Compassion International kids . . . always, always smiling.
At the market. Bright cloth.
Aidan did not like the slum. At all.
Monday June 30, 2008.
Today we went to Agbogbloshie. It was a transitional neighborhood where folks come down from the north to sell things. I have never seen poverty like that, except in Patrick’s pictures of Calcutta, India. The streets were spongy mud, blackened by much foot traffic. Children wore clothing, but some just wore shirts. The smells—a mixture of soot, waste, rotting vegetables, and something else I cannot put my finger on, poverty maybe. We walked single file through the sea of people. Sometimes we greeted folks with “Daseba” (spelling probably wrong, but it’s a Dagbani greeting) to which they replied “naaaahh.” Their faces lit up when they heard their language, albeit pronounced wrong (from my lips). Children smiled and said hello or hi.
In the middle of this toppled down community stood the church, something Lakepointe helped to build. It blessed me to see the building I’d only heard about. Several people were there to sing, greet us and welcome us. We were advised that we could not take pictures as we walked from the police station (the safest place) to the church because one time people came in taking pictures of the poverty and promised they would come back and change things. They didn’t. So now, if folks saw a foreigner taking pictures, he could be run out of the area. So we kept to ourselves and didn’t take pictures. Inside the church, we snapped a few since we were in the sanctuary inside. The river we passed was strewn with trash, the water a shade of muddied alligator green. People cooked on coal stoves. Many walked barefoot in the muck. The need felt overwhelming to me. My eyes couldn’t take everything in. The main thought running through my head was this: Those people who knew Christ in this area would be awestruck by heaven. In a very strange way, I felt envious because I know that heaven will be even more heavenly to these who suffered so much on this dirtied, garbaged home. I live in opulence. I am sure heaven will be amazing to me, but it will be even more so for those who grit their way through a painful, poverty-strewn life.
We left from there to go to the market to buy a few more souvenirs before leaving. I felt like the most popular person as everyone greeted me from their stall, practically begging me to enter theirs. They pulled at me (and the rest of the team) and grabbed me. Aidan didn’t like it at all. He does not like to shop, nor does he like to be crowded. I could tell his patience was running thin.
We found some very fun gifts to bring home. Oh, how I am ready for home.
We then went to a Compassion International project at All Souls Baptist Church, another Lakepointe building. There, hundreds of children greeted us. One of the teachers there greeted them loudly. “And how are you?” she asked the hundreds of children.
“We are fine, thank you very much. And how are you?” They said it at the top of their lungs, all in unison.
Then several children recited memory verses. We were blessed with a dance, and some worship. I greeted the children, and some of our team danced/praised with them. They loved getting their pictures taken.
Then they took us to a house in the area, at the home of Regina and her mother Abigail. Regina is not yet sponsored, which made me sad. There are hundreds and thousands of children here living in abject poverty and they need sponsorship.
Regina liked to play games and her favorite subject is math. When we asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said, “I want to be a doctor.” Her home was a ten by ten foot room, a single fluorescent light dangling from the ceiling. She shared it with three of her siblings and her mother. The walls were painted turquoise, and the room was very, very dark. There was little ventilation. But Regina’s smile lit the room.
I’m so thankful I had the chance to see Compassion in action. I’ll be able to speak about what they are doing from experience. The children were blessedly alive, filled with joy, and very sweet. I could see they were learning respect, and they were learning about Jesus. I am thankful for Pastor Francis who arranged our visit.
We came back to the hotel and all of us took showers, which was very, very wonderful. It’s good to be clean when you start a very long journey home.
We had our last dinner in Ghana at the hotel: chicken sandwiches and French fries. I had mango juice.
We said goodbye and thank you to Pastor Mohammed, who had become our dear friend and constant companion. We gave him some gifts.
Pastor Francis blessed us with a touching going away message. It resonated deep inside me. He said, “I pray that your obedience here will bear fruit in your family’s lives back home.” He shared the story of how one Sunday he dropped to his knees and prayed for his mother at 9:30 AM. She’d worshipped idols her whole life, and Pastor Francis had a special burden at that time that she would be set free from that. He prayed she’d come to Jesus.
Three weeks later, he went home. His family members told him that three Sundays ago his mother acted crazy, like she had a high fever. She walked around her house saying, “Why do I believe in idols? They won’t help me? The fetish priest won’t help me. I should give them up and follow the God who created me.” Right then and there she went to church and gave her life to Jesus Christ. The time of her ranting? 9:30 AM, the same time Pastor Francis had prayed. He encouraged us to keep praying, and not to forget that our prayers reach the Father’s ears. It rejuvenated me to keep praying consistently and fervently. Through prayer, God can break through any heart.
We packed up and came to the airport, and now we are waiting to fly to Heathrow through the night. I hope I sleep, but I’m not sure if I will. Planes and sleep and me don’t mix well.