I rode along with two of our IJM aftercare team, trained social workers (one Ghanaian and one Canadian) who travel ceaselessly to make sure the kids are cared for. They were doing individual meetings with the boys all day, evaluating how they are doing and what kind of support they need. Meanwhile, I got to be outside playing with the kids.
When we arrived in the morning, the kids were already out playing soccer (football). I anticipated having a few moments to stretch and settle in before I joined in. It was not to be. A teacher gathered the kids on the grass, asked me to introduce myself and then lead a warm-up time for them. Now, I love coaching soccer for my kids back home and I’ve been watching Peter and Abby’s soccer training here 3 times a week, so I had a lot to draw on, but i was so surprised that my mind went blank a bit. I bought myself some time by asking them to form a giant circle- probably about 35 of us. All the games and drills that came to my mind necessitated a ball for each kid, but we only had 2, so those were out. What came to me was this- High School Football!
“OK, everyone, HIGH KNEES! GET THOSE KNEES UP, FASTER FASTER! OK, now BOODY KICKERS, KICK THAT BOODY, FASTER FASTER! NOW, 3 STEPS IN, 3 STEPS BACK, FASTER FASTER!” Then, in a flash came a cheer from Lizzy’s Sports in Accra where my kids train, I yell “LIBBY, LIBBY!” And teach the kids to say “HEY! while they make a fist and pull their elbow down. They loved it!
Then, I had them line up for a good old faithful game from my childhood: “Red light, Green Light!” That was very fun as I had could mess with them by repeating red light twice in a row and catching them. At the end I just said, TRY TO CATCH ME! and I took off across the knee-high grass with all the boys in hot pursuit. I bobbed and weaved and changed course a couple times just like Easter at UCC when I steal the kids’eggs, but these little guys are in far better athletic shape than me and my wind did not hold and they got me, grabbing ahold of me with big smiles and lots of laughter. I said between gasps, “Let’s play football!” So that’s how I got pretty well done in before the game even began.
We then played all morning, and I got absolutely sunburned to a crisp. My nose is straight up fried. At 1pm, while the kids went in for lunch, I went with our aftercare team down the street for some FuFu and fish in Peanut Soup
You eat with your hands and are not supposed to chew, but I stealthily chewed every bite.
Back at the home, it was games in the shade (Praise God!) including Foosball and Spa, a popular card game I just learned last Friday at the IJM staff retreat. I did a lot better at Spa then I did at soccer!
I marveled at the youngest of our clients, 6 years old, who could beat boys twice his age and height at this game that is like a cross between air hockey and Foosball. Truly, he was a master at that game.
I also taught the kids a bunch of games like “rock, paper, scissors”, “hot hands”, “Big Boody (which I renamed Big Man)”, and another cheer from Lizzy’s Sports.
I noticed one of the oldest boys at the home, not one of our clients but a boy who had come to live at the home there by some other route, sitting by himself deep in thought and, it seemed, in sadness. I went and sat by him and asked him how he was and got no response. I moved on. A bit later, he sought me out. He asked, “you’re a pastor, right? Can I talk to you about something? And we sat and had a very good talk, layered with emotion, fear, regret, and an uncertain future. I did my best to offer what counsel I could. I assured him of God’s steadfast love for him. I prayed for him. I hope I see him again.
Then it was time to go. We spent an eternity hauling kids out of our van, where they were scrambling in and playfully trying to stowaway, just like my kids have done so often to their friends’ parents.
I wish I could have shown you pictures of these wonderful children’s beautiful faces with shining smiles and playful eyes, but this is not allowed for a variety of reasons. I hope you can see them in your mind and I hope this image is enough to inspire you to pray for them and to root for them. They need this for the long road ahead.