Monday, September 7, 2009

see you later alligator

Silverware is something I have always taken for granted. However, I have had quite the humbling experience last week. For those of you who don't know there are two campuses of the Village of Hope. The main one is located in Gomoa-Fetteh, it houses and educates just under 200 children. The other campus is located near Accra in a suburb called Ayawaso. It is a Vocational Training Center that teaches 35 teens off the street. They can learn kente weaving, tailoring, or leatherworks/bag making. And now, thanks to the generosity of a man Jeff Roland, there is an auto-mechanic training facility. I went with he and his daughter to visit the Ayawaso campus for a few days last week.

We took a group of 6 guys out to dinner one night in Accra. Most of them had never been to a restaurant before. And in fact, one had never even used a fork and knife! Now, I must note that in Ghana many people eat each meal by hand. But it was still surprising! Some of the guys we ate with are my age, and have none of the opportunities in life that I have had. It was humbling to realize that I have finished high school and college—things they will never be able to do.

There is a house under construction at the Ayawaso campus, and one afternoon they needed help moving cement blocks. The boys were carrying anywhere from 1-3 blocks on their heads across campus. I decided to attempt to help, despite my lack of ability to balance heavy objects on my head. The boys whooped and hollered as I managed to carry the block across campus (with the help of my hand for stability). Some of the girls then decided to help out. By my fourth and final block the boys had laid out a pair of pants in front of me as if it were red carpet. I could laugh at their amazement at my ability to carry a few blocks.

During the course of block moving the boys found a treasure, or so they seemed to think. I heard them yelling and laughing, and saw that they had caught and killed the largest lizard I had ever seen. I gasped realizing what they were about to do. They were beaming and proudly began to roast it on the fire for dinner. They ate it quite happily. Over the course of the week I saw a goat and two chickens occupy that same fire. If you can catch it, you can eat it... As I told my prestoncrest girls that evening, they told me that it must have been in fact a baby alligator. It was the length of my arm. Vida, always the comedian, said "see you later alligator!" I was just thankful I was not invited to take part in this dinner.

I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with one of the instructors named Richard. I was blown away by his heart. He is an orphan that was taken in by the VOH himself. He was too old to start school, so he went through the vocational training program. He now teaches the kente weaving at the VOH VTC in Ayawso. He says that he was given hope and a family through the VOH and can't help but now turn around and share those blessings with others. He lives in a shack between two crates on the campus grounds and is perfectly content-except for one thing. He wants to learn how to read. He was talking about how God had richly blessed him and he wants to learn how to read the Bible with more understanding so he can share God’s word with everyone he knows. I have to come to believe that in America we have a limited perspective of service. We give only so much of our time and money, and feel justified in then keeping the rest to ourselves. I am humbled to realize so many like Richard here, who don’t get vacations, or days off. A life of service is a life spent fully committed at all times to the work which they have been called to. It is in such times that I am forced to examine myself and recognize the selfishness in me, and my necessity for growth. I was able to work on some basic phonics with Richard the other night, he is dying to learn and just has never been given the chance. It is so frustrating when he has such a deep desire but was never able to attend school, and yet our American schools are filled with kids who could care less. Most of my students last year flat out didn’t care about their education, and this man is dying to learn how to read... at the age of 25.


  1. Chelsea,

    Your adventures are so interesting. Thank you for taking the time to share with us. Indeed, there is so much we take for granted in this land of "milk and honey"; the big Wall Mart and Miles of Malls! I've been in some very poor places and felt the little hands that long to touch fair skinned Americans. We live in a very rich country, blessed beyond imagination, don't we?

    Love you!


  2. Chelsea,

    Thanks for showing that uneducated man your attention. I'm glad you are setting aside your distaste for phonics in order to help any way you can. What a heart for service you both have!

    Your posts are very encouraging to read.

    Steve F.