The sunlight broke its way into the unlit room through the small holes in the hot metal roof, creating tiny beams of light that felt like peace dancing down on us from above. The shutters were pulled open on the three of the four small windows, where a few children had climbed into the windowsills from the outside to catch a glimpse at the ‘obrunis’ who had gathered inside.
Those who didn’t grab the coveted window seats fast enough stood curiously watching from the doorway, as though unsure if they should stand outside or come in, but not wanting to miss anything either way.
When we had arrived moments earlier, the boys ran out to the road to greet us as we stepped out of the van, throwing their arms around me, quickly followed by their parents, their welcome as warm as the mid-day sun.
The boys had grown so much. We had visited them a little over 5 years ago within a month of their 6th birthday, their tiny bodies so small we easily carried them in our arms, and now here they stood at the age of 11, tall and lean, their heads reaching the height of my shoulders and their faces showing recognition. This time, they knew exactly who we were, and were so excited to see us.
Left to right: George Essel Botchwey (Kakra), George Essel Botchwey (Panyin), 2017
Left to Right: Panyin, myself, and Kakra (smiling)
Some things hadn’t changed – I still had some trouble telling them apart. They had outgrown their Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts from years ago and now stood in matching uniforms, daring me to guess which one was which. “Easy!”, I quipped. “This one is George Essel Botchwey,” I said, pointing randomly to one of them, and then pointing to the other… “and this one is George Essel Botchwey!” A few chuckles rang around the room from their family. Yes, these two identical boys also shared the same first name, middle name and last name. My saving grace was the twinkle in the eyes of the boy with the ever so subtle mischievous smirk – I knew he was mine.
“Panyin”, meaning older twin, was the nickname given to all older twins in Ghana. Kakra (meaning younger twin) was sponsored by a friend of mine. Incidentally, the boys wore different colored flip flops – the ones worn by Panyin were green, matching my eyes. The ones worn by Kakra were blue just like his sponsor’s eyes. That would make it a little easier for me to tell them apart. No one else seemed to have the difficulty I did!
The boys’ mother, tall and lean just like them, sat across from us with radiant peace and joy etched deep into her youthful face. She hadn’t aged at all, in fact, if anything, she looked younger. Her husband leaned in, completely engaged into the conversations as he had been on our last visit. We all talked for a while, shared our purpose for our travels to Ghana, and our gratitude at the opportunity to visit them again. We joked a bit about the heat, explaining how different it is from the climate back home, where it feels as much below the freezing point as it was above the freezing point in Ghana. Every few minutes, a hint of a breeze would blow through the open window and all too quickly disappear.
At the end of our visit, we provided them with the groceries we had bought for them, and a handful of books for the children to share. We also gave them Lego blocks, quickly showing the curious Georges how to use them to build things, hoping this would make sense to them. Legos were a rare novelty in Ghana. The family gave us the traditional gifts of Kente cloths and jewelry they had made, including an extra one us to mail to Kakra’s sponsor.
Time slipped through our fingers all too quickly, as we found ourselves facing yet another goodbye. We slowly made our way back into the full sun, walking down the weathered concrete courtyard and onto the packed dirt leading back to the road where the van was waiting to take us to our next home visit.
Squeezing in a few more hugs and bittersweet goodbyes, we climbed back into the van, and watched as they made their way back to their family courtyard... the mom stealing back one last glance as we pulled away.
How do you pack enough love into mere moments to last a few years, to convey how much they mean to us, how much we appreciate their letters and how thankful we are to be counted as family?
Such beautiful, warm people, living out immeasurable peace in such a harsh and at times unforgiving environment, living on the edges of extreme poverty.
The purity of their peace pierces my heart like the sunlight pierces through their thin roof, spilling light into every corner within. It's really no secret -- when we're fully surrendered to Him in all our circumstances, darkness truly doesn't stand a chance.