By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD
They say here in Ghana, almost everything is possible. One late night, coming from the villages, a big car fully loaded with charcoal was stuck on the road. As I approached, a man stood on the road, knelt down, plead the back of his right hand on the top of his opened left palm and started pleading my moving his right wrist up and down against his opened left palm (a Ghanaian way of pleading for help). Moved with pity, I stopped and heard a woman moaning somewhere: I tried to decipher from where the moaning was coming. It turned out it was a woman in labor on the top of that charcoal. Luckily, my Nissan was empty. Gently, we placed her inside, I spoked to her in Twe ( the local language): “If you deliver in the car, if the baby is a born we should call Him Nissan if a girl – Nissana” Thank God we made it to the hospital without a mishap. A month later, a woman came knocking at my door. “Please Father, I came to show you Joseph,” Joseph? What do you mean?” “Father, do you remember that night you took a woman on the road to the hospital? I was the one.” Filled with joy, I leaned over and saw the child was lovely, beautiful and cute with a name neither Nissan not Nissana but Joseph. Happy Birthday Joseph. Welcome to the world.
Walking a distance of 18 miles at first seemed hard, but now I find it ordinary. Among those villages I used to walk to is Asantekwa populated by the Mo tribe, but frequented by Fulanis (herdsmen who live by following their cattle wherever they go, crossing one border to another country unmindful of passport, visa, and the like. They are fair in complexion and the fairest of them would be like an Asian). As I was walking one morning, I was overtaken by newly migrated Mo to Asantekwa, who did not know me yet. When they arrived in the village, they told the people that for the first time they saw a Fulani with an umbrella, and a catapult, in white rubber shoes, who likes to smile. This created a commotion among the people and they assembled at the entrance of the village waiting with bated breath to see this Fulani with the umbrella. The commotion turned into turmoil of laughter when they saw it was me. “How can you say such thing about our priest?” Sacrilege?
(But Father Joe you still have not explained the catapult? Editor)
If I do not bring my camping bed I often sleep in one of the village mud house. Once, it was raining heavily and knowing very well the condition of the house particularly the weak ceiling, I was really afraid and anxious tossing and turning all night in fitful sleep. Then suddenly, I heard a cracking-creaking noise above. I jumped off the bed, put on my flashlight and to my complete surprise, an army of cockroaches in single file formation from the biggest to the smallest, with all their antennas pointing upward, were evacuating to the other side of the house where there was no water. As I looked up I saw written on the ceiling.
I planted mango 27/7/89
One goat died 3/4/90
Adwoa was born 3/4/90
I discovered the ceiling was an archive. No wonder when I would ask one of my catechumens about his date of birth, he would say, “I don’t know: our house collapsed,” an answer which at first seemed illogical but now I realize it is a sensible answer. Thanks to the cockroaches.
Some concerned Filipino families working in Accra, Ghana’s capital, sent me a bottle of ‘bagoong.’ I placed it on our table. A few days after, a group of sisters from the north on their way to Accra, stopped at Kintampo. For a Filipino, hospitality is a scared duty, so I had to offer them something. Moving here and there like Martha, among them was a Europeans Sister who was so curious that she opened the ‘bagoong’ and like a bomb shell the strong unpleasant smell hit the air. “What is this?” she asked with finger and thumb clipping her nose. Rotten fish? For what?” “For rotten priest,” I replied.
in the Philippines, we call it the Catholic Women’s League but here in my parish, it is called the Christians Women’s Association. “Who is your Christian Women President?” I asked my people in Soronoase. “Mr. Joseph Yaw Kuma,,” they said. Mr. Kuma is the catechist. Completely surprised, on the same day under pain of scrapping the C.W.A., I asked them to change the president and elect a woman in his place. I may be a joker, but I’m also a women’s also a women’s liberationist!
Believe it or not, when I started playing tennis here in Kintampo, the Catholics were so shocked that they told our catechist I should stop playing because I am a priest; I wonder what they would have said if I played mahjong?