Couple enters mission service at university in Ghana
For Steve and Suzanne Buchele, Central Texas has been home for years, filled with comfort and opportunity. After earning three advanced degrees at the University of Texas–Austin, Suzanne joined Southwestern University’s faculty as professor of computer science. Steve graduated from UT with a computer science degree and pursued a career in Austin’s vibrant technology community. Then life offered a surprise, calling Steve to ministry. He earned a master of divinity and became an ordained Methodist pastor, stretched with compelling new duties. Georgetown remained home, but an even more dramatic turn lay ahead for Steve and Suzanne.
In 2006, Suzanne was chosen for a Fulbright Fellowship, and two different worlds collided for the Bucheles: the familiar world of Georgetown and the challenging world of Ghana. They chose the latter, a heart-felt decision made six years ago that came to fruition this spring. They believe that Ghana is where they’re supposed to be, with Ashesi University as their touchstone.
In a way, the Buchele story in Ghana began in 1968, when nine-year-old Steve lived there for a year with his parents. His father was one of five Iowa State University agricultural engineering professors working with the University of Ghana under a grant from the United States Agency for International Development. Their goal was to create a self-sustaining agricultural engineering program for Ghanaians, but the dream never materialized. Steve recalls the year as a “grand adventure, an interesting time to be in emergent Africa.” With childhood’s adaptability, he made friends, played, and attended school, unbothered by Ghana’s then-military government or shortages of ordinary things like sugar. He thought it would be nice to go back someday.
Under the 2006 Fulbright grant, Suzanne taught math and computer science for a full school year at Ashesi, a relatively new four-year university located in Accra, Ghana’s capital. Steve got his chance to return to Ghana, this time as a teaching pastor at Asbury Dunwell Church. Their children—Wesley in tenth grade, Grace in ninth grade, and Anna in sixth grade—embraced their new home with its wealth of interesting experiences. Suzanne says, “I loved the university and felt like we had bonded with the culture. The kids were doing great in the international school, which had amazing teachers.” By October, the family agreed that Suzanne should apply through the embassy to extend for a second year. She received the extension, with stipulation that they return to the United States for sixty days during the summer. That fall, Suzanne served as Ashesi’s acting dean of academic affairs, and the year passed quickly for the Bucheles. They departed Ghana in 2008 despite wanting to remain. With college approaching for the children, they needed to return to Texas.
Over the next four years, Steve and Suzanne’s call to mission work deepened through prayer into certainty. Suzanne returned to Ghana to teach summer sessions. They were accepted into missionary training in 2012 through The Mission Society, a multidenominational organization founded thirty years ago and serving in forty countries. Their training has been extensive. They spent three weeks in Peru, focusing on how to enter a different culture and present the gospel message without an American overlay. They interacted in Georgia, Florida, and Colorado with other trainees, all bound for different countries. After they were commissioned by the society, the Bucheles gathered financial support to cover the duration of their five-year stay in Ghana. They have an active “home team” of friends and family who helped in this endeavor and who continue to serve as prayer partners and liaisons.
Steve and Suzanne left in February for Ashesi’s new campus in Berekuso, near Accra. They took warm-weather clothes, books, computers, kitchenware, and medicines to their small duplex, but no furniture or car. Besides missing their children tremendously, they know from experience there will be other hardships. The road into Accra is terrible, and people travel by shared taxis and “trotros”—high-clearance mini-vans. Most days, at least two things break. They know city water won’t flow every day, and electricity is erratic. Simple purchases require hours of roaming from vendor to vendor: a toothbrush here but no toothpaste, a mop handle but no head, elsewhere a plastic bucket. They need more proficiency in Twi, the local language. Steve says, “We go as learners.”
Beyond daily frustrations, they’re learning more about Ghanaians, whom they describe as open, curious, community-minded, and filled with laughter. Suzanne says, “You never eat alone. If you have food, you would always invite others.” Steve adds, “There would never be reason to break relationship, no matter what.”
Steve is excited about building a campus ministry and hopes for a church affiliated with the university. He also serves as spiritual adviser to Methodist missionaries throughout Ghana. Berekuso has Methodist, Presbyterian, Adventist, and Catholic churches and a mosque. Suzanne, now associate provost at Ashesi, is committed to the university’s 600 students and its goals: innovation, entrepreneurship, and ethical leadership. Since Suzanne first taught there, she’s seen its graduates in computer science, business, and management information remain in Africa in quality job placements. The Bucheles, twenty-first century missionaries, are “at home” in Ghana.
Dr. Patrick Awuah, educated in the United States and formerly employed by Microsoft, returned to Ghana to start a private, nonprofit university, hoping to stem Africa’s “brain drain.” Learn more about the university’s acclaimed success at www.ashesi.org.