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Ghana Summer Camp 2007

Project Dates: August 8-22, 2007

A Personal Commentary

by Rob Oswald

Endurance and living for the moment is how I would describe my trip to Ghana. It started out with an enthusiasm to preach the gospel, and eagerness for what awaits me after a full day of tight spaces and little movement on our trans-Atlantic flight.

Being spoiled at Shangri-La, Elmina Beach Resort, and Coconut Grove Resort helped this trip to feel more like a vacation than work. It also would highlight just how bad the poverty would truly be here.

Our first Sabbath in Accra was something to remember. Our group took a stroll down to see the ocean, and realized “we weren’t in Kansas anymore.” Homes were made of thin plywood or mud. Seeing the ocean for the first time on this trip made my stomach drop. In front of us was a little boy using a plastic bag instead of a toilet, and then he disposed of it over a cliff to land in the ocean below. This was the most disturbing mental picture I have, but the smell would not compare to what would lie ahead on our journey.

After the church service I reflected on the last two days and noticed that if you are friends, family, or “United Church of God” extended family, you are given respect with a warm feeling of acceptance. Later, out in public amongst strangers there might be struggles for ranks or positions, but we were not affected because as foreigners they thought we would have money to spend.

Tuesday was our first day at Camp Adisadel in Cape Coast. I taught Softball, a new event to our campers. Modification to the game and patience with the children helped them to enjoy a general taste of something new. Team Challenge, Volleyball, Soccer, Frisbee, and Christian Living were other classes given to the campers this year.

“Time is meaningless” was a concept we understood well by the end of our trip! We also battled with constant power outages and little hot water, but were thankful to have a toilet bowl with toilet paper. At the end of the summer camp smiles and praise from the campers was satisfying enough to make this trip worth while.

There are two primary lessons I learned, one was with the campers, and the other with our group. While getting to know Melvin Rhodes, Tom Clark, Arielle Falardeau, Amber Epperson, Corbin Rose, and Josh Lee, I realized that to help people in the United Church of God, and people in the world, I would be confronted with weaknesses that we all have. But one responsibility as a Christian is to not be a busybody or gossip to one another (2 Thessalonians 3:11, 1 Timothy 5:13).

The second lesson that stood out is to be clear and careful with my speech. Many of the campers spoke little or no English so I found myself keeping what I wanted to say short and sweet and to the point in order to be understood (Genesis 11:7, Colossians 4:7).

My experiences were worth far more then the cost of the trip, and I would recommend that anyone who wishes to help with this summer camp maintain an open mind and a Godly perspective. Our environment changed so much and fast, I had to remember to enjoy each moment for what it brought.

For me, there are four highlights to this trip to Africa: the Elmina Castle, the Cape Coast Castle, Kakum National Park and the Crocodile farm. Both castles were formerly slave castles, built to hold slaves until ships could arrive to transport them elsewhere in the world. We learned about the trials these people suffered: beatings and small daily rations, and walked through cramped spaces in which they were forced to live with poor hygiene at best. I can understand how the thought of death would sound comforting to them. This experience helped me to appreciate my right to freedom, living in America.

I can honestly say this trip opened my eyes to how thankful we should be to always have the vision of God’s Kingdom in mind. Kakum National Park helped in this area, because it was a canopy walk on suspended bridges in the most gorgeous, calming, peaceful rainforest I could ever imagine. I was reminded of the Kingdom and how nothing we see today will come close to how wonderful God’s Kingdom will be. It was simply breathtaking, and made me eager to follow God’s law more carefully.

The last highlight I want to talk about is the Crocodile farm – a restaurant on a small lake surrounded by live crocodiles. Josh Lee and I gave in to the taunts by the crocodiles to come and play with them. For a cost of two cedis, and with the help of a trainer, we both were able to pet a wild crocodile – and live to tell about it!

I could not have asked for a better trip. I am thankful to the people who helped, and the United Church of God for the opportunities to show my Christian walk. I was able to learn a lot from my companions, seeing different views, and discussions I might not otherwise have had. I look forward to my next camp, and would like to pursue attending ABC. We are all creatures of our environment, I feel the benefits of living in a sound structure of God’s Laws and applying them to life will help others in my future.

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