Thursday, March 24, 2011

Africa 2011: Child Slavery Rescue

In 2009, I joined the Bloom Book Club, where I met Tia. She and I had a lot in common, including our love of God, Africa, and our sponsored children. We soon became best friends. Tia had served in Africa twice, and when one of our Compassion children learned this, he began to pray that we would serve in his country of Ghana.

When we began to research the possibility, we were shocked by what we learned. We knew our lives would never be the same. When we announced where we would go in November of 2011 and why, another Bloom member decided to join us, as did my 13 year old son.

Never would I have imagined that God would have combined a book club, a Compassion child, and modern day slavery to turn three women and a 13 year old boy into abolitionists.

As you read the rest of this post, you too may decide to join us.

Welcome to Lake Volta, located in eastern Ghana, West Africa.

Hope begins on Lake Volta, but at first glance, the hope is hard to see. Lake Volta is home to a very lucrative fishing industry, but the fishing industry has a very dark and dangerous side.

There are no employees in the Lake Volta fishing industry. Only slave masters, and slaves.

Child slaves.

With false promises of an education and a future, something so many families feel no hope of reaching in Ghana, children as young as 4 years old are unwittingly sold by their parents to cunning slave masters, and then forced to work under cruel and inhumane conditions.

Imagine poverty so desperate that selling your child might be the only choice you feel you have?

Which of your children would you sell in hopes of giving them a future?

In some cases, it's an "easy" choice of which children are sold. Many of these children were orphaned and left in the care of relatives, who struggled to provide for them and opted out at the first "opportunity". Imagine the rejection these orphans experience? Do they even know that God commands us to care for the orphans and protect them? Do they even know how much God loves them, especially them?

The boys are used as slaves in the fishing industry, their childhood vanishing as they spend their days trapped on the lake, endlessly fishing, hauling and mending nets, and diving to the bottom of the lake when nets become tangled. If they refuse, the slave masters may chose not to beat them, but instead force the other child slaves to beat them into submission.

The visible scars they bear are horrific; one can barely fathom the seemingly invisible scars that shred the heart of these precious children. It only takes a look into their eyes, and the scars on their souls can be seen.

The days are long and dangerous. Working up to 18 hours a day, sometimes getting one meal, sometimes not... these young boys are not only facing cruelty, hunger and exhaustion, but environmental dangers such as drowning, crocodiles and electric eels. Children who die are buried by their fellow child slaves on the shores of the Lake Volta islands without their parents ever learning their fate.

Even though the boys are used in the fishing industry, young girls aren’t spared. The girls are initially used as slave servants for the slave masters’ families. The slave master’s own children go to school while the slave children are denied an education as they are made to do all the domestic labor as well as cleaning and preparing the fish caught that day. The work is literally endless.

As they get older, the girls’ future becomes even more desperate. The girls are eventually used as sex slaves, often ending up pregnant before reaching their teenage years.

Escapes are rare. These islands are isolated, with few opportunities for the children to flee. Fear and terror is enough to keep them from attempting an escape.

While it would seem as though these children have lost all hope, God knows each of them by name, and so does the man God has sent to rescue them.

His name is George Achibra Sr, a modern day Moses living on the shores of Lake Volta in Ghana. George has dedicated his life to negotiating for the release of these child slaves and has rescued several hundred of these children from slavery on Lake Volta.
One by one.

George demonstrates a capacity to love that is rare, refreshing, and breathtakingly beautiful. I see evidence of Jesus in his heart not only in how he devotes his life to these children, but also in the way he has compassion and concern for the slave masters. It’s not enough to rescue the children peacefully and respectfully, George loves God enough to provide alternate means for the slave masters to earn incomes that do not rely on these children. His goal is not only to give the children a better future; he strives to do the same for the men who enslave them. He builds a relationship with them, treats them with respect, and works hard to change their future and their hearts.

Does that not have the fingerprints of God all over it?
Our trip to Africa will be in support of George and his team at PACODEP. We will serve alongside of him while he tends to the child slaves on the islands of Lake Volta and negotiates rescues. Working with George, his team and these children will help us gain a better understanding of their situation so that we can in turn advocate for the release and freedom of these children.

On the mainland, we will work alongside of George and his team at the Village of Life, the campus built to accommodate the children who have been rescued. Love will be poured onto these children as they adjust to their new freedom and learn to read and write, learn the basics of hygiene, get proper nutrition and care… even as they learn to play. Although we will be teaching the children, it is likely us that will learn far greater from each and every one of them.

There is no need too small to fill,

and one need larger than the others.

George’s success in rescuing these precious children poses a challenge. The current three-classroom unit is at max capacity, and without more space, George’s team cannot accommodate and rehabilitate more rescued children. They currently have 51 children living at the Village of Life, and thousands still waiting to be rescued. The construction of a new classroom unit would enable them to bring in more children from the islands of Lake Volta.

Education is crucial at the Village of Life. The children’s rehabilitation and future depend on it… breaking the cycle of poverty and hopelessness depends on it…

...and George’s success depends on us.

In America, it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a school. In Ghana, it’s considerably less. The cost of a three-classroom unit for the Village of Life is $30,000.

$30,000 that George does not have.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have $30,000. It's likely the neither of us have $30,000. So, to you and I, building the school may seem like an insurmountable challenge. What matters is that we serve a God for Whom nothing is impossible, a God who has gathered us together to make a difference for these children. What an amazing opportunity to make a difference!

Alone, we can't. Together, we can.
We will be spending the next 7 months working hard to raise the necessary funds for our trip expenses, the school construction, as well as collecting school and educational supplies, malaria nets, toys and treats for the children. Every penny counts, every bake sale and yard sale important, every donation precious and life changing. It may seem overwhelming through the world’s eyes, but if enough of us gather generously in His name, we CAN succeed in providing this gift to the children of Lake Volta.

We need people like George, who stand in the gap for these children… and George and these children need us to stand in the gap too.

Will you be the answer to this child's prayers?

Your prayers and your support are greatly needed and appreciated.

For updates on our work in Ghana, 
please check blog updates here:  November 2011

For tax deductible receipts in the U.S., please send donation to:

P.O. Box 460
Apple Creek, Ohio
(Earmark all donations to "Ghana Child Slave Rescue")

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly
with your God.
Micah 6:8

For more information or for Canadian Interac email fund transfers, please contact
For more information on George’s team, visit PACODEP’s website

Unforgettable video of the children of Lake Volta and the work that George and his team have devoted their lives to:

NY Times articles on the Lake Volta slavery:
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Harvesting The Future

It is harvest season in Novet's small town, but it is also harvest season in her life. God is harvesting the next generation of leaders who WILL change the world in ways that glorify Christ, and Novet is a part of His harvest.

In his book, “Too Small To Ignore”, Compassion International President Wess Stafford makes it clear that the children are not the future, because if we wait until the future to develop their potential, it will already be too late. Children are the present, and like the meaning of the word “present”, they truly are a GIFT to the future.

Although Novet is only 14, God has long been preparing her for His harvest. He has gifted her with so many blessings – intelligence, initiative, strength and strong work ethics, a mother whose spiritual influence has been crucial in her life, and a Compassion team who loves her and recognizes the massive potential in this young woman.

She shared with us that she recognizes that she is well because the Lord is doing His work in her life. Her focus is always on Him, and she knows that each blessing in her life comes from the One who provides for her.

When she’s not working hard for her family by caring for her siblings, teaching, leading, fetching water or cooking, she can be found studying God’s Word or her schoolwork. Every letter she writes to us updates us on her school progress. As a student with above average grades, it is evident that she takes education very seriously. She always asks for prayers to keep improving from term to term, she works hard to put forth her very best.

The reason she works so hard isn’t simply to break the cycle of poverty for herself, it’s because she wants to help the people of Uganda break the cycle of poverty too. She is studying to become the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture in Uganda, and humbly adds “if it is God’s will for me.”

God has a plan for this Godly woman. He has been watching what she chooses to do with the gifts He’s blessed her with, including the gifts He has provided for her through us. When she received her birthday gift last summer, although she purchased the clothing she needed, her priority was making sure she tithed a portion of the birthday funds to her church.

Imagine a woman like Novet in the role of Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, or any part of the Uganda government? Imagine someone with Novet’s spiritual leadership and financial stewardship combined? Imagine someone in a leadership role in the government who honors God in all that they do, with every decision and ever y blessing given? Someone who puts Him first?

More and more, I see a glimpse of God’s harvest in these Compassion children. Look at Compassion Haiti’s Disaster Response Coordinator, Elissaint Jean Jacques - once a LDP student, now responsible for coordinating all the Compassion relief efforts in Haiti and succeeding beautifully! More recently, Margaret Makoha, from Uganda no less, a former Compassion child and LDP student who was elected to the Ugandan senate! There are so many more stories like these. Each Compassion child has a wonderful story and place in His harvest.

God is doing amazing things in the lives of Compassion children all over the world, we are only seeing a tiny glimpse of His harvest, but what an inspiring harvest it is. These children are a present to the future, and that future is unfolding before our eyes.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Letters: Behind The Scenes

There are likely as many ways of keeping the letter writing process organized as there are sponsors. At first, we just had one Compassion child and simply kept all the correspondence in a file folder.

This worked for the first few years, but as the number of letters increased, it became harder to keep things in order.

Add to that a touch of OCD, (CDO in alphabetical order, just the way it should be), as well as ten Compassion children to correspond with... something had to change.

We switched to the binder system a few years ago and it has proven to work quite well for us. The binders were bought on school supply clearance sales, and were filled with sheet protectors. We will eventually have one binder per child, but right now, a few of our Compassion children share a binder. Ato Sam is one example -- given that he writes lengthy letters quite frequently, he needed more space than Leo, from whom we've only received two letters.

In the first sheet protector, we keep all the labels and the blank stationery that Compassion sends for that child. The labels we prefer are the Avery 5267, with 80 labels per sheet. We create labels with our child's name and number, as well as our name and number.

We use these labels to label anything we send with the letters, such as small coloring books:

Or snack sized Ziploc bags full of stickers:

We do not need to label the letters, as we created a header with the necessary information. The header also mentions anything included with the letter, that way it's less likely that something will get forgotten or lost. It also makes it really easy to see what we've sent, so that we don't send duplicates of books or coloring books.

Since I normally print our letters on fun paper, the kids use the correspondence paper that Compassion provides to write to our Compassion kids on their own.

The letters we have received from our Compassion kids, along with a copy of each letter we've sent are placed in the sheet protectors in chronological order. This makes it easy to flip back to see what we've written and sent over time, and which letters they are responding to.

The page protectors do a great job of keeping the letters intact so that the kids can feel free to read them as often as they'd like. They love to show their friends the fascinating handwriting from Thailand!

Even though I type most of our letters to our Compassion kids, I do make a point to sign them and add little notes or drawings to them before I mail them to Compassion.

We also created a computer folder for each Compassion child containing copies of all the letters we've sent, as well as scans of letters, drawings and photos we've received over the years. If ever something were to happen to the binders, we'd have a backup copy of all the correspondence we've had.

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Although everyone has their own way of doing all of this... this is what works for me!
Friday, March 04, 2011

Wrestling The Wind

I felt torn.

As a mother, my heart was created to love, nurture and protect my children., to create a home for them, raise them, teach them, lead them. It's one of the most difficult blessings, but that blessing becomes even more difficult when you're separated from your child.

Imagine for a moment that your child was in a foreign country, away from her family, and you've done all that you can do to bring her home, but the rest is up to someone else. Someone without a mother's heart for this child; someone not in tune to the urgency you feel.

An immigration specialist will be assigned to you to unite you with your child. You learn that there is a shortage on specialists, that they're doing all they can to clear the backlog of cases. Even though that's their job, it brings no comfort to you. In their hands, your child seems to become a statistic, a number among many.