After spending the morning at Precious’ Compassion center, we drove a short distance to the community where Tia and I sponsor George & George, a six year old pair of adorable twins.
The boys' schoolyard.
The church was predominantly filled with women, with a few men scattered throughout the standing room only sanctuary. There was an air of excited anticipation as we entered, both from our group eager to meet the people of this community, and from them eager to hear from us. Once again, as we walked down the aisle among these beautiful people, it was hard to accept the warm welcome fit for a king – but it helped to know that these people are simply generous in their warmth and hospitality; they would have done the same for a pauper and for a king.
The Biseasi Compassion project (GH220) we had visited earlier in the day was very different from the one we had just been welcomed into in the community of Breman Essiam – Project GH880.
Compassion had joined forces with the local church in Biseasi several years ago, and since then, has seen almost every child in the project sponsored. Approximately 7 children at GH220 are still awaiting sponsors.
By contrast, GH880 is quite new, having only been established in December of 2010. Out of the 200 children registered at GH880, 43 are still awaiting the commitment of a sponsor. (Seven of these are listed *here*.) This leaves the church struggling to meet the community’s desperate needs.
What was encouraging to read, though, was that although only 19 of the 200 children registered at GH880 attended school in December of 2010, now, barely 11 months later, all 200 children attend school. This victory was greeted with a thunderous round of applause. This alone will make a difference in the future of the community. Since the beginning of the Compassion program, more than 100 children have made the decision to follow the Christian faith, and half a dozen caregivers have done so as well.
Their greatest challenge, aside from the vital need for sponsors for the 43 children still waiting, is a meeting place for their program on Saturdays. The school space they currently use is often needed by the community school, leaving them without a gathering place for the 200 children they feed, teach and care for every Saturday. We can not stress how important it is for this need to be filled – please join us in praying for this project and should anyone wish to contribute to this need, simply contact any Compassion office to find out how this can be done.
We were the first group of sponsors ever to have visited this Compassion center. Given how closely located to Biseasi it is, I can imagine Michelle visiting this center when she visits Precious in 2012.
The Compassion Project Staff were introduced, and we also introduced ourselves. They chose to convey how important sponsorship is to us, the sponsors, by sharing with the people who had gathered how far we had travelled and how much it had cost to travel such a distance to visit with our sponsored children, their family and their community. It is my prayer that the people understood that this was not of our hands, but of God who had provided.
The Compassion staff had given me the opportunity to speak to the people who had gathered, and my message to them was that in sharing their children with us, the sponsors, through letters and prayers, we had built a relationship not only with the child, but with the child’s family – their family and ours had joined as one. As family, we shared a sense of community, and as such, we were invested into the success of their community as well as that of their country. I shared that it was through one of the four children we sponsor in Ghana that we were here to help provide a school for children in Ghana, and that we hoped this would be a strong message of how much sponsorship not only helps the child, but everyone touched by the sponsorship.
Looking into the eyes of the mothers and fathers who had gathered, I told them of how important the Compassion program was, how successful it was, and how it was changing the face of the nations. I told them that each and every one of their children had limitless potential through the power of Christ, and that the Compassion program would help them reach it.
Smiling, I told them about Margaret, the woman in Uganda who had grown up in the Compassion program and had been selected for Compassion’s Leadership Development Program... after which she had been recently elected to the Uganda Senate. Pointing to their children once again, I shared that these children are the faces of the future for Ghana, and that it was an honor to come alongside these families, not as sponsors or anyone special, but as brothers and sisters, equals, praying for abundant blessings upon their lives. I thanked them for the wonderful job they are doing raising their children, the children we have come to love so much, and thanked them for their warm welcome into their community.
We were presented with amazing, symbolic gifts of unity – a carving of three statues interwoven seamlessly into a circle was given to each Debra, Tia and Joshua.
Tia also received a carving of the country of Ghana, with all the regions shown. I was presented with a carving of a man leading a small child by the hand, with a woman behind him, hand on his shoulder in a show of support. Cherished gifts to we, who had so little to offer but our love for these people.
As children arrived from school, they gathered in the doorways to watch the “obruni” in their church. It was as though the church was overflowing, the way these children gathered outside, crowding around the doors. For a precious and sweet moment, I imagined the joy Jesus must have felt when He looked upon the faces of children who had gathered around to hear the good news.
The skies opened and rain forcefully poured down, as abundant as the love and celebration inside the church. The children, still curious and watching, simply kept standing in the rain, and as I watched them, I prayed for God to pour favour upon these children in ways that would outnumber each drop that was falling from the sky onto them now.
Shortly after the rain stopped, the Compassion staff shared how I had cried as I picked out Ato Sam out of the choir yesterday, and identified him as my son, wrapping him in my arms with joy. The crowd of mothers, perhaps in universal understanding of the love one has for a child of her heart, applauded with laughter. An announcement was then made that they would bring a group of children and see if we could identify the boys, George & George, known by their nicknames Panyin (Pen-YIEN) and Kakra.
A lady ushered a dozen children between our group and the crowd that had gathered, and they asked us to step forward to identify the boys. Tia and I looked at each other, with tears in our eyes – we already knew... we each knelt down in front of the boys we shared love for, the boys whose eyes melt our hearts and whose little faces, carbon copies of each other, we would recognize anywhere.
There was a round of applause as we correctly identified the boys, and a round of laughter when we had to ask which was Panyin and which was Kakra.
As the individual boys were named, Tia and I each picked up ours into our arms, lifting their featherweight bodies up into the gentlest of hugs.
I could guess that there wasn’t a dry eye in the place, but it was hard to see through my own tears. These boys, both six years old, so tiny and seemingly fragile, melted into our arms. They seemed to be the size of tiny three year olds.
I vaguely remember a round of photos being taken, and us sitting back down with the boys on our laps as we interacted with the boys as the preacher spoke. I couldn’t tell you a word that was spoken, the rest of the world seemed to disappear as we each spent time with these precious boys.
Uhm, helllllo... have you seen this child's eyelashes?!??! Maybe it's Mabeline?
After some time, they brought the boys’ parents to us, and we were finally able to give them great big hugs and show our gratitude and love to them. The mom was so sweet, and the father so enthusiastic and welcoming – what a great pair of parents these boys have!
We all piled into the van and made our way to their home, which turned out to be a tiny community of it’s own, with several homes encircling a common courtyard where people gather and socialize.
We sat in the shade and spoke with the family for some time, asking questions, answering questions, and meeting the other children in the family as well as the grandchildren. We were eager to present them with the gifts that we had brought, beginning with the Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts my boss had purchased for them along with the Cat In The Hat Book. It would help us identify which twin was which, and let’s not forget the treasured photos! The father was so excited as he helped make sure the boys held the book but didn’t cover up the shirts – it was so sweet.
Tia had also purchased two stuffed Curious George monkeys and had sent them a photo of the monkeys, along with her letters that included fictional Curious George stories that were created specifically for the boys. We brought the stuffed monkeys to them, and showed them how to press the foot to make them squeal, laugh and talk. The boys’ faces lit up like the morning sky – the first smile we’d ever seen on them... priceless, absolutely priceless.
We presented the gifts we had brought to their parents and siblings, and handed out some of Joshua’s Hot Wheels cars to the kids gathered around, as well as some Silly Bands to the girls.
The last gift we presented to them was a hardcover book that we had ordered from Snapfish, including photos and information on Tia and her family, as well as me and my family. The last page was a letter we had written for the boys, encouraging them and praying over them.
The family was easily surrounded by 30-40 people from their tiny community, all wrapped around them in love and support... it was so beautiful to see. Over and over again in Africa, this was what we witnessed and fell in love with.
All too soon, it was time for family and group photos, and time for bittersweet goodbyes... so sweet to have been blessed with precious time, but all too difficult to say goodbye, especially now that the twins’ shock was wearing off and their personalities were beginning to shine through.
Our arms still ache from having held them and having had to let them go. It was completely and utterly worth every ache, every mile, every airport nightmare, all the months of preparation... it was worth it all.
Still, so grateful that in heaven, there won’t be goodbyes.