11/2/2012 8:55:00 AM From Ghana to Independence: Man finds family in both places
Photo contributed by Bokuro family
Emmanuel Bokuro, Mike Tebb, and Bokuro’s son, Aaydin. As a young student, Bokuro found a home away from home with the Tebb family.
Clarice Keating Of the Catholic Sentinel
INDEPENDENCE — Mass in the United States was something of an adjustment for Emmanuel Bokuro.
After moving alone to Oregon from Damongo, Ghana, to study at Western Oregon University, Bokuro, sought out a place to practice his Catholic faith. He discovered St. Patrick Church here, but the services were very different than at home. Where was the dancing? Catholic services at home were prayerfully jubilant, with choirs performing, and congregants boogying up the aisle to present gifts.
Adjusting to this new environment and unsure of his English skills, Bokuro would duck out of church right after Communion. But, one day, the towering form of Mike Tebb blocked his exit.
“At first, I didn’t know what to make of it,” Bokuro said. He quickly discovered that Tebb had noted the newcomer, and wanted to invite him for dinner at his house.
It would be the start of a very special decade-long friendship for the two men.
“He was very comfortable to have around,” Tebb said, remembering those first times Bokuro joined Tebb and his wife, Sharon, for home-cooked meals. “We bonded.”
In 2003, Bokuro’s living situation near campus fell through, so Tebb invited him to stay at their house. “Our kids had grown up and moved away, and we had half a house we never even used,” Tebb said. Bokuro’s nearest relative was an aunt in Eugene, but eventually he found other friends in the area from Ghana.
They livened up the Tebbs’ house. Sometimes Bokuro would prepare traditional Ghanaian dishes. Once he and his friends even butchered a live goat and roasted it in the Tebbs' barn.
Bokuro ended up living in the Tebb household for the remainder of his years at the university. He studied public policy and administration. In 2005, during his senior year of college, Bokuro invited his host dad to go to Ghana and meet his family and friends.
“I’d wanted to go to Africa for 20 years,” Tebb said. Bokuro’s father is a chieftain. They introduced their new friend to the land and culture, including their long and animated Catholic church services. Tebb met the priests who served in the Diocese of Damongo, asking each one about their greatest need in serving the faithful.
Many asked for English-language Bibles, so Tebb returned to St. Patrick and set up a box in the church vestibule that said “Mike Tebb’s Bibles.” The Bibles poured in, and Tebb mailed them off to his friends in Ghana.
In 2006, Bokuro graduated, but not before meeting and falling in love with the woman who would be his wife, Jamie, an active member of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians. Bokuro currently works for AT&T and the couple lives in Southeast Portland with their 5-year-old son Aaydin and a second on the way. They’re members of St. Anthony of Padua Parish.
When Bokuro and Jamie married at St. Patrick Parish, family and friends from Ghana weren’t able to make the trip, so the Tebbs stepped in as their family. They stay in touch, meeting for a meal at least once a month, and checking in every week.
Last year, Tebb returned to Ghana with Bokuro, and this time Sharon was also able to join. They carried with them 200 rosaries, donated by friends, which were a hit in the village, especially with the children. The Tebbs had also enlisted the help of their parish to raise funds to build a needed piggery for the Bokuro family.
A year later, the Tebbs still communicate regularly with their friends in Damongo. Some day, Bokuro hopes to move his wife and children back to Ghana, but for now he is thankful to have his Independence family, too.
To donate rosaries, which the Tebbs will either mail to Ghana or deliver on their next trip, send them to the St. Patrick office at 1275 E St.