Ghana Travel Seminar: Love and anger are the key

BY DR. ROGER GENCH

The final congregation the Ghana travel seminar visited was situated in Agbogbloshie, a slum in the heart of Accra, Ghana, on the banks of the Korle Lagoon that has achieved notoriety as one of the most polluted slums in the world, hosting one of its largest electronic waste dumps. It is populated by roughly 40,000 migrants from the Sub-Saharan north and rural areas who have journeyed south to Accra, fleeing tribal conflict in northern Ghana with the hope of finding safety, food, jobs, resources. But their hopes have been largely dashed and the only place they have found to live is amidst the harsh living conditions and rampant crime of one of Accra’s largest slums and its hot, crowded market for the selling of yams imported from the north and onions from Nigeria.

This church we visited in Agbogbloshie was Konkomba Market Congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana. It was planted to nourish life and community in an otherwise bleak world and it was clear that their mission was being accomplished. About 20 members of the church came to our late morning gathering for conversation with us. They extended extraordinary hospitality, even a meal of northern yams that we shared on their communion table. They also sang and danced for us, providing an opportunity for us to experience tribal dances from the north that we had not seen during our time in Ghana. During a question and answer period, one member of our group asked them about the core message of the church and, without hesitation, Presbyter Solomon responded, “to love God and neighbor as yourself.” The community organizer in me asked if the city officials of Accra ever addressed the needs of their community. The answer was yes, politicians promise aid and infrastructure but those promises are never acted upon. I couldn’t help but ask a follow-up question: “Does that make you angry?” The answer was “yes!”

It may sound strange but I found both of these answers heartening – love and anger are the key ingredients for engendering transformation. In her book, “Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power in Politics” (University of North Texas Press, 1990), Mary Beth Rogers defines cold anger as a direct experience of dehumanizing injustice that “transforms itself into compassion for those hurt. . . . It is the kind of anger that can energize democracy — because it can lead to the first step in changing politics.” Anger and love are the key ingredients for change. Love of God and neighbor along with targeted anger reflect the collective desire to fight adversity — engendering hope for a better life. Konkomba Market Congregation is fully engaged in that mission.

It was instructive to me that when our group debriefed our visit to Agbogbloshie later that day, many of us brought up one or another of these twin emotions – love and anger – as notable learnings from our trip – learnings that can be utilized in the practice of ministry.


Dr. Roger Gench (top photo, second from right) is an alumnus and the head of staff at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.