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Providing a quality of life and education to the rural areas of Ghana

My tremendous trip to Ghana! By Sarah Warren

I think for all of us it was life changing. The trip challenged our priorities in life, our faith and our walk with God.


It was an enormous cultural shock too. The overwhelming amount of needs of the Ghanian people was confronting us from the moment we arrived. There were little children aged only about 3 or 4 years old hanging out together in the streets, there was the crazy erratic driving on the roads and the intense heat and humidity. Despite all this, the Ghanaian people are so friendly and very welcoming towards us. We felt safe and very much part of the community

The time spent in the orphanage was fabulous! It was such an honor to be able to help, play and share in the lives of the children. The reality for many orphaned children in Ghana is that they have nowhere to live, no home or family. But the beautiful situation here at Countryside Children's Home at Bawjias, was that when the children turn 18, they can continue to stay at the orphanage 

because for many children this is the only home and family they have. They see the rest of the children as their family, their brothers and sisters.
While we were there it was the Christmas holidays and the older children were home for a few weeks. It was lovely to witness how the older cared for the younger ones. Even some of the young children were carrying little babies on their backs!

The Ghanaian people could not do enough for us, always wanting to serve us and make is feel welcome and comfortable. This was lovely but it was also awkward for us. We had traveled to Ghana with the intension of serving and helping them, not the other way around.

The highlight of the trip was meeting and spending the week with our sponsor child 'Charity'. We have been sponsoring her for about 12 years. She is now 23 years old and doing her Ghanaian 'national service' for a year. Charity is also studying marketing and purchasing at college. After all these years of sponsoring her, to finally meet her was very emotional for everyone. She is a beautiful Christian young woman, who was so sweet, quiet, humble and gentle. A characteristic that stood out to me was that she was a devoted strong prayer warrior! She prayed with bold confidence and trust, in her Heavenly Father, to answer her prayers, supply her needs and provide for the children in the orphanage. In western societies we have an abundance of food and materialism, to the point that much of humanity has no need to seek God or to depend on His provision. God has been crowded out of our busy lives, pushed to the bottom of the pile.  The trip certainly gave me a 'wake up call' for the need to seek and believe daily for God's provision, guidance, presence and love as well as an expectancy to see answers to prayer.

The orphanage is situated in the countryside, about 2 hours north of Accra, which is the capital. There are approximately 150 children in the orphanage, ranging from a few months old to late teens. Many of the older teens had chosen further their studies at college or university and live-in on campus. An older couple, called Joe or 'The Captian' and 'Auntie Emma', manage the orphanage. the Captain is nearly blind and had an extraordinary testimony. 

The Children end up living here due to many different reasons. Many of their stories are incredibly sad. During their lifetime many of the children have experienced injustice and rejection that most of us will never have to endure within our lifetime. But they have been rescued and provided with a place of safety,  family and a place to belong. What fascinated me was the children were placed in groups where the younger children were overseen by the older ones. You would see the little babies or young toddlers being wrapped in a piece of material and carried on the backs of the children that were only 6 or 7 themselves. Everyone was looking out and caring for each other. There was a unity and a bond among them that was so evident and strong but very rare in our western culture. Miles built a special bond with a little boy called Jojo. He would climb all over Miles and want him to give him a ride on his shoulders every time we saw him!

The orphanage was spread out across a large area. There were several brick buildings where the children lived and an open area for worship and gatherings.


The 3 schoolrooms were for the younger children, grades 1-3.The older children have a 2-hour walk to school, starting out at 5am then returning in the afternoon. The classrooms are very basic, with open spaces for the windows to allow the air to cool the classrooms, bare walls, uneven concrete floor, wooden tables and chairs and a black board in each classroom. The children appeared very keen to learn and attend school. Education appears to be extremely important to the Ghanaian people.

The day at the orphanage starts early just after sunrise with morning devotions. Groups of children would get up early to meet and pray for the day ahead. This would be a time of praise and worship, seeking God's provision for food and supplies, plus His blessing on the day ahead. In the morning the rainwater, was collected in water tanks and the children could be seen taking buckets of water, to wash themselves outside the dormitories. Sometimes they would help each other by scrubbing one another's back's! The washing of 

their clothes was done by hand. You could see the clean clothes scattered around the grounds of the orphanage on the tops of the bushes left in the sun to dry. The children looked healthy, smiling, well dressed and clean. There were only a few children who appeared to be sick.

One little girl aged about 7 or 8 years old was in a wheelchair. Her little friend who was of similar age was always with her, by her side, ready to push her wheelchair. I never saw them apart from one another.

In the evenings the children would meet under the stars to pray against any witchcraft or curses and thanked God for all the food and supplies for that day. It was amazing to see them all dancing, singing and clapping to the Lord!! The children from the youngest toddlers to the older children all had a natural ability to dance and had amazing rhythm!! I loved the way there was always praise and worship happening somewhere at the orphanage. Our faith was built up so much by witnessing the complete trust and faith these children had in God, to provide their daily needs.

There were three Ghanaian ladies who would help prepare the food in large earthenware pots, outside on afire. At the same time they would have one of the orphaned babies strapped to their backs. At meal times the children would take it in turns to go up and get a bowl of food. The youngest children possibly aged two or three tears old, could be seen walking around sucking from a plastic bag with a hole in one corner. This would be filled with a thick liquid made from either soft-boiled rice, or beans or pulses.


We had our meals at the orphanage each day, which were delicious! We had beans/pulses in a stew, fried chicken and goat, plantains (large green bananas deep fried) we drank bottled water but it appeared that the children only drank bottled water too.


We were staying near the orphanage in the village guesthouse, which was just a short ten-minute walk away. The guesthouse was very basic but exceptionally cheap. In the bathroom we had a bucket of water with a ladle to wash with for the week. There were no showers, no flushing toilets just a bucket of water to pour into the toilet to flush it! Plus, no working locks on the doors! The beds had a fitted sheet on the mattress but no top sheets! The biggest blessing in the rooms were the fans!! Yet despite the spartan conditions we were very comfortable. None of this seemed to matter, we loved and embraced the cultural differences and grew to feel very at home in our little guesthouse.

 

During our stay we were kindly taken out by van to the villages by Pastor Tetteh, his wife Christine and a lady called Gifty, George Rockson's mother. We were collected early in the morning and took the 2 hour journey out to the villages. The journey was fascinating. Just as the sun began to rise and the new day dawned, we passed through lots of small villages where the villagers were preparing for the day. Market stalls were being erected, people tried to sell us their goods every time the car stopped at a junction or we were stuck in traffic (which was a lot!).

The only animals we saw were the dogs darting between the traffic, goats foraging for food at the roadside and the odd herds of cattle in the countryside with the shepherds. The orphanage have a herd of cattle that are protected by a shepherd 24 hours a day. We went to the farm to see the crops and we met their shepherd. He lives on the land in a small mud hut with his 3 dogs. It appeared to be quite a lonely existence.

He had a small cattle holding pen made of wood where the cattle were kept at night for safety. The orphanage lost quite a few head of cattle to rustlers before they had a shepherd. As we continued on the journey to the villages the roads became just dirt with massive holes. When it is the rainy season, some of the roads are nearly impossible to travel on. You could see the ruts carved out in the dirt roads, by the heavy rains and the torrents of water that make some of the roads impassable.

Miles, Abigail and Charity were traveling on the back trailer of the van. Each time we passed through a village the people would look up to see who we were. As soon as they saw that some of us were white they would shout"oburoni", which means 'white man'. Before long lots of children would start appearing and chasing the van smiling, waving and shouting "oburoni....oburoni"!! it was a lovely sight. We soon learnt the Ghanaian for 'black man' 'banyin tuntum' and shouted this back. They thought this was very funny and we all laughed so much! miles took this photo from the back of the van!

The first village (Aquash) we arrived in was very remote, surrounded by coco plantations. The mud huts of the villagers were positioned in clumps. Here Pastor Tetteh had built a community house and a large church that is used as a school too. He felt the Lord wanted him to build churches in the villages as many pastors only church plant in the city, as that is where the money is. Here in the villages the villagers don't have much money but God is providing in an amazing way. His vision is for this house to be used bt the whole village. When we arrived the caretaker came and helped unload the van of supplies for the day ahead. We had to bring everything that we needed for the day, including water. The caretaker, his wife and 4 children live in a small outbuilding with an open kitchen area outside. Their youngest child was possibly only 12 months old.
Every time he saw us he screamed and clung to his mother. Apparently he had never seen a white person and was terrified of us.

This is the community house


Jordan decided to teach the children who had gathered at the community house how to play 'Tiggy or catch'. Well.... he tried very hard despite the language difference to explain the rule and demonstrate how the game worked! But eventually I think he managed to have all the children running around chasing him and playing! At first the children were dressed in their dirty play clothes, but as soon as Sunday school was about to start they ran home and reappeared in their smart Sunday best! Miles and Jordan helped Gifty and Christine to take the Sunday School. We had brought stickers and small gifts for the children, which the children were thrilled with. We had a wonderful breakfast and lunch, prepared for all of us.

About 10 minutes before the service was about to start, I asked the pastor what he was preaching on and he replied that we were the ones preaching today!! So Julian and I had 5  minutes to pray and think about what we could share!

The church was a large open sided building with rows of seats. The women sat on one side, in their beautiful African coloured dresses and headbands. The men sat on the opposite side. There were African drums at the front and 4 men sitting on the front stage area. Julian and I were ushered to sit at the front on the stage. The worship was awesome, even though we could not understand the words. The rhythm was incredible, then the dancing started and the women began dancing around the room!! We tried to join in but we lacked the rhythm!

Gifty translated our message for the villagers who all seemed to speak the local language, her ability to translate for us was wonderful. The service lasted for about one and a half hours.

Before long we had to pile into the van again to travel to another village further north. This time the roads were rougher still and extremely dusty. The second village (Asarekwaa) was smaller, with lots of tiny mud huts. Outside each hut were large flat raised platforms where the coco beans were left out in the sun to dry. There was a woman who was standing and running her hands through the beans and turning them. Just to the right were the coco plantations, with the trees laden with golden, yellow coco pods. One of the villagers took a coco pod and cut it in half. Inside was a sticky white substance, which covered the beans. Jordan tried some and was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted.

The church building here was still not completed. There was a school classroom on one end and the church on the other. By the time we arrived the service had already began. Both Julian and I shared with the congregation again and Gifty translated. Half way through Julian pointed out that the person, who was taking the service here, was in fact the caretaker of the other village community house!! The only difference was that he now had a suit and tie on, despite the extreme heat!! There were more children in this service so we had to stretch out our supply of gifts and stickers that were gratefully received with much excitement. We met and prayed with the villagers before heading back to the first village again. When we arrived at the house we found lots of children packed into the front lounge room, some hanging through the windows and doors. There was not an inch of space on the floor. They were all watching the small television!! I think this must have been the highlight of the week for them and perhaps the only television in the village. 

On the long journey home to the orphanage we did not get back until very late that night and everyone was exhausted. I recall falling asleep in the back of the van to the sound of Abigail singing! She has a wonderful voice.


Pastor Tetteh, Christine and Gifty are amazingly dedicated people. They take this long trip every 2 weeks, setting off at 4am from Accra, to head out to the villages to bring the Gospel. Please pray that God will bring in new young workers to assist in the vision. For funds to be provided, so that the ministry in the villages can increase, where it is so desperately needed.

Pastor Tetteh and his family invited us all to come and stay with him at his home in Accra. They were very hospitable to us all. They provided marvelous meals for us. Sometimes we did not know what we were eating but that didn't matter!! He had two lovely daughters who looked after us. Pastor Tetteh owned mechanic repair garages for vehicles. Some of his employees appeared to be living with him at his home. He had taken them under his wing and was supporting them. Unfortunately we did not see much of Christine, as she worked at the garages running the administration.

Pastor Tetteh and Christine's daughters

We had the use of a driver and a car, which was a blessing. So we did some exploring around Accra. We were just glad that we were not driving! Every time we traveled in Ghana, they would pray for protecting before we departed and thank Gad when we arrived safely.

When it came to the time for us to say "goodbye" at the orphanage, we were sitting near 'The Captain and Auntie Emma'. The children gathered around us all, Charity and Abigail were there too. The Children began to sing a beautiful song to us, a song saying "We are the children of the orphanage, we are happy to see you, may you be happy too, we love you, we remember you your serving, your caring, your loving shown to us, we are happy to see you here again, may you be happy too, we are the children from the orphanage, Amen". It was such a special time, a time of dancing, clapping, crying tears of joy together for the friendships we had made, the bonds that had been formed. We know with God's provision we will back again one day.

We want to thank everyone who made the trip possible: Firstly, to God for His leading and provision. To Charity; for being the beautiful woman of God that she is and sharing her life with us. For taking the time to look after us, and making us feel so very welcome. To Abigail; for her wonderful singing and laughter that brought joy to the trip! To George and Sally Bainborough, in the UK; for all their assistance in setting up the contacts. To George Rockson; for organizing the whole trip while we were in Ghana. To the Bawjias Orphanage, for welcoming us and allowing us the privilege to be part of their family. To Pastor Tetteh, Christine and the girls, for being amazing hosts. For the various drivers, who drove us around each day, "thank you".

We Hope as you have read our families experiences of this amazing you will get a glimpse of the life in Ghana, the people, their needs and the awesome provision of God.


May I encourage you, that if you are considering or wanting to go to visit, that as you step out in faith, God will provide. He will open your hearts and your eyes to another country that needs your prayers, your love and your support.


We saw how over the years, by sponsoring Charity and praying for her, how it has impacted and made a difference in her life. This made us all realize that we can make a difference in the lives of those who need support. Lives can be changed.


Sometimes the amount of poverty in the world can be overwhelming but by taking one life at a time it is possible to make a difference.


This trip will be a memory that will stay with us forever!


For more information on the orphanage please see www.seewaytrust.org