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Ghana Summer Camp 2009

Project Dates: August 6-20, 2009

2009 United Youth Corps staff and campers in Ghana

Ghana Youth Camp Report

by Thomas Clark

On Monday, Aug. 10, nearly 120 campers and staff from the United Church of God in Ghana descended on the town of Ejura, located approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) north and west of Kumasi. We were able to host 94 campers from congregations throughout central and southern Ghana. 

The Baptist Women’s Retreat Center provides housing and facilities for cooking and a dining hall. The daily Christian Living classes are held in the dining hall, but all other activities take place across the road on the grounds of the local Catholic School. Since all schools are on holiday during August (which is the reason we hold the camp at this time) we are able to use the school grounds at very little cost. Once again this year the activities included football (soccer), kickball, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee and challenge games. Like all UYC camps around the world, our focus is partly on the game and improving a set of skills, but more on the positive godly attitudes and character that can be developed. It is this character we want our youth to internalize long after the skills of ball handling or throwing a Frisbee are forgotten!

The weather was pleasant for much of the camp. We had a few rain showers and cloudy days at the start, which kept the temperature down to a comfortable level—although it was quite chilly from the perspective of the Ghanaians! The rain also worked to keep down the dust and make the grassy field a little greener.

Three Youth Corps volunteers were accepted to work in Ghana this year: Devin Schultz from St. Louis, Missouri, Jessie Hernandez from New York City and Cindy Harper from Cherbourg, France. We all arrived in the capital city of Accra on Wednesday the August 5. 

On Thursday and Friday we were able to travel down the coast to Elmina and did some touring, including seeing the former slave castle at Elmina. The Portuguese built this castle in 1482 initially to store the gold that had just been discovered in large quantities further inland as well as ivory and spices. Later it became a staging point for shipping slaves to Europe or the New World. In 1637 the castle was captured by the Dutch, and in 1872 it was ceded to the British, who ended the shipment of slaves from Ghana. It is sobering to visit the location where many died and many more left their native lands never to return. 

We were also able to visit Kakum National Park. This park includes seven sections of bridges suspended up in the trees of the native rainforest. At the highest point it is nearly 40 meters (over 120 feet) off the ground! But it provides a spectacular view of the rainforest canopy and highlights the rich, natural flora of the Ghanaian costal rainforest. 

On the Sabbath of Aug. 8 we were able to spend morning services with the congregation in Elmina and afternoon services with the congregation in the nearby village of Agona. Devon Schultz had been asked to bring a sermonette and was able to give it in both locations with the aid of a translator. It is an entirely new experience to learn to speak a phrase, then wait for it to be translated to the local dialect of Twi before proceeding with your message! He did a very good job, and his message was well received!

The need for God’s protection was highlighted for us by a couple of incidents on the road. One of the taxi drivers we hired seemed enthralled with the speed and ability of his cab. On several occasions he pushed his vehicle above 90 miles an hour! This is quite a dangerous speed on most Western roads, but it is positively treacherous on Ghana’s roads with their poor condition and the unpredictable driving patterns of oncoming traffic! We repeatedly asked him to slow down, which primarily served to irritate him while he reduced speed for only a short while. When we arrived in Kumasi, he made sure I had his name and phone number to call when we needed a cab again. But all things considered, I believe we’ll work to find another cab for future trips!

On the trip into the camp itself another incident highlighted the need for God’s protection. The cab we hired to bring us from Kumasi to the camp was a rather small taxi. Our luggage would not all fit inside the trunk, so the driver stacked it all as high as he could, kept the trunk lid raised and simply roped the bags in place. The result was he had no visibility out the rearview mirror. Perhaps partly because of his inability to see out the back window and partly because of the excessive speed of the small bus behind us, the bus nearly collided with our cab as we were preparing to turn onto the camp property. The screech of tires on the pavement and the sight of a bus careening past us with only inches of clearance alerted us to the fact that God had spared us what could have been a serious accident. After both drivers stopped and yelled at each other (perhaps it is a good thing we aren’t fluent in Twi), everyone went their ways, and we gave God thanks for His protection! 

During camp this year running water was a scarcity. For unknown reasons the water was off most of the time during camp. At odd hours (perhaps 9 p.m. one day and 3 a.m. another) the water would come on. At that time buckets were filled to enable us to have enough water to flush toilets, wash clothes and take “bucket baths” at the end of each day. While most Westerners do not cherish cold showers, a week of bucket baths will make even a cold shower in running water seem positively luxurious! 

The main focus of the camp and all the Christian Living classes was “Godly Leadership.”  Matthew 20:25 tells us that a true leader is a servant of others, not seeking to enrich or empower themselves. True godly leadership—or servant leadership – is not natural to a human being, but it is so important in the development of Christian character. Each of the local pastors presented either a Christian Living class or an evening Bible study on various aspects of godly leadership, and each of the activity heads worked to make sure the lessons of true godly behavior were taught in the course of the classes. 

On Saturday evening after the Sabbath had ended, the Youth Corps volunteers and I had a unique opportunity. Reuel Dima, the pastor of our congregations in Yeji and Makango, has started a weekly radio broadcast on a small local FM station. Saturday evening he procured a taxi to take us all up to the small town of Atebubu to join him live on the air. He asked the volunteers to introduce themselves on the air to show the listeners that the United Church of God is an international church, not just a small local organization. Following their introductions I was asked to present a message about the weekly Sabbath. As with most messages in Ghana, it was translated phrase-by-phrase into the Twi dialect. Before we left the studio Mr. Dima had already received two phone calls from listeners asking for more information on the Church and the Sabbath day. A few callers have responded since that time even asking for a recording of the program. The station manager has responded by sending out copies of the program to those who have asked. 

Early on Sunday morning, Aug. 17, we all departed the camp and began our journeys home, satisfied with the blessings the experience had brought. Quite unlike previous years, all of the Youth Corps volunteers went through the entire two weeks without contracting any of the stomach issues that have so often plagued previous groups. For that we were all very grateful! 

All three of our Youth Corps volunteers demonstrated the kind of love, dedication and care that we have come to expect from our volunteers. Their attitude of service combined with the respect and responsiveness of the campers and staff made the entire camp a wonderful, positive and uplifting experience. It is our hope that the lessons taught and the experiences gained will benefit everyone, enriching all of our lives now as we move forward to the coming Kingdom of God!

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