Into Africa

Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
Trip End Mar 14, 2011

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Where I stayed
Elmina Beach Resort

Flag of Ghana  ,
Monday, February 14, 2011

We're in Africa and starting to work on what should be a very interesting trip. For me it should last a month and a day, and it will take me across the African continent from West to East and back again, with a side trip into the Indian Ocean.

We have high hopes, but realize that in the present circumstances there will almost certainly be some disappointments as well, at least in the immediate. Whatever happens, it will be necessary, as always in the Christian life, to take a long view of events, and not judge success or failure only by the short term.

I left home Sunday morning at 09:00. My wife, Marjolaine, drove me to the airport. We talked about all the things she’ll have to do in my absence, taken care of my normal responsibilities at home as well as hers. Were it not for her willing support of my work, and ability to step in and take over everything at home whenever I’m gone, I wouldn’t be able to continue this work.

The flight left Cincinnati at 11:30 and arrived on time at JFK in New York at 13:30. I walked to the gate for the connecting flight to Accra and found the Delta Business Class lounge just across the corridor. I fly often enough with the Skyteam group which includes Delta, Air France and Kenya Airways, that I’m allowed to use these lounges for free when I fly internationally, even though I always travel coach. I called Tom Clark, who had just arrived from Minneapolis and asked him to join me.

Tom and I and our wives have known each other since our days at Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA. Tom and I were in the Young Ambassadors performance troupe back in those days, some may remember the videos that were produced for the FOT each year in the early 80s.

We had time for a snack and a drink before boarding for the 16:40 flight to Accra. We were able to get seats together on the half-full flight, so we could catch up on news and plan for the work ahead. We chatted with a Christian couple across the aisle. They were from north of Seattle and were coming to adopt a two year-old orphan to add to their own 4 children. It was their first trip to Ghana and they had many questions.

After dinner, and a movie (RED with Bruce Willis - not bad if you like the genre) I slept three or four hours on the 10-hour flight, Tom said he slept about half an hour.

According to the flight map on the screen in front of me, I woke up just as we were passing over Dakar in Senegal on the west coast of Africa. Following our progress over the next few hours, I saw we passed over Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire before finally coming to Ghana, and its capital Accra.

We arrived in Accra on time at 08:00. Stepping from the door, we passed from dry, sterile air conditioning to the humid heat of the tropics that hit us like a wave. The smell of vegetation mixed with a whiff of the Ocean, not far off, and a hint of aviation kerosene. We walked to the arrival building and began the arrival process. We were among the first off the plane and since we knew the process and where to go, we were among the first in line at immigration. Our passports stamped we moved to collect our luggage and then walked past the customs agents one of whom asked what was in my suitcase. I smiled and said "my clothes;" she waved me through.

Tom had arranged a driver he knew from previous trips and he was waiting for us just outside the terminal building. He walked us to his Toyota Carola, we loaded luggage, and we started the drive out to the city of Takoradi 4-5 hours’ drive down the coast to the west. The roads had been markedly improved since I first traveled here 12 or 13 years ago. There were very few potholes; though there were many new speed bumps around each village we passed, and we even saw police with a radar gun on the outskirts of Accra.

We dozed off and on as we drove along the coast. We stopped in Cape Coast, site of a 15th century trading castle (gold and ivory first, then later on, slaves), to change some money and buy water. Then we continued on to Takoradi another 90 minutes down the highway.

We pulled in to the Africa Beach Resort, very happy to be out of the car. Tom told me he had reserved here because it seems like a good match of price for quality, and wouldn’t break our budget. We stretched, unloaded our luggage and Tom paid the driver who thanked us and drove off. We walked into the office as waves broke only a few meters away. Inside we received some unpleasant news. Though we had a reservation, there were no rooms. The receptionist explained that other clients who were to have left that morning, had left their luggage in their rooms kept the keys and were out she knew not where. Perhaps. In any even she said she would arrange rooms next door at the Takoradi Beach resort. We agreed.

They had no rooms, nor did the next few hotels she tried. Finally she did find us rooms but at a hotel in town that cost 50% more. Discussing our options, we decided to try the Elmina Beach Resort, which we both knew well. The receptionist called and reserved rooms, for the same price we were to have paid at her establishment. Tom called the driver on his cell phone. He lived near Elmina, an hour’s drive back down the road on which we had come. Happily he hadn’t left Takoradi and was able to come back and pick us up. Dropping us in Elmina would be on the way home for him.

We finally arrived at Elmina at about 16:00. It is the site of the first European castle on this coast, built by the Portuguese a few years before Columbus discovered America. We checked in 26 hours after I had begun my trip; it was 27 hours for Tom. We were pleased to see we received rooms with an ocean view at no extra cost. We would sleep to the sound of rolling breakers.

At 17:00, after a glorious shower and a welcome change of clothes we caught a taxi out to the coconut grove resort not far from Elmina Castle. As we watched the sun set into the Bight of Benin, we ate fresh grilled grouper and potatoes or plantain, all of which was very good. Finally a very long travel day ended when we returned to the Elmina Beach around 19:00. We should sleep well and be ready for our conferences tomorrow with the pastors who invited us to meet with them.
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Rosie Seltzer on

Mr. Meeker,
Thank you so much for the first update on the beginning of your trip. Looking forward to following your blog everyday and learning about the places where you will be traveling. Praying for your safety, and was happy to hear you have a traveling companion. All the best!

jpvernaud on

Bonsoir Monsieur Meeker,
Merci pour votre message que Google traduction a traduit pour nous.
Nous sommes heureux de savoir que tout se passe bien pour vous, nous continuons de prier pour que la totalité de votre voyage se passe bien.
Famille Vernaud

Lonnie Gjesvold on

Thanks for the your travelblog, it is so informative and really gives us an idea of the countries and the people and what we are doing to try and help this work along. Thank you so much and I will be praying for both of you for safety and much success in making all of the meeting that you have set. up.Lonnie

Clyde Kilough on

Thanks Joel - we'll look forward to the continuing story. Hi to Tom for us, and take care.

Gale Black on

Our thoughts and prayers are with you through your travels! Stay safe!

Margaret Howard on

Thank you Mr. Meeker! and Mr. Clark too!

hervedubois on

Bonjour M. Meeker,

Nous sommes heureux de voir que les frères et soeurs d'Afrique vont à nouveau pouvoir recevoir la visite encourageante et stimulante de deux pasteurs, plus M. Baker en Asie. Nous suivons régulièrement vos étapes et nul doute que Dieu va bénir votre travail.

SVP, passez bien le bonjour à M. Clark que j'ai eu comme instructeur à l'ABC. Je me rappelle qu'il nous confiait la raison pour laquelle il était pasteur en Afrique : "Et bien, disait il, sans doute parce que personne d'autre ne voulait le faire...". Un excellent exemple de dévouement qui mérite d'être médité !
Merci pour vos dévouements et vos exemples de foi dans ces voyages difficiles et dangereux. Nous prions pour votre sécurité à tous les deux ainsi que pour M. David Baker.

Hervé et Helen

Elizabeth Serfontein on

Hi there Mr Meeker / Mr Clark.
What an adventure. However We are relieved to hear that you were eventually
able to have a good Meal and a pleasent evening, with a sea view reservation.
We certainly look forward to reading about the next days events. Please give our fondest regards to the Brethren in the arears you visit. We will be following you on your travels.
fond regards
Steve Liz and Kaylee Serfontein

malcolm care on

I spent 12yrs in West Africa, from your account of your travails in attempting to check-in to your hotels it would seem to me that the old adage of WAWA is still very much alive! For the uninitiated, WAWA=West Africa wins again. In Nigeria make contact with Felix Ohiwerei, very big Ogga! and a very good friend of mine. Check him out on Google. Chuku non yele ge!! M.

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