Meet our team: Sherri Paulson, Ghana

Sherri is a missionary with SIM that works with By Grace in Tamale, Ghana. Sherri is involved in meeting all of the women that By Grace trains and employs, checks in the workshop and takes all of our the pictures overseas!

What originally brought you to Ghana? 

I originally came as a short termer in 1998. To be honest, I didn’t get accepted to the university that I wanted and thought my life was over (I can get a bit dramatic :) ). This opportunity came up and God opened up all the doors so I just kept walkin’ thru them and ended up in the Upper East Region of Ghana and I loved it.

 Sherri first came to Ghana on a short-term missions trip to live with Emily and her family.

Sherri first came to Ghana on a short-term missions trip to live with Emily and her family.

What is your favorite part about living in Ghana?

I love the warm weather and the warmth of the people. I love that if I get lost there is someone to not only tell me the way, but sometimes take my hand and show me!

What is your biggest cultural learning moment to-date (funny or just memorable!)?

I would come home from a youth activity or church program complaining to my mentor about how they never start on time, or they are not serious, or whatever.

I was with a group of Ghanaians (ages 17-27) who went on a missions trip from Accra to Chiana, in the Upper East Region. They would get so angry because the Ghanaians in Chiana never started on time. I said, “but in Accra we also never start on time”. They gave a flimsy excuse or would say, “it is not the same”. Also, on that trip, the southern Ghanaians didn’t like the Northern food and instead of being gracious to the people who were cooking and trying it, they went out and cooked their own food. That really insulted the people.

All this to say — we are all ethnocentric. We all think our own culture is the best and judge people accordingly. I became aware it wasn’t just the white people who come along and think we should do things a certain way, we are all thinking like that.

A funny one—my friend, who is from the North, who lives in Accra took me out to eat dog. (FYI I do love dogs, I do!) I really thought it was great. So, I was telling one of my friends from the south and he looked at me repulsively. “Sherri, how could you do that? How could you eat dog?” I said, “um…don’t they roast bat in your village?” He said, “yes”. I said, “do you eat bats?” he said, “of course”. He didn’t see the connection but I did and laughed!

I am sure there are more but I can’t think.

What's your favorite part of working with By Grace?

Hearing the stories of the women’s hardships brings reminders of God’s love in my life. He is so good to me. I don’t deserve such love and favor. It makes me want to give back to Him.

What is your favorite proverb, quote, Bible verse or life motto?

  • Verse: Psalm 37.4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. I love how He makes His desires my desires!
  • Fave movie quote: You are everything I never knew I always wanted (I think this about God but the movie talks about a man/woman relationship).
  • Twi Proverb: o ho o ho te se ago far a stranger is like a child (being a foreigner, a stranger in a new culture, you don’t know anything. You are like a small child)
  • Life motto: It’s not about meeeeeeee

What's a typical day look like for you?

At this point, I am learning the Dagbani language. So, I listen to my recordings that were done the day previous with my language helper. Then I go out wandering about finding people and friends that I can practice what I have learned. Then in late afternoon I meet with my language helper to talk about new things I learned, cultural things I wasn’t aware of, and get some new words or dialogue.

What is your background? Where did you come from? What did you want to be when you grew up, and did you ever fathom you'd be where you are now?

I am a dairy farm gal from a small town in Wisconsin, USA. I have 1 sister and 3 brothers. Growing up I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be so my sister said I would have to take over the farm. All of us children hated farm chores. They all knew what they wanted to do with their lives, I didn’t. Therefore, I was chosen…forced, from them,  to accept that I would be a farmer and inherit the farm when Mom and Dad retired, which was absolutely the worst idea to me.

But Mom tells me that I told my first grade teacher I wanted to be a missionary. I found out after meeting up with my best friend from junior high a few years ago that in sixth grade I told her I wanted to be a missionary. I don’t remember either of those instances. In tenth grade I went to a youth group retreat for the weekend and at the last session where the man was speaking, I was crying. I don’t remember what he said but my friend next to me nudged me and I looked at him and cried and said, “I'm going to be a missionary!” But, I didn’t know how to go about that, and you know, only weird people end up being missionaries :). I had no idea this would be my life. I think growing up I thought I would be like everyone else and get married and have kids. I wanted lots of kids.

I love my life. I love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have no regrets in being obedient to God. It is (almost) not a sacrifice, it is a privilege (there is a quote John Piper has about that).

When things are hard or discouraging, what keeps you motivated?

I have moved north from where I lived for the past 11 years. I am starting over. It is hard making friends. It is hotter than I thought. It is difficult to be a dork in language learning. It is hard to be away for holidays or family picnics and events. It is hard to not have a Culvers restaurant nearby…LOL!!

When I look around me I see the difficulty in people’s lives, mine seems so small. My problems are nothing compared with people who have no food or jobs or even holes in the soles of their flipflops.

When I find myself whining about I don’t have or how hot it is, I try to remember what is amazing. God is amazing. Snow and cold are not amazing :). Kinkey with fish is amazing. A roommate from India is amazing. People who do things differently from me are amazing. Life that is so different every day is amazing. That reminds me to put things in perspective. When I have that flitting thought of maybe I should go home because it would be easier, I sense the Spirit in me say, “and you will be absolutely miserable.” He is right. I would be bored.

Though, it can be challenging here I find It also helps to remember that God called me here not to do do do, but to be be be. He wants me to be like Him and for some crazy reason He thinks the best place that can happen and how to learn how that can happen is Tamale.

So. CRAZY!!! God is soooo cool!!!!

What would your advice be to someone who wants to make a difference?

A woman once wrote to me and said there are only 2 things that go to heaven with you—people and God. If you want to make a difference start with God. He will change you to make a difference in people’s lives, whether you know it or not.