JACKIE COATES–Returning missioner from 2011
In 2011, I went to Ghana to do my first reading camp. By the end of the week I looked like I had been left in the jungle for twelve hours. My eyes were red from crying, my body was soaked with sweat, my skin had a heavy tan line, and my hair was so frizzy due to the humidity that I looked like Oprah with a tangled Afro. Emotionally, this year I wasn’t as sad as I was three years ago. Rather than feel sad about leaving, I felt happier about a successful camp and how the small things we do can impact many. Though I was sad about not being able to see my old and new friends for a while, I was happy that they were safe, healthy, and in God’s care.
Another big difference between my two trips was the day itself. Three years ago, on Friday there was a graduation ceremony for the preschools. There were professional dancers, drums, little five year olds in purple robes, and umbrellas due to the inconsistent rain. Despite the celebration and excitement, the day didn’t really focus too much on the reading camp kids. Friday was more targeted towards the kids that we didn’t teach for the last five days. It was a nice celebration, but too many things were happening that day. This year we had a mini singing assembly where each class would sing a song that they learned in camp. The assembly got everyone involved and pumped up about being here that there was no room left for any sad thoughts.
The one thing that never changes is when you drive out of the school for the last time and you see those children give you their final farewell. Three years ago my old student Sarah waved me good bye. Today Sarah, now twelve and too old to go to reading camp, came back in the end just before we were leaving to say good bye to me. It’s nice to know that what you did years ago made an impact on these kids.
RAEGAN TATUM–Returning missioner from 2013
Wow!, another year of reading camp is over already. This week went by in a blink of an eye for me. I have enjoyed every moment of camp with all my little kids from Class 1. One thing that was different this year is that I was emotionally prepared for all the good-byes and last waves. I can say there was more excitement than sadness seeing all the smiling faces of my students from me taking all their pictures. Sorry. Camp was a success from every aspect from art to just reading and playing games.
At first, I was nervous because I was the only American and teen in my class this year. When the first day came and I saw them doing their morning greetings all my doubt went away and I knew that I had nothing to worry about. I had three Ghanaian teachers in my room with me by my side; they were amazing people to work with for the week. The best part of class for me was reading all the poems and stories of the day with my class. Overall, my second experience was different from the standpoint of being the only American teen in a classroom, and having to over exaggerate all my words and actions to keep the younger kids engaged. It was fun seeing all my kids want to come up to the board just to show that they knew a word or how to spell it. It was wonderful to know that they wanted to know more and learn more from what I was teaching them. I also got used to being called Madam, Madam, even after being introduced as Auntie Raegan. I bonded with each child in my class in just a short period of time, and they will always have a place in my heart as I hope I made a lasting mark on theirs.
ZACH NEUMANN–Teen leader, teacher and GMH missioner for many years
Love Is A Verb…..and It Makes Waves
Anita has been in reading camp for at least three years. She is a bright, sweet little girl who loves to wear dresses and to giggle. This year, she was in my class of novice readers. The few years I have known her, she has always been a smiler and an enthusiastic participant in reading camp however, she was not able to actually read aside from a few easy words like “it, is, in, they etc”. This year, her enthusiasm seemed to have doubled. Each time I asked the class to pull out their poetry books, she did so with glee and gusto. Each time the students were asked to sing a song or to draw a picture or to write a sentence, Anita joyfully took o the task and completed it successfully. I asked her to read for the class one day and for a moment, she froze and the smile faded. I looked at her and said softly, “C’mon…..I know you can do this.” and she smiled and shyly read for the class. When she had finished, she looked at me with uncertainty in her eyes until, with a huge smile on my face, I said, “Wow! Anita, that was beautiful!!”. Her eyes lit up, her smiled reignited and she giggled. For four days, during our library time, this little girl, grabbed a book, grabbed my hand, and demanded that she read stories to me for an hour. I was and am blessed beyond belief.
Someone once made the argument that fear is the best motivator; that it is out of fear that most people will be most compliant. I strongly disagree and suggest that love is the ultimate motivator, especially with children. Our team of 14 Americans came to love 100 village children in Ghana. But we were loved in return, beyond what we expected. It was our love that brought us to Ghana but it was the love of the children that kept us going each day. Love has a ripple effect…we shared our love with 100 children and several Ghanaian teachers. They in turn will go out and share their stories of the “oburunis” who came to play with and read to them. They will share each of the five books we sent home with them with their friends and families. Some will sit and read to a little brother or sister. Some will read to their parents (many of whom cannot read). The teachers who were with us observing will take ideas and songs and activities to their schools. They will share what they learned and saw with their colleagues and their students. Love is action. It is choice. It is undefeatable. The love of Christ pulls us close to Him and then sends us out to make waves in this broken world.