Many praises to our God! We have arrived home safely and we have many blessings to report. This was one of the most diversified trips we have been on, so the ministry opportunities varied from day to day.
Our first email highlighted the amazing experiences of ministering at the Mephibosheth Training Center (MTC) for handicapped children. On Thursday, August 2, we were able to join our team mates and actually participate in VBS activities for these children. We sang, presented the gospel and shared lots of hugs and love to the precious students. Before they left for their summer break on the 3rd, Debbie and I trained their parents (some were Muslim) in biblical principles for parenting. The gospel was interwoven through all of the teaching.
That night, the VBS team had a meeting to plan logistics for the different settings where they would need to set up. Debbie and I gleaned as much about the culture as we could from our Ghana coordinators Pastor Joe and his wife Andrea. This alerted us to specific topics that would be helpful to address. They explained our schedule and the groups we would be teaching. When Pastor Joe and Andrea left to take care of their responsibilities, we moved to the front porch to catch a breeze while we adjusted our plans for the week. We could hear a child sobbing and wailing. This was the first and only time we heard any of the handicapped children cry or complain. In the three days we had been there, we would walk by them bent over a huge stainless steel pot washing dishes or scrubbing clothes. Their hands were bent and deformed, but they would always have a huge smile and would be working diligently. We would see them stumble or slide out of a wheel chair, but no tears or complaints. Most of the handicapped students had left for summer break earlier that day, but we noticed one little boy dressed in the MTC uniform sitting all alone on the curb at the edge of the play area. We sat on the curb beside him, put our arms around him and tried to communicate to find out if he was hurt. His name was Prince. He wouldn’t tell us what was wrong. He had a pair of sunglasses he had gotten from VBS. He kept turning them over and over in his hands. A group of young boys from the village were playing nearby. As soon as they saw white people, they gathered all around us. They told us the boy’s name was Prince. He was crying because his mother had failed come to pick him up. He continued to wail in the deep pain of someone who was forsaken. This was heartbreaking for us. We prayed with him, asking the Lord to help his mother make her way to pick him up. The workers called him for supper and he hobbled off on his club foot. We did not see him anymore that night, but he was on our minds continually.
The next day (4th), we were walking back from breakfast, we saw Prince, hobbling toward us, all dressed up in new clothes. No wailing. He was grinning from ear to ear with that bright Ghana smile. He was still holding on to his sunglasses. His mom lived five hours away and had to work on Friday. The school expected her to arrive that day. We felt a surge of hope, but still were a bit hesitant in the back of our minds. We were praising God by the end of the day because when we returned from our scheduled ministry activities, Prince was nowhere to be found.
We left to travel with the VBS team to Village church. Since we were a team we participated in the opening assembly for the children. This was certainly out of our comfort zone, but we are grateful for that experience because the Lord used their theme, “Shine,” all week in our ministry also. When the children separated according to age groups for their classes, we separated with the parents to train them in biblical parenting principles. There was a good number of parents who attended. This is significant because they had never experienced any program like this before. However, unexpectedly, a large group of teens attended the parenting session. There were no VBS classes for their age level. Most of the parents were single moms. When we returned Sunday afternoon, August 5th, we adjusted our teaching from a second lesson on parenting to a session on purity instead.
In all of our sessions except the very last one on the day before we returned to the US, a translator conveyed the messages to the audiences. Sometimes, it was difficult to discern whether our teaching was impacting the ones who attended. During the session on purity, some of the VBS workers who did not teach classes, sat among the teens who attended. They were great team members because they encouraged us with their observations that the teens were attentive, challenged and considering the truths that were presented. At the conclusion of the purity service, we announced that we would give a bracelet or neck tie to any single (teen or adult) who would look us in the eye and commit to a life of purity from that point forward. Obviously, we have no control whether the singles will follow through on their commitments, but God’s instruction was clearly presented in a way they had never heard before. We trust His Word will not return void.
On Monday (6th), the team traveled to Apam. The VBS workers ministered to 2000 children in an outdoor setting with little shade. Their numbers increased every day. We understand the need for all their meetings to strategize crowd control. They did an amazing job.
While they taught the children, we met with the local pastors and wives for training in marriage on Monday and Tuesday morning. At first, we were disappointed at the attendance, and again wondered if we were making any sense. Our translator, Godfrey, was very enthusiastic and seemed to grasp and enjoy the teaching. At the end of the morning, the floor was opened for questions. We could tell by the questions that the pastors sincerely wanted to grasp and apply the material. They repeatedly expressed appreciation for the sessions. On Tuesday (7th) the word had spread and attendance increased. We passed out What is Marriage? and Time for Three books to everyone. Later that week, one of the pastor’s wives told Pastor Joe, “I got really mad with my husband and started to react the normal way I do, then I remembered what we were taught at the marriage seminar and I had to stop myself and do what Sam taught.”
The team traveled back to MTC for an afternoon VBS with 3-400 children from the local village there. Sam joined the girls on the puppet team a couple of afternoons before he came in to prepare for the evening sessions in churches. The girls said that his puppet’s mouth didn’t open a lot, but it really had a lot of action. This was a fun break for Sam and the girls enjoyed having him on the team.
The Monday evening session began with lively worship which led into the session on purity. Attendance was very good. Godfrey translated and the reaction of the crowd showed us they were intently listening. We told them that worship, no matter how vibrant was worthless if it did not include obedience. The passage on Joseph’s life taught not just that extramarital and premarital sex was wrong, but how to resist it. We concluded the service with a challenge to maintain lives of purity from that day forward. Each person who was willing to verbally commit face to face with us was given a ring that glowed in the dark. The lights were shut off and about 50 singles could see how their purity could be a light shining in darkness. Please pray that these young people will be diligent to stand by their commitment to the Lord in a culture that promotes promiscuity.
To see the pictures and videos for Part 1, click on this link:
After equipping and training about 15 pastors and wives at a church in Apam on Tuesday morning (7th), I worked with the VBS ministry outreach in Ankamu that afternoon, while Debbie met privately with 2 young ladies to teach them how to train single girls in sexual purity. Teaching on sexual purity is one of the greatest needs in the Christian communities in Ghana. These ladies, Maggie and Akuse were extremely eager to grasp truth and pass it on to the girls they cared so deeply about. They had worked all day at their jobs, then rushed over to open their Bibles and take notes for an hour and half before attending church services that night. Debbie took them through different passages than were taught the night before. They asked excellent questions and desired to have the notes from what she was teaching them, and from the session taught the previous night. They requested to meet with her again later in the week. It was thrilling for Debbie to have the privilege of training ladies who so deeply loved Christ, His Word and their community.
Debbie and I went that night to Pastor’s Joe’s church in Ankamu. The Lord trained me in patience at all of these sessions because, most of the crowd arrives an hour and a half after the scheduled meeting time. After forty-five minutes of music services with only two to three in attendance, I am usually ready to leave and prepare for sessions scheduled later in the week. Then the people start filing in to join the worship. The Lord showed me how little faith I had, as six married couples and about 60 singles ended up attending. So I proceeded to teach a session on marriage. Although we started late, the people were in no hurry to leave. Most of the singles had attended the purity session on Monday night. Now they could see the reasons our Lord wanted to reserve their purity for a strong future committed relationship. Each time we taught on marriage, we were delighted to sense the surprise and delight as couples realized husband and wife are to be best friends—committed companions with a common purpose ordained by God Himself. We were able to pass out a copy of our What is Marriage book to each single and couple who attended.
Wednesday morning (8th), we taught marriage principles to about 10 pastors and wives from Ankamu. Their response was very encouraging and the wives asked if they could come back to hear more the next day, even though their husbands were unable to attend. We found out Thursday that one of the ladies had gone door to door to invite people to come to this extra session.
Wednesday night, the session in Ankamu covered parenting. The crowd grew in number again. Please pray that the Christians will be diligent to apply the truths and break cultural traditions/habits that weaken the family unit. In this country and in Ghana, we have to be alert against following the norm and instead be responsible to follow the Word.
Thursday morning (9th), I went to help with the VBS team as they ministered to over 2000 children while Debbie met with the ladies who were so eager to hear more of the Word on family life. These ladies not only came ready to hear the Word, but they brought many challenging questions. We acquired a deeper concern for the difficulties families face there. Debbie was honored that the queen mother of Ankamu region attended the session and even helped with some of the translating. This was the first time either of us had spoken to royalty!
Thursday night, we traveled to Victory Bible Church in Winneba to speak on marriage. The hearts of the people were well prepared and we immediately felt a connection with the congregation. Pastor Stanley had a very obvious concern that his people and nation grasp and live out biblical truth. The church measured us and made African clothes as a gift. We were humbled and honored. As in every place we taught, we distributed our books on marriage.
Friday, we were able to take a breather and visit a rain forest where we walked across high hanging bridges. In the afternoon, we visited the world’s largest slave castle in Cape Coast where we were informed and saw firsthand how African slaves were treated while awaiting to be transported on ships across the ocean. It was a fresh reminder of how treacherously depraved man can treat other precious image bearers of God.
Saturday, we traveled two hours to conduct a marriage conference for pastors and wives at Cape Coast. Attendance was excellent (about 25 pastor/church leaders) and the questions following the sessions were stimulating and showed strong desire to follow the Lord’s principles in family life. We feel our efforts are multiplied when we have the opportunity to address leadership because we know they will in turn train their congregations.
On Sunday morning, I had the privilege to preach at another church in Ankamu. That afternoon, we packed and prepared to take a three-hour bus ride to the airport in Accra to return home.
We thank God that although Debbie was feeling sick the last three days, He strengthened her each time she spoke and allowed her to attend all the sessions. We thank Him for a safe uneventful trip home. We are especially proud of the teens on our team who had the boldness to sing the VBS theme song to about 200 people (at midnight) who were waiting to board the plane from Ghana back to the US. We are grateful for pastor Bill Hegedus and the support of the entire team who traveled with us. They were a dedicated, godly group. And, we are very thankful for Pastor Joe and Andrea at the Miphiboseth Training Center who hosted us, and organized all of our ministry outreaches. They were a real blessing!
Since we returned to the states, we have received communication from several Ghana pastors who desire to build an ongoing relationship. We plan to ship more family resource materials to Pastor Joe later this fall for further distribution. Please pray the Holy Spirit will continue to bring the truths that were presented to the hearts and minds of those who heard and that they will maintain the enthusiasm to spread those truths.
A BIG THANK-YOU to all of you who helped us make this trip possible through their financial gifts and prayers.
To see the pictures and videos for Part 2, click on this link: