Another reading camp has come to an end. The children, wearing their GMH shirts have all waved goodbye, some with tears in their eyes, and the US team has had our last dinner in Ghana. I rarely can make sense of the emotions I have as I prepare to leave Ghana, this time for the fourth time. While I am looking forward to a toilet that can take toilet paper and a shower that does not smell of sulfur, I am sad to leave behind the 60 children who have been such a part of me for the past few days. People always ask me, “Why do you keep going back?” The simple answer is that I love the children.
When we pull up to the school each day and the children see us, their faces shine and their smiles radiate joy. Such emotion for such a simple thing…am I missing something? Surely, they do not jump up and down and call out our names with such enthusiasm because they believe that we will make stellar readers out of them. I do not think they greet us with such overflowing love and joy because our lessons will utterly amaze and enthrall them. Why then do they shower us with their unconditional love so freely?
Jesus spent much of his time on earth with the sick, the meek, the unwanted, the forgotten and the outcasts. Ibrahim, Matilda, Deborah, Ayi, Emanuel, Rebecca, Kate….just a few of the children we served this week….these dear children, our children, will never be forgotten. We came to help with their reading skills and encourage them as they learn but, we came to simply love them and be with them. And we came to be loved. I saw how a group of village children can reach into the hearts of 6 American teenagers, take up residence, and change those teenage hearts forever. All 6 of those “loud, obnoxious, lazy, self-centered teens” is ready to return to their children next year. We did not come to adopt the children in the village, however they adopted us. I saw a quiet boy who listens to his IPOD a little to frequently become a vibrant young man who can run for hours while children squeal with delight because he has stopped to play with them. I witnessed a tough, athletic boy melt and realize that he does have a soft, tender side. I hear a soft-spoken girl say that she loves these children. I talked to a boy who asked me how to become a teacher so he could move to Ghana to be around the children more. A girl who says she does not have what it takes to be a teacher had a class of 22 African children following her every move and every word as she read them a story. And I saw a girl that I barely know open herself up and make a fool of herself so that the children could follow along with her silly dance.
What difference does it all make? Can we change the world? There are 60 children who are a few steps closer to becoming more than just another villager. There are 6 American teenagers who have been touched by the innocence and freely-given love of some children who only a few days ago were strangers. The children of the village, who loved us so well, will never forget our names and faces. We, who came to give but received so much, will never forget the smiles, the hugs, and the faces lit up with joy, nor what it feels like to be loved to openly. God allowed us to love and be loved through His children. Love always leaves a mark. May our hearts bear witness to the greatest Love of all.