Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Concern for the One

My birthday just happened to fall on a Sunday this year and, to celebrate the happy day, my ward asked me to speak. Well . . . they didn't really know it was my birthday and I definitely wasn't going to be telling anyone, so I agreed. I was asked to speak on my experiences in Ghana which I was excited to share with those who hadn't heard yet. It was a lot of fun, not to mention very emotional, to go through all of my journal entries and pictures looking for ideas. After some preparation I came up with a little overview to share and I thought that I would share it with you:

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Ghana, a country in West Africa, to do some service in a school and orphanage called Sankofa, located in a small village. When our group arrived we asked the director how we could help the most during the time we were there. He then asked us to take the children struggling with English and teach them as much as we could. The school also had a spare hour which we could use to teach anything we wanted. We quickly decided that we wanted the children to have a creative outlet so we turned to art and different activities. I remember one of our first days at Sankofa. We were working with class 1, which is roughly equivalent to 1st grade. After passing out crayons and paper we asked the children to draw a number of things. The last item which we asked them to draw was what they wanted to be in the future. This was a concept none of the children were familiar with. The director explained to us that if these children became anything other than subsistence farmers, their parents would tell them what they would be. We began explaining to these children, through a translator, that they could be anything they wanted to be if they stayed in school and worked hard. We gave them some options of things they could draw, a footballer, a driver, a shopkeeper, a doctor, etc. and the children began drawing the things that we had listed, not really comprehending yet, most of them decided that they would play football for the national team. But I remember watching one child sit and think. All of the sudden the light bulb came on over his head and he began drawing very quickly. I wandered over to this small child and asked him about his picture. He pointed proudly at his drawing and said “airplane.” Surprised I asked him if he would be a pilot when he grew up and he nodded his head excitedly. Only once did we see an airplane fly over this small village.

In his latest conference talk, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin spoke on “Concern for the One.” He stated: “Jesus Christ is our greatest example. He was surrounded by multitudes and spoke to thousands, yet He always had concern for the one.” While in Ghana, my testimony on the importance of the one was greatly strengthened. As a developing country Ghana is still working out many problems with its education system, many schools continue to work with mediocre text books, or none at all, teachers can be anyone who is hired for the job, many of whom did not complete school themselves. With 40% of Ghana’s population under the age of 15, it is an even greater struggle to keep children in school.

Teaching in the Ghanaian school system is based on memorization. Most of the children we worked with could recite their ABCs and some could even write them out, but they had difficulty in identifying individual letters. The words they could read were only the ones which they had been taught and memorized. So we worked with the children on letter recognition and phonics. Given a little one on one attention these struggling students began doing very well. By the end of the three weeks we were there teaching most could recognize individual letters and some could even sound out words they were not familiar with. All of the children loved learning especially if they were recognized individually for something done right. They would do anything for a simple high five, or “well done,” or a sticker at the end of class. It was so amazing to see the difference in these children when they realized that they could do well and they were loved as individuals.

The Lord shows His concern for the One in many different ways. While in Ghana I was blessed to stay with an LDS host family and my host father told me a little about the Church’s history in Ghana. In the late 1960s several individuals learned about the Church and wanted to be baptized. They wrote to the leaders of the Church and asked for The Book of Mormon as well as missionaries to come and teach them. The Church happily sent copies of the Book of Mormon; however, the Church wrote back and told them it was not yet their time to have the missionaries but soon they would have the opportunity to join the Church. In the meantime these individuals set up different congregations throughout Ghana and began teaching from and studying the Book of Mormon. They worked to have the Church recognized by the Ghanaian government so that when the time did come no additional work would have to be done. In 1969, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was finally recognized by the government. It wasn’t until 1978, when President Kimball received the revelation which extended the priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church that missionaries were sent to Ghana. Our host father took us to many of the sites from the early days of the Church in Cape Coast. The tiny home which the first followers met in, the building they expanded to when more people joined the congregation and the first meeting house in Cape Coast. We were also able to visit the Accra, Ghana temple and feel the Spirit there. The people of Ghana and Africa are so grateful for a house of the Lord so close to home. Our host parents were baptized soon after the missionaries arrived and our host father expressed his gratitude that Lord showed love to him personally by giving him 9 years to accept the gospel so that he could be baptized when the missionaries arrived.

I know that our Heavenly Father loves us all individually. I am so grateful to Him for the opportunity to travel to Ghana and serve the people there. I will never forget the blessings and knowledge I gained from my experince in Ghana.

1 comment:

Jordan & Melanie said...

What an amazing experience. I love those kind of things that just help your testimony grow.