Sellwood couple goes to Ghana, bonds with villagers
The question arises: Why would two people, living in a comfortable home on the bluffs overlooking Oaks Bottom in Sellwood, choose to leave familiar surroundings for four and a half months to live in a small, remote village in northern Ghana--where there is no running water, only occasional electricity, temperatures in the 100's, and a limited number of things to eat?
The question is posed because Lisa Revell, a chiropractor, and David Stone, a newly retired music teacher, did just that.
Revell, born in Topeka, Kansas, moved to Camas, Washington, at sixteen. She graduated from Portland State in 1976, then settled into Sellwood thirty-one years ago. A fairly conventional but challenging life of raising four children, losing a husband to cancer, and eventually remarrying, gave her fortitude.
Seventeen years of private chiropractic practice, specializing in pregnant women with back pain, followed; then nine years as Clinical Director of the student Health Center at the Western States Chiropractic College. Having gained solid medical and administrative experience, she turned to a long-time desire to do medical work in Africa, which led her far away from home and gave her life a new dimension.
Stone, born and raised in Klamath Falls, married into the family in 1992. A Portland Public Schools music teacher, he spent nine years at Duniway Elementary, and ten years at Jackson Middle School. He was named Portland PTA Teacher of the Year in 2005. Retirement that same year sparked a desire to travel; but New Zealand, not Africa, was originally his priority.
Slowly, as children went off to college and jobs, and as Stone approached retirement, Revell realized that she was ready to take a year off to travel and work elsewhere. The two of them took out maps, and began to dream of fulfilling their wanderlust.
A connection with a Ghanaian living in Portland opened up the opportunity to take their professional skills to Kongo, a rural village in northern Ghana. Compromising on their travel goals, they gradually devised plans to first do volunteer work in Ghana, then in New Zealand, followed by travel around the world on the way home.
'Ghana seemed like a good destination. It is politically stable, and its music interested David,' Revell recalled. Little did the two of them know how deeply they would bond with the villagers among whom they would live.
Once in Kongo, Revell worked ten hours a day delivering babies and tending to the general health needs of villagers. Stone taught English and literature in a secondary school; 'The challenges were many, but the rewards, great.'
An Internet website, www.GoneToGhana.com, created by Revell's 23 year old son David, on his return to Portland from a sojourn as a Marine in Iraq, helped to keep family and friends in touch.
A few days before leaving the village of Kongo to go to New Zealand, where Stone would teach for two weeks, he wrote of their departure: 'I cannot imagine it being more difficult to leave any other place. I will miss these students that make you cry at how they handle their human condition with aplomb, if not always success.'
Worried about the gap caused by their departure, he wrote: 'With our exit comes the need for someone to take on the challenges and joys of working in this community. They need one or two teachers, They need one or two teachers, especially science, a media specialist, and an English instructor.' Referring to lessons he had begun on seven donated computers, he added, 'The students are ready to learn more about computers.'
'The library,' he continued, 'is--shall we be polite, and say--in sad shape. A media specialist would be a big help… There is a need also for a person in the medical field to work at the clinic where Lisa has been doing extraordinary things.'
Revell wrote of their send-off celebration: 'It was a joyful event. Speeches were made, we were given a number of gifts, goat meat and beer were served. We received a guinea fowl which I cooked and shared for a late dinner with the nurses in our compound. Then, in between multiple visitors wishing us well, we began packing. At 10 pm we went on our last evening walk under a bright moon in Kongo. The temperature was a comfortable 80 degrees.'
Now back home in Sellwood, Revell realizes her family has grown. She thinks daily about her children, sisters and parents--but also about those she left behind in Kongo.
Musing on what the villagers taught her, Revell says: ' It is inspiring that people remain hopeful, in light of their circumstances of material deprivation.' In September she will return to her job at the local Chiropractic College, but for now, she and Stone are working to see that the school in Kongo has meals year-round, instead of only when food is plentiful.
Remembering village life, Stone says he especially values the ritualized greetings in which people never ignore even strangers, but ask at every encounter about each other's health, families, and general well-being. 'Their unending patience', he adds, 'in facing life's daily hassles and hardships, is another example I won't soon forget.'