Eric Ayala. VALIANT SURVIVOR EXTRAORDINAIRE

The photo below was taken on his twenty first birthday here in Techiman. I am still amazed how he survived to live to twenty one.  Eric was hit by a car when he was a small boy. He was diagnosed as dead but was later found miraculously still breathing.  He has spent years in and out of hospitals and the accident left him with multiple injuries and a paraplegic.  He has had numerous surgeries and been in multiple hospitals in Ghana. Eric has been deprived of food and water for many days. His body has been ravaged with a serious infection, (chronic osteomyelitis) for years, and has had massive weeping, open abscesses on his body. He has had frequent severe pain from the infection. He has lived in squalor and attempted suicide. In spite all of this he has survived. Eric would be one of the bravest, most grateful, determined, funny, young man I have ever known.  Eric has a firm testimony of Gods existence and love for him. He is bright and has learned to speak English, (albeit with a Kiwi accent), and to read and write in less then a year.

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On the seventh of July Eric flew to the US for life saving, and we pray life changing surgery.  Through the generosity of Dr Kimball Crofts  who heads HART Africa, and his assembled team of specialists, (other surgeons and specialists who donated their skills and expertise), and Intermountain Health Care,  Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, all Eric’s surgery and medical needs were covered pro bono.  Eric was admitted to the Utah Valley Hospital on Monday the 10th of July. The next day he had surgery headed by Dr Crofts which was about a two an a half hour procedure.  He has since had a further procedure which was six hours of surgery.  This was flap surgery to cover the open wounds that he has had on his body for many years.  These wounds leaked putrid fluid in large amounts and he was constantly wet from them. Eric is in great spirits and recovering well. Hopefully next week he will be moved to a post acute care rehabilitation centre. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for Dr Crofts and all those incredible people who have given of their time, their skills and support for Eric. We sincerely  thank Intermountain Health Care for their very generous gift of free hospital services for Eric.   Utah Valley Hospital  where Eric is staying he  described as a hotel when we wheeled him in.  He also said it doesn’t smell and there are no coachroaches.  We are eternally grateful to all the medical staff that have given this gift to Eric.

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Left Katie Crofts in the Ghanaian print apron, Dr Kimball Crofts MD Plastic Surgeon and Becky Berry.  These three people met Eric when they came to Ghana with HART Africa, a humanitarian medical team in August last year. Dr Crofts operate on Eric and tried to rid his body of the osteomyelitis.  He said that when he returned to the US he would endeavour to help Eric, and he is a man of his word.

 

Life as a missionary in Ghana.

Missionary work in West Africa can be extremely rewarding, also very trying and challenging. I believe we have learnt and grown personally. It is enriching and has helped change my views of the world.  It has been a lifetime event that I would now never have missed.  Some aspects of it I have found very hard.  The poverty and harshness of so many lives.  Horrific health issues that many people who can’t afford medical help endure and die from.  The eye for an eye mentality, the cruelty, and the corruption of so many government departments is very hard to cope with.
We have been blessed to have a Mission President, Michael Cosgrave and his amazing wife Sister Cindy Cosgrave. They have made our lives so much easier by their love, positiveness, thoughtfulness, encouragement and support of our efforts here in Ghana.
Last week we spent three days at the Mission Home in Kumasi being instructed, learning, sharing life insights, eating wonderful food and relaxing somewhat from our day to day life in Techiman.  We were joined by three other “senior couples” who also serve in the Kumasi mission.  They are all from the US and we are the only Kiwis.  We loved teasing them about how tiny New Zealand with a population of only four and a half million beat the mighty USA and took the America Cup in the boat race. 👍🏾
It was a lovely three days spent doing many varied and some ODD things. We had a challenge race with another team to find a corn field, swimming pool, a school, taxi cab, a mother with a baby on her back and several other wacky things.  We had to wear a mask which was supplied, and take selfies with all of us, (four people) in the photos.  The Ghanaian people were staring at the four crazy old Obruni people running around trying to do all of the challenges.  It was much fun and I was grateful we weren’t arrested for being completely balmy. We were teamed up with Elder and Sister Schow who are the Office missionary couple.  They are great sports and we all laughed a lot.
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Swimming pool at a hotel.
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Outside a school
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Mother with a baby on her back carrying a parcel on her head.  Two other random people jumped into the photo as it was being taken.
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Another great,  and not so balmy activity, was having a pedicure with all of the sisters at a new state of the art mall which had opened recently in Kumasi. In the chair beside me is Sister Renfroe who kept giggling as the chair was vibrating and the beautician was tickling her feet.
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We all went to the cultural centre for retail therapy. Left in the picture is Sister Dearing the mission nurse. Sister Cosgrave is centre, on her left is Sister Renfroe, my head, and then Sister Schow is on the far right.  The Ghanaian girl behind Sister Cosgraves lives in Utah.  She has just completed an MA. in voice and performance and was organising a choir to sing the Messiah at Christmas time in Kumasi. We meet her at one of the stalls.  The man on the left was a doctor at a huge hospital in Kumasi and was in the choir that was being formed as were the two other Ghanaian men.
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The senior couples in the Kumasi, Ghana Mission.
Back row from the left.  Elder and Sister Dearing, Sister and Elder Schow. President and Sister Cosgrave.
Front left. Elder and Sister Wood.  Sister and Elder Renfroe.

Eric in the USA

These are some of the welcoming party at the Salt Lake Airport which I missed from the last blog.
In the front row with Eric is Becky Berry left,  and Katie Crofts on the right.  That morning before we arrived they had been on TV being interviewed about HART Africa and Eric. Also in this photo is Candace Ryan with her three children.  Marcie is left second row, Payton is obscured and Jack is waving the Ghanaian  flag.  In the back row  is Michelle, with her two sons Stockton and Seth.
April Hill and Justine had gone to bring the car to the door to pick us up and the Wardle’s were there but are missing from the picture.  It was a HUGE surprise and I’m unsure what Eric was thinking but he kept smiling.
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At the Family History Centre downtown Salt Lake.  Eric loved the flowers in the gardens and wanted a photo of him taken with the flowers.  I looked around to see him hoisting himself out of his wheelchair to sit on the ledge.  He wanted Justin Hill in this photo.
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Found these two cute photo which I took at the Church Museum in downtown Salt Lake.
Rick with Eric dressed in period hats.
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Eric in awe at the size of the angel Moroni
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Eric was captivated by all the water fountains and pools in temple square.  This is truly a very beautiful place.

Eric Ayala Surrounded by Love

The last ten days have been what I can only describe as a roller coaster of emotions.  Packing Eric up from his home in the hospital where he has lived for the last ten months and seeing him say goodbye to his family. Traveling from Techiman to Accra which took about eight hours with one break.  Flying from Ghana to Amsterdam, a five hour flight with a four hour stop over in Amsterdam and then to Utah which was a nine hour flight.  Eric did travel extremely well and loved it.
I arrived shattered, emotional, and very tearful. The welcome, the kindness, support and love for us was heart warming and eye wetting.  The hardest part for me was leaving Eric but he is surrounded by many beautiful angels who I know will love him and see to his every need.
We arrived to cheers and welcome posters at the Salt Lake airport with about thirty people greeting Eric. The love he has been shown by many beautiful people and what he has seen and experienced in the last ten days must be overwhelming for him. He has been on a Ferris wheel, experienced a live broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word and heard the  Tabernacle Choir perform.  Eric has eaten out at restaurants many times. An Interesting observation he made was he wondered why people don’t cook food. He has been struggling with the American diet but does like McDonalds Oreo shakes!  He met a Ghanaian Olympic runner, and was interviewed by reporters from the Liahona and Ensign magazine.
When we admitted him to hospital he said please Mummy it is like a hotel and then added, and it doesn’t smell.  Since he has been in hospital he has been visited by many people.  Missionaries who have served in Ghana and returned to the US. One returned missionary Joshua Robinson cooked Ghanaian food for him three times and brought it to the hospital. Eric has loved it.  Eric has had Doctors who have randomly called in to see him, ( not his doctors). They have sat on his bed and visited with him.  He has had several families visit him.  Today Alex Boye arrived unannounced and visited with him for about twenty minutes.  He had  Eric do a rap with him. Alex was his backing with a boom box beat.  This must have been the absolute highlight for him.  If it wasn’t for Eric it sure was for me!
Eric Ayala is an amazingly beautiful, incredibly brave young man with a pure spirit.  All those who meet him feel that and just love him.  He has surely been a privilege and blessing in our lives as we have served him and to be part of his life.
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At Accra airport in Ghana.
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on the plane.
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Riding a Ferris wheel with his friend Justin Hill wide eyed and amazed at a completely new world he was experiencing.
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The incredible April Hill who moves mountains. April was instrumental in heading the fund raising through Ghana Pay it Forward for airfares to bring Eric to the US.  April hired a vehicle, drove four and a half hours from St George and drove us as all over Salt Lake City until Eric was admitted to hospital.
She arranged meals to be brought to our hotel, organised events and was our angel.
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Eric with his idol Alex Boye who gave Eric five CDs and a tee shirt.  He also gave him counsel and words of encouragement. It was very touching.

The People of Ghana

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This absolutely delightful little girl was given a tiny packet of biscuits after church is relishing them.
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These are the Young Women of the Kenten Branch of the church where Elder Wood is temporarily serving as the branch president.
I taught them today as they had no teacher. They were amazing.  Eric’s sister Linda is on the left and Nancy on the right. The lovely girl in the centre told me her name and I couldn’t understand what she was saying.  I didn’t want to embarrass her as she said it three times so next time I will get them all to write their names for me.
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Above On the left:  Elder Vuakatange, currently serving in Techiman from Fiji:  Centre Behie Matthew Achiri: Right Elder Dudley from the USA.

Yesterday Matthew was baptised.  He is nineteen and is completing his senior high school year. Matthew came to his baptism and was completely on his own.  No fanfare or family accompanied hm and was baptised by immersion in the water. Today at church he was invited to bare his testimony.  What an inspirational young man he is. Matthew is very sincere, clever, focused and respectful.

I mentally compared him to a young man we spoke to this week who has chosen another path.  I  felt to tell him if he continued on the road he was taking he would soon be in prison. He had a friend participate in a robbery at knife point on Monica Kyereme, the mother who sews to support her children in Sunyani.  She was attacked in the dark, had her new phone stolen, her arm cut and was thrown to the ground and was left terrified and bruised.  Unfortunately like any country in the world there are good and ugly people.  Ghana has them both.  To see the path that Matthew chose was so refreshing to me.

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Every week in our church families are assigned to clean the chapel.  When I arrived at this chapel these little darlings had the rubber gloves on and were doing their part?!
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IMG_4646A few weeks back we traveled out into the back blocks of Ghana to a place called Nchira.  We were taking a young man, who wants to serve a mission, to his village to try and get a weigh card for him.  When babies are born in Ghana they are weighed and are given inoculations which are then recorded for the first year of their lives.  If he could get a copy of his weigh card it would mean he doesn’t have to have several of the inoculations required to serve a mission.  We arrived in this tiny village and were directed to a clinic.  Above is Agatha who is the midwife at the clinic. What a great lady she is.  She has delivered hundreds of babies and has a huge personality.  She is very informed about many subjects, and has been highly trained in her role as a midwife.  Agatha has been practising for over thirty years.  We have become friends and yesterday she travelled to Techiman to have lunch with us even though she had no sleep as she had had a delivery that took her through the night.

The quality of the picture is not good as it was dark and I think the person who took it was a bit shaky.

Bits and Bobs

Below is a tuk tuk that has become an increasingly popular form of transport here in Techiman. It has a twin cylinder petrol, motorbike engine in it.  They seem to be mostly used as taxis and are taking  over the streets.
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Above are yams. The texture of a yam, which is a tuber, is a little like a potato but drier. It is high in starch and very low in protein.  A yam can grow up to seventy kilos in weight but the average harvested yam is usually between five and ten kilos. They take from six to ten months to grow.  Yams here are typically harvested by hand using sticks, spades or a digger.  Wood based tools are preferred as they are less likely to damage the yam tuber.  Harvesting is extremely labour intensive and physically demanding.  It involves standing, bending and squatting.  Yam is often boiled.  It also is cut into wedges and fried in oil and served as Yam chips.  Another way of serving yam is it is made into fufu instead of using cassava or plantain or cocoyam.  This soft dough is traditionally eaten with any of the varieties of Ghanaian soup. It is popular in Northern and southeastern Ghana. The ladies above carrying the yam on their heads could have conservatively up to eighty kilos in their bowls.  I tried to pick up a bowl and it was way to heavy for this Obruni lady to even lift off the ground.\IMG_4539
I showed this photo to Eric and asked what it was.  I was given a Twi name and after discussion figured it was a cricket.  It was on the gates to our property when I went to padlock them.  It wasn’t bigger then about five centimetres and rather stunning I thought.
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These gorgeous little girls were playing together cooking.  They had three rusty old tins, a broken plastic jar and a spoon, which I suspect had all come from the garbage pile, and they were happily mixing and filling up their containers, with dirt and water.
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Eric and Rick in Accra  the day after Eric was told he had been granted his visa to the United States.  This photo was taken in the gardens of a hotel we stayed at in Accra. It was a very nice place. I had booked into another motel four days before we left Techiman.  As we were travelling to Accra they phoned and said they were over booked and we didn’t have a room. When we arrived late in the day we drove down a back street near the Accra Temple and found this gorgeous accomodation.

Water for Everyone!

A sign at Holy Family Hospital in Techiman.  Carol Sharrocks, Rick’s sister visiting from England laughed at many of  the signs in Ghana.  This one is a gem.
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Above is Phillip who is an artist at the cultural centre in Kumasi.  He was  born in Techiman.  I have two paintings that he has done for me.  Below is one painting he painted of Techiman. He’s a smart, talented, very confident young man and I was very impressed as he knew where New Zealand was.  Most Ghanaian people think we are from the US…..of course I correct them.  Maybe one in one hundred people will know of Australia or New Zealand.
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My painting of Techiman.
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Last Tuesday Rick, myself and Carol went to the handing over ceremonies of two magnificent water wells that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had constructed, drilled and built.  When the handing over ceremony is completed the community’s that have benefited from them are then responsible for the maintenance of the wells. One well was at a large high school of over two thousand students, who were mostly boarders in the small town at Akumadan.   The other was in the village of Nkenkaasu.
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A big ram given as a gift of appreciation to the Redlins, the Church humanitarian couple from Accra who are responsible for these projects.  A huge bowl of Yams was also presented to them.  I laughed inwardly as I imagined them putting the ram into the back of their truck and driving the seven hours to Accra. It was amusing until gallant Rick offered to take it for them and dispense of it to a worthy cause.  Elder Redlin spoke with the community leaders and he gifted it back to an orphanage in Nkenkaasu.  We did accept the yams and have given most away.
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Carol, Ricks sister with a few students and a teacher at Akumadan High School.  All of the students came to a big assembly for the water well handing over.  There was much clapping and cheering at the assembly.
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Above Carol with Daniel a little boy from the village of Nkenkaasu.  In the background is a poly tank on a stand which is part of the new water system  for the village.

On Safari at Mole National Park

Mole is Ghanas largest and most developed wildlife refuge and is situated in northwest Ghana on grassland savanna.  Sunday afternoon we drove to Mole on mostly excellent roads. It was a three and a half hour drive from Techiman and we stayed one night.  The park covers about four thousand eight hundred kilometres and is home to over ninety three types of mammal species.  The large mammals of the park include an elepant population, hippos, buffalos and warthogs.  The park is considered a primary African reserve for antelope species including kob, waterbuck, hartebeests , and the bushbuck. On a three hour safari this morning, which started at six thirty, we did get to see a few of these animals.

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Above is the Land Cruiser that we toured the park in. The tree on the right  is a Rosewood that are now very endangeredand and face extinction.

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A buck Kob antelope.
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Warthogs grazing.
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These Baboons were very close. We did see some monkeys at a distance.  Most of the animals moved too quickly to photograph.
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A waterhole below the lodge where we stayed.  Elephants, antelopes, and warthogs use it.   We did hear crocodiles but didn’t see them.
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More antelopes.  I can’t remember what species this is.

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We saw these antelopes as we were driving into the lodge on Sunday night.
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Sadly as gorgeous as this elephant is it was the only one we saw in Mole and was housed inside the lodge foyer!!!

Moving, Street Hawkers and Kumasi Traffic

We wait for word from the US Embassy re the visa for Eric Ayala thinking each day maybe we will get a call requesting that we travel to Accra, but nothing.  Rick has tried to phone the Embassy with absolutely no success.  He has emailed them and received a computer generated response.   So we wait…….

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This is how you move the contents of your home in Techiman.  Just grateful that it isn’t raining for the guy sitting on the load.
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This is how you actually move the house in Techiman.  Five men pushing and pulling. This is being moved on the main road from Techiman to Sunyani.  A while back I saw a building being moved down a rather steep slope.  The men moving it couldn’t hold it back as it careered all over the road.  I fled to safety and by sheer luck it came to a stop on a huge bump in the road.  Today this was a flat road and hopefully it reached its destination safely.
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A major intersection at Kumasi. We are waiting in a huge queue of traffic for the lights to change.   The people on the road are street vendors and they duck in and out of the traffic selling anything that can be carried.  The man in the foreground is selling cushions.  Behind him is a girl selling drinks from a bowl on her head.  At the back is a guy with a blue box on his head.  He is selling Fan Ice…an ice cream in a plastic tube.  I don’t know the statistics of how many are killed or seriously injured going this but it is a heart in the mouth scene watching them.
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Another road scene.  This is one of about six huge roundabouts in Kumasi.  The traffic today is about five cars wide.  I can not describe how unbelievable it is. Cars jostling for position, horns tooting, people gesturing, truck drivers yelling out their widows and sounding air horns,  and tro tro drivers just ramming their vans in anywhere.  It’s insanity.  I think the roundabout was intended to be one lane.
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The same roundabout as above.   Rick loves vying for position and pushing the ute into any one millimetre space it will go into.  As for me I just close my eyes and remind myself to breathe.
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Another road scene.  This photo doesn’t show just how crazy and life threatening selling to vehicles is for the vendors. These ladies are trying to sell to passengers in a tro tro who are possibly the best customers for these venders.

Miracles still Happen!

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Above.   Kwame Amanfoh and Gifty Andoh, Techiman, Ghana
Kwame Amanfoh is from Ghana and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.  He works for Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat as an optometrist.  Twice a year he travels back to Ghana for three months and runs the Charity Eye Clinic.
He does not charge for eye examinations and only a tiny fee for glasses.  On some occasions I have seen him give glasses free to people.
He is incredibly generous and kind,  and many people who would not be able to afford glasses now have improved vision because of his  charity clinic.
Seven years ago Gifty Andoh was using drops in her eyes for the condition glaucoma.  She would buy her drops every two weeks from a local hospital.  She had reasonably good sight and could see everything.  One Friday she went and bought her drops.  The senior eye nurse said they were from a different supplier but the same as her old ones.  After using the prescribed drops three times over a twenty four hours period she was blind.  She had twin daughters who were twelve when this happened.  She went to several doctors in different towns and the prognosis was the same each time. Her eyes were ruined. In Ghana there is no compensation in anyway for such an occurrence, or government help.  For seven years she has had to depend on her husband or children.
Yesterday I told Kwame about Gifty and he said bring her in to see me.  He discovered she had a very small tunnel of sight in her right eye.  The left eye was sightless. He tried several prescription lenses on her and then the miracle occurred.  After seven sightless years Gifty could read letters on the wall chart.  When we first arrived and he asked her about herself she told Kwame I would just like to see my girls.  Her wish was granted today.  In bright sunlight she described what Zenita her daughter was wearing in detail and then she hugged her.  It was a very heartwarming moment for Elder Wood and I, Kwame and Zenita.
Kwame has arranged for Gifty to have prescription glasses made and Zenita and I chose pretty red ones for her.  A small miracle today in Techiman and some very happy people.