By The Rev. Becki Neumann, Christ Church, South Riding, VA.
What difference do 3 people with 9 suitcases filled with 3 spin art machines, 70 water color sets, 330 books, and some home made teaching materials really make in the lives of children who live in incredible poverty?
Each year as we’ve run a reading camp in Akramaman the question has been asked, “What difference does this really make.” And every year we’ve answered, “Made a difference to that one,” quoting the old starfish on the beach story. It was true. We’d made a difference to each child we’d touched, the 65 or the 110, or whatever number we’d worked with that year, and we’d made a difference to the Ghanaian teachers who came to help our team of 15 to 20.
So, what happens when the team shrinks to 3? There’s a biblical story that reflects our circumstance this summer, with our little team of 3, plus one great photographer (Thank you Bryan Woolston). In Judges, chapter 7, we read of Gideon and his army of 32,000, who were set to take the land of Midian, when we read this curious statement in verse 2, “The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” Too many? Yes, it says, “too many.” In the account that follows God reduces the number of warriors form 32,000 down to 300, so that his power would be known.
32,000 down to 300… 18 (last year’s team size) down to 3… so that God’s power would be known and his purpose fulfilled. God’s purpose for Ghanaian Mother’s Hope is clearly stated in our tag line, “empowering future leaders of Africa,” and that is clearly what God led us to do this summer. By training the Ghanaian teachers in how to support, encourage, and teach beginning readers, and by putting them in the position to use their skills with support, encouragement, and correction, the leadership of the reading camp shifted from the team to those who are with the children year round.
The teachers flourished, the children flourished, the young Ghanaian helpers flourished. Empowerment happened. And GMH is now positioned to replicate the camp and the process in a new location next year while still giving material support to the camp at Akramaman. What looked like a failure (a team of 3 to run a camp) was instead God’s hand at work, and led to one of GMH’s finest hours, that moment when we could see that we had launched these teachers into a whole new way of teaching reading.
Isn’t that just like the good and gracious God we know? He is so good at taking us down the path he wants to produce the result he desires, if we will just remain faithful and go along.
It was an incredible summer in Ghana this year. Our time bore fruit in the lives of the teachers and children there, and in our own hearts as we saw what can happen when we are faithful with what God gives.