Simple machine, effective tool
In the Diocese of Ho a corn mill is a tool for economic development, evangelism, social assistance and a public affirmation of faith.
by Ana Watts
Members of the Diocese of Fredericton delegation to our Companion Diocese of Ho in Ghana last fall (left to right on the right, the Rev. Jasmine Chandra, Sharon Miller, Heather Miller, and Archbishop Claude Miller with diocesan guides) were astonished, amused, frightened, excited and inspired by what it saw and heard in the struggling Volta region of west Africa. Before they went there they mulled over some possible plans to support Bishop Matthias Kwabla Medadues-Badohu (hereafter referred to as Bishop Matthias) and his diocese. They thought they might send an administrative assistant or a couple of youth workers to help him carry the load for six months or so. But when they saw the diocese and met its people, they discovered they could best support the diocese with corn mills (see photo on right).
“There is a shortage of corn grinders in the Volta region,” says the Rev. Anthony Kwaw, native of Ghana, rector of Christ Church (Parish) Church in Fredericton and member of the Companion Diocese Committee. “The mills are manufactured in the region and a grinder in each parish would in no way undermine the business of private corn millers already in business.”
“Corn is the staple food of the region and people often have to carry their corn long distances to get it milled so they can use it. We believe that if each of the seven parishes in the Diocese of Ho had a corn mill of its own, it would not only save parishioners time and money, it could even make money for the parish because it could mill corn for everyone in the area,” says Heather Miller, chair of the Companion Diocese Committee and a member of the delegation to Ho.
Bishop Matthias shares the committee’s enthusiasm for the project. “He was overcome with emotion when we spoke to him about a corn mill project,” says Archbishop Claude Miller, who was also a member of the delegation.
“A corn grinder would generate revenue for outreach and the upkeep of each parish, provide employment for at least four people in the community and make it possible to grind corn at no charge for the poor,” says Bishop Matthias. “A sign on a billboard announcing “St. Mark’s Anglican Church Mill” would also propagate our faith and presence in the community.”
Because the Diocese of Fredericton consists of seven archdeaconries and the Diocese of Ho has seven parishes, the Companion Diocese proposed a twinning to Diocesan Council, with each archdeaconry responsible for raising the funds to purchase the corn mill and build a building to house it for a parish. “We estimate the total cost to be about $4,000 per unit,” says Archbishop Miller.
Diocesan Council enthusiastically approved the proposal.
“I can see in my mind’s eye how it would all work,” continues Archbishop Miller. “A concrete slab would be poured, the corn grinder would be mounted on it and there would be a festival of celebration. Then the people of the parish would volunteer their time, effort and expertise to build the structure to enclose it.”
The grinder machines are not large, and a single operator can feed the corn through a hopper at about chest-height. They are available in electric and gas operated models. The gas models are preferred in the Diocese of Ho since electricity is not reliable.
Some Diocese of Fredericton archdeaconries and the parishes within them have already begun to raise funds. One parish offered corn cakes and corn muffins with African music, after church coffee and the opportunity for a free will offering. Others are pledging some or all of the proceeds of parish suppers, take-outs and other events.
Parishes are encouraged to make their best effort to raise funds for the corn mill project, with the understanding that some will easily raise a lot of money and others may struggle to raise a little. They are encouraged to treat the corn mill project money the way they treat other flow-through offerings (like PWRDF) in their parishes. They should receipt the individual donors (if possible) and forward the total offering by cheque to the Synod Office by Oct. 31, 2010.
If more than sufficient funds are raised for the corn mills, there are other urgent needs in the diocese of Ho, like the building of a mission house (rectory) for Bishop Matthias and funding for a struggling but essential school.
“We understand that a Companion Diocese program is primarily about relationships and not physical structures,” says Archbishop Miller. “And I for one would trade a lot of material possessions to have the kind of joy in my life that we saw in the Diocese of Ho. But it gives us joy to be able to help provide some of the real and valid things they need to become self-sufficient and effectively evangelize to the many people who live in their diocese. It is also another opportunity for us to embrace the transformational Nicodemus Project that is making our church the strong, healthy and growing church God wants it to be.”