Sunday, November 27, 2011

Life in the Village

As soon as we saw the blue and white buildings up on the hill, we knew we'd survived arrived at the Village of Life. Before we stopped there, we were taken through town to our accommodations - the Credit Union/Guesthouse. 

Main Street

As we settled into our rooms - where we would call home for the next 5 nights - we realized that real African initiation was about to begin. No more running water and no AC. Still in the lap of luxury, we did have an indoor bathroom and the pails of water were hauled up the stairs for us. Scarily... I didn't even mind not showering for those days. It's part of what I love about being in Africa - the stripping away of all the things that seem important; where water is a privilege, not an requirement.

A few minutes later, we stepped onto the Village of Life property for our "welcoming ceremony." We sat outside and talked with George Sr. and George Jr. about the plans for the week ahead. We presented them with a few gifts we had brought for them. The best part... we met some of the kids.

Scenes from the Village of Life:


Siamese Goats?
(not really)


One boy was particularly special for JD. Several months before we arrived in Ghana we asked George a favor. If he came across a boy with a particular name, we would do whatever necessary to rescue him. As part of an Interpol raid, this young guy was brought to the Village of Life. He was so full of life. I can't even imagine his spirit being squelched by a life on the lake. He had the cutest laugh.

It was the teen girls who really stole our hearts. Most of our time was spent with them learning about them and from them. Currently, they are learning trades - sewing or hairdressing. In many ways they are like typical teenage girls - unsure of how they look, wishing they had a mirror to look in, and craving love while trying to act strong. Unlike many teenagers, they have already been through horrific life circumstances. Each of these girls were brave enough to share her story with us. Stories of being taken from home and not remembering where home was. When asked about a birthday, heads hung in shame as the answer "I don't know" was quietly whispered. Many of the girls talked about working hard to please the master only to be beaten anyway. Some quietly spoke of being raped. All told of being rescued by George and learning about the love of Jesus at the Village of Life. I asked one when she was on the island if she felt God had forgotten about her. She told me she didn't even know about God until she came to the Village of Life. It broke my heart to think of all the kids still enslaved who don't know that there is a God who cares about every wound and every tear.

I enjoyed making the girls our priority as I'm sure the younger kids often get most of the attention. There was also one teen boy who I spent several evenings talking with. He called me "madam Tia." While I taught him some guitar chords, he tried to teach me to juggle and whistle with my thumbs. I was horrible at both.

One of the main focuses of our visit was the new school building. We were able to tour the existing classrooms, see the students and meet the teachers.

The first several hundred bricks for the new school had been made. The building footprint was staked out for the sod-cutting ceremony (or as we called it - groundbreaking).  The land was prayed for and blessed by a local priest. Using a pickax JD attempted to broke ground. Following the ceremony, the kids played drums and sang while a dance party broke out. I'm pretty sure I was the first one who joined in the dancing. It was hot and sweaty, but I know I was smiling and so were the kids. Meanwhile, JD who has pretty much vowed not to dance until Jesus comes back stayed toward the outside of the mosh pit.... but I'm betting she busted a little move.

One of the local dishes is fufu. It is made with boiled plantains and/or yams that are pounded into a pasty dough like substance. One night, we even got to take a turn making it and then try it. It tasted like a potato pancake, but the fish stew I had to dip it in grossed me out. But still... I tried it. Which was more than some people (Joshua). 

Another local dish is grasscutter, which is a giant rat. JD, ever the food connoisseur, expressed to our hosts that she wanted to try it. The next day for lunch we were served something different. Little fried pieces of meat. Immediately, we all wondered if it was grasscutter. After tentatively trying it and finding the meat really tasty we continued to eat. Joshua would not touch it -just the thought of it grossed him out. I tried to convince him that it was likely not grasscutter (as I couldn't imagine liking it if it was) but still he would not budge. Finally we got him to eat one of the tiniest bites. In the end, it turned out it was simply beef. Poor Josh was bummed he missed out on lunch.

In the afternoons, we were brought back to our rooms for some downtime. We used this time to explore the town a little. Josh and I quickly found a store to buy cold Coca Cola. We visted this vendor daily for our fix. Down the road, we also found some fresh bread, which we ate with peanut butter. Mmmm...

We also discovered a community behind the Credit Union. While waiting for our ride back to the Village of Life one afternoon, we engaged with many of the children. We took photos of them and gave them a new soccer ball. I'm not sure the parents were as impressed with the obruni (white people) as several were yelling at the children and came to drag them away.

Not much goes on at the Village of Life in the evenings. One night, the boys hung a bat net on the dorm as they had been particularly damaging. Within a few minutes, there were several bats caught in the net. We were inside eating when the commotion all started. First Josh went out to see what was going on. He came running back in to get the camera. Quickly, the rest of us finished eating and went outside to join in the entertainment of bat stoning and running when one fell to the ground. Front row seats to a Discovery channel special on bats.

On Sunday, we attended church and sat with our teen girls. One of the first things I noticed was the painting of Jesus behind the stage. Blood was coming out of his heart, but they covered it up with a wall clock. That wasn't even working. Just a little weird.

The church was divided into 4 sections and all the men sat in one section together. Each section stood and sang a song. At another point, we got into a line and danced around like in a conga line. JD continued her anti-dance vow and sat out. The service lasted about 2 hours and other than what the girls explained to us, we had no idea what was being said. Towards the end, the girls began to try and read their English bibles to us. It was then that I realized that while they spoke English fairly decently, they were not able to read it well. Another reminder that these girls still had much to overcome in order to break out from this cycle of poverty.

I loved the different colorful
scarves these older woman wore

Our last night arrived with a closing ceremony of sorts. Just the way we started, sitting outside in a circle with George. The kids came and gathered round, singing us a song. The girls then presented us all with  gift. The girls had made Joshua a shirt and placed a roll of fabric in my hand. They encouraged Joshua to try on his shirt immediately. They were delighted when it fit.

It wasn't until after the "ceremony" had ended and George had gone home that the girls asked us to try on our dresses. We hadn't even realized they had made us dresses. I think all of us were a little afraid to try them on. What if they didn't fit? As each piece was put on and fit, the girls errupted with squeals of delight. When all 3 of us were African-ly clad, a party broke out. We were amazed that they were able to create all of this in 4 days without even measuring us. I'm sure it was a huge boost to them in knowing their skills were improving.

For me... it was the best gift I could come home with. A gift of love from precious girls I had come to love.


Debra said...

These girls, they hold a giant piece of my heart back in Ghana. I miss them so much.

JD said...

Beautifully written -- I laughed, I cried, I loved!! So good to hear it through your words.

JD said...

P.S. Yes, I couldn't help but da-... wait... let's not call it "dance", per say, but I couldn't help but be moved by the rhythm of the drums, the dancing (everyone else's), the kids, the songs... voluntarily or otherwise. Perhaps it was because Jesus was in our presence, where children are, there He is! <3

Amazing things happen in Africa -- it even makes some the frowniest, unsmiley people smile!