July 26, 2010

Africa, Day 7, Part 1


Our last full day in Keta.  I didn't want to face it at first, but figured I may as well get what I can out of it. 
The day started with a walk down to the slave fort with Jake & Jeremiah.  Of the 48 slave forts in Africa, 44 of them are in Ghana.  This one was about a 'block' away from where we were staying, right on the water.  It actually used to be much larger, but when the ocean came up it took a lot of it away.
The door to enter the slave fort showed so clearly the years of wear and paint it had endured.  The walls were fortified with oyster shells for strength.  When they built the fort they knew what they were doing and used their resources wisely.
The focal-point in this photo shows the 'ditch' that ran through the entire fort.  It is about 2 inches deep, 4 inches wide and it was the slaves' drinking water.  Water (among other things) flowed through that ditch and they had to bend over to get a drink.  The foreground shows the shackles the slaves were chained to.
I love that Jake didn't know I was taking his photo in the next image, his expression says it all.
A few years ago the carcass of a blue whale washed ashore on the property of the slave fort.  The remains of the spine are still there today, some of the cartilage can still be seen between some of the bones.
This is common practice in Ghana for keeping people in (or out of) property. 
Those are broken pieces of glass cast into the concrete, if you can't tell.
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After touring the slave fort we went back home and hung out on the top of the stairs for a little while.  The power was out in the house (and had been since breakfast) and there was a nice breeze outside so we just chatted while we waited for Matt, Sabi & Eli to return from the market.  Once they got back Sabi & the girls got started on lunch - we'll call them "Virgil Kabobs".   They were very good.
With our bellies full of Virgil, green peppers and of course atoto, we headed out to the mayor's property to see about getting some mango trees to plant on the Father's House property.
When we got there, Jake, Jeremiah & I went out to the beach and stood staring at the 6 foot waves crashing onto the sand.  We were all speechless, just standing there next to each other staring at the power of the waves breaking.
After a minute or two Jake went back to looking for shells.  But Jeremiah & I couldn't help but be transfixed on the waves.  We talked about how amazing and powerful they are and how it represents God's amazing power and majesty.  Eventually Jeremiah & I went to help Jake look for shells until Matt & David called us back to enjoy some coconut.
 After we were done at the mayor's we went to The Father's House... for the last time.  We prayed upstairs when we got there, and I about fell apart thinking about it being our last time there.  It was all I could do to not let the tears come.  We walked downstairs and I put my camera in the car then we sat on some benches to worship with the kids that were around.  We played our Ewe song first.  Almost all the kids joined in on it and it was very cute to hear them singing it.  Christian, Mary, Julie, Precious and a couple others were there singing right along.  That's when this little girl walked over and joined us on the bench.
 She walked up to us with that devastated look on her face, and sat next to Matt on the bench.  Matt & I looked at each other quizzically, as if asking each other, "What's wrong with her?" because she looked so, so sad.  Matt put his arm around her and gave her a hug and told her Jesus loved her and that she was beautiful, but we're not sure how much she understood.  Then she just looked back at me with that pitifully sad face again.  I got an idea (from God, I'm sure) to go get my camera out of the car.  You see, I always had my camera on me, every day.  But since today was the last day, I deliberately left it in the car so I could soak in every last moment we had at TFH.  But I really felt prompted to get it out of the car, so I got it, sat back down and the girl looked at me, just like she had before, with that sad look.  So I snapped her picture, then turned my camera around to show her the image on the LCD screen.  She shied away at first, but when I said, "Look, it's you," she turned back around and looked.  And this was what I saw:
And this is how she looked the rest of the night.  My heart sank to the bottom of my chest. It was our last night at The Father's House and I had deliberately left my camera in the car so I could be 'in the moment' as much as possible, but what God wanted, I believe, was to show me the impact I had on these kids.  All week I had been questioning how much I had 'done' for these children because I spent so much of my time taking photos.  But through this God showed me, loud and clear, what I had done, and I will never, ever forget this moment.  This is Julie, and God used her to speak to me tonight.
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I put my camera back in the car and came back to the benches with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes.  We sang another Ewe song before taking a break to attempt pumping up a soccer ball for the older kids that were there.  When that failed (because the needle broke on the pump) Jake & I decided to hand out some of our silly bands to the smaller kids.  We'd been wearing them ourselves on & off throughout the week to hand out to kids when we saw the opportunity and this was a great time for it.  The kids absolutely loved it!  They started playing a 'game' with Jeremiah - he'd ball them all up and twist them around and the kids would race each other to see who could 'untangle' it first to see what the shape was.  They had a lot of fun with it. 

We transitioned into "How He Loves" and we all knew it would be our last song.  It had only been a few minutes (or so it seemed) since we arrived on the property, but now it was time to say our final good-byes.  After the first verse I was just about to start crying, but I held it in through the repeat of the first verse. 

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree
Bending beneath 
The weight of His wind and mercy
Then all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are and
How great Your affections are for me

Then the chorus came and so did my emotions... and so did the voice of little Christian.  The boy Jeremiah & Levi rescued weeks ago from working on Lake Volta.  The boy who said: "God told me someone would come."  This boy was now ripping down any walls I had up and the tears came flowing as he sang:

He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves

We finished out the song and I don't think there was a dry eye in the group.

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking

Then Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about
The way...

That He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves

Our time at the Father's House was plentiful, but it seemed so short.  I have etched in my mind forever some of the beautiful faces of those kids.  I will never forget when the four of us prayed and came together as family for the first time in that upstairs bedroom, with a gecko watching us from the wall.  I will always remember our times of worship on the boat.  Sometimes just us, and sometimes with the kids joining in, but always with the presence of God overwhelming us.