"We are Christ's Ambassadors"
2 Corinthians 5:20
I really can't express in words the things I experienced on this trip. My words can't capture it, these photos can't capture it, our stories, try as we might, won't get across to you the message we are trying to share. So, please, forgive us when we are slow to answer, and stumble on our words when you ask, "So, how was it?!"
Being in Ghana is like entering a new reality. For a short three weeks we left behind our comfortable beds, our hot showers and microwaves, our telephones and TVs. We left this to travel to a place where, for the Ghanaians, comfortable beds are a mat on a dirt floor, hot showers turn into half a metal bucket of well water, and where people of Hollywood are unheard of, and mean no more than any other fascinating white person coming from North America. The people of Ghana have nothing that a materialistic society represents, and although Ghana is plagued by poverty, sickness and hunger, my eyes were opened to the plagues of our own country, a country which has everything, yet wants more.
Instead, for three short weeks I lived with a community of believers who have nothing, yet give everything; a community that has everything, in Christ, although they possess nothing. It was revealed to me that although Canada has everything, Ghana has much more than that...... The first morning waking up in Carpenter was like walking onto the pages of a National Geographic magazine. I had learned of Africa, I'm sure everyone has seen pictures, but I was not prepared for what I saw. I guess in the back of my mind I thought that mud huts and grass roofs were stereotypes of Africa.....but they were suddenly turned to reality. Instinctively, I felt sadness for these poor people.
When I looked at these lives without luxury, I felt pity and guilt for all I have. This was my mind set as I looked around at the living conditions....but then my eyes moved to the people, and I was more blown away by them than anything else I experienced on this trip. They weren’t sad! Yes, they were laughing, and not just some of them, all of them! It would start with a smile, and soon would turn to laughter....that lasted! Even if we didn’t understand each other’s language, we could laugh together out of pure joy at being with one another. Well, I thought, they should be depressed, shouldn’t they? Aren’t they in wanting? That’s when my pity for them turned to shame for myself. From the people we worked with in Carpenter, I saw in them the true goal in life. That’s knowing God. It’s not about riches; there was no greed. There was an earnest effort in all they did to experience and please their Father. In the evenings, after we ate supper, everyone would sit around and talk. Their direction of conversation was most often on Spiritual things. I found their faith to be so strong, and in everything they do. They know what it is to work for the Lord.
After supper one night, brother and sister Emmanuel and Hannah talked with me and pleaded with me to make sure that everything I do on this earth I do for the Lord. From watching their lifestyles, and seeing the peace and joy they have in their hearts, despite the physical pain they suffer as they labour to make it through the day, I really saw what it meant to give oneself fully to the work of the Lord. Their praise continues in all they do.
I praise the Lord for a unique opportunity I had to daily travel to a nearby medical clinic. As I am currently studying to be a nurse, seeing the amount of health care needed in norhtern Ghana had an indescribable impact on me. I even saw my first birth! I was there to see David Mensah's nephew being born. God never stopped overwhelming me the entire time I was there.
I think I could write pages of all the things I learned on this trip, if only I could find the words! All I can say is that I pray the impact they had on me will change me forever.
The following is one particular episode during our trip in Ghana that I recall: It was 6am and we gathered outside the Grace Hill Top Hotel in Accra ready to travel towards Carpenter. A trip that is normally done in 7-8hrs, but on this day it was not meant to be.
Compared to the stay that the castaways of "Gilligan's Island" had our trip made theirs seem a lot shorter than it really was. How little did we know that instead of the usual 7-8hrs it would take 15-16hrs!! And even though it took us 4hrs to get to our breakfast spot rather than the normal 2hrs, we learned that the air filter on the bus had died and all the diesel exhaust began filtering in. Our day had only begun.
Soon that was fixed and we were back on our way, but the truck that had all our luggage, all our tools, all our medical, & all our school supplies had disappeared. We waited for more than 3hrs in a city called Kumasi waiting for it with no sign of it in the near future. Our luck was definitely not on our side this day. We could finally deal with being covered in diesel exhaust, but we now had to face the fact that everything we had brought from Canada was now gone. 11pm we rolled into Carpenter, a loud cheer went out & another went out when we saw the truck with all our belongings in the distance. I think back to that day and all that we faced and I realize that it wasn't luck at all that got us there safely nor was it luck that got the truck there with all our belongings it was God. That whole day and the entire trip He was with us, watching over us, protecting us, & guiding us.
Our faith was tested that day and the closer we came to Carpenter some of us in the bus began to pray & sing for the safe arrival of us and our things. God answered our thoughts and prayers. I really felt God's presence during that day and the entire trip. I thank Him for keeping us safe for the journey to Ghana, our stay there, & our return trip home. I'm hoping someday soon that another group, person, or couple will go for the first time or go on a return visit and experience what I and the rest of the group did... except for the bus ride to Carpenter.
The Story of GRACE
Grace: love and favour of God………..Webster’s Dictionary
Grace just couldn’t believe what was happening, one day her husband was by her side, working and helping to raise their seven children, the next he was deathly ill, and not expected to make it through the night. What would she do, what could she do? Who would help feed and care for the kids now that their father had died so suddenly, would they starve to death? It was just too much to bear. Baby Sarah was so young, she would never remember her father, and the eldest was only 12…she could never do this all alone, surely she could find someone in the village to help. Sarah cried out to God for help, not knowing how she would care for herself and her children.
Home was a small one-room mud hut with a thatched roof in a small poor village in northern Ghana. The roof wasn’t leaking, at least for now but at best it would only last 5 years. Grace and her husband had enrolled their older children in school, a real luxury. Only one third of the local children can afford to go to school, where they have to pay tuition and wear a uniform. Now she could not afford to feed them let alone keep them in school. What about the future? How could she ever cope?
Someone in the village told her to go and see Noah, he was working on a new project and maybe he could do something to help her and her family.
Filled with dread, Grace met with Noah and Richard of the Carpenter Project of the Northern Empowerment Association, (NEA), they were her first ray of hope. NEA would provide her with one acre of land just outside the village, from the property given by the Chief for NEA. to develop. She would join the local women farmers’ co-op and attend weekly meetings where she would learn about farming, crops, nutrition and health, and receive much needed support. Noah talked about God, a God of love, who would provide for her family. This sounded too good to be true. Maybe the family would have a future after all.
NEA helped her clear the raw land and prepare it for seeding. Grace and her children worked all day, every day, with determination. With only two hand tools, a machete and a hoe, all the kids were needed to do their share in planting and maintaining the land. The first crop was yams and peanuts, and the children also collected shea nuts to dry and sell.
When I walked with Grace and her daughter Sarah through their small farm plot, just weeks before her first harvest, her face was no longer filled with despair. It was filled with hope. Hope for food for this year, hope for the future, the children’s education, and secure in the hope for her seven children.
The women’s co-op at the Carpenter project now has 430 members. Each woman has received one acre of land, training, support, seed, safe storage for the crops and group marketing. In a village where children are among the poorest in the world, where rags, bare feet, mud huts and malnutrition are common; hope is a rare and precious thing…hope that stems from a love of Jesus and a love of people.
Dr. David Mensah, the founder of NEA, grew up as a street urchin and gang leader in Ghana. He heard about God who could save him from harm. He decided to give God a try: believed in Him and his life began to change. David started his schooling in Ghana, then traveled to Canada to attend Ontario Bible College (now Tyndale), Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia for his masters, and on to earn his doctorate in Environmental Studies at U of T before returning to Ghana to integrate his new found knowledge with the original goals of NEA and the people of northern Ghana. NEA’s goal is to ‘end the cycle of starvation’. Ghana Rural Integrated Development Board (GRID) was established as a Canadian funding board for NEA. For more information about the miracles in this street urchin’s life read his book “Kwabena, An African Boy’s Journey of Faith “