September 18, 2006

Ghana Trip Still Affects Lives

We thought you’d be interested in this moving “How I Spent My Summerâ€? essay by 15-year-old Ariel Cullors, who is a sophomore at Lompoc (CA) High School, for two reasons:
(1) Ariel is the granddaughter of Orlan and Carol Paulson, long-time faithful members of ABC. They would be mighty proud.
(2) Though Ariel did not go to Ghana herself, she heard all about it during her August stay in Altadena, and even second-hand, the trip had a profound effect on her. – Pastor George Van Alstine

Growing up as a child who did not have very much in life, a fortunate feeling recently has come over me. This feeling was due to the experiences my god-mother, Laura Van Alstine, and eleven other people, shared with me the summer of 2006. This was a heartfelt summer that changed my life all together for the better.

When I was younger, I was embarrassed a great deal because my parents had six kids, and not enough money. I did not always have the things I wanted, but my parents never failed to provide to their kids the things they needed. I remember how that feeling felt … to want. An aching in my chest, angered because my parents could not supply what I wanted all the time, even though it was not fully their fault. Even now, as my situation has improved, when I do not get that shirt that I want or another pair of ninety-dollar shoes, that aching, wanting feeling still comes to me, but less and less as I realize and understand the situations of others.

Last summer when I went to visit my god-mother, she shared with me a trip that her church went on: how a group of twelve people went to Ghana, Africa, to help the Amazing Grace School build a roof for their school building, for it did not have one. I listened to testimonies of other people who went about how kids did not have money for school. Kids as young as 6 asked for pencils, paper, books so that they could go to school, not candy, games, I-pods, etc. Ghana, as I learned is a poor country in which students have to pay money to go to school, because the government, school, and country itself, cannot afford it. A dollar a day, thirty dollars a month, three hundred sixty-five dollars a year is what it costs for a Ghanaian to attend school. In the time that I was visiting with my god-mother, I attended meetings and programs that helped me to further understand the living conditions and situations of the people in Ghana. Many people sell merchandise on the streets, work in low paying jobs as young as five years old to survive. If it was not for Adom Partnerships (a Christian sponsoring organization) not many would be able to attend school. There are no supplies, only one box of chalk for the whole year, for the whole school. Three hundred students use a library that contains one bookshelf about 1 foot long, filled with books. Many poor children in Ghana do not attend school at all.

It touched my heart in an amazing way to see people start to sponsor children for only one dollar a day, and it is not much at all. I started to get angry and frustrated because there are so many people out there with so much money, that they do not even know what to do with it, and there are children, families, and people starving everywhere! When I realized that, a long dread of guilt weighed on my heart and conscience, like one hundred bricks piled onto my chest. It came to me as obvious as daylight, that I have been so selfish and greedy. Nobody needs ninety-dollar shoes, when ninety dollars is one-fourth of what it costs to send a child to school for a year. It was clear in my mind how fortunate I am. I have the privilege to go to school. Kids who do not care and do not want to be at school, have the privilege, when kids who want to go to school, cannot.

All of this was running though my head, in and out of my mind like a never ending ribbon. When I comprehended how privileged I am, I made a vow to myself and to God, that I would try not to take things for granted, and be thankful for the things I do have, and to somehow help the children in Ghana. The pastor of Altadena Baptist Church who organized this trip had asked her daughter who also went on this mission: “What do you think about these children in Ghana?â€? Her twelve year old daughter Lauren answered, “They are respectful, so willing to love, and poor.â€? Pastor Connie then asked, “And what do you suppose they think of us?â€? Lauren replied: “We are rude and rich.â€? Then Pastor Connie asked one last question “Is it true?â€? and Lauren answered in one simple explanation,â€?Yes.â€?

I thought I did not have anything growing up, that I was poor, unfortunate, and was embarrassed by it, almost ashamed. But now that I see how fortunate I really am, I am ashamed to claim that I have nothing, because in comparison with Ghanaians, I am rich. This summer experience has taught me to be more grateful for the things I receive and have, loving to others that I do not even know, and to share what I do have, even if it’s not much, with others who do not have anything. – Ariel Cullors