Akwaaba: Learning the Art of Hospitality from Akan Wisdom

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PRONUNCIATION: Ah-Kwah-Bah

EXAMPLES IN USE TRANSLATED TO ENGLISH:[1]

  1. Dressed informally, he made us very welcome;
  2. On the second day, he noticed the love and peace demonstrated in the enthusiastic welcome that the delegates received;
  3. They welcomed me and embraced me so affectionately that I felt an overwhelming peace;
  4. I was thrilled to welcome him as my spiritual brother when he was baptized at the special assembly day.

“Akwaaba,”[2] from the Akan language of Twi, literally means “you are welcome to this place.” In contrast to invitations which allow people simply to share spaces, Akwaaba points to a welcoming that is inclusive of a person’s full self – the kind of radical welcome that resonates in the life of ministry of Jesus the Christ.

During a time when many who are marginalized do not feel welcome within our borders, it is imperative that we are intentional about creating welcoming spaces for the refugee, the immigrant, and all who seek asylum within the U.S. Not only that, but the term, Akwaaba, calls us to do more than superficially tolerate those who were born in a different place, speak a different language, hold different cultural norms and traditions than we do, or live without the legal protections from which others of us consciously or subconsciously benefit. A welcome informed by Akwaaba, compels us to do more than just open our doors; it compels us to create trustworthy opportunities for an individual to bring their full selves to a place without hindrance or need for a protective mask.

Incorporation of radical welcome, Akwaaba, in our communal and church relationships can be expressed in a number of ways. Select one of the options below to engage in during Lent and email GCORR at info@gcorr.org to let us know what you did and how it went. With your permission, we’d love to share it with the connection at large for ways each of us can become those who live into and out of Akwaaba.

  1. Ministry leaders can introduce congregants or small group participants to the term and cultural implications during opening worship, Sunday School, or preaching moments. Help people connect the term “Akwaaba” with examples from the life of Jesus when he created radical hospitality for those whom the official leadership had ignored, demeaned, or excluded.
  2. Explore how your church budget is set up to create Akwaaba for refugees and immigrants – especially those who are being directly targeted by laws and policies that forget they are, first and foremost, children of God.
  • Of each budget line (or major budget category) determine which budget dollars are being allocated to programs, ministries, or education that offer Akwaaba to refugees and immigrants.
  • Total those amounts and divide that total by the amount of your total church budget. List the % here: _____________________________. Reflect.
  • Brainstorm ideas for how to increase the Akwaaba your church offers to refugees and immigrants in your church and your communities.
  • Select at least one and determine how much it will cost to implement.
  • Determine how you will adjust your church budget to make this a reality.
    • List any possible resistance or objections your group might face to this proposal;
    • How would you explain the importance of your proposal to anyone unconvinced of its necessity?
    • What other options might you utilize to increase your church’s ability to offer a deep welcome influenced by the Akan term, Akwaaba?
  • Implement a timeline for making your idea a reality.
  • Implement it.
  1. One of the ways white privilege functions is to “co-opt” terms from other cultures to suit the needs or desires of white culture. If your church congregation is all white, mostly white, or white-dominant, how will you allow the term Akwaaba to inform your personal and communal expressions of welcome without appropriating it?
    • Research the term Akwaaba more deeply – read articles written by someone from or descendant of Ghana or the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (otherwise known as the Ivory Coast) who describe Akwaaba in their own context;
    • Use language that highlights the difference between your culture and that of Akan lands from which Akwaaba originates:
      • “the term, Akwaaba, informs our understanding of radical hospitality”
      • “Akwaaba, from the Twi language, helps us to think about the ministry and life of Jesus differently than from an English-only language standpoint” or
      • “how can we learn from the people of Ghana and their word for welcome, Akwaaba, to help those of us from different cultures create a more Christ-like welcome for refugees and immigrants?”
    • Have a teacher of the Twi language come to your church, pay them for their lesson, and learn more about how the term Akwaaba functions within the worlds and worldviews of those who use it as part of their first language. (You could also invite people who speak both Twi and English do the same – but in either case, to interrupt and dismantle the structures of white privilege – it is imperative to pay them for their services as you would an “official” language teacher.)

 

[1] Translation and examples found on https://glosbe.com/tw/en/akwaaba

[2] Akan, also known as Twi [tɕɥi] and Fante, is an Akan language that is the principal native language of Akan lands in Ghana, spoken over much of the southern half of that country, by about 58% of the population, and among 30% of the population of Ivory Coast. From http://www.gutenberg.us/articles/twi_language. Accessed July 28, 2017.

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