Katlyn Brekke ~ Junior at Iowa State, majoring in elementary education with an emphasis in English as a second language In Katlyn's words ~ It is so hard to come up with specific highlights from the trip. As I reflected over my journal of the trip, two things really stuck out at me. First, on day two when we went to the village my heart was forever changed. Obviously, having not been out of the country before, I knew Africa was going to be a "world shocker" and completely different. Duh. I knew going to Africa the sights, sounds, smells, people, culture, and ways of life were going to be different. Yet, what I learned most on the day we were in the village is that this is not all bad necessarily. By that I mean, that people can and do live with joy in their hearts, who worship our great God even if they don't own a pair of shoes, or they don't eat three meals a day every day, or that their lives can depend on the amount of selling on the side of the street that they do. Walking into the village and simply seeing the smiles on the faces of children who had nothing, gave me the greatest joy. To see their excitement about a "new" pair of shoes, or two animal crackers, or a package of fruit snacks, or simply seeing their face show up on my camera screen - it was instant joy at the littlest things. They weren't expecting it. They didn't know what we held in our bags, but it took them only seconds to get excited. I reflected that night on how I don't get excited for the little things, or continually be grateful with less and instead delight in the Lord with joy by giving more.
The other moment that stood out the most was our time at the orphanage. After spending almost 4 days in the village among the people and seeing the things they did have and didn't have, I was then able to see a different group of children who at one point had nothing, and then see those children who had either been neglected or orphaned be clothed, fed, and most importantly loved. There was such a stark difference. Their bellies were round, their cheeks were chubby, their hair was longer, there even seemed to be an extra bounce in their step. Sure, having clothes and food on the table was essential in their physical progression, but what I noticed even more was their emotional progress. This all happened because a woman selflessly gave up a "comfortable life" to move to Africa, to Ghana, to open a care facility for kids who were HIV+, had sickle cell anemia, or were part of a sibling group. Not to mention, she lives on a very small amount of money because everything else goes to the kids she houses. Why did she do it? God called her to. Her love, and the love from others were making a drastic difference in the lives of African children who otherwise would have nothing. The ability to see what love does, and is capable of doing, made me think of the unconditional love that God offers. It made me see God's love differently and what it is truly capable of doing. Something we take for granted so often or push away, but can drastically change our lives if we accept it.
Between the two moments, I was made uncomfortable with my life at home. At one point in the trip, Janel, Emma and myself were having a conversation about how the conditions we saw were making us mad because such simple things weren't being done, yet would create drastic changes in many lives for the good. Janel continued to say that this trip shouldn't be about going home and simply being more thankful for the things I do have, but instead to be made uncomfortable and ask God to change my perspective, and to then DO something. She knew we would be asked that question when we came home, and of course she was right. I have yet to find words that even begin to explain the things I saw, experienced, and the work God has done in me and continues to do in me. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had, and I definitely pray it is not the last time I get to see change happen in Ghana. I want to be able to continually grow, see the bigger picture that God has for me, and to learn to give more to those in need.
Grace Vander Weide ~ 8th grader, West Des Moines; shooting guard for Kingdom Hoops 8th grade girls team