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Newsletter, Summer, 2004

Dear Friends,

We have  been very busy sorting books out into all their different categories since they arrived in January.  I am now busy entering [at the second attempt] all the books into the database on a desktop computer which had been set up for me - the laptop computer which I came back with in October was stolen in Accra.  I managed to get the computer, monitor and key board in my luggage on my return trip to Ghana in April.  This data is likely to take months to input, rather than weeks, as we have thousands of books to sort through and catalogue. The Library is up and running and, although the numbers are few, we are blessed that the people attending are really committed to studying the word of God - quality rather than quantity.  Having said that, we are operating from home and not in the town, which is where we want to be eventually.  I think it is a blessing that it is this way for now, otherwise we  would not have time to do the other work.

Development of land

When I first came to Ghana, I purchased a large piece of land as an investment but did not really know what I was going to do with it, because I did not know how long I would be staying.  I see it now as possibly a place to minister and live in the future.  This way we would avoid the cost of renting all the time.  I have just had three thousand building blocks made ready to do at least the foundations after the rains in October.  Contact has been made with ‘Brass Tacks’ who might be able to help me to start erecting a permanent building for the Malak Book Centre in Tamale which will provide more than sufficient space for a library, storage for books and accommodation for Akua and myself.  Discussions will probably take place when I am next able to come over to England – possibly in March, 2005.  

If it is decided that ‘Brass Tacks’ can help us, then the work could possibly start as early as October, 2005.

Expanding the Boundaries…………..Buy now pay later

We did not realise when we started our ministry that we would be dealing with people from all over Ghana and not just the northern region where we are committed.  In fact, the other day we were invited to a pan African book conference in Nigeria [May 30th – June 2nd] and this may be good to further our connections even more.  Bob Hiley from Book Aid made the contact and he has highly recommended the conference to us.

The cost of the books from ‘Book Aid’, the shipping, costs at the harbour, plus road transport to Tamale, made it a very expensive project indeed.  Our vision is to provide schools, discipleship schools and bible schools etc., in the remote northern regions with free books.  To be able to do this, we must sell books to dealers in the more southern and Christian part of Ghana of which Accra is the capital.  This city is over four hundred miles from Tamale.

Akua has made quite a few trips to Accra by public transport and has taken up to twenty cartons of books as luggage with her.  We believe now, after making lots of these trips, that we need a truck and have given it to the Lord in prayer.  We received a very generous gift from a couple to help with a truck, but we are going to wait until we see the right one.  We would rather wait on the Lord for more help than waste His money on a piece of scrap, as there are many black Arthur Daleys here in Ghana.

We have been to most of the major towns in Ghana making new connections and we were extremely encouraged at the start of January after the books arrived.  The phone was ringing all the time with people from everywhere wanting books.  However, nobody wants to pay for them - they want them all on credit and this has proved to be a nightmare.

We make repeated visits to shops to try and get some money back for the books which they have already sold, but it is very difficult.  The worst offenders are the pastors and elders of churches who may deal with books as a side line, but they give the most unbelievable excuses.  I have stood eye ball to eye ball with some of them and told them they are telling lies and need to repent, but they don’t fear God and integrity is something that does not exist.   An American colleague of ours said that he had a friend who came over to start a business and within no time went bust because nobody would pay their balances.  We thank God that we have learned through this and we will know better next time.  Incidental ly, Book Aid is sending another container with 618 boxes of books on 20th July.

We stumbled on a little Scripture Union Ministry operating from an office no bigger than a boys garden hut in the back side of Tamale town centre.  We supplied them with lots of materials and new testaments to take into the schools and I preached in a few of them during that week.  Also, we took thirty boxes of hard back books to a Baptist Pastors training centre here in Tamale and they were very grateful for this donation.  This is what our ministry is all about, giving free materials to these people who get very little or no support from outside.

On April 2nd I received a phone call telling me that my Dad had died.  On going to our guest house with the intention of getting my passport to book a flight home, we found that we had been robbed of everything, including passports.  Instead of  getting angry, I felt a peace and my mind went back to when Dad was sick and how his body had decayed and more like that of a little boy.  I thought how pointless and meaningless some of the arguments we used to have were when it ends up like this. In the same way, the thieves who took all our possessions would only be satisfied for a short time as the computer they stole would eventually burn out, the clothes would wear out, and the money run out.  Not long after they would be looking for somebody else to rob, as their thirst would have only been temporarily quenched with my belongings.  Yes, the only thing on earth which is worth pursuing is our relationship with God, everything else will decay away while the Spirit of God will last forever.

Ministering in the City Centre

Akua has been sick for a long time with her stomach and has spent a lot of time having treatment in Accra and Tamale.  She was forced to go to hospital in Accra on the new inland plane service, as she could not travel on the 14 hour public transport service.  She spent nearly a month in Accra while I was busy renovating a building in the town centre for our ministry.  The building is on the site where our proposed book centre is eventually going to be built.  I have been busy putting new sheets on the roof, painting inside and out, and having more bookcases built as well as putting down a new floor covering.  I also had banners made to promote the ministry  in the town and we expect to be able to open on 8th June.

The ministry is only two hundred yards from the Central City Mosque and, on the way  to the mosque, there are many little prayer groups on the road.  There is a group who go through all  their rituals only feet away from our ministry.

Two days before our opening day and two days after Akua came back from the hospital in Accra, she was admitted into ho spital here in Tamale with internal bleeding.  It proved to be an overnight stay as the Lord’s prayer warriors went into action and Akua was discharged the following afternoon.

Akua was fit enough to come and open up the ‘Malak Book Ministry’ with me for our first day ministering in the city.  It did not take long, however, for our first corrupt government official to find us and shut us down after I refused to give him money.  We were reopened the next day after the Lord’s prayer warriors went into action again, there was not a moment during the second day when nobody was in the building browsing at books.  The highlight was a non-Christian Canadian who is the chairman of the ‘Northern Ghana Children’s Library project’ and he wanted Christian books included in his project….a testimony of the Lord’s goodness to us.  

We have been blessed by the Lord with Akua becoming pregnant and she, God willing, will give birth on December 24th.  We are of course both delighted and I see it as a second chance after making such a mess with my other children’s upbringing.  The scripture that comes to mind is :

“I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten away”

We thank you all for your love and support and ask you to continue to pray for us and our work.

Please pray for ...

Yours in His Name,

John & Akua