Writing for Change: Writing Mariah of the Wind

As Earth Day comes this year, I’m reflecting on my work to Write for Change in how we treat the Earth. And so today, I want to tell you why I wrote my most recent book, Mariah of the Wind.

First of all, let me say that I keep writing books because I believe that God is still speaking. I believe God speaks through us. I believe God and I write together. We are writing important things for people to hear today.

Every morning, I begin the day in God’s presence in meditation, and then I write. I let my book unfold as I write, rather than plotting it out. In Mariah of the Wind, I hoped to celebrate the beauty of God’s creation, and to speak up about climate change.

I started this book with a young woman, Mariah, who loves the Earth like I do. You’ll see her walking among autumn trees, taking fall leaves back to the diner to share with her customers. You’ll watch her twirl through the winter snow. You’ll see her planting seeds in the greenhouse, and later transplanting them into the ground in spring. You’ll accompany her as she enjoys spring wildflowers, tulips and daffodils. Later, comes summer. I wanted to celebrate the miraculous transformations of the seasons with my words.

She meets a grieving wind scientist, a target of a troll from the fossil fuel industry. And the story continued to unfold from there, during the pandemic.

As a Christian, I believe I am called to be a good steward of the Earth. I invested all the time to write, rewrite and edit this book to join the cacophony of voices calling us to change our ways, move away from fossil fuel use and take better care of God’s miraculous creation.

One of my early reviewers started her review saying, “if you like happy endings, you’ll like this book.” I have to admit that I do like happy endings. I choose to remain hopeful. But as the Catholic priest, Thomas Berry, once wrote, we live in the Ecozoic Age in which we must come to terms with our relationship with Earth. We must make needed changes now. He also said, “We will walk together into the future as one sacred community, or we will perish in the desert.”

Some of my readers tell me this is my best book yet. I hope you’ll read it and enjoy it and that it will inspire you to love and care for God’s magnificent creation!

You can read more about it on my website with links to purchase at: Mariah of the Wind. Watch a trailer about the book on my YouTube channel at: Mariah of the Wind Trailer.  Listen to a podcast version of this blog at Why I Wrote Mariah of the Wind. Listen to My interview with Jean Bloom, the Audible narrator of the book.

Writing for Change: Do Books Change Lives?

Writing for Change Blog

Today, I’d like to ask a question. “Do books change lives?” As you think back over the books that you’ve read in the course of your life, consider to what extent books change you. It’s a curious question I ask, as an author, because one of my goals is to write for change.

Recently, I was leading a program at our local library on Writing for Change and I asked the question, “Is there a book that changed your life?” Every person in the room told us about a book that changed them.

I hope that my books will equip and inspire others to make the world a better place, to work more for peace, justice and the Earth and to take time to enjoy each moment and to dance. 

I remember writing my first book on peace. I wanted to challenge Christians to think more carefully about the message of Jesus and the early church. During my youth, my country was embroiled in the Vietnam War. Americans were conflicted between supporting the troops and speaking up against a war that just seemed very wrong. Because young men were being drafted into this war, it became subject for much scrutiny.

During this time, the Bible influenced me greatly. I learned about Jesus, accepted him as my personal savior, was baptized and joined the church. A I listened to war narratives, felt the fear of young men being drafted, I also learned about Jesus. Jesus very clearly taught the greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I simply did not see a place for war in the teachings of Jesus.

The Jewish scripture predicted a coming Messiah. Many believed he would be a military leader. Jesus chose nonviolence, healing and love. He told his followers, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (Matthew 5: 38-39).

In that Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also taught, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.” (Matthew 38:9). And, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 38: 43-48)

The message of the Bible to me as a young Christian seemed very clear. The book influenced me also in that I answered a call to serve God and people in my life. I studied the Bible further in church and college and began to work for peace. I earned my teacher certification, hoping to teach peace. I became a mediator, wanting to make peace. I spoke up against war and promoted nonviolence.

Some people say the first book you write is autobiographical. When I wrote my first book, I decided to write about peace. I hoped that it might change people, to encourage them to work for peace, as well.

While the Bible taught me the path of nonviolence, others read the Bible and believe it teaches a path to war. The myriad interpretations of the Bible are astounding. I live in the United States of America, a country that was founded on the principle of separation of church and state.I But various interpretations of the Bible influences much of the politics in America today. It’s central to the political debate on many topics.

Currently, we are at war in the Middle East. Some Christians believe that the Bible predicts this as the final war, centered in Israel. Defending Israel, at all costs, even obliterating the neighboring Palestinians is justified for some in the name of God. And some think they are interpreting the Bible literally in this belief. I beg to differ.

That is why I wrote my first book, Revelation in the Cave. Albeit a work of fiction, I sought to address the interpretation of the book of Revelation that is often used to justify war. Did you know that more books have been written about the Book of Revelation than any other book?

My first book is complicated. I was learning to write. I may have buried the theme of peace too deeply in the story to change lives. An evangelical Christian friend who read the book said that evangelicals would not accept the story as valid for several reasons, including that the benevolent Muslim in the story seemed nicer than some of the Christians. I wanted to ask him, didn’t Jesus tell a story about the Good Samaritan, a person of a different religion and culture who was much more loving to his neighbors than the rabbi and supposed religious ones?

 A local Christian bookstore that proudly displayed the fictional Left Behind series, which I challenged in my book, refused to shelf my book. Like John the Baptist, I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness, speaking of peace. I join others like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who teach nonviolence.

I believe books can change lives. They’ve certainly changed mine. I continue to write for change. I continue to read books that change my life, motivate me to make the world a better place and do good.

I will be exploring this this topic in future blogs and podcasts.  Will you join me? Leave a comment or email me at nancy.flinchbaugh@gmail.com if you’d like to share a guest blog or interview with me.

Writing for Change: Writing for the Earth

Writing for Change Blog – 1

Several years ago, I began to become concerned about climate change and our plight on Planet Earth. We’ve been blessed with a beautiful planet, but somehow, we seem hellbent on destroying it. Here in the United States, we’ve had ample natural resources for several centuries. Now things are catching up with us. Our planet is warming, our resources are being depleted, species are going extinct.

As a Christian, I believe it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of what was entrusted to us. At this time, I believe we must repent of our sinfulness and turn around and start taking care of our environment, God’s amazing creation before it’s too late. And so I ask myself, “What is mine to do?”

When I first asked this question, I didn’t think Nancy could do anything about it. But as I prayed each day, fingering prayer beads I made in a Spiritual Ecology class, God began to teach me there is much I can do. I began to incorporate Earth issues into my spiritual leadership. I became involved in Citizens’ Climate Lobby, advocating for a bipartisan response to address climate change, and I decided to write for the Earth.

At the time, I had written one book, Revelation in the Cave, about the Magnificent and Marvelous Book Club, the MAMs. I began to dream about their second adventure. I created the scenario for them where the fictitious MAMs began reading books about Earth issues and became concerned about climate change, too. Then one of them heard a call to start an organic farm for re-entry women in recovery. In this book, they open the FARM, Farming and Restoring with the MAMs. Climate change impacts their farm. They also develop a second group home for men called the Sun Power House. The son of a main character comes up with a solution for climate change. This book became Revelation in the Labyrinth, published in 2017 by eLectio Publishing.

After reading the book, I hope that readers will take climate change more seriously and take action, join Citizens’ Climate Lobby and work toward solutions, like the characters in the book.

Later, I read Active Hope: How to Address the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. They recommended writing a letter to yourself from the Earth. When I did this, I received a wonderful letter and agreed to receive more. These letters became a book, a memoir about a year in my life when I grappled with climate change, the cancer journey of my friend and the sudden death of my brother. My book, Letters from the Earth, was published in 2018 by Higher Ground Books and Media. Although I wrote the letters, the Earth signs them “Gaia” and I believe they come from God, the loving Spirit who created and sustains our universe.

I hope that the letters will encourage and help readers, as they did me. They provide helpful advice on how to live in this difficult time. They also call us to speak up and take action. I hope readers will hear and respond to this call to do this important work. 

My third MAMs book, Revelation in the Roots: Emerald Isle, published by All Things That Matter Press in 2022, is yet another effort to write for the Earth. The story line involves genealogy, racism and political division. In the United States today, our deeply divided political situation makes cooperation to address climate change difficult. I believe we must come together as a country. That’s what this book is about. I want people who read this book to look for ways to bridge our great divide. 

With my last book, I decided to write about the beauty of the Earth. My friend, Pastor Tom Carr, likes to remind us that we save what we love. I created the character of Mariah, a young woman in love with the Earth. The story journeys with her through the seasons. She collects fall leaves, dances in the snow, plants seeds in the spring and enjoys the summer. It’s her love story with Max, a wind scientist. Max and his fellow wind scientist, Buck, get harassed by a troll from the fossil fuel industry. I wrote this to call attention to the fact that in real life climate scientists receive death threats from trolls paid by the fossil fuel industry, trying to silence the truth about how our fossil fuel use is warming the earth. Mariah of the Wind was published by All Things That Matter Press in 2023.

I hope readers will also celebrate the beauty of the Earth and work to save it, like Max and Buck and Mariah. I also hope to expose the evil practice of the fossil fuel industry and wake people up to the problem we have with misinformation about climate science. 

You can find more information about my books on my website at SpiritualSeedlings.com and nancyflinchbaugh.com. Follow me on Facebook at Nancy Flinchbaugh Author and on https://www.youtube.com/@nancyflinchbaugh. I hope you’ll read my books, but more importantly, I hope you will also speak up and take action for our beautiful Earth, for us all.

Writing for Change: An Invitation

Today, I’m launching my Writing for Change Blog and Podcast.

My aim is to create a public place for those of us writing for change to share our hearts and our work.

People write for many different reasons. Some to entertain, some to educate, some to express themselves, others to create art, and some of us write primarily to bring change.

As I consider my own writing career, from the beginning I’ve been writing for change. Specifically, I write to express the love of God and plant seeds for transformation leading to peace, justice and care/connections with the Earth.

I’m also writing to encourage fellow activists with spiritual practices to help in these quests.

Today, I invite fellow writers for change to come share your story. Write a blog post, let me interview you about your work and/or speak your own truth as you write for change.

I invite you to follow this blog and podcast. Here, let us learn together from writers leading us into change. 

The 21st century poses many challenges for us all. Looming concerns are climate change, racial discrimination, hate, political division and war. Let us listen for answers.

I believe that together we can find answers given our incredible intelligence and creativity.

Let us begin.

10) Nancy’s African Blog: What Surprised Us in Ghana

I traveled to Accra, Ghana in August of 2023. I recently interviewed the people who traveled with me on the Black and Abroad Tour. I also asked a friend to interview me. Before I release these interviews, I’m sharing their insights on my blog. Here are our comments on what surprised us about Ghana. Personally, I’d heard so many things about Africa. I didn’t know quite what to expect.

When I went to get my required Yellow Fever vaccine, the Montgomery County Health Department nurse told me not to drink the water. This worried me, but actually once in Ghana I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have any problem drinking as much clean water as I wanted, and I do drink a lot of water. Our hotel filtered their water at the buffet where we ate breakfast every morning. They provided bottled water in our rooms and also on our tour bus.

Another surprise came when we visited a memorial to Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. A book I read in preparation praised him for his early days in office, but faulted him for becoming a socialist dictator which led to a coup. Our tour guide told a different story. He explained that President Nkrumah focused on education and health care for all, building the infrastructure needed for industrialization and also claimed the natural resources for the people. This upset the American corporations who wanted control of the natural resources of Ghana. He told us they helped engineer the coup — a completely different story!

My fellow traveler, Selena Singletary, who had been to Africa before, didn’t have any big surprises, but told me she appreciated the whole experience of being there. My husband, Steve Schlather, did some research in advance, so he wasn’t too surprised either, except for the size and population of Accra with a population of 2.7 million people. However, my other traveling companions, found more surprise in Ghana.

Diane Sanders told me that what surprised her the most is that what is portrayed in our American media about Africa is not the total truth. She said she often sees appeals for money to help the children with pictures and videos of starving children with big bellies and flies around.  But, she said, the capital of Ghana was a huge city, much like any capital city in the United States. And there we stayed in a five star hotel. Gauging from what she’d seen in the media, she wouldn’t imagine they even had a five star hotel.

Diane’s son, Cleavon Blair (Blair), agreed with his mom. Especially he said that the things we hear in the United States about Ghana and other African nations simply aren’t true. One example he gave was how welcoming the people were there. He’s still in contact with many people he meant there.  

Blair explained that for him, as a person of color living in the United States or any of the Western nations, there’s always this a backdrop of stress that’s on him. Once in Ghana, getting there, getting off the plane, walking through the airport and arriving at the hotel something felt totally different.

Blair describes himself as somewhat of a snob. He likes to stay in the nicest places possible when he travels. He works hard for his money and he wants good experiences.  In this country or other Western nations, as a person of color walking into a new place, he always knows racism will come, whether it’s direct or subtle. He didn’t have any of that in Ghana. He said it was a pleasant surprise and a good feeling. Blair said, “It allowed me to relax in the way I’ve never relaxed a day in my life.”

Adora and Keita also talked about the surprises they found in Africa. They noted that while their African American ancestors were enslaved, the Africans remaining in Africa were colonized, so both experienced trauma at the hands of the Europeans.

They have been told lies such as Africans don’t like African Americans. They experienced none of that in Africa. In fact the Ghanaians were actually kind and loving toward them. Keita said he’s experienced the same love from a Ghanian neighbor here in the US.  Once he was putting some furniture together in his backyard shortly after moving in and a brother came over to ask if he could help.

Keita said, “So it’s not just the land. It’s not just the air or not just the food, it’s the people. And it’s obvious wherever they go, they’re the same. They were welcoming and loving to me and they didn’t have to be. We felt that same spirit when we got to the motherland. They were just so loving and welcoming to us everywhere we went. Everybody was so good to us. I didn’t feel afraid. I was not scared.”

Unlike here, where Keita explained, “I feel afraid every day of my life for 60 some years here in the United States, every single day.”

Adora added, “We have all these grandchildren and I fear for my grandsons and my great-grandsons, every day.”

Keita also said, “I did not sense at any time that we were in any danger or under threat from the police. That’s a fear here in America. I got locks in my hair. I’m not really big in stature, but, amazingly, whenever I have been stopped by the police here in America, it’s always been some drama. They always call about six or seven squad cars just for little old me. So I  didn’t experience that fear. If I get emotional on this interview, I apologize, but wasn’t scared of the police in Ghana.”

“In Ghana,” Keita said, “I wasn’t scared of of any white supremacist coming out of the woods. I finally had found a place where I could be at peace.”

They explained that in America, they (African Americans) are still enslaved. We just don’t know we are. It’s redlining and the police, always something that’s happening. We just call it different stuff, but it’s never the same for us as for anybody else. Never.”

Adora said, “Yes, to go there and see the grandmothers (because I’m a great grandmother), and to see the older women very respected was something else again. Because here in this country older people were not really respected. And also you don’t expect to see elders living long lives. But there they said in some of the villages we visited that the elders live to 126 years. They live older because they’re living off the land, eating healthy food. The entire village takes care of the elders, yeah. That’s amazing.

“There were a lot of positive things that we don’t have here in the United States.” Keita said, “There was the best food ever for me. We felt better. We felt healthier. Our life was different, the food was doing some other things. Should I say that? And our everything and our our whole being, if you know what I mean, our whole being was different. Our husband and wife being, if you know what I mean. It was just something else again.”

Stay tuned to learn more about our trip. My next blog will be about the highlights of the trip for us all. Follow me on YouTube to listen to the interviews as they are posted.

9) Nancy’s African Blog: Why Go to Ghana? (Ghana Interviews)

Black and Abroad Ghana Travel Group, August 2023 at the Door of Return, Cape Coast Castle.

As you may be aware, I traveled to Ghana in August of 2023. Recently I interviewed the five people who traveled with me on the Black and Abroad Tour to the capital of Ghana, Accra. Now, I want to share their stories with you as I prepare to release the interviews with them.

My friend, Chebrya Jeffrey, also interviewed me about the trip and I explained to her that I wanted to go to Africa to do research. As an author, I wrote a novel to explore race and political division. I believe that we’re all in this together, and as a Christian, I think we need to come together as a country and I want to write for justice, to plant seeds for change.

When I pitched the novel to my publisher, I promised to write three books. One about Ireland — Revelation in the Roots: Emerald Isle (All Things That Matter Press), a second about the Sea Islands, and a third about West Africa. To write that third novel, I needed to visit West Africa. When my friend Selena Singletary told me she was going to Ghana and that the trip would include the Cape Coast Castle, I told her that was where I wanted to go. She told me, “You should come, too,” and I did.

My travel companions chose to visit Ghana for other reasons. Here are their reasons.

My husband, Steve Schlather, joined me on the trip. He said, “My wife was going to Ghana and I wanted to go with her. I had never been to Africa. I was interested in seeing at least something in Africa. I didn’t have a particular interest in Ghana, but it seemed like a reasonable place to go. I looked into the tour group, the Black and Abroad group that Nancy arranged the trip through, and they seemed like they had a really good program, so I thought it’d be interesting.”

Another fellow traveler, Diane Sanders, said that she watched a guy on YouTube who talked a lot about black history, mainly where and how slavery started. This man decided to travel to all 54 countries on the continent of Africa and thought all Blacks who could, should also do this. You can watch this videos on his Youtube channel at: GoBlack2Africa54.  

Diane explained that this man visited Ghana in 2019, the Year of Return. That year, the the President of Ghana invited descendants of slaves, the African diaspora, to return to Africa. As Diane watched many famous Black people visiting Ghana in his 2019 videos. They inspired her to visit Ghana, as well.

Diane’s son, Creavon Blair (Blair), planned to visit Tanzania. But then his mother shared the GoBlack2Africa videos. She told him, “We should go to Ghana.” Blair agreed. In our interview he told me, “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Another fellow traveler was Selena Singletary, my former boss at the City of Springfield, Ohio. She told me, “As you know, I like to travel. I was talking to Diane Sanders some time ago about traveling and she mentioned about going to Ghana. And I go like, OK, that sounds great.” Selena also said she wanted to go with a friend, to see a different culture, a different country, and to be immersed in another land other than the US. In addition, she went because of her curiosity and the appeal of Africa as her motherland.

Finally, the couple (Adora and Keita Thompson) who traveled with us had this to say. First Adora said, “I want to go to find my home. I know that United States is not my home, so I want to see people that look like me. Also, Eric (Black and Abroad Tour Company owner) is a very good friend of ours. So we said, when you go, we’re going… And so we went.”

Keita said, “Africa is my mother, and so, more than anything else, I’ve wanted to go to Africa.   I’ve been a few times on business, but this was strictly for the soul connection, getting back to my mom, getting back home, touching the hearts and minds and the souls of my people. So that’s what really motivated us and doing it together as one, with Adora.”

In future blogs I will tell you more about what I learned in these interviews with fellow travelers. Follow this blog and my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@nancyflinchbaugh for future postings.

7 Nancy’s African Blog: Cape Coast Castle

7: Nancy’s African Blog: Cape Coast Castle

This castle represents a very ugly chapter in the history of my country. Some people now want to erase it from our history books and/or sugar coat the atrocity. I want to experience it personally, so I can more effectively speak, write and act to end the racism that started with the slave trade.   

The Cape Coast Castle took 300 years to build and is one of 40 castles along the African coast built by Europeans as holding cells for Africans captured to be slaves in the Americas.

A tour guide led us down into male and female dungeons. During the slave trade, hundreds of Africans were cramped into these poorly ventilated rooms for two weeks to three months, awaiting the slave ships. Only 1 out of 5 survived the dungeons. Archaeologists have identified the layer of brown stone-like material over the original floor to be composed of packed and decayed body excrements and organic matter from those imprisoned Africans.  

I hated these dungeons. I felt claustrophobic, trying to imagine the horrific experience for the Africans, trapped there for weeks without sanitation, exercise, adequate food and light. I felt numb and sad, angry and bewildered. How could those Europeans treat human beings this way?

In the dungeon, we participated in a candle lighting ceremony for the ancestors. A musician in our group offered a song of tribute. Memorial Wreaths placed in one corner also remembered the Africans who suffered here. We gathered around a small altar for them to learn.

Our guide told us that worship services were held in the rooms above the dungeons. They created a heaven above hell, perhaps they thought he told us. I wondered how. How could any Christian engage in such evil?

Although the practice of slavery began thousands of years before, the magnitude and cruelty of the African slave trade was unprecedented. Europeans traded Africans for various items, including guns. African rulers captured and traded other people from neighboring tribes and spoils of wars.

An estimated 10-14 million Africans were kidnapped and sold as labor for plantations in the Americas. First the Portuguese, then later the French, English and Dutch participated in this horrible enterprise, treating human beings as less than cattle. During the colonial period, the Europeans also captured and controlled most of the entire continent of Africa, taking the resources and using the people for their own profit.

The holding dungeons and slave ships were intentionally developed to weed out the weak.  Only the strong survived. If they survived the slave dungeons, at least 20% more died on the ships to America. Most of the Africans were shipped to the Caribbean and South America. Only 388,000 were sold in the American colonies, of what is now the United States of America.

We walked through the “Door of No Return.” The ancestral Africans who walked through that door never returned to their homeland. They were shackled together, then layered into slave ships, enduring horrendous conditions on the trip to the Americas.  

In 2019, Ghanaian officials added a new sign on the ocean side of this door. Now “The Door of Return” welcomes the descendants of African slaves who come to page homage to their ancestral home. On our tour, the tribal elders completed the Naming Ceremony started earlier in our day. Libations were offered, an elder washed the feet of the returning descendants, embraced them and handed each a certificate with their new African names.

I’m writing this blog to pay tribute to these African ancestors with this blog. I wrote my book Revelation in the Roots: Emerald Isle to pay tribute to them as well. I am continuing to write novels to expose and address this grave injustice.

I believe it’s very important to talk about race and to become anti-racist in our words and actions. You can listen to some Talking About Race interviews I’ve done with others on YouTube about why it’s so important to talk about race.

I hope you will join me in speaking up and working against the practices of racism that continue in our country, 400 years later.

6: Nancy’s African Blog: Rain Forest at Kakum National Park

On our third day in Ghana, after the Naming Ceremony, we boarded our bus and headed off for the Kakum National Park. I’d researched this park online and looked forward to a walk in the tree canopy of the rain forest, hoping to see some African wildlife. Monkeys, antelopes, forest elephants and numerous colorful birds reside in the 145 mile square reserve.

When we arrived at the park, we were met by a guide for our group. Our leaders handed out raincoats, water bottles and walking sticks. First, we climbed up some steps and hiked up a path through the trees to reach the first platform that led to one of seven connected suspended walkways.  The walkways were constructed with narrow planks of wood. Strong netting surrounded both sides of the wood, reaching up to a thick rope that we could use for handrails.

Eager to experience a rainforest and see some wildlife, I was the first one to venture out from our group. I had a great view and looked carefully among the trees below for hints of life. Unfortunately, the time of day and the number of people all around kept the wildlife in hiding. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful walk. Platforms attached to 400–500-year-old trees separated the walks and made a place to stop, enjoy the scenery and take pictures.

I could look across the trees and see other members of our group gingerly trudging across the planks. For some reason, it didn’t scare me, but the others felt differently, evidenced by my husband’s face when I waited for him at the platform. Several of the others had guides walking slowly, backwards, in front of them to encourage them to keep them moving along.

Like in most of the world, Africa is quickly losing its rain forests. In Ghana, the government preserved this one, just like we preserve important natural areas with our national park system. 

26% of the land in Africa is classified as forest and the continent is home to 43 billion trees.

I looked up some information about deforestation elsewhere and discovered it continues to be a growing global problem. Forests absorb carbon in the atmosphere. The rain forests in the Congo of Africa are sometimes referred to the “lungs” of the planet, but as we lose our forests, it contributes to global warming.

The United States has witnessed the destruction of a staggering 75% of its virgin forests (since the 1600s). Worldwide, tropical deforestation contributes about 20% of annual global greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. Every second, a forest the size of a football field is cut down. 40 percent of the tropical deforestation that occurred between 2000 and 2010 is a result of commercial agriculture like cattle ranching and oil palm plantations. At our current rate, all rainforests will be gone in 77 years.  50,000 species are lost each year as a result of deforestation. 25% of Western drugs and pharmaceuticals come from rainforest ingredients. 25% of all cancer fighting drugs come from the rainforest. 75% of tropical rainforests have lost the ability to properly recover from wildfires and drought. 

If you’re like me, you’re concerned about the changing climate. People are working to plant trees in the U.S. to replace those cut down. And we are organizing to address the climate. I encourage you to get involved in these efforts if you’re not already. Check out Citizens’ Climate Lobby.. Take advantage of current incentives to rewire your home and your life. A big push toward electric energy will help wean us from fossil fuels. Check out the Rewiring America website. Here you can find the ways the Inflation Reduction Act can benefit you and your organization as you electrify your energy use.  I keep incorporating issues about our changing climate in my writing. My latest novel is an environmental love story, Mariah of the Wind. My memoir, Letters from the Earth, is a about a year in my life when I was grappling with this problem.

We stopped at shelters to rest and to listen to our guide talk about the rain forest. His grandfather taught him the natural healing technique using plants. We asked him for advice on specific health problems and he quickly offered natural cures. For bad knees, rub with salt and ginger. For COVID, boil onions, breathe the vapors then drink the cooled juice. Also, cut palm nuts and eat the nut. For migraines, burn to ash the leaves of a tree only found in the rainforest. Cut your forehead and rub it into the vein. He said you’ll never have another migraine.

But he said just being in the rain forest is the greatest healer. The clean, fresh air heals all things. I did feel invigorated and quite healthy after an hour in the park. I agreed with him wholeheartedly. Nature is definitely a great healer.  I wrote about this in my novel Revelation at the Labyrinth, where the MAMs Book Club started an organic farm for women in recovery.

From here, we were off to the Cape Coast Castle, the place that made me come to Ghana in the first place, as I work on a second sequel for my novel, Revelation in the Roots: Emerald Isle. Stay tuned!

5. Nancy’s African Blog: The Naming Ceremony

Rarely has a day in my life contained so much experience, so much learning, so much pain and so much joy. Here’s the first stop on our day’s journey.

We began the day at the crack of dawn. Up at five a.m., departing our hotel at six. Traveling in Ghana is quite the adventure. For our trip, we were blessed with an excellent Accra native, Francis, who made driving our small bus look quite simple. However, I dared not watch as he wove in and out of the packed streets and paused for the inevitable speed bumps installed to get you to slow down, notice and take care for the market vendors and shoppers in the towns. Some roads are nicely paved, smooth surfaces. Some roads are surfaced with packed dirt and frequent potholes. I don’t think an American car would last a week in Accra. During the frequent slowdowns and stopped traffic, between the lanes of cars came motorcycles, or in the market areas, women walking and selling things stacked in large bowls carried on their heads. An advantage to living in Accra is that you can do your shopping, while stopped in rush hour traffic.

Three hours after leaving our hotel, we arrived in the town of Yamoransa. We waited for a while in the bus, until a taxi arrived with a man who helped organize the event. We would meet him again later at Cape Coast Castle where he led the completion of the ceremony.  

We climbed the stairs of a small building, entering a room where sitting tribal elders welcomed us. They were dressed in traditional colorful garments draped over their shoulders and around their bodies. Those with African ancestors, sat in the front row. My husband and I sat behind them to witness the event.

Millions of Africans kidnapped by slave traders and shipped to America in horrid conditions lost their names, along with the loss of their human dignity, homeland and families during the slave era. Today the African Americans in our group, were finally receiving their African names, during this ceremony in English and the native Ga language.

The ceremony began with libations. We followed an elder out into the hall. I remember our Global Education program years ago involved a libation ceremony where we remembered and named ancestors, pouring water. The elder scattered water on the floor, outside the room where we gathered. Then we returned to the room for the ceremony

The West African naming tradition involves naming children, based on the day of the week they were born and their gender. On a later tour, our guide explained its usually done about two weeks after the child is born, when they could be reasonably sure the child would survive. The chief gave each of our members of the diaspora, those generations of lost Africans, a new name, and explained its meaning. Remarkably, the people in our group found their name syncing with aspects of their personalities.

The chief gave one woman the name meaning “fighter”. She told us she’d been fighting all her life. To another, a retired boss, he gave a name meaning authority. To another woman, a name meaning powerful and complete. She said, “I’m complete by myself. I don’t need a man.” He gave one man a name meaning “man of wealth” and to another, a “man of faith.” Outside the drummers maintained a steady beat sounding the significance of the day with a primordial rhythm.

The tour guide told my husband and I (the only white folks in our group) that we could be witnesses. I appreciated that role because that’s what I came to Ghana to do. I want to witness what has happened to the people of West Africa and how that history intertwines with the history of my country. It’s a story of sadness and the capacity of humans to do great evil. The evil sends ripples out into our present day. Like yesterday, when I read the news about another mass shooting, a racist man targeting black people in Jacksonville, Florida.

But today I witnessed the goodness of this homecoming for my fellow travelers. I witnessed the tribal elders welcoming them back to the land of their ancestors. He gave them each a bowl of palm wine to drink, in celebration of their return. At the end of the ceremony, he invited them to stand and introduce themselves to the group. With great hospitality, they also shared the palm wine with my husband and me, the witnesses.

As we left the building a woman invited me to dance. I moved gently in sync with her, celebrating the African naming of my friends. As we danced, the newly named posed for pictures with the tribal elders and the drummers continued the beat of this day the diaspora came home.

What a gift that woman gave to me, inviting me to dance at this special time. Could she know how much I love to dance? Do you see how wonderful it was for me, a witness, to be invited to dance this day?

And as a witness, I’m writing this down, to share it with you. Perhaps you’ll want to dance, too!