Welcome Home: Embracing Faith, Culture and Heritage on the Missions Field
by Ashley Danielle
I opened my phone shortly before we landed in Accra to lay eyes upon a variation of a popular quote that was beyond fitting for the occasion: “Black people, we are our ancestors' wildest dreams. Remember that!”
I fought to keep tears from streaming down my cheeks as the very glimpse of land through a window across the aisle brought on emotions I didn’t even know I had: My mother would’ve loved to have seen this. Though my mother and I had similar beginnings when comparing the earliest stages of our lives, several choices I’ve made over the years have allowed me to see things she only dreamed of.
The rhythm of my heart began to sync with the heartbeat of the land and we descended, and the passengers erupted in an almost unanimous applause the moment plane’s wheels touched the runway in Accra.
We were home.
I felt home.
I’m fortunate to be someone who understands how to receive the gift of Jesus Christ while honoring my heritage, embracing my culture, and worshipping God with my body through yoga. Society often tries to force me to choose one and disregard the others, but they are all part of who I am. I am a daughter who wholly accepts the sacrifice of her savior on the Cross. I am an African-American woman, raised in the Deep South on good manners and grits. I am a practitioner of Holy Yoga , which has taught me how to honor my body as the precious temple of the Holy Spirit that it is.
While serving the men, women and children at City of Refuge Ghana (CORM), I was able to be fully me. Not once did I feel like I needed to conform into someone I'm not in order to be accepted. No matter how hard I attempt to put forth a demeanor of strength and confidence while in the States, I have been put in situations where I've felt the need to hide my true self all of my life. I was frequently told as a little girl not to spend too much time in the sun so I wouldn't get "too dark". I remember not wanting to read my Bible at school in high school because my Faith had been linked with perfection and I was far from anyone's standard of the ideal Christian. Even today, I sometimes find myself watching my vernacular when spending time with my Caucasian friends because they may not understand a certain slang or phrase. There used to be a time when I paused before purchasing workout gear that actually had the word "yoga" printed on it because so many people have a misunderstanding of the practice and feel it cannot be connected to Christianity.
But in Ghana, I was able to just be me.
The kinky edges along my hairline were free to curl. I felt safe quoting Kendrick Lamar and the Apostle Paul in the same conversation. Letting out a loud "Aaaayye!" to express my excitement as some of the children at CORM showed me a few of their favorite dances was completely appropriate. My laugh was hearty and loud. My smile was intense. My melanin was able to pop!
My time at CORM taught me to truly be free in Christ, to put the material things of this world in their proper place, and to appreciate who I am just the way the Father designed me.
I will forever be grateful for this experience.
For more information on how you can serve at CORM Ghana, visit the Adventures In Missions homepage.
Ashley Danielle is a lifestyle blogger, author, and Christian speaker who travels the country sharing her personal abortion story in hopes of truly spreading a “pro-family” message. Ashley is a native of Mobile, AL and pours into her community as a speaker, entrepreneur, youth mentor, yoga instructor, and crisis pregnancy center advocate. She is the founder of SquareUp Media Management and mother to Felicity Grace and David.