Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them--the Lord, who remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free...
It's a good thing I didn't see it. If I had seen it my heart would have been shattered. Seeing the bloody swollen lips were enough to tell me that whoever the perpetrator was heartless. How can you beat a child in the face?
I traveled to Kete Krachi with members of the Touch A Life Foundation in mid-November. Kete Krachi is known as being a hub for child trafficking. Children are forced to work for fisherman on Lake Volta and its many small islands. You can find out more about it on their website if you are interested http://www.touchalifekids.org/ . We have many children at VOH who were former child slaves. I felt it would be a great experience for me to go and see their background and the conditions they came from so that I would better understand them. I knew it would not be an easy trip, but felt it necessary in my continued ministry to these kids.
We transported 10 children from our campus here to perform surgeries on their umbilical hernias in Kete Krachi. We left VOH around 5:15am last Sunday morning and arrived in Kete Krachi around 7:30pm. There has been a compound built there to house children who have been rescued previously. We were greeted by cheers and hugs from many excited teens. The older children who have been rescued stay in Kete Krachi and complete vocational training apprenticeships. The younger children have been moved down to the gomoa area to attend school with us at Hope Christian Academy.
Monday morning we went out on the lake in a boat to go and talk with fisherman. I have been hesitant as to whether or not to make this trip for months now. For the reason that I didn't want to be a nosy white getting in the way of the social changes in progress. I wanted to take some pictures in order to tell these kids' stories, but didn't want them to feel like they were in the zoo or something. Every time we stopped our boat to talk to fishermen they had this smirk on their face, like they knew they were in the wrong but weren't ready to do anything about it. Each time we stopped to talk with fisherman, the kids would continue mending nets, bailing water, or doing everything but making eye contact with us.
After stopping to talk to several fisherman, we pulled up to one of the many islands to stop and talk with individuals there. It was a market day, which meant many of the children usually on the lake would be on the islands working on mending of nets or other menial tasks. We were met by a small group of children. George Jr, the Ghanaian man who works tirelessly to rescue and care for many trafficked children immediately recognized one of the boys: Gideon. He said he had been rescued and returned to his parents, only to be re-sold to a fishing master. Because he had been previously released, we thought there might be a good chance of being able to rescue him again. I quickly grabbed a tiny little boys hand and walked off to allow any negotiation talks to happen without interference.
I was walking around holding several young children's hands and communicating with them in my broken twi (the local language). A woman started yelling and one of the young boys immediately dropped my hand. I realized that she had been scolding him for associating with a white. Unfortunately fear and superstition still dominate many rural and remote communities. Within a few short minutes we were called over and told that the boy would be released to us, along with his younger brother. The two boys disappeared momentarily into a hut to gather their few belongings. When they re-emerged I realized the younger brother had been the very boy I had been walking around the island with. His name is God's Way. We quickly ushered them into our boat and took off before anyone changed their minds.
I could hardly grasp how fast the worlds of these two boys had changed. I sat with Gideon, the older brother, on the boat and tried to reassure him that things would be okay. I could sense his apprehension and fear. I can't imagine what it would be like to get in a boat with a bunch of white strangers to go to an unknown place! Thankfully he spoke some English, so I was able to communicate with him. The power of that moment is unspeakable. I can't express to you what God did in those moments leading up to the boys climbing on the boat. God is capable of great transformation, and I witnessed something that day that is priceless.
We ushered them onto the bus that would drive us back to the Touch a Life compound. We stopped briefly on the way back, and the boys were given some shoes to wear, new footballs, and some new clothes. Immediately their demeanor changed. They began to smile and relax.
When we arrived back, their eyes were wide as they took in their new surroundings. God's Way was sitting quietly on woman's lap when one of the formerly rescued boys named Jacob walked in. God's Way's eyes lit up and he shouted his name. Jacob ran and embraced him. It was a reunion unlike I have ever seen. In that moment I believe God's way realized that it would all be okay. He had known Jacob from when Jacob was working as a child slave at least a year ago. They embraced and held hands for many quiet moments.
Over the next 24 hours I witnessed the look in their eyes change. I was sitting with Gideon a few hours later and asked him how he felt, he paused for a moment, looked at me and simply said, "happy." That word made the whole trip worthwhile. To make a child feel happy, loved, and valued is what this ministry is all about. God's Way fell asleep curled up in the lap of one of the women in the group. One of the women in the group had lost her son Connor the year before. She had come on the trip in search of healing, and also to reach out to children in need of the love of a mother. At the end of the night her son Connor's blanket was given to God's Way as he was prayed over. He slept peacefully through the whole thing, wrapped in the warmth of love, possibly for the first time. As Connor's life was honored, the God's Way's was given a chance at life. I was part of something powerful that day. I was reminded that God's way is perfect. And that most importantly, His way is redeeming.