June 30, 2010

An Anointed Rescue

A number of weeks ago, one of The Father's House children (Christian) was taken by an uncle to go work on Lake Volta.  The Father's House community was devastated.  The very reason the Father's House was created - to give a safe place for children to play and learn - had lost a child to life on the Lake.  Jeremiah Banini, a leader and teacher (among SO many other things) at The Father's House was not going to just let this happen.  He set out on a journey with Levi (who was visiting from Kansass) to find and rescue Christian from life on the lake.  This is his story: (and it's worth every minute, so read it all!)
          As I sit here at the Father’s Heart (House) International, I look around me and I am so grateful God has blessed me with so much. Thank You God!.
          The trip up the lake will forever be one of the very memorable trips I have made in my life. I sit and think about all that I have seen and I know God showed me all this or a purpose which He will reveal in His own time.
          We finally got the heads up to go on this trip on Sunday and decided we were going to leave on Monday.
          Excitement filled my heart as I prepared to go up the lake with my very few expectations which were tit bits from the conversations I’ve had with George Achebra. We left the Fathers House at 8 in the morning on Monday.
Trip Day:
          Here’s how the journey went, We went to my dad’s to tell him we were off, then  got in the car with Paul and drove off till we found a trotro headed to Accra. We were the first people in the car apart from the driver and his mate. We went at a snail’s pace so we could get more passengers and even turned around once to go pick up people who showed up after we had passed them.
Off to Accra.
          We spent three and a half hours on the road to Accra. Everything went smoothly until we reached the immigration officials about halfway to Accra. They asked for Levi’s passport which he had left home for safety reasons, so he might not lose it on the trip. We alighted and spoke with the “boss” for about twenty minutes after which we were allowed passage. We could have been turned back but thanks to God.
          The rest of the trip was uneventful.
          We got to Accra at around 12 noon. We went to one busy lorry station where we bought tickets for the wrong bus but returned them for the right one and went into the bus and sat. One man came in and sold a book on correct use of English (Ghanaians make lots of mistakes because we translate directly from our local language and end up saying the wrong thing) We sat for about two hours or more before the bus finally filled up. Right after we had set off, a man stood up in the front seat and started advertising his goods. He was selling something called “wormzap” to combat tape worms in your tummy. He was so loud Levi said to tell him that we would buy all his wormzap if he kept quiet, of course it was a joke. But we had to get our earphones to try to block out some of the noise out.  He got down halfway through Accra after a few people had bought his stuff.
Road trip:
          The trip up to Akosombo was a good one. We passed through several towns and saw many beautiful scenery. Everything was green. I simply love it. Cool rock formations and beautiful landscapes, nice hills and mountains. There was rain some part of the way but t was a good trip.
          We finally reached Akosombo and my, was it beautiful! This was a town built by the first President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The dam was a beautiful sight to behold. The Adomi bridge, the only suspension bridge in Ghana was sitting gracefully over the waters of the river Volta. We got there a little after four and were relieved to see the yapei queen looking splendid from afar waiting on the bus from Accra to bring the last of its load and customers. We alighted and went to buy our tickets. The first class cabins were already booked so we bought second class tickets. We also bought some snacks to eat since we did not know if we would find anything we would like on the ferry. We got on soon after and sat for about 45 minutes before we finally set off. The second class was a big hall with tables and chairs  and lots of people. The room started to get hot and stinky so we moved up to the top deck and sat on one of the few seats provided there for first class customers.  We sat there and chat for a while before the ferry finally set off. The ferry was moving at about five miles an hour, at least that was what it felt like.
Ferry Ride:
          The 17 hour ferry ride was very uncomfortable. There were some flies which showed up at night and kept buzzing around but they all left by morning. I had never been on a boat so I was a bit scared yet excited at the prospect. When the ferry started moving, I thought I would feel nauseous but I was fine and did not have to use the motion sickness pills.
          The seventeen hour boat ride took us through places with amazing scenery but the darkness was too swift in coming to deprive us of the beauty God had placed on this lake. I made friends with a soldier on board who was on his way to a new post. Most of the time was spent just sitting and watching people around me. I finally got about two hours of sleep and woke up at 1 am to charge the camera and my phone. There was phone service in some areas but most of the lake had no signal.
          There’s more I could say but it would be very boring to read. We finally got to Kete Krachi at about 10 in the morning.
          We met George Junior and set off to find accommodation and food.
          We were booked into a hotel which was the nicest building in Kete Krachi, at least that’s my opinion after going round most of the town. We rested a while, took our showers and headed downstairs to find some food. We ate and then called George who showed up and took us to the office of PACODEP, the organization recognized nationwide for child rescue efforts.
PACODEP was founded by George Achebra and has been the main organization responsible for most if not all the child rescues on the lake. George Junior, the son of George Achebra, is now the project manager. Both Georges are natives of this town and know most of the surrounding Islands on the lake. They speak the krachi language and know the people very well. Most of the villages on the Islands are composed mainly of one tribe each. The natives of Kete Krachi are not fisher folks so most of the fishing and trafficking is done by non natives who live on the numerous Islands. When people migrate from fishing communities down south to the lake, they form a community or a new village on an Island of their choice and name it after their hometowns. There are over 30 ethnic groups in Ghana but the lake is inhabited by tribes that live on the beaches of Ghana.
          Now back to the story. We were warmly welcomed by George and his co-worker whose name I’ve forgotten and asked our mission. It’s customary in Ghana to ask of a visitors’ mission even if you already know it. We stated our mission and we were welcomed once again, tradition.
          George then asked us if we had any questions and Yes indeed we had questions on our minds. I am not able to recollect fully all the questions we asked but I’m sure you have the same questions and I’ll be able to answer them once you ask. We talked about how they go about their rescue operations.
          I am not sure of the steps but here is how they go about their operations. They go out on the lake and find fishermen who have kids fishing with them. They ask questions and try to find out if the child is trafficked or not. Most of the time, the fishermen tell lies but PACODEP officials know these people so well that they are able to get the truth out of the fishermen. They then proceed to tell them of the complications of their actions and their disrespect of the law which could land them in jail (this comes in as a last option ‘cause you don’t want the fisherman running away with the child to another part of this monstrous lake). They then offer help n form of incentives. PACODEP has collaborated with a credit union in Kete Krachi to provide outboard motors, new boats and others to fishermen on credit so they can pay back in installments every month. You need to have a person of high standing or an organization as a guarantor to gain this loan.
          They then find out where the fisherman lives and thus the process of convincing starts. It’s not a one day job, it takes lots of patience to be able to rescue a child. It was quite a lengthy talk and after we ran out of questions, George took us to the village of Hope, a foster home built by touch a life foundation to house rescued trafficked children.
          At the village of Hope, which on the outskirts of the town, we had the privileged of meeting about Thirty-six trafficked children. About twenty four of them were present at the time we arrived. They were having classes under a thatched roof. They were being given the basics of education, English and math so they would be able to adjust when they finally go back to school. We got to interview some of the kids and heard some sad stories. Mothers selling their kids, Children being trafficked at about 3 years of age, multiple trafficking of a single child and so many other sad stories. These kids had developed a close relationship with each other and with their house parents, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan.
          Mr. Morgan and his wife used to be weavers. They were skilled in weaving baskets, chairs, beds and many other stuffs. They were some of the first people the rescued kids learned trades from so when the village was completed, they were called upon to be the parents of these wonderful kids and they happily obliged since they had come to love these kids as their own. They took us round the houses and showed us the rooms in each house. The boys lived in a separate house from the girls. All the beds were laid neatly and the rooms were very clean. It really looked like home and I’m sure that it is home for these kids. After the tour, we sat and watched the kids eat and then hang out with Mr. Morgan to listen to live commentary from the world cup.
          The kids take turns doing the dishes and sweeping the shed area. The cook is a nice woman whose name I’ve also forgotten.
          Well, we started feeling sleepy and so called George who sent someone to pick us up to the hotel. The boat ride was tiring so we had to catch up on some sleep. It was a productive day and George told us he would come pick us up in the morning for the lake Volta tour. We ate and spent the night taking and watching a few soccer matches. I felt bad knowing there were some kids out there sleeping outside on the ground with mosquitoes buzzing around them whiles I was in a big comfy bed with a fan and a TV to watch.  But one thing I know is God is Good.
          Day three started out pretty good after a good night’s sleep. We were still in bed when George Junior came and knocked on our door. I opened the door and he said it was time to go out on our boat tour of the lake. I answered and said we would be ready in 5 minutes and I was actually on time! , First time in a long while. We started wondering if we would need any motion sickness pills on the boat ride as we drove out of the hotel and headed towards the lake side. I was relieved to see a cool looking boat named “AFRICA’S CHILDREN”. This was the same boat George and his team took out for rescue and town talks.
          We met a man on board the boat and there were two young guys who were the drivers/operators of the boat. This man looked well above 50 years of age. He is the chief of one of the villages called Bakpa on one of the Islands. Bakpa is the name of another town down south of the lake. Our tour took us out to the lake and on this ride, we met some fisher folk fishing with little boys rowing and scooping water out of the leaking boats. Almost all the boats were leaking. As we approached one boat, George turned and said, the first question I always ask is whether the children were in school or not and the answer he always got was “yes” which was almost always a lie to get him off their backs. The kids would not talk because if they talked they might reveal something which would put their master in trouble and they would get punished severely by either being lashed or denied food or given even harder chores and duties to do.  
          He indeed asked this question of the man. The answer was yes as expected and that the kids owned the nets and just asked for his help in removing it from the lagoon. The time was around nine in the morning, way past school time for kids. There were two boys in his boat about the ages of 10 and 14. George and the man spoke n a different language so I could only understand as much as I could. But in the end the man insisted on what he said before so we let and continued our tour.
          The next boat had two more kids with an adult. One of the kids wore a shirt only and no pants. This man was from another tribe whose language was mine, ewe. George did not understand so he spoke to the man through twi or the older man in our boat. They told him they wanted the kids in school and they are willing to help him with what he needed if only he’d let the kids go. He said he needed a new boat and an outboard motor and then he’ll have no use of kids anymore. George agreed and told him to come to his office at 9:30 the next morning. As we left this guy and headed towards two other boats, we realized there were kids on the shore to our right who started running away once they saw the boat for fear of disclosing information that might put them in more trouble with their masters.
The two other boats we were headed to were full of kids and when they saw the “AFRICAS CHILDREN”, they quickly paddled to the shore and ran for cover. That action on the part of the kids showed how cruel their masters could be because kids would usually tell the truth if they know it is the right thing to do.
          We then headed to one last boat which had only adult men in it. George clapped for them and congratulated them on their achievement. He knew these men and had always told them to fish alone and let the kids go to school. They had done exactly that. You could actually see the joy in their faces and the pride of being able to say NO to child slavery written on their faces. George was a happy man!.
          Next, we went to the chief’s village and to his house. This chief was a child trafficker himself in the past. He used to have about ten kids in his custody but due to the efforts of PACODEP, he had given up this evil act and returned the kids back to their parents. He took time to explain to us why they did this and how they went about it as well as some of the treatments the children were subjected to as slaves.
          These are some of the things he told us. They would go to their home towns where they are known and would ask around for parents who needed money. They would then go to these parents and tell them of the job opportunity on the lake for the little kids. They would then negotiate a price for the kid as payment for the number of years they agree on. Very young kids are more desirable since they cost less. They take kids from age 3 to 16. Above that, it would be considered as hiring and you would be required to pay more. Kids are more preferred since they offer cheap labor and are much easier to control and feed. The girls are taken for cooking and smoking of the fish the boys brought home.
Almost all of the kids suffer from bilharzias after living on the lake and drinking of its water for a period of time. They suffer regularly from malaria and some even die if they are not treated on time.
The kids are fed gari, a whitish gritty stuff which is made from cassava. This fills you up very easily but its just carbohydrate. They have to wake up at around four or even three in the morning to go and remove the nets they had cast the night before. Get back around 6 or 7 and sit and repair all breaks in the net. They then have to go out and cast the nets again around 11am and go and remove it again in the evening. Repair and cast again at dark and go to bed at around 9 or 10.
Some of their duties are to untangle nets caught on tree branches in the water and this means they have to dive into the deep waters to untangle or remove the net. Ones who fail to do this are beaten badly and forced to go back down the water without even them catching their breath. Some die in the process. Those who refuse to dive are beaten badly.
          We asked questions and he answered all of them until another fisherman showed up. He said he used to have 8 children but is now a volunteer who helps educate other fishermen on the dangers of child slavery.
          After this talk, we headed back and went to the hotel to rest and eat. At about 3 in the evening, we called George and he took us once again to the village of hope where we met the kids again. One of the kids which all the rest referred to as “taller” told us his story. He was sold with his junior brother by his mum to a cocoa farmer where he has been working until government people saw him and rescued him and prosecuted his mother who was still trying to sell her other children. She is now serving time in jail.
          One other boy who was dumb was sold because his family thought he would become of no use to them as a dumb person. One other kid was sold to one fisherman who was introduced to him as an uncle who did business in Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana. He eagerly followed only to be brought o the lake and sold for 300 cedis. His buyer paid 200cedis and the seller has since not returned for the hundred. His new owner sold him again to another man after he had learned to fish, very sad stories.
          Well we quickly got out of the sad mood when Mr. Morgan brought the soccer ball out and we all ran to the field to play on the rock field. I was not my very best since the ground was very rocky and I hurt myself every time I tried to run barefooted just as the kids were doing. My team won over Levi’s with 2 goals to one even though we were on the disadvantaged end, downhill.
We said good bye to the kids and then George took us around the town to see all the major sites. During the trip that day we were always asking where Mangoase and Abutoase were. These were the towns Christian’s family told us he was. Almost no one had a clue but George told us where we could find this town. We told him of our intentions and he said the lake was a very large place to find one little boy.
Well, he took us round the town and back to his office where we got a copy of the Human trafficking act. He also told us we needed to wake up at 5 am if we wanted to catch he bus that would take us to Dambai since we decided to travel by road back so we could look for Christian on our way. He also said to call if we got missing.
          We said our good-byes and retired to our room after eating and then studied the Ghana map closely and tried to draw a plan for the next day. We got into a long talk about evangelism and missions in Africa and the world at large and finally slept at around 11pm. That was after we had set our watches to wake us up at 5am the next day.
          So, we indeed woke up at 5am our phones buzzing to announce the dawn of a new day! Yes, we were excited yet had no expectations of any sort. This was Lake Volta and it is a different world though it looks almost the same as places down south. WE quickly packed our stuff and headed out of the hotel. The manager was up as well and was coming to our door to wake us up because George told him to, nice guy.
          As I was saying, we made it in time but had to sit in the back seat. The seats in most of these buses in Ghana are 5 in each row. I don’t know who introduced this but I suspect drivers changed the number of seats from 4 to 5 just to increase the number of passengers and hence increase the money they make on a trip. The walkway in the middle of the bus was filled with seats that were made in a foldable way so if you had to pass, you would either have to step over it or simply fold it up and walk to your seat. My suspicion arose from the sharp ends of metals sticking out of the attached seats which bring so much misfortune to travelers as some get their cloths torn whiles trying to make it to a seat.
          So this bus ride turned out to be the worse bus ride in the history of Jeremiah and buses. A man and two other ladies were our companions on our row. The two ladies who were travelling together had two kids with them who were about 10 and 12 years of age. They were carried by the two ladies meaning we had seven people in our row. The bus filled up after a while and I expected we were setting off soon but to my surprise, more people were coming on board. From my calculations, this bus was supposed to be carrying about 27 people including the driver but in the end, there were about 35 people in the bus, 4 hanging on the back, and about 6 sitting on the roof. WORSE RIDE EVER!!!
          Well, on the good side, we were off and we patiently yet uncomfortably sat on that bus for about two and a half hours before we reached out destination, Dambai. On the way, I saw amazing sites, beautiful scenery, bad roads, buildings I could break down with my own karate skills and many more. One that caught my attention was a truck that was coming the opposite way. At first sight, it looked normal with people standing in the back looking over the roof but it was after it passed that I realized I had just seen the strongest car n the universe!! All I could see in the back of this car was a sea of black heads! Gosh! I was so surprised I did not realize my mouth was open until the kid next to me started laughing at my amazement. I think it was a normal sight for her and I had been thinking that I had seen the worse of things. No wonder there are news reports of accidents which claim many lives in the middle portion of the country and the funny thing about it was they were all waving at us with smiling faces.
          I overcame my surprise a little while later when we reached our destination. We were so anxious to be out we jumped out through the windows of the car and I even helped my little friend down through the window. There was no town where we were so I was wondering where Dambai was. I looked ahead and saw a town sitting beautifully on the other side of this branch of the Lake. We took another 15 minute boat ride out to this town and missed the net bus by a minute. Now we had to wait till the next bus was full before we could take off.
          It turned out to be a very long wait. We sat on that bus for about 3 hours and yet it would not fill up. This time, they were taking four in each row which was a great relief but we did not take any chances with sitting in the back.
          After more time was wasted everyone started getting tired of waiting so Levi and I decided to pay for the 3 remaining seats so we could set off. We had already wasted so much time. We paid and when we were about to set off, one old man came on board and started checking everyone’s tickets one after the other. This took about 20 minutes of our time. A riot began. A driver’s mate who had no license got into the driver’s seat and tried starting the car. It would not start. They said it was an air lock and they would fix it in no time. People on the bus started demanding that we be given another bus to convey us if this one would break down in the middle of the journey or might not make it climbing the mountains ahead.
          They finally got the air lock fixed after about 5 minutes and afterwards, something happened which let all hell loose.
          The mate who was driving us to a certain part of the town where the real driver would take over made a BIG mistake he would never forget in his life. He ran the bus over a huge rock and this nearly tipped the car over. There was a loud metal scratching noise from the base of the vehicle and everyone got VERY angry! They wanted down now! They managed to get the door open and everyone got down and a fight nearly broke out when some men standing nearby tried condemning our actions saying that we had no reason to alight from the vehicle and that we should get back on. This was after they managed to push the vehicle over the rock and another driver took over. A young man rushed at this guy and nearly punched him in the face, he was lucky this young guy was held back by onlookers.
          Everyone started demanding their money back and they decided to get us a new bus but the problem was the only other bus that could take us was too small and we would all not fit inside it. The station manager finally came and pleaded with the angry passengers to get on board the same vehicle after he had inspected it himself and assigned a qualified and more experience driver to control the bus. Many obliged but not easily and one lady demanded her money back and left for home cancelling her trip for that day.
          So after waiting and rioting for about 4 hours, we were finally on our way to Hohoe. We were to alight in a town called Worawora, I still can’t get the pronunciation right. We reached there after what seemed like a lifetime going through villages and bad roads and a scary mountain climb which would give the bravest man in the world the chills. On the mountain climb, the drivers mate got down and took with him a triangular block of wood which they use to stop the car due to the absence of the hand brake. He ran behind the car to support it if it failed to make the climb. Yikes!  And here we were, on a narrow road overlooking the deepest valley I had ever seen. It was a pitch black view if you tried to see the bottom of this valley. Thanks to Jesus, we made it safely and the people in the bus congratulated the driver on this achievement, Lol!  
          We made it to Worawora and took a taxi with four other people to Abotuase where we tried to see if there was a shorter way of getting to mangoase so we could make up for the time lost in Dambai. Let me take you back a bit!

          Before the trip, Levi and I went to Christians Grandma and uncles to enquire of his whereabouts. We were told that his uncle who lived in mangoase, a village you could only access by boat ride from Abotuase had come and taken him because he was not going to school and was no good in school.(dumb reason) He was helping his uncle fish. We told them of the importance of having Christian at home and why he needed to be in school. We told them we had come to offer help if he needed it and we will be responsible for his basic education if they let us bring him back. They agreed and gave us his uncle’s number and showed us directions to Mangoase. I did not bring up any issue about child trafficking because I did not want them trying to hide for fear of us coming to arrest his uncle and I was not sure if it would be considered trafficking since it was his uncle that took him under the permission of this father who lived far away.
          Back to the story, there were many other Mangoases in the area and we were asked which particular one we were headed to. I gave James, Christians uncle in Keta a call and he confirmed the Mangoase we were looking for. We ……………………. Ouch! Darn mosquito!
          We had to take an hour long ride on the lake to get to Mangoase but the boat which takes that route goes once a day and was already gone. We had to hire a boat and negotiate the price. We had to give tips if the boys were to wait on us while we tried to find Christian. We finally set off around 4pm to Mangoase and we knew then that there was no turning back. I said a silent prayer for safety first since I don’t know how to swim and then another prayer for success on our trip.
During the one hour trip up the lake, I noticed there were more stumps in certain parts of the lake than others. I kept looking round for the closest stump so I could hold on to it if something bad happened. I finally overcame my fear after about 20 minutes on the lake.
          We got to Mangoase safely and met a woman who had finished washing and was about to head home. Everything seemed to be woven together in an intricate pattern but we did not realize this until after we were home at the father’s House. We asked her about Christian’s uncle Gameli Agbenuvor, she responded and said that there were many Gameli’s in that village but showed us to the most likely one we were searching for. This was after she was thoroughly satisfied with our explanation of why we had come. I suspect she was either being inquisitive or just being protective.
          We walked into the town and came to a man’s house. He was just as inquisitive as the lady before and even strangely, called our guides, the boat operators aside and said something to them whiles we stood and waited. He initially told us he knew the person but we had to cross over again to another Island to find him but after talking to our guides he showed them the way and they led us there.
          The village was made up of about four mud houses that were thatched. There was a pen for sheep and goats and as usual, there were fowls everywhere. I cannot possibly describe the looks on the faces of the people in that village when they saw us. The kids about 8 years and below run since they had never seen a white person. They older people including the oldest of the women in the house who we had to speak to due to the absence of the men looked surprised and shocked after we told them we were looking for Gameli and even more so, Christian.
          We were given seats to sit on and we were offered water which we all had to drink from the same cup. It looked dirty but in order not to be disrespectful, I took a sip and passed it on to the guides. The talks began after we had finished exchanging greetings and introducing ourselves. The guides spoke first telling them of how they met us and what we told them was our mission. Tradition demands that if you brought a visitor to someone’s house, you should know what the people wanted (well, its common sense as well). A boy who looked like Christian walked into the compound and looked at us with an expression of shock and surprise and finally smiled at me. I was wondering who it was but he came closer to shake hands and that was when I recognized Christian. He looked different. His tattered clothes were what looked familiar. His complexion had darkened and he had lost weight.

          Talks began earnestly and I had little or no time to explain to Levi what was going on. I felt bad that he did not understand anything we were saying so I would pause a while and give him updates. I was first asked to introduce myself which I did and Levi introduced himself as well. I explained to them our reason for travelling that far to find Christian who is our friend that had been missing from our group of friends. They asked me questions about Tegbi and about some prominent people there just to make sure that I was not a thief or ritualist looking for kids to murder. (there are still people who do that in Ghana) I managed to answer most of their questions. They also asked about people in their house to verify my identity. I think I did well on that side too.
          They then started talk about why we wanted Christian and why his uncle had taken him away to fish on the lake. They said his uncle had gone for a funeral back home when he heard the report that Christian was skipping schoo for no reasons and had been doing poorly in class. That was the only reason they knew why his uncle took him away. We had to wait for his uncle to come and tell us if there was any other reason so they sent for his uncle who had gone with his father, Christian’s grandfather, to cast nets for the evening.
          We waited for over 45 minutes whiles the news of a white man’s arrival in the village spread like wildfire and people passed through the house just to catch a glimpse of the white man and to shake hands with Christian. Many kids gathered around and Christian was the star of the moment. He received all the attention. His grandmother told him to go eat his food and he left. I saw him eat something from a soot covered aluminum bowl with 3 other kids. The women started telling me to ask the white man to come and build a school for them in the village. One of them said something in English and the whole crowd burst into laughter. We did not know what was going on so we just looked on as they laughed at their own jokes.
          Christian’s uncle finally showed up and told Christian to go and take his bath. Encouraging as that was, I knew the real battle was still ahead. The process of welcome started all over again and we went through the motion like it was a movie being repeated except this time Gameli was present. He had agreed to let Christian go but he had to call his brother back home to make sure we were not telling lies. He came back and offered us bottles of sprite and told Christian to pack his bags. Christian left and almost at the same time, his grandfather arrived. That was when the real battle began, just at the time I thought it was all over.
          We went through the boring process of exchanging greetings and once again for the fifth time stating our mission. He continued and asked me about people back home but this time, he asked for specific people and I knew about one third of all he mentioned. His grandfather welcomed us and he was smiling which made me believe he was going to let Christian go. It was getting late and our guides were getting impatient. He told me all the reasons he could think of why Christian was taken away all the time referring to himself as the one who took him away. He told me he could not let Christian go. Big Shock! Levi, who was trying hard to read the expressions on my face finally broke in and asked what was going on. I explained in, if I remember correctly, two short sentences. I was running out of time. If I kept quiet for a little bit, it might be considered as defeat so I explained to him the kind of relationship I’ve had with Christian and told him of the importance of Christian being in school.
          I did not want to bring in any issue of child trafficking since it might be misunderstood as arrogance and would spoil our already slim chance of going back home with Christian. I told him of the meeting we had back in Tegbi concerning Christian and the conclusion we had come to which was to bring him back if we would help support him. He finally gave in but said he would rather have Christian’s aunt bring him the next day.
          I expressed my disappointment with his decision and just when I was about to give in, I said something that I totally wasn’t thinking about at the moment. I said to him that just as a shepherd would go looking for a single missing sheep, so had we come to look for Christian who was one of our own. It did not make any sense then but it sure does now. That was the statement that broke the camels’ back. HOORRAAY! God had done it. We can leave with Christian but not before we write our addresses and phone numbers down on a sheet of paper. We did this gladly. Christian’s grandfather then asked if we were not going to leave anything behind for him, that was his own way of asking for money. I told him yes but he had to see us off to get it. He laughed and I then asked those present if there was anything they would like to tell everyone back home. They said yes and I took a video coverage which I later on showed to the family back at Tegbi.
          We left and reach Abotuase at around 7:30 pm. The guides were happy with the tips so they took us to a place we could eat and even lodge if we wanted a place for the night. They also told us of the midnight bus which reaches Accra in the morning. We opted for the latter. We ate our first meal of the day and went to the roadside to wait on this bus. We spent the next four hours just enjoying our success and thanking God for a successful day. We had not taken a bath the whole day. It was humid and warm……………………………….
          The bus finally came and we bought tickets and boarded. We reached Accra at 6am. The bus was going crazy fast since it was dark and there were no other cars on the road. I could hardly sleep. We found a car to Keta and left about 30 minutes later. When we reached Tegbi, Paul came to pick us up. The news of Christians arrival spread even faster in the town that up on the lake. The kids rushed to the father’s house in their school uniforms just to catch a glimpse of Christian. Many people came days after we arrived to ask if we really went up there to find him and how we did it. I told them it was God and that I could swim across the ocean if I could just to rescue one of the kids (this is absolutely true except I can’t swim). I took Christian back home and finally had the chance to take good shower after we had taken a trip to the market.
          Some women took me aside in the market and asked what was happening to me because I had lost so much weight on that trip. I told them I was missing my mom’s akple!


- By: Jeremiah Banini. 19 years old. Ghanaian. Compassionate. Relentless. Courageous. Child of God. Disciple. Author.

Below is a short video with highlights from their trip:

June 27, 2010

-39, -23, -10, +11, +21

Thinking about the numbers today.

39 days ago 11 year old Christian was taken from The Father's House in Ghana.  His 'uncle' came to take him and put him to work on the lake. 
This is what his day may look like:

23 days ago the Garretts and the Millers met with Pam & Randy Cope, founders of the Touch A Life Foundation.  The Father's House commited to adopting 8 boys, aged 5-7 this September.  These will be the first children living full time at Father's Hosue.  We will be responsible for their care and livelihood until they are grown and educated,  to make it on their own.

10 days ago 19 year old Ghanian Jeremiah Banini set off toward Lake Volta to witness the child slavery first hand.  With God's wisdom and protection and provision he found Christian.  Out of hundreds of children on the huge lake.  He. Found. Christian.  And he brought him back to Father's House to go back to school! (I hope to share Jeremiah's first-hand account of this soon, stay tuned!)

11 days from now I'll be in Ghana, meeting a 19 year old that traveled for hours upon hours in less than desirable conditions to rescue one lost friend.  A 19 year old that stood in the authority of his Creator and returned God's child to the life he was meant to have.  I'll be meeting an 11 year old boy that was taken from his safe place, his refuge. An 11 year old that knew God's voice when He said someone would come for him.  An 11 year old that is able to run free and play football with his friends again. 

21 days from now I'll be back on US soil.  Planning our next trip to Africa.

June 26, 2010

Dresses and Ruffles and Skirts... OH MY!

Yea, it's true.  I used to run from dresses and ruffles and skirts just like the famous trio ran from lions and tigers and bears.  USED to.  It is so.  I've turned a corner in my life.  I. Like. Dresses.  and skirts.  Scary huh?  Those of you that know me at all, know that seeing me in a dress means I'm headed to a wedding, but not so anymore. 
You see,  in Ghana women usually wear skits/dresses.  Not shorts.  And since it's 128,798 degrees there, I started hunting for some skirts for my trip.  Now, I wouldn't be shunned if I wore shorts there, it's just that it's a little more culturally acceptable to wear skirts/dresses... plus it's more comfortable.  Let's just say it's Mother Nature's way of giving us girls a little more... um.. air flow.. on the extra hot, humid days. 
So the first dresses I bought from the LOFT on clearance for $20 I fell in love with.  I love the LOFT, just so ya know - so that helped.  But these dresses were different.  They are soft, flow-y, cotton, comfortable!  It's crazy - I could actually be comfortable in a dress.  Not self-conscious.  Not restricted.  So then I was on a mission to find more dresses/skirts for Ghana... but I have a confession. I've been wearing them already.  Um. Almost every day.  They're just so comfortable!  To date, I've got 2 dresses and 3 skirts for Ghana.. and 1 dress just for here in the US... just because. :) 
So there you have it.  I've converted.  I. Like. Dresses.  And skirts. 

June 23, 2010

it's here!

SUMMER!  I really like LOVE summer!  It's HOT, hot, HOT... like 98* with 90% humidity - no exageration!  But that's okay, I stole borrowed my best friend's kid so I could buy a baby pool.

I We have lots of fun cooling off and getting a tan at the same time!  Don't worry, he's sunscreened... he's also part Puerto Rican. :)
And pretty darn cute, if you ask me!  I won't be lounging in the baby pool all summer though... I'm headed to Ghana, West Africa in only 2 weeks!  I'm so excited to bring God's love to the little orphans in Ghana at The Father's House!  
But for now I share God's love with my friends and their babies. At the baby pool, and at the splash pad.  Good times!

June 15, 2010

Branching Out

So I'm branching out in my efforts to raise funds for my trip to Ghana in only a few short weeks!  When my cousin asked me for some prints of trees...

I realized I hadn't posted on my blog how I'm selling PRINTS to raise money!  That's right - I've got TONS of prints... right HERE that are up for sale!  ALL proceeds go toward my Ghana trip, buying candy and toys for the orphans I'm going to be loving on over at The Father's House.  So here are a couple more photos to whet your appetite... then you can head on over to this LINK and pick out the ones you want!
Oh, and don't worry, there's more than just trees!  Hundreds to choose from!  Here are just a couple:

June 14, 2010

Mckmama- Not Me Monday

Feeling guilty for taking a two hour nap in the middle of day?  Embarrased  by the inch of dust laying on your dresser?  Confess it all here in the Not Me Monday community created by MckMama!

I most definitely didn't choose to close the doors and ignore the two rooms we had houseguests in for a month!  And even if I did do that, it wouldn't have stayed like that for two weeks after they left.   I'm a great housekeeper, I always have a tidy, clean, put together home and would NOT simply close the door on the cleaning project... and not for two weeks! 

I would never get into an argument with my husband.  Especially not over mulch in our front yard.  That's ridiculous.  And I would certainly not kiss and make up with him 7 hours later. 

I would not admit to the stripe of sweat discovered on my camisole under my dress on a hot summer day.  I wouldn't ever lift up the edge of my skirt in the car to get the AC flowing either.  That's not lady-like at all, and I'm too classy for that.

I most certainly would not take a 2.5 hour nap on a Sunday afternoon.  Wake up to a thunderstorm and then fall back asleep until 6:00pm.  That's crazy.  A waste of time.  I could be doing something and I would never waste my day away like that.

I would not drive 25mph in a 45mph zone just to save the 30" dragonfly cake I created that was in the back seat.  I wouldn't leave the AC on MAX just in hopes of it not melting before we got to the party.  I'm more reasonable than that!

June 13, 2010

Waking Up Twice

I had a dream last night about Ghana.  It was weird.  Up until this dream or this part of the dream, I was dreaming, but it was normal dreams, nothing extremely weird or out of the ordinary.  The whole night I was dreaming my husband was with me in them.  And then this part happened:
We were in a dark building of some sort, sitting at a bar-height table and someone was sketching our portrait.  We didn't want her to be doing it but she said she had to before we could leave, through the double doors that were right in front of us.  So we waited for her to finish, left the sketch on the table and walked out the door into the sunlight, and into a parking lot, not huge, with thick trees surrounding it.  I realized I didn't have my shoes on so I went back in and grabbed my flip flops and we walked back out.  To the left there were cars parked.  To the right was a lake with a few people scattered around the edge here and there.  It was Lake Volta. (Okay, so I don't know if it really was Lake Volta, because I've never been there, but that's what it was in my dream.)  We walked across the parking lot, hand in hand, about 15 yards until we reached the grass.  The lake, at this part, was shaped kind of like a speech bubble in a comic.  To the left was a narrow area, where you could easily see across, and probably hop across the grassy area into the forrested area.  There wasn't a 'beach' at this lake.  It was just grassy up until the lake.  As we moved farther to the right the lake opened up and got really big, to where you almost couldn't see the other side.  You still could see the treeline though.  At this point the grass gave way to lots of rocks and pebbles before colliding with the lake.
The lake was really still, and very dark.  Almost black.  The minute we stepped off of the parking lot and onto the grass surrounding the lake I felt a very heavy feeling on my spirit and heart.  A very oppressive feeling.  We walked until we were away from a couple of the families (who were white, which I find interesting... )  We found a metal bench near the edge of the grass, where the rocky part started and sat down.  I was sitting perched on the edge of the bench between my husband's legs and he had his hands on my hips.  I turned a little so I could see him and asked, "Do you feel that?"  He said, "Yea, that weird, heavy feeling on your spirit?  I got that too."  "Yea," I replied, "it's weird."  Then he asked, "So how can I pray with you before you leave?"  I replied, "Pray for the lake, and for healing in my back."  (I've been having issues with my back lately, in real-life.  I used to go to a chiropractor about a year ago, but I had to stop going due to finances and ever since I can feel my back getting less and less aligned - anyway..)  So he started praying, first for my back and then for .... I don't know what because he was praying in tongues!!  The emotion and the peace that overcame me in the dream were unbelievable.  In fact - it's what made me wake up, but it's like I wasn't really awake, I was in-between.. but then I woke up a second time, and I was really awake, lying in bed absorbing all that I had just dreamed about.  Why?  Because I've never been to Lake Volta.  Because when I do go, my husband won't be there.  Because I was there, at the lake, but Bill was asking me how to pray 'before I leave.'  Because of the feeling that overcame me when he started praying- I could still feel it when I woke up.  And because, mostly, my husband doesn't speak in tongues.  

June 10, 2010

It's a BOY! (well, boyS!!!)

That's right - BOYS!!  I'm so excited to annouce that the Father's House is going to be accepting eight, 5-8yr old boys this fall!  These boys have been rescued from a life of slavery on Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world.
Here's a day in the life of a child slave on the lake:
Get up before the sun comes up, eat a meal of mush (if they're lucky).  Put the boat in the water climb in and paddle away.  The younger ones - 4 or 5 years old - are responsible for keeping the leaking boat from sinking.  They get to spend their 10-hour day scooping water from the bottom of the boat.  The older boys get tossed into the black waters of Lake Volta and made to go into the deep darkness and search for the tree branches the fishing net is stuck on and hope they can untangle it before they drown.  If they can't and they resurface without fixing the snare, they face a beating.  If they don't have enough breath to do it, or if they meet a crocodile or eel, the master has tied a rope around their waste so he can hoist the body out of the water.  It's not only boys.  There are girls too.  Girls that are forced to do things that little girls shouldn't have to do.  At the end of their 8-10 hour day the children go home and sleep outside.  On the dirt.  With the scorpions and other creepy-crawlies that call Africa home.
These precious children, starting at age 4 and going all the way up to their teenage years, know no other life.  Their parents have probably sold them for about $20 because they couldn't keep food on the table.  The masters will beat the children into submission to get them to do work that shouldn't be forced upon children that should be in preschool or kindergarten.

But, with the help of George (seen in the video from and older post below) some of these children can see a light at the end of their very dark tunnel.  George has been rescuing these kids and, with the help of the Touch A Life Foundation, and many others, has been sending them to orphanages.  The only trouble is - they're running out of room.  They continue to rescue kids, but they are running out of places to house them.  The Touch A Life Foundation alone has rescued 300 slaves with the help of George, and this fall, The Father's House will become a new haven for these precious kids.  We're starting small, with only 8 kids for now.  These will be the first kids that Father's House supports full-time.  We will be looking for sponsors for the kids and workers for the orphanage as well.  Once we get in the groove of taking care of these boys, we'll be able to take some more!
How exciting is it to be impacting the Kingdom like this?!  Sharing God's unending love and, in turn, teaching the kids to share the love as well.  What. An. Amazing. Calling.  And I'm SO excited to be a part of it all.
A few months ago I was feeling very unsatisfied with my ordinary life, and now I'm really feeling 'full'.  Full with God's love, His purpose and His calling on my life.  I am living this Scripture that I read the other day.  I can't get it out of my head: There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3-5 MSG)

I'm SO excited to see what God will do NEXT!!!!

June 08, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

WARNING: May contain unclear thoughts, incomplete sentences and random ramblings.  Not suitable for perfectionists or those wanting to know all the answers. :)

Here's what's been on my mind lately.
Is school over yet?  Just a few more days.  I can do it.  My kids are behaving at least.  Why am I having to repeat rules that have been in place since 177 days ago?  I'm SO ready for school to be done.  I wish I had a pool, or knew someone with a pool.  The weather has been perfect for the pool.  Or better yet, the beach. Ugh.  At least at the beach only strangers see my bathing suit body.  Ick.  Only 2 hours till I can leave here.  I can do that.  What's 2 hours.  That's nothin.  Especially in God's timing.  God is so amazing.  I'm so excited to build his Kingdom and share his love with the little Africa kids.  DIdn't know I needed a visa.  I need to get on that.  We're leaving exactly one month from today!  WOA!  JUST realized that.  WOW.  How awesome is that.  Man, I need to get packing!  Yes, really, I do.  I'm THAT anal.  Yes, I have a spreadsheet on what I need to pack.  I need to buy some big huge bags.  Maybe I've got some in my classroom.  I need to remember to check on that.  Someone asked me if I have a mosquito net.  Didn't think of that.  Don't know WHY I didn't think of that.  Got my meds yesterday.  TGFI - no that's not mixed up - Thank God for Insurance. Except for when insurance didn't cover all my vaccines.  poop on them.  Man I'm hot.  Wore jeans today because my classroom is the arctic tundra.  Not so with the outside conditions - whew.  Now I'm really wishing I had a pool to jump into after school today. 
Ugh. My brain is dead.  Wish I could write more but I just can't focus.  I'm gonna go blog hopping.  Ciao.