Father Joker

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.

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

We have here at our mission two big mangoes tree outside our mission fence. But half of the branches hand over our land. One afternoon, I saw James, our mission helper gathering some ripe mangoes from the tree. Afraid I asked him why. He said, “don’t worry Father, the mangoes belong to us because the branches are over our land.” he left me wondering under what category of justice I should classify this.
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By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

Where am I?
When you have malaria for the first time, you dread having it again. But if you have had it more than three times, it becomes ordinary: you begin to play with it not knowing by doing so you are courting more troubles. That was how it happened. Thinking it will be over tomorrow, on the third day, it got much worse. Semi conscious, my fellow priest brought me to the Holy Family Hospital. I could hear the voice of a Sister commanding her nurses, “quick, quick...” Late in the morning I was awakened by strange gurgling noise, the splash of water, and the cries of babies. I mumbled to my nurse, “Where am i?” At the maternity ward,” said she with squeals of delight.

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

Unworthy Vehicles
In Ghana you have to register your car every year at the Ministry of Transportation for road worthiness. After I registered they asked me to pay four thousand “cedis” (local money). I complained that it was too expensive. But they assured me the money was for road repair, to which I replied, “The road may soon be worthy but the cars would not.” At this the fierce looking face of the registrar melted into a smile like clouds giving way to the rising sun.

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

Viernes Santo to Easter Sunday
With a worried look on his face the catechist introduced a man to me. “What’s the matter with him?” I inquired. The man, almost on the verge f tears, confessed that he dreamt his newly built house was burning. To build the house for more than three years and now see it burning in your dream is no joke for a man whole believes so much in the reality of dreams as perhaps one legacy from his ancestors. “What is your job?” “Farmer”. “Are you married?” “Yes” “How long?” “Just three days ago, I found a woman I wanted to marry and I’m really and madly in love with her.” There you are, I told myself. “My friend, this is your dream. The house that was burning was your heart in love with that woman. Into your new, you shall bring the woman and the two of you shall live happily ever after. Both shall be burning with the fire of love. So, there is no need to worry. Instead, rejoice for you shall marry. “With that, the Good-Friday face of the man turned to Easter Sunday.” “You ‘obruni’ are like gods, you know everything,” he muttered but when he left, he said something to the catechist which I did not understand. Later, the catechist confided to me,” that man said you talk like a witch-doctor.”
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By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

To have the feeling
Going from Amsterdam, we stopped at Murtala Muhummed Airportm Logos, Nigeria. More than half of the passengers disembarked. Seeing that the more expensive section was almost empty, I ran and took a seat fro the remaining flight to Ghana. “Oh, just to have the feeling” I told the stewardess who was holding her breath questioningly looking at me.
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By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

Night-Walking
In a parish situation like mine here, walking to the villages is unavoidable but night-walking is something my village people would not normally do. I introduced it only as a way of escaping the blistering sun. One time my church helper and I were walking a distance of more that sixteen miles under the silver sheen of a moonlit night. Having covered more than half of the distance, we rested an I must confess I was so tired I wanted to give up. In a meditative mood, I found myself musing, “Lord, at this stage of world civilization, here I am, still walking.” And the Lord said, “Joe, how lucky you are; you have legs and you have health.” Since then I stopped complaining.
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By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

On my way to the Philippines, I stopped at our Mother House in Steyl in the Netherlands. Fr. Antonio Pates, SVD, a Filipino missionary in Brazil invited me to accompany him to visit our Filipina Pink Sisters at the vicinity. Two cute Filipina Sisters entertained us. One of them was really an interesting and fascinating storyteller to listen to. At the end of our visit, Fr. Pates told them, “So this is Fr. Joe Panabang, a visiting missionary from Ghana.” “Panabang?” blurted the other sister and started laughing. She looked at me again, looked donw and laugh again. I was quite peeved. “So you are Barnabas? Hi...hi...”she continued bubbling with laughter. Only then did I come to know, as the two Sisters told me, they had been receiving copies of Misyon magazine which published the jokes. The mention of my name to them was provocative enough for them to laugh.

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

Money Can’t Buy it
While at Language School, we do not stay at the school itself but we live with a Ghanaian family for six months to facilitate learning Twi, the local language. In the family where I stayed, my cook unfortunately was divorced by her husband. Our conversation:

Me:      How long were your married?

Cook:  Three years.

Me:      In those years, how was your marriage?

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

When I arrived in Ghana, a veteran sister repeated the same advice I receive in the Philippines from other veteran missionary priest: “For the first three months, it is really hard. But do not worry; the coming months will be harder!”
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Ntankoro is my oldest and the biggest village but it is plagued by the idea that the priest must support the, the laity by giving them food, clothing, money and such, like with the laity with not supporting him in return. The Church President of this village unfortunately did not have a good name. He is said to have consulted a fetish priest and killed sheep for the river gods when under pressure. He was very sick then.

During my visit, he said that he had a dream and wanted me to interpret it. This was his dream; he was holding a cup of water and he wanted to give it to me. But while offering the cup he was saying, “It is good or bad?” Now, he wanted to know the answer. “This dream is interesting, “I said. Then, like Joseph the Dreamer of old, I proceed: “The meaning of your dream is this: you must support you priest materially and spiritually. The water symbolizes the blessings the priest gets from your support and also the blessing for you in return. The question, ‘Is it good or bad? Is the voice of the devil tempting you? So then, obviously the answer is, ‘Yes, it is good.’ It is good to give the cup of water to the priest, for Christ said that he who gives a cup of cold water to one of his disciples will not go unrewarded.” Whew!

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