Saturday, March 19, 2011

Home From Ghana

We’re back. I have so many stories to share. This was the most productive trip we could have ever asked for. I must say that God perfectly orchestrated our group…each of us played completely different roles on this trip, yet God wove all of our gifts and talents together into one purpose. Jake, Doug, and Chris have worked SO HARD to assess the needs of the village of Asikuma and have researched every possible ‘how to’ that we need to know moving forward. These 3 are the masterminds behind implementing what will be Phase I of our projects for Asikuma come August. Day after day they would assess our budget, planned out drawings for construction, looked into getting materials and tools, facilitated meetings with key people, and formed plans that will allow us to come alongside the village of Asikuma and teach them….not just do everything for them. Their saying for our trip became ‘We want to teach them how to fish, not fish for them.’

Doug’s wife Dawn is practically superwoman. Wherever there was a need, she would jump in, roll up her sleeves, and get to action. Dawn has implemented a screening process for the Kingdom Hoops Ghana hosting program, and in every spare minute she was tutoring the players with educational preparations they will need in order to pass entry exams for high school, meeting with parents and relatives of the players, and teaching the players about what their Embassy appointments will entail. She has completely organized our hosting program, and we are so grateful for all her hard work. Dawn also was responsible for planning out our entire trip itinerary before-hand, and each part of our days went smoothly because of it. It was by her work that we were able to fit so many things into our very tight schedule, and God has really used her personality to keep us on track as a whole…which allowed us all to spend more time ‘out in the field’ so to say. I just can't say enough about her being the backbone for our success on this trip.

Doug and Dawn’s children Emma, Grace, & J.D. worked so hard at creating relationships with the children of Asikuma. We were constantly in very overwhelming situations with literally hundreds of kids surrounding us at all times….but Emma, Grace, & J.D. were always in the middle of it with a smile and open arms - ready to play, hold children, teach games, and hand out donations.

Katlyn, a junior at ISU majoring in elementary education, had the experience of a lifetime. We spent almost two days in Ghana schools, so she got such a unique and unmatched perspective of the numerous problems facing the teachers and school staff. Katlyn and Emma also had a great time bonding with the Kingdom Hoops team, teaching them about America, and also serving alongside of them in the village of Asikuma.

JJ of course, stuck like glue to the Kingdom Hoops boys and the Vanderweide kids. Not a moment went by when he wasn’t grinning ear to ear or laughing or telling a story. He told us his favorite thing about the trip was taking his malaria pill and handing out donations. :)

My role of course was that of ‘the journalist’. :) Oftentimes I would have to sneak away to our room to spend about 15 minutes writing little chunks of happenings throughout our days. I have SO MUCH to share. I’ve decided this time that I will post on topics and include excerpts from my journal, instead of posting my entire journal for each day like I have done after our previous trips. I’ve sort of mapped out my posts and it looks like I have over 2 weeks worth of topics!

I can assure you that through all of our roles and goals for this trip, our favorite thing of all was creating relationships with the people of Asikuma. This was one of our underlying goals for this trip. We didn’t want to be a big circus coming into town. Instead we wanted to walk amongst the people, live and breathe in their environment, and get to know the stories behind their faces. And, I can assure you we did. Here are a just a few pictures….I will start posting about our trip on Monday.

Me with some of the young girls of Asikuma. We had just given them some dishes. The girl to the very left was named Ophelia. I got to know her very well. She is brilliant, and I will be praying that she receives some educational opportunities. One night after dinner she came to our hotel and I got to listen to her read a book to me. :) Learning to read is quite the accomplishment in this village, especially once you understand the gigantic struggles of their schooling system. Ophelia is strong-willed and confident. She is going to do great things for Ghana.

Jake fell in love with these two little twin boys. They are cousins to a young man that Jake has identified as an up and coming leader of this village - a boy named Albert (I accidently had cut him out of this picture...he is crouched down on the bottom lefthand corner). Jake will be doing a post on Albert...he wants the teachers of Asikuma to be able to identify leaders like Albert to get better opportunities so they can help lead others.

This is another Albert, pictured here with Dawn. This sort of sight was quite common...often kids would sort of latch onto us and relax in our arms.

Some of our group with a few of the villagers.

Well, you didn't think I would go all the way to Ghana and not get my baby fix did ya?!?! :)

Dawn got her baby fix too, but in a different way! :) The guy staring into the camera is Reuben. He has worked for Esi for a few years. Reuben grew up in Asikuma and will have a major role in being Chris' right-hand guy for all the construction work that we will be doing. Reuben is the hardest manual labor worker I have ever met.

Grace & Katlyn loving on a sweet babe.

Jake reaches out to Joshua at the Beacon House Orphanage.

The owner of the hotel we stayed at in Asikuma invited us to his village about 15km away to watch a dance performance. All of the people from his village were dressed in their best clothes for the celebration and I thought they looked so beautiful!

Iowa State makes an appearance in Ghana as well! :) The two guys pictured on each end are the next two host students we are trying to bring over, Cyril & Riazz. Pictured in the middle is the coach for the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team, Coach Mike.

And there was never a dull moment when JJ was around! Here he is entertaining one of the kindergarten classes of a private school that we visited. The kids thought JJ was SO SILLY and they were laughing hysterically as they watched him pretend to shoot a basketball into Grace's pretend hoop.

A mud hut...this is the most common housing in Asikuma. There are also a few structures made with metal roofs.

Much, much more starting on Monday.

We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies - but will we be that generation? Will we in the West realize our potential or will we sleep in the comfort of our affluence with apathy and indifference murmuring softly in our ears? Fifteen thousand people dying needlessly every day from AIDS, TB, and malaria. Mothers, fathers, teachers, farmers, nurses, mechanics, children. This is Africa's crisis. That it's not on the nightly news, that we do not treat this as an emergency - that's our crisis.

Future generations flipping through these pages will know whether we answered the key question. The evidence will be the world around them. History will be our judge, but what's written is up to us. We can't say our generation didn't know how to do it. We can't say our generation couldn't afford it. And we can't say our generation didn't have reason to do it. It's up to us.



Lori said...

Great to see Reuben again :). Oh wow, I can't wait to see more!

Derek, Becky and Ainsley said...

Amazing work Janel! Sending prayers your way as you continue on this journey!