Friday, July 23, 2010

Three Days -- what it's all about

Our game plan was to spend Monday through Wednesday after the team left evaluating the trip, visiting with friends, and relaxing. However I'd begun to feel a bit bad over the weekend. Saturday I nursed a scratchy sore throat; Sunday found me sneezing and sniffling. What I *thought* was going to be a simple summer cold turned very ugly. By Monday morning I was in the middle of a full-blown "asthmatic episode" which left me literally gasping for every breath. As soon as a pharmacy was open on Monday, our friend Stephen took us to get some medication for me. It was pricey (about $90 USD) but at that point I'd have maxed out every credit card I had to get some relief. I spent most of the day doing absolutely nothing. By evening I was feeling MUCH better.

For me, Monday and Tuesday is sort of a blur. I'd get up and go a while, then nap a while. But David managed to get a good bit accomplished and I joined him as I could.

David took the time to go back to the dump, taking Bishop James with him to witness the conditions there first-hand. They discussed several options about ways to help those children. Besides the obvious issue of massive poverty, they face other problems. For example, often the parents do not care if their kids go to school or not; sometimes the kids have to work picking through the garbage for items to recycle. Another big problem is that the schools closest to the dump are still about a 2-mile walk that includes crossing a major 4-lane highway.

Ideas that we are considering include purchasing a van to transport the kids to schools in and around Community 25, or perhaps trying to get a school started at the edge of the dump itself. Given the transient nature of the residents, it can be difficult to keep track of the children themselves. It is a huge problem -- and a huge burden on our hearts.

Early Monday afternoon, we walked to Jerusalem Gates Academy, where donors helped us sponsor several children out of the dump last year. We took some candies to share with the children. We were sad to see that the number of students was significantly smaller this year; the headmaster indicated that since the school was relocating, many students were going to different schools. After more discussion and prayers, we decided to look for different avenues for the dump children's education.

We stopped by Manye Foundation Academy on Tuesday. There we met five volunteers, students from Dartmouth College in the US. We spent some time talking with them, and with the headmaster. The college students were about as excited to see us as we were to see them! Before we left, they'd agreed to stop for a visit on Wednesday, and David planned to take them to the dump for a look around.

We agreed to sponsor four children into this academy. Later I'll tell you their stories, so be watching in the coming days for information about Racheal, Comfort, Raphael, and Joseph.

Also on Tuesday, David pounded fufu with Mary and Emmanuel! He later feasted on that fufu at dinner! They also made my favorite fried plantains! YUMMY!!!

Tuesday evening, I met Joann, who is heading up the Christ Harvests Academies. I am very impressed by this lady's professionalism and drive to help provide a superior education to children, and I look forward to working with her!

By Wednesday, I was feeling pretty good. It was our last full day in Ghana; we were scheduled to fly out Thursday morning at 1 am. We had a lot of things we needed to catch up with before we left, so we hit the ground running.

A few years ago we met a young man named Cedric Emmanuel who had been badly burned on his face, arms, and hands. His medical bills were covered through efforts by Waters Edge Ministries. Recently a friend of ours saw the young man's photograph -- then contacted us that he wanted to help the young man with his education. This benefactor is a graduate student at USC who is from a different country -- and has a huge heart for children. With Richard's help, we contacted the headmistress at the school where he attended. We drove to the school where she serves, and she accompanied us to the junior high school that the now 13-year-old young man attends.

Upon our arrival, Cedric Emmanuel was brought to the office. He recognized us and gave a slight smile, but did not speak much. He wears a jacket all the time to cover his scarred arms; his hands are scarred and the joints of his little fingers are immobile and twisted. One of his ears was burned off; the other is partially gone.

The school headmistress told us that before the accident, he'd been a bright and happy student. When he returned, his scarred face frightened other students and they'd run from him. She expressed concern that he seemed depressed. (Who wouldn't be depressed???) She also shared some information about his home life -- he lives sometimes with his father and other times with his grandmother; neither send enough money for him to purchase food during the day. Usually he brings about 80 pesewas -- roughly 50 cents -- which would not buy a pittance of food. The headmistress often takes him home with her and feeds him dinner at night.

We explained that a benefactor wanted to take care of his educational costs, and he smiled as broadly as he could. My eyes teared up; it was obvious that he was grateful that someone wanted to help him, that someone cared about him.

This is what it's all about:
Connecting people through the Love of Christ.

******

The Dartmouth students came over for a visit; it was fun sitting on the porch and talking with them. David took them for a visit to the dump. It is impossible to see that place and not feel moved...

The rest of the evening, visitors were in and out to tell us good-bye, including Pastor Johnson, Chief Takyi, Ben, Christina, Victoria & the kids. We packed our bags, and shared a final dinner together. I tasted one more slice of fresh sweet bread to hold me over till next year. Gave one more giant bear hug to Bishop James -- also to hold me over till next year.

About 8:30 pm, we loaded Richard's Jeep Cherokee with our luggage. He, Victoria, Little Anita, Christabel, and Junior all piled in to drive us to Kotoka Airport.

At 1 am, Delta Flight 185 took off. We were headed home.