Thursday, March 24, 2011

Africa 2011: Child Slavery Rescue

Years of prayers and months of planning have all led to this moment.... It's official:

We're going to Africa in November of 2011.

And we're not going alone. We’d like you to join us.

Yes, you.

All of you.

You -- the one who has always wanted to go to Africa. We need you. And you -- feeling as though you can't afford to come to Africa. There's also room for you.

Or you -- the one who has never wanted to go to Africa. We need you too.

Why are we bringing you with us?

To introduce to you a beautiful story of hope rising out of Africa, a story that you are being invited into and won’t want to miss.

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 3 or 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?

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.

Even though it’s the young boys who are kept as child slaves 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 visits the child slaves on the islands of Lake Volta. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of their situation, which will help us as we work with the rescued children on the mainland and share/write their stories. God willing, we will also witness first hand the rescue of any children released while we are in Ghana.

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.

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 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.

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.

To support this project, click here:

Or you may make a tax deductible donation to Interlink Ministries. Please write Ghana Orphans Project in the memo line and mail to P.O. 460 Apple Creek, OH 44606.

For more information please contact

Stay tuned for information on the "Paint Tia Pink Project" fundraiser...

For more information on George’s team, visit PACODEP’s website

NY Times articles on the Lake Volta slavery:

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

They Are Coming

This weekend my best friend and my sister will be here to spend a whole week with me. I am SOO EXCITED!! Actually, right now I'm a bit tired and have a bunch of errands and cleaning to do to get ready, but it's all worth it.

A whole week with my two most favorite people in the world. Counting down the minutes....

Just so this post isn't completely pointless, I was blessed yesterday at work but not having to be in the office but getting to go out in the field and shadow. On a sunny, 60 degree day it couldn't have been any better. We did a little staking, turned some water on and replaced a frozen meter in a house that had a fire. That house was crazy, so much ruined and left. For a while we could still smell the burned scent on our clothes.

Working in a very affluent area, driving around seeing all these huge, ornate houses does sadden me though. Especially when I think about people in other countries, and the orphaned kids, and those without clean water. We waste so much on outward appearances. It can be hard to accept both realities - live here and be thankful for the blessing while my heart is there and to help in the ways I can.

More to come on this soon...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Random Thoughts

It's been a long week. Actually... it's been a long month. Work stress, insomnia, death, illness and depression have all touched my life in one way or another and it's felt exhausting. Thursday night I went to a prayer rally and it was a wonderful opportunity to re-center. Finally, today I was able to stop being on high-alert and rest. Even though I slept well last night, I fell asleep this afternoon and slept for a wonderful 2 1/2 hours. After I woke up... I felt like a different person. I felt like me again. I know life will continue to press in, but I am ready to face it again.

On a HAPPY note. My sister and my best friend will be here!!! It's the first time they will meet. I'm looking forward to the time away from work and the fun things we have planned. Ending in a 5k race. My friend's first race and I'm blessed to be able to run it with her.

I went to the store today and made a tasty discovery. Tostidos now make a chip with a hint of pepper jack. Mmmmmmm. I made a bean dip for my small group on Sunday night and tried some with the new chips. I don't know if I would say its clearly a pepper jack taste, but the chips are really good.

Tomorrow I have to attend a baby shower for my cousin. Showers in general are not really my thing and never have been, but lately I have found them to be even harder. I am grateful that for this one I feel none of the emotional dread because I know their struggle and journey it has taken for them to be able to have this baby. At the same time, it's still socially awkward for me and takes up several hours of a day I could be doing other things. Now, to make it somewhat worse, I have to drive out of my way to pick up my grandma and take her. Don't get me wrong, I look forward to seeing my grandma, especially since I missed Christmas. I don't like using up the little gas I have left driving extra and then having to stay until the last possible moment when I planned on checking out early to get to church. I'm sure I have the wrong attitude about it and my plans aren't always the most important.

Finally, we never know when things will change - when earthquakes or tsunamis of life will occur. No matter what I am grateful for the blessings I have today. The people who are here with me today and the choices I have the freedom to make.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Did you ever wonder?

As part of a 6-week training program to learn how to share the gospel effectively in a way that uses your own story and strengths, we were to read through one of the gospels from start to finish to better understand/refresh ourselves with the story of Jesus.

Just a little background on this wonderful movement of God. Here in southeast Michigan there are over 400 churches joining forces for a massive 40 day outreach to share the gospel beginning the day after Easter. The weekend before there will be a prayer walk through downtown Detroit. It's called E.A.C.H

Everyone A Chance to Hear

I am excited to be a part of what God is at work doing here. I believe the last 2 years God has been preparing to feel more confortable sharing 'my story' with people that may lead to opportunities to share 'His story.' In the meantime, the same 6 sermons are being preached at these churches that go along with a small group study.

Back to the assignment. Last weekend I decided to read through the book of Mark. Why? Confession - because it had the fewest chapters.

One of my favorite things about the Word of God is finding little things I never noticed before or seeing a passage in a new way even if I have heard it over and over again. This was no exception. A few words with a large impact.

The Rich Young Man
Mark 10:17-23 is the story of the rich young man (also found in Mt 19:16-30 and Lk 18:18-30)
But only Mark gives a deeper glimpse into Jesus heart.

v 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him...

And I wonder - Was it a knowing look of love that the man would not be able to follow the words Jesus was about to speak? Was it a love of heartbreak knowing this man would never be saved? It was cleary something visible in Jesus gaze or body language. Maybe Jesus had tears in his eyes as he spoke, wanting so desperately for this man to know and yet knowing he never would.

Lord, help us to not let our things get in the way of knowing and obeying you.

Then a snowstorm came that weekend and my small group was cancelled and so I had another week to work on the homework and decided I would also read through John, since its style is much different than the other 3. I haven't finished it yet, but still found some food for thought.

Water Into Wine
John chapter 2 starts with Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding. This is the first recorded miracle in Jesus ministry, but I'm not convinced it was his first miracle. Mary approaches her son. She pulls him aside and whispers in his ear that the wine is gone. She knows he can do something about it and I don't think she means for him to go buy some. What would make her think her son could pull something off unless she had known, had seen him do something miraclous before. Maybe he skinned his knee and healed himself, or provided for the family when there was nothing?

He looks at her and says, "Really woman, really? (ok so I took some liberties with the text) "Why do you involve me? My time has not yet come." And Mary looks at her son, knows he will do it anyway and tells the servants to do what Jesus says. Who knows what wonderous secrets Mary carried in her heart about this gift-child?

Lord, teach us to approach you in confidence knowing you will do whatever we ask in your name.

After the Triumphal Entry
John 12:20-22 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

That's it. We don't know if they ever got a chance to speak with Jesus or glimpse him as he spoke predicting his soon approaching death. And why would John bother to even mention them? Perhaps to show us that Christ was already reaching the Gentiles, drawing them in as well. The footnote in my Bible says "He regarded their coming as important but not their conversation with Jesus. Jesus came to die for the world, and the coming of these Gentiles indicates the scope of the effectiveness of his approaching crucifixion."

Earlier in Chapter 10, Jesus himself speaks of this.
v14-16 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not sheep of this pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Lord, thank you for taking good care of us. Thank you that we hear your voice and know your love for us.

I don't typically promote other blogs, but if you want to be challenged and fed with heart piercing sound bytes, please check out this blog. This precious daughter of God is only 11 but speaks with Holy Spirit wisdom. If you are fed, please let her know you stopped by and encourage her to continue writing and seeking truth in the Word of God.