My first missions encounter: Ghana

A young Slovak woman experiences God at work during a one-year stint with OM Ghana.

With trembling heart, Slovak missionary Lenka Slobodova watched as her plane landed at the airport in Accra, Ghana. She shivered with joy and excitement. Lenka had never visited Ghana and knew no one but planned to stay one year, working with the Rural Child Aid Initiative through OM.

“A lot of things were not how I imagined and expected,” Lenka said.

Adjusting to new surroundings

She experienced culture shock in her new and strange environment. Because the OM Ghana team consists of West-African workers, they could not relate to her struggles of adjusting to a new culture, but their presence helped Lenka learn culture and customs.

“Even names like the Beatles or Frank Sinatra were unknown there,” Lenka said, explaining that in her residence town, Kumasi, you don’t even have to step out of your car—somebody comes to your window with goods on their head, offering a good price.

“As a white person, you look like a walking cash machine,” she said, “so the ‘good price’ is tripled.” The local people are able to discuss the price to a reasonable level.

She added that the local children are beautiful, cute, humble and thankful. But due to their natural curiosity they will follow you everywhere, all the time. It’s impossible to cross a street without them shouting at you.

After some time Lenka learnt to cope with these cultural differences and many other difficulties, and her emotional status stabilised.

“I realised how I love this place and this job,” Lenka said.

The plight of the children

Lenka worked with the Rural Child Aid Initiative, a programme designed to help rural children. Because these children are literally fighting for survival with poverty, they face a lot of material problems but also challenges on a relational and spiritual level.

Consider this sample case: Aisha was a 14-year-old girl who lived in a village. Her father worked as a truck driver. When he returned from one of his numerous trips he brought them an unexpected gift—he transmitted the HIV virus to his wife and made his two daughters orphans.

The girls came under the care of their auntie, who because of the social-spiritual decadence of society, didn’t take proper care of them because they are not her own children. The girls helped around the house, but Aisha decided to leave for the capital city so she could find a job and pay for her sister’s education. She earned 2 US dollars a day carrying loads and baggage for people and slept on a sidewalk, because she didn`t have money for rent. One night she was raped.

Broken, angry and determined to have a better life, she changed her occupation. She stood by the roadside, selling her body for 10 cedi (5 US dollars) per customer. Two years later she died of AIDS. Her sister was left alone. 

Responding to needs

Sadly, this story is not uncommon in Ghana. OM responds to this need in a variety of ways. The team travels to the areas where the majority of children come from and organises lectures for schools. They give adults advice on parenting, managing household finances and other issues.

The OM team also gives children already wandering city streets a chance to go back to school. This year they plan to open a skill centre for children who can’t return to school, where they will be offered vocational training and discipleship.

Missions won’t turn you into a superhero. It will show you your biggest weaknesses … It will break your dreams and build new ones.

“OM Ghana is giving hope and is a direct expression of God’s love to those who are unseen and forgotten,” Lenka said.

Every Wednesday, OM Ghana sent a small, four-member team to visit surrounding schools, sharing the gospel with students and teachers. They talked with locals, played games and activities and encouraged the youth to trust the Lord.

“We had the privilege of watching them receive Jesus as their Saviour,” Lenka said, “and seeing how they pray and praise their Creator. Thousands of kids heard the gospel and made the decision to give Jesus lordship over their lives. God only knows which ones are really serious with Him.”

Lessons from God

Sitting on a plane again after a year in Ghana, Lenka said she had a feeling similar to finishing reading a really good book. But it took a few months for her to realise that her time in Ghana will change the rest of her life. Why?

“One of the things God taught me was to trust Him,” Lenka said. “In any situation, any crisis, any downfall He proved to be faithful, caring and mighty.”

That didn’t mean the journey was an easy one for her, though.

“Missions won’t turn you into a superhero,” Lenka said. “It will show you your biggest weaknesses; it will steal your comfort and surely mix the cards with which you play your life. It will break your dreams and build new ones.

“But,” she added, “it is also an opportunity to be a part of something that shows God’s character so clearly, something that shows His closeness and power. And this surpasses all of us, even mission itself.”

 

By OM International