Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Experience in the Schoolyard

On Sunday, Day 2 we had the Kingdom Hoops Ghana team travel up to Asikuma by bus….a 2 hour drive. We wanted the team to come to church with us, and we also wanted them to be with us for our village stay so they could understand our projects and bond with the villagers along with us. Church of course, was AWESOME and I will blog about that a different day. Today I wanted to share about one of my favorite personal experiences from the whole trip….here is my journal excerpt from Sunday afternoon:

Next we took our big group out to the school yard of Asikuma where many of the children hang around. We wanted to mingle with the crowds and play games with the children. We brought along an assortment of sports balls so we could engage the kids in some games. Once we arrived in the schoolyard we passed out a few soccer balls which is always met with pure excitement by the children in Ghana! The Kingdom Hoops boys got a game of American football going as well as a volley session with the volleyball in the hopes that the villagers would join in (JJ had fun joining in every game).

J.D. and Grace did their specialty of starting games of duck, duck, goose.

Jake struck up conversations with some of the kids watching a soccer game going on.

And Katlyn and I blew up balloons and showed the kids how to bat them around and get to them before they touched the ground. After about 45 minutes of running around playing games, I grabbed a seat on the grass to catch my breath. I started talking with a few of the kids standing nearby and pretty soon more and more children came up and decided to sit down next to me.

As I spoke with them I could see that they understood English really well so I started quizzing them on their school knowledge. :) I asked them if they could sing their ABC’s and they did…perfectly! Next I had them count as far as they could and most of them easily got to 50. Then I started thinking of questions to ask them….I looked at the little boy sitting next to me and said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He answered shyly, “I want to be a doctor.” Others answered too….an actor, a nurse, a teacher, a pilot. The last answer got me thinking about airplanes so I began to tell them how I flew on a really big airplane across the ocean just to come to Ghana. “Why did you come?” a little boy asked. I told them that our group came to help them because we love Jesus. We wanted to love them the way that Jesus loves us. This led us into a great conversation about Jesus. I taught them the first verse that I had ever memorized – John 14:6. We repeated it in unison several times until many of them had it down. As we repeated the verse a few more children and some adults came over to our group to see what was going on. Some of the newcomers were talking amongst themselves and were a little loud. The children sitting with me quickly quieted them and said, “Shhhhhh!!!!!! Be quiet!!!! We are learning!” :) There was one young boy in the group who melted my heart each time he spoke. He was the boy who had said he wanted to be a pilot. And the unique thing that grabbed my attention was that he only had one eye. His left eye looked to have been gouged out. I wanted to know what happened, but I felt in my heart that how it had happened was not good, and I didn’t want to ask him in front of the big group. I asked him his name. “Christian,” he said. :)

I learned some of the other children’s names too…Ophelia, Marina, Sameera, Edward….and then I taught them to say my name. Up to this point when they had wanted to take a turn to ask me something they said, “Hey brunie" (brunie means white person in Ghana) and then they would ask a question. It took them some time to be able to pronounce my name, but from this point on they called me Madame Junel (they couldn’t get the Ja sound). We kept talking there in the dirt and grass for what seemed like hours. I could have stayed there all night. I felt the Holy Spirit speaking truth through me in ways that I could have never planned out myself. At one point I had them take turns singing songs that they knew in English. The first song one boy picked to sing was ‘Days of Elijah’....a popular song here. He sung about when Jesus will come riding in on the clouds. After he sang I asked the group if they knew what those words meant. They said no. I explained to them that at Jesus 2nd coming he would appear out of the clouds and take His followers up to heaven. I found myself saying, “In heaven there will be no more suffering. There is no pain and no more tears. There is no death in heaven, and you will never be sick. In heaven you won’t ever go to bed hungry. And we will all get to be with Jesus – together – all of us – forever.” After I told them about heaven one little boy looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Are you God?” I smiled and shook my head ‘no’ as tears filled my eyes. It was then that I knew these kids needed to hear these truths. I know full well that for many of these children, they would continue to suffer in this life. In fact, they will continue to go through more suffering than any human being should ever experience. But, I know that there is hope. Maybe things will never get better for them during their time on earth. But I wanted them to know there was hope for eternal life, and they could cling to that. They continued to sing more songs for me – ‘Jesus, let your spirit come’ and ‘read your Bible, pray every day’. And there we sat - we talked endlessly about Jesus, I answered questions about life in America, I let them touch my hair, and they curiously poked at my sunburned shoulders. :)


This precious time getting to know the personalities and dreams behind these faces, there in the dirt of a schoolyard in Ghana, was the most amazing experience I have had here…..because I planned none of this out. If you know me at all on a personal level, you would know that I am not a fan of being in situations with bigger groups where people are all staring at me for direction. I tend to shy away from being front and center and/or being in positions in which I need to speak to ‘crowds’. I speak clearer and I am more relational when I am with people one-on-one. But I love it that God often takes these insecurities of mine and the ways that I tend to disqualify myself…and He squashes them! I didn’t intend to sit there and find myself ‘teaching’ 20 kids. It just happened. And I love how God orchestrated that. It was in these moments talking with these children that God taught me that children in Africa are not just statistics to Him. He has created each of them intricately – woven together their diverse personalities, their curiosities, their hopes, dreams and ambitions. We’ve been handing out all sort of materialistic items since we’ve been here. But today, God gave me precious moments to pass along something eternal – that will never fade away. I hope they will remember. I know I will.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
~Matthew 19:14~


Sincerely, Jenni said...

This is absolutely amazing. I am just in awe reading this story. It brings tears to my eyes thinking of all those children and how much suffering they must go through, yet they still have so much hope for their future.

Jody said...

God always moves us out of our comfort zones so HE can be glorified. Love this post!

bcluw49 said...

You are a true missionary at heart. Your blogs bring back so many memories of when Jeff and I were in Kenya, latvia, and Ukraine. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Sometime i will have to tell you how you have influenced us to get involved with foster care/adoption. You never know who is watching and how you reach people in your every day conversations. God uses us in very unique ways.

Lori said...

Everytime I read this, I sob. I can wrap my mind and heart around everything you are saying and that song, Days of Elijah, was in the dream someone had of me before I went to Ghana. So to hear to say they sung that song, just melted my heart. And the pictures of the children surrounding you and hungry for the truth, ah, takes my