Mark Magers, CEO of Divine USA posts:
On May 1, International Workers Day, I had the privilege to accompany Madame Christiana Ohene Agyare, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, and Mr. Kwasi Aduse-Poku, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd., to attend church with, and later meet, former US President Jimmy Carter at his church, the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. They were in the US for a Board Meeting of Divine Chocolate Inc, to be held in Washington, DC, and traveled nearly 32 hours total to get to Plains.
For most of the time since President Carter left office, he has held almost weekly Sunday School sessions at his church, part of his commitment to service of others, and also to make himself available to people.
When we arrived at the church, we waited in line for our turn for the security dog to sniff our car. Once clear of that, we parked where we were directed by a Secret Service agent, and walked to the next queue, this one to check bags, purses, and individuals with security wands. We then proceeded into the sanctuary, and had the honor of sitting in the front row. What followed was a briefing on dos and don’ts once Sunday School started, and the woman instructing us, Miss Jan, was very thorough, and very informative. Among other things we learned that Rosalynn Carter’s first name is Eleanor, and that President Carter was the first American president to be born in a hospital (his mother was a nurse), and to live in public housing (after he left the Navy).
The ground rules are necessary to make the process manageable for the church, which is quite small, and for President Carter, who is now 86 years young, as there can be several hundred visitors on a given Sunday. Apparently at the peak years back as many as 600 people would show up. This Sunday there were closer to 150, including 50 Canadians on a tour bus.
President Carter came out about 10 am and spoke to the crowd, finding out where people were from, and then told us what he had been up to the past week – meeting with Kim Jong Il in North Korea. When he heard our guests say they were from Ghana, he gave them a special welcome and commented on the work the Carter Foundation has done and is doing in Ghana, both monitoring elections for fairness and also working to eradicate the guinea worm from water supplies. He then proceeded to teach the Sunday School lesson. Madame Christiana was appreciative of his comments about the scriptural foundation of gender equality, a basic tenet of Kuapa Kokoo, and Mr. Aduse-Poku took many notes.
The regular service commenced next, and when Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter entered the church for the main service, they came over again and welcomed our Ghanaian visitors. After the service was over, we went outside and met briefly with the Carters, and took a few pictures, and of course, gave them a sample of Divine Chocolate. We had been told they always give away anything they are given, but Mrs Carter seemed very interested in this particular thank you! We also spoke briefly to them about Divine’s farmer-owned business model, and thanked President Carter for his comments about gender equality.
We went after church to Mom’s Kitchen for fried chicken, collard greens, and other southern specialties, as did most of the local people we met at church, and we had another round of conversations with folks who wondered who the Ghanaians were, and why the Carters had spent time with them. They were thrilled to learn it was all about chocolate!