Sunday, March 09, 2008

The "Culture" of International Adoption in Ghana

Today at church our pastor was talking about "culture." He was talking about how as a very young church we should think about what kind of culture we are creating. Who are our heroes? What is our "folklore?" How will we retell our history? What flavor do we want people to have in their mouths when they experience the church for the first time? And lots of other aspects of what make a "culture."

Later, during the sermon, our pastor was talking about the parable of the persistent widow. You may not remember it. A widow is being wronged by someone in her community and goes to a local judge asking for the wrong to be made right. The man doesn't care about what God things and doesn't care about what people think, so has no inner urging to "help" the women. But she is so persistent--going to him over and over and over again--that he finally gives in and gives her justice to get her out of his hair!

Our pastor asked us, "Who is your adversary" Who or what is wronging you in an unjust way? Who or what do you battle and wish for justice? He encouraged us to "Pray day and night, and do not give up." Just like the persistent widow, the Lord may choose to reward our persistent prayers with favor.

You know me--most everything is applied back to Ghana. When I asked myself honestly who/what I felt was my biggest adversary in life I knew immediately the answer--the corruption in Ghana. And then I thought about the talk the pastor had given on "culture." You know...right now there are a group of people literally creating what will be the "culture" of international adoption in the country. What a scary and exciting thing!!

If you read my blog last week you know how discouraged I was. It's hard sometimes not to feel like giving up. How can I (and our staff) challenge a long-standing culture that includes what we American characterize as corruption, and build a new culture for international adoption that does NOT include corruption? Well of course, we can't. This is why I must pray day and night, and never give up!

I hear about various agencies and organizations trying to start adoption programs in Ghana. My first reaction to that news is "how great!" but I must admit that my secondary reaction is "how scary!" It's scary to think that less than reputable (or good willed but inexperienced) organizations could come in and get caught up in all of the corruption that is available to them in Ghana. It's scary to think that "dirty" adoptions could very easily be completed and that Ghana adoptions could get a reputation for being corrupt at the US Embassy.

It's for that reason that I hope that organizations doing adoptions in Ghana will put aside the spirit of competitiveness that so often occurs in countries, and work together to build a TRANSPARENT adoption culture in Ghana. And until one day when we might succeed at that venture, I will continue to pray day and night, and will never quit hoping that Ghana itself will do away with the corruption so deeply ingrained in the culture.

P.S. I want to clarify that in Ghana what Americans see as corruption is not always seen as corruption. Certain actions are written into hundreds of years of culture that in today's Western society are seen as corruption but in Ghana are seen as good relationship-building. I don't want my Ghanaian friends to think I don't respect Ghana's culture. I do. I'm just perplexed with how to meld our two cultures to satisfy the ethical standards Americans have to work within.


pastorsarah 7:09 AM  

I would respectfully suggest a look at some common "cultural" practices of Americans.

Ever been at a health care clinic when lunch time comes? Pharma reps routinely "treat" not just the doctors, but the entire staff to catered lunches with gift bags of goodies to build a "relationship" with the clinic and get their new drug prescribed more often.

Lawyers and businessmen routinely build relationships with judges and clients on the golf course, followed by drinks and meals in the clubhouse. Just to "seal the deal".

The US Internal Revenue Service includes as allowable business expenses: meals, hotels, and "entertainment" for clients. In the midwest, this usually means seed salesmen taking the farmers out to strip clubs. and its tax deductable!

I would rather "grease some palms" in Ghana with cash knowing that most government workers in Ghana are underpaid and that the government expects that their salary will be suplimented by such "appreciation" gifts. Most will share the money with their families for food and educational expenses. Better than the golf course or strip club.

I appreciate your struggle, I had the same thoughts when I was in Ghana. But then I came home and realized how corrupt America is and I don't think its so bad anymore.

Bettina 11:16 AM  

Hello Anita, I've been a silent lurker on your blog for a long time now and I finally thought that it may be good to introduce myself. I must say that I love your blog and your journey. I work for Lutheran Social Service of MN and I must say that I advocate for AAI all the time regarding their Ethiopia program and I truly feel secure in referring families to the Ghana program as well - most of this is done in a personal capacity, not as an agency as I have so many contacts in Ethiopia from when I lived there that everyone wants to know which agency I would trust if I were in their shoes. I thank you for your honesty with the corruption that is frustratingly apparent. The "work" is never done to advocate for ethical adoptions.
Best Wishes in the Future!