In 1962 I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Mathematics
In 1964, with nothing better to do, I joined the Peace Corps.
After 8 weeks of intense training,
The PC sent me, along with our group of 58 volunteers,
to Ghana, West Africa
(not to be confused with Guyana in South America),
to teach secondary school mathematics.
During those two years, I learned far more than I taught.
Since I was there as a teacher not as a missionary, I never brought up the subject of religion. I didn’t need to.
The Africans are very spiritual people, and they were very curious about what I believed.
There were numerous instances when they would ask such things as
‘Do you believe in ghosts?’
‘Do you believe in juju?’
‘Do you believe in black magic?’
‘Do you believe in witchcraft?’
We believe that the spirit goes across the river when the body dies. Do you believe that as well?’
One time there was an article in the Ghanaian Times where a night watchman for a large bank was attacked by a thief. The night watchman called the police and the thief ran off into the bushes towards the beach. As they chased him, the thief disappeared, but they found a large python which they captured and killed by cutting off its head. In its throat they found the key to the bank. Their only logical conclusion was that the thief had very powerful juju and turned himself into the snake.
Some students showed me this article and asked me, ‘Do you believe this?’ I said that I didn’t, and they all said ‘Oh we do, we do.’
An African teacher, (I am tempted to tell you that his name was Kwame, or Kwaku, or Tetteh, but I am afraid I must tell you the truth, his name was Richard). Richard, once told me, “We can accept your Jesus, but we cannot give up our pagan religion, because it is a part of our lives; our culture”
Being the school teacher that I was and not the missionary they perceived me to be, I told Richard, ‘that is fine with me’.
To myself I thought ‘Something is better than nothing’.
Instead, I told him about an experience I had.
I said, “Three years ago while I was still in college,
I had an out of body experience.
From that I learned beyond all question that I have a soul
that can exist outside of this body,
and since I don’t just believe, but I know I have a soul,
I also know that we all have souls.”
And I said, “it is clear to me that when this body dies the soul emerges into a whole new realm of existence. It is like being born into a tropical jungle full of both wonderful and dangerous plants and animals.
For a stranger to survive in such a strange environment, a person needs a guide, and for me that guide is Jesus”.
I have a lot of regrets, which, thankfully, I am not about enumerate,
but I do have one I would like to share with you.
After that conversation, Richard told me that there was a witch doctor just down the road who was curing a very sick young boy. Richard asked me if I would like to go with him and watch;
a once in a lifetime experience ,
and I declined.