Members of the Fumbisi congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana recently expressed their generosity in big bundles: two large farm sacks filled with fresh peanuts.
They sold the peanuts in the local marketplace and donated the $65 they received to the sending and support of Presbyterian mission co-worker Josh Heikkila.
"We don't have much but we decided to give something small just to support him," said Gladys Lariba Mahama, pastor of the Fumbisi congregation. The gift is more than the average Ghanaian earns for an entire month, Josh says.
The 150-member congregation raises a plot of peanuts each year and sells them to benefit its ministry and mission. "It is the only way we have to get income apart from the offerings that we offer to God," Gladys says. She adds that it "helps us to ease some problems and meet some of our challenges."
As regional liaison for West Africa, Josh facilitates the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministry with partners in Ghana, Nigeria and Niger and Togo. Part of his duties includes working with the Ghana Mission Network, a group of grassroots Presbyterians from the United States who share a common interest in mission in Ghana.
The network met in Ghana last year, and Gladys attended the meeting. She heard an appeal for network members to give to Josh's ministry and urge their congregations to do so. Though the request was intended to garner U.S. support, Gladys decided that her congregation could help as well. "I told the session and the congregation about the need and everybody was happy to contribute," she says.
Gladys says Josh has encouraged her in a reconciliation ministry that she leads in Fumbisi, a town of about 3,000 people in northern Ghana. The estrangement that Gladys helps reconcile stems from a community practice of expelling people who are disruptive or who are simply perceived to be troublesome. In a culture where life is viewed through a spirit-world lens, their mere presence is sometimes associated with tragedies. They are sent to other communities and often live together in camps.
Such a practice, Gladys says, is "inhumane" so she provides counseling, and she and her congregation work with village chiefs to effect reconciliation. The process, she says, moves people from hopelessness to hope.
Josh says he is inspired by Gladys, and one day he would like for her to travel to the United States to talk with Presbyterians about her reconciliation work. He was "moved and happy" by the gift to his ministry and "knowing the sacrifice the people went through to help was humbling."
"It is a wonderful symbol that we are in this together," he says. "We are in different denominations and come from different countries and backgrounds, but we are all trying to help one another from our strengths and according to the needs."