Compassion International President Wess Stafford smiles at a new friend during the dedication of the Ghana/West Africa Compassion office.
In Ghana, March is a month of freedom and celebration as the people of this coastal West African country celebrate the anniversary of their independence from the British. On March 4, 2006, the children of Ghana were given a new reason to celebrate as the Compassion Ghana and Compassion West Africa area offices were dedicated.
Formerly called the Gold Coast because of its wealth of gold and other natural resources, Ghana has a rich history of empires and ancient civilizations paired with a sometimes turbulent political climate. Following a period of political unrest in the 1960s and 1970s, a new constitution was established in 1992, paving the way for a now stable democracy.
The Gold of Ghana
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International, describes Ghana as a country with a "rich heritage, a powerful history, a dynamic present . and a powerful future." Having grown up in Africa's Ivory Coast, Stafford remembers childhood stories of Ghana's fabled "Gold Coast."
"I remember my friends and I thinking that if we were able to go (to Ghana) we would find gold littered everywhere we went," remembers Stafford. "Well, it took me a while to finally visit Ghana and when I got off my plane yesterday, the first person I met was a beautiful little Ghanaian girl carrying flowers and, in seeing her, I realized that Ghana indeed has a lot of gold on its streets - its children."
Compassion has carefully been building partnerships with local churches in Ghana since 2004, seeking out congregations who already had a vision for the plight of children in the region, as well as educating churches on providing a safe, healthy environment for the Ghana's 1 million children. Months of preparation, training and vision sharing finally culminated in partnerships with 12 churches and 2,000 registered Ghanan children.
"We have so much potential ."
The day of the dedication was a typical hot and humid Ghanaian afternoon, but the heat didn't prevent guests from turning up in their best clothes.The Winneba Youth Choir, clad in white and black uniforms, set the mood for the function, singing hymns with melodious and rich voices. Despite the jubilant celebration, however, the seriousness of the conditions facing Ghanaian children was not lost on the audience.
"The situation of children in Ghana is similar to that over most of the third world," Country Director Jemima Amanor said to the gathering. "Most Ghanaian children are malnourished and out of school. Some parents sell their children to those who end up exploiting them. They are denied their childhood; they fall sick often and die. We have so much potential that is cut short."
Elizabeth Yeboah, representing the Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, described the day as "a time to evaluate the way we treat children. The children are in pain and do not have adequate forums to hear their cry," she added.
Dr. Stafford also described the plight of the child in poverty. "In every country," he said, "children are the great omission in the Great Commission. They don't vote and don't tithe, so we ignore them. We teach them to stay in line, but they are always at the end of the line. When something goes wrong, they pay the price. When there is disease, adults fall sick but children die. When there is hunger, adults go hungry but children starve and die."
March 4 will always be remembered in Ghana, not only as the day that Compassion officially launched its ministry in the country, but also as a day when its citizens were challenged to march forth to build the Kingdom of God through the little ones, the new gold of Ghana.
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