian culture, so that there is no real secular-religious split.

Pres. J.O.Y. Mante, Trinity Seminary

A highlight of this meeting for me was meeting the Seminary President, J.O.Y. Mante.   Dr. Mante did his doctoral work at Claremont Graduate School with my old friend and mentor, John Cobb, and we share a passion for environmental theology and ethics.  Another small world connection half way around the world!

Following our meetings at the seminary, we had a chance to experience Ghanaian banks and ATMs to change money, and then we drove by the lovely University of Ghana on our way back to Tema and the ship.  Evidence of Ghana’s high unemployment is its large informal economy, and at each traffic light or toll booth our bus was engulfed with vendors trying to eke out meager earnings from selling food items or washing windshields.

New friend at Trinity Theological Seminary
So we are back on ship, reveling in a rare evening with nothing scheduled!  Nearly a month into this adventure, one of the things we have become aware of is there are no weekends!  We are either teaching daily (as in the 6-day stretch we just finished) or we are in port on field experiences.  No time to simply catch ones breath, let alone do the things one normally does on weekends (like grade stacks of papers…).  On the other hand, we don’t have to shop, cook, do dishes, do laundry, commute to work, etc. etc. so no complaints here – just enjoying this rare open evening!

Tomorrow we are up early to head 2 hours west to the slave castles.  Sure to be a sobering day.  We will get back late, so it will be a few days before I can return to the blog.  Be well in the mean time! (And Happy Birthday Jennifer McCrickerd!)
Semester at Sea group visiting Trinity Theological Seminary, Accra, Ghana


  1. How fun catching up on your journey, Dan! Wonderful blog. Life in Missoula and Bonner is a bit more normal, dodging smoke. All the folks at Our Savior's Lutheran send our love!

  2. Hi Dan,
    It is good to catch up with you today. Your blog and photos really take me to where you are. Thanks so much for making the effortto atke us along. While you have been in the African Adirondacks I have been in the NY Catskills doing hurricane Irene response with the ARC. It was a hard but good trip. Keep up the good work. Take care and enjoy yourselves. Jean